(Copied, April 5, 1961, by Rev. Ralph I. McConnell, 2121 W. 34 St. Erie)
Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the U. S. on March 4th 1861. History tells more accurately than I can the results. Among the first revolutionary acts of violence against the government was the firing on the “Star of the West”, in the act of supplying the forts in Charleston Harbor on April 9th, 1861, and followed on April 12th., 1861, by the bombarding and reducing Ft. Sumpter. Their high handed results compelled the government to adopt some measures to defend its existence and its citizens in their rights.
The President issued his well known Proclamation calling seventy five thousand troops to enforce the laws and constitution of U. S. The people of the northern states responded irrespective of parties; the quota of troops required was at once supplied and many more tendered their services. Such was the response of their patriotism to the President’s call. The writer, immediately after the news and call of the President volunteered, and others enlisted and organized a company of which your humble servant was selected as Commander of the 23rd. day of April, 1861, and forwarded the tender of our services to the Governor of the state and in a few days received an answer from the Governor that the state quota was full, but to retain our organization until further orders.
We were somewhat disappointed as we expected to receive orders to move on immediately to the seat of war, and after taking the voice of the company and people we retained our organization and kept up a kind of drill of Indian muster. In the interval we had time to reflect, as duty presented itself on both sides of the question.
I had a wife and six small children that were entirely dependent, and my affections were wound up in them. Also my interests were all tied up in the mill and to go away and leave my family, property and all in such a shape was a trouble to me. But the terrible condition of the affairs of our country and good government all at stake, tried my soul. The company and my neighbors became aware of the facts; the result was, they pressed and urged me to go with their brothers and sans.
In the meantime the Legislature having met at Harrisburgh, passed an Act to organize an army corps for state defence and national if required, to b e composed of fifteen regiments of Infantry, Artillery and Calvary, and then Governor A. G. Curtin issued the order for us to report at Camp Wilken, Pittsburgh on the eleventh of June, 1861, which was received with demonstrations of joy, but with me it was a matter of deep concern; it was a time when I looked at my family,— wife and children whom I loved to the very depths of my soul— to leave them with no certainty of returning to them again— it was trying, but was my country’s call, to sustain their homes and their fire—side;: duty demanded it.
The preparations were to make, our business matters to arrange, a thousand and one things to attend to—calls of friends and neighbors. The day arrived, the company assembled promptly as well as immense concourse of people to bid us adieu.. There was a street parade through masses that had collected to see us take our departure, and then the leave taking of our , and the embarkation on the canal boat.
My dear wife and little ones accompanied me as far as New Castle arriving at New Castle on the evening of the tenth of June. when we landed the citizens met and escorted us into the city with band and music, and marshalled us up the street and distributed and loged and feted and feasted us over night. On the same day theMercer company went over—land by wagon and we met them in the city. The two companies when together made quite a display. On the next morning of the eleventh, we chartered a boat in New Castle to take us to New Brighton. It was then that my sore trial in leave—taking took place in parting from my wife and little ones as well as other good friends. We arrived in New Brighton about one or two o’clock and landed and marched to the railroad station, and arrived just in time, as they rumbled in just as we got to the station wit a very short delay found us on our way to Pittsburgh, and we stopped in Allegheny Station. There was an officer there to escort us to camp. It was here that the smaller matters began to take real shape. We were marshalled from Federal street station across to Liberty street and then along Liberty Street to Camp Wilken, about two miles, arriving at Camp Wilken between three and four O’clock, a very tired and wearied set of boys. Quarters were allotted to us. Camp Wilken was located in the city of Pittsburgh on the east side of Penn street in the old Fair grounds of the City or Allegheny County.
Our quarters were cattle pens that had been fixed up for barracks,and were comparatively comfortable to what we had to put up with afterwards, although the boys thought at the time that it was rough to lie on straw or the soft side of a board. There had been no provision made for camp supplies, such as camp kettles, blankets &c.but as to food it was in abundance, Consequently those of us who had not been provident enough to bring a quilt or blanket were rather the worse off in the chilly nights of June. Our first experience in our new mode of life was extremely novel, but it terminated in reality and the sooner we began to learn the details of our new mode of life, the better it was for us. Our good friends at home were lavish in their bounties, and the boys were not in a state of starvation. We drew our first rations the following morning; this was one of the new details for me. I had to at once to appeal to the Army Regulations and make our requisition for such supplies as we needed. We had become dependent upon the government for all we needed, but some of the boys had been applying themselves with tangle—foot and when their supplies fell off, change or money, they began to feel wants of the inner man. Their appetites appeared to be far beyond their supplies furnished by the Government, and as we had no mass arrangements, the strong ones appeared to have the advantage, but we soon had it arranged that each one had to depend on his own rations, and it was then that the complaints were against the Government for not giving enough but they soon learned to economize.
Then the regular duties of camp life commenced— the revielle, the roll call, breakfast, sick call, guard mounting, drilling, dress parade and tattoo &c. These duties occupied about all the time; this left no time to wander away without leave, orders being very strict. We had a good time enforcing the regular orders; they began to think that their liberties were restrained and called it tyranny, but they gradually came to time.
On the 19th day of June we were examined and mustered into the State service as a company and those that had enlisted and did not pass the examination were retired and permitted to return home. We were only required to muster seventy seven men, being the minimum number required by the state. On June 29th were organized into a regiment, being the 10th Regiment P.R.V.C., and on the first of July we were marched to Camp Wright, about twelve miles up the Allegheny River, known as Hulton Station, on the Allegheny Valley Railroad.
