4th Regiment

Pennsylvania Volunteers

The Fourth volunteer regiment originated in the First regiment, 2d Brigade, 2d Division, of the State militia, organized under the militia act of 1858. It consisted of six companies, and had a full regimental organization, the officers holding State commissions.

In response to the call of the President, a public meeting was held at Norristown, Montgomery county, on the 16th of April, at which, the feeling of patriotic devotion to the cause of the Government was emphatically displayed, and resolutions were passed pledging assistance to the families of such as volunteered. On the following day, the services of the militia regiment were tendered to the Governor, for the term of three months, and were accepted, on condition that the command would report in Harrisburg within four days. The officers immediately commenced the enrolment of recruits, and at the expiration of the time appointed, some six hundred men, from Montgomery county and vicinity, were ready to move.

The excitement and gloom incident to their departure, can only be felt by a people unused to war. All business was suspended, and the whole population appeared upon the streets. Flags were provided by the ladies of Norristown, which were presented with appropriate ceremonies.

On Saturday, April 20th, the command proceeded by rail to Harrisburg, and reached Camp Curtin at two o'clock P. M. It was the intention to have remained in camp, till a sufficient number of men could have been procured from Montgomery county, to fill the regiment to its maximum number; but the urgent necessities of the Government rendered this purpose impracticable, and orders were issued to form a regiment, immediately, from such companies as were in camp. This order had the effect to change the command, from a militia, to a volunteer organization.

An election was, accordingly, held, which resulted in the choice of the same field officers, as those holding the militia commissions, which were as follows:

  • John F. Hartranft, of Norristown, Colonel
  • Edward Schall, of Norristown, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Edwin Schall, of Norristown, Major
  • Charles Hunsicker was appointed Adjutant
Scarcely was the organization completed, when marching orders were received. Leaving Camp Curtin, on the evening of the 21st of April, the regiment proceeded by rail to Philadelphia, where it was ordered by General Patterson, to report to Colonel Dare, of the Twenty-third. Taking one company of his own, and the Fourth regiment, Colonel Dare proceeded by rail to Perryville, Maryland, and took possession of the town, making such disposition of the troops, as would prevent a surprise.

On the following day, General Patterson ordered the regiment to proceed without delay to Washington. Immediate application was made to Colonel Dare, for transportation by steamer to Annapolis, the route by Baltimore being then closed. Not feeling secure from capture, Colonel Dare only gave transportation for one wing of the regiment, which embarked under command of Colonel Hartranft. Arriving at Annapolis, the troops were disembarked, and quartered in the buildings belonging to the Naval Academy, by order of Major General Butler, then in command of the town. The left wing, under command of Major Schall, was detained several days at Perryville, for the security of the port.

It was expected, that the men would be fully clothed, armed, and equipped at Harrisburg, before marching. But when the urgent appeals came from Washington for troops, it was not the time for the patriotic citizen-soldier to hesitate, and the regiment marched without uniforms or equipments, the men being armed with muskets, and provided with ammunition, which they were obliged to carry in their pockets. Clothing was sent to the regiment on the 28th of April, but not until sometime in June, were proper uniforms supplied.

In pursuance of orders, the regiment proceeded, on the 8th of May, to Washington, and was quartered in the Assembly buildings, and in a church near by.

Transportation, and camp and garrison equipage not having been supplied by the State, or the National Government, the regiment was prevented from going into camp. The close confinement of the men in crowded quarters, soon produced its legitimate results. Sickness, which, up to this time, had been scarcely known in the regiment, now began to prevail to a considerable extent. As soon as tents were received, it was at once established in camp, about two miles from the city, toward Bladensburg. When the necessary equipage was furnished, regimental drills and inspections were commenced, and vigorous measures taken to make the regiment effective. On the 24th of June, it was ordered to Alexandria, in anticipation of an attack by the enemy, and was, soon after, placed in camp on Shuter's Hill, where the regular drills and inspections were resumed.

On Sunday, June 30th, at two o'clock in the morning, the pickets of the reginent, stationed-on the old Fairfax road, under command of Lieutenant M. R. M'Clennan, were attacked by about thirty of the enemy. They were repulsed by our pickets, only three in number, who killed Sergeant Haines, previously a clerk in the Treasury Department, at Washington.

Three other of our pickets on the outer post, intending to go to the rescue of their comrades, came in contact with the enemy's force, in which Thomas Murray was killed, and Llewelyn Rhumer was severely wounded. The third, dropping upon the ground, escaped without injury, the enemy, in the excitement and darkness, passing over him. The trails of blood, discovered in the morning, showed that they had likewise suffered in the encounter. The evidences, on every hand, pointed unmistakably to an early advance of the army. Inspections were careful and minute. All surplus baggage was sent to the rear, together with knapsacks and overcoats, the men retaining only their blankets.

