68th Regiment

Pennsylvania Volunteers

The Sixty-eighth Regiment was recruited in the city of Philadelphia, and in the adjacent counties of Montgomery and Chester, during the summer of 1862, the first company being mustered in on the 4th of August, and the regiment completely organized and in the service by the 1st of September.

The camp of rendezvous was established at Frankford, a suburb of Philadelphia. The following were its field officers:

  • Andrew H. Tippin, of Philadelphia, Colonel
  • A H. Reynolds, of Philadeiphia, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Thomas Hawksworth, of Philadelphia, Major.
Colonel Tippin had seen service in Mexico as Lieutenant in the Eleventh United States Infantry, where he was twice breveted for gallant conduct in the battles of Contreras, Cherubusco, and Molino del Rey, and had served as Major in the Twentieth Regiment for three months service. Captain Winslow, subsequently Lieutenant Colonel, and others, both officers and men, were in service in Mexico, and in the three months' regiments.

The defeat of our arms, in Pope's campaign of Northern Virginia, concluding with Chantilly, caused the National authorities to summon, peremptorily, troops which had been mustered, and the Sixty-eighth was ordered to move at once. Though above the minimimn, its ranks were not up to the maximum standard, and the men were only partially uniformed and equipped. But responding promptly to the order, it broke camp on the evening of September 1st and proceeded to Washington. The army was just then falling back to the heights around the Capital. The regiment was immediately ordered across the Potomac, and went into camp on Arlington Heights. Here it was armed, and furnished with a complete outfit for an active campaign. It was assigned to Robinson's Brigade of Stoneman's Division.

Soon after the battle of Antietam, the regiment moved from camp, and passing through Georgetown, proceeded to Poolsville, arriving on the 10th of October, the day on which the rebel Generals Stuart and Hampton, with a force of cavalry, made their famous raid on Chambersburg, and a complete circuit of the Union army. Intelligence soon spread of the daring ride, and the regiment was marched rapidly to Conrad's Ferry, in expectation that the bold raiders would attempt to cross the Potomac on their return into Virginia, at this point.. But they made for a ford considerably lower down the stream, and passed over without opposition. After remaining several days in the vicinity of the ferry, it re-joined the brigade and proceeded southward with the rest of the army. While on the march the rebel cavalry under White suddenly dashed in upon the train moving with the brigade, and captured wagons belonging to the Sixty-eighth, containing officers' baggage, books, papers, and camp and garrison equipage, over-powering and making prisoners of the feeble guard which had it in charge. About forty of the Sixty-eighth were taken, who were sent to Richmond and kept in confinement several months.

In the re-organization of the army, which was made upon the assumption of chief command by General Burnside, the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade,1 General Robinson, First Division, General Birney, Third Corps, General Sickles. It was determined to offer battle at Fredericksburg. In the plan of operations it was arranged that Franklin, with the left Grand Division, supported by a part of Hooker's, should cross below the.town and attack upon the left, while Sumner, remaining in front supported by the balance of Hooker's Corps, should, at the opportune moment, cross and give battle upon the right. Accordingly, on the morning of the 4th of December, Franklin, having forced a passage, attacked with the Pennsylvania Reserves, supported by Gibbon and Doubleday, and finding his attacking column too weak, at the last moment ordered forward Birney's Division.

Fredericksburg

The Sixty-eighth had been encamped near Falmouth, but on the 12th broke camp and moved down to the heights overlooking the field where Franklin's Grand Division, on the opposite side of the river, had taken position, and remained there until the 13th. It was not until afternoon and until the battle was in progress on the left, that the order to cross was given. When it finally came, the divsion moved at doublequick, crossed the bridge, and moved up under a heavy artillery fire, reaching the field just as the Reserves under Meade were forced back from the heights, followed closely by the triumphant foe.

