Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
The Second Reserve Regiment1 was principally recruited in the city of Philadelphia, under the direction of William B. Mann, and the companies were mustered into the State service during the last week in May by Captain Henry J. Biddle, Assistant Adjutant General of Militia. Most of the men were supplied with flannel shirts and other articles of clothing by the congregations of the. different churches in the city, prominent among which was that of Old Christ Church, which contributed no less than four thousand five hundred articles.
On the 29th of May the Philadelphia companies marched to the residence of Colonel Mann, where they were presented with a magnificent and richly trimmed silk flag, the gift of a number of ladies, the presentation being made by Daniel Dougherty, Esq., and after the ceremonies were concluded proceeded by rail to Camp Washington, near the city of Easton. This camp was located on the Fair Ground of the Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Institute, comprising about thirty acres, situated on a level plateau a mile and a half west of the city, and half a mile north of the Lehigh river. The camp, under the command of Colonel Mann, was at once put in order, and stringent regulations were established for its government.
The disasters at Bull Run, caused the government to call loudly upon the States for organized troops. Fortunately the Pennsylvania Reserves were ready for duty. July 24th, the Second Regiment broke camp at Easton, and moved by rail to Harrisburg where it bivouacked at Camp Curtin. Most of the Reserve regiments were mustered into the United States service before leaving the State; but as it would cause some delay to muster the Second before starting, Colonel Mann, with the consent of the Governor, proceeded to Baltimore without being properly in the United States service. Upon its arrival it was reported to General Dix, but, having no orders, he refused to receive it, and the command moved on to Sandy Hook, near Harper’s Ferry, in the department then commanded by Major General Banks. The regiment at this time numbered one thousand and one, officers and men, all in neat new uniforms and presenting an unusually attractive appearance. The morning after its arrival was excessively hot, and after partaking of coffee and hard tack it moved to Pleasant Valley, a table land about a mile back from, and some four hundred feet above the Potomac.
Arriving without orders, General Banks at first refused to accept them, but afterwards assigned them camping grounds and applied to the War Department for orders. Still, no authority existed for drawing rations, except such as the officers would be responsible for. To add to its misfortunes, there was a lack of unity of purpose among the field officers. The minds of the men also were poisoned with the idea, that being out of the State of Pennsylvania, and not mustered into the United States service, there was no power to hold them. Discontent continued, and when, on the 1st of August, Lieutenant Colonel Fitz John Porter was sent by General Banks to muster the men into the service of the United States, nearly one-fourth of their number refused to be mustered. On the following morning the whole command was again called up, and those who had taken the oath on the preceding day were informed that they must again be sworn, when a still larger number refused, amounting to three hundred and twenty men. These were then taken to Colonel Thomas’ headquarters, where they were ordered to stack arms, divest themselves of their uniforms and accoutrements and officers were detailed to conduct them to Philadelphia.
Upon the return of the officers to their regiment, they found, to their amazement, that the men whom they had left in camp, and who had twice taken the oath before, had, on that day, been called on for a third time to be sworn in. Finding it easier to get out of the service than to stay in it, many returned and entered other organizations, until there remained but about four hundred of the thousand and one who marched through Baltimore two weeks before. The saying became current in camp that it was necessary for a good soldier to carry a Bible for the purpose of taking his oath.
On the 14th of August, the regiment was called out and marched hurriedly to Berlin, four miles below, where a party of rebels had been making demonstrations. An old iron twelve-pounder cannon with its muzzle knocked off, chained to the front wheels of a wagon, had been posted by the enemy on the hills to command the village, but by a dexterous movement the piece was snatched from their grasp and was stationed on a pier of the bridge so as to cover the town. Not being provided with grape shot, the braces of the bridge were cut into slugs and used instead. Remaining until the town was safe the regiment returned to camp.
