Col. William P. Wainwright

Photo caption: Officers of 29th NY. Seated at the right of image is Major William P. Wainwright, wearing 4 button fatigue coat, shoulder straps, and holding kepi with infantry insignia on his lap. [William P. Wainwright later served as colonel of the 76th New York Infantry and was promoted to brevet brigadier general in 1865]. Officer in center is Col. Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich, Baron Von Steinwehr. Officer to left is unknown. 

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Was born in the city of New York, June tenth, 1818. He enjoyed the benefits of a liberal education, having graduated from the University of the City of New York. After graduating, he studied medicine, but not fancying to practice, he never did. Soon after finishing his medical studies, he went to Europe and there devoted his attention principally to military studies. He was a long time at Berlin, which was then the best point for that purpose. 

Since then these have been his favorite pursuit, although some connection with the militia of Dutchess county, where he long resided, was his only practical application of them, until the war of 1861. The militia is a poor organization for the practical operation of military science, so that the Colonel never found much encouragement in his favorite vocation until he entered the army. 

At the commencement of the war, he was requested to take the post of Major in the Twenty-ninth New York Volunteers. This was composed chiefly of Germans, and Colonel Wainwright understanding that language perfectly, and the officers desiring one American, he was finally induced to accept the position. The officers had mostly been educated at the German military schools, and it was always a source of gratification to the Colonel that, though fearfully cut up, this was one Regiment in the Brigade that did not run at Chancellorsville. 

Shortly after the battle of Cross Keys, Colonel Wainwright was ordered to Washington to take command of the SEVENTY-SIXTH, then at Fredericksburg. How earnestly he entered upon his work has been already stated in the body of this work. The Colonel believes that the best men will be inefficient without discipline and drill, while these aids will make tolerable soldiers of poorer material. In a communication to the writer, the Colonel says :

" I can now unhesitatingly say that there are no men capable of being made such good soldiers as our native American country boys; but they should know their A B C before being brought into the field, and their officers should have some idea of what they have a right to require, and that neither laziness nor home associations must interfere with keeping each man up to his work.

I believe I mentioned to you that I consider it a great subject of pride for the Seventy-sixth that (at least so far as I remember), they have never exhausted their cartridges on the hottest battle-field. The action is hardly conceivable in which a good soldier who has a full supply at the commencement, should do so. Europeans are much worse about it than Americans and were it not that the Prussian needle gun, (being a breech-loader), never requires the muzzle to be raised high enough to be directed above the enemy's heads, the only consequence from its capacity of rapid discharge, would have been to make it impossible to supply the army with cartridges."

The anxiety of the Colonel that his Regiment should have the best officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and be in the best state of drill and discipline, sometimes induced the men to believe him unnecessarily strict; but as they grew into soldiers, and witnessed their steady ranks as they rushed into the jaws of death, while other regiments of equally good material, from want of discipline, broke and fled, they united in one voice of praise of the Colonel.

At the battle of South Mountain, the Colonel was wounded in the arm, and his horse killed under him. He rejoined the Regiment near Warrenton, and remained in command at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville ; but on the march to the North in June, 1863, his health becoming impaired, he was obliged to resign. We have failed of our object if, in the preceding pages, we have not shown that Colonel Wainwright was an accomplished Christian gentleman and officer.

He has resumed his residence in New York City.

- From the Regimental History of the 76th NY, A.P. Smith, 1867

See Col. Wainwright's Report on the Battle of South Mountain from the Official Reports of the Civil War.

JUNE 19, 1862 
VOL 1, NO. 38 Pg 3, COL 1

Colonel of 76th Regiment

William P. Wainwright of the 29th Regiment New York Volunteers, was appointed Colonel of the 76th Regiment on the 10th instant. From all accounts which we have of Colonel Wainwright this is an appointment eminently fit to be made, and one that will give perfect satisfaction to the officers and men composing the Regiment, as well as its friends at home. From the military authorities at Washington he received the highest recommendations as a gentleman and an officer. He is about middle age, and has a thorough military education. The Regiment is now stationed at Fredericksburg and Major Livingston has been appointed Military Governor of this place.

Official Reports, Vol. 27, pp. 237-238

Near Mount Tabor, September 16, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to report, for the information of General Doubleday, that on the afternoon of the 14th instant, after the battalions had been moved up to the edge of the wood, the Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers passed through a line of troops under the command of General Patrick. The regiment formed with perfect steadiness on the extreme left. They were well in hand during the whole engagement, always obeyed the orders to fire and to cease firing readily, and although not many cartridges were expended, the repulse of an attempt to turn our left, which, in conjunction with the left wing of the Seventh Indiana Regiment, was brilliantly accomplished, and the orderly manner in which they afterward passed the line of troops coming up to relieve them, showed that they are fast becoming veteran soldiers.

I would again (as in a note sent yesterday afternoon by Surgeon Metcalfe) call the general's attention to the weakened state of the regiment. They went into action on this occasion with only forty files. Their loss was, so far as ascertained, 2 killed and 13 wounded--of the latter, 2 mortally.(+) I doubt whether they can now furnish more than thirty files, <ar27_238> commanded by four lieutenants, in any line of battle that may be called for at present.

In the above action First Lieutenants Crandall and Goddard and Second Lieutenants Byram and Foster were the only officers present under me. They all conducted themselves admirably. I think it was Lieutenant Goddard who first called my attention to the enemy stealing through the corn in order to gain our flank.

Sergeant Stamp, just promoted for good conduct in a former battle, was shot through the head while gallantly carrying the national colors.

Owing to a wound in the arm received during the action, I am unable to join the regiment. First Lieutenant Crandall is next in command.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


 Colonel Seventy-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers.  

Official Reports, vol.16 pp369-370

Near Purcellville, Va., November 2, 1862.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that on Thursday, August 28, about 5.30 p.m., while my brigade was marching in rear of Gibbon's brigade, on the road from Gainesville to Centreville, a well directed and heavy fire opened upon us at very short range from a battery on a hill to the north of us. Sheltering my men as much as possible behind a small rise of ground in the road, 1 directed them to halt and await orders. Receiving none, and unable to obtain them, I almost immediately sent two regiments of my brigade--the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania, under Col. S. A. Meredith, and the Seventy-sixth New York, under Col. W. P. Wainwright--to aid General Gibbon, who had pushed his whole brigade forward through a piece of woods to attack the battery, under the impression that it was merely supported by cavalry.


In the first battle near Gainesville, on the night of the 28th, the officers of the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York held the position with such determined obstinacy that it is difficult to single out individual merit. Much of the success of that battle was due to the thorough discipline maintained in these regiments by their distinguished commanders, Col. S. A. Meredith, Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Col. W. P. Wainwright, Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, who showed themselves prompt to lead their men wherever the danger was most pressing. Colonel Meredith was wounded early in the action, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann, who on this as on every subsequent field was distinguished for his good conduct and bravery. Major Livingstone, Seventy-sixth New York, was also conspicuous for gallantry and the energetic discharge of his duties. On the ensuing day he was made a prisoner while planting a flag in front of the enemy and rallying his men around it.


I am, captain, your obedient servant,


 Brig. Gen. Vols., Comdg. Second Brigade.  


November 9, 1862.

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3. Col. W. P. Wainwright, Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, having reported for duty, is hereby assigned to command the Second Brigade of this division, now commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann.

By command of Brigadier-General Doubleday:


                 Captain and Assistant Adjutant-General.

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- Last Updated May 27, 2001