Hutchinson, Elbert

127th New York Volunteers
Private, Company H
(The Monitors)

Elbert Hutchinson
127th New York Volunteers
Private, Company H

Elbert Hutchinson was born on February 19, 1842. He lived in Middle Island and was one of five children born to Benjamin and Minerva Hutchinson. His father, Benjamin Hutchinson, served as the Brookhaven Town Clerk from 1860-1877. The Hutchinson home was located on the north side of Middle Country Road, across from what is now the Longwood Public Library.

Hutchinson, Elbert

The Hutchinson house, which stood on the Middle Country Road across from the Longwood Public Library. The home also served as a stagecoach stop and post office. Photo from the collection of Donald Bayles.

Hutchinson began his career as a farmer. On August 22, 1862, however, he joined the ranks of thousands of other young men who enlisted in the Union Army. He went to Orient, in the Town of Southold, to enroll in the 127th New York Volunteers. This regiment, commanded by Colonel William Gurney, was originally called the "True Blues;" later, they were known as "the Monitors." He was assigned to company H and mustered into service at Staten Island on September 3rd.

Early on, Hutchinson was disappointed to realize that there was no equipment or supplies. He was eager to begin training and see some action. It wasn't long, though, before things began to happen and provisions began to arrive. Hutchinson ultimately received a great deal of training in is quest to be a soldier, and perhaps saw more action than he had wished for.

The unit moved to Baltimore in order to defend Washington, D.C. The regiment spent the winter of 1862 camped at Arlington Heights. In the spring of 1863, company H and the 127th began marching south. Along the way, they began to hear tales of the horrors of war from the members of the Seventh regiment, who were moving north. The 127th marched to Boonsboro, Hagerstown, and Greenfield; they became part of the Peninsula Campaign. The regiment was finally transported by steamboat to Charleston, where Hutchinson observed Fort Sumter as it was bombarded and then reoccupied by Union forces.

Hutchinson, like many other soldiers, was often ill due the change of diet, water, and climate. The regiment endured long, hard marches for two and one-half years. These hardships and daily health problems often came back to haunt the men in later life.

The 127th, now based at Folly and Coles Islands, was assigned picket line duty. The Coles Islands pickets declared their own unofficial truce. Opposing forces visited with one another and shared coffee and other provisions. For the most part, the troops were content with this less restrictive atmosphere of picket line duty. Early in September of 1863, however, things began to heat up. Union forces assaulted Fort Wagner, resulting in heavy casualties. The 127th spent the winter of 1863 on Coles Island on skirmish and picket duty. On April 23, 1864, the regiment was ordered to move to Morris Island. Company H was detailed for Provost Duty at the new camp. Pvt. Hutchinson often escorted prisoners to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Interior of bombed out Fort Sumter. Once Sumter fell Charleston was forced to surrender.

Shelling of the islands and forts around Charleston went on throughout the spring. General Sherman continued his rampage south. He gave orders to seize and cut off the Savannah and Charleston railroad. The 127th was held in reserve at Honey Hill where tactical errors led to defeat. However, on the Grahansville Road they unexpectedly ran into the main body of the Confederate forces. The regiment pressed forward and, with the support of the 32nd United States Colored Troops, they managed to drive back the enemy and save the artillery. Company H was indeed bloodied at Honey Hill and Devaux's Neck. Picket duty no longer meant sharing coffee with the enemy; it was now quite dangerous. The new units on the line did not honor the unauthorized truces.

The weather was hot and damp. Numbers of sick and wounded began to rise. Many men were sent to Hilton Head Island for rest and recuperation. The tide began to turn, though, against the Confederate forces. Savannah and the rail center fell into Union hands. General Sherman's "March to the Sea" proved devastating to the South. The war was winding down as the New Year began.

Hutchinson was discharged at Charleston on June 30, 1865 and returned home to Middle Island. On December 1, 1872, he married Emma Gamage. They did not have any children. Like many other soldiers, Elbert Hutchinson suffered from heart trouble and rheumatism. The war had taken its toll, and he could no longer work for sustained periods of time. He was injured while cutting timber in 1887, further hindering his quality of life.

Elbert Hutchinson died in Sayville on August 2, 1917.

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