Pennsylvania in the Civil War
Virtue ~ Liberty ~ Independence
The Coming Storm...
I. War Sentiment and First Enlistments
II. The Draft is Made
III. The Battle of Gettysburg
The long political struggle between the Northern and Southern States on the slavery question, which began in the Federal Constitution Convention of 1787, and was further intensified by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and the annexation of Texas in 1845, ended with the election to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln and the triumph of the Republican party, November 6, 1860.There could be no misunderstanding of the mutterings of the coming storm as they were approaching nearer and nearer. The raid of John Brown into Virginia fanned the flames of disunion, and on December 20, 1860, South Carolina, by a unanimous vote, passed the Ordinance of Secession.Even before the outbreak of actual hostilities the spirit of the inhabitants, their high feeling for the integrity of the Union, and the willingness to sacrifice life and treasure for it, were manifested in the events which took place in the northland. This was especially true in Pennsylvania. The first overt act of the war occurred in Pittsburgh during the closing days of 1860, when the citizens refused to allow the guns which the Secretary of War ordered South to leave the city.For months the columns of the newspapers teemed with expressions of ridicule at the outspoken threats of the Southern States, supplemented by a current of unbelief that affairs would take the serious form of open rebellion. All was characterized as a "scare," until the order came from John B. Floyd, of Virginia, Secretary of War in President Buchanan's cabinet, on December 20, 1860, ordering forty columbiads and four thirty-two pounders to be sent from the United States Arsenal in Pittsburgh to an embryo fort in Galveston, Texas, which would not be ready for armament for five years. This order came soon after the news of South Carolina's secession, and the "scare" became an active, perilous, and imminent danger.Secretary Floyd was deeply concerned in the conspiracy for the overthrow of the Republic and his act of stripping the northern arsenals of arms and ammunition was first detected by the patriotic citizens of Pittsburgh, when a call, signed by prominent men, was issued for a meeting in Mayor George Wilson's office on Christmas afternoon. It was an enthusiastic meeting. General William Robinson presided and several addresses were made on the situation, when it was determined that a demand be made on the President that the order "be countermanded without delay." Major John Symington, commandant of the arsenal, stated that the cannon would be shipped unless the or4er was revoked. It was also learned that for many days past the government wagons had been transporting munitions to the city for shipment South. The anger of the people could not be restrained. A second meeting was held on the 27th, when General Robinson counseled that nothing resembling an overt act of treason should be committed. Strong resolutions were adopted, among them one which called upon the President to purge his cabinet of every person known to have countenanced the revolt against the Constitution and the laws of the Union. The people awaited impatiently for answers to their telegrams and meetings were held daily.In the meantime several guns had been hauled through the streets and loaded on the transport "Silver Wave," amid great excitement. Violence was narrowly averted. A cousin of the President, Dr. J. S. Spear, residing nearby in Lawrenceville, detailed the facts to the President, who commanded Secretary Floyd to countermand the order immediately. Floyd fled from Washington, when his successor, Joseph Holt, of Kentucky, on January 3, 1861, countermanded the order. The temper of the people was such that, without this order, the transport would have been sunk before it sailed from Pittsburgh.Andrew Gregg Curtin, of Bellefonte, was inaugurated Governor, January 15, 1861, and assumed office in this time of the gravest problems ever presented to American statesmanship for solution. In his inaugural address he took occasion to declare that "Pennsylvania would, under any circumstances, render full and determined support of the free institutions of the Union," and pledged himself to stand between the Constitution and all encroachments instigated by hatred, ambition, fanaticism, and folly. He spoke with words of deliberation, decision, and wisdom, and made a record of statesmanship that stood the severe test of years of bloody and lasting war, a conflict which obliterated old and sacred landmarks in political teaching.On February I 7 the House adopted resolutions pledging to Maryland the fellowship and support of Pennsylvania. On January 24 the Assembly adopted resolutions taking high ground in favor of sustaining the Constitution of the Union. On April 7, President Lincoln sent a message to Governor Curtin, requesting him to come to see him. At this conference the President expressed his belief that a civil war was about to break out; that as Congress was not in session he could not act, but as the General Assembly of Pennsylvania was in session he was anxious to know if it could be counted upon to act. Curtin replied that he was positive it would. He returned to Harrisburg, and on the 9th sent a message to both Houses concerning the military organization. An act was passed, when the Governor nominated Major General Edward M. Sheppard to be adjutant general, Captain John W. McLane commissary general, and General Reuben C. Hale quartermaster general.Threatening as was the danger no one anticipated that strife would actually break out so suddenly, nor that it would grow to such fearful proportions at the very beginning. It is true that the soldiers of the South, who had long been preparing to dissolve the Union, unmasked their design when the guns of Fort Moultrie were trained on Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, April 12, 1861. No State was less prepared, so far as munitions of war were concerned, to take its part in the conflict than Pennsylvania. Her volunteer soldiery system had fallen in decay. There were fewer volunteer companies of militia in Pennsylvania at that moment than ever before, but when the first overt act was committed, and the news was flashed over the Northland, it created no fiercer feeling of resentment anywhere than it did throughout the Keystone State.It is significant that the boundary line of Mason and Dixon became the invisible boundary between the Northern and Southern States, and that Pennsylvania should occupy, as she had in the