© Alice J. Gayley, all rights reservedThe Erie Regiment, for three months' service, commanded by Colonel John W. M'Lane, had hardly been disbanded when the news of the disaster at Bull Run aroused the nation to a new sense of danger, and the intention, which had been previously expressed, was immediately renewed by Colonel M'Lane, of raising a regiment for three years' service. Having received an order on the 24th of July, from the Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, Colonel M'Lane issued a call, and in less than five weeks nearly a thousand men had responded, embracing nearly three hundred of the old regiment, principally from:They rendezvoused at Camp M'Lane, near the city of Erie, where, on the 8th of September, they were mustered into the United States service, and the regiment was organized by the selection of the following field officers:
- Erie County
- Crawford County
- Warren County
- VenangoCounty, and
- Mercer CountyOn the 18th of September it proceeded to Washington, and for a week was encamped at Meridian Hill, where it was uniformed, and supplied with: Harper's Ferry muskets. It then moved to Arlington Heights, and subsequently to Hall's Hill, where it was assigned to the Third Brigade of Porter's Division.2
- John W. M'Lane, Colonel
- Strong Vincent, Lieutenant Colonel
- Dr. Louis H. Naghel, Major.
It was in line with the Army of the Potomac extending from Chain Bridge, on the right, to a point below Alexandria on the left. It was here subjected to a rigid course of instruction and discipline. General Butterfield, imbued with a high sense of the duties of a soldier, was a strict disciplinarian.
The men of the Eighty-third proved apt to learn. Observance of orders was rigidly exacted, and instruction in the manual of arms and bayonet exercise was systematically given. Company and regimental drills were daily practiced, brigade drills three times a week, and the men were held accountable for order and cleanliness, by a regular and minute inspection of clothing, arms, and accoutrements. The best shots at target firing were publicly acknowledged.
The regiment soon became noted for the excellence of its drill and its soldierly appearance. On one occasion, General M'Clellan, in passing along the lines with his staff, rode up to Colonel M'Lane, and said: "Colonel, I congratulate you on having one of the very best regiments in the army", and General Butterfield, in a general order, said:"The General commanding feels called upon to congratulate and commend the Eighty-third, for the very general spirit of attention to duty that seems to pervade the regiment. Its attention to drill is especially recommended as a worthy example to the rest of the brigade."For its proficiency, as displayed in the competitive trial, it was given, by the committee of award, one of the Freich uniforms which had been especially imported for this purpose. It was the uniform of the Chasseur de Vincennes, consisting of a shako, two tasteful suits, dress and fatigue, with cloak, two pairs of shoes, two pairs of white gloves, two night-caps, a little bag containing five brushes, for various purposes, needle case, combs, thread, spool, cloak-pin, anrd various other conveniences.3
The regiment encamped on the immediate right of the Eighty-third was the Forty-fourth New York, and between the members of the two there grew up a. strong feeling of friendship. On New Year's Eve, 1862, they united in a grand ball, at which music, feasting, and dancing, were freely indulged in. The camp had been tastefully adorned with evergreen enclosures, with gateways and arches, "presenting the appearance of a fairy glen, rather than the sterner aspect of a military encampment." In a few days winter set in, and gateways and arches were shattered, the streets of the little city were deluged with mud, and the soldier was sent shivering to his tent.
On the morning of the 9th of March, the regiment received orders to be in readiness to move on the following morning. The whole grand army, which for six months had been encamped in front of Washington, was to advance upon the enemy. All superfluous baggage, including the French uniforms, was sent away and stored in government warehouses at Georgetown. On the morning of the 10th, with three days' cooked rations in haversack, the regiment commenced its first march-prelude to four long eventful years of warfare and arrived in the evening at Fairfax Court House. Here it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned his intrenched camp, and had retreated toward Gordonville.
The army now turned to the Peninsula, the Eighty-third embarking at Alexandria and landing on the 24th at the deserted village of Hampton. Its first duty was a reconnoissance towards Big Bethel, where the enemy was reported to have outposts; but his works were found abandoned. On the 4th of April it joined in the advance on Yorktown, where the enemy was met well posted. Around the town was a bastioned fort, mounted with overseventy gins of heavy calibre. From the fort there extended a line of works across the Peninsula to Warwick River, a distance of about seven miles.
Deeming it impolitic to assault, General M'Clellan determined to lay siege to the place. The operations against the principal work were assigned to the division to which the Eighty-third belonged, and in these the regiment shared. Armed with picks and spades, the men advanced nightly to the work. Commencing with rifle-pits, these were widened and deepened until they were finally formed into covered ways, in which were constructed regular batteries, with embrasures for heavy ordnance. Among the works built, were fourteen batteries, mounting from six to sixteen guns. These were mounted with thirteen-inch mortars, thirty-two pounder Rodman guns, and one and two hundred-pound rifled Parrot. At length, on the third of May, when the works were all finished and the guns in position, ready to make the grand assault, the enemy, under cover of a heavy cannonade, retired from his fortifications, and retreated up the Peninsula.
