Chapter 2
Armstrong County in The War of the Rebellion


Introductory -- The First companies -- Camp Orr Established -- Departure of the Regiments -- Amount of Money Raised in the County for Relief of Soldiers' Families -- The Amount of Bounty Money -- Soldiers' Aid Society -- "Inperpetuam Memoriam" -- Roster of Armstrong County by Regiments and Companies -- Regimental Histories -- "Brady Alpines" -- Eighth and Eleventh Reserves -- Fifty-Ninth, Sixty-Second and Sixty-Third Regiments -- Seventy-Eighth Regiment -- The One and Third -- One Hundred and Fourth -- One Hundred and Thirty-Ninth -- One Hundred and Fifty-Ninth -- Two Hundred and Fourth -- Soldiers in Other Organizations -- Militia

When the great Rebellion came, and men and means were needed to crush treason and preserve our cherished Union and the heritage of our Revolutionary fathers, the fires of patriotism glowed brightly and fervidly in the hearts of the great mass of the people of this county. The patriotic response to the reverberations of the first gun, fired upon Sumter, was prompt and willing.

The following facts speak more forcibly and eloquently of that response than any words of mine can do.

In less than six days after President Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 men to aid the government in repossessing the forts, arsenals and other national property which had been violently seized by the insurgents, and in re-establishing law, order, and the dominion of the legitimate government, a company of 114 men of this county, under the command of Capt. Wm. Sirwell, left Kittanning by rail, April 18, 1861,*(1) for Pittsburgh, and thence went to Harrisburg.

During its tour of duty the company visited Harper's Ferry, where the gallows on which John Brown was hung was then standing, a piece of which Col. Sirwell has in his possession. Having served well and faithfully through the period for which they enlisted, the men were honorably discharged, at Pittsburgh, Pa., August 14, 1861, and on its return to Kittanning, where most of its members resided, was honored with an ovation.

On April 22, 1861, another company enlisted, which was afterward assigned to the 8th Regiment of Pennsylvania Reserves. And soon after the enlistment of the last named company followed that recruited by Capt., afterward Col., S. M. Jackson, consisting largely of men from Apollo and elsewhere in the southern part of this county. It was assigned to the 11th Regiment of Pennsylvania Reserves.

Soon after the return of the first, or three months' company, Camp Orr was established on the Fair Ground, a short distance above Kittanning, where the 78th and 103d Regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteers were recruited, drilled, and mustered into the United States service. The former, under command of Col. William Sirwell, moved by railroad to Pittsburgh, October 14, 1861*(2).

The 103d Regiment, under the command of Col. Theodore F. Lehman, left Camp Orr, 24th February, 1862.

Large numbers of people from this and other counties were present to witness the departures of, and bid reluctant farewells to, both of these gallant regiments, which, as well as the rest of the patriotic hosts that participated in that struggle, it was fondly though vainly hoped, would have returned, crowned with the laurels of final victory, from the battlefields of the Rebellion before the then next September equinox.

The recruiting of several other companies and parts of companies for other regiments followed later in the conflict. Capt. W. C. Beck's for the 62d, Capt. C. W. McHenry's in part for the 63d, Capt. Joseph Steele's for the 59th (cavalry), Capt. James L. McKean's and Capt., afterward Col., John G. Pan's for the 139th, Capt. John A. Cline's for the 155th, Capt. John E. Alward's for the 204th, Capt. J. K. Calhoun's (the short term for the defense of Pennsylvania) for the 22d, Capt. C. W. E. Welty's (who succeeded Capt. E. M. Daily, promoted), Capt. D. K. Duff's, Capt. W. H. Libbel's and Capt. R. M. Kirkadden's for the 159th or 14th Cavalry, and five of one of the companies in the 15th Cavalry or Anderson's Troop. How many other men of Armstrong county enlisted in other regiments recruited in other counties the writer cannot now state. The aggregate, exclusive of the latter, furnished by this county, according to Col. Sirwell's calculation, is, of officers, musicians and men, three thousand six hundred and fifty-two.

The amount paid out of Armstrong county treasury, by authority of law, for the relief of soldiers' families, from 1861 to 1866, was $57,063.54; for county and veteran bounties, from 1864 to 1867, $33,220.50. Total, $90, 284.06.*(3) An immense quantity of clothing, provisions and other things were also sent to the men in the army from this county by Soldiers' Aid Societies and branches of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions, and by individuals.