Revolutionary War, the keystone in the arch of the Union of States. If Pennsylvania failed in this impending crisis, the arch would crumble in ruins. Governor Curtin, affectionately known as the "War Governor," had vision, strength, and loyalty, and was determined that Pennsylvania should maintain her leadership in the States of the Union.No attempt will be made in this chapter to dwell upon the promptness, the enthusiasm, and the patriotism with which the people of Pennsylvania, in common with those of the other Northern States, sprang forward at the call of the President for men to suppress the treasonable rebellion. The record achieved by the brave men who suffered the dangers and hardships, and wounds and death on the desperate battlefields, is one that may ever be looked upon with pride by every loyal citizen of Pennsylvania.On the morning of April 12, a message was handed to Governor Curtin, in Harrisburg, which read as follows: "The war is commenced. The batteries began firing at 4 o'clock this morning. Major Anderson replied, and a brisk cannonading commenced. This is reliable and has just come by Associated Press. The vessels were not in sight." Later in the day, in response to the Governor's message, the General Assembly passed an act reorganizing the military department of the Commonwealth and appropriated $500,000 for the purpose.On April 15, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling out 75,000 militia to serve for three months. A requisition was made at once on Pennsylvania for fourteen regiments. The alacrity with which these regiments were furnished demonstrated not so much military ardor as it did the patriotic spirit of the people. Sufficient men were rushed to Harrisburg not only to fill up the quota of fourteen regiments, but enough to fully organize twenty-five. There were two distinguished patriotic Pennsylvanians who comprehended the seriousness of the situation from the outset. They were General Simon Cameron, who had resigned his seat in the United States Senate to become Secretary of War, who advised the organization of the most powerful army the North could raise, so that at one blow the armed rebellion might be effectually crushed; and Governor Curtin, who took advantage of the excess men offering their services and began at once, after the complement of the three months' men had been furnished to the Federal Government, to organize the famous Reserve Corps, which proved to be the only troops well organized and disciplined in the North and ready for the service of the Union at the moment of the disaster of the first battle of Bull Run. After the capture of Fort Sumter the government had only one fort in the seceding States which it had been able to retain, Fort Pickens, in Florida, commanded by Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, of Norristown.On April 18, Camp Curtin was regularly and formally established in Harrisburg. It was the first regular camp formed north in the loyal States, and before the end of the month twenty-five regiments were sent to the front from the counties of Pennsylvania. It was originally intended to call this rendezvous "Camp Union," but it was very appropriately changed in honor of the patriotic and beloved Governor. He was, after all, the leading spirit in this greatest of army camps, and his administration during the dark days of the Republic made an imperishable name for his family and added historic grandeur to the annals of the Commonwealth.The five volunteer companies first to report to Camp Curtin were the "Ringgold Light Artillery," Captain McKnight, of Reading; "Logan Guards," Captain Selheimer, of Lewistown; "Washington Artillery," Captain Wren, and "National Light Infantry," Captain McDonald, both of Pottsville; and the "Allen Rifles," Captain Yeager, of Allentown. These companies were promptly mustered into the United States service, and departed for Washington. The volunteers marched through the streets of Baltimore, which were filled with Southern sympathizers, and they were attacked by a mob, but were ordered to maintain their discipline. Attempts were made to derail their train and to disable the engine, but at 7 o'clock on the evening of April i8 the five companies reached Washington, the first troops to arrive for the defense of the National Capital from any State in the Union. These five companies were afterwards affectionately known as "The First Defenders." The following resolution was passed by Congress: "37th Congress, U.S. July 22, 1861. Resolved, That the thanks of this House are due, and are hereby tendered to the five hundred and thirty soldiers from Pennsylvania, who passed through the mob at Baltimore and reached Washington the 18th of last April, for the defence of the National Capital. Galusha A. Grow, Speaker of the House of Representatives."It is not so generally known that ten unarmed and un-uniformed companies from Philadelphia, under command of General William F. Small, accompanied the 6th Massachusetts Regiment from Philadelphia on its way to Washington, and in Baltimore they were attacked on April 19. Three of the Pennsylvanians were killed and a score were wounded. Of the Massachusetts men four were killed and thirty-nine wounded. New England historians have never made any reference to these Pennsylvania troops, which were composed of one-half of the Washington Brigade, of Philadelphia, or six companies of the 1st Regiment and four companies of the 2d Regiment, in all about 1,800 men. In the midst of the spirited scenes at this period Lawrence M. Keitt, Member of Congress from South Carolina, made a personal attack upon Speaker Grow. The latter knocked him down, and, when challenged to a duel, Grow selected rifles as the weapons and Canada as the place, but neither choice suited Keitt. Edgar Cowan, of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate throughout the war; with him were David Wilmot, of Towanda, Bradford County, until 1863, when he was succeeded by Charles R. Buckalew, of Bloomsburg, Columbia County, who then began a long service in that body.On May 15, the General Assembly authorized the organization of the "Reserve Volunteer Corps of the Commonwealth," and the Governor issued the call for the men, apportioned to each county. It was organized by thirteen regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and one of artillery, as follows:
