52nd Regiment
Pennsylvania Volunteers

The Fifty-second Regiment was formed under a call of the President for sixteen regiments, issued in July, 1861. Authority to recruit it was granted by Governor Curtin, on the 1st of August, to John C. Dodge, Jr., who had served as a Captain in the Eleventh Regiment of the three months' service.The men were principally from the counties of Luzerne, Clinton, Wyoming, Union, Bradford, and Columbia, and rendezvoused by squads and companies at Camp Curtin, where, on the 7th of October, a regimental organization was effected by the selection of the following field officers:

  • John C. Dodge, Jr., of Lycoming county, Colonel
  • Henry M1. Hoyt, of Luzerne county, Lieutenant Colonel
  • John B. Conyngham, of Luzerne county, Major
It was chiefly composed of young men, well formed and hardy, and accustomed to the use of therifle. It was accompanied by the Wyoming Cornet Band of Wilkesbarre, consisting of sixteen pieces.

On the 8th of November the regiment left Camp Curtin and proceeded to Washington. It was handsomely entertained on the way, at Baltimore, by the Union Relief Association of that city. It went into camp at Kalorama Heights. Here drill and camp duty was prosecuted under a rigid system. "In and about the city," says Colonel Hoyt, were two hundred thousand troops. The plains and hill-sides in all directions were white with tents. A thousand men was as nothing in the vast concourse there being marshalled. Men were drilling in squads, companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, and corps. The earwas dulled by the roar of artillery, the practice of infantry, and the clank of the cavalryman's sword, and the eye was dazzled by flags and guidons, by the flash of the sabre and the lancer's spear-the pageants of a great army.

"Forests were levelled, fences consumed, fields trodden down, vast earth-worksand forts built-the axe and shovel being thought as well of as the bayonet.Men talked learnedly of parapet and epauliment, casemate and barbette, bastion and escarpment, who a few days before had never heard of such terms."

In January, 1862, the regiment went into winter quarters in commodious barracks on Meridian Hill, at Fourteenth street, in the rear of Columbia College. These barracks were devised by Colonel Davis of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, in command of a temporary brigade consisting of theFifty-second and One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, Fifty-sixth New York, and the Eleventh Maine, and were built around a plaza, or court-yard, seven hundred feet square, each company hut being eighty feet long by sixteen wide. The ceremony of dress parade was performed by the several regiments at the same time, each in front of its own row of huts, and the exercises inarms were performed in concert to the signal of the bugle blast. The menwere in full uniform, the bands played charming music, and the square wasusually filled with spectators. Notwithstanding the care taken to prevent it,much sickness prevailed, many being attacked with typhoid fever and smallpox, and several died. Through the kindness and benevolent enthusiasm offriends, many of the substantial comforts and delicacies of home were affordedthe camp, boxes for the tent, the mess-chest, and the hospital being freely contributed.

While in barracks the regiment was called on for a detail of tenmen for duty in the gunboat service on the western waters. Volunteers werereadily found. They never returned to the regiment, most of them havingbeen killed by the explosion of the steamer Mound City, on which they wereserving, while in action on the White River, in June, 1862. In the organizationof the army for the field, the Fifty-second was assigned to the First Brigade*of the Third Division of the Fourth Corps, Colonel Davis in command, but subsequently, on reaching the field, Brigadier General Henry M. Naglee.

Impatient of the monotony of the camp, the men hailed with delight the order to take the field. It came on the 23th of March, and at four o'clock P. M., at the bugle signal from headquarters, the brigade left camp, and crossing Long Bridge, marched to Alexandria, where it embarked upon the steamer"Constitution," four thousand two hundred officers and men with their baggage.Soon after getting under way she grounded, and the One Hundred and Fourth was transferred to another boat; near Acquia Creek she again grounded, and remained fast during the night within easy range of the rebel batteries upon the Virginia shore. She arrived in Hampton Roads on the morning of the 1st of April, and the Fifty-second, transferred to a smaller steamer, was landed atNewport News. During their passage up, the men got their first view of a rebel flag, and their first experience of being shot at, the batteries on Craney Islandgiving them a passing salute. It was a sixty-pounder, and fell splashing inthe water five hundred yards short; but was a good line shot.

Remaining in camp a few days awaiting the arrival of its baggage, the brigade, on the 17thof April, advanced and took position in front of the enemy's lines at Lee'sMills, Smith's Division on the right, and Couch's on the left. By judicious useof the Warwick River, which flowed in front of their lines, the rebels had madetheir works unassailable by direct attack. The main operations of the siegewere consequently directed against his fortifications about Yorktown. Aboutthe 1st of May, as the great siege guns were about ready to open, it was discovered that the enemy was falling back.

Battle of Williamsburg

Early on the morning of Sunday, May 4th, the brigade moved from camp and advancing in line of battle soon reached his deserted works. As the head of the column, the Fifty-second in advance,wound up under the parapet of the fort, the malignity of rebel hate was mademanifest. General Naglee and staff, and company A, had passed over it, whena torpedo, which had been skillfully planted in the way, exploded under company F, instantly killing one man and horribly mutilating six others. For an instant the men shrank from the line, but in a moment were re-assured and pressed forward in the pursuit.

As the troops emerged from the valley of theWarwick, upon the high plateau beyond, as far as the eye could reach, wereseen the national banners borne by cavalry, infantry, and artillery. MeantimeStoneman with his cavalry, having come up with, was engaging the rebel rearguard, and had sent back for reinforcements. The head of Naglee's columnwas already debouching upon the main road to Williamsburg, when Heintzelman's troops from the extreme right coming up, the senior officer claimed theadvance, and halted Naglee, while Hooker and Kearney passed.

