Recruiting for the Seventy-first, originally known as the California Regiment, was commenced in Philadelphia in the early part of April, 1861, under the direction of Edward D. Baker, United States Senator from California, who had been especially commissioned by President Lincoln for the purpose. The business was under the immediate charge of Isaac J. Wistar of Philadelphia, who had been a trapper in the Hudson Bay Company, had commanded Indian Rangers in Oregon and California in 1850-51, and was inured to wild warfare in the early settlement of the Pacific coast. In one month's time eleven hundred men were enlisted, and were sent by squads and companies to report to the headquarters of the regiment established in New York, subsequently at Fort Schuyler, near the city, where it was mustered into service and organized by the choice of the following field officers:Not having been recognized by either Pennsylvania or New York, it was treated as belonging to the regular army, and its returns were made accordingly. Here it remained engaged in drill and discipline until the 1st of July, when it proceeded to Fortress Monroe via Philadelphia, parading in the latter city, to the great credit of its officers and the satisfaction of its friends.
- Edward D. Baker, Colonel
- Isaac J. Wistar, Lieutenant Colonel
- R. A. Parrish, Major
Upon its arrival at the Fortress it was assigned to arduous picket and scouting duty, and rendered important service in obtaining valuable information of the movements of the enemy while in the vicinity of Big Bethel.
The regiment remained at Fortress Monroe until after the first battle of Bull Run, when it was ordered to the south bank of the Potomac, opposite the city of Washington, where it was engaged in building earth-works, and in guarding the line of fortifications which encircled the capital.
On the 11th of September, while out upon a reconnoissance, it was attacked by a large body of the enemy, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. This was the first time that it was under any considerable fire, and the spirit and steadiness displayed gave ample proof of the excellent material of which it was composed, of the discipline attained, and of the confidence reposed by the rank and file in its officers. Picketing and scouting were now of daily occurrence, and from the similarity of its uniform, gray, to that of the rebels, the duty was extremely hazardous, the men being frequently mistaken for the enemy. Among the killed while on this service was Captain James W. Lingenfelter of company B, killed while on the picket line. He was a useful officer and had come from the Pacific coast to serve with Colonel Baker.
On the 29th of September the regiment participated in the general advance on Munson's Hill, then occupied by the enemy. In the march, it held the right of the division commanded by General W. F. Smith, its right battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wistar, in the absence of Colonel Baker, leading the column. Two sections of artillery followed, then the left battalion, and the balance of the division. Companies A and D, under command of Captain Markoe, were thrown out as skirmishers. The night was dark, and the road a narrow track through dense forest. Erroneous information had been received by the general in command respecting the pickets of the division on the left. The result was a collision, by which four men were killed and fourteen wounded, several of them mortally. Order was at length restored and the advance resumed.
Ball's BuffEarly in October the regiment moved to a position near Poolesville, Maryland, not far from the mouth of the Monocacy. It was here united with other regiments, forming a brigade,1 which was commanded by Colonel Baker, and was assigned to duty in guarding the fords of the Potomac, from Point of Rocks to Edwards' Ferry.
At one o'clock on the morning of the 21st of October orders were received from General Stone, in command of the division, for the right battalion, consisting of eight companies, A, C, D, G, H, L, N, and P, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Wistar, to march so as to reach Conrad's Ferry by sunrise. Upon its arrival it was reported by a mounted officer to division headquarters, at Edwards' Ferry, seven miles below. At seven A. M. Colonel Baker arrived, and proceeded down the river to confer with General Stone. At half past eight Lieutenant Colonel Wistar received orders to cross with his battalion, the only means provided for doing so being four scows, a skiff, and a small metalic life-boat. At ten Colonel Baker returned, and giving orders to hasten forward the men, crossed over and began to place them in position. They were afterwards joined by portions of the Fifteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, and two companies of the Forty-second New York. At a little after midday an irregular fire of the enemy's skirmishers was opened from the tree tops of the circumjacent woods, principally directed upon the field officers.
At two P. M. companies A and D, under command of Captain Markoe, were sent forward on the left as skirmishers to ascertain the extent and disposition of the enemy's right flank. They had advanced but a little when they came suddenly upon the right of his line of battle concealed in a dense wood, and were at once hotly engaged. They maintained their position gallantly against overpowering numbers, until all of their officers and fully two-thirds of their men had been killed or captured, when they retired in good order, bringing back twenty prisoners, including an officer of the Eighth Virginia.
For nearly two hours the action continued, the enemy assaulting impetuously, and the little force, isolated and cut off from all supports, with no way of retreat, meeting him at every point, and stoutly resisting his advance. But the odds were too great, and gradually yielding ground, it was finally forced to give way, retiring in good order to the edge of the bluff. This point had scarcely been reached, when a determined attack was made against the left flank, which was gallantly met, and though outnumbered three to one, maintained its ground under a most destructive fire. At about four o'clock Colonel Baker fell at the head of his command, pierced by a number of bullets, while cheering his men, and by his own example encouraging them to obstinate resistance. The line now wavered, and shortly after, it broke and retreated in disorder down the bank towards the river, pursued by the victorious enemy, who rushed forward howling and screeching, and shooting and bayoneting all who came in their way.