Four camps of instruction were established throughout the Commonwealth, at Easton, under command of Colonel William B. Mann; West Chester, under command of Captain Henry M. Mclntire; Pittsburgh, under command of Colonel John W. McLean; and at Harrisburg, under Colonel G. A. C. Seiler. Major General George A. McCall was appointed to command the corps. On June 22 two of the regiments were ordered to Cumberland, Maryland, and soon afterward rendered excellent service at New Creek and Piedmont, in West Virginia, until ordered to the lower Potomac region.On April 30 an order was issued by Lieutenant General Scott which extended the Military Department of Washington so as to include the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, and assigning Major General Robert Patterson, of Philadelphia, to the command. This old hero was then sixty-nine years of age and a veteran of the War of 1812, the "Buckshot War," and the Mexican War.In May the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania donated $500 towards equipping the volunteers, and it was determined to use the appropriation to procure regimental standards, which became the origin of the battle flags of Pennsylvania, which are so carefully preserved and displayed in the rotunda of the Capitol.* No State in the Union possesses such a valuable deposit of historic flags.On May 13 the 1st City Troop, Philadelphia's ancient cavalry company, organized during the Revolutionary War, was mustered into the service, eighty-five troopers, under command of Captain Thomas C. James. Many naval prizes were now being brought into the Philadelphia Navy Yard. By June 19 that city had ten regiments in the field, such was the martial spirit of the old city.It may not be generally known that the first officer of his rank to be killed in the war was Colonel James Cameron, who commanded the 79th New York Highlanders. He was native of Lancaster County, a resident of Northumberland County, and a brother of Hon. Simon Cameron, then Secretary of War. Colonel Cameron was killed in the battle of Bull Run. Governor Pennypacker says that Lieutenant Colonel John T. Greble, of Philadelphia, who was killed at Big Bethel, June 9, 1861, was the first officer of the Regular Army to lose his life in the war.On account of some important successes in Western Virginia, Major General George B. McClellan, of Pennsylvania, was on July 27 appointed to the command of the troops in Washington to succeed General McDowell, which he soon afterwards named the "Army of the Potomac."During 1861 Pennsylvania sent under tile call of the President, April 15, 20,979 troops; the Reserve Corps, under the call of July 22, 15,856; and under the Act of Congress of same date, 93,759, or a total for the first year of 130,594. At the end of this year Pennsylvania had in actual service sixty-five regiments of infantry and riflemen, eleven of cavalry, one of artillery, seven companies of infantry, six of cavalry, and six of artillery. To this number should be added 16,038 men who were in the several training camps.A reception was tendered to Governor Curtin and Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, in Philadelphia, on January 31, 1862, at which many persons of distinction were present. This year was an eventful one in the history of the war. Grant had achieved important Union victories in the Southwest, but Missouri was in a state of anarchy, and in the East all the battles had been disastrous to the Union peninsula, the second Bull Run was a great loss, and the political situation was most embarrassing to the Federal Army. A large increase in the army was an imperious necessity, but the President hesitated to call for additional troops, fearing organized opposition. European powers were proposing intervention. Over the North spread a sentiment of despair. It was the darkest hour of the war. Then occurred an incident which in the civil phases of the Rebellion is more notable than any other, and which has since been known as the Altoona Conference.Governor Curtin had been prostrated by a malady which required a surgical operation and had gone to New York City under strict orders of his physician that no official business should be permitted to reach him. President Lincoln and his cabinet had determined it would be unsafe to venture upon a call for 300,000 additional troops without having an appeal made to the government by some highly responsible men in the North. Secretary of State Seward was to proceed to New York City and summon a conference of the mayors of the prominent cities with a view of having them unite in an earnest request to the President to summon a large increase to hasten the overthrow of the military power of the South. He proceeded, accompanied by Thomas A. Scott, of Pennsylvania, who suggested that as Governor Curtin was in the city, and his State was the most important to be consulted, it might be well for the Secretary to confer with the Governor. Entirely forgetful of his illness, Curtin listened to Seward when he unfolded his plan. The Governor at once said: "You are not assured of the loyalty of all mayors, but you have an unbroken Circle of loyal governors in the Northern States, and they should make a demand upon the Government with vastly more force than could the mayors of the cities." Seward accepted the suggestion, and within a few hours Curtin had responses from a large majority of the governors cordially approving his proposition for a general conference. On September 14, 1862, the following call was issued: "We invite a meeting of the Governors of loyal States to be held at Altoona, Pa., on the 24th inst. A. G. Curtin, Pennsylvania, David Todd, Ohio, F. H. Pierpont, Virginia." Only Governor E. D. Morgan, of New York, declined.It was a memorable meeting in the old Logan House. There were Curtin, of Pennsylvania; Todd, of Ohio; Andrew, of Massachusetts; Washburn, of Maine; Yates, of Illinois; Kirkwood, of Iowa; Berry, of New Hampshire; Sprague, of Rhode Island; Pierpont, of Virginia; Buckingham, of Connecticut; Solomon, of Wisconsin; Morton, of Indiana; Blair, of Michigan; and Olden, of New Jersey. The conference called for a large increase in the army, and strongly endorsed the emancipation proclamation. The address to the President was written by Governors Curtin and Andrew. After its adoption it was determined that the governors should call upon the President in person to give the greatest possible effect to their action. Thus the Altoona Conference was, next to the Proclamation of Emancipation, the most decisive civil event of the war. It aroused the latent fires of the Union and gave new strength and hope to our brave soldiers in the field. Every Pennsylvanian should be proud of the magnanimous, high-minded and undaunted Governor Curtin.In September, after the second disaster at Bull Run, when the enemy was about to invade the Northern States through Maryland, Governor Curtin called into immediate service 50,000 of the freemen