At daylight on the following morning the brigade moved forward, and at ten o'clock A.M. was halted at Cheesecake Church, two miles in rear of the ground whereHooker was hotly engaged and calling loudly for help. It was fully fouro'clock P. M. before Naglee was ordered forward. He soon reached the fieldand immediately proceeded at a double-quick, by a detour of two miles, to thesupport of Hancock, who at the moment of his arrival, made his final chargewhich swept the enemy from the field. The enemy fled during the night andthe army resumed its toilsome march towards Richmond.

On the 20th of May, Keyes' Corps bivouacked upon the left bank of theChickahominy, opposite Bottom's Bridge. On this day, General Naglee organized a company of sharp-shooters from one hundred picked men, from theFifty-second, which he placed under command of Captain Greenleaf P. Davis,of company E. These men, who were from the lumber districts of Pennsylvania,and were skilled marksmen, soon achieved distinction. They were immediately ordered forward on a reconnoissance to the Chickahominy at the railroad and Bottom's Bridges, supported by the brigade, and were pushed across under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. This foot-hold was maintained, and during the night a number of regiments crossed.

On the 23d, the Fifty-second and the One Hundred and Fourth slashed the timber, and threw up a long line of entrenchments about the head of the bridge facing towards Richmond. Asyet, no ground had been gained for any distance beyond. From Bottom's Bridgeto Richmond is fourteen miles.

On the evening of the same day General Naglee received the followingorder from General MlCIellan.
"Your instructions for the reconnoissance today, are as follows: You will, if possible, advance to the Seven Pines, or the forks of the direct road to Richmond, and the road turning to the right into the road leading from. New Bridge to Richmond, [Nine Mile Road,] and holdthat point if practicable. * * * You will push the reconnoissance as far towards Richmond as practicable, without incurring too much danger."

In obedience to these instructions, says General Naglee in his official report, "on the rainy morning of the 24th, leaving the Eleventh Maine, Fifty-sixth, and One Hundredth New York in camp, the other regiments of my brigade, the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, Colonel Dodge, and the One Hundredand Fourth Pennsylvania, Colonel Davis, were in motion at an early hour. At eight o'clock they were joined by battery H, First New York Artillery, andRegan's Seventh Independent New York Battery, under command of ColonelBailey. Gregg's Cavalry did not report until one o'clock P. M. The columnwas formed and in motion by nine A. M.

"Leading out the Williamsburg road, we encountered the first pickets of the enemy at the Creek run, (Boar swamp,) about one and a-half miles from Bottom's Bridge. These retired as our skirmishers approached, but they increased rapidly as we advanced. About, ten o'clock a deserter was taken to the headquarters of General Keyes, and a courier was dispatched for me to return, that I should ascertain that the forcesin my front were Hatton's Brigade of five regiments of Tennessee infantry, twobatteries and a portion of Stuart's Cavalry, all under command of GeneralStuart. Returning to my command at twelve P.M., I deployed the Fifty-secondon the right of the Williamsburg road, and extended it across the railroad.

"The One Hundred and Fourth was deployed to the left of the Williamsburgroad without much resistance, and we pressed forward until we came to thewood next beyond Savage Station, where the enemy was prepared to resistour further advance. Regan's Battery was placed in position in the front edgeof the timber on the right of the road, and shelled the wood on the left of theroad, which was about six hundred yards from the battery; this wood extendedabout four hundred yards along the road, and terminated in a line perpendicularwith it, which line produced across the road was the commencement of thewood on the right of the road parallel to which the Fifty-second had been deployed, and toward which it was ordered to advance, until it should be protected by some houses and sheds, and an orchard and a fence, three hundred yards from the wood. This movement of the Fifty-second, with the shellingfrom Regan's Battery, lessened materially the fire of the enemy on the left, andthe One Hundred and Fourth was ordered forward.

"Our attention was now directed to the wood in front of the Fifty-second,where the fire was increasing, and, at the same time, to the batteries of theenemy, which some time before had opened, and had been directing their fireupon our batteries and the One Hundred and Fourth. From the front of thewood, now occupied by the One Hundred and Fourth, I discovered that the lineof battle of the enemy was formed just within the edge of the wood whichcrosses the Williamsburg road, about half a mile from the Seven Pines Corner;that his artillery was in front near the house on the left of the road supportedby infantry lying in the hollow, and that the wood in front of the Fifty-secondon the right of the road was occupied by a regiment of skirmishers. Bringingthe oblique fire of the One Hundred and Fourth to assist the direct fire of theFfty-second, I pushed forward the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania, along and behind the railroad, and ordered the Fifty-second to advance from the fence andbuildings directly into the wood in front of it.

"This combined movement forced the enemy to leave precipitately thewood on the right. It was now about half-past four P. M.; the batteries ofthe enemy had annoyed us considerably, and it became necessary to drive themfrom their position. The sharpshooters of the Fifty-second, selected from menthat had lived with the rifle constantly by them, in the lumbering counties ofPennsylvania, were ordered forward under Captain Davis; at the same time asection of Mink's Battery was added to Began's. Having thus advanced ourright, we soon corrected the ranges of our artillery, and within half an hourthe effects were apparent; the artillery of the enemy could no longer standagainst the fire of our artillery and sharpshooters, and were compelled to withdraw. At the same time I discovered an unsteadiness in the ranks of the enemy, and I hurried forward Gregg's Cavalry, followed by the remaining two sections of Mink's Battery, which were brought into action within four hundredyards of the enemy's lines, supported by the Eighty-fifth New York, and OneHundred and Fourth; the Fifty-second being on the right, these movementsthrew the enemy into disorder, and Gregg was ordered to charge; but afterproceeding some two hundred yards, he received a volley from some skirmishers that occupied a thicket on the right of the road, and he dismounted hiscommand, fired his carbines, and wheeled into a depression in the ground. Iwas preparing to follow with skirmishers and to order a second cavalry charge,when an aid of General Keyes brought orders from him that no further pursuitshould be made, lest I should bring on a general engagement.

