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 the rifle. 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 ear was 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-works and 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 the Fifty-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 in arms were performed in concert to the signal of the bugle blast. The men were in full uniform, the bands played charming music, and the square was usually filled with spectators. Notwithstanding the care taken to prevent it, much sickness prevailed, many being attacked with typhoid fever and small pox, and several died. Through the kindness and benevolent enthusiasm of friends, many of the substantial comforts and delicacies of home were afforded the 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 ten men for duty in the gunboat service on the western waters. Volunteers were readily found. They never returned to the regiment, most of them having been killed by the explosion of the steamer Mound City, on which they were serving, while in action on the White River, in June, 1862. In the organization of 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 at Newport 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 Island giving them a passing salute. It was a sixty-pounder, and fell splashing in the 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 17th of April, advanced and took position in front of the enemy's lines at Lee's Mills, Smith's Division on the right, and Couch's on the left. By judicious use of the Warwick River, which flowed in front of their lines, the rebels had made their works unassailable by direct attack. The main operations of the siege were consequently directed against his fortifications about Yorktown. About the 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 made manifest. General Naglee and staff, and company A, had passed over it, when a 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 the Warwick, upon the high plateau beyond, as far as the eye could reach, were seen the national banners borne by cavalry, infantry, and artillery. Meantime Stoneman with his cavalry, having come up with, was engaging the rebel rear guard, and had sent back for reinforcements. The head of Naglee's column was already debouching upon the main road to Williamsburg, when Heintzelman's troops from the extreme right coming up, the senior officer claimed the advance, 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 where Hooker was hotly engaged and calling loudly for help. It was fully four o'clock P. M. before Naglee was ordered forward. He soon reached the field and immediately proceeded at a double-quick, by a detour of two miles, to the support of Hancock, who at the moment of his arrival, made his final charge which swept the enemy from the field. The enemy fled during the night and the army resumed its toilsome march towards Richmond.

On the 20th of May, Keyes' Corps bivouacked upon the left bank of the Chickahominy, opposite Bottom's Bridge. On this day, General Naglee organized a company of sharp-shooters from one hundred picked men, from the Fifty-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. As yet, no ground had been gained for any distance beyond. From Bottom's Bridge to Richmond is fourteen miles.

On the evening of the same day General Naglee received the following order 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 hold that 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 Hundred and 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, and Regan's Seventh Independent New York Battery, under command of Colonel Bailey. Gregg's Cavalry did not report until one o'clock P. M. The column was 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 forces in my front were Hatton's Brigade of five regiments of Tennessee infantry, two batteries and a portion of Stuart's Cavalry, all under command of General Stuart. Returning to my command at twelve P.M., I deployed the Fifty-second on the right of the Williamsburg road, and extended it across the railroad.

"The One Hundred and Fourth was deployed to the left of the Williamsburg road without much resistance, and we pressed forward until we came to the wood next beyond Savage Station, where the enemy was prepared to resist our further advance. Regan's Battery was placed in position in the front edge of the timber on the right of the road, and shelled the wood on the left of the road, which was about six hundred yards from the battery; this wood extended about four hundred yards along the road, and terminated in a line perpendicular with it, which line produced across the road was the commencement of the wood 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 shelling from Regan's Battery, lessened materially the fire of the enemy on the left, and the 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 the enemy, which some time before had opened, and had been directing their fire upon our batteries and the One Hundred and Fourth. From the front of the wood, now occupied by the One Hundred and Fourth, I discovered that the line of battle of the enemy was formed just within the edge of the wood which crosses 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 supported by infantry lying in the hollow, and that the wood in front of the Fifty-second on the right of the road was occupied by a regiment of skirmishers. Bringing the oblique fire of the One Hundred and Fourth to assist the direct fire of the Ffty-second, I pushed forward the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania, along and behind the railroad, and ordered the Fifty-second to advance from the fence and buildings directly into the wood in front of it.