of the Commonwealth. Twenty-five regiments and four companies of infantry, fourteen unattached companies of cavalry, and four batteries of artillery were immediately organized and sent to the border, the greater portion advancing beyond into the State of Maryland, under the command of General John F. Reynolds, who had been temporarily detailed from the Pennsylvania Reserves.General J. E. B. Stuart and Wade Hampton, with about 2,000 troops, executed the first raid into Pennsylvania October 10 of this year. They reached Chambersburg in the evening, during a rain storm, and rode to the public square, where they demanded the surrender of the town. There was no military authority to treat with the invaders, so the civil authorities delivered the town into their custody. Soon the streets were filled with Confederate soldiers, when the dull thud of axes busied in demolishing store doors. Houses were ransacked, and the offices and shops of the Cumberland Valley Railroad and the Western Union Telegraph Company were demolished. The work of destruction continued through the next day. As the articles of value were taken the torch was applied and the buildings burned. When this crisis ended Governor Curtin was thanked by General McClellan for his zeal in covering the southern border, which materially aided in frustrating an invasion into the heart of Pennsylvania, and probably farther north. Though no attack was made as far west as the Monongahela Valley, Confederate scouts visited. McConnelsburg, Fulton County, and Mt. Union, Huntingdon County. At Harrisburg there was great consternation. Earthworks and other defenses, known as Fort Washington, were erected in the present Camp Hill on the west side of the Susquehanna River. Stuart came east from Chambersburg as far as Cash-town, where he turned southward through Fairfield to Emittsburg, Maryland, and through that State, crossing the Potomac at White's Ferry. He marched ninety miles in twenty-four hours and his raid netted him over one thousand horses and a great quantity of supplies at the expense of the farmers of Pennsylvania.During 1862, 40,383 troops were mustered under the call of the President made July 7; organized under the draft order August 4, 15,100 troops; independent companies added 1,358; recruits, 9,259; enlistments in organizations of other States and Regular Army, 5,000, or a total of 71,000 men. Pennsylvania now had 193 regiments in the war.On January 7, 1863, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company made a donation of $50,000 to assist in paying bounties to volunteers. This offer was declined by Governor Curtin, as he had no authority to accept it on behalf of the public. This sum was afterwards accepted, when it originated the establishment of a system for the education of destitute orphans of soldiers. The schools were maintained by the Commonwealth at Scotland, Franklin County; Yellow Springs, Chester County, and Uniontown, Fayette County. The first mentioned is still maintained by the Commonwealth.On April 8 a special train of six cars fitted up with the latest telegraphic instruments and signaling devices, made in Philadelphia, and the first such ever used in war, left that city for General Rosecrans' army.
- First, known also as the 30th Regiment, Colonel R. Biddle Roberts;
- Second, or 31st Regiment, Colonel William B. Mann;
- Third, or 32d Regiment, Colonel H. G. Sickles;
- Fourth, or 33d Regiment, Colonel Robert G. March;
- Fifth, or 34th Regiment, Colonel Seneca G. Simmons;
- Sixth, or 35th Regiment, Colonel W. W. Ricketts;
- Seventh, or 36th Regiment, Colonel E. B. Harvey;
- Eighth, or 37th Regiment, Colonel George S. Hays;
- Ninth, or 38th Regiment, Colonel C. F. Jackson;
- Tenth, or 39th Regiment, Colonel J. S. McCalmont;
- Eleventh, or 40th Regiment, Colonel T. F. Gallagher;
- Twelfth, or 41st Regiment, Colonel J. H. Taggart;
- Thirteenth, or 42d Regiment, Colonel C. J. Biddle;
- Fourteenth, or 43d Regiment, Colonel C. F. Campbell; and
- Fifteenth, or 44th Regiment, Colonel George D. Bayard.
THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
The battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 2, and 3, marked the high tide of the war. Here General Robert E. Lee hoped to win a victory which would compel the withdrawal of Federal troops from the other parts of the county, secure recognition of the Confederacy by foreign governments, carry panic into the North and furnish fresh supplies for his hungry troops.
Fresh from his brilliant victory at Chancellorsville, Lee moved north until his van was within sight of Harrisburg, and there, learning that General Meade was in close pursuit, he turned his army to meet him, and Gettysburg became the scene of the decisive battle.
The concentration of his forces at Gettysburg was forced upon Lee by the rapid movement of General Hooker, with the Federal Army, who hurried northward as soon as Washington was uncovered, to intercept the invading host and so to loosen the grip it had upon the fair valleys, rich with ripe grain and teeming with money, horses, cattle, clothing, shoes, and provisions. Curiously, the Southern Army came into Gettysburg from the north and the Federal Army from the south.
Lee's army was in find condition and Hooker's was recently organized into a great machine. They were evenly matched. The Army of the Potomac had 85,000 men and the Confederates numbered 75,000 men. The Union had 362 pieces of artillery and the Confederates had 272 pieces. The main difference was in commanders. The Federal Army had now a new and untried commander in General Meade, who had only three days before the battle superseded General Hooker, and had with him the new corps commander, Sykes. The Confederate Army, under Lee, and their able and accomplished Longstreet, the competent A. P. Hill, and the renowned Ewell in command of their three corps.
Excluding the ground of the great cavalry fight between Gregg and Stuart on the afternoon of July 3, on the Rommel farm, three miles east of Gettysburg, where for four hours these skilled generals fought for possession of the field in the immediate rear of the Union Army, the area of the battlefield was about twenty-five square miles.
The first skirmish in the great battle occurred June 26, when part of Early's command on their way eastward to the Susquehanna, drove the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Regiment back to Harrisburg. On June 30, Buford's cavalrymen, reconnoitering on the Cashtown road, one of the seven prominent roads which converge at Gettysburg, ran into part of Pettigrew's infantry, and in the evening of that day Colonel Gamble stationed his pickets along March Creek.