The ladies of Kittanning borough and its vicinity were active from the outbreak of the war, in collecting material aid for the comfort of the men in the field. Their efforts in this behalf finally crystallized in the organization of the Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society, March 28, 1863, the members of which were zealous and persistent in accomplishing its beneficent purpose during the continuance of the war. It is to be regretted that the records of this patriotic society have not been preserved, so that from them a full and accurate statement of its transactions may be given. From some of the monthly presentations of its doings by its president, the late Mrs. Catherine Buffington, it appears that it was instrumental in collecting large quantities of lint, handkerchiefs, clothing, books, magazines, newspapers, fruits and vegetables, which were grateful to the soldiers in field or camp, while reports of the treasurers, Misses Margaret McElhenny, Alice Colwell and Fannie E. Orr, show that the cash receipts and disbursements amounted to $1,489.54. The balance of $33.49, finally remaining in the treasury, was transferred to the society connected with the Christian Commission. Besides direct appeals to individuals for contributions, a supper was given by the society in 1863, the net proceeds of which amounted to about $250; in March, 1864, a grand musical concert was given in the courthouse, which was well patronized, but run the society in debt $4.20; in December following Prof. Kidd gave two of his masterly elocutionary entertainments, and divided the proceeds with the society, from which the latter, without any trouble or expense, realized the sum of $32.25.

The people of this county may justly claim to hold a high rank among the patriotic hosts of other parts of our state and county, in aiding our imperiled government in maintaining the perpetuity of the free institutions, founded by the wisdom, valor, patriotism and philanthropy of the fathers of our republic.

While attending the obsequies of a Union soldier in July, 1863, it occurred to the writer that the names and patriotic deeds of the hosts of subordinate officers and privates who fell in the War of the Rebellion, should in some way be rescued from the oblivion into which the names of such usually fall, and so the ideas contained in the following and closing paragraphs in this general sketch of our county then sprang up in his mind, which he subsequently shaped into an article published in the Kittanning Free Press, January 1, 1864, and which is here reproduced:


All who have gone and all who may yet go forth to defend our country, its free institutions, its best of civil governments, and the cherished flag for which our fathers fought against the ruthless attacks of conspirators and traitors, should be held in perpetual remembrance. The names and heroic deeds of our generals and other prominent officers will be perpetuated on the historian's enduring pages. But the names and frequent equally heroic deeds of thousands of private soldiers, because too numerous, cannot thus be rescued from oblivion. Yet they will deserve to be kept in grateful remembrance at least by those of their countrymen who now inhabit, and who will continue to inhabit, the respective localities which gave them to the service of the country. Wherein the injustice of history, if we may so speak, withholds from subordinates and privates their well earned meed of praise and immortality of fame, the people who are the recipients of the benefits resulting from their devotion, prowess, privations, hardships, dangers and bloody sacrifices should so far as possible remedy this unavoidable injustice of history. The names of all, it is true, will be on the rolls in the war office. But is this enough? We think they should also be permanently enrolled in the respective cities, boroughs and townships from which they entered the army.

Hence we beg leave to suggest that a proper sense of respect for and gratitude to our country's defenders in this war should prompt the citizens of each city, borough and township in our own and other states, respectively, to spontaneously cause to be recorded in a durable volume the name of every officer and private whom such city, borough or township has already supplied, or may hereafter supply, his regiment and company, the battles in which he has participated or may yet participate, his casualties and heroism, and such other matters of interest as can be concisely noted in a suitable space to be left after each one's name. it would not now be difficult to make up such records, which, when made up, should be sacredly preserved.

Although it may be truly said of those lamented ones who have fallen, as Byron says of the Greeks at Thermopylae:

"They fell devoted by undying,
The very gale their names seemed sighing,
The waters murmur of their name,
The woods are peopled with their fame,
The silent pillar lone and gray
Claims kindred with their sacred clay;
Their spirit wraps the dusky mountain,
Their memory sparkles o'er the fountain,
The meanest rill, the mightiest river,
Rolls mingling with their fame forever."

Yet each city, borough or township,, by erecting in a suitable locality an enduring monument to their memory, with their honored names thereon indelibly inscribed, would but render such a tribute of grateful regard for the names and fame of its own dead heroes as their services, patriotism and valor demand. Thus, too, would the youth of this and future age, when their services may be needed, be incited to achieve patriotic and heroic deeds.

Does it not become the people, while this year is new, to volunteer for the laudable purpose of accomplishing a work which will be so honorable to them and so gratifying to and so well deserved by the soldiers of our republic? A grateful people should never suffer the names of such benefactors to perish. Let enduring tomes and marble or granite pillars rescue them from oblivion.

Regimental Histories and Descriptive Roster

line  Brady Alpines - Ninth Regiment

line  37th Regiment - Eighth Reserve

line  39th Regiment - Ninth Reserve

line  40th Regiment - Eleventh Reserve

line  59th Regiment - Second Cavalry

line  62nd Regiment

line  78th Regiment

line  103rd Regiment

line  104th Regiment, Company K

line  139th Regiment

line  155th Regiment

line  159th Regiment - Fourteenth Cavalry

line  204th Regiment - Fifth Artillery

line  Miscellaneous List

line  Footnotes

Source: Page(s) 60-100, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed January 1999 by James R. Hindman for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by James R. Hindman for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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