The Seventy-second, better known in its early history as the Fire Zouave Regiment, was recruited in the city of Philadelphia, under the direction of De Witt Clinton Baxter. Recruiting commenced on the 3d of August, 1861, and in one week's time its ranks were full, a regimental organization being effected on the 10th, by the choice of the following officers:Colonel Baxter had served as Lieutenant Colonel in the Nineteenth Regiment, of the three months' service, and some of the men had served with him.
- De Witt Clinton Baxter, of Philadelphia, Colonel
- Theodore Hesser, of Philadelphia, Lieutenant Colonel
- J. M. De Witt, of Philadelphia, Major
From Philadelphia the regiment proceeded to Washington, and was ordered to the Virginia shore, opposite the city, where, on the 18th of September, it was assigned to Colonel Baker's Brigade, and ordered to fatigue duty on the fortifications. It subsequently moved to Munson's Hill with the brigade, where a new and more advanced line of the army was established. It here consisted of fifteen companies, fourteen hundred and eighty-seven men.
On the morning of the 30th the regiment broke camp, and, re-crossing the Potomac, moved up five miles above Poolesville, where the brigade was attached to the division of General Stone, acting as a corps of observation, and was engaged in guarding the Maryland shore. Drill and discipline was here rigidly enforced, schools of instruction for officers were established, and a good degree of efficiency attained.
When the column under General Lander, subsequently General Shields, in Match, 1862, approached Winchester, the troops under Banks were ordered forward to his support, and the Philadelphia Brigade moved up, and, crossing at Harper's Ferry, hastened on to Berryville. It having been ascertained that Winchester had been occupied, and the enemy was in full retreat up the valley, the advance was stayed, and the brigade was ordered back to Harper's Ferry, where it remained in camp until the 24th, when it proceeded to Alexandria, and thence by transport to the Peninsula.
During the siege of Yorktown it was employed in fatigue duty on the trenches, and in picket and skirmish duty on the lines. From the excessive wet weather, and the unhealthy location of the camp, much sickness prevailed, from the effects of which many were permanently disabled, and some died.
Battle of Fair OaksOn the 7th of May the regiment embarked on transports, and proceeded up the York River to West Point. Debarking it moved to the banks of the Chickahominy. The brigade now formed part of Sedgwick's Division, of Sumner's Corps. On the 31st, General Casey, who occupied a position a little in advance of Fair Oaks, on the right bank of the river, was attacked by a vastly superior force-and driven in some disorder. The stream was flooded by recent rains; but bridges had been constructed, and Sumner, at the first sound of the battle, headed his columns for the crossings. Soon the order came for him to move to the support of the hard pressed troops of Casey and Heintzelman. The Philadelphia Brigade, now under command of General Burns, formed line on the right of the First Brigade, the Seventy-second on the right of the Seventy-first Pennsylvania. As no hostile force appeared, the brigade was moved by the flank and changed front, which brought it upon the enemy's flank, and forced him to fall back from his.position in the cleared field into the woods.
Ricketts' Battery was now advanced, and the regiment was posted to repel attack. The enemy charged the position, but was repulsed, and the ground successfully held. The loss here was five killed and four severely wounded.
After the battle the lines were advanced and fortified, stretching from the Chickahominy away towards White Oak Swamp. For a mouth the regiment remained upon this line, the enemy in front, and his sharpshooters keeping up a constant fusilade.
On the 29th of June, the fourth after the opening of the Seven Days' Battles, M'Clellan having put his whole army in motion towards the James, Sumner's Corps quietly withdrew from the trenches and acted as rear guard on the march.