Early in the following morning, July 1, Pettigrew's division advanced toward the town, and at Willoughby Run, with his whole brigade dismounted, Gamble held back the Confederate for two hours. Buford advised General John F. Reynolds of this unexpected encounter, who placed the first division of his 1st Army Corps upon the road, and then hurried forward the few miles to meet General Buford. The two rode out the Cashtown road, where a conference was held at 9 o'clock. Reynolds then hurried back to his advancing troops to spur them forward, and, as he was leading the foremost regiment into the woods, he was struck in the head and instantly killed. So passed away the greatest soldier in the Army of the Potomac.
Within an hour Archer's brigade was captured by the Federals near Willoughby Run. Then followed two hours' lull during which the Confederates were preparing their lines to sweep the Union troops off Seminary Ridge. General Doubleday skillfully met his attack by throwing his two Pennsylvania brigades of the 3d Division 1st Corps in the front line, Biddle's on the north side of the woods and Stone's on the south side, both in open ground; the 2d Division was in the woods toward the road to Carlisle.
For three hours these fresh troops received the assaults of the enemy, several times their number. When night time came it was learned that Doubleday's corps had been reduced from 9,403 officers and men to 2,400, the 150th Pennsylvania brought back eighty out of 380 officers and men, and only one officer not wounded. The 121st, 142d, 143d, 149th, and 151st Pennsylvania all lost heavily.
While the 1st Corps was thus engaged, General Howard, with the 11th Corps, came down the Emmitsburg road onto the field. Two divisions were started for the position north of the town, to join the right of the 1st Corps on Oak Hill, that they might hold it against Ewell's corps, coming in by the Carlisle and Harrisburg roads. Unfortunately, the enemy had already seized the hill and Howard was forced into the open, but his two divisions were skillfully placed, and for two hours he sustained an unequal and hopeless fight, being forced back to Cemetery Hill, just as Doubleday was, and at about the same time.
Among the incidents of the first day's fight was the appearance on the field of John Burns, citizen, who came out of the town dressed in an unusual coat with brass buttons on it, wearing a tall hat, and with his pockets full of powder and balls, and a musket which he had used in the Mexican War. Burns approached the firing line, where Major Thomas Chamberlin, of the 150th Pennsylvania was standing, and begged to be allowed to fight with that regiment. While discussing the matter, he was advised to go into the woods and fight from behind a tree, which the aged man did, receiving three wounds, for which Pennsylvania has erected to his memory a handsome statute, located on the ground where the 150th fought. One civilian killed was Jenny Wade, eighteen years of age, who was struck by a stray bullet as she was baking bread in her home, about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 3rd.
During the night of July 1 the two army commanders ordered all their troops to Gettysburg. However, the afternoon of the 2d was well advanced before the 6th Corps arrived on the field, and Pickett's division did not take a place in the line until the morning of the 3d. All of Meade's cavalry, except that which guarded his rear were on the field by the afternoon of the 2d, so that by four o'clock in the afternoon Meade's whole force was present. Lee's cavalry was on the field in force by nightfall of the 2d.
In the night of the 1st General Daniel E. Sickles with his 3rd Corps, came up and was assigned to a position on the "left of Hancock". Instead of prolonging the line to the Round Tops, Sickles occupied an advanced line, in the form of a salient, with the angle at the Peach Orchard and his right flank along the Emmittsburg Road, while his left rested on Devil's Den Ridge. Sickles was hardly in position before Longstreet struck him and began his en echelon attack on the whole Union left. For four hours, from 4 until 8 o'clock, the battle raged furiously, the scene changing from the Peach Orchard to the valley between the Round Tops, from Devil's Den to the Wheatfield and back again. The intervention of Sickles probably saved the main line along Cemetery Ridge, but his failure to occupy Little Round Top nearly cost the possession of that strategic eminence. Fortunately, by the vigorous and attentive service of Major General G. K. Warren, who discovered the flanking movement of Hood's division, Little Round Top was saved and Cemetery Ridge remained tenable. In the defense of the rocky hill, Colonel Strong Vincent gave his life and hundreds of others went down before the fierce and sustained Confederate attack. Four Union general were killed, while on the Wheatfield two colonels were killed, and near the Peach Orchard General Sickles lost his leg. In the second day's fight Hood was wounded, but, minus a leg and an arm, he commanded the Western Confederate Army and fought Sherman near Atlanta.
The Confederate forces had pushed the Federal line back half a mile, but had failed to seize either Big or Little Round Top, and each side suffered frightfully in killed and wounded.
When Longstreet opened the attack on the Union left, it was planned that Ewell would attack the Union right on his front. For some unexplained reason Ewell failed to attack until 7o'clock, after the action at the other extreme of the line had failed. Johnson charged up Culp's Hill, but was repelled, and just before dark Early sent Hays' Louisiana brigade and Avery, with Hoke's brigade, against East Seminary Hill. Under most unfavorable conditions they reached the crest of the hill, carrying everything before them, even to clubbing Weidrich's artillerymen in their hastily thrown up entrenchments. Carroll's brigade of infantry was, however, back of the guns across the Baltimore Pike, and this brigade Hancock personally led against the foe, with the result that the Union guns and position were saved. Ewell, though repulsed in his first efforts at Culp's Hill, contained the assault against Greene and made a lodgment in part of the works of the 12th Corps, which had been vacated by troops called to aid in defending the line of the extreme left against the attack of Longstreet. Johnson pushed his advance by 9 o'clock as far as the Baltimore road, but, on account of the darkness and fearful of being led into a trap, did not go farther. In this contest the Confederates secured Spangler's Spring, but all through the night boys of both sides filled their canteens at the gurgling fountain.
