As an avid historian of the Pennsylvania Reserves, I frequently come across interesting connections of various soldiers of the Reserves to other notable figures or events that were historically significant at the time. Most people know that, before Generals George G. Meade and John F. Reynolds were cast into the annals of history after the Battle of Gettysburg, that both officers got their start as brigade commanders, and later division commanders in the Pennsylvania Reserves. But few know that some of its officers were part of the garrison at Ft. Sumter which was surrendered April 12, 1861.
On this anniversary date of the fall of Fort Sumter, I felt it would be interesting to share the Fort Sumter connection to some general officers of the PA Reserve Corps. The surrender of the Fort occurred in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, 162 years ago. The text I will be sharing is from Major General Abner Doubleday’s “Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, 1860-61” which was published in New York in 1876.
Abner Doubleday does very nice work in documenting his experience during this fragile time in our nations history. He was stationed at both forts, along with several other officers who were part of the garrison when it surrendered. Among these were Samuel Wylie Crawford, and Truman Seymour. Both officers would later in the Civil War would play a part in the Pennsylvania Reserves. Even Doubleday himself would at one point, command the division of Pennsylvania Reserves.
Of Crawford, Doubleday wrote: “Doctor S. Wiley Crawford, our assistant surgeon, entered the service after the Mexican war. He was a genial companion, studious, and full of varied information. His ambition to win a name as a soldier soon induced him to quit the ranks of the medical profession.” In fact, it was Dr. Crawford who managed to help avoid the death of an southern officer who was visiting the fort directly after it’s surrender. Doubleday remembered, “…[a nearly] fatal accident occurred to Roger A. Pryor shortly after his arrival in the fort. He was sitting in the hospital at a table, with a black bottle and a tumbler near his right hand. The place was quite dark, having been built up all around with boxes of sand, to render it shell-proof. Being thirsty, and not noticing what he did, he mechanically picked up the bottle, poured some of the liquid into the glass, and drank it down. It proved to be iodide of potassium, which is quite a poisonous compound. When I saw him, he was very pale, and leaning on the shoulder of Dr. Crawford, who was taking him out on the grass to apply the stomach-pump. He was soon out of danger. Some of us questioned the doctor’s right to interpose in a case of this kind. It was argued that if any rebel leader chose to come over to Fort Sumter and poison himself, the Medical Department had no business to interfere with such a laudable intention. The doctor, however, claimed, with some show of reason, that he himself was held responsible to the United States for the medicine in the hospital, and therefore he could not permit Pryor to carry any of it away.”
Of Captain Truman Seymour, Doubleday remembered “…Seymour…and myself had…served in Mexico as second lieutenants on our first entrance into the army…[and he was] twice brevetted for gallantry at Cerro Gordo and Chernbusco, was an excellent artillery officer, full of invention and resource, a lover of poetry, and an adept at music and painting.”
After the garrison was surrendered and the men returned North, Doubleday, Seymour and Crawford continued their service in the army, and in the war that later followed. Doubleday would serve as a Brigade and Division commander. He also briefly commanded the First Army Corps after the fall of General John F. Reynolds at Gettysburg. Doubleday’s command of the Pennsylvania Reserves came after that shattered division was left without a commander after the Battle of Fredericksburg. He wrote in another book, titled “Chancellorsville and Gettysburg”, in which he explained that he at one time “…had the honor to command, [the Pennsylvania Reserves, who were] veterans of the Peninsula, and were among the most dauntless men in the army…”
Crawford went on to become a Major of Infantry after the surrender of Ft Sumter. He rose to Brigadier General and eventually Major General – in which capacity he commanded the 3rd Division, 5th Army Corps (the Pennsylvania Reserves) from mid-1863 till the end of the war.
Seymour was promoted to Major, and was in charge of Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pa from late 1861 to early 1862. He was originally assigned Chief of Artillery of General McCall’s Division in early March, 1862 – and eventually promoted to Brigadier General and given the command of a brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves. He would later be assigned to the department of the south.