No adequate means of transportation to the opposite shore, in case of disaster, had been provided. The only boat at hand was filled with the wounded and pushed out into the stream, but soon swamped and the men were nearly all drowned. Another rude affair, filled to its utmost capacity, floated down and was lost. Becoming desperate from the continued and merciless fire of the enemy, many leaped into the river and perished in the attempt to buffet the stream; some surrendered and were borne away into captivity.
Of five hundred and twenty who entered the engagement, three hundred and twelve were lost. The body of Colonel Baker was recovered, after a severe struggle, and sent to the Pacific coast for interment. Captain Harvey and Lieutenant Williams were among the killed. Captain Otter was either killed, or drowned while crossing the stream. Lieutenant Colonel Wistar was twice severely wounded but kept his place until he was completely disabled by a third wound when he was borne from the field. Captains Markoe and Keffar were wounded and taken prisoners. The color sergeant, seeing that all was lost, intent on saving the flag, stripped it from the staff, wound it about his body, and plunged into the stream; clinging to it until nearly exhausted, he was finally obliged to cast it from him to save his own life. It was never recovered.
After the disastrous day the regiment went into winter-quarters, where its thinned ranks were recruited, the command devolving on Majors Parrish and Smith. It was now claimed as a part of the quota of Pennsylvania, and its officers commissioned by the Executive. Lieutenant Colonel Wistar was promoted to Colonel.
Early in the spring of 1862, the brigade, now commanded by Brigadier General W. W. Burns, marched to Winchester to aid the advance of Banks. Soon afterwards it was detached from the latter's command and ordered to Washington, whence, upon its arrival, it was despatched by transports to join the army under M'Clellan, at Yorktown.
After three weeks spent in building roads, working upon the intrenchments, and skirmishing, all the preparations having been completed, an advance was made upon the enemy's works. But, advised of the design, he evacuated them the previous night and retreated up the Peninsula to Williamsburg, where he made a stand and where a warmly contested battle was fought. Driven from this point, he withdrew across the Chickahominy, taking shelter behind the defences of Richmond, and the Union army slowly followed on after him.
Upon the evacuation of Yorktown, the regiment was sent by transport with the rest of the corps to West Point, on the York River, with the design of' flanking the enemy, but arrived too late to accomplish the purpose.
Fair OaksThe battle of Fair Oaks, which opened on the afternoon of the 31st of May, at the beginning seemed likely to prove disastrous to our arms from the weakness of the Union column engaged. Heintzelman's Corps moved promptly to the support of Keyes' who was in the advance and first attacked; but still the result was doubtful. An hour before sunset, General Sedgwick, to whose division the Seventy-first was now attached, reached the scene of conflict, and immediately hurled his troops upon the foe, exulting in his successes. The battle raged with great fury until darkness put an end to the struggle. Captain Kirby's section of Ricketts' Battery did most effective service. Four desperate charges were made to capture it, the rebel General Magruder recognizing it as the one he had commanded before he turned traitor. But the double rounds of grape and canister, which it hurled into the face of the charging column, swept everything before it, and kept the enemy at bay.
The troops rested upon their arms on the field. At midnight the enemy made a demonstration on the right. By order of General Burns the Seventy-first was withdrawn from its position at the front, and taken to the menaced ground. A skirmish line was immediately deployed and the regiment advanced in battle order; but the enemy finding that dispositions had been made to receive him, desisted. Early on the following morning it was again in column, and marching in quick time, was deployed in a large grain field, to the right and rear of Fair Oaks, where the enemy was manoevring for position.
Sharp skirmishing ensued, when the enemy fell back, leaving the regiment to watch his movements, repel his attacks, and answer his occasional volleys. The tall grain afforded partial cover, and the casualties on this day were few. The loss on the previous evening was severe. Captain Markoe was wounded.
On the following day the line of the army was advanced, the position of the regiment falling in an exposed place within short musket range of the enemy, and about five hundred yards from the Fair Oaks field. As soon as the picket line had been established the men set to work throwing up rude breastworks that should afford some protection from the bullets which were flying between the picket lines. For four wearisome weeks, in almost constant expectation and dread of battle, it remained in this position, the firing being kept up night and day, and the casualties on both sides numerous. Here fell Lieutenant Maurine C. Moore. During this period, and for the remainder of the Pen insula campaign, the regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William G. Jones of the regular army.
For the first three of the Seven Days' Battle, while the struggles at Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines' Mill, and the bridges of the Chickahominy were in progress, the regiment held its ground, the enemy manifesting more than usual activity on its front.
