© Alice J. Gayley, all rights reservedThe Second Regiment of the First Brigade, First Division, Pennsylvania Militia, known during the three months' service as the Nineteenth of the line, and during the three years' service as the Ninetieth, belonged exclusively to the city of Philadelphia. On the 29th of August, at a meeting of the command held at its armory, a resolution was unanimously adopted tendering its services to the government, and on the 3d of September notice was received of its acceptance by the War Department.
A camp of rendezvous was established at Oxford Park, three miles above Frankford, Philadelphia County, where recruiting was vigorously prosecuted. A regimental organization was effected by the choice of the following field officers:The line officers, and many of the men, were skilled in militia duty, and had served in the three months' campaign.
- Peter Lyle, who had commanded it in the three months' service, Colonel;
- William A. Leech, who had been Major of the Seventeenth, Lieutenant Colonel
- Alfred J. Sellers, Major
At the beginning of December the regiment moved to Camp M'Clellan at Nicetown, where, engaged in drill and camp duty, it remained during the winter.
On the evening of the 31st of March, 1862, it left Philadelphia, nine hundred strong, and proceeded to Baltimore, encamping at Patterson Park Barracks, where it received its arms, altered smooth-bore muskets, which were not exchanged until July, 1864. Three weeks later it was ordered to Washington, and after a halt of three or four days at the Soldiers' Rest, proceeded to Acquia Creek Landing, where it reported to General M'Dowell, in command of the Department.
Four companies under Lieutenant Colonel Leech were detached for fatigue and guard duty at Belle Plain, the rest being employed at the Landing, and in re-laying the track of the Fredericksburg Railroad. It was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division of M'Dowell's Corps,1 and on the 9th moved to the vicinity of Fredericksburg, where the corps was encamped.
On the 25th of May Ricketts' Division was ordered to make a forced march to the Shenandoah Valley, the enemy, under Stonewall Jackson, displaying great activity. Upon the arrival of the regiment at Piedmont Station, it was ordered to leave knapsacks and baggage, and with three days' rations to move rapidly to Front Royal. General Ord was here relieved by General Ricketts, Colonel Christian, of the Twenty-sixth New York, assuming command of the brigade.
The column moved all night through a drenching rain, pursuing the line of the railway. On the following morning heavy firing was heard in the distance, arising from the skirmishing with Jackson's rear guard. The column was immediately put in motion and crossed the Shenandoah River; but it having been ascertained that the enemy had passed up the valley in advance of the Union column, the command went into camp on the Winchester Road. After a few days' halt it re-crossed the river; on the 18th of June it moved back to Manassas Junction; on the 4th of July to Gainesville: on the following day to Warrenton; and on the 22d to Waterloo. Here General Pope assumed command of the army, and on the 4th of August M'Dowell's Corps marched to the assistance of Banks' army at Cedar Mountain.
At dark the division was ordered to relieve a portion of Banks' forces at the front. It was in line of battle during the night, and exposed to a vigorous shelling. On the following morning the regiment was sent to the right, to prevent the enemy from turning that flank, which was anticipated; but a reconnoissance disclosed the fact that the enemy had fallen back.
On the 15th of August the brigade marched to Mitchells Station, and after effecting the destruction of the railroad bridge, acted as rear guard to the army which was falling back across the Rappahannock. At Rappahannock Station a stand was made and for three days the enemy was held in check, the Ninetieth supporting batteries. A part of the brigade was sent across the river, and destroyed rebel fortifications and the bridge over the river. The regiment had three wounded, private Donahoe losing his left arm.
On the 24th the brigade was at Warrenton, on the 25th at Waterloo, on the 26th at Sulphur Springs, where it supported General King's Division, and on the 27th at New Baltimore. A part of the rebel army under Jackson was already in Pope's rear, and a heavy column, under Longstreet, was moving towards Thoroughfare Gap, to form a junction with Jackson. Thither, on the 28th, Ricketts' Division hastened, to hold the pass and check the progress of Longstreet, until Pope could concentrate his forces, and throw them between the two wings of the rebel army. For eight hours Longstreet was held at bay, and when at length the division was obliged to yield, it fell back in good order to Gainesville.
