On the 21st of April, 1861, John W. M'Lane, a citizen of Erie, issued a call for volunteers for immediate service in the National army. A few day sprevious, he had been summoned to Harrisburg by the Governor, and tendered the position of Commissary General of the State. This he declined,saying that a lame man could perform the duties of that office, that he was well, and would go to the field. In four days from the issue of the call, twelve hundred men, from the contiguous portions of the counties of Erie, Crawford and Warren, had assembled at the city of Erie. Application was made to the Governor for the acceptance of the whole body, but orders were received to take but ten companies of seventy-seven men each. Consequently, about four hundred of these patriotic young men were obliged to return to their homes, embracing among others the companies led by Captain Ferguson, of Fairview, and Captain Whitney, of Warren.
The Wayne Guard, a volunteer company organized by Captain M'Lane in1859, was the nucleus of the regiment. This company took part on the 10th of September, 1860, in the ceremonies incident to the inauguration of the monument erected at Cleveland, Ohio, to the memory of Commodore Perry, the hero of Lake Erie, on which occasion Captain M'Lane was the officer of the day.
From the recruits received into this company, three new ones were formed. Excellent camping ground was selected to the east of the city, which was designated Camp Wayne. "Here," says Captain Judson, who afterwards chronicled the heroic deeds of the Eighty-third, "we learned the rudiments in the rugged and arduous duties of a soldier life; here we took our first lesson in the school of the company, held our first dress parades, learned to live upon hard fare, and to lie upon the cold ground."
Farmers, from the country round about, sharing in the general enthusiasm,came, bringing wagon loads of provisions, a free offering to the soldier. As yet, no measures had been adopted to provide uniforms. The men appeared in camp in the dress in which the call found them, at the plough, the anvil, and the counter. It was determined that the men should not leave the city in such attire. Money was freely contributed and material purchased with which to uniform the entire regiment. Day and night busy fingers plied the needle tocomplete the outfit. Before the time for their departure arrived, the uniforms,which consisted of a jacket and pants of blue, and shirt of yellow flannel, were finished, and when the men appeared on parade for the last time, their friends beheld them with pride in their new and attractive dress.
On the 27th of April, an election of field officers was held, at which JohnW. M'Lane, of Erie, was chosen Colonel; Benjamin Grant, of Erie, Lieutenant Colonel; Matthias Schlaudecker, of Erie, Major; Strong Vincent, a private in the Wayne Guards, was appointed Adjutant. On the 28th, in pursuance of orders, the regiment proceeded by rail to Pittsburg, where it arrived on the following morning, and was ordered into camp on the fair grounds, a short distance above the city, on the Allegheny river, which received the designation of Camp Wilkins.
This was the first organized regiment that had arrived in the city, and, as it marched up Penn street in its picturesque uniform with banners flying, preceded by its fine band, (Mehl's,) the curiosity and admiration of the people were greatly excited, Their interest in the welfare of the men was soon manifest. Loads of provisions'and liberal supplies of blankets, stockings and underclothes, were freely contributed.
CampWilkins was made a general camp of rendezvous for volunteers from the western portion of the State, and Colonel M'Lane was appointed commander. Orders were issued regulating the hours of mounting guard, and company and regimental drill, which were strictly enforced, and the camp soon presented the busy appearance of a school of military tactics. By the frequent accession of new troops the camp finally became so much crowded that it was found necessary to secure other camping grounds. Accordingly, a new site was selected, twelve miles farther up the Allegheny river, near Hulton station,on the Allegheny Valley railroad, which was called Camp Wright. Thither the Erie regiment moved, after having spent six weeks very profitably at CampWilkins.
About two weeks after the removal, the men were supplied with muskets, and drill was commenced in the manual of arms. Target firing was also practiced, but was of little benefit for want of suitable ammunition.Having enlisted to fight, murmurs began to be heard among the men that they were not led to the field. As yet, they had received no pay, nor had they been mustered into the service of the United States. Orders issued to march, with all the stir and turmoil in preparation for the expected move, were as often countermanded. At length, the complaints of the more clamorous grew so high, that Colonel M'Lane found it necessary to check them. His method of doing this is best told by Captain Judson.
"Having ordered the regiment," he says, "out upon battalion drill one hot morning in July, he formed it in hollow square, and taking his stand on the inside, delivered a short energetic speech, in which he gave them to understand that he intended to command the regiment and, as for himself, if the State of Pennsylvania was too poor to pay him, he would make a free and voluntary gift of his services to her. So saying, he reduced square and deployed column, and then put us through about three hours of the most animated and perspiring drill, that we have ever had before or since. The speech and the drill produced their desired effect, for, at the end of the three hours, the starch had been so completely taken out of the malcontents, that not a word of complaint was ever heard from one of them afterwards."
The term of service for which the regiment had been called to the field had now expired. A fine body of men, drilled and disciplined by a three months'encampment, well officered and skillfully led, at the expiration of their term of service, broke camp, and moving by rail, arrived at the city of Erie, whence they had gone forth to do battle, without having seen the enemy. But the service was not lost. The drill of Camps Wilkins and Wright was the school in which they learned the rudiments, and became well grounded in the art, which they subsequently practiced with so great advantage to the service, and honor to themselves, in the Eighty-third, One Hundred and Eleventh, One Hundred and Forty-fifth and other Pennsylvania regiments.Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organization and Service:Companies "A," "B," "C," Wayne Guard; Company "D," Conneautville Rifles;
Company "F," Titusville Guards: Company "G," Girard Guards; Company "H," Parson Guards;
Company "I," German Rifles; Company "K," Reed Guard.
Mustered in April 28, 1861, by Lieutenant-Colonel Grant at Camp Wayne, Erie, Pa.
Ordered to Camp Wilkins, near Pittsburg, April 28, and duty there till June.
Moved to Camp Wright, near Pittsburg, and duty there till July.
Mustered out at Erie, Pa., July 25, 1861.
Source: Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources.Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908
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