The Pennsylvania Reserves in the Defenses of Washington

The Battle of Fredericksburg and its aftermath would result in a number of changes in the command structure of the Pennsylvania Reserves.  During the battle, the division was part of Major General John Reynolds’ First Corps and commanded by Major General George Meade.  The First Brigade was led by Colonel William Sinclair, the Second Brigade by Colonel Albert Magiliton, and the Third by Brigadier General Conrad Jackson. Jackson would be killed during the battle, and Sinclair wounded. Following the wounding of Sinclair, Colonel William McCandless would assume command of the First Brigade while command of the Third Brigade would fall to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Anderson. Magilton would resign on December 23, 1862.  Colonel Martin Hardin would take over the Third Brigade on December 30, 1862. However, still suffering from the effects of the wound he received at Second Bull Run, Hardin was unable to withstand the rigors of winter quarters at Belle Plain.1

On December 25, 1862, Col. Horatio Sickel of the 3rd Reserves assumed command of the division when Gen. George Meade left to take command of the Fifth Corps. 

Before leaving the Pennsylvania Reserves, Meade wrote to Major General William Franklin, commander of the Left Grand Division  reporting the condition of his division and offering his recommendation for building up its numbers:

Horatio G. Sickel
Colonel Horatio G. Sickel in a postwar photograph.

“This paper is forwarded to you, on the eve of my giving up the command of the division, to call your attention to the necessity of some measure, being immediately adopted to increase the efficiency of this command. The plan of sending officers into the State to recruit has been on three separate occasions attempted, and proved in each case a signal failure. There remains, then, two courses to adopt. One is to consolidate the existing force into a number of regiments equal to the officers and men for duty. The objection to this plan is that it destroys the organization, and the prestige which the good conduct of the corps has acquired for it. Another plan would be to withdraw the command, return them to Pennsylvania, where, it is believed, from the great reputation the corps has acquired, the pride the State takes in it, and the enthusiasm its return would create, that in a short time its ranks would be filled, after pruning them of all useless members.

Soon after the battle of Antietam, his Excellency, the Governor of Pennsylvania, proposed to the general commanding the Army of the Potomac to receive, and reorganize the corps, and, it is believed, the proposition was favorably received by the commanding general, but the exigencies of the moment prevented its execution. The further reduction of the corps by the recent battle, where it lost over 1,700 officers and men, and the probability that its services might at this moment be spared, together with the earnest desire I have that the organization, which has contributed so largely to its success, may be preserved, are the considerations which induce me to recommend its adoption.”2

Although both Franklin and Reynolds endorsed Meade’s proposal it would not be implemented.3 The division remained with  the First Corps and on January 18, 1862, was placed under the temporary command of Brigadier General Abner Doubleday.  

Abner Doubleday
General Abner Doubleday, commanded the Division of Pennsylvania Reserves briefly after the Battle of Fredericksburg.

On January 25, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker replaced Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker suggested an alternate plan for the Reserves; instead of being returned to the Commonwealth to recover and recruit, Hooker proposed that they be exchanged for an equal number of Pennsylvania troops serving in the Department of Washington under Major General Samuel Heintzelman. On January 30, 1862, Heintzelman reported to General-in Chief Henry Halleck that there were 4,194 Pennsylvania troops in and around Washington. Heintzelman noted that the Reserves would have to be broken up as some of the Pennsylvania regiments in the defenses were within the city while others were located on both sides of the Potomac.  Heintzelman also expressed his reservations regarding the exchange:  “One great objection to this change is that some of the companies are commanded by sergeants and corporals. As most of the regiments are doing provost duty in the city, this is a most serious objection. Those are the only regiments I have from this state, and I fear that the exchange cannot be made with any benefit to the service in my command.”4

On January 31, 1863, Halleck informed Hooker that his recommendation had been approved.5

On February 5, 1862,  John Reynolds, commander of the First Corps, was informed of the exchange and directed the division to proceed to Alexandria to  report to Heintzelman. The First Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves departed Belle Plain on February 6, eventually arriving at Fairfax Station.   The Second and Third Brigades departed the following day..  Col. Sickel was again assigned command of  the division, relieving Gen. Doubleday.6

Washington, D. C., photograph taken July 11, 1863.
Washington, D. C., photograph taken July 11, 1863. Library of Congress

On February 10, Hooker received a dispatch from Doubleday informing him that the number of troops received from Heintzelman was approximately 250 less than the number of men in the Reserves. Hooker immediately wrote asking for more men, “I respectfully request that this deficiency be made up, and that General Heintzelman be directed to send the full number, according to the understanding, viz., the same number of men, as were returned in the Pennsylvania Reserves.”7 Halleck was quick to reject Hooker’s request stating that: “Regiments cannot be broken up in order to exactly equalize.8

A week later, Halleck wrote to Hooker regarding a possible exchange of the 10th Maine and 28th New York for two regiments stationed in Maryland, “If such exchange is approved by you, and you deem it beneficial to the service, orders will be issued as soon as the roads are passable.”  Still unhappy with how the exchange of the Reserves had worked out, Hooker responded, “After my experience in exchanging the Pennsylvania Reserves, by which I gave 270 more officers and men, then I received, no further exchange will be made with my consent.”9

Henry Halleck
General-in-Chief Henry Wagner Halleck, quite a meddlesome figure in 1862-3.