On the 29th it moved to Groveton where it stood in line of battle during the day, and on the following morning took position awaiting attack. At two P. A., the enemy seemingly retreating from that part of the field, the brigade was ordered forward, but soon found itself assailed from the rear, and was quickly withdrawn to its first position, where it was hotly engaged. It was brought into position by the left flank, the character of the ground and the haste with which the movement was executed, causing some confusion in the brigade, the regiments in some places overlapping each other.
The enemy bore down in heavy force upon front and left flank, causing the line to yield. General Tower, who led the brigade, was badly wounded, and carried from the field, and his command suffered severely in killed and wounded. At night the regiment, with the army, fell back to Centreville. Its loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners was about two hundred. Captain Jacobs, and Lieutenants Raymond and Harris, were severely wounded. For two weeks the men had marched, with little rest night or day, and were in no condition for a battle, many of the men falling out of the ranks from sheer exhaustion.
While the action at Chantilly was in progress on the evening of September lst, the regiment was ordered to relieve the Twenty-first New York, and while advancing in line of battle, a severe thunder-storm burst upon the combatants, and darkness coming on, the fighting ceased. The regiment remained in position until the following day, the enemy declining to attack, and while here, the body of General Kearny, who had fallen on the previous evening, was sent in, by the enemy, under flags of truce, and was received by Major Sellers and Adjutant Weaver.
Retiring to Hall's Hill, the brigade remained until the 6th, when the division having been attached to General Hooker's command, moved on the Maryland campaign. At South Mountain, where the enemy was found, the brigade was formed and promptly attacked, driving him out, and rested at night under arms in line of battle. He attempted a surprise under cover of darkness, but was repulsed with heavy loss, leaving his killed and wounded on the field.
On the afternoon of the 16th the brigade was ordered across Antietam Creek, to the support of the Pennsylvania Reserves, who had been sent to feel the enemy's position, and bivouacked at night, in line of battle. At daylight of the 17th the battle was opened by the Third Brigade, and the Ninetieth was sent to the support of Matthews' Battery. When the Third was overcome and driven back, the Second, to which the regiment belonged, and to which it had now returned, relieved the Third, and remained in action until its ammiunition was exhausted, when it was withdrawn. It was later in the day sent to the extreme right to cover the Hagerstown Road, where Colonel Lyle was placed in command of the brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Leech assuming command of the regiment. The loss in this battle was ninety-eight. Colonel Lyle, Captain Charles F. Maguire, and Lieutenants Samuel W. Mloore, Anthony Morin and James M. Moore were among the wounded.
Soon after the close of the campaign the division was transferred to the First Corps, commanded by General Reynelds, and changes in the brigade were made so as to comprise the Eighty-eighth, Ninetieth, and One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Pennsylvania, and Twenty-sixth and Ninety-fourth New York, Colonel Lyle in command. Soon after the return of the army into Virginia, General Ricketts was superseded in command of the division by General Gibbon; the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania and Ninety-fourth New York were transferred to other commands, and the Twelfth Massachusetts was added to the brigade.