"This combined movement forced the enemy to leave precipitately the wood on the right. It was now about half-past four P. M.; the batteries of the enemy had annoyed us considerably, and it became necessary to drive them from their position. The sharpshooters of the Fifty-second, selected from men that had lived with the rifle constantly by them, in the lumbering counties of Pennsylvania, were ordered forward under Captain Davis; at the same time a section of Mink's Battery was added to Began's. Having thus advanced our right, we soon corrected the ranges of our artillery, and within half an hour the effects were apparent; the artillery of the enemy could no longer stand against 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 hundred yards of the enemy's lines, supported by the Eighty-fifth New York, and One Hundred and Fourth; the Fifty-second being on the right, these movements threw the enemy into disorder, and Gregg was ordered to charge; but after proceeding some two hundred yards, he received a volley from some skirmishers that occupied a thicket on the right of the road, and he dismounted his command, fired his carbines, and wheeled into a depression in the ground. I was 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 pursuit should 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, which was necessarily a heavy one, was undisturbed. The pickets put out that night on 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, the 25th, 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, I found Davis' sharpshooters occupying the front of the wood, some five hundred yards beyond the Pines, that their line extended perpendicular to the Williamsburg road, and across to the neighborhood of the Fair Oak Station on the railroad, and that the enemy was forming in the open fields beyond the wood pile. I immediately ordered the artillery to open upon the enemy, advanced the picket line to that of the sharpshooters, and ordered the Eleventh Maine, 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 remaining regiments of my brigade were already in position to support the One Hundred and 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. I then ordered Captain Davis to advance another mile, which he did without opposition, and which brought our picket line to the distance of about five miles from 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 was advanced 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 thanks are due to Colonels Bailey, Davis, Dodge, Howell, Plaisted and Jordan, and to Captain Davis and his sharpshooters, who contributed more than any others to the successful advance of our lines from Bottom's Bridge, nine miles, to the most advanced line held before Richmond."

The regiment went into camp on the right of the Nine Mile road, a half mile beyond Fair Oaks, as a support to the pickets along Garnett's field. No other regiment encamped so near Richmond, and during the campaign, the picket line 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-Chief and the great body of the army on the opposite bank. For this purpose, the whole pioneer corps of his brigade, with heavy details, was sent with minute instructions 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 bridge thus commenced, and rendered passable on the day of the battle of Fair Oaks, was afterwards chosen by the engineer corps for the great highway between the 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 of the Fifty-second, a half mile to the right, and front of the Seven Pines, brought it into action on a different part of the field from that of the other regiments of the brigade, and at a somewhat later hour. Two companies were on the picket line, and a heavy detail upon the Chickahominy Bridge. It moved from its camp in line of battle towards Seven Pines, and at first held the extreme right. By the time it had become engaged, the enemy had turned the left flank and had broken through on the Williamsburg road. General Naglee, who had been up on this part 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 the redoubt, and this with the fire from their immediate front, was no longer to be 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 the Seven 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 right of the position that had been assigned to him, whilst he, Colonel Neill,, occupied that which the Fifty-second Pennsylvania vacated. But these dispositions were scarcely made, before the masses of the enemy broke through, and a few minutes sufficed to leave the half of Dodge's command on the ground, and to force 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 rifle pits occupied they took possession of a fence and some out-houses, and did most 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, and front of the Seven Pines, where they remained actively employed until near dark, when the enemy advancing rapidly in masses to the rear of the Nine Mile road, inclined towards the Williamsburg road, sweeping every thing from the field, our forces making one general simultaneous movement to the rear, which did not stop until all had arrived at the line of defence. The Fifty-second having their line of retreat cut off, escaped by passing through the woods to the left and rear of the saw-mill at the White Oak Swamp, and thence to the line above referred to, where they re-joined their comrades of the First Brigade."

General Cleellan in his report, says:
"the offcial reports of Generals Keyes, 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 the Chickahominy, 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 Captains Davis, who lost an arm, Lennard, Chamberlain, Weidensaul and Carskaden.

