Co. G, 97th NY Volunteers
By Jerry Bowen

The following article about Private Zachariah Fellows comes from "Our Fellows Ancestry From 1578", a book prepared by his direct descendant Jerry Bowen and edited by Carlton Spitzer, privately printed in 1985 (pp. 14-15). Jerry generously donated two copies of the Fellows genealogy as well as photocopies of documents relating to Zachariah's service to the Herkimer County Historical Society.

Zachariah Fellows was a private in Company G, 97th N.Y. Vols., Vienna, Oneida County, N.Y. also known as the "Conkling Rifles". He was counted as one of 3 men enlisting from the town of Cleveland, Oswego County, N.Y. on Dec. 15, 1861. Zachariah was the son of William Linus Fellows, b. March 16, 1800 near Chester, Mass. (son of Jacob Fellows, Jr.). His mother was Elizabeth Daughtert, married in 1823 at Frankfort, N.Y. to William Linus Fellows. It's unknown where or when William died but he is listed as the only Fellows in Herkimer County with young children under 5 years old on the 1830 US Census. (Roll 91, Herkimer County, Town of Frankfort, p. 157 line 4)

Zachariah's widow Jane's pension of $8.00 was granted May 6, 1863, commencing Sept. 17, 1862. At the time she was residing in Cleveland, Oswego county, N.Y. The son he never saw grow up was Adelbert G. Fellows, born at West Vienna, N.Y. Adelbert was married March 26, 1892 in the town of Whitestown, Oneida County, N.Y. to Emily H. Simmons, daughter of Samuel Simmons and Sarah Vreedenburg, by W.E. Webster. At that time Adelbert was residing in Syracuse, N.Y., occupation potter.

Zachariah Fellows was born in Herkimer, New York in 1827. He is the second son of William Linus Fellows. He married Jane E. Morse on January 1, 1857 in New York, Two children have already been born to this couple as their story starts.

The early 1860s brought the start of the infamous Civil War. Zachariah and his family were residing in Cleveland, Oswego County, New York when his muster notice came to him. He was mustered into service on Christmas day in 1861 by Captain Smith, and into Company G 97th Regiment of the New York Infantry. His term was to be for three years. He was a private. The Regimental Descriptive Book describes him as ..."age 34, height 5 feet 7 inches, complexion fair, eyes blue and hair brown. His occupation at the time of enlistment was a laborer."

His first months in the service were rough, health wise. He had a short illness in February 1862. Two weeks after returning to duty in March, he was back in the hospital again. In June 1862, they sent him to a hospital in Washington. His treatment was for debilatis. While recovering in this hospital, he worked as a cook.

General Robert E. Lee had a smashing victory at Manassas in August 1862. Skirting around Washinton, D.C., Lee headed for Frederick, Maryland to carry out his campaign in the north. It just so happened that Zachariah's own outfit, the 97th New York, was in Washington at the time. The Federal General, George B. McClellan ordered the 97th NY to ride with him in pursuit of Lee. Zachariah Fellows returned to his outfit at this time, September 5, 1862. (While Zachariah was in the hospital, he probably learned later by letter that his third son, Adelbert, was born in May of 1862.)

Lee was camping with his army in Frederick, Maryland. He needed men and supplies badly. He was hoping to rendezvous with a confederate army maneuvering at Harpers Ferry, before any confrontation took place. Lee issued duplicate orders to his key officers. The officers were to study the orders and destroy them. The orders described their sorry plight, their rendezvous, and the fact they had only 41,000 men. One careless officer rolled a cigar out of his copy of the orders. Then word came that the Federal General, McClellan, was marching for Frederick. Lee and his army made a hasty retreat from Frederick, west to the South Mountain passes. In his haste, this careless officer left his cigar containing the orders at his campsite in Frederick. One of McClellan's 87,000 soldiers found the paper cigar, and its message eventually reached the Federal General.

Armed with this information, McClellan chased Lee's army into the mountains. Lee left a handful of men to defend the passes and to buy some time, but McClellan's army closed the gaps. Lee's main army moved westward, crossing Antietam Creek and consolidated its position on high ground near Sharpsburg. By September 15, McClellan had most of his army within a few miles of the creek, while half of Lee's army was still in Harpers Ferry.

The stage was set. Our Zachariah Fellows was there. The bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam, was about to begin. The first shooting took place at dawn on the 17th of September. Hooker's artillery began a murderous fire on "Stonewall" Jackson's troops posted in a field north of town. The battle raged all day throughout the area.

Zachariah Fellows fought in the area known as the "Bloody Cornfield," where the fighting was the most intense. The line of scrimmage moved back and forth fourteen times where he fought that day. Smoke from the rifles was so thick soldiers had to wait for it to clear before they could resume firing. So many bodies were falling that, in places, it was impossible to walk on the ground. Zachariah shouted and fought valiantly, but met his death that frightful day in Antietam, Maryland.

Neither side had gained the upper hand, but Lee was turned back into Virgina. Losses on both sides were staggering: 12,410 Federals were killed or wounded (15 percent of those engaged) and 10,700 Confederates (26 percent of those engaged) for a total of 23,110.

The dead and dying had to be cleared away. Commanding Officers had to keep careful records of their regimental activities, including their dead. This is what Zachariah's commanding officer said about him in his service records. "Remarks: Participated in battles in Cedar Mountain and Rapahannock Station; sent to general hospital. Returned to regiment September 5, 1862. Was in battles at South Mountain and Antietam. Killed in action September 17, 1862 at Antietam, Maryland."

Zachariah never saw his third son, and of course, Jane Fellows had to raise three children without a husband. She never remarried and eventually received a pension of eight dollars a month, which was increased to twelve dollars by the time of her death in Clocksville, New York.

Antietam: The Soldiers Battle, pp. 332-333 - 97th NY 203, killed 24, wounded 74, missing 9, total 1007

In the 1991 reprint of Isaac Hall's "History of the 97th Regiment New York Volunteers-Conkling Rifles", Zachariah Fellows is listed in the roster as a member of Company G (page 416).

Jerry Bowen
June 2000


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