Don't know them? Well, the book, "Eye of the Storm," made them famous. It is based on the writings of Robert Sneden and his watercolors depicting well known Civil War scenes. Sneden's talents as an artist were quickly recognized and he was transferred to the topographical service. He was captured and sent to Andersonville where, in a starving condition, he consented to serve the Confederates in a clerical capacity. This allowed him access to more food which he shared with his pards. His illustrations were used throughout the book and are very famous today. After modern publication, the owner of the paintings approached the Virginia Historical Society (Richmond) and offered them at a very reasonable price. He knew what he had and wasn't greedy (kudos to him). They bought it immediately. Anyway, you'll have to check out his book if you want to read more Sneden or see his fantastic artwork.
This anecdote doesn't concern Sneden and is about his regiment, the Fortieth New York Volunteer Infantry instead. Known as the Mozart regiment which is short for New York's Mozart Music Hall, they earned a good reputation as fighters and fought at Yorktown, Bull Run II, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and the siege of Petersburg. Even the official reports mentioned them not by their numerical designation but as the Mozart Regiment. Here's something most people don't know about them. It's written by the regimental historian and I share it with you now.
"Although we were official known as the Fortieth Infantry, we retained the name 'Mozart Regiment' all through the war.... We were better known by that name in the army than by any other, unless, after the first year, it was that of 'The Forty Thieves.' This appelation was given us by other regiments which thereby credited us with greater foraging ability than they could themselves claim. Where other bodies of foragers would return with empty hands, the Mozart foragers always succeeded in finding valuable plunder. Chickens, pigs, sheep, hams, and bacon that had excaped the search of earlier seekers for spoils, became the easy prey of the Fortieth. Not only barns and sheds were invaded by the remorseless Mozarters, but habitations likewise. A Mozarter would find a hidden smokehouse which others had failed to discover, and so in pleasantry, and not in opprobrium, we received the sobriquet, 'Forty Thieves;' and as we marched along the dustry roads of Virginia, past halting regiments, they often saluted us where 'Here comes the Forty Thieves.' It often became necessary in the army to provide for ourselves, for there were many weary weeks when, to survive, it became necessary to steal. Not, however, in the sense of stealing as the thief wrongfully seizes the property of another and appropriates it for himself. We took whatever our hands could find to take, by the inexorable right that the exigencies of warfare have established among all nations. In his official report of the battle of Williamsburg, Gen. Keany spoke of us as the 'Fighting Fortieth,' and thus it appears that if we made a reputation for stealing, we also made one for fighting."
I wonder what Wolfgang Amadeus would have thought? Betcha he would have composed something for them.