The companies composing the Twelfth Regiment, raised primarily for the three months’ service, but not accepted, rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, and were organized by the choice of the following field officers:
- John H. Taggart, of Philadelphia, Colonel
- Samuel N. Bailey, of York, Lieutenant Colonel
- Peter Baldy, of Northampton county, Major
The men were mustered into the State service for three years from the date of their enlistment, as part of the Reserve Corps. They had had no previous military experience, except the McClure Rifles, of Franklin county, which had been attached to the volunteer militia. Before the regiment was organized, valuable instruction was given by Captain Tarbutton, military instructor at Camp Curtin, appointed by the Governor.
The regiments of the Reserve Corps were ordered to the front immediately after the battle of Bull Run, on the 21st of July, except the Twelfth, which was retained at Camp Curtin until August 10, 1861, on which day it was mustered into the United States service, and marched to Baltimore with orders to join General Banks at Harper’s Ferry.
Previous to leaving camp, it was ordered to Harrisburg, by Governor Curtin, to protect the State Arsenal from a threatened attack by the three months’ troops, disbanded there during the latter part of July. This delicate duty was performed in such a manner as to receive the approval of the Governor, and without precipitating a conflict.
The regiment arrived at Baltimore on the 11th of August, when the order to march to Harper’s Ferry was countermanded, and Colonel Taggart was directed to report to General McCall, at Tenallytown, near Washington. On the 20th of August it was attached to the Third Brigade1 of the Reserves.
Reviews, parades, drills and picket duty, practiced at this camp under the supervision of General McCall, were of great value, and inspired the men with professional pride. The news of occasional skirmishing between the enemy and our forces stationed across the Potomac, which from time to, time reached the camps of the Reserves, made the men impatient to join their comrades, and have a hand in the exciting game; and when, on the 10th of October, they took up the line of march for Virginia, their enthusiasm was unbounded, and they signalized their “invasion of the sacred soil” by repeated and prolonged cheers.
This ardor was somewhat abated upon their arrival at their camp at Langley, as it was late at night, and they were obliged to lie out without shelter in cold and disagreeable weather. Here they went into winter quarters, occupying the right of the line, and from time to time made reconnoissances towards Dranesville. They were only a short distance from that place on the night preceding the unfortunate engagement at Ball’s Bluff, receiving orders on the morning of that day to return to camp. Could the forces on the Virginia shore have cooperated with those who crossed, the result would doubtless have been fortunate for our arms.
Brigadier General E. C. Ord was assigned to the command of the Third Brigade soon after arriving in camp at Langley, when Colonel McCalmont resumed the command of his regiment, the Tenth. Several of the commissioned officers of the Twelfth resigned, or were mustered out by general order, and their places were filled by promotions.
On the 20th of December, the regiment joined in the expedition to Dranesville, which resulted in a severe skirmish and a decided victory. Marching out from camp at six o’clock in the morning, it took position on the left of the brigade and proceeded to a point about a mile west of Difficult Creek, where scouting parties reported a considerable force of the enemy posted to the left of the road. The regiment was immediately brought into line, but as the enemy seemed indisposed to attack, the march was resumed.
On approaching the village our flanking parties were driven in, and the regiment was again formed in line to receive the attack on the turnpike, the right resting on a hill, and the left opposite a brick house on the left of the pike, and behind which the enemy appeared to be in force. Before it was fairly in position the enemy opened with a heavy fire of shot and shell which fell thick and fast about the left of the regiment. Easton’s Battery soon opened and partially silenced his guns, but the infantry could only hold their position, the enemy’s infantry being still concealed from view. The steadiness with which the men held their position under a hot fire, without the possibility of returning it, is the best evidence that can be adduced of their good discipline and soldierly qualities. Soon the word was gien to advance into the woods in front, and if possible capture the enemy’s battery. Before reaching it the pieces had been withdrawn, but the ground was strewn with his dead and wounded, piles of cannon balls, shells and munitions of war, and a gun carriage which the pioneers destroyed. The enemy fled precipitately, leaving the field in possession of the victors. The loss fortunately was only one wounded.