The Sixty-eighth was ordered to support Randolph's First Rhode Island Battery, which at this critical juncture was being rapidly served and doing fearful execution. The regiment remained in this position, exposed to the enemy's answering fire, and defending the guns from infantry attack, until the heat of the engagement was past. As soon. as the cannonaling ceased, it was ordered into position in the first line with the brigade, close to the enemy's front. For two days it remained in this position, but beyond occasional picket firing, was not further engaged. On the night of the 15th the brigade was relieved by the Second Brigade, which had been in the rear, and under cover of darkness re-crossed the river. The loss was about forty killed and wounded. Major Hawksworth was mortally wounded, and Lieutenant Joseph E. Davis among the killed.

Chancellorsville

In the movement upon Chancellorsville, the Third Corps was at first marched down the Rappahannock to the point where Franklin had crossed in the Fredericksburg campaign, to make a demonstration, as if to cross and offer battle at that point, while Hooker with the main body of his army crossed and effected a permanent lodgment, some miles above. When this had been accomplished General Sickles, who had succeeded to the command of the Third Corps, marched hastily away to re-join the army concentrating at Chancellorsville.

"We crossed the Rappahannock," says Colonel Tippin in his official report, "on the 1st of May, having left camp on the 28th of April, passing the intermediate time in the operations below Fredericksburg. On the evening of the 1st we were drawn up in column, with the brigade, supporting a battery which had opened upon the enemy, that was soon replied to spiritedly with shells, one of our pioneers being wounded. Here we remained during the night. The next day we were moved into various positions, covering the line of skirmishers, in the operations against the enemy on the left. At evening we retired and remained in position with the brigade. Before the men were fully prepared the next morning, the enemy made a vigorous attack on our left and front, and the position of my regiment was changed to the extreme right so as to more fully cover the battery we were supporting, now firing rapidly. The onset, however, was so rapid and determined, and the front lines having broken and fallen back in some confusion, the regiment was forced to retire with the brigade.

After retiring the brigade was re-formed, and with it we quickly moved again to the front in columns doubled on the centre. Deploying at the edge of the wood, to the right of our first position, which the enemy now held, we entered and soon engaged him in his rifle-pits, which were charged and taken, after a sharp and severe contest. My regiment acted with the brigade in this successful onset, capturing some thirty-five officers and men of the Tenth Virginia Regiment, its colors, and color-guard. Being nearly out of ammunition, unsupported, and the enemy strongly pressing us on the right flank, we retired with the brigade, closely pursued by the enemy back to our last position.

"At daylight on Sunday," says General Birney, "the Third Corps. with my division bringing up the rear, commenced the movement ordered by Major General Hooker, to take position on the heights, in rear of the right of the Twelfth Corps, and to make dispositions to hold the plank road. In making the movement my rear was subjected to a severe musketry fire, but the troops behaved admirably, and withdrew by successive formations. I at once relieved, by Graham's Brigade, the brigade of the Twelfth Corps next to'the plank road, sent Ward's Brigade to support Berry's Division on the right of the plank road, and held Hayman's Brigade as a reserve. The artillery of the corps was admirably placed, and I have never seen such terrible execution as it effected upon the hostile masses. The attack upon us was furious and in masses, but the Third Corps held its position until eleven o'clock A. M., when We were ordered to retire and take position in a second line of battle formed like a flattened cone with flanks resting on the river. The position of my division in the new formation was at the apex. My division, as well as the corps, had suffered most severely, some forty-eight hundred killed and wounded; among the killed were Major Generals Berry and Whipple; and among the wounded Brigadier General Mott."

The loss in the regiment was very severe. Captains James Shields, and John D. Paulding were mortally wounded.

Gettysburg

At the opening of the battle of Gettysburg on the 1st of July, the Third Corps was at Emmettsburg. Moving rapidly forward, and quickening his steps as the sound of the terrible conflict became more distinct, Sickles reached the field at evening, after the fighting of the day was over, and the discomfited troops of the First and Eleventh Corps were coming into position to the south of the town. As the column reached the field, it went into position along a slight ridge extending diagonally across the open plain between the Seminary and Cemetery ridges, connecting with Hancock on its right, with its left refused at the Peach Orchard, and stretching obliquely back through a wood to a rocky ravine in front of Round Top. The position of the brigade, now coinmanded by General Graham, fell upon that part of the line, where, deflecting from the Emmettsburg Pike, it stretches away to Round Top. The angle formed by this departure was at the point where the road, leading from Little Round Top, crosses the pike; and in this angle, near the house of John Wentz, in one of the most exposed parts of the field, the Sixty-eighth was posted. Open to a fire on front and flankn standing upon the most elevated part of the field, but not sufficiently so to be of any advantage in defence, it was a conspicuous mark for artillery for a long range around, and open to the charge of infantry.