At daybreak pf the 3d General Slocum, with his 12th Corps, made a successful attempt to drive the Confederates from the Union breastworks, and for six hours the woods howled with shot and shell, as this was one of the most desperate battles. Slowly, but surely, foot by foot, the Union troops advanced until the breastworks were wrested from the enemy, who was forced back across Rock Creek. This ended the battle of Gettysburg, so far as Ewell's and Slocum's corps of the two armies were concerned. From 10 until 1 o'clock there was ominous silence over the whole field in both armies. Then came the shot and shell from 120 Confederate guns posted along Seminary Ridge, directed upon the center of the Union line, and immediately ninety guns on the Union side responded and for nearly two hours the earth trembled. General Hunt ordered the Federal pieces to cease firing to cool off, while he replaced disabled guns with fresh ones, and replenished his supply of ammunition for the assault which was sure to come. Lee thought the Union guns were silenced from exhaustion and promptly gave orders to 15,000 of Longstreet's and Hill's choices troops to force the Federal line. Pickett was in front with 5,500 men, and bravely they marched on and on when the charge commenced. From there it was a rush, until on and beyond the stone wall, at the Angle, where both sides mingled in wildest disorder, shooting and clubbing each other in a hand-to-hand struggle that seemed to have no end. One by one the Confederates threw down their arms and sought retreat. Of Pickett's 5,500 men, 224 had been killed, 1,140 wounded, and 1,400 surrendered. Out of fifteen Confederate flags, twelve were left with the Federals, only three leading the brave troops on their way back to the Southland. General Hancock was carried off the field seriously wounded.
While Pickett was making his charge, Stuart, with the enemy cavalry, endeavored to break the Union line in the center of the rear, but there he met General Daniel McMurtrie Gregg, of Burk's County, in command of the Union cavalry, and was defeated in the most important cavalry battle of the war.
All night long following the battle, Lee massed his forces on Seminary Ridge, inviting Meade's attack, which the latter was too wise to attempt. About noon of the 4th, Lee began to evacuate his wounded by the Chambersburg road, and that night sent his effectives by the Fairfield road, through Montery Gap. By the 14th he had carried his army safely across the Potomac; Meade having failed to obstruct his movement.
Gettysburg was a drawn battle, yet, strange to state, it was the decisive battle of the war, and was treated by both sides and by the world as a great Union victory. Lee was afterward on the defensive. The battle was the bloodiest of the war, and one of the most terrible battles in history previous to the World War, and was probably greater than any single action in that gigantic conflict.
While eighteen of the Northern states contributed their courage and manhood, Gettysburg, in its location, its leadership, and its incidents were essentially a Pennsylvania battle. There were five major generals, ten brigadier generals, and forty-one staff officers in the battle. Fifty-five officers from Pennsylvania were killed in battle, including the brave General Reynolds.
The official statement of loss made by Lee was as follows: killed, 2,592; wounded, 12,709; missing, 5,150; total, 20,451. The Union Army, however, captured 12,227, of whom 6,802 were wounded, of which number 2,810 died. No report was ever made of those who died during Lee's retreat. The official report of the Union losses was: killed, 3,155; wounded, 14,529; missing, 5,365; total, 23,049. The number of wounded who died and the killed totaled 5,091, or a grand total of 24,985. Thus, the losses were about equal.
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
The most famous of the many notable addresses made by the great War President was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery, on the battlefield of Gettysburg, November 19, 1863. The address was written while he was a guest in the home of David Wills, in Gettysburg, the evening before the dedication. The Hon. Edward McPherson, of Gettysburg, for many years clerk of the House of Representatives, and father of Judge Donald P. McPherson, of Adams County, said, in 1875, that after Mr. Lincoln had retired to his room on the night of the 18th he sent for his host, Mr. Wills, and inquired the order of the exercises for the next day and began to write what he called "his stray thoughts to utter on the morrow". Mr. Wills said that "the President read from the same paper on which I had seen writing it the night before."
The address has long been considered and generally accepted as the highest expression of American oratory. Bates, in his "History of the Battle of Gettysburg, says: "Its delivery was more solemn and impressive than it is possible to conceive from its perusal." The people were surprised and astonished that the speech should have been concluded so soon, but nobody seems to have been impressed. Lincoln, more than any, thought he had failed and remarked to Ward Lamon: "That speech won't score. I disappointed the people who had come out. The speech fell like a wet blanket upon them." It was only after some weeks had passed that the address began to make an impression. Everett, if he said anything, gave no indication that he was impressed; however, in what seems to be a perfunctory statement, he wrote to Lincoln some time after: "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes." Not until the war was over, and the great leader had fallen, did the beauty and perfection of the address come to be realized. In 1913, Lord Curzon, in an address on "Modern Eloquence" named what he considered to be the three greatest pieces of modern eloquence; they were Pitt's address on the victory at Trafalgar, Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, and Lincoln's second inaugural address.
In 1893 the United States Government succeeded in the management of the battlefield, taking over the work and assets of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, organized in 1864. The position of every military organization which fought upon the field had been marked by suitable monuments. Gettysburg to this day is not forgotten, nor are its memories dimmed with the lapse of time.
