A great badge worn by a veteran of the First New Jersey Brigade at the 50th anniversary of the battle of Crampton Pass in 1912. The badge has a heavy metal backing with an insert which says "VETERAN". A blue, beige, and blue ribbon is attached to the hanger. Written on the ribbon is "50th Anniversary Battle of Crampton Pass - 31st Reunion of Kearny's First New Jersey Brigade Society - Camden, N.J. - Sept. 14, 1912". The likeness of a Sixth Corp badge is in the center of the ribbon. The badge was made by the Sommer Badge Manufacturing Company of Newark, New Jersey as noted on the makers label attached to the back of the ribbon. There is a small piece of museum quality acid free tapeon the upper part of the back ribbon. The badge is approximately 6 1/8 inches tall and 2 3/8 inches wide.
First New Jersey Brigade
Through the course of the Civil War, the brigade was composed entirely of units from New Jersey, the only Union brigade during the war to be constituted as such. Its origins were on May 4, 1861, when New Jersey was directed by the Federal government to fill a quota of three infantry regiments to serve a three-year term of enlistment. Recruitment took place for the new regiments all over the state, and on May 21, 1861, the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry was mustered into the Union Army at Camp Olden in Trenton, New Jersey, under Maj. Theodore T. S. Laidley of the United States Regular Army. The 1st New Jersey was then followed into Federal service by the 2nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry (May 28, 1861) and the 3rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.
On June 28, 1861, the three newly created three-year regiments began the journey to Virginia, where in June they were joined with a brigade of three-month enlistment New Jersey Militia regiments to form a division commanded by Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon. This was the first time the New Jersey regiments officially formed the brigade. During the First Bull Run Campaign, most of the brigade saw service in the field guarding train hubs, supply depots and roadways, being considered too "green" to be reliable in combat. However, a few companies of the 1st and 2nd New Jersey Infantries were directed to help stem the retreat at Centreville, Virginia, after the Confederates routed General Irvin McDowell's forces at Manassas, Virginia, on July 21, 1861. They were unsuccessful, and many officers and men retreated in the rout as well.
In August 1861, the 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry was recruited and added to the First New Jersey Brigade after its muster into service. From that point on, the four regiments and their later remnants would serve together until the end of the war and their final discharge.
As the war progressed, more regiments were added to the brigade, but in keeping with its tradition, they were New Jersey units. In September 1862, the nine-month enlistment unit 23rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry and the three-year 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry were added, with the 23rd New Jersey serving until June 1863 and the 15th New Jersey serving until the end of the war. On April 19, 1864, the 10th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry "Olden's Legion" was added. In March 1865 the 40th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry—the last raised by the state—was brigaded with the original units.
The brigade saw its first pitched battle rather late, as it fought in the June 27, 1862, Battle of Gaines' Mill during the Seven Days Battles. There it sustained heavy casualties, with most of the 4th New Jersey being captured by Confederate forces. It then fought in the Second Bull Run Campaign, where it blundered into the entire Confederate army corps commanded by Major General Stonewall Jackson, and at Crampton's Gap during the Battle of South Mountain, where it redeemed its honor by making a triumphant charge up the hill. Later engagements included Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania,Cold Harbor, Strasburg, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek.
First New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: June 1861–June 3, 1864
153 killed or died of wounds and 99 died of disease or accidents
Second New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: June 1861–May 21, 1864
96 killed or died of wounds and 69 died of disease or accidents
Third New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: June 1861–June 3, 1864
157 killed or died of wounds and 81 died of disease or accidents
Fourth New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: June 1861–June 22, 1865
161 killed or died of wounds and 105 died of disease or accidents
Tenth New Jersey Infantry "Olden Legion"
Service in brigade: April 19, 1864–June 22, 1865
93 killed or died of wounds and 190 Died of disease or accidents
Fifteenth New Jersey Infantry "Fighting Fifteenth"
Service in brigade: September 30, 1862–June 22, 1865
240 killed or died of wounds and 132 died of disease or accidents.