On the morning of the 29th, after the army had started on the march to the James, the brigade moved from its encampment, bringing up the rear of Sumner's Corps, to a position on Allen's Farm, between Peach Orchard and Savage Station, where the corps was drawn up in line of battle. The enemy not making his appearance, Sumner ordered Sedgwick to send the California Regiment to re-occupy the picket line at Fair Oaks, which had been abandoned in the morning. The duty was a delicate one, but its commander, accustomed to unquestioning obedience, about faced and moved his little column back through the dreary woods, and over the dismal battle-ground until he reached the identical spot where the enemy had so often charged on Kirby's Battery. The pickets and videttes were posted by Colonel Jones in person, Major Parrish being left in charge of the reserve. Scarcely was the regiment in position, before the enemy's'skirmishers, the Louisiana Tigers, who had been held in concealment in the woods and had reserved their fire until the line was within a few yards of them, opened. The regiment immediately charged and captured several of their number. The position was now perilous. The enemy readily yielded in front with the evident purpose of drawing the regiment on. Infantry and cavalry could be plainly seen in a wood to the left, but whether friend or foe was uncertain., Adjutant Smith volunteered to ride out at the risk of the enemy's fire on th way and the chance of capture when there, and ascertain their true character. The waving of a white handkerchief soon indicated that they were friends, the Fifth New Hampshire with a squadron of cavalry; but they were already hard pressed, and evidently unable to hold out many minutes longer. The enemy, in heavy force, was already marching on the right to Savage Station. The withdrawal of this force on the left, would leave the regiment exposed on three sides. It was accordingly decided to retreat rapidly, and the order was silently passed along the line. By rapid marching by the left to the rear, it succeeded in safely crossing the stream.
Scarcely had the reserve been posted when the enemy opened with infantry and artillery. The position of the regiment was in a garden between the stream and a log house, and in front of Richardson's Division. It was supported by the Fifty-third Pennsylvania, Colonel Brooke, whose right stretched out beyond the crest of the hill, and one company on his left was in rear about fifty yards. Hazzard's and Pettit's Batteries were posted near, and did excellent execution. Repeatedly the enemy charged in heavy force and with determined valor, but was as often hurled back with fearful slaughter, and finally retired. The regiment was vastly outnumbered,.but had the advantage of a stream and a fence, with rugged ground in front. The loss in killed and wounded was ninety-six, ineluding four officers. At the close of the action General Sumner rode up to Colonel Brooke and commended him for the conduct of his regiment; but Brooke, with the quick sensibility of the true soldier, said,"I am entitled to no particular credit for this victory. It is the California Regiment in my front which deserves your compliments. They have fought hard for their laurels, and shall not be robbed of them by me."The action closed at one P. M., and the regiment soon after moved on to Savage Station, where, with the brigade, it went into position two hours later, on the Williamsburg Road, co-operating with Hancock's, Brooke's, and Meagher's Brigades. At four the enemy commenced a bold attack. It was gallantly met, and a counter charge delivered with the characteristic impetuosity of Burns, who led it, allayed for a time the thirst of the rebels for battle and blood. The batteries of Hazzard, here, as in the first encounter, delivered their schrapnel with terrible effect. With obstinacy on either side the battle was maintained until nine o'clock, when quietly withdrawing, the corps moved on to White Oak Swamp.
The loss was sixty-eight killed and wounded. The severely hurt were left upon the field. General Burns received a painful wound. A bullet carried away the fleshy part of the cheek, and though greatly weakened by the loss of blood, refused to leave his command until he reached Harrison's Landing. Upon the march the men, who were exhausted by the hard service of the day, suffered intensely for want of water, and upon reaching the swamp were glad to drink from the muddy and stagnant pools which the trains that preceded them had driven through.
On the morning of the 30th the brigade moved to Charles City Cross Roads, taking position upon the left of the Pennsylvania Reserves. In the progress of the battle, which raged with great fury from its opening, the enemy charged with deafening yells upon Hazzard's Battery, that was inflicting terrible slaughter. It was met by a counter charge from the Seventy-first. The guns were saved, but many of the gunners having fallen, it was almost silenced. In this charge Lieutenant George W. Kinney was killed. Stung to madness by their loss, they sprang to their guns and gave the retreating rebels round upon round of death-laden missiles. At four o'clock the entire brigade charged to re-take the guns of a New York battery, which had been abandoned. The guns were recovered, the enemy driven to the woods, and the ground, which had been a source of contention, was held.
At night the regiment moved on to Malvern Hill, where it went into position in support of artillery. After the battle the army retired to Harrison's Landing, where it went into camp.
On the 4th of August the divisions of Sedgwick and Hooker, in light marching order, proceeded to Malvern Hill, where a small force of the enemy was in position. After a short skirmish he was driven, leaving his artillery and one hundred prisoners in the hands of the victors. Upon the return of the regiment to Harrison's Landing the work of re-organizing and filling up its shattered ranks was vigorously prosecuted. It had to this time had fifteen companies. Five of them, L, M, N, P, and R, were now disbanded and the men transferred to the first ten companies.
From the Peninsula, the regiment moved to Alexandria, where Colonel Wistar, now partially recovered, resumed command. A forceed march of Sumner's Corps was made to the sound of the guns of the Second Bull Run Battle, and reached the field towards the close of the action of the 31st of August, where it went into position to cover the retreat of Pope's army, and, after it had passed, acted as rear guard. Burns' Brigade was the extreme rear guard on the left of the three roads of retreat to Washington, and maintained vigorous skirmishing as far as Chain Bridge, where it crossed and went into camp at Tenallytown. After a brief pause, it marched to meet the enemy who had now crossed the Potomac above Harper's Ferry.
