63d Regiment
Pennsylvania Volunteers

History of Company A

"The Kelly Guards"

In the spring of 1861, when Fort Sumter was fired on, and a call made for seventy-five thousand men for three months, a number of the citizens of Braddock organized a company, but were too late to be accepted, the quota having already been raised.

The company then became a “home guard” company and drilled regularly, thus holding themselves in readiness if another call should be made. The home guard company was known as the “Kelly Guards” and the officers were:

  • Captain – J. M. C. Berringer
  • First Lieutenant – William Smith
  • Second Lieutenant – Wm. N. Haymaker
  • First Sergeant – Wm. P. Hunker
After the first battle of Bull Run, when the President issued his next call for men to serve for three years, a portion of the Braddock Company went to White Ash, where they were joined by a number of others, and a full company was raised.

About August 1st they went to Pittsburgh and were placed in Camp Wilkins, formerly the old fairgrounds. They now became Company, Sixty-third regiment.

On August 26, 1861, the company, with a number of others, left Pittsburgh and went to Washington, D.C. They went into camp as what was known as “Camp Sprague”.

On September 28th they crossed the Potomac at Alexandria, and encamped on the Leesburg Pike, at what was called “Camp Shields”, where they remained until October 14th, when the regiment moved across Hunting Creek and encamped on the farm of George Mason, on the road leading from Alexandria to Accotink, and near Fort Lyon.

This was known as Camp Johnston, and here they remained until March 17, 1862, when they embarked on transports at Alexandra, and were taken to Fortress Monroe, when they landed and encamped for a short time at Hampton, from whence the Peninsular campaign began.

It was one of the best companies in the regiment, and lost more men in killed, wounded and prisoners than any company in the Sixty-third. Out of one hundred and fifty men, but twenty-two returned at the end of their three years' enlistment, while forty-eight re-enlisted and became Veteran Volunteers, serving until the Confederacy went down and the Cause of the Union was triumphant. It participated in every battle and skirmish in which the regiment was engaged and occupying the point of honor at the right of the line, its loss was accordingly great. The best of harmony always existed between the officers and men, and out of one hundred and fifty men, but four have the mark of deserter charged against them, and but one of the officers resigned, while two were dismissed from the service. After the transfer of the regiment in the Peninsula, and while prosecuting the siege of Yorktown, the company suffered much from sickness and was engaged in the first encounter with the rebels in which Joseph M. Thompson was killed. After the Battle of Williamsburg, Company A was the first to enter the town. The memorable march up the peninsula followed, and in the Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862, Company A lost very heavily.

It took an active part in the seven days' fighting before Richmond and suffered heavy loss at Charles City Cross Roads, June 30, 1862. In August of the same year, the Army of the Potomac being ordered to move to the support of Pope, who was being badly whipped on the Rappahannock, Company A, at the head of the Sixty-third, left the Peninsula and on the 29th it did effective work at Second Bull Run. Also on September 1st at Chantilly, where the brave Kearney fell.

On December 12, 1862, it was placed in the front at Fredericksburg, where it remained forty-eight hours before being relieved. Going into winter quarters near Falmouth until January 2, 1863, when it took part in the famous “stick-in-the-mud” march under General Burnside. On May 3, 1863, it took a prominent part in the bloody battle of Chancellorsville, and it was there that the brave Captain Smith lost his life. Smith was universally lamented by the company. A cooler or braver officer never led men into battle. He never shirked danger and was a stranger to fear.

On June 11, 1863, they started on the Gettysburg campaign, and on the morning of July 2nd the company was deployed as skirmishers along the Emmettsburg Pike. Again, after Lee's retreat from Pennsylvania, the company did effective work as skirmishers at Wapping Heights. At Culpepper it was reinforced by a number of conscripts. At Auburn Mills and Kelly's Ford it was again hotly engaged, and also participated in skirmishes at Locust Grove. The regiment went into winter quarters at Brandy Station. The terrible battles of the Wilderness followed in the early part of May, 0864, and Company A sustained its well-earned reputation for hard fighting.

From this point until they arrived before Petersburg, it may be called one continual fight until the 14th day of June, and in all these battles and skirmishes Company A took an active part. While lying in front of Petersburg, skirmishing and fighting was of daily occurrence until August 1st, when the veterans and recruits having been transferred to the One Hundred and Fifth Regiment, twenty-two men, the sole survivors left of the immense company of one hundred and fifty men, were mustered out and returned to their homes.

Company A has the proud distinction of capturing the only Confederate flag taken by the Sixty-third during the war, Sergeant John M. Kendig having captured the battle flag of the Twenty-eighth North Carolina Regiment, at Spottsylvania, Va., on May 12, 1864.

Source:   Gilbert Adams Hays, Captain. Under the Red Patch: Story of the Sixty-third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1864. Published by the 63d Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment Association. Pittsburg: Market Review Publishing Company, 1908.






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