Moving by transports up the York River, and marching thence to the neighborhood of Hanover Court House, the enemy was encountered, and the regiment advanced under a heavy artillery fire. Throwing aside blankets and knapsacks, it was soon engaged, and driving the enemy. So hard pressed was he, by the Eighty-third, that he was obliged to abandon one of his pieces, which was subsequently taken in charge and dragged off the field by the Seventeenth New York, which claimed the credit of its capture. The enemy again making a stand on the Ashland Road, the regiment pushed rapidly forward, and, after a hotly contested musketry engagement of half an hour, he was again put to flight. The loss was eight men wounded.
Towards the close of May, M'Clellan's army lay in front of Richmond, the major part on the right bank, stretching away towards White Oak Swamp; Porter's Corps, consisting of about twenty-seven thousand men, on the left bank, covering the base at White House. It was the design of Lee, who had succeeded to the command of the rebel army, after the battle of Fair Oaks, where Johnston, its former commander, had been wounded while making a show of strength in front of the Union line, south of the river, to fall with the flower of his army, now reinforced by Jackson, upon the fragment north of the river, crush it, and cut the line of supply. Accordingly, on the 27th of June, with sixty thousand men, under Longstreet, the two Hills, and Jackson, he attacked Porter's Corps, which had been drawn up in line of battle at Gaines' Mill.
The Eighty-third occupied a position on the extreme left, fronting the west. While awaiting the enemy's advance, by the wise forethought of Colonel M'Lane, a breast-work of logs was hastily thrown up. Had a similar precaution been taken along the entire line, the position at Gaines' Mill, which was a commanding one, might have been rendered impregnable, and the enemy would have been swept back as afterwards at Malvern Hill. Later in the war the virtue of breast-works was better understood. Company A, Captain Sigler, had been thrown out early in the day as skirmishers, and later was relieved by company B, Captain Morris, who was soon after severely wounded, and carried to the rear. Under cover of a heavy artillery fire, the enemy's infantry advanced, driving in our skirmishers, and when in full view, a well directed volley from front and rear line of the Eighty-third, and a rapid fire from the batteries above it, checked him for an instant; but, closing up the gaping rents in his line, he rallied and pressed forward. His color-bearer in front was repeatedly shot down; but the standard was as often caught up, and bravely did his line struggle to push on. But vain were the attempts to face the fiery tempest, and it fell back in confusion. Rallying with fresh troops, he again advanced, and was again repulsed. In desperation, for a third time he pushed forward to the attack, but was driven in rout, not again to appear over the brow of that fatal hill.
Further to the right, he succeeded in breaking through, and advanced in full force; but, the movement being screened by a wood, was not observed until he began to gain upon the flank and rear of a part of the brigade, and separated it from the brigade commander. Quickly changing front, it faced to the north, at right angles to the first line of battle, to meet the threatened danger. It was hardly in position before it was attacked. In the previous encounter, protected by breast-works, its loss had been trifling, while the enemy's lines had been terribly shattered. But now, forced into line in the open field, while the enemy was sheltered by the wood, it in turn was subjected to the fiery ordeal. Nevertheless, it stood firm. Here Colonel M'Lane fell dead, pierced by a bullet. In a moment more Major Nagel fell, struck by the fragment of a shell, receiving a mortal wound, expiring on the following day.
In the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Vincent, prostrated by fever, the command devolved on Captain Campbell. Though exposed to a fearful musketry fire, the line did not waver, and the enemy was driven from its front. It was soon evident, however, that he was pushing past, and gaining its rear. The regiment again changed front, marching by the right flank, and forming on a line parallel to that held in the morning, but facing in the opposite direction, and to the east. Troops were soon discovered advancing, but whether Union or rebel, was uncertain. Their true character was soon discovered, and firing at once opened.
It was now evident that three regiments of the brigade, the Forty-fourth New York, the Sixteenth Michigan, and the Eighty-third, were entirely cut off from the main body of the army, and surrounded on all sides, except the passage towards the river. To retreat in column, would be madness. The word was accordingly given to break, and seek the river. The open flats of the Chickahominy, which intervened, were raked by a heavy artillery fire, and many were struck down in attempting to reach the stream. The bridge had already been partially destroyed, and- in attempting to cross upon the sleepers, the men were exposed to a concentrated fire of artillery. The regiment went into action five hundred and fifty strong. Of these two hundred and sixty-five were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.