The camp was very pleasantly located on the east side of the river, but good water was very scarce. About the 10th or 12th of July, I was detailed and ordered home to recruit company to the maximum number, being one hundred and one men. On arrival home, the citizens being appraised on my purpose, met me with a squad of fine young men in number sufficient to fill up my company to full 101 men. Consequently I was lucky and as I had a leave of ten days, I was at leisure about my return, but to my surprise I received notice from head—quarters to report immediately, with what recruits I had to camp, as the regiment was about to move. It was short notice. On the following morning the l8th of July, I with the recruits were on our way in wagon to Enon Valley. We made connection and arrived at Pittsburgh just in time to meet the regiment embarking on train for some where, we did not know where.
It was not long until we were on the way and the first stop was at Greensburg, next Johnstown. The view I had of that notorious city was by starlight, and next Altoona and next Huntington, somewhere near morning. When we arrived at this celebrated old town weregreeted by citizens with well filled baskets of provisions, which were thankfully recieved by us, as we had had no opportunity to satisfy the inner man from the time we left West Middlesex early in the morning.
Our direction diverted toward Hopewell on the Broad Top Railroad in direction of Bedford or Cumberland, Md. We halted at Hopewell to await our baggage and train of wagons, provisions and so forth but as there was some delay we had to procure supplies from the citizens. This being the 19th day of July, we took up our march for Cumberland as we supposed but we were halted and bivouaced for the night and on the following morning we had our recruits mustered into state service except two who deserted us during the night of the l8th., consequently our company only numbered 99 for the time, and yet I was the lucky company for I had succeeded better than any of the other companies in the regiment. At this place we were ordered to return to Harrisburgh at once and by the time we got back to Hopewell the train arrived and we got aboard about dark and moved out for Harrisburgh arriving there at sunup Sunday morning 21st July, 1861 (this was the day the first Bull Run battle was fought). We were ordered to Camp Curtin and to prepare to muster in the U. S. service which was accomplished amid confusion of news of the battle of Bull Run and mustering. Mustering, made it one of the memorable days of the war or our services.
Soon after our muster, we were ordered to move to Baltimore. We bivouaced along side the railroad and on the next morning got our train, but from causes we did not get away from Harrisburgh until Monday evening, and we arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday morning, 23rd early. We disembarked at the outer depot; we were scarcely landed from the cars when we were surrounded by the citizens with provisions for us to breakfast on. One gentleman gathered nine of the officers to take to his house for breakfast. Among them, I numbered. I expressed some doubt as to their real friendship, but I was assured by an officer standing by, that it was all right, that they were all good Union men, and wished to express their gratitude for their seeming protection. We went right along and got a good breakfast without money and without price, but they cautioned us of the thugs of the city, and they said “We have got them under cow”, as troops had been passing through the city for some days and the rumor was that there were more coming. We moved through the city about two o’clock P.M. well armed and ready for any trouble that might arise. We were not molested and only a few small rebel flags waived at us out of the windows, and occasionally on the street. We passed through unmolested and camped on the banks of the Patapsco River for the night.
There was a little incident occurred here that perhaps will amuse some one. Thomas Kelly, a member of my Co. was in the habit of taking a little too much when he had to opportunity. He had wandered from us in the City and come afoul of the critter. We had missed him, but in the evening he came marching into camp. (Previous to his arrival, there was issued some wedge tents, and were lying in a pile). He came up and surrounded them, and walked around them and finally aimed his gun at them, and fired right into them, swearing by Jaspers “that he did not allow any beast of that kind to come into camp while he was on duty’. He was ordered under arrest and in the scuffle they found a cat stowed in his haversack. The cat had been a little too closely hampered and left the contents of its stomach in it • They undertook to take it away, but he refused to let them have it, but he said that it was his meat and they should not have it. Afterwards he was known as “Cat Kelly”. He proved afterwards to be one of the best soldiers.
On the morning of the 24th of July we were moved up to the train to embark for Washington; we remained in that place until nearly sundown that evening, when we embarked and pushed out and arrived in Washington at about midnight and occupied the Baltimore depot yard as quarters, and marched to the Capitol grounds and encamped next morning.
Now we are at the seat of war as we had ample evidence as the three months men were marching in on their return home after the Battle of Bull Run, and by the expiration of their service. We found Washington in a great state of confusion that existed since the Battle of Bull Run. But our troubles only commenced; our men were new in the Capitol of the nation and they were anxious to see the sights and they ran wild; toward noon we could scarcely raise a camp guard.
About night they were in a bad plight; our Regimental officers were on to us for not keeping our men intact, but by this time we had better regulations in tow. The Provost Marshall had got a new detail of men and all stragglers or soldiers found in the City on the streets without leave were put in the Guard—house. That brought the boys to time, as they had to do without rations until returned to camp or their commands. A few days of this kind of work brought the matter all right.
After remaining on the Capitol grounds a few days, we were moved back near the Congressional burying grounds and remained there until the 5th of August when we were moved from this to Tannellytown, about seven miles northwest of Washington City. The march proved to be one of the severest marched that we experienced during our whole service, the day being extremely hot—the thermometer stood at ___ degrees in the shade. The officers were anxious to make a display of us through the streets of Washington, as they had been somewhat flattered by the authorities at Washington, on our dicipline and our proficiency in drills and movements. They were overdone, as when we arrived opposite the Treasury Building we had become so exhausted that our men began to fall out of ranks, and we were compelled to halt for a time. On resuming our march, and by the time we got fairly into the city of Georgetown, a large number of our men. became prostrated with sunstroke and about ten per—cent of the men had to be hauled to Tannellytown in ambulances or wagons; a portion of them never recovered.
We halted at our new camp about sun—down, wearied and exhausted. After a day or two or rest, we resumed our regular camp duties, such as drills, parades and so forth.