"The troops slept on the wet ground, for it had rained all day, in the exposed position, last above indicated, and the picket guard for the night, whichwas necessarily a heavy one, was undisturbed. The pickets put out that nighton strange ground by the field officers of the Fifty-second, owing to the exposure in front and on both flanks, extended six miles. In the meantime, discovering none of the enemy in force on either of my flanks, the next day, the25th, at twelve M., I ordered Captain Davis, Fifty-second, to extend his sharpshooters between the Williamsburg road and the railroad, and to advance cautiously and so slowly, that his advance could hardly be discovered. At four P. M., having gained a mile, and feeling that the enemy would resist in force any further advance, I took the Eleventh Maine, that had joined me, the Fifty-second and One Hundred and Fourth, and two sections of Bailey's Artillery, and moved forward to meet any resistance the enemy might oppose to Captain Davis. We had scarcely started, when a dispatch was received indicating that the enemy was assembling in front. Hurrying past the Seven Pines, Ifound Davis' sharpshooters occupying the front of the wood, some five hundred yards beyond the Pines, that their line extended perpendicular to theWilliamsburg road, and across to the neighborhood of the Fair Oak Station onthe railroad, and that the enemy was forming in the open fields beyond thewood pile. I immediately ordered the artillery to open upon the enemy, advanced the picket line to that of the sharpshooters, and ordered the EleventhMaine, and One Hundred and Fourth, to show themselves as supporting them.The shells thrown over the wood were most fortunate in their range and direction, and the enemy dispersed.

"On the following day, the 26th of May, by three A. M., the remainingregiments of my brigade were already in position to support the One Hundredand Fourth, and the picket line established by the Eleventh Maine, and Fifty-second. At six A. M. a rebel force of two regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and a battery approached, but it avoided my picket line, kept beyond range and soon after disappeared, evidently reconnoitring our position. Ithen ordered Captain Davis to advance another mile, which he did without opposition, and which brought our picket line to the distance of about five milesfrom Richmond, which was as near as I deemed it prudent to go. On the following day, with a portion of Davis' sharpshooters, the line on the right wasadvanced from the road to Michie's to the Nine Mile road and Garnett's field,and thence along Garnett's field to the Chickahominy. In this extended reconnoissance of four days, the troops behaved admirably, and especial thanksare due to Colonels Bailey, Davis, Dodge, Howell, Plaisted and Jordan, and toCaptain Davis and his sharpshooters, who contributed more than any others tothe successful advance of our lines from Bottom's Bridge, nine miles, to themost advanced line held before Richmond."

The regiment went into camp on the right of the Nine Mile road, a half milebeyond Fair Oaks, as a support to the pickets along Garnett's field. No otherregiment encamped so near Richmond, and during the campaign, the picketline extending from White Oak Swamp to the Chickahominy, was never advanced beyond the ground won by Captain Davis and his sharpshooters. Seeiug his isolated position, General Naglee determined to bridge the river upon his right and open communication with the headquarters of the General-in-Chiefand the great body of the army on the opposite bank. For this purpose, thewhole pioneer corps of his brigade, with heavy details, was sent with minuteinstructions for its construction. The point selected was, at this time, above,and outside the Union lines, and the troops on the left bank, hearing the work,opened fire on the party, and sent two regiments to drive it away. The bridgethus commenced, and rendered passable on the day of the battle of Fair Oaks,was afterwards chosen by the engineer corps for the great highway betweenthe two wings of the army.

Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines)

The battle of Fair Oaks was fought on the 30th of May. The position ofthe Fifty-second, a half mile to the right, and front of the Seven Pines, broughtit into action on a different part of the field from that of the other regiments ofthe brigade, and at a somewhat later hour. Two companies were on the picketline, and a heavy detail upon the Chickahominy Bridge. It moved from its campin line of battle towards Seven Pines, and at first held the extreme right. By thetime it had become engaged, the enemy had turned the left flank and had brokenthrough on the Williamsburg road. General Naglee, who had been up on thispart of the field, in his official report, says:

"Returning rapidly to my Fifty-sixth New York, Eleventh Maine, and Fifty-second Pennsylvania, my anticipations here were realized; being successful in turning our left flank, the enemy had opened a most destructive cross-fire upon them, from pieces near theredoubt, and this with the fire from their immediate front, was no longer tobe endured, and they were withdrawn, marched down the Nine Mile road,and placed in position in rear of this road, about three hundred yards from theSeven Pines, where soon their services were required. In the meantime Colonel Neill of the Twenty-third Pennsylvania, had come upon the ground occupied by Colonel Dodge, and induced him to advance in front, and to the rightof the position that had been assigned to him, whilst he, Colonel Neill,, occupiedthat which the Fifty-second Pennsylvania vacated. But these dispositionswere scarcely made, before the masses of the enemy broke through, and a fewminutes sufficed to leave the half of Dodge's command on the ground, and toforce Neill precipitately from his position. The remaining portion of the Fifty-second-for it was now reduced to a little over one hundred men-was conducted along the Nine Mile road to the Seven Pines, where, finding the riflepits occupied they took possession of a fence and some out-houses, and didmost effective service. Afterwards they crossed to the left of Coneh's position,and advanced two hundred yards into, and along the woods, to the left, andfront of the Seven Pines, where they remained actively employed until neardark, when the enemy advancing rapidly in masses to the rear of the Nine Mileroad, inclined towards the Williamsburg road, sweeping every thing from thefield, our forces making one general simultaneous movement to the rear, whichdid not stop until all had arrived at the line of defence. The Fifty-secondhaving their line of retreat cut off, escaped by passing through the woods tothe left and rear of the saw-mill at the White Oak Swamp, and thence to theline above referred to, where they re-joined their comrades of the First Brigade."