At Hyattstown the corps was halted, and the Seventy-first sent forward to occupy the place, hold the road and the pass through the hills beyond. The village was instantly cleared, the enemy's pickets, in considerable force, retiring and taking position successively on the side and summit of the opposite hill, from both of which they were rapidly driven. Here it was reinforced by the First Minnesota Infantry and a battery, and directed to maintain itself for the night, which it did with constant skirmishing. At daylight the corps came up, and pursuit of the enemy was resumed.
AntietamAt the battle of South Mountain, September 14th, the Second Corps was in reserve, but when the pass was carried, was immediately thrown forward, through Boonsboro', to Keedysville, on the Antietam. In the meantime, General Burns had been promoted to the command of a division in the Ninth Corps, and General O. O. Howard had been assigned to the command of the brigade. The enemy was now in front, and the corps was posted in support of a line of batteries on the left bank of the creek, on which he opened early on the following morning. It was promptly responded to, when, as if by mutual consent, the firing suddenly ceased, and for some time both sides remaned silent; but it was fitfully renewed during the day.
0n the morning of the 17th, wading the Antietam Creek, which was here waist leep, the division made a sharp detour to the right, and then turned abrupty to the left, where, at ten A. M., in marching through the never-to-beforgotten corn-field, it found itself face to face with the enemy. Before reaching the field, the division had been thrown into parallel lines by brigade front, at a distance of seventy paces apart. In this order it advanced under a heavy artillery fire from guns posted on the Hagerstown road, and drove the enemy's infantry, concealed in the tall corn, steadily before it, until he reached a position beyond the hill, on which he had judiciously posted his artillery, and from which he had poured forth his fire with terrible effect. Here. his infantry, reinforced, took shelter in a sunken roadbed, which formed a natural rifle-pit, and delivered a galling fire upon Sedgwick's column, which was, at the same time, subjected to a hot fire from the foe still concealed in the corn-field. The fire of musketry and artillery from either side, now at short range, was appalling.
Here General Sedgwick was wounded and borne from the field, the command devolving on General Howard. The division had entered the belt of woods west of the turnpike, and near the Dunker Church, and was steadily pushing the enemy back upon his earth-works, when it was discovered that the troops holding the left of the line had been driven in. It had now a heavy infantry and artillery fire upon its front, and also a galling enfilading fire upon its flank.
General Sumner, who was most conspicuous, riding upon every part of the field, ordered General Howard to change front and lead his command against the troops upon his left. In executing the movement, a part of the troops fell into some confusion. But the Seventy-first stood firm, and, with the Nineteenth Massachusetts, charged full upon the foe, now advancing in triumph, and with unearthly yells. Wistar, who headed the charge, fell severely wounded, and for three hours the tide of battle ebbed and flowed over him before he could be removed. Adjutant Smith, who had been acting as a field officer upon the left of the line, with Deveraux, who led the Nineteenth, pushed on unmindful of disaster, but had scarcely reached the enemy when he also fell. The command now devolved on Captain Lewis, who succeeded, after repelling several attacks, in bringing the regiment into position at the Dunker Church, where, at the close of the battle, it rested. The loss was over one'-third of the entire number engaged, and on the morning of the 18th only four officers were present for duty. Lieutenants John Convery and William Wilson were among the killed.
Soon after this battle Colonel Wistar was promoted to Brigadier General. Lieutenant Colonel Markoe, who had been promoted from Captain of company A to Major, and to Lieutenant Colonel, had resigned on account of wounds. and had been re-commissioned, now returned and assumed command of the regiment. Before entering upon the Fredericksburg campaign, under Burrside, General Couch was assigned to the command of the Second Corps, General Howard of the Second Division, and Colonel Owen of the Second Brigade, General Sumner commanding the right grand division, composed of the Second and Ninth Corps.
FredericksburgOn the morning of the 11th of December the division was ordered to cross the Rappahannock, from a point opposite the town of Fredericksburg. After considerable opposition a bridge was laid, and the crossing effected. A fire of infantry and artillery was poured upon the troops, while clearing the town of the enemy, which was kept up until late at night. On the morning of the 12th it advanced to the right and rear of the town, under the fire of his artillery well posted upon the heights beyond, and, though suffering considerable loss, gained no apparent advantage.
On the morning of the 13th the advance was sounded, and Hancock and French, closely followed by Howard, went forward, exposed at every step to a front and enfilading fire upon either flank. A strong line of infantry, under cover of the stone wall a short distance belowthe crest, reserved its fire until the assaulting columns came within easy range, when it opened with fearful effect and they were forced to retire. Repeated attempts were made, but all alike proved futile. In this day's work the regiment lost heavily, Lieutenant B. F. Hibbs, of company D, being killed, Lieutenant B. J. MIMahon wounded, and. Lieutenant Stiles Boughton taken prisoner.
