The origin of the 149th New York Volunteer Infantry is probably similar to that of many other teams in the N-SSA. A skirmish team often begins as the result of the growing pains of a parent team. With growth, team members may no longer exhibit common goals and objectives regarding shooting, historical authenticity, or self-government. There comes a time when idle talk about differing views becomes planning for a new team which will surely do things better. . . that's how the 149th NYVI began.
A few members of the 2nd NY Volunteer Cavalry happened to meet at a rest stop on the way home from a late summer skirmish in 1971. They had been with the 2nd since the unit had stood inspection at Fort Shenandoah in 1966, and had seen it emerge from years of struggling to field eight shooters, to a point where the unit was fielding more than two musket teams. A few new members joined the 2nd, bringing family and friends to swell its ranks. However, with the influx of new people cam differing opinions over goals, objectives, and how the unit was to be run. A split from the 2nd was inevitable, and it occurred in a friendly fashion at the end of the 1971 season.
The departing group spent the Fall and Winter of 1971 creating their new organization. They agreed that they wanted to be infantry, because they felt that cavalry had never seemed appropriate for a musket team (no carbine teams in those days). Since the core members of the new team were primarily from Onondaga County in Central NY, they examined the history of five Onondaga County Civil War Infantry regiments to choose one for the new team's namesake. Of the five, the history of the 149th NYVI made it stand out. It had the distinction of serving both with the XII and the XX Corps with Sherman in the West and South. In it's first battle at Chancellorsville, it helped stem the panic caused by Stonewall Jackson's flank march while suffering its heaviest casualties of the war. At Gettysburg, it helped hold Culp's Hill on July 2 and 3, thereby contributing to Lee's decision to commit to Pickett's fateful charge. During Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, the 149th fought at Lookout Mountain, and Peach Tree Creek. It was also among the first units to enter Atlanta, where it laid claim to the house that had been Hood's headquarters.
Further historical research convince the group that the 149th was the best choice for their new team's namesake. The 149th was distinctive in its own way as a unit of the Union Army - Company "A" was Jewish, Company "B" was German, and Company "C" was Irish. The Unit was, therefore, a perfect example of the 19th Century United States as a "melting pot," AND represented the ethnic heritage of most of the team members.
Once the team name was chosen, and effort was made to recreate its flags. An old photo was found, showing the original 149th VI Regiment Commander, Colonel Henry Barnum, holding the unit's National Colors. This served as an accurate guide to recreate the 149th's flag - complete with inscription "Presented by the Officers and Men of the Salt Springs" - a tribute to Onondage County's primary industry of salt production, centered around its major city of Syracuse. Historical records also described the regiment's State Colors. Though the State Colors were thought to be lost, a member of the new team discovered the original flag, still in very good shape, in the State Capitol at Albany. A photo was taken, and the flag was carefully reproduced to include the unique inscription, "Donated by the Jewish Ladies of Syracuse."
The founding members of the 149th received encouragement from many friends on other teams in the Northeast Region, and especially from another "new" team, the 137th NYVI from the Binghamton, NY area. Coincidentally, the original 137th and 149th were brigaded together, and served as sister regiments throughout the Civil War. The new 137th displayed the same warm friendship toward the 149th as had its original namesake.
The newly formed 149th made its presence known in the Central NY area by giving historical presentations at VFW and American Legion posts. Its members honed their skills in public speaking and in passing the tin cup. As a result of these presentations, they learned that the Central NY area was rich in untapped sources of Civil War history and heritage. One member will always remember his feeling of awe when an elderly gentleman approached him after a presentation to say that his father had served in the Civil War with the 149th.
The new team stood inspection at the 1972 Spring Nationals, and made every effort to be historically authentic. Members outfitted themselves in wool jackets and pants, trousers tucked in socks, brogans, haversacks, and canteens. They looked like they had just stepped out of a banc box, with new uniforms and authentic flags. They were complimented on the number of 3-band Enfields and Springfields they carried, since Remington Zouave rifles were the most commonly used in the N-SSA at the time. Their authenticity brought them to the attention of the 12th Georgia Infantry, who had noticed the white star XII corps badge on the kepis, and felt the need to remind them of the 149th's participation in Sherman's March to the Sea.
The 149th has seen much change since 1972. Its flags, uniforms, and equipment show evidence of wear, and faces don't look as pretty as they used to (excepting, of course, the faces of the few female shooters who joined in more recent years). Formerly young and innocent faces with little experience have become weathered brows telling skirmishing tales, while new, young and innocent faces have come on the scene to listen to those tales with awe and reverence.
As with other units, the 149th's history has not been without incident. The unit became a "parent team" itself in 1990, when its membership grew quite large, and the inevitable divergence of its members goals and objectives occurred. A group left the team, wishing to become not only a cavalry regiment (which was bad enough), but also a Confederate regiment! History had come full circle, and then some.
The 149th NYVI Regiment continues to be an active participant in, and host team for, regional skirmishes in the Northeast Region. It continues to compete each Spring and Fall at the N-SSA National Skirmishes, taking medals in carbine, musket and mortar many times over the years.
Since its inception, the 149th has beat its drums, shown its colors, and made its presence known on the skirmish line and around many a campfire. It will continue to do so for many more years.