Private, Co. C, 133rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, USA

August 13, 1862 - December 13, 1862


John Perrin volunteered his services to the United States Army enlisting with the 133rd Regiment during its organization in August of 1862. The regiment was made up of ten companies, Companies C and K having been recruited from Bedford County. Beginning the 1st of August, the recruits began to gather at Camp Curtin, a military training facility near Harrisburg.



HARPER'S WEEKLY, issue dated September 20, 1862

Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, has issued a proclamation recommending the immediate formation throughout that State of volunteer companies and regiments in conformity with the militia act of 1858; also that, in order to give due opportunities for drill and instruction, all places of business be closed daily at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so that all persons employed therein may, after that hour, be at liberty to attend to their military duties.

Arrangements are being made to dispatch to the entrance of Cumberland Valley all the troops now at Harrisburg, and other regiments from this State and New England detained there for that purpose. The citizens are organizing themselves into companies under the Governor's proclamation, and a very martial spirit prevails. By the invasion of Maryland, at Frederick, the city of Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is threatened. General Andrew Porter has reported to Governor Curtin for the organization of the Pennsylvania militia. The rebels are reported to have invaded Pennsylvania at Hanover.


On August 19th the 133rd set out for Washington D.C. Upon arrival, the regiment reported to General Silas Casey by whom it was immediately ordered to Arlington Heights, Virginia located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. It was here the 133rd joined forces with the 123rd, 131st and the 134th Pennsylvania Regiments under the command of Colonel Peter H. Allabach of the 131st.


The regiment was sent to Alexandria on August 27th where it was encamped for three days. On the 30th, following the defeat of the Union forces at the second Battle of Bull Run, the troops were moved to Fort Ward. This installation was one of the sixty-eight earthen forts built to protect Washington D.C. and was located on the west side of Alexandria. For the next two weeks, the troops were involved in picket duty and entrenchment construction at the fort.


On September 12th, the brigade, which had been strengthened by the addition of the 155th Pennsylvania regiment, crossed back over the Potomac to Washington D.C. While enroute, they were attached to Gen. Andrew A. Humphrey's Division of the 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac. The brigades of Humphrey's division were from Pennsylvania with most of the troops being newly recruited nine-month volunteers. During the two-day stay at Washington, the soldiers exchanged the arms that had originally been issued to them for Springfield muskets. Each man was issued a small canopy, called a dog tent by the soldiers, and sixty rounds of ammunition.


Sunday morning, September 14th, the troops headed for Washington County, Maryland. Delayed for a day at the Monocacy River, the corp reached Sharpsburg on the morning of the 18th, the day after the Battle at Antietam. While continuing to skirmish with Union troops that day, the Confederate forces began to withdraw southward across the Potomac River into the Shenandoah Valley. The morning of the 19th, the Pennsylvania troops crossed Miller's cornfield, covered with the dead and the wounded of both armies. The Pennsylvania Volunteers set up camp a mile outside of Sharpsburg on the road leading to Shepherdstown, West Virginia.


Here the Pennsylvania regiments remained for about six weeks engaging in company and battalion drill. In late October the regiments began their march toward Falmouth, Virginia located on the opposite side of the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg. Falmouth was the headquarters of Union General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Army of the Potomac, which included the 133rd Pennsylvania volunteer regiment. Arriving there about November 17th, the Pennsylvania troops, for nearly four weeks, continued to drill diligently in preparation for the upcoming engagement with the Southern forces.



The Town of Falmouth, Virginia on the Opposite Side of the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg.Falmouth was Union headquarters for GeneralAmbrose E. Burnside and the Army of the Potomac where Pvt John Perrin spent the last few weeks of his life. - Artist unknown


About 8:30 a.m., December 13, 1862, the first Battle of Fredericksburg began. It has become known as one of the most one-sided battles of the War Between the States. The Union army suffered horrifying casualties while engaged in the futile frontal assaults Burnside launched against the well-entrenched Confederates on the Heights behind the city of Fredericksburg. Civil War scholars attribute this Union defeat to Burnside's indecisiveness in his plan of action, lack of preparation, delays in the arrival of equipment needed to cross the river and communication failures.



