|The 52nd was an all-German regiment recruited entirely in New York City in the fall of 1861. By the time it mustered out in July of 1865, the regiment had participated in all of the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, except for the battle of First Bull Run. The 52nd participated in some of the bloodiest fighting during the entire war, including such places as the Bloody Lane at Antietam, Maryes Heights at Fredericksburg, the Wheatfield at Gettysburg and the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania.|
The 52nd represents the most overlooked ethnic group of the Civil War. The Germans contributed about 175,000 men to the cause of the Union. New York alone had more than twenty units comprised entirely or with a large majority of Germans. Many other units would have had Germans in their ranks as well. Despite the bad reputation the Germans have because of the disaster at Chancellorsville and the first day of Gettysburg, they more than proved themselves on the field of battle. Though many of the German units in the Army of the Potomac served in the 11th Corps, two all-German units served in the 2nd Corps. These two regiments were the 7th NY and the 52nd NY. They both fought alongside many other famous units of the 2nd Corps, including the Irish Brigade, and earned the admiration and praise of many.
|The 52nd NY served in the 1st Division of the 2nd Corps from the time it was formed to the time it was disbanded. The 2nd Corps was created on March 13, 1862 by General Orders No. 101. Major General Edwin V. Sumner became its first commander, while Brigadier General Israel B. Richardson was given command of the 1st Division. The 2nd Corps was disbanded on June 28, 1865, after compiling an impressive combat record during the war. Within its ranks served some of the best units and commanders in the Army of the Potomac. The 52nd NY served under such commanders as Winfield Hancock, Nelson Miles, Israel Richardson, Edwin Sumner, Samuel Zook, Francis Barlow, Clinton MacDougall, and William French.|
On March 21, 1863, the corps in the Army of the Potomac were assigned distinctive insignias. This was a way to discourage straggling and cowardice by making it easier to tell what unit soldiers belonged to. This also helped raise the morale of the army. The 2nd Corps was assigned the trefoil, which resembled the club in a deck of cards. Each division had a color: red for the 1st Division, white for the 2nd, and blue for the 3rd. The red trefoil that the 52nd wore, like the rest of the 1st Division, was both a source of pride for the men who wore it and a sign of their status as some of the best soldiers in the Army of the Potomac.
The 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division, 2nd Corps was formed on the same days as the rest of the 2nd Corps, with Brigadier General William French as its first commander. The 52nd NY and one other regiment were the only two regiments that served in the brigade until they were mustered out or until the brigade was disbanded. Though these other units only spent part of their service in the brigade, they all remained in the 1st Division for the rest of their service. The 111th, 125th and 126th NY regiments, recruited in Troy, NY or Central New York State, had been forced to surrender at Harpers Ferry in September 1862. Despite the stigma attached to them, they proved themselves hard fighting regiments at Gettysburg and the battles of 1864 and 1865.