HistoryThe regiment was formed on April 12, 1861, by a group of military enthusiasts in Manhattan and deployed from Fort Schuyler at Throgs Neck, New York Harbor. Colonel Abram Duryée was appointed as the commander of the regiment. The majority of the soldiers were educated and above average height. On May 24, the regiment boarded a transport to reach the Virginia Peninsula. Immediately at Fort Monroe, the regiment began making scouting expeditions.
By the end of May, the regiment moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where they built and garrisoned an earthen fort at the summit of Federal Hill. Duryée was promoted to general rank, so Gouverneur Kemble Warren took over command of the regiment. There, the regiment continuously drilled, until General George McClellan ordered the regiment to join the Army of the Potomac in the campaign to capture Richmond, Virginia. McClellan said that, upon seeing the colorful New York regiment, "the Fifth is the best disciplined and soldierly regiment in the Army."
At the Battle of Hanover Courthouse on May 27, 1862, the regiment played only a minor role. However, they fought in a more major role in the Battle of Gaines' Mill of the Seven Days Battles. As McClellan moved his base to the James River on June 27, 1862, the regiment fought against the Confederate soldiers under Gregg’s South Carolina brigade. In a counterattack, the regiment defeated the initial Rebel attack.
In August 1862, the regiment fell under the control of General John Pope. At the Second Battle of Bull Run (also known as the Second Battle of Manassas), the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment was forced to withstand the advancing forces of General James Longstreet. In underestimating the size of the Confederate army, Pope ordered the regiment to support Hazlett’s Battery. Longstreet’s soldiers easily outnumbered the small regiment, and the Texas Brigade quickly inflicted over 330 casualties in the regiment. One hundred twenty Zouaves were killed within eight minutes, the greatest single battle fatality of all Federal volunteer infantry regiments in the entire Civil War. The entire Color Guard was killed, except for one man. The only officer to survive the battle was Captain Cleveland Winslow.
Later, at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, the unit was held in reserve. On December 15, the unit fought at the Battle of Fredericksburg, covering the Union retreat. At the Battle of Chancellorsville under Joseph Hooker, the unit saw its final combat.
In the fall of 1862, officers of the 5th detailed on recruiting duty had organized the 165th New York Volunteer Infantry, or "Second Battalion Duryee's Zouaves." The 165th served with the 19th Corps in Louisiana, in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and on occupation duty in Charleston, South Carolina, at war's end.
Colonel Cleveland Winslow of the 5th organized the 5th New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry after the original 5th mustered out. After a long and difficult recruiting period, the 5th Veterans joined the V Corps and fought in the final campaigns of the Virginia front.