Twenty-Third New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: October 8, 1862–June 27, 1863
35 killed or died of wounds and 55 died of disease or accidents
Fortieth New Jersey Infantry
Service in brigade: February 2, 1865–July 13, 1865
2 killed or died of wounds and 17 died of disease or accidents
The brigade's first commander was Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny, whose training and discipline molded the regiments into an effective fighting unit. He was succeeded by George W. Taylor, who was Colonel of the 3rd New Jersey. Taylor was promoted to brigadier general soon after assuming command of the brigade. After his mortal wounding at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the leadership of the brigade went to Alfred Thomas Torbert, who was serving as Colonel of the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. Subsequent commanders were Col. Henry Brown (3rd New Jersey), Col. William H. Penrose (15th New Jersey), and Capt. Baldwin Hufty (4th New Jersey).
Medal of Honor recipients
Six soldiers from the First New Jersey Brigade received the Medal of Honor for bravery:
- 1st Lieutenant William Brant, Jr. - 1st New Jersey Veterans Battalion
- Corporal Charles F. Hopkins - 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
- Corporal Edmund English - 2nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
- Sergeant John P. Beech - 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
- Captain Forrester L. Taylor - 23rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
- Private Frank E. Fesq - 40th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
The Battle of Crampton Pass
In the aftermath of his great victory at Second Bull Run, Robert E. Lee was determined to launch an invasion of the North. He hoped that a similar victory on northern soil would weaken the North’s resolve, and possibly encourage Maryland to rise and join the Confederacy. Lee convinced Jefferson Davies to approve his plan, and at the start of September Lee’s victorious army crossed the Potomac.
Once in the north, Lee became concerned about the 13,000 strong Federal garrison of Harper’s Ferry. He decided that he could not risk leaving that garrison in his rear. To capture it he took the decision to split his army. Two thirds of the army, under Stonewall Jackson, was sent to capture Harper’s Ferry, while he remained further north with the rest of the army. Lee was taking a massive risk. He assumed that the Federal army defeated at Bull Run would take weeks to be recover, especially with George McClellan restored to command. He had repeated demonstrated a slow, cautious attitude during the Peninsula Campaign, and Lee expected more of the same.
He was wrong. McClellan had taken over a beaten army, but not a demoralised or unorganised one. McClellan soon had an army 70,000 strong on the move towards Lee. He also had a stroke of luck when a copy of Lee’s order for the move against Harper’s Ferry was discovered on 13 September. McClellan received this piece of luck at Frederick, less than twenty miles from Harper’s Ferry, where the garrison was still holding out.
Even with this information in hand, McClellan still did not move quickly. He was nearly always convinced that whatever army he commanded was badly outnumbered – here he was convinced that Lee had at least 100,000 men, twice the real number. Accordingly, he did nothing on 13 September other than issue orders for a movement on the following day.
The main barrier that faced McClellan was South Mountain. This mountain runs north from the Potomac, reaching the river just east of Harper’s Ferry. McClellan’s men would have to force their way through Confederate held passes before they could engage Lee or go to the relief of Harper’s Ferry. Worse for the garrison of Harper’s Ferry, McClellan decided to make his main attack at Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps (Battle of South Mountain). Success here would bring McClellan up against Lee’s smaller section of the Confederate army.
A smaller force, 12,000 men under Major-General William B. Franklin, was sent to Crampton’s Gap, further south. This force might not have been big enough to defeat Jackson’s entire force around Harper’s Ferry, but it was easily big enough to deal with that part of Jackson’s force that had remained north of the Potomac, which was no more than 8,000 strong, and thus to rescue the garrison. However, Crampton’s Gap was also defended. First, Franklin would need to fight his way through the pass.
This should not have been a problem. He was opposed by three brigades from the force that had been sent against Harper’s Ferry, a total of 2,200 men. Even by his own account, Reynolds was able to get 6,500 men into action at Crampton’s Gap. Despite this numerical advantage it took Reynolds most of 14 September to fight his way through the pass. He suffered 533 casualties during the battle (113 dead, 418 wounded and 2 missing), and probably inflicted twice that many (he captured 400 prisoners). However, the victory came too late in the day to achieve its aim. The next morning, when Reynolds made a tentative move towards Harper’s Ferry, he decided that he was too weak to attack the Confederate forces north of the river. In any case it was by then too late. Harper’s Ferry surrendered early on the morning of 15 September.