The Story of Lieutenant David Grey Falconer, 79th NY

Webmaster note:  This entry courtesy of Pvt. Tom Vaselopulos, 79th NY

I have always enjoyed history, especially the Civil War.  It was one of the main reasons for joining the 79th New York Volunteer Infantry (NYVI); as it is one of the most interesting units of the American Civil War.  Comprised mainly of Scottish immigrants to the United States, they flocked to the colors of their new country during its time of need and served with distinction in nearly every theater of the conflict and in were involved in some of the bloodiest fighting.

Starting with 895 members when they mustered into Federal service in New York City on May 29, 1861, for three years service, there were less than 130 of the original members of the unit when their terms of enlistment ran out on May 13, 1864 in Spotsylvania, Va.  They returned to New York City to be discharged.

So it was with great interest when I moved to Lexington, KY that I found out a member of the original 79th NYVI is buried here. His name is Lieutenant David Grey Falconer, Company B, 79th NYVI.

The official record of Lt. Falconer is listed in the, “Rosters of The New York Infantry Regiments During The Civil War.”  These rosters were compiled by the New York State Adjutant General’s Office. They were published as a set of 43 volumes between 1893 and 1905. Their official titles are Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year____.  These rosters were digitized by the New York State Library. For a complete list of the documents the library has digitized see www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandocs/.  Also, information about the 79th NYVI can be found on:  http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/79thInf/79thInfMain.htm

FALCONER , DAVID.—Age , 21 years. Enrolled, May 13, 1861, at New York City, to serve three years; mustered in as second lieutenant, May 27, 1861; as first lieutenant, January 19, 1862; wounded in action, September 17, 1862, at Antietam, Md.; discharged, July 31, 1863, for appointment in Veteran Reserve Corps. Commissioned second lieutenant, May 27, 1861, with rank of same date, original; first lieutenant, April l3, 1862, with rank from February 28, 1862.

Official records are very impersonal and the remaining information comes from a rededication of Lt. Falconer’s stone marker in Cavalry Catholic Cemetery, Lexington, KY, on July 14, 2001 as reported in the local newspaper The Lexington Leader.

David Gray Falconer was born in Early Vale, Mid-Lothian, Scotland December 14, 1837.  He immigrated to New York City in 1856 and continued his education.  He joined the 79th New York State Militia soon after its organization and went off with the regiment when it mustered into Federal service as a second lieutenant.  He saw action in the battles of Blackburn’s Ford, Bull Run, Lewinsville, Pocataligo Bridge, Port Royal, Chantilly, South Mountain, and Antietam.

It was at Antietam that Lt. Falconer was wounded in the right hand and right knee resulting in the amputation of his right leg.  According to the unit history of the 79th , found in Wikipedia, the following is an account of the units action at Antietam:  “During the battle, the Highlanders fought near Burnside’s Bridge and were deployed as skirmishers leading an advance along the Sharpsburg Road near the Sherrick House. Despite heavy Confederate fire, they pressed on, managing to drive in part of Jones’ Division and capturing a battery of artillery. However, the arrival of A. P. Hill‘s troops drove the 79th back into the suburbs of Sharpsburg, where they engaged in a vicious firefight around the Sherrick House. In spite of heavy fighting, the regiment escaped relatively lightly with only 40 men killed, missing or wounded.”

After recovering from the amputation, Lt. Falconer was discharged from active service, July 31, 1863 to enlistment into the Veterans Reserve Corp at the same rank. He was stationed in the Louisville and Lexington, KY area detailed to the Medical Department to make a record of soldiers buried in Camp Nelson and vicinity until July 1866.  He eventually obtained the rank of Major while with the Veterans Reserve Corp.

After the war, Major Falconer decided to stay in Lexington while he studied the law at Kentucky University where he graduated and was admitted to the bar in February 1868. He continued his relations with his old comrades by his membership in the 79th Veterans Association after the war. Major Falconer remained in Lexington and continued to practice law for 58 years.  He resided in the city with his wife Martha and his son D. Gray Falconer.  Major Falconer was involved in many local community and church activities.  Major Falconer passed away after a brief illness in March 8, 1926 at 89 years old.

Below is a photo of the stone rededication:

 

stone