On the 16th it again broke camp and moved through Buckeystown and Urbana to Hyattstown. Here an order was issued by General Banks disbanding companies B, F, G and I, on the ground of their numbers being below the standard of acceptance–all the companies having been greatly reduced by the withdrawal of the disaffected men–the officers to be mustered out and the men to be transferred to other companies. This order operated unjustly upon the line officers, but it was acquiesced in, in the hope that new companies would be assigned to fill the places of those made vacant. L The officers discharged were Captains. P. McDonough, T. Bringhurst, E. M. Woodward and William Knox; First Lieutenants John D. Shock, George W. Kite, John K. Brown and Thos. Wier; Second Lieutenants John Gill, William Edwards and John H. Jack. One Lieutenant was not discharged, another discharged who had resigned a month before, and had not been mustered into the United States service. Captain McDonough raised another Company, joined the regiment at Camp Pierpont, Virginia, and was subsequently promoted Lieutenant Colonel. Captain Woodward entered the ranks, was appointed Sergeant Major of the regiment, and at the battle of Antietam was appointed Adjutant. Captain Knox was appointed Sutler, and continued with the regiment until May, 1862. Of the Lieutenants, John H, Jack returned with Captain McDonough, was wounded at the battle of Bull Run, and promoted Captain for gallant conduct. John K. Brown for a year was connected with the brigade commissary. Wm. Edwards entered the Curtin Light Guard as Orderly Sergeant, and George W. Kite the Ninety-first Pennsylvania. Isaac J. Harvey of Company K, was detailed to the Signal Corps.”2
On the 28th, orders were received to march to Darnestown, where it remained until the 19th of September, when it was aroused at midnight by the ” long roll,” and was marched to Muddy Branch to guard a supply train. On the 25th, it.moved to Tenallytown, where it joined the division of the Pennsylvania Reserves, under General McCall. The Second Regiment was assigned to the First Brigade,3 commanded by General Reynolds. About this time, Lieutenant Colonel Magilton resigned.
On the 9th of October, the line of the army in Virginia was extended to the right, occupying Prospect and Miner’s Hills. To hold the line thus extended the Reserves were ordered forward. Crossing Chain Bridge the Second Regiment bivouacked for the night near Langley, and on the following day tents were pitched and Camp Pierpont established. During the first ten days the long roll was beaten and the men called to arms five times. On the night of the 11th, the pickets in the neighborhood of Lewinsville were driven in, and the next day the enemy, with at least three regiments of infantry, some cavalry and a battery of six guns, was discovered in a wood near Miner’s Hill, indicating that an attack was meditated. General McClellan. and staff, including the Comte de Paris and the Duc de Chartres, came on the ground and remained during the night. At midnight the drums and the trumpets sounded, and at two A. M., the national columns were in motion, four thousand cavalry and thirty pieces of artillery, with a proportionate force of infantry. At daylight it was ascertained that the enemy, attracted by the extension of the Union line, had sent out a reconnoissance in force, but had then withdrawn.
On October 18th, a reconnoissance was ordered by General McClellan, in which the First Brigade led the way, supported by the Second and Third. Crossing Difficult Creek, the brigade proceeded about three miles beyond Dranesville, when it was ordered back to Thornton’s house. On the following day detachments were sent out to reconnoitre and make a topographical survey of the country. On the morning of the 21st in obedience to orders of General McClellan, the brigade returned to camp. On the same day the disaster at Ball’s Bluff occurred. Had the Reserves remained in the advance position which they had occupied, they would have been within supporting distance of the column under the lamented Colonel Baker, and would doubtless have saved that fruitless slaughter and achieved a glorious victory.
On the 22d an election was held for Lieutenant Colonel, which resulted in the unanimous choice of William MCandless. On the 1st of November Colonel Mann resigned. On the 25th a grand review was held of a portion of the Army of the Potomac. The troops, numbering seventy-five thousand, were drawn up in line, forming three sides of a square. Upon the right were the cavalry and artillery, and on the left the Pennsylvania Reserves. The President and his secretaries mounted, with the General and his Lieutenants, forming a cavalcade of some three hundred, dashed down the line, while the artillery thundered, the bands played, and the soldiers cheered, creating an event of thrilling interest. After passing around the entire force a position was taken up in front by the reviewing party, when the column, led by the Reserves, commenced passing in review, and then filed off to their several camping grounds.
