Wreath Laying Commemorating Battle of Fredericksburg
Story by Major Roberta Comerford, 27th Brigade Combat Team public affairs

QUEENS, NY – Soldiers of 1st
 Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Army National Guard placed wreaths at the grave sites of fallen Civil War heros December 11, 2010.

Maj. James Gonyo, Commander of the 69th Infantry Battalion, renders honors after laying a wreath at the Civil War memorial monument commemorating the 148th anniversary of the battle of Fredericksburg.
“The ceremony was held to honor the Irish Brigade (of which the 69th was a part of) and Civil War battle of Fredericksburg,” said Major James C. Gonyo II, Battalion Commander, 1-69th Infantry Regiment. “It was important because it is one of the battles that defined the regimental traditions that are still practiced within the 69th today.”

Members of the 88th Brigade, New York Guard, Civil War re-enactors and New York Naval Militia also attended the ceremony to remember the 148th anniversary of the battle.

Historically, the core units of the Irish Brigade consisted of 63rd, 69th and 88th Regiments, New York State Volunteers (NYSV). The Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 was a bloody time for the Irish Brigade.

“The Irish Brigade was virtually destroyed in its uphill attack to Mayre's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg, suffering higher casualties than it had at Antietam,” Gonyo said. “The day after the battle, the 69th was issued its famed "2nd Colors", one set of which were later given to the Irish Parliament by John F. Kennedy on the centennial of the battle.”

Tradition holds that during this battle, the term “Fighting 69th” was bestowed upon the 69th Regiment by General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia for courage and tenacity displayed at Fredericksburg.

After a service at the memorial chapel, and short march to the Irish Brigade monument, Maj. Gonyo represented his unit by placing the first wreath.  He was followed by Col. (Ret.) George DeSimone, Commander of the 88th Brigade, and Col. (Ret.) James Whalen of the 88th Brigade representing the 63rd Regiment NYSV.

Once the three wreaths were in place, the firing party, comprised of the Veterans Corps of Artillery of New York, rendered a three volley salute along with Taps. Upon completion of the service, the group visited some of the grave sites of members of the 69th Regiment and marched back to the chapel.

“I will continue the tradition during my tenure and believe that it is an enduring ceremony that others will also honor for years to come,” Gonyo said. “The significance of upholding the traditions and honors and of teaching the lineage of the Fighting 69th to the current Soldiers is extremely important. The richness of the heritage and the unique history that surrounds the unit are sources of pride to those who are privileged enough to wear the crest of the 69th Infantry.”