156 years ago today: The polyglot Garibaldi at Bull Run

On 21 July 1861, some 30,000~ Americans met on the field of battle south of Washington D.C. and let the cork out of the bottle on the epic bloodletting of the Civil War. Until then, although there had been a number of sharp incidents, peace was still an option. After the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as Battle of First Manassas, there was no turning back.

One of the more colorful units on the fields of Prince Williams County that day was the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, best known as the “Garibaldi Guard.”

The unit was formed just nine weeks earlier by the flamboyant Hungarian Col. Frederick George D’Utassy who, at the ripe old age of 37 claimed prior wartime service as a field and staff officer in several European armies prior to his immigration to the states, and worked as a language professor (speaking 12 of them fluently). The regiment was a foreign legion of sorts comprising 11 companies of men of different national heritage from New York’s streets: three German, three Hungarian, one Swiss, one Italian, one French, one Spanish, and one Portuguese.

As such, they looked unlike any other U.S. infantry force at the time.

COL D'Utassy and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the Uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

COL D’Utassy, short guy center, and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

The Guard attached into the 1st Brigade (Col. Louis Blenker) of the 5th Division (Col. Dixon S. Miles) and was in reserve at Manassas– but by most accounts they gave good service in helping cover the Union retreat.

They fought for the rest of the Civil War (often among themselves) and were disbanded 1 July 1865. The regiment suffered a total of 274 fatalities during the conflict, most from disease or by prisoners who died in Confederate POW camps.

As for D’Utassy, he was court-martialed in 1863 for “fraud and conduct prejudicial to military discipline” after selling the position of Major in his regiment, forging muster rolls, and forging accounts. He was discharged 29 May 1863 and, after a brief stint in Sing-Sing, became an insurance salesman.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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