The "Gettysburg Memorial Commission" was organized on April 20, 1908, by the appointment of its personnel by Governor Stuart. The magnificent and imposing memorial to its Pennsylvania soldiers was dedicated September 27, 1910. A description of the memorial and the battlefield are told in the story of Adams County.
The fiftieth anniversary of the battle was celebrated on the battlefield, July 1913, when in a wonderful and impressive memorial reunion the Blue and the Gray mingled together in friendly relations and the survivors reenacted some of the events of the battle. It was the greatest observance of any similar occasion in military annals.
In 1863 Pennsylvania sent 1,066 men under special authority of the War Department; under call of the President in June, 4,484; for emergency, 7,062; recruits, 4,458; enlistments in regular army, 934; militia, called for emergency, 25,042, for a total of 43,046.
The Burning of Chambersburg
In the summer of 1864 three thousand Confederates were sent by General Early into Pennsylvania to burn Chambersburg, in retaliation for General Hunter's disgraceful and disastrous raid into Virginia. General Darius N. Couch, in command at Chambersburg, had but one hundred and fourteen men under his command and they were scattered over the country as scouts.
The startling news reached General Couch in the evening of July 29 that a Confederate force had entered Mercersburg and was marching towards Chambersburg. This was untimely news for less than twenty-four hours earlier a sufficient number of troops had passed through Chambersburg on their way to join General Hunter to have repelled this invasion. The Confederates reached the outskirts of the town before daylight, and employed their time in planting two batteries in commanding positions and in getting up the whole column, fully 3,000 strong.
At six o'clock Saturday morning the invaders opened their batteries and fired six shots into the town. Immediately thereafter their skirmishers entered by almost every street and alley, and finding the way clear, their cavalry to the number of 831, came in under the command of General McCausland. He was accompanied by General Bradley Johnson and the notorious Major Harry Gilmore. McCausland and Gilmore demanded of the citizens, who were on the street, that the collect some of the prominent citizens with a view to entering into negotiations. The courthouse bell was rung, but only a few responded. To the citizens who did come together, Captain Fitzhugh, of McCausland's staff, produced and read a written order, signed by General Jubal Early, directing the command to proceed to Chambersburg to demand a tribute of $1000,000 in gold or $500,000 in greenbacks, and on failure to secure the sum, to proceed to burn the town in retaliation of the burning of six or eight houses specified as having been burned in certain counties in Virginia by General Hunter. He was promptly answered that Chambersburg could not and would not pay the ransom. Infuriated at the determination of the citizens to do nothing, Major Gilmore rode up to the group of townsmen consisting of Thomas B. Kenney, William McLellan, J. McDowell Sharpe, Dr. J. C. Richards, William H. McDowell, W. S. Everett, Edward G. Etter, and M. A. Falte, and ordered them under arrest until the money was paid, or they would be taken to Richmond as hostages, and that they would burn every house in the town.
While the officer was endeavoring to force them into an effort to raise the money, his men commenced to fire the buildings when those held were liberated, as the intimidation could affect nothing. The main part of the town was seen enveloped in flames, no time was given to remove women and children, the aged and infirm, sick, or even the dead. The invaders divided into squads and beat down the doors, smashed furniture, rifled drawers, appropriated money, jewelry and valuables. They then threw kerosene upon the combustible articles and plied the match. They invariably demanded money before burning, but even when the ransom was paid the property was burned. Many people escaped with only the clothes upon their backs, and some of them with difficulty. Property valued at $3,000,000 was destroyed, 300 rendered homeless, many penniless, and not one of the innocent persons had violated any accepted rule of civilized warfare.
Soon after the work of destruction had commenced a squad was detailed to burn "Norland", the residence of Colonel Alexander K. McClure, afterwards for many years the editor of the Philadelphia Times. This beautiful residence was a mile form the center of the town, and no other building was fired within a half a mile of it. They would not allow Mrs. McClure, or any servant, to save anything belonging to the colonel.
Several of the raiders, however, perpetrated their last pillage. Major Bowen, of the 8th Virginia Cavalry, got too far ahead of the firing in his greed for plunder, when he was overtaken by several citizens, and, slightly wounded, took refuge in a burning cellar, where the intense heat blistered him. He begged to be spared, but he burned to death. Captain Cochran, quartermaster of the 11th Virginia Cavalry, was caught by Thomas H. Doyle, of Loudon, and at the point of his pistol was given just fifteen minutes to live. Cochran begged piteously for his life but Doyle, on the very second, shot him dead; and there was found on his person $815 in greenbacks, all stolen from citizens, and $1,750 of Confederate currency. Scores of McCausland's command were killed on the retreat by General Averill's forces. Many of the invaders had become intoxicated and so demoralized by their plunder that they were easy prey to the Federal troops, who passed through Chambersburg in pursuit.
Petersburg Mine ExplosionFew events in the war created more interest or were longer remembered that the explosion of the Petersburg mine, July 20, 1864. Such operations are not uncommon in warfare, and were frequently employed in the World War, but this is the only instance when it was been used on the Western Continent.
The mine was planned and executed by Colonel Henry Pleasants, of Pottsville, and the men who performed the labor of excavation were men in his command, the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Many of them were miners, recruited by Colonel James Nagle, also of Pottsville, and the entire regiment was composed of Schuylkill County men, who served from September 19, 1961, until the close of the war.
On June 18, when strenuous efforts were being made by the Federals to carry Petersburg by assault, Colonel Pleasants, by a brilliant stroke, captured more than three hundred of the enemy. At this time he came forward with his plan of a mine.