The Open Fields Crossed by the Union Troops with Marye's (pronounced Marie's) Heights in the Background.The fields had become littered with fallen soldiers by the time Pvt. Perrin's unit arrived that afternoon. From the Heights, the Confederate troops had an almost unobstructed view and were well entrenched in the Sunken Road behind the Stone Wall. " The Union soldiers lay where they fell, (including Pvt. John Perrin) in the cold winter air as night crept over them, blanketing their agonized cries.” - unknown

  Courtesy ofthe National Archives and Records Administration


An excerpt from the official report of Colonel Franklin B. Speakman, commander of the 133rd Pennsylvania Infantry gives his account of the Battle of Fredericksburg:


" Between two and three o'clock P.M., on Saturday, the 13th of December, the regiment, in common with the other regiments of the brigade, was ordered to cross the river. This was successfully done, although the shells from the enemy's batteries were falling thick and fast, and exploding over us.  I


advanced my regiment as directed, through Fredericksburg, crossed the canal, or race, just outside of the city, and filing to the left, formed line of battle under cover of a small hill. The regiment was placed on the right, and in the advance, the fourth battalion, Colonel Allen, being on our left. Knapsacks were unslung, bayonets fixed, and orders received to charge the works on Marye's Heights.


We charged up and over the hill, about two hundred and fifty yards, when we came upon a line of troops, lying down. My men, not knowing that they were to pass over this line, covered themselves as well as they could in the rear of this line. The troops in front, neither advancing nor retreating, and a second charge being ordered, I passed over the prostrate troops, charged to the right of, and past the Brick House, and to within about fifty yards of the stone-wall, and to the left of the house, to the crest of the hill. These positions were held for an hour, under a most terrific fire from the enemy's infantry and artillery, and until dusk, when I was ordered by General Humphreys to withdraw, which I did, and re-formed line of battle on the right of the road, and a little in rear of where our original line for the charge had been formed. Here we remained for a time, only sending out squads to scour the fields and bring off our killed and wounded.” - Colonel Franklin B. Speakman


(From: HISTORY OF PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS, 1861-65; prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature, by Samuel Penniman Bates; from the collection of Making of America Books.)


At the age of thirty-four, Pvt. John Perrin was among the seventeen enlisted men of the 133rd Pennsylvania Volunteers to give his life that December day. As he lay dying, surely the faces of his beloved wife, Alsa, and their four young children passed before his eyes. Lying on the cold Virginia ground, Pvt. Perrin would soon be warmed by the memory of the Bedford County earth he had called home as he drifted into his final rest. John Perrin died fighting for the beliefs he called righteous and true. He served with honor; he died bravely.


Pvt. John Perrin was born 1828 in Southampton Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Edward and Nancy Perrin. John's siblings were Rebecca, Jesse, Leary Ann, William, Jonathan (John's twin), Deborah, Sarah and Amos. Rebecca married Samuel Awford, Leary Ann is believed to have married David Walter, Jonathan married Maria Gordon and Deborah married Daniel Gordon. Amos' wife's first name was Rosanna.


On September 2, 1851, John Perrin and Alsa Gordon were married at the home of Artemas Bennett. John and Alsa were the parents of four children - Susan, George W. Dallas, Alpha Pearce and Emily Williard Perrin. Susan married Joshua T. Lucas (Pvt. Co. C, 133rd Pa. Vols.), George married Susan Wigfield and "Emma” married David Mearkle, all of Bedford County. "Alf” never married and moved to Alberta, Canada.


Pvt. Perrin was the grandson of John Perrin, one of Bedford County's earliest settlers. John's grandfather John died in 1816; his grandmother Sarah died in 1834. John and Sarah were the parents of Edward, Eli, Rebecca, Amelia, Nancy and Liddy Perrin. Liddy married Jacob Crow.


Sharon Spielman Ashcraft

  Great-Great Granddaughter of

George W. Dallas Perrin and Susan Wigfield


References: Holdings of Bedford County Historical Society; Bedford County Land and Orphan's Court Records; Federal Census Enumerations; National Archives and Records Administration - Civil War Widow's Pension File of Alsa Perrin, Application No. 9992; Pennsylvania State Archives - Land Warrant Register and Civil War Registration Cards; BEDFORD GAZETTE.