Washington and surroundings at this time, were comparatively destitute of defensive works of any kind. The authorities perceiving the necessity of fortifying, and fearing that the soldiers would become restive from idleness concocted the idea of building forts and digging rifle—pits. We were detailed to build Forts Pennsylvania and Gains nearby, and which remains in good condition until this day, as well as long lines of riflepits, and between building forts, drills, guard duties and picket, our hands were full. It was here we were organized into brigades, and our divisions were formed. Gen’l George A. McCall, Division Commander, Gen. George 0. Mead, Second Brigade, and E.0.C. Qrd commanded the Third Brigade. The Tenth Regiment was assigned to the Third Brigade.
It was then that our brigade drills commenced. Washington City received its water supply from the Great Falls of the Potomac River, hence it was necessary to guard and protect the waterworks about eighteen miles up the Potomac; they had been menaced, hence it devolved upon us, as we were the most convenient to them, and it came our time on the roster to release the 9th Regiment that was on duty at the Great Falls. We marched there in a very heavy rain storm and got completely soaked. On our arrival we encamped in a ravine near to the works and remained and guarded in and around the works for a week or ten days. This gave us a little experience as the enemy tried to annoy us, and to feel us as to our dilligence in care of the water works, as they aimed to destroy them.
In returning to camp our regular routine of duties were to perform, and an occasional alarm in order to arouse us from our dreary lethergy. On the tenth of September, we were called out on parade, and Governor Curtin presented a stand of colors to each regiment, in accordance with a resolution passed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania. This was the memorial parade of President and all of his cabinet, as well as the Generals and dignitaries of the U. S. and the world, and reviewed us in our beauty. The soldiers were wearied, but proud of their flags, and the flattery they recieved from the dignitaries. Our services continued here until all the forts and rifle pits were finished.
On the 9th of October I had procurred a pass to visit Col. Leasure camp, about two miles distant, and when I arrived at the camp, on Kalorama Heights, I was surprised to see them striking tents to leave for parts unknown. After taking leave of my friends of that regiment, I returned to my own camp at Tannellytown, but to my surprise on my arrival my own Regiment and Brigade had struck tents and were about to move, to where I did not know, but duty dictated to fall in and move off toward the west, indication the crossing of the Potomac at the Chain Bridge and without questioning I awaited further developments. As we approached the Chain Bridge on the Potomac, I could see our advance troops emerging on the other side, invading the sacred soil of Va.
We marched until we arrived at Laughry about dark and halted for a few minutes and were then marched and counter-marched until about nine o’clock in the night, dark as pitch. We halted in a large meadow or clover field end were ordered to lie on our arms till morning You can imagine our anxieties better than we can tell. We surmised everything, and expected to be aroused every minute. You can guess that we were a sleepless crowd, but very confident of our prowess. The movements were in order to drive back the enemies’ pickets, of which it had the desired effect. We occupied their grounds. Next morning we were moved to the camp ground that our Col. had selected for us,and named it Camp Piermont in honor of the loyal Governor of western Virginia, which grounds we occupied until the 10th day of March, 1862. Our regimental train did not arrive until late in the day, leaving us a little short of the comforts of life, but they came, and our ground being selected and laid out with great care near a good spring of water, and right alongside of the Leesburg pike, make it very pleasant. During this fall and winter that we occupied this camp, we bad a variety of exercises, such as constant drills and inspections, musters and marches and forage expeditions, as well as an officer’s school.
The brigade that this division was composed of, took their regular places into going into the country surrounding us, to forage, and sometimes they would have lively times with the Confederates as they were well posted on our movements by their citizens.
On the l8th of October, we were moved towards Dranesville, for the purpose of supporting General Baker in attacking Leesburgh and remained our until the afternoon of Oct. 19th and were ordered to return just in time to camp to receive the news of General Baker’s repulse at Leesburg. By some mistake General McClelland had ordered us to return to camp at the very moment that we could have turned the tide of battle. The First and Second Brigades had their turn on the roster with good success as far as forage was concerned, but had not come in contact with any formidable forces of the Confederates. It came our turn on the roster and on the evening of December the 19th we were ordered to have two days cook rations, our haversacks and sixty rounds of cartridges, an unusual load of ammunition, and to be ready to move at four o’clock A.M. December 20th. The boys thought they smelled a rat, and there were some reported sick, but nearly all the Dr. was called to examine. A few were excused but almost all were promptly on time.
The call came “fall in” and we were soon in line and on the march. There was nothing of interest occurred until we crossed Difficult Creek about four miles from camp when we were halted. As our wagon train was to diverge to the right of the Leesburg Pike, it was necessary to provide them with sufficient guards. Co. G, Capt. Warrens company and the Second Platoon of my company, Co. B, were detailed to guard the train, Lieut. Pattee in command of the Platoon. Skirmishers were thrown out on each side of the column, which indicated danger, and to guard against ambush. We did not go far until the enemy’s scouts were seen, and we moved along the Leesburg Pike with caution, and steadily, until we got within three or four miles of Drainsvflle when a messenger came on the fly to urge us up fast as possible. The Col. drew in his skirmishers, and started on the double quick, but the day being a little warm for the season, they could not stand the double quick very long at a time. However we got along in time, and when we arrived at Drainsville the Artillery, First Rifles, and the 6th. and 9th Regiments were drawn up in line of battle, facing north towards Leesburg. We were halted in the streets of Drainsville for a short time, the Col. advancing to report to Gen. Ord, and to receive orders.
