© Alice J. Gayley, all rights reservedThe patriotic ardor, incident to the commencement of hostilities, among the loyal masses of Schuylkill county, was not exceeded in any part of the Commonwealth. A military spirit had long been preserved among its people, and the discipline of its citizen militia had been well maintained. Two of its organized companies had gone in the First battalion, the first volunteer troops at the capital. Additional companies were hastily recruited in response to the President's call, and on Sunday, the 21st of April, a large detachment moved by rail to Harrisburg, followed on the next morning by a second. An immense throng gathered at the station in Pottsville to utter the "good bye." The enthusiasm, along the whole line of march, was unbounded; farm houses were decorated with flags, and the farmers' wives and daughters waved their hats and kerchiefs, with a zeal worthy of the inspiring cause.
Rendezvousing at Camp Curtin, the men were mustered, by companies, into the service of the United States, and on the 22d of April, the regiment was organized by the choice of the following officers:At nine o'clock of the 22d, the day on which it was organized, the regiment proceeded by rail to Philadelphia. The men here had their first experience of government rations, consisting of hard biscuit and salt pork; the former so hard, and the latter so well preserved, that it gave rise to the report among the men, that these provisions were branded "Vera Cruz" and were a relic of the Mexican war.
- James Nagle, of Pottsville, Colonel
- James J. Seibert, of Pottsville, Lieutenant Colonel
- John E. Wynkoop, of Pottsville, Major
- John D. Bertolette was appointed Adjutant.
The regiment was stationed at the Baltimore depot, a portion of the command occupying the large tent of the Young Men's Christian association. The kindness of the citizens of Philadelphia, in providing for the comfort and convenience of the men, was very marked and gratifying. Company drill was commenced, and regimental parade was regularly held, morning and evening, on Broad street. On the 7th of May, the regiment was ordered to move and take position on the line of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore railroad; one company at Newark, one at Chesapeake City, one at North East, one at Charlestown, three at Elkton, and three at Perryville.
After three weeks separation, doing guard duty in these positions, the companies were ordered to rendezvous at Perryville, and encamped on the hills overlooking the Susquehanna river. On the following day, May 28th, orders were received to strike tents and move, via Baltimore and the Northern Central railroad, to Chambersburg. Here the regiment was reviewed by General Patterson, and assigned to the Brigade1 of Col. George H. Thomas, since Major General in the regular army.
On Thursday, the 5th of June, orders were received to prepare two days cooked rations, and march on the following day to Greencastle. The entire Brigade moved at six o'clock in the morning, and on its arrival was ordered into camp. On the 13th of June, the Brigade was reviewed by Major General Cadwalader, commander of the Division, and was ordered to Williamsport, Maryland. The weather was intensely hot, the men fainting on the march, and falling out by hundreds along the road.
General Patterson, in command of the Department of Pennsylvania, having organized an army of some twelve thousand men, at Chambersburg, had submitted to General Scott a plan of operations for the reduction of Harper's Ferry, now held by the enemy. This plan had been approved,2 and General Patterson had ordered his column across the Potomac.
The brigade of Colonel Thomas, which formed the right of the column, advanced to the river on the morning of Sunday, June the 15th, and fording the stream, which was here breast deep, had proceeded some four miles on the Martinsburg road. At this stage of the campaign, and the army well across the river, General Scott became apprehensive that a plan had been formed for the attack and capture of Washington, before the meeting of Congress. He accordingly ordered all of the Regulars, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and Burnside's regiment and battery of volunteers, from Patterson's column, to Washington, leaving his army destitute of the two latter arms of the service. Without these, it was madness to advance inte face of an enemy with a well appointed force of alarms. General Patterson was, accordingly, obliged to give the ordert to countermarch, and return to the Maryland side.
The Sixth regiment went into camp near the town of Williamsport, from whence, the enemy's cavalry was visible on the opposite shore. On the following day, the enemy planted cannon along the heights. The Rhode Island battery returned on the afternoon of the 17th of June, and planted their cannon in the bed of the canal, the water having been drawn off for that purpose.
On the following day Captain Doubleday also returned with his battery, consisting of one eight inch howitzer and one twenty-four pounder smooth bore gun, and commenced planting them on a hill commanding the approaches to the fords from the Virginia shore. While the regiment remained in camp, it was principally employed on picket and guard duty. On the 24th of June, it was ordered to break camp, and move to Downsville. Returning to Williamsport on the 1st of July, the army was again ordered to cross into Virginia.