At half past ten in the evening an order was given for the Seventy-first to advance in the darkness to a position at the extreme front, marked by a tannery, at that time held by Colonel Penrose of the regular army. To reach it, it was necessary for the men to creep noiselessly upon their hands and knees. The surprise, of both officers and men who were relieved, was excited that fresh troops should have been sent there, Colonel Penrose saying to Colonel Markoe,"The enemy is in rifle-pits less than fifteen yards from you. Your position is very exposed. Your men must remain noiseless, and, if possible, motionless. You must lie flat upon the ground and receive his fire, which upon the least indication of life he will deliver by night and by day. You cannot return it without annihilation. You have a bad position."Seeing a line of men lying on the ground some fifteen feet in advance of the position, Colonel Markoe asked who they were, and if they would remain. "Yes," said Penrose, "they will never move more. They belonged to my command. I have lost nearly all of it, and could offer no resistance."
Early on the following morning the rebels opened on the regiment with their artillery, and the ambushed infantry picked off the men from the ranks. The dead in front being mistaken for videttes were riddled with bullets. They kept up an almost uninterrupted fire, with no opportunity afforded of checking it, until one o'clock P. M., when a new battery on the right, which had been fortified and placed in position during the previous night was opened with sad effect. It completely enfiladed the line, and made the position not only a useless one, but untenable. It was accordingly decided to abandon it, and the order was given to retire, and rally on the river front. About thirty men fell before reaching the canal, which was found a short distance to the rear, and into which many of the men leaped for safety. Here they remained until night shielded them from observation, when they crossed and re-joined the command. At nine o'clock that night it was again sent out on picket along the canal. Late at night it was re-called, re-joined the division, and withdrew to its old camping ground. The loss in killed and wounded was nearly a third of its effective strength.
Burnside's second attempt to cross and offer battle proved abortive, and the regiment after hard marching and much exposure returned to camp.
General Hooker was now assigned to command of the army, and many changes in the commands were made. General Howard was given the Eleventh Corps, and General Gibbon the Second Division. In the movement upon Chancellorsville, the First and Third Divisions marched with the main body, while the Second Division was ordered to occupy the old line in front of Fredericksburg, and to cross as soon as a favorable opportunity presented itself. Owen's Brigade was ordered to proceed with the engineers, in advance of the main body, to Banks' Ford. Not arriving there until after dark, the Seventy-first was ordered forward as skirmishers, with instructions to proceed to the river bank and establish a picket line. At eight o'clock on the following morning the command was discovered by the enemy, who opened upon it with artillery, to which a prompt reply was given.
Late in the day Lieutenant Seabury, of company F, with a small force, forded the stream, and charged his pickets in their covers, driving them out, and opening communication with General Sedgwick, who had crossed below, carried the heights of Fredericksburg, and was now pushing forward towards Chancellorsville, driving the enemy before him. Two good bridges were quickly laid and strongly guarded. It was fortunate that these avenues of escape were provided, for soon Sedgwick was met by an overpowering force and driven back, retiring in safety across these bridges. On the night of the withdrawal the regiment was ordered across, and posted on picket on a part of the battle-field. An hour before daylight the men were quietly withdrawn, and, moving to the bridge, crossed unperceived. The campaign ended, the regiment returned to its old camp at Falmouth.
Lieutenant Colonel Markoe having resigned on account of his wounds, Major Richard Penn Smith was promoted to Colonel, Captain C. Kochersperger, to Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Enoch E. Lewis to Major.
Gettysburg CampaignOn the 17th of June, the regiment started on the Gettysburg campaign. Small bodies of the enemy hung upon the rear of the column, and when opposite Thoroughfare Gap, he made demonstrations in considerable force. The Second Corps was accordingly ordered to drive him back and occupy the Gap. On the second day of its occupation, the brigade was attacked and a spirited skirmish ensued, which lasted for two hours. After it was ended, Colonel Smith was ordered to advance upon-the road leading over the mountain and observe the position and force of the enemy, and blockade the road so as to prevent a sudden advance upon it. Three miles out the enemy was found in force. Trees were felled across the road, and, for a long distance, made impassable.
On the evening of the 1st day of July, the regiment reached the battle-field of Gettysburg. General Hancock was now in command of the corps, and General Alexander S. Webb of the brigade. It arrived just as the First and Eleventh Corps, which had been driven back, were coming into position upon Cemetery Hill. The brigade was posted upon the crest of the ridge, to the left and front of General Meade's headquarters, a little to the left of the angle in the low stone wall, along which the line was established, and behind which it took shelter.
On the following morning, skirmish firing commenced early, which was kept up until about the middle of the afternoon, when General Sickles, who had taken position with the Third Corps upon the left of the Second, and considerably in advance of the general line of battle, was fiercely attacked. Until after nightfall the battle raged with unabated fury. Sickles was driven back, and, as the enemy came within range of the brigade, a hot flank fire was opened, which checked his fiery onset.
A clump of trees in its front afforded some protection to a body of the rebels who had advanced npon the left, and had seized a brass piece from which the cannoneers had been driven. Wheeling it into position, they had loaded and were about turning it upon the brigade. Quickly divining their purpose, Colonel Smith ordered forward his regiment, and, with the Sixty-ninth, charged upon the foe, re-captured the gun with one hundred of their men, and, as their broken ranks were falling back, turned the gun upon them, producing at each discharge great carnage.