On March 10, 1862, the regiment broke camp at Langley and marched to Hunter’s Mills. The whole army was in motion, moving upon the rebels at Manassas. It was soon ascertained, however, that they had evacuated their strong hold, and had retreated towards Gordonsville. A halt was accordingly ordered, and remaining until the 14th, the regiment returned to Republican Mills, on the Alexandria turnpike. The bridge over Difficult Creek having been burned by the enemy General McCall ordered the column to march over to the Georgetown and Leesburg pike, and thence back to the main road. A terrific storm prevailed, by which the movementwas greatly delayed.
On the 16th, thousands of Union troops were met returning from Manassas, when a halt was ordered and the command bivouacked, exposed to intense cold, rain and snow storms, without shelter, and only six miles from Camp Pierpont, where were tents, stoves and other’ conveniences for comfort.
Soon after leaving winter quarters Lieutenant Colonel Bailey was discharged, and the vacancy was filled by the election of Martin D. Hardin. While encamped at Alexandria the Reserves were attached to the command of General McDowell.
On the 19th of April, the Twelfth Regiment was detached from the division, and ordered to relieve the Second Wisconsin in guarding the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Headquarters were established at Catlett’s Station, and detachments were advantageously posted for defence a distance of eight miles along the road.
In the meantime the division had moved to Falmouth, and on the 6th of May the Twelfth was ordered to join it. On the way a few men lingering in the rear were fired on by guerrillas, who wounded one and captured four. Upon receipt of intelligence of the attack, Companies C and H were ordered back to the scene of conflict. The farm house and out-buildings where the guerrillas made their headquarters, were burned, but the guilty parties had made their escape. The men captured, after having been sent to Richmond, were exchanged, and soon after returned to the regiment. Company I, which had been stationed at Manassas Junction, marched with the Fifth and reached Falmouth on the 11th. On the 17th, General Ord, who had been promoted to be a Major General, and assigned to the command of a division, took leave of the brigade, and was succeeded by Brigadier General Truman Seymour.
The campaign upon the Peninsula had now opened, and the army had already arrived within a few miles of Richmond. McClellan was calling loudly for help. The Reserves were, accordingly, ordered to his assistance, and on the 12th of June embarked at Belle Plain Landing, on the Rappahannock. The weather was fine and the voyage an exceedingly pleasant one. Negroes thronged the banks as the transports passed, and begged to be taken on board. At one point a colored man, woman and boy waded out up to their necks in the river, and eagerly besought Colonel Taggart to rescue them.
The regiment debarked at White House on the 14th, and marched to Dispatch Station, where the brigade awaited the arrival of General McClellan, who had ordered the division to be held in readiness for review. But the rebels were now urging prior claims, and were presenting themselves for review in such numbers, that the General never found time to meet the Reserves.
On the 18th, the regiment marched to New Bridge, on the Chickahominy, in sight of rebel pickets, and within short range of his artillery. On the following day it moved to Ellerson’s Mill, on Beaver Dam Creek, and encamped in a ravine, from an elevated position in front of which, the rebels, busily engaged upon earth works for their batteries, could be distinctly seen, and away to the right the spires of Richmond. A signal station was established within the lines ot the Twelfth, from which the movements of rebel troops were observed and reported to Generals Porter and McClellan.
On the 20th, a balloon was sent up, from which to reconnoitre the dispositions of the enemy; but a forty-two pound shell from a rebel gun came in such uncomfortable proximity to the aeronauts, as to induce them to make a hasty descent.
On the 23d, the enemy manifested great activity in front, and in the afternoon the Ninth Reserves, Colonel Jackson, marched past to Mechanicsville. The whole division was held in readiness to support the Ninth, and the enemy’s works were vigorously shelled; but they maintained a dogged silence, though their batteries in earth works completely commanded our field batteries.
On the morning of the 25th, the Twelfth was ordered on picket duty, and faced the enemy for a space of five miles, from Meadow Bridge to Ellerson’s Mill. For two days it remained posted along the swamps bordering the Chickahominy, and on the evening of the 25th, indications of an attack were so strong, that General Reynolds required of Colonel Taggart hourly bulletins of everything that transpired.
On the morning of the 26th, the regiment was relieved by the Bucktails and the Fifth, Colonel Simmons, and returned to Ellerson’s Mill. Here, a few days before, rifle pits had been dug, in anticipation of the advance of the enemy, and trees felled on the west side of the creek in front of the works. About noon intelligence was received that Lee and Jackson, with the main body of the rebel army, were advancing. The position selected behind Beaver Dam Creek was now occupied by the Reserves, the Twelfth-Regiment, in the original formation, holding the extreme left of the line, and on either side of the road leading from Ellerson’s Mill to Cold Harbor.