In the retreat to the James, Porter's Corps had the advance. Moving by devious ways through the dismal White Oak Swamp, encouraged by the belief that a fine strategic movement was being made, the regiment at length arrived at the river, where lay the gunboats. On the afternoon of Monday, June 30th, that portion of the army which had arrived, was reviewed by General M'Clellan. While returning from the review, the enemy attacked with artillery. Griffin replied, to whom the Eighty-third was assigned as a support.
The enemy's guns were silenced and driven away. During the night the regiment was posted on the picket line, where, on the following day, was fought the battle of Malvern Hill. From four to six o'clock in the afternoon of July 1st, it was under a heavy artillery fire, after which it was hurried to the front, to support a battery which was in danger of being captured. Here for two hours the battle raged with great fury, and the men were exposed, without protection, to a murderous fire. With great gallantry and courage the line was maintained, and the battery, which had been on the point of moving to the rear, unlimbered and poured into the enemy's massed lines grape and canister, until the ammunition failed, when the gunners cut the chains from their horses' harness and hurled them at the foe.
Never was the bravery and endurance of the Eighty-third put to a severer test. The loss in the engagement was about forty killed, and one hundred and ten wounded, of whom a number afterwards died. Among the wounded was Captain Campbell, in command of the regiment. On arriving at Harrison's Landing it stacked but about eighty muskets.
On the evening of July 4th, an election to fill the vacancies occasioned by the death of Colonel M'Lane and Major Naghel was held, at which Lieutenant Colonel Vincent was chosen Colonel, Captain Campbell, Lieutenant Colonel, and Adjutant William H. Lamont, Major.
General M'Clellan having been relieved, his lieutenants were ordered to report with their commands to General Pope. At Newport News the regiment was joined by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, with about fifty recruits, mostly from Waterford, Erie county. It moved with the brigade by transports to Acquia Creek, and thence by rail to Falmouth. After fruitless marchings and counter-marchings, the corps at length formed a junction with the forces of Pope, who finally succeeded in massing his forces, and making dispositions for a general engagement. The position of the Eighty-third was upon the right centre of the general line of battle. At the word to advance the brigade moved promptly, and, deploying in line, were soon charging under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, in command of the regiment, fell early in the battle, his leg shattered by a minnie ball. Major Lamont was taken prisoner, and the command devolved on Captain Graham. Exposed to a hot flank fire from the enemy's infantry posted in a railroad cut, and a heavy artillery fire in front, unable to advance, with any hope of success, it was finally ordered to fall back. In this battle the regiment lost twenty killed, and between fifty and sixty wounded. Lieutenants John Herrington and W. J. Wittich were among the killed. The recruits, who had been but a few days in the regiment, preserved, under the hottest fire, the bearing of veterans.
The battle of Antietam was principally fought by the two wings of the army, and the Fifth Corps, to which the Eighty-third belonged, holding the centre, was not much engaged. After the withdrawal of the enemy across the river, an attempt was made to throw over a force to capture some pieces of artillery posted on the opposite bank. Two brigades had crossed and were advancing, when a heavy body of the enemy, concealed in a wood near by, suddenly attacked and drove back our force. As soon as he came in view from the opposite shore, the Eighty-third, which had been ordered into the bed of the canal, now dry, commenced a rapid fire, preventing the enemy from advancing to the bluff, and protecting our men while re-crossing. Sharp-shooting was continued across the stream during the whole 1ay, and firing during much of the following night. Next morning the regiment was relieved.
Since the battle of Bull Run Captain Woodward had been in command. On the 30th of October Colonel Vincent, who since the battle of Gaines' Mill had been absent, sick, re-joined the regiment, and resumed command.
On the morning of the 12th of December, the regiment moved from its camp near the railroad back of Falmouth, to a point within two miles of the river, where it lay during the day, and at night bivouacked in a wood near by. In the morning the corps moved up to the heights overlooking Fredericksburg, and, until three in the afternoon, stood spectators of the battle that was raging on the field beyond. At four the column crossed, and the regiment moving up the main street of the city, filed to the left at its upper end, and formed in rear of a row of buildings. The enemy quickly opened upon the position, and the fragments of shell fell thick in its midst, several of the men being wounded. At the close of the day it was ordered to the front line, to relieve troops which had, during the day, been struggling to advance upon the enemy's stronghold on the heights beyond. After passing the suburbs of the town it moved in line, in the face of a murderous artillery fire, crossed the railroad cut, and on over the bodies of the slain a quarter of a mile, to the brow of a hill within a few hundred yards of the enemy's lines, where it halted. He soon opened from his batteries on the left an enfilading fire which proved very annoying. The men hugged the ground, and at once opened fire; but as no enemy was in sight, it soon ceased. During the night the regiment was shifted to the north side of the hill, where it had some shelter. On the following day, Sunday, there was little firing on the left, the two contending lines keeping close, the sharp-shooters vigilant and active when occasion favored. At ten o'clock on the following night, after having been at the front thirty hours, it returned to the main street of the city. At twelve o'clock on the next night, it was again ordered to its former advanced position, but only remained about three hours, when it again retired and re-crossed the rivert the army having nearly all preceded it. Its loss, which was principally met in its first advance to the front, was six killed and thirty wounded. Private Frank IH. Couse, of company B, who has performed much wearisome labor in preparing the rolls for these volumes, lost a leg in that perilous advance.