At the time of the battle there was much misrepresentation of the conduct of Casey's Division, to which General M'Clellan, judging by imperfect reports, was the first to give currency, but which, as is seen above, he subsequently corrected. The fact was, the troops of Casey and Couch, numbering but twelve thousand 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, concentrated his 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's bridges over the Chickahominy, should be held at all hazards, and if pressed the bridges should be destroyed. This important service was entrusted to my brigade. 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 and below them, with the sharpshooters of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania and Eleventh Maine, and had placed the especial charge of the Railroad Bridge with Colonel Plaisted and the remainder of his regiment. The remainder of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Colonel Hoyt, the Fifty-sixth New York, Colonel Van Wyck, and One Hundredth New York, Lieutenant Colonel Stanton, were distributed in the redoubts and rifle-pits, and on picket duty.

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

"On the 28th, the day after the battle of Gaines' Mill, there were indications of activity in our immediate neighborhood. From early morning, cavalry watched our industrious efforts to complete our earth-works. Infantry pressed into the woods and skirmished with our picket line, but too close an approach to my sharpshooters, concealed in the swamp, soon led to great caution. About noon a large force, reported as two brigades, moved down to the railroad. A battery of artillery, with cavalry, supported by two regiments of infantry, crossed the railroad, and under cover of the wood, took a position upon the high ground facing the Chickahominy, and about one thousand yards from the bridges. 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 about an hour's practice we were fully prepared. Half an hour afterwards I observed changes of position, as if in preparation for an attack, and ordered the three batteries to increase their fire, and to concentrate it upon the troops that were moving. This had the desired effect and they were compelled to withdraw into the woods. I then concentrated the fire upon the battery, which, by four o'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 around in force, but he did not renew the attack, being fully occupied in the terrific struggle that continued throughout this day at Savage Station. At 7 P. M. the destruction of the railroad bridge was made complete by running into the gap the locomotive and long train of cars filled with immense quantities of ammunition, which exploded with sublime and terrific power that shook the whole 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 two miles in rear of these bridges, the necessity of holding this position no longer existed, and I received instructions from General M'Clellan to follow with the rear guard and cross the White Oak Swamp Bridge. It was nearly daylight on the morning of the 30th of June, when the brigade bivouacked on the rising ground near to, and commanding the White Oak Swamp Bridge. At 10 A. 3I. Naglee's Brigade was ordered by General M'Clellan to report immediately for duty to Brigadier W. Smith, and by eleven o'clock it was in line of battle perpendicular to and the right resting on the main road leading from the White Oak Swamp Bridge, with the left on the swamp, about three-fourths of a mile from 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 swamp and the line occupied by my brigade, was covered with troops, infantry and artillery, belonging to the divisions of Smith and Richardson, under command of General Franklin, who was ordered to hold the position and prevent the passage 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 ten o'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 brigade arrived on the following morning at Haxalls, on the James tiver, at six o'clock A. 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 the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th of June the safety of the army depended upon our holding the railroad and Bottom's bridges, and on the 30th upon holding the bridge at the White Oak Swamp. Many, day and night for four days, stood to their middle in the water of the Chickahominy Swamp, and all impressed with the responsible duty required of them, served their country in this hour of trial, enduring the most excessive labor, fatigue and exhaustion, with extraordinary endurance and cheerfulness; and well may they and their many friends in all the future, refer to those gallant deeds and trials, with the conscious pride 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 time the brigade was under the command of Brigadier General Williamn H. Emory. On the 20th of August it arrived at Yorktown, moving in conjunction with the whole 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 it occupied the vast intrenchments environing the place, and mounting over one hundred 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, was ordered to report to Major General Foster, in North Carolina. A terrible storm overtook the fleet off Cape Hatteras, and the famous iron-clad Monitor, the victor of the Merrimac, was lost. The expedition was supposed to have been intended 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-second sailed out of the harbor of Beaufort, North Carolina to the broad Atlantic, heaving under the effects of a long and severe storm. Sealed orders, opened after passing south of latitude thirty-four degrees north, showed its destination to be Port loyal, South Carolina, and upon its arrival, found the great harbor covered 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, moved up the North Edisto, to a point twelve miles below Charleston. The great naval attack upon the defences of the city was about to be inaugurated, and all the 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 the mightiest enginery of warfare hitherto devised, failed. Drifting about the waters of the Sea Islands for a few days, the Fifty-second returned, but arriving at the entrance of the harbor at Hilton Head, too near dark to enter, the barque was obliged to put to sea to avoid the shallow coast. A severe storm came on in the night, and when in the morning the barque entered port, the men, who had been gleesome upon the quiet waters of the river, had grown care-worn and long visaged.

