Saturday, August 10, 2013

Regattas 1864

In the summer of 1864, young Americans, many German and Irish immigrants from New York City, were dying by the thousands in Virginia's Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, earning Grant the nickname "Butcher."   What were America's elites doing, the "flower of Yale and Harvard"?  Organizing regattas and sporting events to "display their manly vigor."

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From the New York Times, July 1864:

The great aquatic contest between Harvard and Yale for the championship and a set of colors, which took place yesterday at Worcester, called together a very large number of students, gymnasts and amateur boatmen.

A finer looking set of young men rarely congregate in a New-England city or town -- as the
young ladies of Worcester would no doubt bear willing testimony. The flower of Yale and
Harvard assembled, and there were large accessions of representatives from Amherst, Williams,  Brown, and other colleges. Many distinguished citizens were present to witness the athletic sports, and they could not fail to be impressed with the character and manly vigor of their  successors in scientific, business, political and social prominence.
The scene of the regatta was Lake Quinsigamond, a charming sheet of water about two miles
from Worcester. The banks of the pond are well wooded, affording ample shade, and are
sufficiently elevated to command an admirable view of the course. Seats had been arranged in favorable positions, and thousands of spectators were gathered, choosing situations from the judge's boat a mile or more alone the shore on either side. The Worcester Cornet Band
discoursed music at intervals during the races.
The second and most important race, deciding the championship, followed immediately. The Harvard crew is supposed to comprise the best oarsmen in college.
The crews were:
Harvard -- Horatio G. Curtis (stroke,) Robert S. Peabody, Thomas Nelson, John Greenough,
Edward C. Perkins, Edwin Farnham, (bow,) Costume -- white shirts, red handkerchiefs.
Yale -- W.R. Bacon, (stroke,) M.W. Seymour, Louie Stozkotf, E.B. Bennett, E.D. Coffin, Jr.,
W.W. Scranton, (bow.) Costume -- flesh-colored shirts, blue handkerchiefs.
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Killed in action: 
Colonel Richard Byrnes, Commander Irish Brigade, KIA Cold Harbor,
born County Caven, Ireland, buried Calvary Cemetery, New York City
Colonel Patrick Kelly, Commander Irish Brigade, KIA Petersburg,
born County Galway, Ireland, buried Calvary Cemetery, New York City
Lt. Count Van Haake, 52th New York, German Rangers, KIA Spotsylvania
Lt. Baron Von Steuben, 52th New York, German Rangers, KIA Spotsylvania
Major Thomas Tuohy, Irish Brigade, KIA Wilderness,
buried Calvary Cemetery, New York City

Colonel James McMahon, Commander 164th NY, Corcoran's Irish Legion,
KIA Cold Harbor.
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Edmund Coffin of the Yale crew went on to Columbia Law school and became a prominent New York City lawyer and ancestor of Yale chaplain, William Sloane Coffin.