203d Regiment
Pennsylvania Volunteers

The troops composing this regiment were recruited at the suggestion of General Birney, to serve as sharp-shooters in his division; but the General dying soon after their reaching the field, they were treated as an ordinary infantry regiment. They were from the city of Philadelphia, and from the counties of Lycoming, Lancaster, Chester, and Delaware, and were organized at Camp Cadwalader, near Philadelphia, on the 10th of September, 1864, with the following field officers:
  • John W. Moore, Colonel
  • Jonas W. Lyman, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Oliver P. Harding, Major
Colonel Moore had served as Major in the Ninety-ninth, Lieutenant Colonel Lyman as Surgeon of the Fifty-seventh, and the entire field and staff were veteran officers.

On the 22d the regiment departed for the front, and on the 27th arrived before Petersburg, where it was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, of the Tenth Corps. On the same day, the Tenth and Eighteenth corps moved to Deep Bottom, on the James, and advanced upon the enemy's works, at Chapinus Farm and the New Market Road, achieving a signal success. During the engagement, the regiment performed provost duty at Deep Bottom, escorting prisoners to the rear, and picketing Malvern Hill.

On the 5th it moved up to the front, re-joining its brigade, and participated in the engagement of the 7th, where the enemy assumed the offensive, but where his repeated assaults were repulsed, and the ground lost by the cavalry under Kautz regained. Until the 27th, it remained in the works, but on that day moved out with the corps on the Darbytown Road, where the enemy was encountered, and a strong demonstration on his front made, returning on the following day to its former position. The regiment lost one killed and six wounded in this engagement.

Subsequently the army of the James was re-organized, and the Two Hundred and Third became part of the Second Brigade, Second Division, of the Twenty-fourth Corps, the brigade being under command of Colonel Pennypacker, and the division under General Ames.

On the 7th of December, the infantry troops destined for the attack on Fort Fisher, consisting of Ames' Division of the Twenty-fourth Corps, and Paine's of the Twenty-fifth, about six thousand five hundred strong, moved from camp, and proceeding to Fortress Monroe, embarked upon transports on the 13th, to accompany the powerful naval force in readiness to sail under Admiral Porter.

On the 24th the bombardment of the fort commenced, and on the 25th, a force of three thousand troops landed. Two hundred boys belonging to the Junior North Carolina Reserves were captured, and a reconnoitering force under General Curtis, succeeded in reaching the parapets of the fort; but General Butler, who led the expedition, and General Weitzel, his Lieutenant, concurred in the opinion, that the work could not be carried by assault, and retiring, the forces returned to their camps on the James.

On the 2d of January, General Terry was sent with the same forces and an additional brigade of the Twenty-fourth Corps, to renew the attempt at the reduction of the fort. Ames' Division was selected to lead the assault. The three brigades composing his division were led respectively by Curtis, Pennypacker, and Bell. At a preconcerted signal, the fleet, which had been delivering a heavy fire upon the fort, changed its direction, so as to leave the ground free for the movements of the army, and Curtis dashed forward and carried a portion of the parapet. Pennypacker followed, overlapping Curtis' right, and drove the enemy from the palisading.

In this charge the Two Hundred and Third moved under a storm of bullets and grape-shot, which rent its ranks with fearful effect. After reaching the palisades, an opening was found in front, which led to the fort, protected by two guns. Upon these the regiment was led at a run, and with a wild shout, and though suffering from a direct and decimating fire, the guns were taken.

Without pausing, it was led on, and hand to hand, fighting with desperate valor, the first traverse was carried. The smaller openings were thus relieved, through which the men poured like a torrent. A footing was gained, though at a heavy cost. Colonel Pennypacker had fallen, and was reported mortally hurt, but there was no cessation in the fight. Traverse after traverse, seventeen in all, still remained to be overcome. Colonel Moore, with the flag in one hand, and his sword in the other, led gallantly on until three of the traverses were carried, and the fourth was being charged, when he fell dead, still grasping the flag staff, the banner riddled with bullets and more than half shot away.

The enemy here made a desperate effort to re-gain his lost ground, but by equal valor was he met, and Lieutenant Colonel Lyman, the only field officer left, leading on his trusty men, and moving among them and encouraging by his example, succeeded in repulsing every charge. " The fifth traverse," says an eye witness, " had been taken. The fight was on the sixth mound. At the base of the mound Colonel Lyman met a rebel Major. Their swords crossed and flashed. I saw the contest, and saw the Colonel's sword fly from his hand. I hastened to reach him and give him aid, but stumbled and fell. When I recovered my feet, and caught sight of them again, the Major was in the act of rising from the ground, and the Colonel was drawing his revolver, with which he shot his antagonist dead. He recovered his sword coolly, called to the men and led a charge on the seventh traverse, but fell before it was taken, shot through the heart."