The Fourth regiment was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3d Division1 of M'Dowell's army. The Division moved from camp, by the Fairfax road, reaching Sangster's station on Thursday evening. The enemy set fire to his stores and retreated, as the column advanced. Firing was heard in the direction of Blackburn's Ford, occasioned by Colonel Richardson's reconnoissance in that direction. On Friday the division moved to Centreville, where the entire army of M'Dowell lay encamped.

Bull Run

On Saturday, the 20th of July, the question of muster out was freely agitated, the term of enlistment expiring on the following day. Desirous of retaining the regiment in his command till the anticipated battle should be fought, General M'Dowell issued an order, making the following appeal:
"The General commanding has learned with regret that the time of service of the Fourth regiment, Pennsylvania volunteers, is about to expire. The services of the regiment have been so important, its good conduct so general, its patience under privation so constant, its state of efficiency so good, that its departure, at this time, can only be considered an important loss to the army. Fully recognizing the right of the regiment to its discharge and payment, at the time agreed upon, when it was mustered into service, and determined to carry out, literally, the agreement of the government in this respect, the General commanding, nevertheless, requests the regiment to continue in service for a few days longer, pledging that the time of muster out of service shall not exceed two weeks. Such members of the regiment, as do not accede to this request, will be placed under the command of proper officers, to be marched to the rear, mustered out of service, and paid, as soon as possible, after the expiration of the term of service."
Differences of opinion prevailed in the regiment upon the question of compliance with this request. While many were willing to re-enlist for two weeks longer, some were desirous of being mustered out in accordance with their contract with the government. When it was ascertained that unanimity of sentiment was not likely to be secured, it was decided by the commanding General, that to break up the organization, and to take a fragment of the regiment into battle would not be prudent orders were accordingly issued for its muster out of service.

Several causes conspired to create an aversion to remaining. The regiment had been subject, during its service, to hardships which are, perhaps, inseparable from new and hasty organization, but which bore somewhat heavily upon the men, a detail of which, it is unnecessary here to give. It was at a time, too, when great activity prevailed in the organization of new regiments for the three years' service, the officers of this regiment having already taken steps for making new organizations, in which considerable strife was manifested to get the trained men. Their decision was, accordingly, made more with reference to their own advantage, and that of their officers, than to any ulterior results.

General M'Dowell, when he found himself defeated in the battle which ensued, looking about for some causes to which he could attribute his failure, towards the close of his official report, drags in this regiment for a share of blame, to whose service he had no more rightful claim, and whose conduct he could not more justly censure, than that of the regiment a week or a month earlier discharged.

The subsequent history of the men composing this regiment dispels any doubt, that may, at the time, have been raised of the rectitude of their intentions. Under the command of the Lieutenant Colonel, it marched to Washington, from whence. it was taken by rail to Harrisburg, where it was soon after mustered out of service. But measures were immediately taken for the organization of new regiments, in which the men immediately enlisted for the war, and fully attested on the bloody fields of Fredericksburg and Antietam, and in numberless hard fought battles of the war, their patriotism and their valor.

The Colonel of the regiment, (since Major General,) John F. Hartranft, desiring to remain with the army of M'Dowell, offered his services, and was assigned to duty on the staff of Colonel Franklin, commanding the 1st Brigade. In the terrible ordeal to which the division of Heintzelman was exposed, and when the regiments were broken and disorganized by the heat of the enemy's fire, Colonel Hartranft rendered invaluable aid in holding the men to their duty, and in rallying the regiments which had been thrown into confusion.

Captain Cook, of company K, also remained, serving on the staff of Colonel David Hunter, and was officially commended for his gallantry.

1Organization of 1st Brigade, Colonel W. B. Franklin, 3d Division, Colonel S. P. Heintzleman. (The three Brigades of the Division were commanded respectively by Colonels W. B. Franklin, O. O. Howard, and 0. B. Wilcox.) Ricket's Battery of the 1st U. S. Artillery. Fifth regiment Massachusetts volunteers, Colonel Lawrence. Eleventh regiment Massachusetts volunteers, Colonel Clark. First regiment Minnesota volunteers, Colonel Gorman. Fourth (regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Hartranft.)

Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.


Organized at Harrisburg April 20, 1861.


Moved to Philadelphia April 21.
Occupation of Perryville, Md., April 22.
Right Wing moved by boat to Annapolis, Md., April 23.
Regiment moved to Washington, D.C., May 8, and camp near Bladensburg.
Moved to Shutter's Hill, near Alexandria, June 24.
Picket attack on Shutter's Hill July 1 (Co. "E").
Attached to 1st Brigade, Franklin's Heintzelman's Division, McDowell's Army of Northeast Virginia.
Advance on Manassas, Va.. July 16-21.
Battle of Bull Run July 21.
Mustered out July 27, 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






U. S. C. T.

Direct questions or comments to pacivilwar@pa-roots.net

©  Alice J. Gayley, all rights reserved

Web Space provided by