In the battle of Fredericksburg, the First Corps formed part of Franklin's Grand Division, which had the left of the line, and crossed the Bappahannock two miles below the town. Gibbon's Division crossed on the 12th, and forming in line of battle, moved forward to near the Bowling Green REoad, where skirmishers were thrown out, which were soon engaged, and in this position it lay during the night. On the morning of the 13th, as soon as the fog, which prevailed, had lifted sufficiently, the division moved forward to the attack, the Second Brigade forming the second line. For several hours the artillery of the two armies was hotly engaged, when the action became general along the entire line, and the Second Brigade was ordered to relieve the Third, which was in advance. Remaining upon the front until its ammunition was exhausted, it was in turn relieved by the First Brigade. Retiring and re-forming it was again ordered forward, and entered the enemy's works; but his lines being reinforced, he attacked in overpowering numbers, and the brigade, being unsupported, was forced back to its former position, losing the advantage gained. After dark the brigade was moved to the extreme left, where it remained until the night of the 15th, when, with the army, it retired across the river. The loss was about ninety in killed, woanded, and missing. Lieutenant Charles W. Duke was among the killed, and Major Sellers and Lieutenant Edmund J. Gorgas among the wounded.
On the 19th of December the brigade proceeded to Belle Plain, and upon its arrival the Ninetieth was detached for fatigue duty at Pratt's Point, where, with the exception of a short interval in January, when it was out upon the " Mud March," it remained until the 1st of April, 1863.
On the 28th, the Chancellorsville campaign having opened, the division moved out to the Fitz Hugh House, a mile back from the river, a short distance below Fredericksburg.
On the following day, pontoons were thrown across the river, and the division moved down to the river bank and encamped. On the morning of the 30th tents were struck, and the command lay in column of brigades closed in mass. At four P. M. the enemy opened with his heavy artillery, from the opposite shore, throwing shells among the troops and causing considerable loss, the regiment having eight wounded. The infantry was moved back five hundred yards under shelter, and our batteries answered, the cannonade being kept up until after dark. The operations of the First Corps at this point were designed as a demonstration to cover the march of the main body to Chancellorsville, and on the morning of the 2d, Reynolds marched away to United States Ford. Crossing the river upon pontoons the troops went into camp near the stream; but at nine o'clock at night it was aroused, and put upon the march for Chancellorsville, where the battle was raging, the Eleventh Corps, occupying the right, having been routed. It arrived at midnight and was posted upon the extreme right of the line, where it was immediately employed in throwing up breast-works. At five on the morning of the 3d the enemy attacked, and until noon the battle raged without interruption, when, finding the Union line immovable, he retired. During the 4th the army remained in position, the enemy making repeated feints, but no sustained attack. Meanwhile, heavy firing was heard in the direction of Fredericksburg, where the Sixth Corps, in attempting to form junction with the main body, was turned upon by the enemy in overwhelming force, and driven back. During the 5th the army remained in position, and towards evening a heavy rain-storm set in, cold and chilling. At two on the following morning the army withdrew across the river and returned to its old camps. Upon the departure of the nine months' regiments, at the expiration of their terms, the corps was re-organized, the Second Brigade having the Eleventh, Eighty-eighth, and Ninetieth Pennsylvania, Twelfth Massachusetts, and Ninety-seventh New York.
About the middle of June the regiment broke camp and moved on the Gettysburg campaign. Passing Manassas Junction, Centreville, Edwards' Ferry, Frederick City, and Emmittsburg, it arrived on the evening of 30th in Pennsylvania, a few miles across the southern border, where it encamped for the night. At nine o'clock on the following morning it marched by the Emmittsburg Road until within two miles of Gettysburg, where the brigade turned to the left across the fields and past the seminary. The First and Third divisions, which had preceded the Second, were already engaged, when the latter arrived, and moving under cover of the ridge across the Chambersburg Road and the railroad bed, the brigade was halted.
The Eleventh Pennsylvania and Ninety-seventh New York were first sent forward, and formed on the right of the line. The enemy was pressing heavily upon the front, and threatening to turn the right. General Baxter, who was in command of the brigade, soon followed with the balance, and took position still further to the right along the ridge facing to the west, the line of the Ninetieth, the flanking regiment, being refused, stretching along the Mummasburg Road, and facing to the north. By this disposition the enemy was held in check, and soon afterwards the Eleventh Corps came up and took position on the right, on a prolongation of the line of the Ninetieth; but too scant in numbers to connect with the First left a dangerous break.