The enemy commenced skirmishing with the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, which had been deployed in front, at nine o'clock on the morning of the 2d, and the fire gradually increased in severity until the battle opened in earnest. Longstreet, who held the rebel right, opened with artillery at four o'clock in the afternoon, and followed up with infantry, putting in brigade after brigade, en echelon, commencing on his extreme right. It was some time before the infantry attack reached the Peach Orchard, where the regiment stood, but the artillery fire bearing upon it, was terrific, carrying away men at every discharge. As this was regarded the key to the whole position, it was necessary to hold it at all hazards, and the only alternative was to stand and be shot down without the opportunity to reply. In the midst of the fight General Graham was wounded and borne from the field, and the command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel Tippin.

"It was," says the latter, "a terrible afternoon, and all were anxious for the Fifth Corps to come up, as we were being decimated by their artillery. * * * In that orchard, the Lieutenant Colonel and Major were wounded and ten other officers killed or wounded, leaving with me but four to bring the regiment out of' the fight, having had in all but seventeen present for duty. Just at sunset the rebel infantry charged upon the position with great impetuosity, and the brigade, greatly weakened by its losses and exhausted by frequent manceuvrings, outflanked and vastly outnumbered, was forced to yield; but not in disorder, retiring slowly and contesting the ground inch by inch."

At this critical juncture, portions of the Fifth Corps came to the relief of Sickles, a new line was established, and the disaster partially repaired. Near the close of the action, General Graham returned upon the field and attempted to resume command; but weak from loss of blood and unable to endure the trials of that desperately contested field, unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy.

On the third day the regiment was held in reserve on the left centre of the new line, on the lowest part of the entire field, and was not engaged, though exposed to the terrible fire of artillery, and losing some men. Colonel Tippin had his horse killed under him on this day. The loss was about sixty percent of the entire number engaged. Captain George W. M'Learn, and Lieutenants Andrew Black, and John Reynolds were among the killed, and Lewis W. Ealer, mortally wounded.

After the return of the army into Virginia, the regiment participated with it in the fall campaign, and was engaged at Wapping Heights on the 23d of August, and at Auburn on the 14th of October. In the sharp turn taken by Meade, on the latter date, to get back to Centreville, Colonel Tippin was taken prisoner, and was confined in Libby Prison, where he remained for nearly nine months.

In the subsequent advance of the army, the regiment, now under command of Lieutenant Colonel Winslow, was engaged at Kelly's Ford on the 7th of November, at Locust Grove on the 27th, suffering severely, Captain Milton S. Davis being among the killed, and at Mine Run on the 28th. In this entire campaign the regiment was given little rest, being almost constantly on the move, and suffering considerable loss by sickness and battle.

The regiment went into winter quarters at Brandy Station, and early in January, 1864, a sufficient number of the regiment re-enlisted to entitle it to continuance as an organization, and the veterans to the usual furlough. Not long afterwards the Third Corps was broken up, and the Sixty-eighth, with a considerable portion of it, was consolidated with the Second Corps, General Hancock.

With the return of the veterans and the addition of a number of recruits, the reginent assumed proportion something like the original. On the 18th of April, 1864, the regiment under command of Lieutenant Colonel Winslow, Colonel Tippin being still in confinement, was ordered to the headquarters of General Meade, where it was placed under the immediate command of Brigadier General Patrick, Provost Marshal General of the Army, and employed in guard duty. In this position it remained until the close of the war.

The duty was onerous and severe. With other regiments in the same service it was subject to active duty when emergencies required, and in several instances, at the critical moment of the battle, when the scale was so evenly poised as to be doubtful which way it would turn, the reserve was sent to the support of the wavering line and made victory secure. When infantry was required for duty with the cavalry, in toilsome and fatiguing raids, the reserve was ordered, or when regiments were taken from the intrenchments, these regiments were obliged to take their places in the works.