Moving to the vicinity of Falling Waters, the advance fell in with the enemy, and a sharp skirmish ensued. A brisk fire was kept up, and after a hot chase of about four miles, over hills and valleys, driving the enemy, the regiment was ordered to halt. After an hour's rest, word came that General Negley's brigade was cut off, and the Sixth regiment, with a part of Wynkoop's brigade, was sent to his assistance; but, after a march of about two miles, it was ascertained that Negley was safe; whereupon the column countermarched to Hainesville, and occupied a camp just vacated by the enemy. On the following morning the column again took up the line of march for Martinsburg, which it reached without opposition, the enemy having retreated in the direction of Winchester. The Sixth regiment went into the town on the double quick, and was among the first to enter it. The destruction of property here, by the enemy, was immense; fifty-four locomotives, belonging to the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, were entirely destroyed, and whole trains of cars burned.
On the 15th of July, the 1st brigade was sent in pursuit of a body of rebel cavalry, which was. extended some two miles beyond Bunker Hill, to which place it returned and there encamped. Remaining till the 17th, the brigade was ordered to Charlestown, where the Sixth regiment arrived at two o'clock in the afternoon, and encamped near the spot where John Brown was hung. The term of service of the regiment having expired, it was marched to the Head-Quarters of General Patterson, who spoke in complimentary and flattering terms of its services, and ordered its discharge. A guide was furnished, and the regiment marched towards Shepherdstown, intending to ford the river at that place; but missing the way, it was compelled to cross far below, opposite the mouth of Antietam creek. Advancing to Hagerstown the regiment encamped and remained three days, resting from its fatiguing marches. Taking rail' transportation, it proceeded to Harrisburg, where, after nearly a week's delay, it was paid, and mustered out of service.
sup>1Organization of 1st Brigade, Colonel George H. Thomas, 1st Division, Major General Cadwalader. 3 companies 2d Regiment Cavalry, U. S. A., (now 5th Regiment;) 1 company Philadelphia City Troop, (cavalry,) Captain James; 1 Battery Heavy Artillery, (Captain Abner Doubleday, (since Major General;) 23d Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Charles P. Dare; 6th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel James Nagle; 21st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John F. Ballier. Named in the order of seniority of commanders.
2HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, June 8, 1861,:
I think your expedition against Harper's Ferry well projected, and that success in it would be an important-step in the war. But there must be no reverse. Hence, I have given you the best reinforcements within my reach, and have just ordered Colonel Burnside's fine Rhode Island regiment of infantry, with its battery, (about twelve hundred strong,) to proceed to Carlisle, and there receive your orders. A company of the Fourth Artillery, (to receive its horses and battery at Carlisle,) with the battalion of the Third Infantry, took the same route, and with the same instructions, yesterday.
* * * I have said that we must sustain no reverse; but this is not enough: a check or a drawn battle would be a victory to the enemy, filling his heart with joy, his ranks with men, and his magazines with voluntary contributions.
Take your measures, therefore, circumspectly; make a good use of your engineers, and other experienced staff officers and generals, and attempt nothing without a clear prospect of success, as you will find the enemy strongly posted, and not inferior to you in numbers,
With entire confidence in your valor and judgment,
I remain, your brother soldier,
Major General PATTERSON, United States Forces.
I was mortified and humiliated at having to re-cross the river without striking a blow. I knew that my reputation would be grievously damaged by it, the country could not understand the meaning of this crossing and re-crossing, this marching and countermarching in the face of the foe, and that I would be censured without stint for such apparent vascilation and want of purpose.
General Patterson's narrative of the campaign in the Valley of the Shenandoah, page 36.
Sources: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organization and Service:
Organized at Harrisburg April 22, 1861.
Moved to Philadelphia April 22, and duty there till May 7.
Duty along Pittsburg, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad May 7-28.
One Company at Newark, one Company at Chesspeaks City, one Company at North East,
one Company at Charleston, three Companies at Elkton and three Companies at Perryville.
Moved to Chambersburg May 28.
Attached to George H. Thomas' Brigade, 1st Division, Patterson's Army.
March to Greencastle June 6.
Cross Potomac and advance on Martinsburg Road June 15.
At Williamsport June 16-24.
At Downsville till July 1.
Filling Waters July 2.
Occupation of Martinsburg July 3.
Advance on Bunker Hill July 15.
Moved to Charleston July 17.
Mustered out July 27, 1861.
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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