The regiment returned to its former camp, and during the winter, was engaged in picketing two or three miles to the rear, but without being disturbed by the enemy. The Mud March, or as Captain Judson terms it, the Katabasis, going down, for at every step man and beast sank in the mire, was participated in with the experience of discomfort shared by the entire army.
On the 29th of April it moved on the Chancellorsville campaign, and arrived on the field on the afternoon of the following day. On the 1st of May, after marching and counter-marching for several miles, it returned to the position of the morning, and supported a portion of the corps which had met the advance of the enemy. At dusk it was ordered to a position on the extreme left of the line, stretching out towards the river. In moving in the darkness through the thick underbrush, it was misled and was obliged to return to the Chancellor Road, where it bivouacked for the night. In the morning it marched early to its place in the line, and was at once put to felling timber and throwing up a strong breast-work of logs. Here it remained undisturbed until the morning of the 3d, when the Fifth Corps was relieved by the Eleventh, which, on the previous evening, had been attacked and routed from its position on the right, by the legions of Stonewall Jackson, and was ordered into position on the right centre. Skirmishers were immediately thrown out, who encountered the enemy and opened a brisk fire. Intrenching tools were distributed, and the main line was strongly fortified in anticipation of an attack; but none was made.
Monday, the 4th, the corps was still in the same position, and towards evening two divisions were sent out on a reconnoissance, encountering a strong skirmish line, which was driven back, but had no heavy fighting. The loss in the Eighty-third was but slight, some four or five wounded. The campaign was abandoned, and the regiment returned to its old quarters, near Stoneman's Station. The term of service of the Twelfth and Seventeenth New York regiments expired early in May, leaving but four regiments in the brigade, the Twentieth Maine having joined it at Antietam. Colonel Vincent now succeeded to its command, and Captain Woodward to that of the regiment. After remaining in camp two weeks, the brigade was ordered to duty in guarding the fords of the Rappahannock, where it remained until it started on the Pennsylvania campaign.
By the middle of June the two armies were in motion. Near Aldie the cavalry under Pleasanton met the cavalry of the enemy, and Barnes' Division of the Fifth Corps was sent to its support. At three o'clock on the morning of the 21st, Vincent's Brigade moved in advance, and on its arrival at Middleburg, filed to the left of the town, where it took position on the left of Gregg's Cavalry, the enemy's dismounted men being in position behind stone walls, screened by a curtain of woods. At eight o'clock, when fairly in position, Vincent with three of his regiments commenced pressing the enemy in front, and ordered Captain Woodward with the Eighty-third to move rapidly through the woods to the left, keeping his forces concealed, and the instant he had passed the stone walls, to emerge and take the enemy in flank and rear. The manoeuvre was entirely successful.; the enemy was routed and a fine Blakeley gun captured. The advantage was followed up, pushing him from position after position, until finally he was driven by the cavalry into the fastnesses of the Blue Ridge. The loss in the regiment was only one wounded.
Early on the morning of the 2d of July, the Eighty-third arrived on the battle-field of Gettysburg, and immediately formed in line in support of artillery posted on the centre. At a little before noon, Barnes' Division was ordered to the left centre, and at four P. M., when the battle was waxing hot upon the extreme left, Vincent's Brigade was ordered to move rapidly and take position on Little Round Top, which was now beginning to be threatened, Sickles' line, that had covered it, having given way. Several pieces of artillery had been dragged to its summit, but were without supports.
Little Round Top is a granite spur, rising abruptly on all sides a hundred or more feet, of an area of three or four acres, and covered with massive, ragged rocks, and a scattered growth of trees and bushes. It was a key-point to our position, and its occupation was vital to the safety of the army. Passing across the rear and left of the hill, Vincent posted his brigade on its front, the Sixteenth Michigan on the right, facing an open swamp, the Twentieth Maine on the left, facing the valley between Round Top and Little Round Top, the Forty-fourth New York on the right centre, and the Eighty-third Pennsylvania in the left centre. Each rock was a fortress, behind which the soldier instantly took shelter. Scarcely was the line established, when a powerful body of Longstreet's Corps, led by Hood, came on at double-quick, with bayonets fixed, and uttering unearthly yells, intent on carrying this coveted position, and annihilating its defenders. He struck first the centre, where were the Eighty-third and the Forty-fourth. Rapid volleys from their well poised muskets checked his fiery onset. Finding it vain to face this deadly storm, he turned to the left; and here, at first, with some success; for the Sixteenth, having less protection, quailed before him; but supports were sent in, and by the exertions of officers the ground was again recovered.
