HISTORY OF THE
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT OF NEW YORK VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

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"188th - This command was recruited with headquarters at Rochester, under authority given to Colonel John E. McMahon, on September 20, 1864. So far as it relates to the county the regiment had no special prominence, yet a number of towns furnished recruits, notably Corning, Hornby and Tuscarora, the men being in Company F. The 188th left the state October 13, 1864 and served in the 2nd Brigade, First Division, 5th Corps, losing and aggregate of 90 men."

Taken from the book "Landmarks of Steuben", by Harlo Hakes - 1986, page 202.

Colors of the One Hundred and Eighty-Eighth Infantry

1. Silk flag, National, in very bad condition, mounted, spearhead and trimmings complete. No inscription.

2. Blue silk regimental banner, in very bad condition, mounted upon original staff, spearhead gone. Emblazoned with the arms of the United States and the inscription, "188th Regiment New York Vols."

Companies of the 188th NYIV Regiment

Colonel James R. Chamberlain, succeeded by Col. John McMahon, received authority, September 14, 1865, to recruit this regiment, with headquarters at Rochester, where it was organized and mustered in the service of the United States for one year, October 4, 5, 7, 10, and 22, 1864; except Company A, originally Company C, 183rd Infantry, which was mustered in at Elmira, September 24, 1864.

The companies recruited principally: A at Villenova, Allegany, Madison, Yorkshire, Freedom, and Mansfield; B at Rochester, Avon, Phelps, Victor, Italy, Penn Yan, Naples and Geneseo; C at Italy, Jerusalem, Rochester, Milo, Avon, Middlesex, and Springwater; D at Springwater, York, Sparta, Avon, Potter, Portage, North Dansville, Geneseo, Leicester and Mt. Morris; E at Livonia, Potter, Portage, Richmond, Avon, Farmington, Jerusalem, Springwater, Seneca, York and Leicester; F at Rochester, Corning, Canandaigua, Hornby, and Tuscarora; G at Springwater, Avon, Gorham, Mt. Morris, Canandaigua, Sparta, Middlesex, Leicester, Italy and Barrington; H at Rochester, Sparta, Avon, Dansville and Springwater; I at Avon, Nunda, Rochester, Dansville, Livonia, Groveland, Conesus, Mt. Morris, Phelps and York; and K at Rochester, North Dansville, Conesus, Groveland, Torry, Milo, Avon and Middlesex.

Seven companies of the regiment, Maj. Christopher C. Davison, left the State October 13, 1864; the other three companies joined later in 1864l the regiment served in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, and was mustered out and honorably discharged under Col. John McMahon, Company A, June 1, 1965; all others July 1, 1865, near Washington, D. C.

During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 23 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 1 officer, 13 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 35 enlisted men; total , 1 officer, 89 enlisted men; aggregate, 90; of whom 1 enlisted man died in the hands of the enemy, and it took part in the following engagements, etc.:

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Rochester boasts unassuming
Civil War Hero

By Father Robert F. McNamara Guest Contributor to the Catholic Courier and modified for this document.

General John McMahonSome Ninety-nine years ago the battle of Gettysburg took place - that epic engagement which marked the turning point of America’s bloody Civil War. Many a Yank from western New York took part in the combat form July 1-3, 1863.

Rochester’s best-known hero there was Col. Patrick Henry O’Rorke, a West-Point graduate killed in the defense of "Little Roundtop." But Rochester was also represented by an another - a surviving colonel - of who the Post Express said, "this city has reason to be proud."

John McMahon, the third son of Michael and Elizabeth McMahon, was a native of County cork, Ireland. He was born in either 1830 or 1834. He must have been quite young when his parents, driven no doubt by Ireland’s dreadful economic plight, brought their family to Rochester.

McMahon married rather young. His wedding to Mary E. Shields took place at Rochester’s Immaculate Conception Church on Jan. 5, 1853. They raised a family of three sons and one daughter.

The Civil War broke out with the confederate assault on Fort Sumter, S. C., on April 1, 1981. On April 15, and again on May 3, then-President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to put down this southern insurgence.

Many men in Rochester, especially members of the state militia, responded to these summonses. McMahon did not. However on November 9, 1861, he enlisted for a three-year term in the 105th Regiment of New York State Volunteer Infantry. His company - known as Company G - was part of that outfit’s "Irish Brigade."