Battles of Peach Orchard and Savage StationThe enemy under Magruder, who had been holding the approaches to Richmond, as soon as he discovered that his front was clear, quickly followed up, and pressing on past Peach Orchard, where he skirmished lightly, approached Savage Station. Here the rebel leader attacked with his usual recklessness and daring. The force of his blow fell principally on thePhiladelphia Brigade. Says one who accompanied the column,"Gallant Burns was first to feel the shock. One of his favorite regiments--Baxter's Philadelphia Fire Zouaves--had been assigned to support a battery. As the enemy advanced it opened hotly upon them, but undismayed they pressed to the charge. Burns held firmly his men until the enemy seemed almost ready to plunge upon the guns. Then waving his sword, he ordered his trusty fellows to fire, a basketful of canister, fearful volleys of musketry, and all who were left of that slaughtered column of rebels fled howling to the rear. Fresh masses poured out and were sent surging back again, until finally they stood aloof, content to watch and wait a happier moment to assail that desperate front."1The regiment lost here fifteen killed, Captain Charles M'Gonigle being of the number.
At night Sumner moved on and crossed White Oak Swamp. In the battles which ensued at Charles City Cross Roads and at Malvern Hill the regiment was in line and under fire, but was not engaged.
From the peninsula the regiment proceeded to Alexandria and with Sumner moved on to Centreville, to the support of Pope, arriving on the evening of the 29th, and skirmishing lightly with the enemy on the following day at Chantilly. General Howard was here assigned to the command of the brigade.
Battle of AntietamAfter a few days' rest it moved on the Maryland campaign, and came up with the enemy's skirmishers near Frederick, who were driven after a brief resistance. The battle of Antietam opened on the evening of the 16th of September, General Hooker having crossed the creek and attacked upon the enemy's left flank, and was renewed by him at dawn on the morning of the 17th. The battle in the morning had not been long in progress when Sumner was ordered to move to the support of Hooker. Wading the stream, which was here waist deep, the division made a detour to the right, and when near the field turned sharply to the left. The action had been desperate, and both sides had suffered severely. With Smith on the left, French in the centre, and Sedgwick on the right, Sumner moved forward, the weight of his line easily forcing back the enemy. By ten o'clock Sedgwick had reached the wood around the Dunker Church, and was still driving the foe, when, at a little eminence beyond, he made a determined stand, and being reinforced by two fresh divisions, Walker's and M'Law's, began in turn to advance.
On account of the nature of the ground the direction of French and Sedgwick had been slightly divergent, and there was a considerable interval in the line between the two divisions. The enemy seeing this, plunged through in heavy force, and was followed up by his artillery, which poured a raking fire upon Sedgwick's line. This interval was noted, and had the Philadelphia Brigade been faced to the left to have met this attack when it was first made, the line might have been preserved intact. But its commander moved on without heeding the dangers upon his flank until it was too late to repair the disasters which were wrought, when it was obliged to retire and reform..
Never were troops in better spirits, nor fired with a more resolute determination to fight, than the Fire Zouaves on this bloody field. But all to no purpose; for when victory seemed within their grasp, by a flaw in their formation, it was wrenched from them. The loss was terrible. Nearly half of the effective strength of the regiment went down on that fatal field. Thirty-one were killed, among whom were Captain Peter H. Willitts and Lieutenant Adolphus W. Peabody; Lieutenant Robert I. Parks was mortally wounded.
Battlle of FredericksburgThe regiment next met the enemy at Fredericksburg. Here the brigade was commanded by General Owen. At daylight on the morning of the 11th the brigade moved to a point opposite the city, and was held in a ravine, in readiness to cross, until four in the afternoon, when the bridges having been completed, it passed over and was engaged in driving the enemy from the houses where he had taken shelter. The town was occupied, and doubtless suffered, as the use which had been made of it by the enemy invited harsh measures. For three days the regiment was held under a heavy artillery fire, and a portion of the time upon the extreme front, where it was advanced in face of a hot fire of infantry concealed behind rifle-pits, line above line, to the summit of the opposing hill. Finding it impossible to carry the enemy's position the army was withdrawn, and the regiment returned to its old camp. Its loss was five killed, and a large number wounded.