During this interval we noticed the First Rifles obliquing off to their left and rear, but we had not long to wait for developments. As soon as they entered a strip of woods about sixty rods from where we were in the streets of Drainsville, they commenced firing, which was the signal of the discovery of the enemy. Now the ball was opened. Such a pell—mell. The regiments were in the line of battle, the Artillery, the Cavalry and everything that pertained to the army was in motion. Gen Ord on the fly, our Col. McCalmont keeping on the sidewalk until all was past. Just at the rear, and close to where my company was, Easton’s Second Section passed us on the gallop, and as they were turning into the pike, they capsized their gun. My company being the nearest to it, •we righted it at once, under heavy fire of the enemy, and then moved on to take our positions in line.
The way was cleared for us, and Col. McCalmont moved us in the rear from right to left of the whole line. By the time we were in motion the whole thing was in full blast. We had to pass under fire the whole way. We were placed in position on the extreme left before we were brought into action. We were exposed to a hot fire of canister and grape shot; we were located in considerable of a thicket. After the Col. had viewed the situation, he returned and ordered me to take my first platoon and the Pioneers to annoy the battery of the enemy that was playing on us, and cautioned me to be exceedingly careful as I would have to assume the whole responsibility. After recieving orders and preliminaries (such as loading and short inspection of ammunition and so forth) we moved off. We had to pass through a dense thicket for about twenty rods to our left for our supposed object, being guided by the sound and roar of battle. We emerged from the thicket into an opening. We halted for a short period of time to view the situation; while in this situation, we observed a regiment of the enemy filing out of a thicket right opposite us, trying to accomplish the same purpose that we were on the opposite side, and at the same time
Observing a washout not far in advance of us, but in our mind being sufficient for us, we determined to occupy it and in the shortest time we advanced and occupied it, the Rebs still advancing toward us, and had got in short range of us. Suddenly we opened fire on them and surprised them considerably. They became confused and evidently had suffered from the effects of the volley as the boys aimed low. The enemy fell back in the thicket and carried their wounded and dead with them. The boys feeling encouraged by the effects of their volley, renewed their energy and kept it with the same deadly effect. They rallied several times but we repulsed them every time and held our position although they outnumbered us ten to one. Finally a charge was ordered, and our company charged too, although we could not hear the orders; but it was sufficient to see the line move to warrant us to move too.
The Rebs took to their heels after summing up the story. There were more dead and wounded on the grounds that we fought on in proportion than any portion of the whole battlefield. So say those that know, although in the reports of the battle we got no credit or mention at all; in Gen. McCall’s reports he gives the credit of the part we performed to Col. Taggart’s Reg’t who were entirely in the rear and never fired a gun. during the battle. Also Gen. McCall takes great credit for himself and staff for simply riding from Washington and camp after firing had begun. The fact is, he did not arrive until the battle was won. His Capt. Sheets and his other brigades in the rear get all the praise and honorable mention.
There were several little incidents occurred during the battle that were somewhat laughable but at the time there was not much laughing in it. While we were passing along in the rear of the line of battle, Dr. McKinney, Assistant Surgeon of the Reg’t was riding at the head of the column. Suddenly a shell burst close by, and the Dr. being a very small man, he threw out both legs and arms. The Col. called out to him “Don’t fly off Dr., you are to small, it can’t hit you.” And while we were engaged in the ditch fighting, one of my men in the haste in loading, ran his ramrod through his hand. He did not observe for a short time, but when he wanted to load again he held out his hand saying “0 Captain, look here.” I at once relieved him of his trouble and we went at it again.
After the smoke of the battle blew off, and we got everything arranged, we started back to camp, thirteen miles, and arrived, at camp about midnight. We marched thirteen miles and fought a battle and marched back again, tired and wearied. I also want to say right here, concerning Col. John S. McCalmont, that he has been clipped of his laurels as he unquestionably deserved the credit of the turn of battle for victory, as he, after his observations, after taking position in line of battle, took in the whole situation, and took the responsibility to prevent the flanking of our army by the enemy, which he prevented by his First Platoon of Co. B. Cap’t McConnell’s Co. and the Pioneers of his Regiment, with less than forty men, just in time, yet he scarcely received honorable mention, which is bestowed on the 12th Reg’t which did not fire a gun in the battle.
After the excitement worked off we felt somewhat sore; we scarcely comprehend the importance of the work we had accomplished until we were appraised of it in the papers on the next evening. The battle was announced with flamers in the dailies and we began to realize that we had done something for our Country, and that it was the first victory of the Army of the Potomac. Gov. A. G. Curtin visited us in camp on the Sunday afternoon following and our Generals, and announced a review on our Brigade parade grounds and made a speech and flattered and petted us and praised us and called us good boys and also told us when any of us would fall that there were hundreds of noble, brave fellows that were ready to take our shoes. Cold comfort indeed. After this everything got quiet. I became anxious to go home to see my family as it had been over six months since seeing them. I asked for leave of absence for that purpose which was promptly granted and I spent the holidays at home with my dear family, and visited all my friends. At the expiration of my leave, I returned to camp again and separation with my wife and little ones, was equally as trying as at first.
When arriving at camp I found the soldiers somewhat improved in their condition as they had concluded to fix up their quarters and stay all winter, and nearly all were clamorous for furloughs home, but there had been an order issued from headquarters that not more than four at one time from each company could be granted. Consequently the boys thought their time as slow coming but on the aggregate the number was large amounting to forty in each regiment; in our division alone the number amounting to 600 men, and to apply this rule in our whole army the aggregate would make a larger army of men than Gen. Washington had in his Continental Army. This order accounts for the fifty thousand that were absent from General McClelland’s army by authority when he clamored so much for reenforcements in front of Richmond.