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

With great secrecy and celerity, preparations were made for the bombardment of Morris Island. To create a diversion in favor of the attacking party, an expedition consisting of the Fifty-second and One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, under command of General Alfred Terry, was, on the night of July 9th, sent up the Stono River. It was preceded by the monitor Nantucket, Commodore Beaumont, of Wilkesbarre, who threw his fifteen inch shells right and left as he proceeded, and by twelve o'clock, midnight, both regiments had floundered through 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's pickets 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 was held 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 a battery.

Before day-light on the morning of the 16th, the enemy, with several pieces of light artillery, opened upon the gun-boat Pawnee, the principal reliance of the command for safety. The men instantly sprang to arms, and soon their bivouack was swept by his shells, and a brigade of his infantry rushed forward to the assault. Captain Rockwell's Connecticut Battery, which had fortunately arrived upon the island during the night, was soon brought into position and opened with fine effect. A charge of the infantry sent the enemy back to his intrenchments. A few shells from the eleven-inch Dahlgrens of the Pawnee helped to hasten the flight. The rebels suffered severely, but it was manifest that General Terry could not hold the position with the force in hand, 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 so intensely dark, that an intelligent movement in any direction was impossible. Finally, towards morning it was announced to the officers that the evacuation was complete, and the pickets were withdrawn in safety. The movement attracted the attention of the enemy, who were left alone blazing away with their muskets 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 were left in front of its fatal trenches. It was evident that the fort could only be reduced by the slow process of a siege, and that, under the concentrated fire of Wagner and Sumter, and of innumerable batteries on James and Sullivan Islands, bristling with heavy rifled cannons, columbiads, and mortars. Morris Island, upon the head of which Fort Wagner was located, is a low neck of sand, five miles long, ending within one thousand yards of Fort Sumuter. It varies in width from half a mile at its lower extremity, to a hundred feet in front of Wagner, where it suddenly widens to two 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 fourteen hundred men. The sands of the island shift with every tide, and it is on no two days of the same shape or size. The siege by which the fort was finally reduced 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 energies and 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 the highest resources of the engineers' science were exhausted. Works of great strength were built, provided with magazines, depots, and bomb-proofs. It became of course the focus of the fire from all their lurid circumference. It was found that Fort Sumter must first be reduced or silenced, as it threw plunging shot into our works over the heads of the garrison of Wagner.