In this encounter the regiment lost about forty men. The wounded were cared for, and the ground, which was strewn with small arms, was cleared, the regiment collecting a large number and depositing them a little in the rear of the stone wall on the right, which rims perpendicular to the line of battle. These arms were fortunately gathered, and even more fortunately deposited in that particular place as subsequent events proved.
The battle in front had now closed; but still it raged on the extreme right, where the enemy had broken in upon the Union line, and had pushed out nearly to the Baltimore Pike. Late in the evening an order came for one of the regiments to report to General Howard at the Cemetery. The Seventy-first was detailed for this purpose, and on reaching the pike was met by a staff officer, representing himself as coming from General Greene, with orders to advance over the rugged grounds towards Rock Creek. Shirmishers were thrown out, and the regiment advanced cautiously, when suddenly a shot disclosed the fact that it was in the presence of a strong force of the enemy. Lieutenants Davis and Boughton, and Adjutant Hutchinson, in charge of the skirmishers, nineteen in number, fell into the enemy's hands. The command was at once withdrawn to a position parallel to the pike, and dispositions made to meet an attack. But the enemy failing to advance, and believing that the order which had been received was unauthorized by the officer from whom it purported to come, Colonel Smith led his men back to the ground which he had vacated.
On the following morning, July 3d, the decisive day, occasional picket firing was heard along the line, which continued until a little past noon, when the enemy opened from one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery, which had been speedily and in a most orderly manner run to the front, concentrating his fire upon the left centre, in the midst of which, in the exposed part of the field, stood Webb's brigade. Though this part of the line had now been occupied for nearly forty-eight hours, it still had little or no protection. A low stone wall surmounted by a rail, back of which the men had thrown a little earth dug with their bayonets, was all the shelter afforded them from the unparalleled storm of shells and fiery bolts which was hurled upon them. To the right of the position held by the Seventy-first, the wall was higher, and stood upon a shelving ledge five or six feet in height, and upon the left were groves, and clumps of trees and bushes both of which afforded better shelter; but the ground where it stood was swept by concentring ranges of artillery that made its occupation appalling. The batteries of Cushing, Arnold, and Brown, posted upon the left and a little to the rear, belched forth in reply over the heads of the men, a perfect torrent of shot and shells. Rarely in the world's battles has there been an infantry line more fearfully exposed to artillery fire than that held by this regiment. For two hours was this terrible duel incessantly maintained, in which the crash of the guns, the shrieking of shells and solid shots, the bursting and whirl of the shrapnell, and the flying fragments of rock shattered by the solid shot, formed a combination of terrors which the mind falters in conceiving.
Cushing's Battery was at length silenced, its commander dead, its cannoneers stricken down, and some of its guns disabled. Seeing its crippled condition, volunteers from the regiment and from the Sixty-ninth flew to its relief, and soon brought it again into play. Arnold's on the right, its guns having become overheated, many of its men cut down, struggled with the few spared to keep its voice in chorus, and thanks to their training and heroism were equal to the task. A shot struck one of Cushing's caissons, and instantly three of these standing near, and loaded down with fixed ammunition, were blown up, hurling into the air the fragments of this once powerful battery, which descended in a perfect shower upon companies A and F, lying near them. Men, horses, and limbers were hurled together in confusion.
When the battle with artillery, the best and most destructive which the wit of man has yet devised, had ceased, a body of eighteen thousand infantry, the flower of the rebel army, which during the morning had been concentrated, organized, and inspired with the belief of possessing resistless power, issued from the wood which crowns the Seminary Ridge a mile away in front, and in well-dressed lines of battle, with flags defiantly displayed, moved forward with all the steadiness and precision of a parade. Making as if to strike upon Doubieday's position farther to the rebel right, it suddenly veered to the left, and when the centre came opposite the position held by Webb's Brigade, it advanced full upon the Union line.
The artillery at first hurled shot upon it, but as it approched nearer, caniister was delivered in rapid rounds. But still the well ordered lines marched steadily on, and, as they came within musket range, a rapid fire was poured upon them. The ground was strewn with the dead and wounded. They quickly climbed the fences at the Emmittsburg Pike, and were soon in the open field skirted by the Union line. At this moment, Colonel Smith ordered the regiment up, and poured in a staggering volley upon the advancing foe. Still he came on in overwhelming force. The position of the Seventy-first was now most critical. The artillery, posted a few paces in the rear on more elevated ground, with the infantry supports, were pouring in a ceaseless fire over the heads of the men, who were in hardly less danger from this fire than from that of the enemy. Seeing this, and desirous of saving his men for a final determined resistance, leaving the left wing, which was less exposed, in command of Lieutenant Colonel Kochersperger, Colonel Smith posted the right behind a rude stone wall to the right and rear of the left wing, which had been entirely unoccupied. As he was leading his men to this new position, he ordered officers and men to seize as many of the loaded arms, which had been collected on the previous day, as they could take, and when they had reached the shelter were able, with these, to keep up a steady and well directed enfilading fire upon the foe, as with the madness of furies they rushed on, crossed the walls, and forced themselves up among the Union batteries. The left wing of the regiment, overborne by vastly superior numbers, was obliged to yield. As the enemy, with wild shouts, rushed over the slight wall and up through the little grove where were the guns, Smith, with the right wing, from his partial cover, poured in volley after volley with terrible effect.