There was nothing transpired during the balance of these winter days in camp but the ordinary duties of camp life. Sometimes the officers and men were a little short of wood or fuel,-—Sometime in February, if I remember right, on Sunday morning just before inspection, the cook just having put on the camp kettle filled with beans and water to the brim, and on a good fire and at full boil, and a number of soldiers were huddling around the fire, the morning being cold and chilly, J. H. Walker having a six pound conical shell in his tent that he had been using for a candle stick, concluded to warm it up and put it to his feet to keep him warm while asleep as he had just come off guard duty, but to their astonishment the shell heated and swelled out at a fearful rate taking the bean kettle and upsetting it, the boys and wood pile and making a scatterment of all including the beans, kettle and all around. The whole camp alarmed, soon collected at the central point of disturbance. Several of the boys were seriously hurt, some burned with hot ashes and water,. and beans; among the seriously hurt were Sergeant John W. Porter being struck with something on the foot and ankle; John McGown being knocked over the wood pile and knocked senseless and scared badly.
As a general thing the officers of the line knew but very little of the plans and designed movements of the army until orders were issued; we could to a certain degree tell when something unusual was going to happen by the flurry of orderlies. On the evening of the 9th of March, l862, we received orders to prepare four days rations cooked and in haversacks with sixty rounds of cartridges and dispense with all surplus baggage only allowing sixty pounds to each officer, which made a good deal of excitement in camp with officers as well as the men, had accumulated considerable stuff what were not covered by regulations. However, our Quartermaster being very indulgent and accommodating, took care of all our extras so far as supplies in stuff of clothing and arms were concerned and applied them to our credit, but any other extras, we were the losers. By being industrious we were ready at the call and in line we started, not knowing where.
On the 10th day of March, 1862, satisfied that the movement was general, our direction was the same as other times on our foraging expeditions until we passed Difficult Creek, about four miles, and toward Hunter’s Mills, and when arriving there we were halted and bivouacked. Having no tents the boys provided themselves with booths made from small brush and bushes, pine tops etc. it was here the first shelter tents (dog tents) as the boys named them, were used. They had their own fun with them almost to insubordination. After setting them up they would crawl into them and get on their hands and knees and look out and bark like dogs and all such things, but before morning they began to realize the value as it rained that night quite heavy and their tents protected them from getting wet.
As we received orders to move next morning, the 13th of March, and as the tent could be separated so as to answer as pouches for each one of the mess, it was well on in the day when we moved out of camp back in the direction of our old camp until we came to the Alexandra and Leesburg Pike. We inclined to Alexandria, night coming on us before we arrived at Difficult Creek and when reaching —— Mills, we bivouacked for the night and discovered that the bridge had been destroyed which left us two alternatives—one was to rebuild or to march around about eight miles. We selected the last and moved out early on the morning of the l4th. And then we diverted to the right in order to strike the Alexandria Pike. About this time we were confronted with a furious rain and wind storm which continued with great fury and our slow progress with warn train, artillery and infantry.. We halted and bivouacked at dark at a place near Falls Church, being so drenched with rain that there was not a dry thread on us. Fortunately near by the camp of our regiment were numerous piles of staves piled up and were in good condition for making fires. We had no scruples and we used them to a good advantage for fires, shelter, &c.
This was the first place we ascertained our destination. Our first movement to Hunter’s Mills was to watch the enemy abandoning all their positions north of the Rappahannock River and then we were ordered from that position to report to General McDowell at Alexandria, and on the morning of the fifteenth of March had faired off and we moved on to Alexandria to report to General McDowell in order to embark on transports for Fortress Monroe. When we arrived within about four miles of Alexandria near Fairfax Seminary we encamped at this place. The Division remained until the morning of the tenth of April. After arriving here the weather was very pleasant until the evening of t he sixth of April when there was a heavy snowstorm lasting until the ninth. When we arrived at Camp Seminary the President had issued an order requiring Gen. McDowell to remain in the defense of Washington; the result was, we remained in this place about four weeks, being placed in the division of the Rappahannock.
On the evening of April 9th, we received orders from headquarters to have two days cooked rations in our haversacks and sixty rounds of cartridges and to be ready to move at daylight. This order was not so comfortable to all, as the snow had fallen to the depth of a foot or 15 inches and was quite frosty and cold; however it was not until the spirits of the majority of the soldiers were aroused as there had been a ration of whiskey distributed to them for the occasional the result was, we had a hideous night, but in the morning everything was ready, and at the call all were in line and the snow to our knees. About sun—up we bid adieu to our frosty camp, the men being well clad and full haversacks. It being cold we moved off very briskly and the blood soon began to warm. The boys stood it very well until about nine or ten o’clock, the sun having come out bright and warm the boys began to lighten their loads by casting off blankets and some of their haversacks. About noon the snow had become a deep slush and the small streams were becoming rivers and roads soft and muddy and when we would halt to rest we had no dry place but fences and logs that we could sit or lean against and it wearied us very much; also the direction and destinations was a worry to us but when we struck the Culpepper Pike we divined the matter. About two o’clock we passed through the town of Fairfax or Fairfax Courthouse as it is termed with Virginians, and between three and four o’clock on arriving near Centerville, encamped for the night.
By this time the snow has been all melted off; where we halted it had all been in meadow and it was partially sodded but all the rails had disappeared which was evidence to us that other soldiers were ahead of us; the boys being very tired it was not long until they were ensconced in their quarters, taking their rest. On next morning we were early on the march and it was not long before we came in full view of the famous Centerville and its works: – wooden guns which presented to us a formidable appearance- and we came to inspect them and their soldier’s quarters &c. We felt a little chagrinned to think that our Government had not provided us with equally as good. They built thousands of nice little log cabins, well roofed , daubed and comfortably warm while we put up with our wedge tents and shivered and suffered with cold all winter. After halting an hour or two we moved on from Centerville toward Manassas and arriving at Bull Run we halted for dinner on the grounds that Col. Burnsides was engaged on at the first battle of Bull Run.