By the 17th of August General Gilmore was prepared to open upon Sumter with the following' machinery: In the first parallel was a naval battery manned by sailors from the fleet. It mounted two two-hundred-pounder Parrotts and two eighty-four-pounder Whitworth guns, five eight-inch and five ten-inch siege mortars, two thirty-pounder Parrotts and a ??i etqua Battery. These batteries were four thousand yards from Sumter. In the second parallel three thousand four hundred yards distant, were two two-hundred-pounder Parrotts, and five one-hundred-pounders. In the left battery, four thousand two hundred and thirty-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 boys of the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery got the range. Every puff of smoke from these ungainly piles of sand, over which these Parrotts loomed long and black, was followed by a little cloud from Sumter. These great bolts went hissing quietly, but unerringly into the sides of this old fort, across the miles of intervening swamp and water. At the end of the first day Sumter had the appearance of a bad case of small pox. The next day gaps began to appear in her parapet, and by the 25th it was a shapeless pile of brick-dust, and as a Fort was 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 was engineer, artillerist, and infantry. Operations were suspended during the day, for now, everybody was under the musketry fire of Wagner, at will. At dusk the eight hundred and forty guards of the trenches were marched out, and the relief 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 once fairly posted, became quiet, and the busy workers behind them took up their chorus of industry. Here a couple hundred of men were dragging by long lines a three-hundred-pounder Parrott on its gin with wheels ten feet in diameter, to its sandy bed in front; there was a squad of busy men with shovels-here a party filling sand-bags-there a detail with their fascines and gabions, repairing yesterday'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, and Professor Grant pouring his powerful calcium light on the ragged eminences of Fort Wagner. Beating time to the tides, alongside, rode a glorious fleet of iron-clads and men-of-war.
"Over all this diversity of labor were constantly exploding, at night the shells of the enemy. 'Cover-Johnson!' would be called from our look-out. There is 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 men crouching behind their mounds of sand-lower, and lower still and now in very imminent proximity, it winds up with a 'bang,' and the villanous whir-r-r of half a hundred pieces humming into the marshes, or mayhap into the living muscles of its poor victims. Then the' Bull of the Woods' would open its pyrotechny-and 'Bee' and 'Beauregard,' the' Peanut' and 'Haskill' and so the thing was kept up until tired, and weary, and mangled, the detail went out of the trenches at dawn. This kind of duty continued for forty days, recurring to each man once in two days. At last the fifth parallel is pushed to within a hundred yards of Wagner.
Early on the morning of September 5th the work is done, and everything is ready for a final test of the effect of shell on a sand fort. A hundred guns open with their great throats on Wagner, from sea and land. 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 live in its parapet, and its garrison lies smothering in its bomb-proofs.2 The announcement that another attempt was to be made to carry the fort by direct assault was hailed with shouts of satisfaction. To the Fifty-second was assigned the duty of passing Waggner on the beach, and of clarging Fort Gregg - the old Gumming's Point Battery. At midnight long lines of men marched and filled the trenches. The men of the Fifty-second with shovels and muskets, and spikes for cannons, took their places. All were cheerful and 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 of the siege.