On February 17, Heintzelman wrote to Hooker,explaining his side of the exchange, “The order I received was to replace the Pennsylvania Reserves by Pennsylvania troops. The order I issued was for all the Pennsylvania infantry to join your army. After the order was issued the 27th Pennsylvania (Company F) was excepted from the order by direction of the General-in-Chief. The day the 150th Regiment was embarking, Company, K, of that regiment, was retained here at the special request of the President of the United States. I have no authority to send you troops from any other state. The numbers at my disposal were well understood by General Doubleday when he made the application, and the argument urged that the Reserves would soon be increased by the return of convalescents and stragglers. With those inducements, I consented to the change.”10

Heintzelman’s messageredirected Hooker’s displeasure to Gen. Doubleday. On February 19 Assistant Adjutant General Seth Williams addressed a letter to Doubleday which read, “The general commanding direct that you report what agreement was entered into by you with General Heintzelman with regard to the exchange of the Pennsylvania Reserves. Your special attention is directed to that part of general Heintzelman’s letter which imagines that the exchange was to be for Pennsylvania regiments and no others, irrespective of numbers, and inquiry is made whether or not it was understood by you that the general commanding was to receive a lesser number of officers and men in exchange for the Reserves then which made up that force. You are also instructed to report your reasons for not having given your personal attention to this exchange…”11

Samuel P. Heintzelman
General Samuel P. Heintzelman

Doubleday responded to Williams the following day, disputing Heintzelman’s assertion that he (Doubleday) was aware of the number of Pennsylvania troops that were available to be exchanged for the Reserves.

“You say that the general commanding directs that you report what agreement was entered into by me with General Heintzelman, with respect to the exchange of the Pennsylvania Reserves. In answer to this, I have to state that no special agreement was entered into between us. It was understood that I was to have an equal number of men with those I furnished. I never supposed I should have a last number until the reserves had actually arrived In Alexandria, and a report of their number was laid before General Heintzelman. He then informed me that the aggregate would be less than that furnished by some 230 men. I am asked why I did not give my personal attention to this subject. In reply, I have to state that I visited General Heintzelman’s office every day, and frequently several times a day, in relation to it. I was also a daily visitor at the Adjutant-General’s Office of the General-in-Chief in relationship to it. 

The order from General Halleck directed General Heintzelman to furnish Pennsylvania troops. The understanding was an equal number of Pennsylvania troops, if they could be furnished. The Governor of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania delegation had interested themselves in the business, and it was understood to be a matter of State pride to furnish an equal number from Pennsylvania; hence the order was so worded. General Heintzelman, I think, was not in favor of the exchange, as the Reserves had hardly any officers with them, and it was absolutely necessary that they should be reorganized, on account of the law, which compelled them to elect their officers. … General Heintzelman mistakes when he says the number of men at his disposal was well understood by me when I made the application. I repeatedly asked for information on this and other points, and was invariably told that he would not touch the matter until the Reserves arrived, and then he would issue the necessary orders.”12

Hooker in turn forwarded Doubleday’s response to Heintzelman. No response from Heintzelman appears in the Official Records.

At the end of March, the Reserves were encamped in different locations in the Washington D.C. area. The First Brigade commanded by Colonel William Sinclair was at Fairfax Station, the Second Brigade commanded by Colonel Henry Bollinger was at Minor’s Hill, and the Third Brigade commanded by Colonel Joseph Fisher was at Upton’s Hill.13

In April, the regiments of the Second Brigade would be split between the convalescent camp and Alexandria. The Third Brigade would be in the City of Washington, while the First remained at Fairfax Station. Concerned that the division had become too scattered, Sickel  wrote to higher authorities seeking information regarding the future of the division. 

John Potts Slough
General John Potts Slough, of whose command the 3rd and 4th Reserves would fall under when the two regiments were withheld from Crawford’s Command when the P.R.V.C. moved north during the Gettysburg Campaign.

“I desire respectfully to ask if this disposition of the troops of the Division is permanent with a view to making some satisfactory arrangement in reference to supplys and a change of my Head Quarters to a more central position & more easy access to the Brigade Head Quarters. It would be very satisfactory to have the 1st brigade brought in more close proximity to the rest of the division, and also to have the four regiments of the 2d Brigade, united again as under one command.

