Formed in the fall of 1861 and recruited in New York and New Jersey from communities of Irish immigrants, the 88th New York became one of the better known regiments of the Civil War. The unit was started as the 2nd and 4th Regiments of the famed Irish Brigade. The two regimental commanders reached an agreement and in November of 1861 the two regiments were combined under the command of Colonel Baker of the 2nd Regiment with Colonel Meagher of the 4th Regiment taking command of the famous Brigade.
The unit was as fortunate in its manpower as it was in its officers. More than 70% of the men had served in the British army or the British India Army prior to their enlistment in the 88th. This gave them experience and a high level of professionalism on the battlefield. The language of the regiment was Gaelic and the men maintained many of the traditions of their native Ireland throughout their service.
When New York required that the Irish Brigade take part in the universal numbering system, the unit took the number of Britain's 88th Connaught Rangers. Many of the men of the regiment had received their initial training with this famous unit and decided to bring the number to the U.S. Army.
The Regiment served with the 2nd Brigade (Irish) of 1st Division / II Corps of the Army of the Potomac. They served through the war and fought in every battle that involved the Army of the Potomac.
When mustered out of service at the end of the war, the unit again showed the price it had paid, as it numbered only 96 men. Their green war colors had appeared on every battlefield on which the Army of the Potomac had fought. The members of the 88th NYSV, known as the “Wolves of the Army of the Potomac,” had earned their place in history.