Here while re-forming his line and directing the fight, Colonel Vincent was mortally wounded. As he was struck, he exclaimed: "This is the fourth or fifth time they have shot at me, and they have hit me at last." He was laid upon a stretcher and carried to the rear. Colonel Rice, of the Forty-fourth, succeeded to the command.
Failing upon the centre and right, the enemy now re-formed his ranks, and moved with even greater daring and pertinacity upon the left. As he passed the front of the Forty-fourth and Eighty-third they gave him a volley; but without heeding it, he passed on through the wooded vale, and burst with renewed violence upon the left flank. The left of the Twentieth had no support, and Colonel Chamberlain, to give as much protection to the rear as possible, had re-formed it so that it formed nearly a right angle with the main line. The enemy's mad onset was met with unflinching firmness. The contest was soon at close quarters, the men clubbing their muskets, and struggling with desperate valor for the mastery. The enemy had pushed through the valley, until his line lapped around the left, and his shots began to reach the Eighty-third in rear. But the steady fire of the brigade had told fearfully upon his ranks, and his fire began to slacken. Colonel Chamberlain noticing this, ordered a charge, and advancing with a yell, drove and scattered his remaining force, and captured a number of prisoners. At this moment a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves came to its support and the enemy, seeing re-inforcements, fell back in disorder. The skirmishers of the Eighty-third dashed forward in pursuit, and brought in seventy four prisoners, and over three hundred stands of arms. The brigade remained masters of the field-ever a glorious field-and the position was not again seriously menaced.
During the night a breastwork of loose stones was thrown up through the vale, and continued to the summit of Round Top. The ground in front of the brigade was thickly strewn with the enemy's dead."I counted," says Captain Judson, "several days afterwards, over forty dead bodies within a circle of fifty feet in circumference. They laid in every conceivable position among the rocks, in that low, swampy ground, some crouched behind the rocks as if about to fire, some lying upon their faces, and some stretched upon their backs, like corpses laid out for a funeral, as if they had determined to observe the propriety of attitude, even in the hour and article of death. The rains had, during the interval, descended and the hot sun had beat down upon them, and they were swollen and turned black with mortification, and millions of maggots could be seen rioting upon their flesh."Considering the severity of the engagement and the great slalughter inflicted upon the enemy, the loss in the Eighty-third was but slight, being eight killed and thirty-eight wounded, of whom six afterwards died. But, when it is remembered that it fought, for the most part, from behind the shelter of rocks, its immunity from casualties is understood.
At midnight the regiment was called to the assistance of the Twentieth Maine, on the summit of Round Top, where it was engaged in throwing up breast-works. In the morning it was relieved, and with the brigade moved to the rear of the left centre, where it rested. During the connonade in the afternoon, the shells burst over and around it; but in the Eighty-third only one man was wounded. The rebel army began to fall back during the night of the 3d. The regiment joined in the pursuit and came up with the rear guard on the 10th, near Jones' Cross Roads, just across Antietam Creek. The right wing, under command of Captain M'Coy, was thrown forward upon the skirmish line. Considerable manceuvering and skirmishing ensued, but without decided result, until the 14th, when it was found that the enemy had made good his escape across the Potomac.
On the 10th intelligence was received of the appointment of Colonel Vincent as a Brigadier General. The announcement was received with the liveliest manifestations of joy by every regiment of the brigade. Captain Graham was immediately dispatched to Gettysburg. to inform him of his promotion; but, upon his arrival at Frederick. was informed of General Vincent's death, and accordingly turned back.
Lieutenant Colonel Campbell had resigned in May previous, on account of wounds received in the battle of Second Bull Run. Captain 0. S. Woodward was accordingly elected and commissioned Colonel, and Captain De Witt Clinton M'Coy, Lieutenant Colonel. About four hundred drafted men and substitutes were added to the regiment soon afterwards, a large proportion of them proving entirely worthless. The long marches, and wearisome duty on picket and skirmish line during the fall campaign, wherein the army advanced to Culpepper, retired to Centreville, again advanced to Mine Run, and finally settled down in winterquarters behind the Rappahannock, forms a chapter of the history of the regiment for the most part devoid of interest or stirring incident.