The enemy, too prudent to take advantage of this weakness, reached out upon the right of the Eleventh Corps, until its flank was turned, and that corps was forced to retire. This compelled the First Corps to abandon its position, and the entire force retreated rapidly through the town to Cemetery Hill, on the opposite side. The brigade was posted on the new line to the left of the Taneytown Road, facing the Emmittsburg Pike, where slight breast-works were thrown up. Upon reaching this position Colonel Lyle was ordered to assume command of the First Brigade, Major Sellers taking command of the regiment, in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Leech on account of sickness.
During the 2d the regiment was employed in strengthening the breast-works, and frequent details were furnished for the skirmish line. During the 3d the division was moved to different points along the line, and though not actively engaged was frequently held under fire, at dark returning to its position of the previous day, where it remained during the 4th. The Ninetieth entered the battle with one hundred and ninety-one men, and lost in killed, wounded, and missing one hundred. Chaplain Horatio S. Howell was among the killed, falling in the retreat through the town, on the evening of the first day. Captains J. T. Durang and W. P. Davis, and Adjutant D. P. Weaver, were among the wounded, and Lieutenant E. J. Gorgas was taken prisoner.
The regiment joined in the pursuit of the rebel army, and after returning to Virginia was posted near Bealton Station, on the south bank of the Rappahannock, and subsequentiy at Stevensburg, where it was engaged in guard duty and drilling, a number of recruits having been received. Until the middle of October the army remained upon the Rappahannock, when the enemy having assumed the offensive and moved upon its right fiank, it made a hasty retreat to Centreville, the regiment acting as skirmishers, and on picket duty on the way. Lee finding Meade well and securely posted, declined to attack, and retired, destroying the Manassas and Alexandria Railroad as he went.
Meade immediately followed, the Ninetieth moving to Thoroughfare Gap, and thence to Bristoe Station, and was for some time employed in repairing the railroad. It subsequently participated in the campaign to Mine Run, and upon its abandonment, retired to the neighborhood of Brandy Station and from thence to Cedar Mountain, where it went into winter quarters.
On the 1st of January, 1864, a detachment, consisting of the Eighty-eighth and Ninetieth Pennsylvania, and Twelfth Massachusetts, was ordered to duty in the town of Culpepper, the Ninetieth being quartered in the Baptist Church. Remaining until the close of the month, the brigade was ordered into camp on the Sperryville Pike, two miles from the town. On the 6th of February it proceeded on a reconnoissance to Morton's Ford, returning on the following day.
During the winter the First Corps was consolidated with the Fifth, the Ninetieth, with the Thirteenth and Thirty-ninth Massachusetts, Sixteenth Maine, and One Hundred and Fourth New York, constituting the First Brigade, of the Second Division. During the month of April the command was busily engaged in drill and picket duty, preparatory to the opening of the spring campaign.