Battle of Dranesville
The battle of Dranesville was fought on the national side by Ord’s Brigade of the Reserves, with the Bucktails and Easton’s Battery of four guns. The First Brigade was at this time at Difficult Creek; but immediately upon hearing the sound of battle, General Reynolds put his column in motion, striking across the country to the left, for the purpose of intercepting the enemy as he retreated on the Alexandria and Leesburg pike; but this movement was countermanded by General McCall, who had received positive instructions from McClellan not to bring on a general engagement.
The President, by his order, fixed the 22d of February as the day not later than which the army of the Potomac should move against the enemy, the immediate object being the seizure of the railroad south-westward of Manassas Junction. The retreat of the rebel army to Gordonsville, in anticipation of the contemplated movement, rendered a change of plan necessary, and it was decided to move by the Potomac, and operate against Richmond from the Peninsula. The First Corps, under McDowell, to which the Reserves were attached, was left upon the Rappahannock, to cover Washington.
Joining in the general movement upon Manassas, the regiment broke camp on the 10th of March, and proceeding in a southerly direction, arrived on the 29th of April in the neighborhood of Falmouth. On the way the fortifications and camps which had been erected and held during the winter by both armies, and, at Manassas Junction, the vast ruins of the depot and other buildings, in which had been stored an immense amount of provisions and clothing, burnt by the enemy in the haste of retreat, were passed. Smouldering ruins, wrecked cars and machinery, vast piles of flour, pork, beef, wagons, lumber, trunks, demijohns, tents, dismantled fortifications and rifle pits, presented a scene of confusion rarely witnessed, even in war.
On the 2d of April, Captain George A. Woodward was elected Major, and about the same time Lieutenant John M. tlark, who had been attached to the First District of Columbia Volunteers, with a Company of Pennsylvanians, was nominally transferred to the regiment as Company F, but was assigned by General McCall to take charge of the extra line of caissons for the artillery battalion of the Reserves, Subsequently Dr. Edward Donnelly was transferred from the Fifth to the Second Regiment in place of Dr. Thomas B. Reed, promoted to be Brigade Surgeon.
About the middle of May, General McDowell was instructed to advance by the route of the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad, and connect with the right of McClellan’s line, then advancing upon Richmond via Peninsula. But the movement of Stonewall Jackson into the Shenandoah Valley, with a powerful force, caused that purpose, for the time, to be abandoned, and three divisions, Shield’s, King’s and Ord’s, with the Bucktails from the Reserves, were detached and sent to the relief of the Shenandoah Valley.
On the 26th of May the regiment crossed the Rappahannock with the division, and passing through Fredericksburg, encamped qn the heights back of the town. General Reynolds was appointed Military Governor of the city.
On the same day, the advance posts of the command were eight miles beyond, and on the 29th the cavalry had advanced twenty miles, skirmishing and driving the enemy. But on the following day, it having been ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn all his forces from our front to join his army around Richmond, and burned the bridges in his rear, it was determined to re-call the forces to the north side of the river, and send re-inforcements to McClellan by water. The Pennsylvania Reserves were chosen for this purpose.
Moving to Gray’s landing on the morning of the 8th of June, the regiment embarked on the steamer “Chancellor Livingston”, and on the evening of the 11th arrived at White House, on the Pamunky, at the point where the Richmond and York River railroad crosses it. The base of supply for the entire army had been established at this point.
On the following day the regiment moved to Dispatch Station and encamped. On the 13th an attack was made upon Tunstall’s Station, eight miles to the rear, by the enemy’s cavalry, under General Fitz Hugh Lee, and the second regiment was ordered into line at midnight to march to its defence. Some destruction of property was effected, including the station, a car load of grain, and portions of the track; but upon the arrival of the Third Brigade the party fled. A few day’s previous, the mother of Lee had visited White House, and been furnished with a pass and an escort through our lines for her safe return to Richmond. The information which she was able to give on her arrival was doubtless very useful to the raiders. The purpose of the raid was the destruction of shipping and the immense depot of supplies at White House. It was only prevented by the timely arrival of the Reserves.
On the 17th the division moved in a north-westerly direction, parallel to the Chickahominy, and on the 19th arrived in the neighborhood of Beaver Dam Creek. On the 24th the regiment was sent to Mechanicsville to picket the left bank of the Chickahominy, the enemy holding the right bank.