But the impetus of the enemy's attack was now spent. In passing that fearful plain in front, it had been almost annihilated. General Armistead, who had reached the farthest point in this advance, and had his hand upon a Union gun, with the flags of his brigade about him, fell mortally wounded.
The left wing, though forced back, was still in good order, and joined with the Seventy-second posted in the second line, again moved forward, pushing the foe from the slight advantage gained. Supports came up rapidly. Stannard's Brigade sallied out upon the left, and, coming in upon the enemy's flank, swept in a goodly number of prisoners. The line was made secure, and that proud defiant body of men, which a few minutes before had advanced with banners, in measured tread, lay bleeding upon the plain.
The regiment lost one-half of its effective strength. Captains John A. Steffan and William H. Dull were among the killed. Of fifteen officers who entered the engagement, nine fell. When the cloud had lifted and the smoke of battle had cleared away, the field presented a ghastly appearance. Says one who was an eye witness to the scene," We had scarcely given way to a feeling of exultation over our victory, when we were filled with sadness at the evidence, on every hand, of the terrible sacrifice of life with which it had beeni purchased. Here lay a dead rebel stretched across the body of a wounded Federal. By their side was a pile of wounded and dead struggling to escape each other. The crippled and dead artillery horses lay scattered upon all the field. Disabled artillery, muskets, canteens, knapsacks, and all the munitions of war, were strewn thick on every hand. At the spot where the enemy made his last feeble charge, many were killed. The regiment buried these on the spot where they fell, and at one end of the huge grave a board was placed bearing this inscription,'Generals Hancock, Gibbon, and Webb, commanding the corps, division, and brigade respectively, were wounded. General Webb was able to keep the field, and assumed command of the division, Colonel Smith of the brigade. The regiment captured in the battle four stands of rebel colors. Among them were the Ninth and Nineteenth Virginia.The remains of the Ninth and Seventeenth Virginia, Regiments. A worthy foe.
Satisfied that the offensive could no longer be maintained, Lee withdrew, and at once began to throw up breast-works along his entire line, in semblance of holding his position, but as night came on commenced a rapid retreat. The Union army followed and came up with him near Hagerstown. The Seventy-first was immediately thrown forward on picket, occupying a position directly opposite the Saint James College, then held by the enemy. He, however, soon made good his escape into Virginia, without again coming to battle.
The regiment, now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Kochersperger, participated in the campaign which followed, and in the retrograde movement of the army, was engaged at Auburn Mills, and Bristoe Station. In the advance from Centreville, as Meade again assumed the offensive, it had a spirited skirmish at Bull Run, the fighting becoming general, and extending from Cub Run to the ford.
At Robertson's Tavern the enemy was again met, occupying an important position. The brigade, which held the right of the column, was immediately ordered forward upon a charge, and succeeded after a brief contest in clearing the ground, which was immediately occupied by Warren's Corps. The regiment was held upon the front line, and skirmishing was kept up until the enemy retired to his carefully selected line behind Mine Run. Shifting the division to the extreme left, beyond Hope Church, it was ordered to prepare to assault the enemy's works. The weather was intensely cold, and the work which it was called to perform seemed even more chilling than the weather.
The brigade was ordered to lead the charging column. All the necessary preparations had been made. The men stood in light marching order, ready to advance, many of them having made their wills, sent messages to their friends, attached slips of paper, containing name and description, securely to their clothing, conscious of the great peril before them, and believing that but few would ever come back alive. The signal gun was fired, but still the order was not given to move. Finally to the relief and unspeakable joy of all, word was brought that offensive operations had been abandoned.
The army now retired to winter-quarters, the regiment occupying a wooded slope near Stevensburg. The time was given during the winter to the construction of roads, fatigue duty, drills and reviews, the Seventy-first, by the cleanliness and beauty of its camp, challenging comparison with that of any other regiment. The only hostile demonstration was a reconnoissance to Morton's Ford, on the Rapidan, where the advance was led by Captain Seabury of company F. Charging through the stream he gained a foot-hold, and held the ground until the brigade, led by Colonel Smith, could cross. The enemy was driven back from his outer line of intrenchments to the more formidable ones in the rear, when, the object of the movement having been accomplished, the corps returned to camp. The loss fell principally upon the Third Division.
The WildernessOn the 3d of May the regiment moved with the corps, still under command of General Hancock, upon the spring campaign. On the morning of the 5th it arrived on the battle-ground of the Wilderness, and during that day and the succeeding night remained in position, sleeping on its arms. Early on the 6th, without drums or martial music, the line of march was quietly resumed, and the column had proceeded on south about eight miles, when it was halted and after a little delay was ordered to counter-march, the enemy having attacked in force. The division was soon in position, and the fighting became desperate. Advantages were gained and lost, but finally a sheltered position on a slight ridge, which he clung to with great tenacity, was carried and held.
