Although the 79th New York Regiment were only stationed on Georgetown Heights for a few days, they deserve mention in this history because of the bond they formed with a local property owner.
In peacetime, the New York “Highlanders”––chartered in 1859––were a volunteer militia regiment sponsored by the Caledonian Society of New York City. The original companies attracted primarily Scottish immigrants and their descendants. Some were veterans of the British army. At the outbreak of the Civil War, when the regiment was expanded to ten companies, with men recruited without regard to nationality––Irish and German enlistments were particularly high––the new recruits referred to the old-timers as “Breetish”.
“New York City rowdies” is how they thought of themselves when, in high spirits, they boarded the train to Washington. The Plug-Uglies jeered the New Yorkers as they passed through Baltimore, but offered no serious provocation. The Highlanders’ arrival in the national capital was enthusiastically noted in the press. (Star, June 4, 1861)
“The fine band of the New York 79th (Highland) Regiment will play in the President’s Grounds this afternoon at 5 o’clock.” The 79th had sixteen band members, and twenty drummers, but the editor of the Evening Star lamented that the regiment did not have the benefit of bagpipes “to raise their blood”. (Star, June 18-19, 1861)
Initially camped at Georgetown College, the 79th left on July 1 to encamp on the heights. “They had a wet time. Heavy rain last night.” (Star, July 2, 1861) The new camp––west of Tunlaw Road, around Calvert Street––was christened Camp Lochiel, in reference to Col. Cameron’s descent from an ancient Scottish chieftain.
There the New Yorkers were befriended by James H. Causten, whose country house, Weston, was on the other side of High Street (Wisconsin Avenue). Causten was a fervent Union man, and the war, barely started, had already exacted a price from him: his son had been in rebel hands for a month, one of the first Union prisoners of the war. (Evening Star, June 5, 1861; Manuel C. Causten, Prisoner of War)
The “Highlanders” were in this neighborhood less than a week: “The 79th left camp yesterday afternoon and marched over the acqueduct to Virginia.” (Star, July 6, 1861). When they returned to Washington after the defeat at Bull Run, Mr. Causten sought them out at Camp Ewen, on Meridian Hill.
Their baptism of fire had left them badly demoralized. In August they refused to obey commands, until army regulars restored order and punished the ringleaders.
Immediately after the mutiny, the 79th camped near the Insane Asylum––now St. Elizabeth’s Hospital––at Camp Causten, named to honor “a resident of Washington who had been kind to the men after we returned from the Bull Run campaign”.
From there the 79th New York Regiment went on to fight at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, The Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Petersburg.
(William Todd, History of the 79th New York Highlanders, Brandon, Barton & Co., Albany, N.Y., 1886)
The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.
All rights reserved.
Questions and corrections may be directed to
The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.