Battle of Mechanicsville
As early as the 24th, General McClellan had received information which convinced him that the enemy was about to make an attack upon his right and rear. The 26th was the day on which he had decided to move upon Richmond; but the enemy anticipated this action by himself attacking. Early on the morning of the 26th, the Second was relieved by the Eighth, and marching through Mechanicsville, turned to the right and moved up the river road to Shady Grove Church. Here the Eighth Illinois cavalry was met retreating before the enemy, who was advancing in heavy force by the Meadow bridge. Colonel McCandless had previously deployed Company B, Captain McDonough, as skirmishers, and now formed the regiment across the road in connection with the cavalry, to induce the enemy to caution in his advance, and to give time for our forces to withdraw. At Mechanicsville the line was again formed, but soon afterwards the entire force withdrew to Beaver Dam Creek, where it was determined to give battle. The position was naturally a strong one, the left of the line resting on the Chickahominy and the right extending to a dense woods which was occupied. The passage of the creek in front was difficult, except by the road at Ellerson’s Mill, on the left and the upper Mechanicsville road on the right.
The Second Regiment was posted on the extreme right, with a heavy wood in front and a ford near the right of it, and joining the Bucktails on the left. Companies K and H, Captain Smith and Lieutenant Kennedy, were detached, under command of Major Woodward, and posted at the ford, with orders to hold it at all hazards, and Company C, Captain Byrnes, was placed in a swamp to the left, connecting with the Bucktails. At three P. M., the enemy’s lines were formed on the opposite side of the swamp and advanced, delivering their fire as they came. It was apparent that their main attack was to be made upon the extreme right of our line, held by the Second. Upon this they soon opened a heavy fire of shot and shell, the usual prelude to the infantry attacks, when column after column of Georgia and Louisiana troops were sent forward, who waded the stream and boldly advanced through the woods. They were received by the Second with a withering fire, which it maintained without a moment’s cessation for three hours. Assault after assault was made by the enemy and three times they succeeded in forcing their way through on the left of the regiment, and gaining the cleared ground; but were as often driven back at the point of the bayonet, Colonel McCandless gallantly leading in the charge.
While the storm thus raged in front, Major Woodward, with his two companies, was hotly engaged at the ford, the men delivering from behind trees, a slow but destructive fire, or pouring in rapid volleys when hard pressed. General Reynolds, whose ever watchful eye was upon the threatened points in his line, several times rode to the left, at one time exclaiming as he pointed with his sword, “Boys, look at them in the swamp there, they are as thick as flies on a ginger-bread, fire low, fire low.”
Just before dark, the enemy’s last charge having been triumphantly repulsed, and the ammunition nearly exhausted, relief was ordered up, and Kern’s Battery, of six twelve-pounder howitzers, supported by the Third, took position about three hundred yards to our right and opened a terrible fire of shell upon the confused and broken masses of the enemy on the opposite side of the swamp. Colonel McCandless now led his regiment to the ford, held by Major Woodward, with the intention of crossing and charging the enemy; but supports failing to arrive, the purpose was abandoned, and the regiment was deployed on the edge of the swamp and again opened fire. The musketry soon after ceased, but the artillery fire was continued until nine o’clock, when the battle closed.
The loss in this day’s work, out of three hundred and seventy-one officers and men engaged, was fifteen killed, twenty-three wounded, and four taken prisoners, an aggregate of forty-two.4
Preparations were being made during the night to renew the battle in the morning, but orders were received at a little before daybreak to withdraw to Gaines’ Mill. Screening the movement by the exercise of great caution and deliberation, and by a scattering fire of infantry and artillery, it was successfully executed without loss. The enemy was now advancing in great force to cut McClellan’s communication with White House, his base of supply.
In the battle which ensued at Gaines’ Mill, McCall’s Division was held in reserve, and was posted six hundred yards in rear of the first line, Reynolds’ brigade holding the right and covering the approaches from Cold Harbor and Dispatch Station to Sumner’s Bridge.