During the winter, one hundred and sixty-nine men re-enlisted. In the reorganization of the army preparatory to the spring campaign the brigade, the Third of General Griffin's Division, commanded by General Bartlett, was strengthened by the addition of the Eighteenth Massachusetts, Colonel Hayes, and the One Hundred and Eighteenth Pennsylvania, Colonel Gwyn, the corps being commanded by General rWarren. On the morning of the 5th of May, having crossed the Rapidan and penetrated the Wilderness, the enemy made his appearance in front. At four o'clock the brigade moved into position, with the First Brigade on its right, and the Second on its left, preparatory to charging the enemy's line, concealed from view, but not more than fifty yards distant.
The Eighty-third, with the Eighteenth Massachusetts, formed the first line, the Forty-fourth New York standing alone on its right. In front was a small opening, thirty rods in width, and at tle edge of the woods, on the further side, were the rebel skirmishers. The word forward was given, and instantly the three brigades, with fixed bayonets, advanced upon the run, uttering deafening yells.
The enemy fled in dismay, his skirmishers firing a few rounds only. Colonel Woodward fell severely wounded and the command devolved on Lieutenant Colonel M'Coy. Without pausing the lines pressed forward, the enemy making no stand until he had been driven three-quarters of a mile, when upon coming to another small opening, a halt was ordered. Owing to the impetuosity of the charge, and the impediments encountered, the commands had been thrown into some disorder. And now it was discovered that the right flank was uncovered, the First Brigade having failed to come up. The enemy, recovering from his panic, in turn charged, and coming in upon the unprotected flank forced the lines to retire to their original position. Colonels Hayes and and Gwyn were both wounded, and many officers and men were lost. Colonel Woodward was struck in the right knee, the wound resulting in the loss of his leg. Sergeant Rogers, color-bearer, was among the killed.
During the 6th and 7th the regiment was upon the front line, where was considerable cannonading, and some skirmishing; but it remained behind its entrenchments without being seriously molested. During the night of the 7th the corps moved on toward Spottsylvania, and at Laurel Hill, six miles from the Court House, found the enemy across its path. It was supposed that only cavalry was in front, and that the infantry had only to show itself to clear the way. The Eighty-third was ordered into position on the right of the road, the Forty-fourth on the left, and advanced under cover of two pieces of artillery. The troops were weary, and little enthusiasm in the charge could be excited. At the brow of the hill the rebel skirmishers were met and driven. It now became apparent that the enemy's infantry was present in force; but the line moved on, and now at a doublequick, with fixed bayonets. As it approached the wood where the enemy lay, it received a volley, and here it was discovered that he was protected by a breastwork of logs and rails, prepared to receive an assault. Secure in their position and in largely superior force, the rebels poured in a murderous fire.
Maddened by this merciless slaughter, the Eighty-third rushed up to the very works, and a desperate hand to hand conflict ensued, in which bayonet thrusts were given and parried, several men of the Eighty-third crossing the works and striving with desperate valor to drive out the foe. For half an hour did these two small regiments maintain the unequal contest, much of the time at close quarters; but were finally compelled to retire, having suffered a most grievous loss. The two lines, scarcely eighty rods apart, were thoroughly fortified during the night. The regiment had about fifty killed, and over a hundred wounded and taken prisoners. From its entrance to the Wilderness fight, to this time, it had lost over three hundred. Captain George Stowe and Lieutenant Alexander B. Langley were among the killed. 4
Unable to drive the enemy from his fortifications, Grant again moved by the left flank. On the 23d the brigade arrived at the North Anna, and, crossing the stream at Jericho Ford, two regiments, the Eighty-third and Sixteenth Michigan, were sent to the assistance of Sweitzer's Brigade of Griffin's Division, which was at the moment inimminent peril."In making this advance,"saysGreeley, "the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Colonel M'Coy, swept closely past the flank of Brown's (rebel) column, when M'Coy instantly wheeled his forward companies into line, and gave a volley, which, delivered at close quarters on the flank and rear of the rebel column, threw it into utter disorder and rout; one of M'Coy's men seizing Brown by the collar and dragging him into our lines, while nearly a thousand of his men were gathered up as prisoners."The regiment lost but two or three wounded. The position was intrenched. On the 25th the regiment moved towards the enemy's works at Noel's Station where breast-works were thrown up, and, while lying behind them, it had several men wounded, among them Lieutenant William J. Gleason, of company F, a brave young officer, mortally.
After crossing the Totopotomy the enemy was again found moving on parallel lines, and constantly covering Richmond. The Eighty-third, with other regiments of the corps, was engaged in throwing up breast-works, and holding the enemy at bay while the balance of the army passed. by. At Bethesda Church it was under a heavy fire, but was held in reserve, and moved to the support of menaced parts of the lines, losing several in killed and wounded.