On the 4th of May the division, which had for a long time been separated, was united and moved with the army for the Wilderness. On the morning of the 5th it resumed the march, but had not gone far before it came upon the enemy's skirmishers. The command was formed in line of battle, and advanced until it reached the open ground, beyond which the enemy was entrenched. The line was established behind a slight rise of ground, with small trees and bushes in front, the right of the Ninetieth being separated from the rest of the brigade by a road which it was impossible to occupy, being raked by the enemy's artillery."We lay," says a report of the battle, " in this position some time, when General Griffin, in command of the First Division, rode up and ordered a charge. Colonel Lyle promptly led his regiment forward, and as soon as it had cleared the shrubbery in front. and emerged upon the open field, rebel batteries opened upon it with grape and canister. The order was given to 'double quick,' and with a shout it advanced within close range of the rebel lines. From some misunderstanding, or not having received the same peremptory order from General Griffin that he gave to the Ninetieth, the rest of the brigade did not advance any distance, leaving the regiment entirely alone in the charge. When Colonel Lyle discovered that he was unsupported, he gave the order to 'about face,' and what was left rallied around the colors, and under a fierce fire of infantry and artillery returned to its original position. Lieutenant George W. Watson was wounded and taken prisoner, losing a leg, and Lieutenants M'Kinley and Richard W. Davis were also wounded, and of two hundred and fifty-one men, one hundred and twenty-four were either killed, wounded, or captured. A ditch run across the field filled with rebel sharp-shooters, who prevented any of the wounded from being taken off, and they fell into the hands of the enemy."The regiment was soon after relieved and moved to the rear. On the 6th Colonel Lyle, by order of General Robinson, was placed in command of the brigade in place of Colonel Leonard, and Captain William P. Davis, in the absence of the other field officers on detached duty, took command of the regiment. The brigade moved to the front early in the day, and during this and the following day was employed in fortifying and in shiftung positions for the defence of threatened parts of the line. At nine o'clock, on the evening of the 7th, it withdrew from the front, and moving on to the left, in rear of our lines, arrived at day-break near Todd's Tavern, where the cavalry was skirmishing. After a brief halt it formed line of battle, advanced under a heavy fire from the enemy's skirmishers, and drove them in upon his intrenchments, which were found too strong to be carried. It was obilged to fall back, suffering severely, General Robinson being wounded. The Ninetieth lost twenty in killed, wounded, and missing.
In the operations about Spottsylvania the regiment was constantly employed in fortifying and in advancing upon the enemyrs positions. In an unsuccessful charge upon his works at Laurel Hill, made on the 10th, Lieutenant Jesse W. Super and three men were killed by the explosion of a single shell. The loss in the regiment was nearly one hundred.
On the 21st the brigade moved on towards Guinea's Station, skirmishing with the rear of Ewell's Division, and taking some prisoners, and on the 23d crossed the North Anna. The enemy attacked; but was held in check, and the position fortified. On the 27th it crossed the South Anna, and on the following day the Pamunkey, arriving on the 2d of June at Bethesda Church, losing almost daily some men.
On the 3d, General Lockwood, then in command of the division, was succeeded by Colonel Lyle. A few days later the division was re-organized, and became the Third of the Fifth Corps, General Crawford being assigned to its command.
From Cold Harbor, where the regiment arrived on the 6th of June, until the 16th, when it crossed the James and joined in the operations before Petersburg, it was kept constantly employed il marching and intrenching, upon the right flank of the army, as it moved forward.
As it approached the rebel works ill front of the city, on the night of the 17th of June, the brigade, after considerable manoeuvring, was massed in a gorge, where the enemy delivered an enfilading fire from his batteries, killing and wounding a considerable number. At day-break the regiment advanced, supporting the skirmish line. The enemy opened from a fort in front, throwing grape and canister. The line was obliged to cross an open space to reach a railroad cut in front, which it was moving to occupy, and while doing so was exposed to a rapid fire of case-shot and grape, the regiment losi-ng a number killed and wounded. The brigade was massed for a charge, but the enemy being apprised of the design, it was abandoned, and the command fell back and entrenched along the line of the railroad. Losses from the fire of the enemy's sharp-shooters and his artillery were frequent, any object exposed above the works, being almost certain to be hit.
On the 24th, Lieutenant Colonel Leech and Major Jacob M. Davis having returned from detached duty, and resumred command, the brigade moved to the left as far as the Jerusalem Plank Load. It was here engaged in picket duty, until July 6th, when it moved to the rear. and details from the brigade, lunder command of Lieutenant Coelon Leech, were engaged in con tructing Fort Davis, which when completed was manned and occupied by it.