When Hooker moved upon Chancellorsville Owen's Brigade was sent, with a detachment of the engineer corps, to construct bridges at Banks' Ford, midway between the two wings of the army. The bridges were laid, and the brigade, crossing the river, drove back the light force of the enemy found there. A tete-de-pont was erected, and held as a safe way of retreat or communication as circumstances might require. Sedgwick, after gallantly carrying Marye's Heights, and advancing to Salem Church, was finally met by overpowering numbers, and obliged to retire by this way.
Gettysburg CampaignUntil the middle of June it remained in camp near Falmouth, and was engaged in guard and picket duty. It was visited here by Governor Curtin, who made a stirring address to the brigade, and presented the regiments vith stands of colors. It then broke camp and moved on the Gettysburg campaign. General Hancock was now in command of the corps, Gibbon of the division, and Colonel Baxter of the brigade.
At Thoroughfare Gap, and at Haymarket the right flank of the rebel army came in collision with the Second Corps, which was thrown out well upon the Union left, and the regiment was engaged.
At Frederick City, Maryland, the. brigade remained three days, and here Brigadier General Webb was assigned to its command. Resuming the march, it arrived upon the field at Gettysburg on the evening of the 1st of July, after the principal fighting of the day was over. It went into position on the left centre, the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-first in front, the Seventy-second in rear, just below the crest of the hill, midway between the two lines of the brigade, and on which the artillery was posted. The One Hundred and Sixth had been sent to the support of General Howard, and hence did not act with it throughout the battle. In the engagement near the close of the second day the regiment was only slightly engaged.
When the enemy opened his terrible artillery fire on the afternoon of the third day, the Seventy-second was fearfully exposed; for though in the second line of battle and somewhat sheltered by the crest, yet the shells and solid shots reached them, and made sad havoc in their ranks. It seems a piece of culpable negligence that neither this line nor the one in front was fortified. The troops had occupied their position nearly forty hours, when this cannonade opened, and there had been ample time and leisure to have thrown up a substantial breast-work, that would have defied the action of hostile missiles, and yet when the storm came they were here without the least cover.
When, after the fire of artillery had ceased, the rebel infantry advanced and succeeded in breaking through the front line, the men of the Seventy-second, grasping more firmly their trusty pieces as the terrible storm rolled on, stood ready to meet it, and as the word to advance was given, rushed forward, pouring in volley upon volley, driving the enemy back, and, with other troops which had come up to the rescue, making extensive captures. The struggle was short, but in the little space which it lasted, the losses were terrible-more grievous than upon any other field on which it stood during its entire term of service. Forty-six were killed, and a proportionate number wounded. Captain Andrew MI'Bride, and Lieutenants James J. Griffith and Sutton Jones, were among the killed.
Mine Run CampaignHard upon the campaign in Pennsylvania followed that in the Valley of Virginia, which culminated in the Mine Run fiasco. The brigade was under command of Colonel Baxter, General Webb having been disabled by wounds received at Gettysburg.
Crossing the Potomac at Berlin, it moved on with the army to Culpepper. In the retrograde movement, which was forced by the appearance of the enemy upon the right flank of the army, the regiment was frequently engaged, and at Bristoe Station Lieutenant Michael Coste was killed.
After retiring to Centreville, Meade, waiting in vain for the enemy to attack, again assumed the offensive and began pushing him back towards the Rapidan. The brigade crossed at Germania Ford, and marched along the Plank Road leading to Robertson's Tavern. Here the enemy was found in position. The brigade was on the right of the column, and Warren, who was now in command of the corps, seeing the importance of the position, ordered it forward upon a charge. The enemy was driven out, and the lines were established to hold it. The Seventy-second, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Hesser was deployed as skirmishers, and was formed in line under a sharp fire of the enemy, from which its gallant leader was killed. By direction of General Warren, the right of the line was swung around to feel for the left of General French, but felt the enemy instead. Supports were called for, but before they came a heavy force of the enemy, concealed in the thick undergrowth, suddenly poured in deadly volleys, which caused it to recoil and retire.