Company C, Captain Gustin, was posted in the mill, and in the archway underneath it, where, well sheltered, the men could pick off the enemy as they appeared in sight. Company B occupied rifle pits on the right of the road; but there being a grove of fine old trees in their front, the men preferred to fight from behind them, whence poising their guns they could fire deliberately. Company A, armed with Springfield rifles, occupied the right of the line of rifle pits resting on the road. As some were better marksmen than others, a number were selected to fire, while the others loaded for them. Company K, also armed with Springfield muskets, also did excellent execution.
The battle opened at three o’clock and lasted until nine at night. With reckless daring the rebel lines rushed forward to the attack, but were swept back by the steady fire of the Reserves. Early in the action the enemy attempted to out flank our left, but the Seventh Regiment, Colonel Harvey, was promptly brought up, extending our line farther to the left, and Easton’s Battery was posted by General Seymour, so as to command the swamp, and thus defeat the enemy’s design. A section of Cooper’s Battery, consisting of two guns, posted just back of, and above the Twelfth, did fearful execution, its shells being thrown over the heads of the men in the pits, who as the smoke raised could see the effect and guide the gunners in aiming their pieces. For six hours the ground was held, though the trees, earth, and everything around were cut and hurled in the most fearful manner. Over one hundred rounds of ammunition per man were expended, and finally as darkness closed in, the troops bivouacked upon the field which their valor had won.
Before daybreak the Seventh Regiment, with the artillery, moved off to the rear. Colonel Taggart was ordered to hold his position until daylight, and then to retire quietly without bringing on a renewal of the engagement. At five o’clock, the enemy, discovering that the troops in their front had nearly all been withdrawn, commenced shouting, when the men, still in the rifle pits, opened fire upon them, and soon the action became more fierce than at any time during the previous day. The regiment was soon after withdrawn by order of General Seymour, which was executed in good order and without confusion. Roger A. Pryor, of the rebel army, in his account of the Seven Days Fight, says,
“Ellerson’s Mill was defended with desperate obstinacy, and was only captured with desperate valor.”
The capture was a mere matter of occupancy, when quietly vacated by the Union troops, after having been successfully held against the most persistent but futile assaults, and only yielded in obedience to the peremptory orders of General McClellan.
For two days the men had had little sleep or refreshment, but with ready obedience they marched to Gaines’ Mill, and were early in the day placed in line of battle. Lying in the hut sun until noon, they were moved to the front, and ordered to take position in advance of a skirt of woods, which was afterwards the scene of the most desperate conflict of the day. But as the regiment was moving, a staff officer of General McCall approached with orders for it to move to the right in support of Griffin’s Battery, which was now hotly engaged, and doing effective service. For three hours the men were exposed to a terrific fire, meeting the rebel skirmishers and successfully defending the guns. Towards evening the enemy advanced in overwhelming force, with the design of turning the right of the line, but were driven back with great loss.
At dusk the regiment moved off towards Woodbury Bridge, and at ten o’clock that night crossed the Chickahominy, after all the wounded had been taken over who could be brought off the field. The loss was six killed and twenty-five wounded. Two men of company C, Miles M. Cooper and Newton Ford, were killed by the explosion of a single shell, and a third lost his leg, while the Colonel was knocked from his horse by the current of air as the missile passed him. Cooper never spoke after he was struck, but Ford said, as he was raised up, ” It’s no use, Colonel, my time has come. Haven’t I always done my duty?” These were the last words he uttered. He died almost immediately.
During the following day the regiment remained under arms on Trent’s Hill. At half-past nine in the evening the Third Brigade was detailed to take position at the bridges of the Chickahominy, and prevent the enemy from crossing to intercept the march of our army to the James River. Three bridges were burned, by the light of which the rebels on the opposite bank were distinctly visible, and the long lines of our own troops moving on towards Savage Station.