After a halt of two hours we moved on toward Manassas and arrived at Manassas Junction about four o’clock and encamped in the borders of the place, on the grounds the Rebs had occupied for over a year; this was Saturday, the eleventh of April, 1862. As we passed through a portion of the Battle Grounds this day, it had aroused the curiosity of the soldiers and on the next morning the camp was almost deserted for the battle grounds and about noon there was a squad including myself got a permit to visit the grounds, but as we had no guide we had very little satisfaction; we could tell that we were on the grounds, but we had no one to explain or show us the ground where the principal actors were; this was on the twelfth of April. On the morning of the 13th we moved about two miles east of Manassas and occupied a camp of those shanties that a North Carolina Regiment had built , and the only thing that was pleasant about them was a large spring right in the center of the camp. This was the first time that we became polluted
with the gray back pests. Our pay—master visited us here. As usual the boys could find something to comfort them, but we did not stay long as we were ordered to report at Cottet Station near Warrenton Junction. Here we stopped for two or three weeks, the weather being very wet and the ground swampy.
A great many suffered with jaundice, myself being a victim of it.
After a rest of two weeks, about the first of May we moved out for Fredericksburg and on the morning of the third we arrived at the venerable town of Falmouth at Rappahannock Falls, three miles above Fredericksburg. We halted here until our quartermaster located a camping ground about two miles north of Falmouth. It was generally understood by the officers and men that the first army corps was simply to remain in this locality for defensive purposes and orders were issued to the different Regiments to arrange their camps and ornament as we saw proper. The result was, that there was considerable rivalry sprang up among them, they carried it to excess but to our chagrin when we had accomplished our work to a high degree we had to abandon them. While in this camp James McCloskey a member of my company, was prostrated with the typhoid fever and died, the first death of our company. The 14th or 15th day of May he was buried with military honors and the remains escorted by the company to Falmouth Cemetery and there laid in his grave.
About this time John S. McCalmonth resigned on account of ill health and took leave and returned home leaving us to lament his decision and on or about the 24 of May the Regiment held an election and elected Captain James T. Kirk of Co. D as Col. and Adorium J. Warner as Lieut. Col. About this time Gen E.O.C. Ord was promoted to Major Gen and given a command of a division, causing a vacancy in the command of the Third Brigade, General Truman Seymour taking command of the Third Brigade.
About this time, General Shields reported to Gen’l McDowell from Shenandoah with his division for the purpose of an advance on Richmond, but during the time he arrived on Saturday to Sunday evening, the President ordered Gen’l McDowell and all his available troops to the Shenandoah, including Gen Shields, to intercept Stonewall Jackson’s raid down the Shenandoah, leaving McCall’s division to hold Fredricksburg until his return. This movement caused a change in locality of our whole division, Gen McCall occupying McDowell’s headquarters in Phillips House, in front of Fredricksburg. The result was, we had to leave our nice quarters back of Falmouth and come close to headquarters which gave us a grand view of the City and all its surroundings.
Our boys commenced the same tactics, and soon had a very pleasant camp, but for the typhoid fever; a great many were prostrated with it. Henry Harbaugh of my company was taken to Washington and died there, a great loss to the company as he was a good an& dutiful soldier.
During these days there was a divisional court—martial appointed, of which your humble servant was a member. General Mead, President, and Col. Taggart Judge Advocate. We occupied the Town Hall in the City of Fredricksburg for two days, but General Reynolds, then Gov. of the City, requested for our safety to retire across the river to the north side, as Fredricksburg was not safe or tenable as confederates were menacing him. We retired to the Lacey House, and occupied it until Gen’l McDcwell’s return. During the time the court was sitting, there was a heavy rain storm occured and floated all the trestle work on the bridges right in front of the Lacey House destroying all the work and labor our soldiers were engaged in during all the time we had occupied the place. On June the eighth McColl’s division was ordered with cooked rations to move to the Peninsula. A fleet of transports had been ordered up the Rappahannock to convey the troops to the White House. Late in the afternoon our tents were struck and knapsacks packed and the whole division was marched down the river about six miles. Early next morning the troops commenced embarking. The first and second brigades moved out in line down the river with music and cheers. The third Brigade was delayed t~ days and embarked Wednesday evening and in the morning of Thursday they lifted anchor and the bands belched forth their music which attracted the negroes to the banks of the river and commenced their dancing or girations or jumps and leaps or some way they had to manifest their joy. At the signal all moved or steamed down the Rappahannock. Thursday evening our transports anchored in the mouth of the Rappahannock River where it empties into the Chesepeake Bay. The weather being delightfully warm and pleas ant, the boys thought to improve their —?– of having a bath. They stripped off and jumped in, and what excited their curiosity was something rare to us, to see when the water was disturbed or put in motion, it presented a sheet of fire, a great novelty to the greatest number of us.
At early dawn the transports steamed out and at nine o’clock a.m. we entered the York River and steamed up and passed Yorktown, Glouster Point. About nine or ten o’clock a.m. we had a full view of the old fort of Yorktown that had been celebrated for its surrenders and arrived at West Point the junction of the Pomonkey and Mattaponi Rivers, and sailed up the Pamonkey until we arrived at White House and debarked in a heavy rain about dark, on the 15 of June. We encamped for the night, and on the next morning moved up the Richmond & York River Railroad and arrived at Turnstall Station about noon and halted and ate dinner. It was there Gen. Stewart of the Confederated made himself conspicuous in burning the station and a train load of supplies belonging to the U.S. just previous to our arrival, the station just smoldering, but the cars and contents were all ablaze, but they had done their work partially, and had fled and some of our troops in pursuit. We rested at this point about an hour, and moved on the R.R. track until we arrived at Dispatch Station and encamped with a few rods of it for the night. It was here we joined McClelland’s Army. On this evening we were not allowed to make fires to cook our rations nor to make music or any demonstrations whatever of our presence.