At the crest of the hill, about one hundred yards in the rear, the line was halted and re-formed. Sharp-shooters were posted in. a rude log hut from which they kept up an effective fire that checked the enemy until Supports arrived. He made spirited attacks at intervals of about an. hour during the entire day; but, as was afterwards ascertained, these attacks were to cover the retreat of his main body to his intrenched position behind Mine Run, some two miles in his rear. To this the division followed driving in his skirmishers.
The stream, which here separated the two armies, is irregular, with abrupt and marshy banks. The enemy commanded all the approaches, and had well arranged abattis in front, During the night the division was relieved by the Pennsylvania Reserves, and moved to the extreme left, beyond Hope Church, with its left resting on the railroad. As the troops arrived, dispositions were made for an attack, in which Webb's Division was to lead. The weather was bitter cold, and all night long the troops marched about to keep from freezing. No fires were allowed, and no coffee, now so much needed, could be prepared.
The Philadelphia Brigade was to head the storming party. It was already in position, the men having sent final messages to their friends An open plain three-fourths of a mile wide, slightly undulating, had to be crossed, in the face of frowning batteries, before his works, bristling with bayonets, could be reached. At the appointed hour the line was in readiness, and the signal gun was fired, the artillery along the whole line at once opening; but still the order to march was not given Finally the suspense was relieved by intelligence that the order for the attack had been countermanded, and the men again breathed freer.
The enemy's position having been thoroughly reconnoitred, it was deemed imprudent to attack, and during the night the army was withdrawn, retiring behind the Rappahannock, To deceive the enemy some fifty of the brigade volunteered to remain upon the front and keep the bivouac fires brightly burning. At a little before day, they made their escape and re-joined their commands.
The Wilderness CampaignThe regiment went into winter-quarters in a wooded slope near Stoneboro', and was employed in. picket and guard duty along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Upon the opening of the spring campaign the regiment moved with the division, and crossing the Rapidan at Ely's Ford, proceeded to. the Wilderness battle-ground. It fought with its usual gallantry in the severe engagements of the corps on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of May, losing four killed, among whom was Captain Shreve; at Po River on the 9th, in the charge upon the enemy's works at Spottsylvania on the 12th, and in the subsequent struggles, to hold them, losing five killed.
Cold HarborOn the 3d of July the regiment reached Cold Harbor, and, with the corps,, went into the breast-works which had been erected by the Sixth Corps. At six o'clock on the following morning the brigade was massed and advanced as support to the Third Division. As it moved through the abattis which the enemy had skilfully laid at the foot of the rising ground on the crest of which were his works, he opened a severe fire of canister and shells, which it seemed impossible to face. Without faltering it passed the obstructions and succeeded in reaching the ditch in front of his works; but was at length obliged to yield. Re-forming, the brigade again advanced, and established a new line, which was fortified and held. The loss was six killed, and a large number wounded and prisoners.
In Front of PetersburgOn the 15th of July the regiment crossed the James River at Wilcox Landing, and moved up with the corps in front of Petersburg. Colonel Fraser, of the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania, was here placed in command of the brigade. The corps was ordered to advance upon the enemy directly opposite the city. With the One Hundred and Sixth on the right, Sixty-ninth in centre, and the Seventy-second on the left, the line moved out over our works. The enemy's artillery opened heavily, and when within one hundred yards of his breast-works his infantry poured in an effective fire. Moving across the intervening space at double quick his fortifications were carried and occupied. At night the brigade was relieved by troops from the Third Division The loss in killed in this engagement was six.
On the 21st it moved with the corps to the left, near the Jerusalem Plank Road, where it was engaged in advancing the lines and fortifying them. Early in August, the term of service of the regiment having expired, it was withdrawn from the trenches in front of Petersburg, and ordered to Philadelphia, where, on the 24th, it was mustered out of service. Since the conclusion of the war the regiment has been re-organized, and is now attached to the First Division of the Pennsylvania Militia.
1Moore's Rebellion Record, Vol. V, p. 243, Docs.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
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.
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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