Charles City Cross Roads
The next morning, June 29th, the Twelfth moved off, guarding long lines of the Reserve Artillery, which filled the road for miles. The weather was intensely hot, and a march of nearly eighteen miles was performed without food or water, the springs and wells being generally dry, and the streams either dry or stagnant. At night it bivouacked in a green field at the junction of the New Market and Quaker roads. That night it was ordered on picket, and marched down the road towards the James River; but having mistaken the direction and being unable to ascertain the position to be held, it returned to the field at the forks of the road, and the men from excessive fatigue, fell upon the ground and slept soundly. The following extract from Colonel Taggart’s report, conveys a vivid impression of the miseries which the soldiers endured:
“The White Oak Creek, which we crossed about noon, was a complete quagmire, from the thousands of horses, teams, and artillery, which were continually passing, and water to drink was not to be had. Some of the men became almost delirious from thirst, and once, when I halted for rest a few minutes, I discovered them drinking from a stagnant puddle in which was the putrid carcass of a dead horse. Poor fellows, I pitied them, but I could not permit this, and I promised them good water at White Oak Swamp, (as I was informed there was by an engineer officer,) but as we arrived there we found it utterly unfit to drink. The disappointment was intense; but we pushed on, and at evening when we halted on the green, and General Mccall came up and told us there was plenty of good spring water in a rivulet near by, the joy of the men knew no bounds. Alas! little did they think that on that very spot, in less than twenty-four hours, many of them would pour out their life’s blood, and the waters of that little brook would be reddened by the vital current. Yet so it was.
On the following morning, the regiment was held under arms, while the immense trains moved down the Quaker Road towards Malvern Hill. At one o’clock General McCall, in person, directed Colonel Taggart to place the Twelfth in line of battle, facing the sun, on the extreme left of the line. Soon afterwards, when in position as directed, General Seymour rode up and ordered it to be divided, and four companies to erect and occupy a stockade near a farmhouse, with two companies in rear for support, and the other four companies to support a battery which had that day been left under command of General McCall, leaving a gap between the two wings of two hundred yards. This arrangement made the line almost perpendicular to the one pointed out by General McCall, and made the left rest out in the open field without support, Hooker being nearly a half mile to the rear. These dispositions were hardly made, when a shrieking rifled shell from the enemy on our left was the only admonition of his approach, followed almost instantly by the well known rebel yell, and his line, closed in mass, without skirmishers, came pouring forth from the woods on the left, aiming to gain the rear of the unprotected flank of the Twelfth.
The stockade afforded little protection, being not more than eighteen inches in height. The men behind it were posted in single rank, and before they could do any execution they were engaged in a hand to hand, conflict with the rebels, who pressed forward in overwhelming numbers, the whole force of their attack seeming to be concentrated on this one point. Colonel Taggart ordered the six companies composing the left wing to fall back across a little rivulet to a new line, which they obeyed; but in doing so there was considerable confusion. The four companies with the battery, held their ground for a time, but the artillerymen, instead of turning their guns upon the advancing rebels, immediately limbered up and dashed away to the rear, trampling, in their mad haste, the men of the Twelfth posted for their support.
These companies suffering from an enfilading fire, and in danger of being captured, fell back to the rear, where the regiment was rallied and brought into line on the right of a Massachusetts regiment belonging to General Hooker’s Division, and continued in the action till it ceased.
In this engagement, which is admitted on both sides to have been one of the most hotly contested of the campaign, First Lieutenant Wm. W. Arnold, of company G, was killed, Captain Thomas D. Horn, of Company D, and Captain Franklin Daniels, of Company A, were wounded, and First Lieutenant Henry S. Lucas, of company C. was taken prisoner. The entire loss was six killed, thirty-six wounded, and twenty-three missing.
At midnight the Twelfth moved off towards Malvern Hill, where it arrived at daybreak.2 In the battle which here ensued the division was held in reserve and the Twelfth was posted in front of the Malvern Mansion, at the highest point of the hill, from which was a magnificent view of the whole field, the battle commencing at six o’clock A. M., and lasting until nearly nine at night. The army was here under the shadow of the gunboats in the James River, the Galena and the Matuck, which, as the enemy approached, threw their huge shells far inland, covering his advancing columns. The shells were of immense size, resembling a huge dinner-pot, and were fired by signals. One of the signal corps was posted in the rigging of the boats, another on the roof of Malvern Mansion, and a third on the outer edge of our lines, and by their signals the gunners were enabled to throw their shells with considerable precision. To those on the hill it was a novel sight. Looking towards the river would be seen, first a flash, then after a few seconds would be heard a dull, heavy sound, like rumbling thunder when all eyes would be turned heavenward, and there could be distinctly traced the course of the huge black missiles curving towards the rebel lines; then would follow the explosion with a rumbling sound almost like an earthquake.