On the 16th of June it crossed the James, and joined in the siege of Petersburg. The brigade, together with those of Sweitzer and Chamberlain, moved across the Norfolk Railroad, close up to the enemy's works, and unobserved threw up a heavy line of breast-works. As soon as it was discovered a brisk fire was opened, and a constant fusilade was kept up by his sharp-shooters, the regiment losing on the 19th one killed and three wounded, and on the 20th, two killed and five wounded. The position which it here occupied was nearest to the enemy of any part of the Union line. For weeks and months afterwards a never ceasing rattle of musketry was to be heard at this spot, by day and by night, even after peace had been declared in every other part of the lines.
On the night of the 20th the Fifth was relieved by the Ninth Corps, and moving round upon the Jerusalem Plank Road, pushed up within five hundred yards of the rebel front, and commenced fortifying. The regiment lost several, in this position, while on the skirmish line.
On the 16th of August the Fifth was again relieved from the position which it had elaborately fortified, and was led to the Weldon Railroad, holding it at the Yellow House. Heavy fighting for its possession ensued, but the Eighty-third was not engaged. On the 18th of September the original term of service of the regiment expired. It then numbered about three hundred and fifty effective men. Of these about one hundred were mustered out, and the balance, composed of veterans and recruits, was organized in six companies, and known as the battalion of the Eighty-third, the command devolving on Captain C. P. Rogers, Captain Israel Thickstun being at the time on duty in the Signal Corps, and Captain John H. Borden at the camp for rebel prisoners at Elmira, New York.
On the 30th of September the battalion was engaged at Poplar Grove Church, and carried, by assault, Fort M'Rea. In the evening of the same day it held the right of the line at Peeble's Farm, where the loss was very severe. During October and November it remained inactive in camp, in December it participated in the raid upon the Weldon Railroad-a week of hard marching and exhausting labor-after which it returned and went into winter-quarters on the Jerusalem Plank Road, eight miles from Petersburg. Captain Rogers was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain William 0. Colt to Major. In the engagement at Hatcher's Run, on the 6th of February, the battalion was in the thickest of the fight, and suffered severely. Captain Benjamin A. Smith and Sergeant Jason Winans were killed.
After the battle it went into camp at Hampton Station, where it remained until the opening of the spring campaign. In the mean time four full companies had been assigned to it, which with recruits brought it up to the maximum strength of a regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Rogers was promoted to Colonel, and Major Colt to Lieutenant Colonel.
On the 29th of March opened the final act in the grand drama. In quick succession followed the engagements at Jones' Farm, White Oak Road, Gravelly Run, Five Forks, Southerland Station, Jettersville, and the pursuit to Appomattox Court House, in all of which the regiment had part, and sustained its well earned reputation for valor and endurance. It was mustered out of service on the 28th of June, at the city of Washington, and returning to Harrisburg, it was finally disbanded on the 4th of July.
The number of battles in which this regiment was engaged, as published in orders, and recorded in the official army register of 1865, is twenty-five, larger by two than any other Pennsylvania infantry regiment.
1A history of the Eighty-third, one of the very best and most readable of its class, by Major Amos M. Judson, is published by the Erie Dispatch company, from which, by permission of the author, most of the facts embraced in this record are drawn.
2Organization of the Third Brigade of Porter's Division, afterwards the First Division of the Fifth Corps; Seventeenth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Lansing; Sixteenth Regiment Michigan Volunteers, Colonel Stockton;. Forty-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Rice; Eighty-third Regiment Pensylvania Volunteers, Colonel M'Lane.
3 I large council tent, with table and fixtures; 110 common tents) for men and officers; 220 circular tables; 3 ambulance or hospital tents, with tables; 1,000 small tents, for special duty; 40 officers' tents; 10 company tents; 250 mallets, for driving tent pins; 250 picks; 100 hatchets; 225 shovels; 1,000 dress coats; 1,000 fatigue coats; 1,900 pairs pantaloons; 1,000 cloaks or mantles, with hoods; 3,000 shirts; 2,000 pairs drawers; 1,000 dress caps, of leather; 1,000 plumes; 1,000 fatigue caps; 2,000 pairs shoes; 1,000 pairs leather gaiters; 2,000 pails linen gaiters; 1,000 pairs leggings; 1,000 epaulets; 2,000 night-caps; 2,000 neck-ties;: 2,000 handkerchiefs; 2,000 pairs white cotton gloves; 1,000 pairs suspenders; 1,000 pairs woolen blankets; 1,000 knapsacks, of hair-tanned leather; 1,000 haversacks; 100 large tin canteens; 1,000 small canteens; 1,000 canteen straps; 100 large tin mess kettles; 1,000 tin soup bowls, with lids; 1,000 tin cups; 1,000 cartridge boxes; 1,000 sword belts; 100 tin saucepans; 150 chevrons, gold and silver embroidered, for non-commissioned officers; 35 pack saddles; 100 saddle. cacolets; 2 mule litters; 150 camp stools; 1 medicine chest, filled with medicines; 1 surgical chest, filled with instruments; 2 ambulance knapsacks, containing knives, saws, bandages, lint, &c.; 22 bugles.; 35mule bridles; 1,000 sacs du petit, or small sacks, containing 1,000 shoe brushes, 1,000 hair brushes, 1,000 clothes brushes, andl,000 buttonbrushes; 1,000 brushes for cleaning guns; 1,000 small oil cans; 1,000 tinboxes for polishing powders; 1,00 dusters for clothes, and 1,000 needle books, each containing 1 pair of scissors, thimble, 3 colors of thread, spool for the thread, saddler's awl, needles, combs, &c." Judson's History of Eighty-third Regiment P. V., page 26.