We also were ordered to prepare to pass in review next morning, and at early morning we had all preparations made and appeared on the field for review but Gen. McClelland did not appear, and also at noon. the same way, consequently turned out twice in one day but no General, and about the time we retired from the field an orderly came flying with orders for us to move up the Chickahonimy. This was the 17th day of June, 1862. On the 18th. we were up early without the tap of the drum and without murmur. On the evening we arrived at New Bridge and encamped in sight of the enemies’ pickets and on ground vacated by Gen. Franklin’s Division. We were in close quarters as the rebels had a battery in front of us, and kept firing constantly and kept us in nettles; their object was to drive the workmen from the bridge, a number being killed. We lost one of our guns at this place. The firing ceased about mid-night and then we slept sound until we were waked up by the enemy playing the same game.
On the 19th of June we were ordered to move up and take our position by throwing up rifle-pits and epaulments. It was our duty to take our turn in front in picket line consequently we released Col. Simmons at Mechanicsville in full view of the Confederates, and picket lines so close they could converse. We returned to camp on the morning of the 24th of June and was released from duty on the 25th. as was the custom.
On the morning of the 26th we were hustled out and ordered to have rations prepared for a march as was supposed, and we were required to have descriptive lists made out for the sick in the hospital in order that they might be sent away and everything was hustle;— also clothing to distribute and a thousand things to do. About noon we began to realize what was the matter. We had got the sick train on the move when we heard an occasional shot from the enemies guns in the distance on our front to the north—west, which appraised us that our outposts had been attacked and then, it was we began to make arrangements for a desperate struggle. Now it is here I fail to give a description of our situation and feelings. We were soldiers loyal to the core, but we had dear ones at home and were conscious that in a few moments that we would be facing death, and perhaps the last time we would enjoy the fellowship of our dear ones at home. We formed ranks in silence and promptly every soldier was in his place in line and we watched our outposts deliberately retiring and the enemy moving down on us in mass-a terrible sight, and as soon as proper we took our position in the rifle pits of Co. A & B. and. awaited the safe retirement of our pickets, and the approach of the enemy. As soon as they came in range our batteries opened on them, having fearful effects on them. They pressed forward regardless of consequences and when they came in short range of us we opened fire on them and then the musketry all along the line commenced. This was between two and three o’clock and as soon as the enemy arranged their batteries the matter became interesting and very hot. The noise, smoke, dust, limbs of trees, gravel, dirt and almost every imaginable mistle was afloat in the air and it was a miracle that any escaped death.
About four o’clock I received a horrible stroke with something supposed to be a piece of shell which knocked me senseless and disabled me from service during the balance of the campaign. The engagement being so hot it was impossible to move me from the rifle pits, consequently I had to remain until about nine o’clock in the night before I could be moved out. I had lain, after receiving my wound, for sometime before any one came to my assistance, they supposing me to be killed outright but someone seeing some signs of life, came to me remarking that “he is living yet”, and when I became conscious I was lying across Lieut. Knees’ lap, and he was wiping the blood from my face and eyes and wetting my mouth and soothing my wounds with water from his canteen. They fixed me a temporary bed and made me as comfortable in the rifle pits. I remained there until the infantry firing ceased which was about nine o’clock at night and the ambulance corps of the regiment came with a stretcher and carried me back to the Regimental Hospital, and there the Regimental Surgeons made an examination of me. They lighted a tallow candle but it was a very short period of time until a shell exploded right over us, attracted by the light of the candle and repeated the same until the light was put out. Then they threw me into a two wheeled ambulance and hauled me off in the rear to the Gaines House where they had established a hospital for the time, our surgeon arriving with the ambulance; then they gave me a thorough examination and gave me something to soothe me and make me stupid but it did not effect me much. I suffered extremely but the new arrivals of wounded were continuous and it was very distressing to hear their pitiful mourning and moans from their wounds.
About three o’clock there was an order to remove all the wounded to Savage’s Station across the Chickahonimy River; immediately one of our Dr’s came to me and asked me if I were able to go. My answer was “Yes” and I made the attempt but that was all I recollected until I was on the way some distance when Beaty Maxwell came to me and asked me how I felt and my reply was “all right” and I asked him what was wrong. He said nothing — I was all wet and chilly and cold.
At this time they were firing the national salute from the great Floridas. The ship lay here a short time and proceeded up the Chesapeake Bay and then we were bound for Washington. We landed at the Washington Wharf at noon on the 5th of July. There were thousands of anxious people expecting to meet their disabled friends or comrades on the wharf, and as soon as the boat was landed it was besieged by friends searching for the wounded. A great many were disappointed but still bestowed their good offices on those who had no friends to look after them. We were conducted to our quarters with great care and kindness. We were distributed among the different hospitals. I was alloted to Judiciary Square Hospital and was attended on the regular system. I was very much exhausted when and after arriving, for a few days, until rush and excitement wore off, by my anxiety for home increased and I made application to the War Department for leave of absence which was promptly granted, and returning to the hospital I met my brother—in—law, Robert McComb in search of me, which was good medicine for me, — it aroused me and inspired me. I felt it a great Godsend as I had my authority in my person. I scarcely felt able to undertake my journey home, but here was a friend who could assist me. It was not long until we were ready to start and we took the first train by way of Philadelphia. We arrived there about eight o’clock P.M. wearied and exhausted but I was cared for in a princely manner. We lodged at the Continental and remained until next evening train for home arriving about noon.