General Cleellan in his report, says:
"the offcial reports of GeneralsKeyes, Casey and Naglee, show that a very considerable portion of the division fought well, and that the brigade of Naglee is entitled to credit for its gallantry." The companies on the right of the picket line, and the pioneers on theChickahominy, reported to General Sumner, when he arrived on the ground,and in the language of his official report, "remained with him until Sunday,rendering most valuable service and behaving well."

Of the two hundred and forty-nine officers and men who went into the conflict, one hundred and twenty-five, just one-half, were killed or wounded. Of the latter were CaptainsDavis, who lost an arm, Lennard, Chamberlain, Weidensaul and Carskaden.

At the time of the battle there was much misrepresentation of the conduct ofCasey's Division, to which General M'Clellan, judging by imperfect reports,was the first to give currency, but which, as is seen above, he subsequentlycorrected. The fact was, the troops of Casey and Couch, numbering but twelvethousand men, were fighting five divisions of the rebel army, led by its General-in-Chief.

A month now intervened without any movement on the part of either army.The enemy seeing the Union army divided by the Chickahominy, concentratedhis forces upon the left bank, and struck heavily the right and weakest wing.He first encountered our forces at Mechanicsville, on the 26th of June.

"On the 27th," says General Naglee in his report, "orders were received from General M'Clellan by General Keyes, directing that the railroad and Bottom'sbridges over the Chickahominy, should be held at all hazards, and if pressedthe bridges should be destroyed. This important service was entrusted to mybrigade. Upon the first intimation of the approach of the enemy in this direction, I had lined the Chickahominy between the bridges, and a mile above andbelow them, with the sharpshooters of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania andEleventh Maine, and had placed the especial charge of the Railroad Bridgewith Colonel Plaisted and the remainder of his regiment. The remainder ofthe Fifty-second Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Colonel Hoyt, the Fifty-sixth NewYork, Colonel Van Wyck, and One Hundredth New York, Lieutenant ColonelStanton, were distributed in the redoubts and rifle-pits, and on picket duty.

"* * * During the 26th the only evidence of the approachof the enemy was the constant roar of the artillery borne upon the breeze fromthe desperate conflict at Mechanicsville; on the 27th small reconnoitring partiesapproached the Chickahominy, but they soon learned to respect the presenceof the Fifty-second Pennsylvania and Eleventh Maine, that were concealed inthat swamp, waist deep in water. * * *"

"On the 28th, the day after the battle of Gaines' Mill, there were indicationsof activity in our immediate neighborhood. From early morning, cavalrywatched our industrious efforts to complete our earth-works. Infantry pressedinto the woods and skirmished with our picket line, but too close an approachto my sharpshooters, concealed in the swamp, soon led to great caution. Aboutnoon a large force, reported as two brigades, moved down to the railroad. Abattery of artillery, with cavalry, supported by two regiments of infantry,crossed the railroad, and under cover of the wood, took a position upon thehigh ground facing the Chickahominy, and about one thousand yards from thebridges. Making every preparation, I awaited their attack, and ordered Miller's Battery to respond slowly but skillfully until he learned the range. I directed Morgan and Brady to test the range in the same manner, and with aboutan hour's practice we were fully prepared. Half an hour afterwards I observedchanges of position, as if in preparation for an attack, and ordered the threebatteries to increase their fire, and to concentrate it upon the troops that weremoving. This had the desired effect and they were compelled to withdrawinto the woods. I then concentrated the fire upon the battery, which, by fouro'clock, was so effectually silenced, that it responded but seldom during the remainder of the afternoon.

"On the 29th large bodies of the enemy were constantly hovering aroundin force, but he did not renew the attack, being fully occupied in the terrificstruggle that continued throughout this day at Savage Station. At 7 P. M.the destruction of the railroad bridge was made complete by running into thegap the locomotive and long train of cars filled with immense quantities ofammunition, which exploded with sublime and terrific power that shook thewhole earth, and the white smoke ascended in a column so grand, so magnificent,that all stood spell bound, impressed to that extent that it cannot be forgotten.At 10 P. M. the army and its trains having passed by the road less than twomiles in rear of these bridges, the necessity of holding this position no longerexisted, and I received instructions from General M'Clellan to follow with therear guard and cross the White Oak Swamp Bridge. It was nearly daylight onthe morning of the 30th of June, when the brigade bivouacked on the risingground near to, and commanding the White Oak Swamp Bridge. At 10 A.3I. Naglee's Brigade was ordered by General M'Clellan to report immediatelyfor duty to Brigadier W. Smith, and by eleven o'clock it was in line of battleperpendicular to and the right resting on the main road leading from the WhiteOak Swamp Bridge, with the left on the swamp, about three-fourths of a milefrom the bridge-a portion of the Fifty-second being deployed in the swamp,extending from the brigade to the bridge. All the space between the swampand the line occupied by my brigade, was covered with troops, infantry andartillery, belonging to the divisions of Smith and Richardson, under commandof General Franklin, who was ordered to hold the position and prevent thepassage of the bridge that the army might continue the retreat from the Peninsula. * * * Frequent efforts were made by the enemiy to cross the bridge and swamp, but he was as frequently repulsed. At teno'clock P. M., I was ordered to follow General Smith's Division, and made immediate preparations to retreat as soon as the division should file off. The brigadearrived on the following morning at Haxalls, on the James tiver, at six o'clockA. M., on the 1st of July, after a march of seventeen miles. *

"Thus for seven days were the men of my brigade constantly on duty. On the26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th of June the safety of the army depended upon ourholding the railroad and Bottom's bridges, and on the 30th upon holding thebridge at the White Oak Swamp. Many, day and night for four days, stood totheir middle in the water of the Chickahominy Swamp, and all impressed withthe responsible duty required of them, served their country in this hour oftrial, enduring the most excessive labor, fatigue and exhaustion, with extraordinary endurance and cheerfulness; and well may they and their many friendsin all the future, refer to those gallant deeds and trials, with the consciouspride that they are deserving the thanks and remembrance of their country."

