Tracing their descent to 1806, the title of the 7th New York National Guard was adopted by the regiment in 1847. An active force in city riot-
control, the more unruly members of the mob christened the 7th 'the old greybacks', their dislike of the part-time soldiers being increased by the fact that all ranks were drawn from the highest-ranked members of the community, enlistment in the 7th being considered more like an exclusive club. Under the command of Abram Duryee (later of Zouave fame) from 1849 to 1859 the regiment became the most famous 'civilian' corps in the country. Members served a seven-year enlistment, purchased their own uniform and drilled once a week for ten months of the year, benefiting in return for their service by exemption from jury duty and a deduction on city property tax.
When Washington was briefly menaced at the outbreak of the war, President Lincoln appealed for state militia to come to the aid of the few regulars awaiting the expected Confederate attack on the capital. The 7th New York volunteered to a man, and were given a rapturous send-off in a parade down Broadway when they left, 1,000 strong, on ig April under Colonel Marshall Lefferts. Travelling to Philadelphia by train (where they were issued with twenty-four rounds of ammunition per man when news came of an attack on the 6th Massachusetts Militia by a rebel mob in Baltimore), they found rail communications severed by saboteurs. Lefferts therefore chartered a steamship at his own expense to Annapolis, completing the journey by train to Washington, the whole corps reporting personally to the White House. Followed by other volunteer corps, the threat to Wash ington was averted. The 7th New York returned home after serving a term of garrison duty in Washington, reverting to militia status, though its members were eagerly sought to become officers in other volunteer units forming for the war; over 600 served with distinction in the Federal army.
The uniform of the 7th was of the typical pre-war militia style, con-consisting of képi, shell-jacket and trousers of light grey with black trimming. The képi bore the company number on the front in a small brass numeral. The brass waist-belt plate bore the initials 'n.g.' and the company number (in letters) ; the cypher 'n.g.' was repeated in ornate lettering in the cartridge-pouch. Equipment consisted of canteen, knapsack, buff or black oilskin haversack, leather-covered mess-pail strapped to the rear of the knapsack, and a red blanket. White leather equipment was worn from 1849 until 1861. In 1853 shakos were issued, but these were reserved for full dress. Greatcoats were light blue; the regiment was armed with the 1855 Rifle musket.
The third figure on this plate (taken from a contemporary painting) shows the influence of French styles in the uniform of another New York Militia corps.
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