Stevenson's Regiment: First Regiment of New York Volunteers
by Captain Jim Balance, California Center for Military History, California State Military Reserve
Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson of New York City, a colonel of militia, and a member of the New York Legislature was selected by President James K. Polk to raise a regiment of New York volunteers for service in California.
Secretary of War William L. Marcy, and General Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the Army thought the appointment a good one and assented to it. Stevenson was granted official permission to raise the regiment on June 26, 1846. Secretary Marcy's instructions were that the regiment should be composed of unmarried men, of good habits and varied pursuits, and such as would be likely to remain in California or adjoining territory at the close of the war. Colonel Stevenson was informed that it was desired that he start early in August, 1846. In a communication dated June 30, Stevenson wrote to Silas Wright, the Governor of New York, for the necessary permission to raise a regiment in the State. To this the Governor graciously consented Seven companies were recruited in New York City; three were recruited outside of New York City, one each at Albany; Bath, Stueben County, and Norwich. The recruiting otticers were, for the part, those who became commissioned officers of the respective companies. No secret was made of the regiments destination and prospective service.
These companies were, on the 1st of August 1846, gathered together in general encampment on Governor's Island, New York Harbor. Here, on the same day, the regiment was mustered into Federal service by Colonel Bankhead, commanding the 2d U.S Artillery as the "Seventh" New York Volunteers. The uniform of the regiment was designed by Major James A. Hardie. The pantaloons were of dark, mixed grey, with scarlet strip or cord up the seam of the leg, blue coats with scarlet trimmings, and a new style of French cap.
During the summer of 1848, an order was received by Colonel R.B. Mason, commanding Tenth Military Department, from the War Department, directing that Colonel Stevenson's Regiment should be designated thereafter the ''First Regiment New York Volunteers" instead of the"Seventh" as heretofore. This fact was never generally known outside of California, and the regiment, subsequently organized and commanded by Colonel Ward B. Burnett, which served in Mexico, has always been known as the First Regiment, New York Volunteers, when it should have been designated as the "Second," and was so designated in an official order by the War Department in 1847. There were two regiments in the State of New York during the Mexican War.
Many ex-members of Stevenson's Regiment joined the California militia thereby providing a source of trained personnel for the newly admitted State's military force. Some of the more prominent members were the following:
Captain Henry M. Naglee became the first Commander of the First California Guard, Light Artillery.
Lieutenant Theron R. PerLee became the first Adjutant General of California.
Captain William G. Marcy became Secretary of State Constitutional Convention, Monterey, 1849.
Lieutenant Thomas E. Ketchum became Captain, Third Regiment, California Volunteers during the Civil War and later served as a Brigadier General in the California National Guard.
Lieutenant Palmer B. Hewlett became a Brigadier General in the California National Guard.
Captain Joseph Folsom, the regiment's quartermaster, became a prominent California citizen who is memorialized by the City of Folsom.
Major General Thomas Jefferson Green was the first of four Major Generals elected by the California State Legislature at San Jose on April 11, 1850.
Additional Regimental Members
William Edward Shannon: Steuben County, New York, was designated as the place for raising one company. William E. Shannon, of Bath, at once volunteered to raise a company. In a very brief space of time Shannon had enlisted the full complement, and the company was organized by the election of William E. Shannon, captain, etc. Mister Shannon served as a delegate to the convention, representing the Sacramento area. His vast knowledge of law and oratory skills enabled him to play a prominent role in crafting one of the most significant state constitutions. Sadly, he died the next year from cholera.
Other Online and Printed Histories
1st Regiment of New York Volunteers
Jonathan D. Stevenson


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Updated 8 February 2016