Columbians actively served in the Union armies during the Civil War. (The number serving in the Confederate forces is still unknown.) In 1898, thirty-three years after the war ended, the University published War Records of Graduates and Students Who Served in the Army and Navy During the Rebellion. It lists the names of 395 Columbia students and alumni who served in the Civil War. According to this account, the class with the largest number of men serving was the Class of ’61, from which at least 57 College, medical, and law students and alumni volunteered. This represented 45 percent of the total cohort.
Columbia students and alumni enlisted primarily in the Volunteer Regiments of the City of New York. Within the officer corps, five Columbia graduates became major generals, ten colonels, thirteen lieutenant colonels, thirteen majors, and twenty-nine captains. A substantial number of Columbia graduates also served in the enlisted ranks. In addition, 196 medical graduates of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which was an affiliate of Columbia at the time of the war but later was integrated into the University as its medical school, served among the corps of surgeons. In the introduction to this record of participation in the war, John Howard Van Ameringe, Dean of Columbia College from 1894 to 1910, invited readers to alert the University to names that may have been missed. Today, 110 years later, it is likely that the role of Columbians who fought and died in the war is still incomplete.