4 "The colors, on this occasion, were carried by Corporal Vogus, of company G, who had rescued them when Sergeant Rogers fell at the battle of the Wilderness. While the regiment was charging up towards the breast-works, he received a severe wound in the side, and fell with the colors. Corporal John Lillibridge, of the color guard, immediately seized them, and was about to carry them forward, when Vogus recovered, and, again taking the flag, pressed forward and planted it on the breast-works of the enemy. In a few moments afterwards he was shot through the breast. Fearing the colors might be captured, he seized them while in the act of falling himself, and hurled them to the rear, where they were rescued by Corporal Dan. Jones, of company F. Dan. was shortly after wounded himself, and while getting off the field, handed the colors to a soldier of the Forty-fourth, who brought them off safely, and delivered them to Sergeant KeCk, who returned them to the regiment. This was the nearest the Eighty-third ever came to losing its colors."-Judson's History of Eighty-third Regiment P. V., page 96-7.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organized at Erie and mustered into United States service September 8, 1861.
Moved to Washington, D.C., September 18-20, Attached to Butterfield's Brigade,
Fitz John Porter's Division, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1862.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Army Corps, Army Potomac, to May, 1862.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to June, 1865.
Duty in the Defences of Washington, D.C., till March, 1862.
Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10-15.
Moved to the Virginia Peninsula March 22-24.
Reconnoissance to Big Bethel March 30.
Warwick Road April 5.
Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4.
Reconnoissance up the Pamunkey May 10.
Action at Hanover C. H..May 27.
Operations about Hanover C. H. May 27-29.
Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1.
Battle of Mechanicsville June 26.
Gaines Mill June 27.
Savage Station June 29.
Turkey Bridge or Malvern Cliff June 30.
Malvern Hill July 1.
At Harrison's Landing till August 16.
Movement to Fortress Monroe, thence to Centreville August 16-27.
Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia August 27-September 2.
Battle of Bull Run August 30.
Maryland Campaign September 6-24.
Battle of Antietam september 16-17.
Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown Ford September 19.
Duty at Sharpsburg, Md., till October 30.
Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 19.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
Expedition to Richards and Elli's Fords, Rappahannock River, December 29-30.
Burnside's second Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24. 1863.
At Falmouth, Va., till April.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 26-May 6.
Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 13-July 24.
Aldie June 17.
Middleburg and Upperville June 21.
Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3.
Pursuit of Lee July 5-24.
Duty at Warrenton, Beverly Ford and Culpeper till October.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Rappahannock Station November 7.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2.
At Beverly Ford till May, 1864.
Rapidan Campaign May 4-June 12.
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7;
Laurel Hill May 8;
Spottsylvania May 8-12;
Spottsylvania C. H. May 12-21.
Assault on the Salient May 12.
North Anna River May 23-26.
Jericho Ford May 25.
Line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31.
Cold Harbor June 1-12.
Bethesda Church June 1-3.
Before Petersburg June 16-18.
Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30, 1864.
Weldon Railroad August 18-21.
Old members mustered out September 7, 1864.
Consolidated to 6 Companies.
Peeble's Farm, Poplar Springs Church, September 29-October 2.
Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28.
Warren's Expedition to Weldon Railroad December 7-12.
Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865.
Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9.
Lewis Farm, near Gravelly Run, March 31.
Junction of the Quaker and Boydton Roads March 29.
White Oak Road March 31.
Five Forks April 1.
Appomattox C. H. April 9.
Surrender of Lee and his army.
March to Washington, D.C., May 2-12.
Grand Review May 23.
Mustered out June 28, 1865, and disbanded at Harrisburg, Pa., July 4, 1865.
Regiment lost during service
11 Officers and 271 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
2 Officers and 151 Enlisted men by disease.
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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