On the 2d of July the army retired to Harrison's Landing. Here for a timethe brigade was under the command of Brigadier General Williamn H. Emory.On the 20th of August it arrived at Yorktown, moving in conjunction with thewhole army to the support of Pope. A raid of the enemy at about this time,upon the out-posts at Williamsburg, then held by the Fifth United States Cavalry, resulted in the temporary detention of the brigade at Yorktown, where itoccupied the vast intrenchments environing the place, and mounting over onehundred heavy guns. Here the men were thoroughly trained as heavy artillerists, instruction which subsequently proved of the greatest value.

In December the Fifty-second, with its own and several other brigades, wasordered to report to Major General Foster, in North Carolina. A terrible stormovertook the fleet off Cape Hatteras, and the famous iron-clad Monitor, thevictor of the Merrimac, was lost. The expedition was supposed to have beenintended to operate against Wilmington, but the sinking of the Monitor defeated the purpose.

Port Royal, S. C.

On the 29th of January, 1863, in company with a large fleet, the Fifty-secondsailed out of the harbor of Beaufort, North Carolina to the broad Atlantic,heaving under the effects of a long and severe storm. Sealed orders, openedafter passing south of latitude thirty-four degrees north, showed its destinationto be Port loyal, South Carolina, and upon its arrival, found the great harborcovered with Dupont's frigates, iron-clads, monitors, consorts, and supply ships.

On the 9th of March, General Naglee was relieved of his command by General Hunter, commanding the Department of the South. At his departure, much regret was felt among the men, for he had won the confidence and love of all by his devotedness and gallantry.

On the 6th of April the Fifty-second, embarking upon a transport, movedup the North Edisto, to a point twelve miles below Charleston. The greatnaval attack upon the defences of the city was about to be inaugurated, and allthe infantry in the Department was transported to points favorable for following it up in the event of its success. The attack, bold and skillful, with themightiest enginery of warfare hitherto devised, failed. Drifting about the waters of the Sea Islands for a few days, the Fifty-second returned, but arrivingat the entrance of the harbor at Hilton Head, too near dark to enter, the barquewas obliged to put to sea to avoid the shallow coast. A severe storm came onin the night, and when in the morning the barque entered port, the men, whohad been gleesome upon the quiet waters of the river, had grown care-worn andlong visaged.

Debarking at Beaufort, the regiment remained until the 5th of July, whenit moved to Folly Island. In the meantime General Hunter had been superseded in the command of the Department by General Gilmore.

With greatsecrecy and celerity, preparations were made for the bombardment of MorrisIsland. To create a diversion in favor of the attacking party, an expeditionconsisting of the Fifty-second and One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania,under command of General Alfred Terry, was, on the night of July 9th, sentup the Stono River. It was preceded by the monitor Nantucket, CommodoreBeaumont, of Wilkesbarre, who threw his fifteen inch shells right and left as heproceeded, and by twelve o'clock, midnight, both regiments had flounderedthrough the mud from the steamers to the solid land of James Island. Ambuscaded upon a causeway on which it was attempting to advance, the command halted until day-light, when the march was resumed, and the enemy'spickets and cavalry were rapidly driven into their strong lines at Secessionville.

By this time the descent of our troops upon Morris Island had been successfully made under Generals Strong and Seymour, and that strip of land washeld as far as Fort Wagner. The position of Terry's troops on James Island,had now become critical, and he was re-inforced by several regiments and abattery.

Before day-light on the morning of the 16th, the enemy, with severalpieces of light artillery, opened upon the gun-boat Pawnee, the principal reliance of the command for safety. The men instantly sprang to arms, and soontheir bivouack was swept by his shells, and a brigade of his infantry rushedforward to the assault. Captain Rockwell's Connecticut Battery, which hadfortunately arrived upon the island during the night, was soon brought intoposition and opened with fine effect. A charge of the infantry sent the enemyback to his intrenchments. A few shells from the eleven-inch Dahlgrens ofthe Pawnee helped to hasten the flight. The rebels suffered severely, but itwas manifest that General Terry could not hold the position with the force inhand, and an evacuation was ordered for the following night. The Fifty-second,only two hundred and fifty strong, was sent upon the picket line in the afternoon to cover the withdrawal. The pickets on both sides were in open country,in plain view, and in easy range of each other. The night proved rainy, and sointensely dark, that an intelligent movement in any direction was impossible.Finally, towards morning it was announced to the officers that the evacuationwas complete, and the pickets were withdrawn in safety. The movement attracted the attention of the enemy, who were left alone blazing away with theirmuskets into the blank darkness.

Capture of Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg

Upon the next night, at dark, the Fifty-second had reached the head of Folly Island, and the men were spectators of the desperate and bloody assault upon Fort Wagner. Sixteen hundred men wereleft in front of its fatal trenches.It was evident that the fort could only be reduced by the slow process of asiege, and that, under the concentrated fire of Wagner and Sumter, and of innumerable batteries on James and Sullivan Islands, bristling with heavy rifledcannons, columbiads, and mortars. Morris Island, upon the head of which FortWagner was located, is a low neck of sand, five miles long, ending within onethousand yards of Fort Sumuter. It varies in width from half a mile at its lowerextremity, to a hundred feet in front of Wagner, where it suddenly widens totwo hundred yards. At its narrowest point, Wagner extended quite across it,a heavy sand fort with a wet ditch and bomb-proof, capable of holding fourteenhundred men. The sands of the island shift with every tide, and it is on notwo days of the same shape or size. The siege by which the fort was finallyreduced became a memorable one, and lasted fifty days.

"The barren ridges and hillocks of the island," says Colonel Hoyt, "furnished absolutely nothing but standing room, and even that was most unstable."

