Sons of Union Veterans of
P. O. 24969 San José, CA

My Union Ancestor





Chaplain, 81st New York Infantry

4 x great-granduncle of Tad D. Campbell, PCinC

Isaac Groot Duryee was born at Glenville, Schenectady County, New York on July 29, 1810, the eldest son of William and Sarah (Groot) Duryee. His father served in the New York State Militia during the War of 1812 and within a few years moved to western New York and thence to Michigan Territory in search of land and a better life. Young Isaac remained with relatives in Schenectady to receive an education.

While working in the grocery business, Isaac Duryee was converted during the great religious revival of 1832. Feeling the call of the ministry, he began at once preparing himself for that work by attending school and graduating from Union College at Schenectady in 1838, Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts in 1841, and later from the New Haven Seminary in New Haven, Connecticut. Rev. Duryee was able to preach and converse in both English and Dutch. He was a man of strong abolitionist convictions and during his college days he built a church in Schenectady for African-Americans, who were without a place to worship. The church, now known as the Duryee Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, is still in existence to this day.

Isaac was attending school at New Haven, when he was united in marriage to Miss Lydia Auger Budington on June 1, 1842. Rev. Duryee subsequently preached at Glenham, New York for about ten years, then returning to Schenectady as the pastor of the Second Reformed Dutch Church of America, he built a new edifice and stayed until the Civil War. In April 1854, Rev. Duryee was selected one of eight commissioners on the first Board of Education for the newly formed free school system in Schenectady.

In accordance with regulations, volunteer regiments during the Civil War were allowed to choose their own chaplains, upon the approval of the War Department. This being the case, on September 1, 1862 the officers of the 81st New York Infantry, including Capt. Augustus G. Bennett of Company B, solicited Gov. Edwin D. Morgan to appoint Rev. Isaac G. Duryee as their regimental chaplain. The unit had evidently been without religious guidance since the previous Chaplain resigned in June 1862. It is obvious that both Gov. Morgan and Rev. Duryee approved of his selection, for on October 17, 1862 he was mustered into the Field and Staff of the regiment at Albany, New York.

The 81st New York Infantry, which had been organized at Albany on February 18, 1862, had already seen its fair share of action by the time Rev. Duryee joined them in October. The regiment had participated in the Siege of Yorktown on May 3rd and the battles of Willamsburg (May 5), Bottom's Ridge (May 11), Savage Station (May 22), Fair Oaks (May 30), Seven Pines (May 31), Chickahominy (June 24), Charles City Cross Roads (June 25), and Malvern Hill (July 1).

Rev. Duryee joined his regiment at Yorktown, Virginia, where they had been encamped since August. On December 29, 1862, the regiment left Yorktown for North Carolina, joining General Henry M. Naglee's command, and the following three months were passed mostly in camp at Caroline City and St. Helena Island. In the latter vicinity a month more was spent in rapid changes of position, bringing them to Morehead City, North Carolina on May 2, 1863. Several important raids were made from this point during the next few months.

The regiment embarked for Newport News, Virginia on the 18th of October. They remained here a month and then went to Northwest Landing, about twenty-five miles from Norfolk, Virginia, where they were successful at breaking up smuggling for a time.

On January 1, 1864, the men who had less than one year to serve were given the opportunity to enlist for three years and take a furlough of thirty days. On the 23rd of February more than two-thirds of the entire regiment had re-enlisted, and they started for home, reaching New York on the February 29th. In Syracuse the veterans were met by a delegation, were breakfasted, and at four o'clock reached Oswego, New York. Marching to Doolittle Hall, they were received and banqueted by the ladies of the city and given a royal welcome by all.

The 81st again left for the front on April 12, 1864, and arrived at Yorktown, Virginia, on the 18th. Here they were assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Corps of the Army of the James. On May 4th they proceeded to Bermuda Hundred, whence they marched six miles from the landing and began the construction of fortifications. On the 9th, while deployed as skirmishers, they met the troops of Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard and drove them from the field. During the following month the regiment was almost uninterruptedly engaged in skirmishes and minor battles.

At Drury's Bluff, on the May 16, 1864, the regiment occupied an important position, and twice repulsed the enemy's charges. On the 1st of June, after having joined the Army of the Potomac, the 81st went into the bloody battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, where the regiment lost over seventy in killed and wounded.

At the end of the twelve days in which the regiment was engaged at and near Cold Harbor, two thirds of the men failed to answer at roll call, and an order for provisional consolidation into four companies was issued. But, instead of the expected respite, they were marched to Petersburg, Virginia and on the 15th drove the enemy from his first line of works, and participated in the brilliant and successful charge of the Eighteenth Corps. On the June 16th the regiment supported an assaulting column, and on the 26th received a charge from the enemy, which they bravely withstood and almost annihilated the foe.

On August 2, 1864 they marched to Appomattox River, where they remained until the 26th, when they returned to Bermuda Hundred. In the succeeding battle of Fort Harrison, the 81st was the first to plant its flag on the enemy's works. During the two days of fighting the regiment lost one hundred in killed and wounded, including nine officers killed. The regiment next participated in the engagement near Seven Pines on the 29th of August, and thence returned to Chapin's Farm.

The regiment was ordered back to New York on November 5, 1864, where it remained during the presidential election, before returning to camp near Richmond, Virginia. When the Confederate capital fell on April 3, 1865, the 81st New York was first infantry regiment to enter the city. The regiment was mustered out at Fortress Monroe, Virginia on August 31, 1865.

Rev. Isaac G. Duryee suffered from remittent fever for five weeks in August and September 1864 and subsequently contracted chronic diarrhea, being absent sick at the time of his discharge in August 1865. He never recovered from the illness and died at Schenectady, New York on February 8, 1866. He was fifty-five years old and was survived by his father, wife, four sons and four daughters. A daughter and a son preceded him in death. Rev. Duryee's widow Lydia received a pension from the U.S. Government until her death on May 19, 1910.

Rev. Duryee's brother, George W. Duryee, from whom Bro. Campbell is descended, was a Private in the 4th Michigan Infantry and died of disease at Nashville, Tennessee in 1865.

Copyright © 2003-2016 — Phil Sheridan Camp 4, Dept. of CA & Pacific, SUVCW
Created 22 Jul 2003; Revised 6 Feb 2016

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