The incessant cannonading from the gunboats, the rebel batteries, and our own field artillery, almost shut out the light of the sun, and for several hours before, and after midday, it seemed as if the globe itself was convulsed. This lasted till half past six, when the crisis of the day occurred.
At that hour the rebel horde under Magruder came howling and yelling over the fields towards our front line. Instinctively our whole army moved forward to meet them. Five or ten minutes had elapsed, and the rebels were half way across the fields, when, behold! a line of fire leaped from our batteries of reserve artillery of more than a hundred pieces, on that advancing host. Its effect was terrific. When the smoke lifted such a scene of carnage presented itself as had never been witnessed on this continent before. A struggling, surging mass of humanitymen, horses, and guns in inextricable confusion lay before us. A few, stunned by the shock, and apparently supposing they were supported by those in their rear, kept on in detached bodies towards our lines, on a full run. But their career was short; for scarcely had the smoke of the first discharge floated away before a second followed. This settled their fate. No human power could stand before that withering fire. At the second discharge a grand shout of triumph went up from our whole army.
About midnight of July 1st, pursuant to orders, the Twelfth moved with the division to Harrison’s Landing, where it arrived on the following morning. The transports were in the river with supplies, but there were no tents, and tie rain was descending in torrents. On the 2d of July the regiment was drawn up in line of battle, and the whole army was under arms, expecting another attack from the enemy. A reconnoitering party of his shelled our lines from a hill, and several of the Reserves were wounded, but none of the Twelfth. The total loss of the regiment in the Peninsula campaign was thirteen killed, sixty wounded, and thirty-six missing.
On the 8th of July, 1862, Colonel Taggart resigned, and was succeeded in command by Lieutenant Colonel Martin D. Hardin, who had been elected in the April previous, but was prevented from entering upon the discharge of the duties of the position on account of an army regulation forbidding the granting of leave of absence to an officer in the regular army to assume a less commission than that of Colonel of volunteers.
Much sickness prevailed while at Harrison’s Landing owing to depression of feeling occasioned by frequent defeat, the unwholesome water, and miasmatic influence of the climate. By a strict policing of camp, sinking deep wells, and the devoted attention of surgeons and their assistants, this evil was soon corrected and the drill and discipline of its earlier days restored.
The night attack of the enemy from the opposite side of the James produced a great stampede from the locality where the shells were bursting. But the men of the Twelfth held firmly their position. Soon after, the regiment was ordered across the river, to hold, with other troops, the ground against future attacks. The camp was here pleasantly located and had a beneficial effect upon the health of the troops.
From the Peninsula the regiment proceeded to Falmouth, and thence by a very rapid and fatiguing march, most damaging to the health and spirits of the troops, to join the army of General Pope. At Rappahannock Bridge, Pope’s forces were found disputing the passage of the enemy; but without halting the regiment proceeded to Warrenton, where it bivouacked near Sigel’s Corps.
The march was resumed on the 28th, and towards noon some worn out, barefooted rebels, stragglers from Jackson’s column, were met. In the afternoon the column was suddenly brought to a halt by a rapid discharge of rebel artillery which planted shells in its very midst. Early on the following morning, the column moved out and soon came in sight of Sigel’s Corps, posted on the heights near the Henry House. His artillery was firing very rapidly, and occasionally could be heard the sharp roll of musketry. In the neighborhood of Groveton the division came into position on Sigel’s left, and was under an artillery fire by which several of the Twelfth were killed and wounded. The day was warm, and the division was kept constantly marching and counter marching in face of the enemy, sustaining considerable loss; but at night the men bivoacked, feeling that nothing had been accomplished.
At daylight on the morning of the 30th, the division moved on the Warrenton pike to the top of a hill on the right of the Henry House, and was formed in front of the timber upon its summits. Part of the Twelfth, under Captain Gustin, was sent out upon the skirmish line. At 9 o’clock A. M., the skirmishers advanced and soon developed the enemy’s line stretching along the edge of the woods on both sides of the pike. The whole division formed by brigade front, with a battery on the righ of each, now advanced, and the enemy’s first line of infantry fled in confision, but only to draw the division into range of a long line of artillery, which opened a terrific fire, causing it to recoil.