Just below the crest of Cemetery Hill and opposite the 2d Division of the 9th Corps, the Confederates had constructed a strong work. Pleasants proposed to start a mine just inside the Union line, run it under this work and blow it up. On June 24 he formally stated his plan to General Porter, his division commander, who was interested. General Burnside authorized it to be done, and General Meade, though not having much faith in it, assented. The men of the 48th entered into the project with high zest. Work was commended June 25. Not the least obstacle to overcome was the removal of the material cut out of the tunnel, which was carried away in old cracker boxes. The work has finished and ready for charging by July 23. The main gallery was 511 feet long, with two lateral galleries, about thirty-seven feet wide, in which were eight magazines, each charged with 1,000 pounds of powder. The whole army was held in readiness to advance and take advantage of the confusion anticipated in the Confederate lines. The order for the attack was issued by General Meade on July 29. General Burnside was to spring the mine at 3:30 in the morning of the 30th.
The powder had been in the mine a day and a half and became damp. The fuses went out, when Lieutenant Jacob Douty, of Company K, and Sergeant Henry Rees, of Company F, volunteered to crawl in and relight the fuses. It was 4:40 when the explosion occurred, carrying men, guns, carriages, dirt, and timbers high into the air, and leaving a crater 170 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 30 feet deep.
Burnside failed to carry out the precise orders given to him, and did not go forward promptly, so that the Confederates, recovering from their first surprise, reoccupied the intrenchments, when they soon swept the crater with canister and before noon the Union troops were ordered to fall back. Those in the Crater were driven out or captured. The result of the assault was a stupendous failure. The Union loss was 504 killed, 1,881 wounded, and 1,413 captured. The Confederate loss was one third as much.
The mine operation was all that the most sanguine could have wished, and General Meade hastened to made recognition of the service of Colonel Pleasants and his Pennsylvania troops in a general order, which was most complimentary to all concerned. Colonel Pleasants was brevetted brigadier general, March 13, 1865, when President Lincoln referred to his distinguished service at the Petersburg Mine.
General George B. McClellan was placed in nomination for President by the Democratic part at its national convention in Chicago, when he became the unsuccessful opponent of President Lincoln. McClellan's nomination was ratified in Philadelphia, the city of his birth, on September 17, 1864.
During 1864 re-enlistments in old Pennsylvania organizations totaled 17,876; under special authority of the War Department, 9,867; under call of July 27, 16,094; under the call of July 6, 7,675; recruits, 26,567; drafted men and substitutes, 10,651; recruits for regular army, 2,974; a grand total of 91,704.
During the year 1865, under call of the President, December 19, 9,645; recruits, 9,133; drafted men and substitutes, 6,675; recruits for regular army, 387; total for year, 25,840. Total for the war, 362,284 men, to which should be added the militia called out in 1862, amounting to 25,000, which makes the grand total of 387,284 men furnished by Pennsylvania, who served in 270 regiments and several detached companies. This total does not include the (40,002) Pennsylvanians who enlisted in the United States Navy, which should make the grand total 427,286.
Pennsylvania had forty-eight general officers and fourteen commanders of armies and corps, these being George Gordon Meade, George B. McClellan, Winfield Scott Hancock, John F. Reynolds, Andrew A. Humphreys, David B. Birney, John Gibbon, John Grubb Parke, Henry Morris Naglee, Charles Franklin Smith, George Cadwalader, Samuel G. Crawford, Samuel Peter Heintzelman, and William Buel Franklin. Generals David McMurtrie Gregg and Benjamin H. Grierson were distinguished cavalry commanders, Washington L. Elliott was chief of cavalry in the Army of the Cumberland, and commanded a department. Admiral David D. Porter, the heroic naval commander, was a native of Chester. Galusha Pennypacker, of Chester County, a brevet major general when under twenty-two years of age, was the youngest general in either army during the war. He led the assault on Fort Fisher and was wounded seven times in eight months.
During the war the administration of military affairs was directed by two Pennsylvanians, first by Simon Cameron, who was Lincoln's first Secretary of War, and he was succeeded by Edwin M. Stanton, of Pittsburgh.
At the close of the war Governor Curtin, in a special message to the General Assembly, said: "The resources of Pennsylvania, whether in men or money, have neither been withheld nor squandered." The State debt in Pennsylvania was less on December 1, 1865, than it was on January 1, 1861.
On January 3, 1885, Pennsylvania established, and still maintains, at Erie, the Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailor's Home, where are supported hundreds of dependents upon the bounty of the Commonwealth.
The remains of the lamented President Lincoln arrived in Philadelphia, April 22, 1865, accompanied by a few relatives and family friends, a guard of honor, a Congressional Committee, a delegation from the State of Illinois, and the governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, and their respective staffs. President Johnson proclaimed June 1 as a day of mourning for the late President.
All the years of the war the people in their private capacity did much. As the troops passed through our cities and towns on their way to the front, innumerable acts of kindness were shown them. Train loads were refreshed with sandwiches and coffee. In Philadelphia the Union and Cooper Shop volunteer refreshment saloons were kept open with free contributions, and nearly one million of the Union soldiers enjoyed the hospitality of these resting places.
The general review of the victorious Federal Army was held in Washington, in May 1865. IT officially ended the War of the Rebellion, or the Civil War in the United States, and there are those thirty-four stars in the flag, now grown to forty-eight, and "the keystone" in the arch still held that great structure firm and strong.
© 2015 Alice J. Gayley, all rights reserved