All supplies, timber excepted, were brought from the north in transports.Folly Island was stripped of a thick and handsome growth of pine, for piles,piers, and batteries. It is difficult to give any adequate notion of the energiesand activity displayed by the besieging forces. The first parallel was commenced one thousand four hundred yards from Wagner, and was a mere flying gap up to the second parallel, eight hundred yards distant. At this point thehighest resources of the engineers' science were exhausted. Works of greatstrength were built, provided with magazines, depots, and bomb-proofs. It became of course the focus of the fire from all their lurid circumference. Itwas found that Fort Sumter must first be reduced or silenced, as it threwplunging shot into our works over the heads of the garrison of Wagner.

Bythe 17th of August General Gilmore was prepared to open upon Sumter withthe following' machinery: In the first parallel was a naval battery mannedby sailors from the fleet. It mounted two two-hundred-pounder Parrotts andtwo eighty-four-pounder Whitworth guns, five eight-inch and five ten-inch siegemortars, two thirty-pounder Parrotts and a ??i etqua Battery. These batterieswere four thousand yards from Sumter. In the second parallel three thousandfour hundred yards distant, were two two-hundred-pounder Parrotts, and fiveone-hundred-pounders. In the left battery, four thousand two hundred andthirty-five yards distant, were one three-hundred-pounder, two two-hundred pounder, and four one-hundred-pounder, and four twenty-pounder Parrotts.

"On the 18th of August these batteries opened. In a short time the boysof the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery got the range. Every puff of smokefrom these ungainly piles of sand, over which these Parrotts loomed long andblack, was followed by a little cloud from Sumter. These great bolts wenthissing quietly, but unerringly into the sides of this old fort, across the milesof intervening swamp and water. At the end of the first day Sumter had theappearance of a bad case of small pox. The next day gaps began to appear inher parapet, and by the 25th it was a shapeless pile of brick-dust, and as a Fortwas demolished; but remained a garrison for infantry for more than a year.

"All arms of the service were engaged in this work. By turns each wasengineer, artillerist, and infantry. Operations were suspended during the day,for now, everybody was under the musketry fire of Wagner, at will. At duskthe eight hundred and forty guards of the trenches were marched out, and therelief was marched in. The men filed up the low, imperfect covered ways, sa.luted by an infernal fire from all directions. The process involved great vigilance, and more dodging than always comported with dignity. The guards oncefairly posted, became quiet, and the busy workers behind them took up theirchorus of industry. Here a couple hundred of men were dragging by long linesa three-hundred-pounder Parrott on its gin with wheels ten feet in diameter, toits sandy bed in front; there was a squad of busy men with shovels-here aparty filling sand-bags-there a detail with their fascines and gabions, repairingyesterday's damage, or framing a new embrasure-here were the artillerists carrying their mortar, their solid shots and cartridges to the outermost zig-zagand there was the telegraph operator with his instrument well in advance, andProfessor Grant pouring his powerful calcium light on the ragged eminencesof Fort Wagner. Beating time to the tides, alongside, rode a glorious fleet ofiron-clads and men-of-war.
"Over all this diversity of labor were constantly exploding, at night the shellsof the enemy. 'Cover-Johnson!' would be called from our look-out. Thereis a flash away across the harbor-in ten or fifteen seconds comes a reportaway up in air is seen a small iunsteady twinkle-presently it 'whistles' and'wobbles,' and roars like a coming storm-down, down on the heads of mencrouching behind their mounds of sand-lower, and lower still and now invery imminent proximity, it winds up with a 'bang,' and the villanous whir-r-rof half a hundred pieces humming into the marshes, or mayhap into the livingmuscles of its poor victims. Then the' Bull of the Woods' would open its pyrotechny-and 'Bee' and 'Beauregard,' the' Peanut' and 'Haskill' and so thething was kept up until tired, and weary, and mangled, the detail went out ofthe trenches at dawn. This kind of duty continued for forty days, recurring toeach man once in two days. At last the fifth parallel is pushed to within ahundred yards of Wagner.
Early on the morning of September 5th the workis done, and everything is ready for a final test of the effect of shell on a sandfort. A hundred guns open with their great throats on Wagner, from sea andland. For forty hours its sand boils as a great caldron; its sand-bags, guns,carriages, and splinters are thrown high in air. All this while no man can livein its parapet, and its garrison lies smothering in its bomb-proofs.2The announcement that another attempt was to be made to carry the fortby direct assault was hailed with shouts of satisfaction. To the Fifty-secondwas assigned the duty of passing Waggner on the beach, and of clarging FortGregg - the old Gumming's Point Battery. At midnight long lines of menmarched and filled the trenches. The men of the Fifty-second with shovelsand muskets, and spikes for cannons, took their places. All were cheerfuland fall of heroism. At two o'clock A. l. a deserter reported the Island evacuated, and a h:asty march to the fort proved it to be true. It was the end ofthe siege.

It is impossible to give the casualties. Out of a detail of two hundred mensent into the trenches, the average daily loss was one man killed and sixwoundedo It requires a high degree of steadiness and endutralnce for men, dayafter day, and night after night, to walk into the jaws of so much certain death,to be received in the attitude of very helplessness. Not the least extraordinaryfeature of this siege, was the appearance of the Sanitary Commission at thefront. In the busy trenches its agents kept the weary ancd wounded men supplied with ice water, which it furnished in barrels all along the panriles.


In December a large portion of the regiment re-enlisted and were given aveteran furlough. Upon their return, the regiment was recruited to a thousandstrong, all armed with the improved Springfield muskets and well equipped.It was attached to the Tenth Corps, General Gilmore, and with it embarked tojoin the army at Bermuda Hundred, on the James River. By some mischance,never understood by officers or men, it was kept in the Department of theSouth. It remained at Hilton Head, and oceasionally made a raid by steamboat around among the Sea Islands. One was made up the Ashapoo River onthe 25th of May, under command of Brigadier General William Birney. Itwas intended that the force should land at the Bitusquito Landing, on the Ashapoo, at night, march twenty-seven miles to Jacksonburg, and destroy therailroad bridge over the Edisto at that point. The Fifty-second arrived at thelanding at midnight as arranged, and marched six miles into the enemy'scountry, where it was halted by General Birney. The transport "Boston," a finesteamer, laden with other troops, passed the landing in the darkness withoutnotice, and continued on its course until it grounded under rebel batterieswhere it was destroyed, defeating the plan. The Fifty-second was re-called,and leisurely re-embarking, returned to its camp.