From half-past three in the afternoon, until far into the night, this desperate struggle was maintained, when overcome and driven from the last traverse, the enemy finally yielded, and the victory was complete. But during those mortal hours, nearly half of the entire regiment had gone down in the fight. Forty-six were killed, and one hundred and forty-five wounded. Colonel Moore, Lieutenant Colonel Lyman, Captain Jacob T. Smallwood and Lieutenant Matthias Hart, were of the killed, and Captains Benjamin Brooke and Alexander M'Cune, and Lieutenants Charles B. Duncan, Peter Alt, William R. T. Boggs, and John S. Wetter of the wounded.

Of Colonel Moore, General Ames says in his official report, 1" he behaved with the most distinguished gallantry. He was killed within the fort, in advance of his regiment. Few equaled, none surpassed this brave officer."

"The flag had over eighty rents made in it that day by bullets and'grape shot. " These traverses," says Admiral Porter, " are immense bomb-proofs, about sixty feet long, fifty feet wide, and twenty feet high-seventeen of them in all, being on the north-east face. Between each traverse, are one or two heavy guns."

" I have since visited," he again says, "Fort Fisher and its adjoining works, and find their strength greatly beyond what I had conceived. An engineer might be excusable in saying they could not be captured, except by regular siege. I wonder, even now, how it was done. The work as I said before, is really stronger than the Malakoff Tower, which defied so long the combined powers of France and England,and yet it was captured by a handful of men, under the fire of the guns of the fleet, and in seven hours after the attack commenced in earnest."

After the capture of Fort Fisher, the regiment lay quietly in camp until the 11th of February, when an advance was made on Wilmington. The enemy had a line of works across the Peninsula, from the Cape Fear River to the ocean, and this was first encountered. The regiment was thrown out as skirmishers, covering the brigade, and succeeded in getting the enemy's rifle pits in front of the works, but on account of the dense undergrowth and bushes, and the swampy nature of the ground, the line of battle could not advance.

Once in the rifle-pits, and under the fierce fire of the enemy, without support, the regiment could not withdraw until night-fall, when, under cover of darkness, the men succeeded in crawling, man by man, stealthily away. Finding it impossible to break the lines at that point, the division was moved to the right bank of the river, and joined the command of General Schofield, who had just arrived with his army from the west. Moving up in rear of Fort Anderson, it was found abandoned, as well as the works which it commanded on the opposite side. Thus, what would have cost many lives by direct assault, was gained without firing a gun by a flank movement.

Re-crossing the river, the advance on Wilmington was resumed, and on the evening of the 20th, the enemy was found strongly intrenched at a point five miles from the city. Dispositions were made and an attack opened on the 21st, in which the regiment lost four wounded; but during the succeeding night, the enemy evacuated his works, and on the following morning, Wilmington, which had long been a principal resort for blockade runners, was entered. The enemy was pursued nine miles, when the Union column was halted, the bridge having been destroyed at that point, and soon after returned to camp near the city.

Early in March, the columns were again put in motion towards Goldsboro, and formed junction with Sherman's army, while the battle of Bentonville was in progress. On the following day the regiment moved back to Faison's Station, where it was charged with guarding the line of railway. On the 10th of April, the columns were again put in motion towards Raleigh, the enemy retiring, as it advanced, without serious fighting, until the 18th of April, when Johnston made an agreement for the suspension of hostilities, and on the 26th finally surrendered, the war being substantially at an end.

The regiment was then assigned to duty at Raleigh, where it remained until the 22d of June, when it was mustered out of service. Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.


Organized at Philadelphia September 10, 1864.
Moved to Petersburg, Va., September 22-27.
Attached to 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 10th Army Corps,
Army of the James, to December, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 24th Army Corps, to January, 1865.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Terry's Provisional Corps, Dept. North Carolina, to March, 1865.
2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 10th Army Corps, Dept. of North Carolina, to June, 1865.


Detached from Brigade and provost at Deep Bottom, Va., and
picket at Malvern Hill September 27-October 5.
Rejoined Brigade October 5.
Siege operations against Richmond till December 7.
Battle of Fair Oaks October 27-28.
Expedition to Fort Fisher, N. C., December 7-27.
2nd Expedition to Fort Fisher, N. C., January 3-15, 1865.
Assault and capture of Fort Fisher January 15.
Advance on Wilmington February 11-22.
Sugar Loaf Battery February 11.
Fort Anderson February 19 Capture of Wilmington February 22.
Advance on Goldsboro March 6-21.
Guard railroad at Faison's Depot March 21-April 10.
Advance on Raleigh April 10-14.
Occupation of Raleigh April 14.
Bennett's House April 26.
Surrender of Johnston and his army.
Duty at Raleigh till June.
Mustered out June 22, 1865


Regiment lost during service:
4 Officers and 70 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
72 Enlisted men by disease.
Total 146.

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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