While in front of Petersburg, half of the Sixty-eighth was on duty at General Meade's Headquarters, and the balance at City Point. On the 25th of June Colonel Tippin was exchanged and resumed command of his regiment.

In the last charge made upon the enemy's lines at Petersburg, before the final move, the regiment, though employed in provost duty, was of the storming party. In the sharp conflict which ensued Major John C. Gallagher was mortally wounded, and a number of officers and men were lost.

After the capture of Lieutenant General Ewell and his forces at Sailor's Creek, this regiment, in conjunction with others then constituting the headquarters' brigade, was detailed to guard the prisoners, and proceed with them to City Point.2 The brigade was under the command of Colonel Tippin, and the order was faithfully executed without the loss of a man.

This duty done, the regiment returned to the headquarters of the army, having in charge about six thousand recruits that had accumulated at City Point. It had been but a short time with the moving column, when General Meade ordered it to proceed, in company with the One Hundred and Forty-third Pennsylvania, to Hart's Island near the City of New York, to have charge of rebel prisoners confined there. Here it remained until the 9th of June when it was mustered out of service.

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1Organization of the First Brigade, Brigadier General Robinson, First Division, Brigadier General David B. Birney, Third Corps, Major General Stoneman. Twentieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Colonel John Van Valkenburg; Sixty-Third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John A. Danks; Sixty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Andrew H. Tippin; One Hundred and Fourteenth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Charles H. T. Collis; One Hundred and Forty-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Henry J. Madill.

2"The brigade," says Colonel Tippin, "was under my command. Among the prisoners were Lieutenant General Ewell, Major Generals Custis Lee, Kershaw, and other prominent gmnerals of the rebel army, together with about six hundred officers of lesser grade. At a point on the route where we all rested for a short time, I received a dispatch that General Lee had surrendered. I communicated the intelligence to Generals Ewell and Custis Lee, but both doubted its truthfulness. They could not think it possible. In a very short time, and before leaving our resting place, General Benham came up with his engineer brigade, and gave the terms of the surrender. Young General Lee dropped his head on his breast, and General Ewell threw up his arms exclaiming,' The jig is up.'

Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.


Organization:

Organized at Philadelphia August, 1862,
Left State for Washington, D.C., September 1, 1862.
Camp at Arlington Heights till October.
Moved to Poolesville, Md., and attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Army Corps,
Army Potomac, to March, 1864.
1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army Potomac, to April, 1864.
Provost Guard, Army Potomac, to April, 1865.
Collis' Independent Brigade, 9th Army Corps, April, 1865.
Hart's Island, N.Y., Harbor, Dept. of the East, to June, 1865.

Service:

March up the Potomac to Leesburg, thence to Falmouth, Va.,
October 11-November 19, 1862.
Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15.
Burnside's 2nd Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863.
At Falmouth till April.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6.
Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 13-July 24.
Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3.
Pursuit of Lee July 5-24.
Wapping Heights, Va., July 23.
Duty on line of the Rappahannock till October.
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22.
Auburn October 13.
Auburn and Bristoe October 14.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Kelly's Ford November 7.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2.
Payne's Farm November 27.
At Brandy Station till April, 1864.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7.
Rapidan Campaign May 4-June 12.
Assigned to provost duty at Meade's Headquarters April 18.
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Spottsylvania C. H. May 8-21;
Guinea Station May 21; North Anna River May 23-26.
On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28.
Totopotomoy May 28-31.
Cold Harbor June 1-12.
Before Petersburg June 16-18.
Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
Garrison and provost duty at City Point, Va., June 18, 1864, to April 1, 1865.
Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2.
Occupation of Petersburg April 3.
Moved from before Petersburg to Hart's Island, N. Y. Harbor, April, 1865, and
duty there guarding prisoners till June.
Mustered out June 9, 1865

Losses:

Regiment lost during service:
10 Officers and 61 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
51 Enlisted men by disease.
Total 122.
Source:  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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