Assault on Fort Johnson and Battery Simpkins

In the month of June a plan was formed for the capture of CharlestonThe Department was now in command of Major General Foster.The scheme involved a movement from John's Island, James Island, andMIorris Island; the first under General Foster in person, the second under G-eneral Schimmelfennig, and the last under Colonel Gurney, One Hundred andTwenty-seventh New York Volunteers. The force from Morris Island was composed of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, One Hundred and Twenty-seventhNew York, and a detachment of the Third Rhode Island Artillery. It was arranged for the force from Morris Island to embark in small boats in the creekrunning through the marshes between Morris and James Island. They werethen to rendezvous at Paine's dock, at the out-let of the creek, and as soon asthe tide permitted, pull across Charleston Harbor. The route lay between FortSumter and Battery Simpkins, mounting heavy guns on James Island. TheFifty-second in advance, was to pull directly for the beach, six hunchled yardsin front of Fort Johnson, land, and assault the fort. The One Hundred andTwenty-seventh New York was to land at Battery Simpkins, a half mile nearerand carry it. The Third Rhode Island Artillery was to take possession of, andturn upon the city any guns found in the works. This bold undertaking couldonly be successful by being a surprise to the enemy. The harbor was at thattime picketed by two rebel rams and a line of picket boats, extending fromSumter to James Island on one side, and Sullivan's Island on the other. Themost formidable obstacle for the forces to overcome was a bar, extending fromthe beach in front of Simpkins, to within a few hundred feet of Sumter.This bar was completely out of water at low tide, and was only covered whenthe tide was three-quarters full. The time selected seemed unfortunate; for onthe night for the movement, July 3d, it was dead low tide at one o'clock A. M.and there wouid not be sufficient water to pass the bar before four, day-light,at that season.

The regiment made very full preparations for this perilous enterprise. Ifthe fort should be taken, it could only be held by strong re-inforcements. Itsgarrison was believed to consist of four hundred men. Could a landing oncebe effected, the rest seemed a work merely of dash and boldness. The Fiftysecond went out with the intention of taking the works and remaining there;to that end, it was furnished with several days' rations, entrenching tools,and other needed supplies. All day of the 3d of July, preparations for the coming night-work went solemnly but steadily on. The bar was carefully examined, if possibly it had a channel through it. Boats were put in order, andboat-crews organized. Signals were agreed upon, and minute instructions issued.All this was indeed indispensable, for no word of command, above a whisper, could be uttered without betraying the movement. The expedition, oncefairly afloat, must thenceforth proceed according to the pre-arranged schemeor fail. The night came at last and the regiment fell in, in front of its camp byboat crews. They silently wound aronud the sand-hills, down to the marshwhere the fleet of boats was moored. One by one they were filled and shovedout to Paine's Dock, the place of rendezvous. Before they reached the dockmany of them grounded, for the tide was now at its lowest, and most crewsonly made progress by debarking in the muddy shoals of the inlet. By twoo'clock A.M. the fleet was together and the tide turned. As it covered theshoals, the Fifty-second in advance, they moved out in single file and headedinto the darkness for Fort Johnson. Either through ignorance or misconduct, the pilot selected by Colonel Gurney, from the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York, failed to find any passage over or around the bar. Daylight began to streak the east when the leading boat passed the bar, close underthe slopes of Simpkins. Towering in the distance, at one thousand yards,frowned Fort Johnson. Steadily the boats pulled on. The lookout at Simpkins had, however, discovered the procession of blue coats. Discharging hismusket, he with the rest of the pickets on duty, fled up the beach. It was aneven race now between the boats and the rebel sentinels. Soon the guns inFort Johnson opened, sending their shells hissing over the heads of the men,now pulling for dear life. Discovery was no longer to be avoided. Witha hearty cheer one hundred and twenty-five men of the Fifty-second landedfrom the five leading boats at the designated points. Promptly fornming, theycharged a two-gun battery, mounting Brook's rifled guns, and carried it handsomely. Fort Johnson was still four hundred yards in advance. The fire fromthe batteries and muskets of the fort had now grown hot, but there was nohalt. The parapet was reached and scaled, shots were exchanged breast tobreast over the crest, and the men of the Fifty-second jumped down into theworks. The garrison were now fully aroused and at their posts. The long distance traversed had destroyed somewhat the impetus of the assafut, and theassailants had become separated in the steep ascent to the fort. The assaultingparty, now outnumbered, found itself without support, and a glance back revealed the appalling fact, that through some mischance, none of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York had landed. The struggle was hopelessand retreat was impossible. The entire party was, therefore, made prisonersof war, although the fort was fairly in their grasp. It had proved a completesurprise, and its very boldness bewildered the enemy

The casualties in the Fifty-second were seven killed and sixteen wounded.Of the former was Lieutenant S. A. Bunyan, of company E, acting Adjutant,and Lieutenant George Scott, of Company D.

"The boats," says General Foster in orders " commanded by Colonel Hoyt,Lieutenant Colonel Conyngham, Captain Camp, and Lieutenants Stevens andEvans, all of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, rowed rapidly to the shore, andthese officers, with Adjutant Bunyan, (afterwards killed,) and one hundredand thirty-five men, landed and drove the enemy; but deserted by their supports, were obliged to surrender to superior numbers. Colonel Hoyt bestowsunqualified praise on the officers and men who landed with them; of these,seven were killed and sixteen wounded. They deserve great credit for theirenergy in urging their boats forward and bringing them through the narrowchannel, and the feeling which led the to land at thhe head of their men wasthe prompting of a gallant spirit, which deserves to find more imitators."
Ofthe men captured more than fifty perished amid the horrors of Andersonvilleand Columbia. The officers were confined at Macon awhile, and afterwardsin Charleston, and placed under the fire of the batteries on Morris Island.