View of Fredericksburg, 1862

Fredericksburg, Virginia 1862


Start of Battle

The Start of Battle


Frederic Cavada

Frederic Cavada, a Union lieutenant, recorded the vast and futile charge against the strong Confederate line along Marye's Heights on the afternoon of December 13, 1862.  Pvt. John Perrin was one of the casualties . Courtesy of Historical Society of Pennsylvania


sketch of battle scene

With flashing sword, Gen. Andrew A. Humphrey leads his Pennsylvania division against the Confederate line on Marye's Heights, on the afternoon of December 13, 1862.Courtesy of Library of Congress

The insert in the drawing above reads:

"In the mist of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt and that is that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blind accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has no notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use.


Probably no other area in the United States so exemplifies the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Holmes as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Here, within a radius of 17 miles, occurred over 100,000 American casualties in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House, all involving strategy and tactics beyond the understanding of the average soldier. The park preserves and interprets some of the scenes of those four great Civil War battles. The quiet, peaceful woods and fields are a constant reminder of how much we owe to the sacrifice of others. Here they came, here they fought, and here they died.”  - National Park Service, History Online



Field Piece




painting of Fredericksburg

Just before the battle, Civil War artist Alfred R. Waud sketched this peaceful view of Fredericksburg from across the river at Falmouth.  Courtesy of Library of Congress


battle scene

As the attack by the Federal left, positioned below the town began to founder, Burnside ordered his right wing to assault the heavily defended Marye's Heights behind Fredericksburg. In this sketch by Waud, waves of infantry push across the broken plain on December 13th in the face of fierce Confederate musket and artillery fire.Courtesy of Library of Congress

"THAT TERRIBLE STONE WALL”On Marye's (pronounced "Marie's”) Heights and in thesunken road behind the stone wall at the base of the Heights,  (Confederate Lt.-Gen.) Longstreet had placed a division and a full brigade of troops.

As (Union) Gen. William French's division ...formed for the attack on the edge of the city, it came under a devastating artillery fire from the Confederate guns on the surrounding hills. Then as the brigades swung out in battle formation across the open fields, their alignment was broken by a canal drainage ditch that (USA Commanding Gen.) Burnside obstinately refused to admit existed. The blue line staggered and slowed as men fell like leaves in an autumn wind. Regrouped under fire, the men sprang forward again, passing under the range of the artillery on the hills, only to be met by a sheet of flame as the Confederates behind the stone wall...exploded into action. When the smoke eddied away, remnants of the Federal regiments could be seen retreating across the fields to the shelter of a slight rise in the ground.

Burnside stubbornly refused to admit his mistakes. He continued to hurl brigade after brigade against the stone wall... As one soldier described it: "They reach a point within a stone's throw of the stone wall . . . that terrible stone wall.No farther. They try to go beyond but are slaughtered. Nothing could advance farther and live."

It was hopeless and useless, a waste of life, a horrible mistake. Nothing was accomplished by the attack. Darkness mercifully put an end to it. And that night, as the snow lay hard on the hills, many of the wounded slowly froze to death. "It is fearful to wake at night," one veteran wrote, "and to hear the sounds made by the men about you.Allnight long the sounds go up of men coughing, heavy and hoarse with halfchoked throats, moaning and groaning with acute pain, a great deal of sickness and suffering on all sides . . .."  - National Park Service, History Online



Not one Union soldier reached the stone wall this fateful day.


Fredericksburg, The Stone Wall


Confederate Soldiers behind the Stone Wall, Dec. 13, 1862.
ParkNet Home


Saturday, December 13, 1862Weather: Morning fog


"They were repulsed with zeal and driven back with much loss on every occasion." - Maj. General Lafayette McLaws,  CSA.


"Six times did the enemy, notwithstanding the havoc caused by our batteries, press on with great determination to within 100 yards of the foot of the hill, but here encountering the deadly fire of our infantry, his columns were broken and fledin confusion to the town. ...the last [assault] occurred shortly before dark. This effort met the fate of those that preceded it, and, when night closed in, the shattered masses of the enemy had disappeared in the town, leaving the field covered with dead and wounded." - General Robert E. Lee, CSA


"I gave my life up. The nervous strain was simply awful. The atmosphere seemed surcharged with the most startling and frightful things. Death, wounds, and appalling destruction everywhere." The Sunken Road Behind

-  Lt. Frederick L. Hitchcock, 132nd PA Infantry  The Stone Wall - Marye's Heights




Map of the

First Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia

December 13, 1862






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