I desire most respectfully, but earnestly to advise that the organization of the division be not destroyed, its future usefulness in my judgment depend in a very great degree upon his identity being preserved. I shall make no change for the present, but await further orders at the pleasure of the Maj Genl Comdg.”14

On May 13, 1863, Col. Sickel’s concern about the Division being separated indefinitely, was realized when Brigadier General Samuel W. Crawford was assigned to  the Department of Washington, where he was  ordered to take command of the First and Third Brigades of the Reserves. Sickel retained command of the Second Brigade which remained in the District of Alexandria in as part of Brigadier General John P.  Slough’s command.15

Convalescent Camp at Alexandria, Virginia.  A sketch from an 1864 periodical.
Convalescent Camp at Alexandria, Virginia. A sketch from an 1864 periodical.

When the Army of Northern Virginia crossed into Maryland, Union troops from the Department of Washington were sent to reinforce the Army of the Potomac.  On June 23, Crawford received notice by telegraph to have his command held in readiness to move at short notice.16 Crawford would write to Major General Daniel Butterfield, Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac for clarification of the status of the Second Brigade, “I am very desirous that the division should not be divided. Am I to consider that when the order arrives to move, it will be under my command.17

When Crawford received orders on June 25 from Army Headquarters instructing him to move his command to Edwards Ferry he would issue orders to the Second Brigade to rejoin the division. That night, Crawford received a dispatch from Gen. Slough informing him that Slough had instructed the Second Brigade not to recognize Crawford’s order to rejoin the Reserves.

Samuel W. Crawford
General Samuel W. Crawford, commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves from June 1863 until their end of service in the late spring and early summer of 1864.

Crawford would write Gen. Butterfield, of Hooker’s staff  informing him of the dispatch Crawford had received from Gen. Slough regarding the countermanding of the orders Crawford had issued to the Second Brigade.  Greatly vexed by the news from Crawford, Gen. Hooker forwarded the dispatch he had received to Gen. Halleck.  Appended to Crawford’s dispatch was a sidenote from Hooker, requesting that Gen. Slough be arrested at once, adding “You will find, I fear, when it is too late, that the effort to preserve department lines will be fatal to the cause of the country.”18

Heintzelman would also write to Halleck regarding the Second Brigade: “In reply to a communication from the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, of this day, referred to me, I have the honor of the state: the troops referred to in this dispatch are no part of General Crawford’s command, and are entirely within the Defenses of Washington. The two regiments of Pennsylvania Reserves are a portion of the Garrison of Alexandria, and, if removed, will leave but 776 men, much too small command to Garrison so important a point … “19

To the chagrin of both Hooker and Crawford, Halleck would side with Slough, informing Hooker that , “The Second Brigade, to which you refer your telegram, forms no part of General Crawford’s command, which was placed at your orders. No other troops can be withdrawn from the Defenses of Washington.20 The Reserves would return to the Commonwealth for the first time since it departed in the summer of 1861 without the Second Brigade.

Chief Regimental Historian of the 9th Reserves at PRVCHS | + posts

Long time Civil War Enthusiast since early childhood. As a former resident of nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I became interested in the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves and since then, have become engaged in researching the regiment and the men who served in it. I currently reside in Northern Virginia and work in Washington D.C.

  1. Hardin, Martin D., History of the Twelfth Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, published by the author, New York, 1890, p.137.
  2. U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, vol. 21, chapter 33, page 878, Washington, Govt. Print. Off. (Hereafter ORs) Maj. Gen. George Meade to Maj. General William Franklin, December 23, 1862.
  3. Ibid pages. 878-879. Reynolds’ endorsement is dated January 10, 1863 and Franklin’s January 11, 1863. 
  4. ORs, Series 1, vol. 25, Part 2, Chapter 37, pages 10-12. Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker January 31, 1863.
  5. Ibid page 10, pages 49-50. Joseph Dickson, AAG to Maj. Gen. Reynolds.
  6. Ibid, pg. 53.
  7. Ibid page 63
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid, pg. 83
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid, pgs 87-88.
  12. Ibid, pgs 90-91.
  13. Ibid, pg. 182.
  14. Sickel, H.G. to Carroll Potter, April 21, 1863. Record Group 393, Part 2, Entry 4437, National Archives & Record Administration, Washington D.C.
  15. ORs, Series 1, vol. 25, Part 2, Chapter 37, p.507.  Crawford took command of the Reserves near the end of May.
  16. ORs, Series 1, vol. 27, Part 3, Chapter 39, p.273.
  17. Crawford, SW to Daniel Butterfield, June 23, 1863. Record Group 393, Part 2, Entry 4437, National Archives & Record Administration, Washington DC.
  18. ORs, Series 1, vol. 27, Part I, Chapter 39, ps. 56-57.
  19. ORs, Series 1, vol. 27, Part 3, Chapter 39, p. 323.
  20. ORs, Series 1, vol. 27, Part I, Chapter 39, ps. 57