Early in the afternoon the division was formed in front of the Henry House, making an obtuse angle with the line of the army, and covering its left flank. At three P. M, a charge was made by a division upon the right, but was repulsed with a fearful slaughter, the enemy, flowing up the advantage by a counter charge, impetuous, and with that peculiar yell once heard so well remembered. With reckless daring they iushed forward for the artillery, but were swept down by the rapid fire of the,Reseres, and broken and in disorder were soon fleeing in confusion.
Later in the day the division moved to the support of the troops on the right of the pike. Two companies of the Ninth, and the Fifth and Tenth New York, were still upon the skirmish line, under Colonel Warren. The First and Second Brigades, and the batteries, except Kern’s, had passed down the slope, and Kern’s Battery had already reached the pike, followed by the Third Brigade, when it was discovered that Warren’s force was in full retreat. Seeing the danger that threatened him, Colonel Hardin, now commanding the brigade, ordered it to wheel with the battery and advance to the crest of the hill. Two regiments and the battery were quickly formed upon the heights, and two posted thirty yards in rear. As soon as the skirmishers had passed, infantry and artillery joined in full chorus. The enemy was checked in front, but swinging round upon the left flank poured in a deadly enfilading fire. But the brigade held firmly its position, against vastly superior numbers, until re-inforced.
At this juncture Colonel Hardin was severely wounded, and the command of the brigade devolved on Colonel Kirk, of the Tenth Reserve, who was likewise almost immediately wounded, and was succeeded by Colonel Anderson of the Ninth.
“Colonel Hardin,” says General Reynolds in his official report of this battle, “commanding the, Twelfth regiment was here severelywounded. The brigade, under Colonel Anderson, sustained itself most gallantly, and though severely pushed on both front and flank, maintained its position until overwhelmed by numbers, when it fell back, taking up new positions wherever the aadvantages of ground permitted.”
Upon the fall of Colonel Hardin, the command of the Twelfth devolved on Captain Gustin. The loss was five killed and thirty-eight wounded.
South Mountain and Antietam
With little time for rest and recuperation, the regiment marched with sadly shattered ranks to again meet the enemy, already planted in full force upon the soil of Maryland. He was first encountered upon the turnpike leading through a gap of the South Mountain. Moving with his division to the right of the pike leading from Frederick City to Hagerstown, General Meade deployed his brigades and advanced to the assault. The Twelfth occupied the centre of the line, and moved on with the most determined gallantry. The heights were triumphantly carried, and the regiment rested at night fll upon its summit. It was led in this engagement by Captain Gustin. The loss was six killed, and nineteen wounded.
On the 16th and 17th, the Twelfth again met the enemy on the field of Antietam, where it displayed its accustomed gallantry, losing thirteen killed, forty seven wounded, and four missing.
On the banks of the Potomac the command rested, and was supplied with clothing and equipments, which were much needed. In the meantime the rebel army was leisurely retiring up the Shenandoah Valley, gathering supplies and replenishing his store of ammunition, which, upon his retreat across the Potomac, was well nigh exhausted. Crossing the river, the Union army followed up his retreat on the east side of the Blue Ridge, meeting and skirmishing with detached parties at the gaps.
Upon the appointment of General Burnside to the command of the army, it was immediately put, in motion towards Fredericksburg, and after considerable delay in bringing up and laying the pontoons, an attack was ordered by the left of the line held by General Franklin. The Reserves were selected to lead. The division consisted of about four thousand five hundred men, under General Meade. The Third Brigade was commanded by General. C. Fager Jackson, and the Twelfth Regiment by Captain Gustin.
Early on the morning of the 13th, the division was deployed and advanced to the attack. The Third Brigade was formed on the left of the First, and in the early part of the action suffered severely from the enemy’s artillery, and from his sharpshooters, who advanced under cover of the hedges and trees on the Bowling Green road, and kept up a galling fire. Silencing these, it advanced with intrepidity, and flanking the enemy’s battery and his intrenched line, reached and drove him from his strongholds on the heightse At this juncture General Jackson fell, and many of his subordinate commanders being either killed or wounded, the brigade was forced to retire, having displayed in the advance the most undaunted courage, and for the time won a signal advantage. The contest was brief, but the slaughter in the ranks of the Twelfth was terrible. Thirteen were killed, seventy wounded, and thirty-four taken prisoners.