Oh but I felt rejoiced to meet my wife and dear children. This was about two weeks after receiving the wound and being continually shoved and tossed from place to place, and worried continually with burning anxiety for “Home Sweet Home”. When arriving home I was cared for in the most kind and affectionate manner and all done for me that could be done. It was long until I began to improve and get better. Our great failure to capture Richmond and the great, disasters and losses of life and treasure, called forth greater energies and efforts from our government to repair the losses of this campaign. The President issued the call for 300,000 more troops. It was during this vacation of mine that the people of the nation were hustling themselves for another disaster which occurred shortly after (The Second Bull Run) which could have been made a success as well, but for the jealousy of our officers of which Geo. B. McClelland played a conspicuous part. In the months of July and August the citizens of Lawrence County busily engaged recruiting a Regiment for the service in which I took some interest, as my aspirations had a little the better of me, as I had some encouragement, and which induced me to return to my command when my leave expired. when arriving at Harrisburg, Gov. Curtain issued orders that there would be no commissions granted any soldiers out of old commands, and also for all officers and soldiers to report immediately at expiration of leave of absence or they would be reported as deserters.
This dampened my hopes; the result was, I took the first train for Baltimore, on my way to Harrison’s Landing and arrived at Harrison’s Landing just as they were embarking for the north, or to Aquia Creek Landing, on the Potomac, and arrived at Aquia Creek on the 14th of August and disembarked for Fredericksburg, Here we took a new start on a new campaign. For instance, the Second Bull Run. We arrived opposite Fredricksburg about 6 o’clock P.M., replenished our haversacks and moved up the Rappahannock expecting to march all night, but the night getting so dark we had to halt and lie up until morning. We were moved out before day light and marched continuously until we arrived in the vicinity of Rappahannock Station and halted for a short time to rest and eat some, right under the shell of the enemy. We were put in motion and did not stop until we reached the vicinity of Warrenton and then lay all next day and night watching Gen. Lee’s forces moving up on the opposite side of the Rappahannock, and also to shelter Gen. Burnsides forces until he retired from Sulphur Springs, and as soon as Burnsides come in, we moved down from Warrenton Pike until we crossed the Mannassas & Front Royal R. R. and then we were halted suddenly as we came in contact with the Rebs in ambush and they fired into us and made their escape.
We remained here for several hours and then turned the head of our column for Manassas Junction and from thence to Bull Run and bivouacked for the night and were ordered to sleep on our arms, as there was a continuous fusillade kept up until midnight. After we had all got soundly asleep there was a sudden stampede took place among the horses and the alarm was raised. It was so sudden and the horses were frantically tearing around among us so we flew to arms supposing the cavalry had charged on us. What might have been a very serious matter with us, soon subsided but we were scared pretty badly. The cause was that one of the Drs. horses had gotten into a yellow jacket’s nest and had got to plunging around and had started the others. The General had told us there was danger of the rebel cavalry, consequently that was the first things that occurred to us. Fortunately no one was hurt but a great many badly scared. Next morning opened up a memorable day. We scarcely had our breakfast until we were ordered to take our position in line; about ten o’clock we were moved off to our left to feel a strip of woods for the enemy. When we arrived it did not take long to feel the effects of the occupants of the woods as it was literally full of rebels and they as freely announced their presence. The result was, we gave them a volley and retired to cover in some woods not far in our rear and lay there until the general engagement came on and our whole army was repulsed, (you know the history of it). The next best thing to do was to get back; we retired to Centerville in the night and it was so dark it was impossible to keep company with your nearest companion. There was a squad of my company kept intact and we arrived in Centerville about mid-night. After procuring some water to drink we concluded to look up some where to shelter from the rain – it was pouring down.
It was not long until we got into one of the old rebel shanties and we ensconed ourselves in that until morning. Morning came, we could find none of our regiment but ourselves. We concluded to establish quarters for a nucleus for the Reg’t. It was not long until they began to collect; finally one officer after another came along until almost all had arrived. Finally the Brigade quartered at the same place and they called it Camp Distress, as it expressed our feelings. This was August 30th and we fiddled and dallied until evening when our brigade was ordered on picket back near the Stone Bridge. We could hear the rebels converse and they and us would keep up a continuous firing all night.
Next morning we were withdrawn back through Centerville, we were halted here not far from Centerville and mustered, and while mustering cannonading and musketry commenced in our front and were at once put into motion in the direction of the disturbance and when we came near a rain storm came on us with great fury and we were halted until the rain would cease but it continued until after dark. The battle ceased but it did not relieve us of our situation; we were compelled to remain right here; so we did until morning. The clouds had cleared away but the enemy still menaced us and we expected every moment until noon to engage them; then they left, and then we marched for Washington (This was the battle of Chantilly which occurred about mid—way between Fairfax Court House and Centerville). We arrived on Arlington Heights about sun down, a very tired and jaded and dirty batch of soldiers. We quartered in a Meeting House. Next day the surgeons were busily engaged in examining the sick and sending them off to Washington, preparatory to moving on; the next day I fell among one of the condemned, and was ordered to Washington.
Thomas McConnell’s “Memoirs” —“My Own Recollections” — ended here. And I have never heard of any further accounts of his service with the U.S. army. I have often wished I could have found further writings of his but never have heard of any. Captain McConnell’s account of life in Company ‘B’ of the 10th Pa Reserves is a fascinating and revealing history to those of us who strive to portray their memory. But all of us in the WPCWRS have even more in common with Captain McConnell than we might know, and here is the rest of the story.
Thomas McConnell after the Civil War owned and operated a “Grist Mill” located on the Slippery Rock Creek in Butler Co, Pennsylvania near Portersville. He and his son James operated this mill for many years. This “McConnell’s Mills” became a famous scenic resort and was donated to the state of Pennsylvania for a State Park.