Homan, Richard

2nd New York Cavalry
Company B & D

Richard Homan
Private, 2nd New York Cavalry, Company B & D

Richard Homan was born in Yaphank in 1839. Homan, a sailor by trade, was 21 when he enlisted with the 8th New York State Militia for three months from April 16 to August 21, 1861. He stood five feet eight inches tall at the time, and had blue eyes and brown hair.

After completing his three months of service with the militia, Homan returned to Yaphank. A year later, however, he re-enlisted. This time he joined the 2nd New York Cavalry, known as the "Harris Light," in honor of New York Senator Ira Harris, who helped to raise the regiment.

Before the regiment left for Washington, D.C., Homan returned home to marry Georgianna Overton of Yaphank. Reverend Francis Drake conducted their wedding ceremony at the Middle Island Parsonage on September 25, 1862. By leaving his company, though, Homan was charged with desertion. When he returned, the Provost Marshal arrested Homan on charges of desertion; Major Otto Harhaus of the 2nd New York Cavalry brought these charges. Homan was sent to prison on Governors Island, where he was confined until his trial in March. All charges were eventually dropped, however, because there was insufficient evidence to warrant a trial.

On May 11, 1863, Homan was detailed for temporary duty with the 6th New York Independent Battery. He remained with the 6th until he rejoined his old outfit in July. The 2nd Cavalry participated in a number of skirmishes leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Although they did not actually fight in this great battle, they kept Jeb Stuart's cavalry from entering the battle. On July 4, 1863, the 2nd Cavalry surprised and captured General Ewell's entire wagon train, taking almost two thousand prisoners in the process.

Homan, Richard
Cavalry soldier calls, "To Horse," as he draws his sword.

The 2nd Cavalry spent August through October chasing Lee's forces. The 2nd had almost daily contact and several skirmishes with the enemy. On September 22, 1863, when Union General Judson Kilpatrick crossed the Rapidan, he encountered a large Confederate force and tried to re-cross at Liberty Mills. A battle quickly developed. The 2nd N.Y. Cavalry fought valiantly, but in the end, four men were killed and seventy-seven were captured.

Brigadier General H.E. Davies described the action that day in a report:

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to forward the following report of the White's Ford, and I moved forward in column the Second New York in advance, through the woods to the turnpike road between Madison Court-House and Gordonsville, followed by my battery the Fifth New York. On approaching the turnpike the advance of the Second New York Cavalry struck the enemy's column moving toward Gordonsville. They were evidently aware of our approach, as we were instantly opened on by two pieces of artillery, and found skirmishers dismounted and hidden by the side of the road.

The Second New York penetrated as far as the turnpike road, when I received orders from the general commanding division to hold my ground as long as practicable, to give time for withdrawing the artillery and the rest of the command to a more favorable position. The Second New York, though fighting against far superior numbers and unable to act in concert on account of the ground, fought very gallantly and did all that was required from them. They fell back gradually, fighting all the time, until the whole of the battery and the Fifth New York had crossed the river. Their loss was very heavy, and we have to mourn over many gallant officers and brave men who fell into the hands of the enemy.

Richard was one of the many captured. He spent the rest of the war in Confederate prisons. He was first sent to Belle Island, then to the infamous prison called Andersonville. While in prison, exposure and hardship took a terrible toll on Homan's health. He contracted typhus fever, which caused lung disease and a severe cough.

The road from the railroad to Andersonville Prison. More than 13,000 Union soldiers would not walk back.

Homan was paroled from prison on March 14, 1865, and reported to Camp Parole in Maryland. He was granted a thirty-day furlough and returned to Yaphank. While at home, his health deteriorated; local physician, Dr. James Baker, wrote a letter to Homan's superiors requesting a leave extension. Homan returned to duty, but not for long; he was mustered out of the service at Annapolis, Maryland, on June 21, 1865.

Homan gladly returned to his home in Yaphank. He and Georgianna had a son, Benjamin, in 1874. Although the 1880 census lists Homan's occupation as a sailor, he spent much of his life unable to work. His doctor, James Baker, died in 1886, and his son, Clarence Baker, took over his father's patients. In Homan's pension affidavit, the younger Doctor Baker declared Richard unable to work, caused by total paralysis. Neighbors swore that Homan was unable to leave his home for months at a time.

The home of Richard Homan on Main Street in Yaphank

Richard Homan died at this home in Yaphank in 1897, after suffering for many years from the effects of being a prisoner of war.

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