In February, 1863, the division, now reduced to a mere skeleton, was ordered to the defences of Washington, and was there attached to the Twenty-second Army Corps. The Third Brigade had its camp near Minor’s Hill, and performed picket duty. Colonel Hardin had so far recovered from his wound, received at Bull Run, that he returned and assumed command of the regiment soon after the battle of Fredericksburg, and a few weeks later assumed command of the brigade, Captain Gustin resuming command of the regiment.
Upon the discharge of Lieutenant Colonel Baldy, on the 15th of February, Captain Gustin was commissioned to succeed him. While in camp at Minor’s Hill, many who were absent sick and in hospital rejoined the command, drill was resumed and practiced with the strictest care, promotions among the officers secured, vaancies filled, and great improvement made in its effective condition. In April the brigade was ordered to report to General Martindale, in the city of Washington, to perform provost duty, where it remained six weeks.
Upon the opening of the Gettysburg campaign in June, the regiment marched under command of Colonel Hardin, and joining the main body of the army at Frederick, Maryland, reached the battle-field at ten A. M. on the 2d of July. The column halted in rear of Cemetery Heights, until the battle opened heavily upon the left, when it was hurriedly moved to the vicinity of Little Round Top, passing on the way many of the wounded from Sickles’ Corps as they were carried back to hospitals. After considerable manoeuvring it finally moved by the left flank to the right of the hill, and formed on the right of Hazlett’s Battery. Here a fine view of the field was presented, and the disheartening spectacle of thousands of our own troops retreating before an exultant enemy.
Soon an order was given for the head of the column to deploy to the left, to the support of troops on the left of the battery. The Twelfth, being in front, moved off in obedience to this order, scrambling as they went over rocks, and the dead bodies of their comrades of the First Division, who had fallen in holding this rugged eminence against the desperate assaults of the enemy. The approach of fresh troops gave new assurance to our men, and the main battle on the left slackened as they came rapidly into position, though the fire of the rebel sharpshooters was still very deadly.
The men quckly gained temporary cover by throwing up slight breastworks of stone, and the heavy body of the enemy which had been contending in the low space between the two hills, and which was still in plain view, soon sought shelter in the dense wood at the foot of Round Top. Just after dark the Third Brigade was ordered to move upon Round Top, and take position on its summit.
Forming in line of battle nearly perpendicular to that just abandoned, with the Twentieth Maine, Colonel Chamberlain, in advance, and the Twelfth on the right, the column advanced. Owing to the rugged nature of the ascent, and the darknesss which prevailed, some confusion ensued, and portions of it became separated from the main body; but re-forming and moving directly by the left flank, the command reached its position, encountering but a few shots from the enemy. A stone wall was immediately commenced which before morning was completed, connecting the summit of Round Top with that of Little Round Top. The enemy could be distinctly heard during the night building a wall parallel to it, near the foot of the mountain.
On the morning of the 3d a heavy skirmish line was extended to the left, down the steep side of the mountain, conecting with the Sixth Corps on the plain. The regiment had no more heavy fighting in its immediate front; but the trees sheltered many sharpshooters from whose unerring aim one man from the Twelfth was killed, and several wounded. Occupying the summit of the mountain, a good view was presented of the gallant but unfortunate charge of the cavalry under Kilpatrick on the left, and the grand assault of the enemy on the left centre.
On the morning of the 4th the enemy’s troops were seen filing out from the foot of Round Top and moving to his rear. A skirmish line was immediately advanced, and it was soon ascertained that he had evacuated his works. But with his usual shrewdness he had placed the muskets of his dead and wounded against his parapet, so that the bayonets were visible. This ruse was soon detected and the muskets brought in. On the morning of the 5th the pursuit commenced and was cautiously conducted until the enemy was overtaken near Williamsport, where some skirmishing ensued; but before the preparations were completed for a general attack he had escaped across the river.
In the campaign which ensued, the Twelfth, under command of Colonel Gustin, Colonel Hardin being in command of the brigade, was engaged at Bristoe Station on the 14th of October, preventing the enemy from planting his artillery on the heights which it held, and the cutting off of the Second Corps from its connection with the army, at Rappahannock Station on the 19th of November, and at Mine Run November 26th.
