From the Civil War to the First World War
During the years following the Civil War, the Sixty-Ninth was reorganized and again took its place in the life of the city. Many veterans of the Irish Brigade and Corcoran's Legion joined the ranks bringing the regiment up to about a thousand men. Martin McMahon was elected Colonel and the routine of the National Guard in time of peace was soon established. There were drills, balls, picnics, parades, and politics (Irish, National, State, City, and Regimental). All this politics caused dissention and as the older man dropped out, the regiment declined in numbers. The condition of the regiment was such that in 1891, there were suggestions that Colonel Cavanaugh resign and allow the election of a younger commander. After the regiments tour of duty in camp in 1892, Colonels Bates, Hardin, and French, (Regular Army Officers) recommended a complete weeding out of the older officers. However, they thought the men were the finest military material. The newspapers charged conditions would never improve until political factions and wire pulling were eliminated. Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945
New York State acted on December 1st, 1893. General Order No. 162 provided: "The Sixty-Ninth Regiment is hereby reduced to 1 Battalion and shall consist of Companies A, C, D, and K. The companies named will retain their present letter designation. Companies B, E, F, 0, and H are hereby disbanded, and the enlisted men thereof, and the non-commissioned staff of the regiment, honorably discharged".
George Moore-Smith of the Seventh Regiment was appointed to command the Sixty-Ninth. The new Colonel, himself an Irishman, went to work at once. Within a week only two officers remained in command of their companies. Major Duffy resigned and two new companies, from an independent regiment of Irish Volunteers were admitted to the Sixty-Ninth. The Battalion was reconstituted a Regiment on September 4th, 1895. Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945
Colonel Smith left command a short time later and the former Major Duffy was elected Colonel. At the beginning of the Spanish-American War, Colonel Duffy volunteered the 69th Regiment to serve the United States any place in the world where its services might be required. Internal regimental politics caused numerous difficulties during that time. At a Board of Officers Meeting, a chaplain called for a new election for Colonel. The discussions were quite heated. It appears evident that one or more of the officers of the unit were providing information about the internal strife in the Regiment since the New York Times covered many unflattering stories about Colonel Duffy and his staff. It should also be noted that at the time, there were officers in the Regiment who worked for the Times. Factions within the Regiment grew and internal politics prevailed. Many of these problems were eliminated after the practice of electing officers was abolished. Demeter, The Fghting 69th Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945
The regiment was soon recruited to full strength and went into training at Camp Black in Hempstead, Long Island. The Sixty-Ninth was reviewed by the Archbishop on May 20th, and were soon on their way to Camp in Chickamauga National Park. Their progress through the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wheeling, and Cincinnati was one long reception. The whole country was aflame with the war fever, the troops were greeted by the strains of "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" and by girls with food and drink. The Irish Societies turned out in force to greet the most famous of the old Irish Regiments. After a short stay in the Park they moved to Palmetto Beach near Tampa, where the soldiers had a great time swimming in the surf. Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945
Father Daly, the Chaplain, was presented with a chapel tent by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. It showed to fine effect, painted in red, white, and blue, decorated with Celtic Crosses. It was inscribed in large letters, "Our Chapel Tent, 69th New York Volunteers." It is greatly to the credit of the Regiment that the pastor of the local parish wrote to the Archbishop complimenting the men for their good conduct and generosity to his parish and praising Father Daly for his fine work. Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945
One of the trains caning the regiment to Huntsville, Alabama ran off the tracks, and two cars were badly mashed. Two men were killed and twenty-six injured. All the injured recovered and later rejoined the regiment. The 69th remained in Huntsville from August 1898 until January 1899 when they returned to New York and were mustered out on January 31st. Although it never saw action, the Regiment lost twenty-nine men. Two were shot accidentally, two were killed in the railroad accident, and twenty-five died of disease.
The period between the War with Spain and the First World War marked by two main events: the opening of the new armory at 25th Street and the service of the Regiment at the Mexican Border. In the early days of the 69th, the armory was located at Essex Market but companies scattered throughout the City in various drill halls on the East Side. In 1880, the Seventh Regiment opened their new armory at 67th Street. The Sixty-Ninth inherited their old quarters at Tompkins Market. The building had been finished in 1861 but by the end of the century it became inadequate for the Regiment's use. On April 23rd, l904, the corner stone of the present armory was laid. In October 1906, amid great celebration, the 69th Regiment marched into its new home,
The war in Europe did little to change the regular routine of the Regiment. President Wilson had kept us out of the war and it was believed he would continue to do so. There were now troubles closer to home. Poncho Villa , a Mexican politician and revolutionist, began raiding across the Mexican U.S. Border. President Wilson ordered General Pershing to capture him. However, the regular forces of the United States were so diminished at that time that National Guard units had to be called out to raise the 12,000 men which made up Pershing's expeditionary force. The Sixty-Ninth spent from July 1916 to February 1917 on the Mexican border. They saw no action. As a mater of fact very few of Pershing's troops saw any action for although Pershing spent nine months chasing Villa, he never caught him.
The danger of war against Germany resulted in the recall of the troops. The 69th Regiment received a typical New York welcome as they marched up Fifth Avenue on February 6th, 1917. America's first great venture in preserving democracy began on April 6th, 1917 when war was declared on Imperial Germany. Reverend O'Flaherty's History, Cardinal Hayes School, written sometime after 1945