In this assault Lieutenant Colonel Kochersperger, who had command of the regiment, Colonel Smith, from wounds, being in hospital, fell severely wounded. Five color bearers were lost.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the battle was renewed in front of the division, and for over two hours it raged with great fury, the enemy being determined to regain his lost position. He was foiled in every attempt, and finally retired. On the morning of the 7th the advance was sounded, and the regiment, creeping forward through the tangled under-growth, came suddenly face to face with the enemy. The line was pushed forward steadily until it reached the Brock Road, but not without stern resistance. Column after column was hurled against the corps, and the fighting along the whole front was severe. The position here gained was favorable for defence, and it was soon made impregnable.
SpottsylvaniaOn the following day the march south was resumed and continued to Spottsylvania Court House. Upon taking position, the regiment was thrown forward as skirmishers. The rebel artillery and sharp-shooters made the position an uncomfortable one. An advance was made by Gibbon's Division, but without success. During the 9th and the 10th, it was on the skirmish line and almost constantly engaged in one of the enemy's attacks, Captain William M. Smith, who commanded the regiment, was severely wounded, and the command devolved on Captain Mitchell Smith.
On the evening of the 11th, Hancock's Corps was moved into position and prepared for an assault. At daylight it quietly moved, in well formed lines, under cover of a dense fog. The enemy's skirmishers had barely time to discharge their pieces before the Union column was upon them, and soon had possession of their works. The fighting was now severe, coming hand to hand; but the enemy was forced to yield, and large captures of men and material were made. In the charge Captain Smith and Lieutenant Clark were instantly killed, and the command of the regiment devolved upon Captain Peter W. Grear. For several days the regiment was on the skirmish line, and was kept busily employed, the enemy being vigilant for an advantage.
Cold HarborIn the assault of the Second Corps at Cold Harbor, the regiment participated and here fought its last battle. The enemy occupied a strong position with a dense, almost impassable swamp in front. As it advanced through the mud and water, which at every step grew deeper, and over tangled underbrush, the artillery and sharp musketry fire of the enemy was directed upon it, striking down men at every step. As soon as the open ground was reached, the division charged boldly up the hill. A line was established close up to the enemy's works, and the men fell to fortifying. So close were the lines that a hat shown above the breast-works was quickly riddled with bullets.
While here, C.olnel Smith, though still unable from his wounds to take the field, re-joined the corps. The term of service of the regiment had now expired. Accordingly, in pursuance of orders, the veterans and recruits were transferred to the Sixty-ninth, and withdrawing from the front line of breastworks, under cover of darkness, it moved to White House, and thence via Washington to Philadelphia.
Upon its arrival it was publicly received by the authorities, and escorted through the city by several military organizations. Of the twenty-two hundred who had stood in its ranks, only one hundred and fifty-three returned. It was mustered out of service on the 2d of July, 1864.
1Organization of the California Brigade, Colonel E. D. Baker, Division commanded by General Charles P. Stone, General Banks' army. Seventy-first Regiment Pennsylvania Voluntears, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac J. Wistar; Sixty-ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Joshua T. Owen; Seventy-second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel De Witt C. Baxter; One Hundred and Sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Turner G. Morehead.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
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
Organization:Organized at Philadelphia August 10, 1861.
Moved to Washington, D.C., August, 1861.
At Munson's Hill till September 30.
Attached to Baker's Brigade, Stone's (Sedgwick's) Division, Army Potomac, to March, 1862.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army Potomac, to June, 1864.
3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, to August, 1864.
Service:Moved to Poolesville, Md., September 30, 1861,
and duty on the Upper Potomac till February, 1862.
At Harper's Ferry till March 24.
Moved to the Virginia Peninsula March 24-April 1.
Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4.
Moved to West Point May 7.
At Tyler's Farm till May 31.
Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) May 31-June 1.
At Fair Oaks till June 28.
Near Fair Oaks June 8.
Seven Pines June 15.
Fair Oaks June 19.
Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1.
Battles of Peach Orchard and Savage Station June 29;
Charles City Cross Roads and Glendale June 30; Malvern Hill July 1.
At Harrison's Landing till August 16.
Movement to Newport News, thence to Alexandria August 16-28, and
to Centreville and Chantilly August 28-30.
Cover Pope's retreat August 31-September 1.
Maryland Campaign September 6-24.
Battle of Antietam September 16-17.
Moved to Harper's Ferry September 22, and duty there till October 30.
Reconnoissance to Charlestown October 16-17.
Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 20.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
Burnside's second Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863.
At Falmouth till April.
Hartwood Church February 25.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6.
Banks Ford May 1 and 4.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 13-July 24.
Battle of Gettysburg July 2-4.
Pursuit of Lee July 5-24.
At Banks Ford and Culpeper till October.
Advance from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17.
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2.
Robertson's Tavern or Locust Grove November 27.
Duty on the Rapidan till May, 1864.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7.
Rapidan Campaign May 4-June 12.
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Laurel Hill May 8;
Spottsylvania May 8-12; Po River May 12-21.
Assault on the Salient May 12.
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 of Petersburg June 16-August 20.
Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23.
Demonstration north of the James at Deep Bottom July 27-29.
Deep Bottom July 27-28.
Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30 (Reserve).
Mustered out at Philadelphia August 24, 1864.
Losses:Regiment lost during service:
11 Officers and 182 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
2 Officers and 69 Enlisted men by disease.
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