It is impossible to give the casualties. Out of a detail of two hundred men sent into the trenches, the average daily loss was one man killed and six woundedo It requires a high degree of steadiness and endutralnce for men, day after 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 extraordinary feature of this siege, was the appearance of the Sanitary Commission at the front. 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 a veteran furlough. Upon their return, the regiment was recruited to a thousand strong, all armed with the improved Springfield muskets and well equipped. It was attached to the Tenth Corps, General Gilmore, and with it embarked to join 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 the South. It remained at Hilton Head, and oceasionally made a raid by steamboat around among the Sea Islands. One was made up the Ashapoo River on the 25th of May, under command of Brigadier General William Birney. It was intended that the force should land at the Bitusquito Landing, on the Ashapoo, at night, march twenty-seven miles to Jacksonburg, and destroy the railroad bridge over the Edisto at that point. The Fifty-second arrived at the landing at midnight as arranged, and marched six miles into the enemy's country, where it was halted by General Birney. The transport "Boston," a fine steamer, laden with other troops, passed the landing in the darkness without notice, and continued on its course until it grounded under rebel batteries where 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 Charleston The Department was now in command of Major General Foster. The scheme involved a movement from John's Island, James Island, and MIorris Island; the first under General Foster in person, the second under G-eneral Schimmelfennig, and the last under Colonel Gurney, One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York Volunteers. The force from Morris Island was composed of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New 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 creek running through the marshes between Morris and James Island. They were then to rendezvous at Paine's dock, at the out-let of the creek, and as soon as the tide permitted, pull across Charleston Harbor. The route lay between Fort Sumter and Battery Simpkins, mounting heavy guns on James Island. The Fifty-second in advance, was to pull directly for the beach, six hunchled yards in front of Fort Johnson, land, and assault the fort. The One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York was to land at Battery Simpkins, a half mile nearer and carry it. The Third Rhode Island Artillery was to take possession of, and turn upon the city any guns found in the works. This bold undertaking could only be successful by being a surprise to the enemy. The harbor was at that time picketed by two rebel rams and a line of picket boats, extending from Sumter to James Island on one side, and Sullivan's Island on the other. The most formidable obstacle for the forces to overcome was a bar, extending from the 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 when the tide was three-quarters full. The time selected seemed unfortunate; for on the 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. If the fort should be taken, it could only be held by strong re-inforcements. Its garrison was believed to consist of four hundred men. Could a landing once be 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, and boat-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, once fairly afloat, must thenceforth proceed according to the pre-arranged scheme or fail. The night came at last and the regiment fell in, in front of its camp by boat crews. They silently wound aronud the sand-hills, down to the marsh where the fleet of boats was moored. One by one they were filled and shoved out to Paine's Dock, the place of rendezvous. Before they reached the dock many of them grounded, for the tide was now at its lowest, and most crews only made progress by debarking in the muddy shoals of the inlet. By two o'clock A.M. the fleet was together and the tide turned. As it covered the shoals, the Fifty-second in advance, they moved out in single file and headed into 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 under the 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 his musket, he with the rest of the pickets on duty, fled up the beach. It was an even race now between the boats and the rebel sentinels. Soon the guns in Fort Johnson opened, sending their shells hissing over the heads of the men, now pulling for dear life. Discovery was no longer to be avoided. With a hearty cheer one hundred and twenty-five men of the Fifty-second landed from the five leading boats at the designated points. Promptly fornming, they charged a two-gun battery, mounting Brook's rifled guns, and carried it handsomely. Fort Johnson was still four hundred yards in advance. The fire from the batteries and muskets of the fort had now grown hot, but there was no halt. The parapet was reached and scaled, shots were exchanged breast to breast over the crest, and the men of the Fifty-second jumped down into the works. The garrison were now fully aroused and at their posts. The long distance traversed had destroyed somewhat the impetus of the assafut, and the assailants had become separated in the steep ascent to the fort. The assaulting party, 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 hopeless and retreat was impossible. The entire party was, therefore, made prisoners of war, although the fort was fairly in their grasp. It had proved a complete surprise, 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 and Evans, all of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, rowed rapidly to the shore, and these officers, with Adjutant Bunyan, (afterwards killed,) and one hundred and thirty-five men, landed and drove the enemy; but deserted by their supports, were obliged to surrender to superior numbers. Colonel Hoyt bestows unqualified praise on the officers and men who landed with them; of these, seven were killed and sixteen wounded. They deserve great credit for their energy in urging their boats forward and bringing them through the narrow channel, and the feeling which led the to land at thhe head of their men was the prompting of a gallant spirit, which deserves to find more imitators."
Of the men captured more than fifty perished amid the horrors of Andersonville and Columbia. The officers were confined at Macon awhile, and afterwards in Charleston, and placed under the fire of the batteries on Morris Island.

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

During the winter the regiment performed duty as boat infantry. This duty was 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 were frequent. 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 flag of the Fifty-second, he pulled boldly for her battered ruins. No one challenged him, as with zealous caution, he scaled her tough remains, and with a shout of triamph for the first time heard in four long years, the old banner was again planted on its battlements. With all the tons of metal which had been hurled upon her, she was yet a safe and impregnable refuge for her garrison. Mgajor Hennessy now struck promptly, with his little detachment, for the city of Charleston. He stopped long enough at Pinckney to re-possess it, and landed 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 surrender near Raleigh. A few week's further duty at Salisbury, North Carolina, and the regiment 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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