John K. Torbert, Co. F, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves

Excerpt from the Wilkes-Barre Weekly Record, 20 October 1903.

Local Heroes of Andersonville

Those Who Were Confined in That Memorable Prison Pen–

Recital of Some Thrilling Incidents.

John K. Torbert

Was Captured A Short Time Before His Enlistment Expired – Meritorious War Service

John K. Torbert, one of Wilkes-Barre’s best known veterans, living on South Franklin Street, enlisted from Luzerne County on June 13, 1861, to serve three years and was mustered into the United States Service at Camp Wayne near West Chester, Pa., on June 26, 1861, as a member of Capt. Speece’s Co. F, 36th Regt., P. V. I., known as the 7th Penna. Reserves, Col. E. B. Harvey of Wilkes-Barre commanding. This regiment was recruited principally from the counties of the Keystone State lying east of the Allegheny Mountains.

Wartime view of John K. Torbert by Matthew Brady. Photograph Courtesy of the Michael Passero Collection

On July 21 the regiment moved via Harrisburg and Baltimore to Washington, D. C., where it went into winter quarters on Meridan Hill and where it remained until Aug. 2, when it marched to Tennallytown, where the muskets of the regiment were exchanged for Springfield rifles, and particular attention was given to skirmish drills and target practice. The regiment was assigned to the second brigade, third division, first corps of the Army of the Potomac, serving under Generals McDowell, Hooker and Reynolds. In March, 1864, the first corps was discontinued and the regiment was transferred to the fifth corps, same army, under Generals Porter, Butterfield, Meade and Warren.

The third division was better known as the famous Pennsylvania Reserve Division, and during its service participated in the following engagements: Great Falls, Drainesville, Seven Days’ Fight, including Gaines’ Mills, White Crreek Swamp, Glendale and Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run or Manassas, South Mountain, Fredericksburg, Wilderness and a number of minor engagements and skirmishes. At the battle of Wilderness the entire regiment was captured, which terminated the active military career of the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves.


Mr. Torbert was wounded in the right arm at Gaines’ Mill, Va., on June 27, 1862, and was imprisoned at Castle Thunder, Richmond, Va. He was held prisoner twenty-eight days, then paroled and rejoined his regiment at Fredericksburg. He was again captured at the Wilderness on May 5, 1864, a little more than a month before his term of enlistment would have expired, and was confined in the horrible prison at Andersonville, Ga., and also at Florence, South Carolina, until released and paroled.

On February 24, 1865, he was taken to parole camp at Annapolis, Md., remaining until transferred to Philadelphia for muster out, having served nearly eleven months over time…[appears to be several typos – omitted]. Although a prisoner for a long time, he took part in the battles of Great Falls, Drainsville, Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness. He rendered faithful and meritorious service at all times and received an honorable discharge at Philadelphia on May 8, 1865.

Mr. Torbert was born at White Haven, Luzerne County, on Sept 20, 1841, and was united in marriage to Augusta Benscoter at Town Line, Luzerne County, on September 24, 1868, from which union were born the following children: George C., and Guy L. His wife died on Oct. 20, 1876. He married on July 26, 1881, Anna M. Pursell, at White Haven.

Postwar Photograph of Torbert featured in the Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly, 1903.

After leaving the army Mr. Torbert went to Alexandria, where he engaged in the fruit and produce business until he was obliged to leave on account of malaria. He then returned to his native town, White Haven, where he engaged in business for sixteen years, during twelve years of which he was postmaster, during the Presidency of Grant and Hayes, since which time he has been in the wholesale grocery business Wilkes-Barre, of the firm of Welles, Torbert & Co., and the wholesale fruit and produce business at Farmer, Seneca County, N.Y., where he is also at present interested in the growing of fruit. He resides with his family at 372 South Franklin Street.

Mr. Torbert is a member of Conyngham Post, No. 97, G.A.R. He was a charter member of D. J. Taylor Post, No. 113, G.A.R. at White Haven, in which he held the offices of quartermaster, adjutant, chaplain and commander several terms. He is also a member of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association.1

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Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.

  1. Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly Record, 20 October 1903