At day-break on the morning of the 18th, the brigade with the corps moved out to Yellow Tavern, on the WVeldon Iailroad, and at noon was formed in line of battle on the right of the road facing north, and fronting a wood, through which it advanced. The enemy was found in force but after receiving several volleys and finding the left flank exposed, a retrograde movement was ordered, in executing which, Lieutenant John T. Reilly and a number of men were captured. The line was re-formed, but the enemy advancing in force, it was again compelled to fall back. It subsequently regained the lost ground, and threw up a line of rifle-pits.
On the following morning it moved some five hundred yards to the right. At three P. M. the enemy attacked in heavy columns, and was repulsed in front, but Mahone's Division succeeded in gaining the rear of the line. The position had become untenable, and our own batteries were throwing shells into its ranks. The order to fall back was given; but its execution was now impossible, and Lieutenant Colonel Leech, Major Davis and about ninety of the men were taken prisoners. Lieutenant James S. Beosall was killed, and about twenty killed and wounded.
On the 23d the regiment, under command of Captain William P. Davis, was engaged with the brigade in collecting arms and accoutrements from the battlefield of the 18th and 19th, and on the following day in destroying the Weldon Railroad. It was subsequently employed in entrenching and in a constructing roads. On the 15th of September it marched to Poplar Spring Church, on a reconnoissance, supporting cavalry, and upon its return was engaged in garrisoning Fort Dushane.
On the 26th of November, the original term of service having expired, it was mustered out of service, and the veterans and recruits were attached to the Eleventh Pennsylvania. Moving from Yellow House by rail to City Point, it was taken by transport to Washington where it was paid, and proceeded thence by rail to Philadelphia. It was met upon its arrival by an escort of military and firemen. and marched to its armory, where it partook of a collation, and was finally disbanded.
1Organization of the Second Brigade, General Ricketts, Second Division, General Ord, Third Corps, General M'Dowell. Twenty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Christian; Ninety-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Adrian R. Root; Eightyeighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel George P. M'Lean; Ninetieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Peter Lyle.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organized at Philadelphia October 1, 1861.
Moved to Baltimore, Md., March 31, 1862, thence to Washington, D.C., April 21 and
to Aquia Creek Landing, Va., and duty there till May 9.
Attached to 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Dept. of the Rappahannock, to June, 1862.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 3rd Corps, Army of Virginia, to September, 1862.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps, Army Potomac, to March, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 5th Army Corps, to May, 1864.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 5th Army Corps, to June, 1864.
1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Army Corps, to September, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Army Corps, to November, 1864.
Duty near Fredericksburg, Va., till May 25.
Expedition to Front Royal to intercept Jackson May 25-June 16.
Duty at Manassas, Warrenton and Culpeper till August.
Battle of Cedar Mountain August 9.
Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia August 16-September 2.
Fords of the Rappahannock August 21-23.
Thoroughfare Gap August 28.
Battle of Bull Run August 30.
Chantilly September 1.
Maryland Campaign September 6-24.
Battles of South Mountain September 14.
Antietam September 16-17.
Duty near Sharpsburg, Md., till October 30.
Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 19.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
Burnside's 2nd Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863.
At Falmouth and Belle Plains till April 27.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6.
Operations at Pollock's Mill Creek April 29-May 2.
Fitzhugh's Crossing April 29-30.
Chancellorsville May 2-5.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 11-July 24.
Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3.
Pursuit of Lee July 5-24.
Duty on line of the Rappahannock till October.
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7, 1864.
Duty on Orange & Alexandria Railroad till May.
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.
On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28.
Totopotomoy May 28-31.
Cold Harbor June 1-12.
Bethesda Church June 1-3.
White Oak Swamp June 13.
Before Petersburg June 16-18.
Siege of Petersburg June 16 to November 26, 1864.
Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30.
Weldon Railroad August 18-21.
Reconnoissauce to Dinwiddie C. H. September 15.
Consolidated with 11th Pennsylvania Infantry November 26, 1864.
Regiment lost during service
5 Officers and 98 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
1 Officer and 126 Enlisted men by disease.
Total 230.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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