Bidding farewell to his family, he was mustered in as a buck private on Dec. 23. His militia experience was soon acknowledged when he was elected his company’s lieutenant on Jan. 8, 1862. He was commissioned its captain on March 23.

His division fired the last shot in the war, when the Confederacy "busted up" on April 9.

In the second Battle of Bull Run on Aug. 30, 1862, McMahon was struck by a shell fragment. The impact caused not only a severe wound but a "concussion of the spine" that impaired his ability to walk. Hospitalized briefly in Washington, he was sent home to recover. He remained shaky after his return to camp in mid-October, and only in December, 1862, could he again reassume command of Company G.

Constantly on the firing line, the 105th had lost so much manpower by March 17, 1863, that it was consolidated with the 94th N.Y. Volunteers. McMahon continued to captain the company under its new number.

Thus far the Rochester officer had been warring in Virginia. At the end of June, 1863, his regiment was ordered north to Pennsylvania, where the eye of the storm was focusing on Gettysburg. The 94th New York was placed under the command of Major General John F. Reynolds.

Captain McMahon saw little of the vast battle. He was taken captive during the fighting on July 1.

At that time it was customary for captors to demand the swords of captured officers. McMahon’s sword had been given to him a year before by the Rochester Common Council. During the formal conferral, somebody had half jokingly warned the captain, "Don’t let the Johnnies have it!"

Perhaps Captain Jack remembered this warning as he unsheathed the weapon at Gettysburg. Before he handed it over to the "Jonnie Rebs," he broke the blade over a stump. One of the Confederate lieutenants wanted to shoot McMahon then and there, but was overruled. The commanding rebel officer sent McMahon and others to Libby Prison at Richmond.

Captain McMahon spent form July, 1863, to March, 1864, in the tedious confinement of this former tobacco warehouse. Libby was not the most notorious of the South’s prisoner-of-was camps, but it did affect his health. He was released on March 7, 1864.

Two days later he reported, head high, at the Federal "Camp Parole," in Virginia. He had been promoted to major on Feb. 17. His military superiors then granted him a generous leave.

Rochesterians had long since heard of McMahon’s daring act of disdain at Gettysburg and his long internment at Libby. When he reached his hometown, the Common Council resolved to present "Major Jack" an even finer sword to replace the one sundered and surrendered.

The presentation took place during a Council meeting held the evening of March 31, 1864, with many guests in attendance. Mayor Nehemiah Bradstreet presented the gift.

The mayor was not content with merely handing over the sword. In a long, grandiloquent oration he praised the valiant impulse that prompted McMahon to enlist; the courage he had demonstrated in leading his men, even when he was wounded and, of course, the fine disdain he had shown to his captors at Gettysburg.

In contrast, Major Jack’s reply was brief and unassuming,. He thanked the city for its kind attention. He disclaimed any right to the title "hero" in a particular sense: many another Rochester soldier deserved it more than he, Major Jack said.

The reason he had enlisted was to aid "somewhat " in putting down the rebellion. He had simply done his duty - rather tried to do it - neither seeking or expecting a reward. As for giving the rebels a broken sword, he had merely wanted - as he puts it - to "lessen the spoils of the traitors."

The Tiffany sword and scabbard, tarnished by age but still eye-catching is now the property of the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

McMahon reported back at camp in May, 1864. He was commanding officer of the 94th from midsummer to autumn, when the unit engaged around Petersburg, Va.

That October, his military career took another turn. A new upstate regiment, the 188th Volunteer Infantry, was raised by his brother Michael. New York Gov. Horatio Seymour named John as its head. His commission as colonel was dated Oct. 20.

The new outfit was quickly dispatched to Virginia in the spring of 1865, to fight under Gen. Philip Sheridan. The unit’s career in the field was brief, but very intensive.

From March 27 to April 9 the men were engaged in fighting or marching night and day. He was wounded at Five Forks and again shortly afterward, but in neither case seriously.

His division fired the last shot in the war, when the Confederacy "busted up" on April 9. President Lincoln’s assassination on April 14th imposed a month of mourning, but Col. McMahon was happy to ride at the head of his regiment in the grand military review staged in Washington on May 23-24. The 188th New York was mustered out on July 1. McMahon accompanied his veterans back to Rochester.

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PREPARED BY TIM VOGEL FOR CALTIM DESIGNS