At the close of the campaign, the regiment went into winter quarters along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, with headquarters at Catlett’s Station. The Fifth and Twelfth regiments were placed under command of Colonel Hardin, with orders to guard the road from Catlett’s to Broad Run. The guerrillas were very troublesome, and the greatest vigilance was required to guard against their sneaking and cowardly attacks. It was unsafe for any one to go out of sight of camp, and block houses were constructed for the protection of the picket posts.
On the 13th of December, a party of officers consisting of Colonel Hardin, and Lieutenant Colonels Gustin and Dare, accompanied by an orderly, was attacked by a party of five mounted guerrillas dressed in the uniform of Union cavalry, who approached within a few feet of the unsuspecting party, and when accosted suddenly raised their pistols, which they had kept concealed, and poured in a rapid fire. Colonel Hardin was struck in the left arm, which was so badly shattered as to require amputation; his horse was killed, pierced by several bullets; and Colonel Gustin was severely wounded in the right hand. The rebel party then turned off into the woods and galloped away. The picket guard instantly turned out, but being infantry was of little avail.
The Rapidan Campaign
On the 4th of May, 1864, the spring campaign opened, and the Twelfth, with ranks recruited, was in line under command of Lieutenant Colonel Gustin. It was hotly engaged during the three days in the Wilderness, but fortunately lost but few men. Colonel Hardin, who, since the loss of his arm had been assigned to light duty, immediately upon the opening of the campaign applied for permission to join his regiment, and on the 18th of May was placed in command of the First Brigade, in line of battle, in front of Spottsylvania Court House. The Reserves here fought with varying success, the Twelfth being engaged in constructing breast works, and in attacking the enemy’s entrenched line, gaining an advantage here and losing it there.
North Anna River
On the 21st the division moved on Guinea Station, and the 23rd the entire corps marched to Jericho Ford, which it crossed and formed in line of battle, stretching along the North Anna River and covering the bridge. The enemy held the opposite crest with a strong skirmish line, and on the following day appeared in force. While Burnside’s Corps, which had now come up, was getting into position, the enemy pressed heavily upon the skirmish line. The Reserves were hotly engaged in repelling his attack, and in holding the position untilthe lines were established and intrenched. A spirited assault was made at sunset by Crittenden’s Division upon the enemy’s line, but without success.
On the 30th the Reserves again met the enemy near Bethesda Church. Encountering stern resistance and finding that he was supported by a heavy force, the First Brigade, which had been pushed forward in advance of the division, was withdrawn to a favorable position near the Mechanicsville road, and joined with the Third, here a light breastwork was thrown up and dispositions made to meet his attack. The Twelfth occupied a position on the right of the line. Upon this the enemy made repeated and desperate assaults in heavy force, but as often suffered a bloody repulse, and finally yielded the ground, which was covered with his killed and wounded.
On this day the term of service of the Twelfth Regiment expired, and marching to Harrisburg, where it was enthusiastically received, it was, on the 11th of June, mustered out.
- Organization of the Third Brigade, Colonel John S. McCalmont, of McCall’s Division, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Tenth (39th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John S. McCalmont; Sixth (35th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel W. W. Ricketts; Ninth (38th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Conrad F. Jackson; Twelfth (41st) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John H. Taggart.
- Extract from General McCall’s Report: – Immediately after this a still heavier body of the enemy rapidly advanced. Our regiments had necessarily become somewhat disordered by the very impetuosity of the charge, and were weakened by the detachments required to take their prisoners to the rear; the enemy, greatly superior in numbers, were upon them before they had time to re-form, and they were compelled to retire. At the same time the Twelfth Regiment (which had been divided and detached by General Seymour, of the Third Brigade, commanding the left wing of the division, after it had been established in line by General McCall, was cut off from the line and driven into the left and rear. The cannoneers of a section of a battery belonging to Porter’s Corps, left that day with McCall, fled with their horses and limbers at the first approach of the enemy, breaking through four companies of the Twelfth, and trampling the men; these men, with six companies of the Twelfth, and the detachments from the Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth, with the prisoners, hurried down the road between Sumner and Hooker, and in part on the latter. closely followed by the enemy. Conduct of the War, Part I, page 587.