The regiment remained on Morris Island during the summer and autumnof 1864. During this time the men became very expert in the use of the heavyguns which all the works mounted. It would be difficult to estimate the number of thirty, one hundred, and two hundred pound shells thrown by themthrough rifled Parrotts into Charleston, some of them a distance of more thanten thousand yards. The dilapidated streets of the city itself were the bestcommentary on the strength of iron and " villainous saltpetre." One thirtypounder Parrott withstood over four thousand six hundred discharges at anelevation of thirty-eight degrees.

During the winter the regiment performed duty as boat infantry. This dutywas exceedingly difficult and arduous. It was the picket duty upon the harbor. It involved great hardships and exposure. All through the long, blustering, wintry nights the men sat with muskets, howitzers, and Requa batteries,peering across the iron-clad harbor; collisions with the enemy's pickets werefrequent. At last, on the 18th of February, 1865, Major Hennessy in command,thought the shapeless ruins of Sumter gave less evidence of vigilance than usual.Taking Lieutenant Burr, company B, and a picked boat-crew, and the old flagof the Fifty-second, he pulled boldly for her battered ruins. No one challengedhim, as with zealous caution, he scaled her tough remains, and with a shout oftriamph for the first time heard in four long years, the old banner was againplanted on its battlements. With all the tons of metal which had been hurledupon her, she was yet a safe and impregnable refuge for her garrison.Mgajor Hennessy now struck promptly, with his little detachment, for thecity of Charleston. He stopped long enough at Pinckney to re-possess it, andlanded at the battery before the rebel troops had fled from the city. The demand for its surrender was but a matter of form. Thus was consummated the capture of this stronghold of treason.

Later, as Sherman's legions marched through South Carolina, the Fifty-second joined them. Their march terminated in April, with Johnson's surrendernear Raleigh. A few week's further duty at Salisbury, North Carolina, and theregiment was mustered out of service at Harrisburg, on the 12th day of July,1865.

* Organization of the First Brigade, Brigadier General Henry M. Naglee, Third Division,Brigadier General Silas Casey, Fourth Corps, Major General E. D. Keyes. Fifty-second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John C. Dodge, Jr.; One Hundred and Fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel William I. H. Davis; Fifty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Charles H. Van Wyck; Eleventh Regiment Maine Volunteers, Colonel John C. Caldwell; One Hundredth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel James M. Brown.Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.


Organized at Harrisburg November 5, 1861.
Left State for Washington, D.C., November 8.
Attached to 1st Brigade, Casey's Division, Army Potomac, to March, 1862.
1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 4th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to June, 1862.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps, to December, 1862.
Naglee's Brigade, Dept. of North Carolina, to January, 1863.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 18th Army Corps, Dept. North Carolina, to February, 1863.
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 18th Army Corps, Dept. of the South, to April, 1863.
District of Beaufort, S. C., 10th Corps, Dept. of the South, to July, 1863.
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Morris Island, S.C., 10th Corps, July, 1863.
Davis' Brigade, Folly Island, S.C., 10th Corps, to August, 1863.
5th Brigade, Morris Island, S.C., 10th Corps, to November, 1863.
2nd Brigade, Morris Island, S.C., 10th Corps, to April, 1864.
District of Hilton Head, S.C., Dept. South, to June, 1864.
Morris Island, S.C., Northern District, Dept. of the South, to October, 1864.
1st Separate Brigade, Morris Island, S.C., Dept. South, to March, 1865.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division. 23rd Army Corps, Dept. North Carolina, to July, 1865.


Duty in the Defences of Washington, D.C., till March, 1862.
Advance on Manassas, Va.. March 10-15.
Moved to the Virginia Peninsula March 28.
Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4.
Battle of Williamsburg May 5.
Bottom's Bridge May 19-20.
Operations about Bottom's Bridge May 20-23.
Reconnoissance to Seven Pines May 24-27.
Skirmishes at Seven Pines, Savage Station and Chickahominy May 24.
Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) May 31-June 1.
At Bottom's Bridge June 13-26.
Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Bottom's Bridge June 28-29.
White Oak Swamp Bridge June 30. Malvern Hill July 1.
At Harrison's Landing till August 15.
Moved to Yorktown August 16-20, and duty there till December 31.
Expedition to Gloucester, Matthews, King and Queen and Middlesex Counties December 11-15.
Ordered to Beaufort, N. C., December 31.
At Carolina City till January 28.
Moved to Port Royal, S.C., January 28-31.
At St. Helena Island, S.C., February 10-April 4.
Operations against Charleston April 4-15.
Duty at Beaufort, S. C., till July 6.
Moved to Folly Island July 6.
Expedition to James Island, S.C., July 9-16.
Secessionville July 16.
Operations on Morris and Folly Islands, S.C., against Forts Wagner and Gregg,
Morris Island, and Fort Sumpter and Charleston July 18-September 7.
Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg September 7.
Operations against Charleston till April, 1864.
Regiment reenlisted December 31, 1863.
Duty at Hilton Head, S.C., till June, 1864.
Reconnoissance to Dafuskie Island May 11.
Moved to Morris Island, S.C., and operations against Charleston till February, 1865.
Assault on Fort Johnson and Battery Simpkins, James Island, July 3, 1864.
Occupation of Charleston February 18.
Duty in Charleston Harbor till April 18.
Ordered to North Carolina and duty at Salisbury till July.
Mustered out July 12, 1865.


Regiment lost during service:
1 Officer and 43 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
2 Officers and 173 Enlisted men by disease.

Total 219.

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources.Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908






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