By noon of the 27th the enemy was in position, and began to advance along our whole front. At three P. M., the engagement had become so severe that the entire second line and reserves were moved forward to sustain the first line against repeated and desperate assaults. General Reynolds soon rode up and ordered the Second to advance through the wood, clear it of the enemy, and take up a position on its extreme edge. Colonel McCandless, knowing that the movement would bring the enemy on his right flank, asked the General’s permission to move in at right angles to the position assigned to it. The General was silent for a moment, his face bearing the expression of great perplexity and dissatisfaction, when he replied, “Colonel, General Porter is fighting the battle on certain parallels, and his orders will have to be obeyed.” ” I would,” remarked the Colonel afterward, “I had not asked him the question, but had taken my regiment up by mistake.” The soldiers in the ranks well knew that the movement was bringing the enemy on their flank, butTheirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why
and ” forward” was the word, though the regiment soon found itself in a better position to attack our own troops than to inflict damage upon the enemy. Scarcely had it reached the point designated, when solid columns of the foe advanced upon the left, their leading lines dressed in the national uniform, showing no flag and crying out that they were friends. Not deceived by their treachery, a left oblique fire was poured into them with good effect. Line after line of the enemy delivered its fire, and falling to the ground gave range to the next behind it. Overpowered and flanked, the regiment was forced to fall back, the men fighting as they retired, delivering their fire from behind trees as best they could. Three hundred yards to the rear it came to a depressed road where a stand was made, and afterwards supported Eaton’s Battery.
At eight o’clock the battle ceased, and the Second was moved to the neighborhood of a field hospital. The wounded of the regiment were brought in for surgical treatment, after which they were laid upon the grass, and cared for by their comrades. During the night the troops were withdrawn across the Chickahominy, and the Reserves, waiting until near morning to cover the movement, crossed the bridge opposite Trent’s Hill, at seven o’clock of the 28th, when it was blown up, and the weary troops rested. The loss in this engagement was seven killed, nineteen wounded, anid two taken prisoners, an aggregate of twenty-eight.
The army was now on its march across White Oak Swamp towards Malvern Hill on the James River, with its siege artillery and trains stretching for miles on all the roads. Day after day the enemy made desperate attacks to break through the retiring lines, and sever and destroy the army. The Second Regiment was posted on the roads leading to Richmond, prepared to repel attacks from that direction, but did not become seriously engaged until the 30th of June at Charles City Cross Roads. McCall was ordered to take position on the left of the New Market Road near its crossing with the Charles City Road, in front of the Quaker Road leading to Malvern Hill and Turkey Bridge. Meade’s Brigade held the right, Seymour’s the left, and Reynolds, now Simmons’, in reserve. After sending forward two regiments to feel our line, the enemy made a furious attack on the left with a heavy column of infantry, under cover of a terrific artillery fire. He was met and driven back with great slaughter, over two hundred being taken prisoner.
The Reserves were now called out, and the Second, Colonel McCandless, was ordered to the left front. As it was about to move, the cannoniers of a battery which had that day been assigned to McCall’s Division having cut the traces to their pieces, came dashing through the regiment with their horses, tramping several men to the ground, and breaking the line. Recovering from the shock, the Second advanced with loud cheers, and swept across the field under a murderous fire of round shot and shell, reaching a point near Nelson’s house, where it was ordered to lie down, a perfect storm of missiles passing harmless over head, and the battle raging with terrific fury. When the enemy, with a full brigade, had arrived within fifty yards, Seymour cried out “up and at them,” and rising, they poured in a murderous fire that caused the rebel line to stagger. Rushing upon the enemy with the bayonet, a desperate hand to hand struggle ensued.
Already had Major Woodward, Captains Smith and Neide and Lieutenants Fletcher and Nightingale fallen. Overpowered and crushed by the masses of the enemy, the Second was at length swept back, and in retreating across the plain and up through the wood, it was exposed to a terrific fire of shells and canister. The heroic Simmons, commanding the brigade, and Adjutant General Biddle received mortal hurts, and Meade was borne bleeding from the field. The loss was twenty-one killed, nineteen wounded and six taken prisoners, the very large proportion of killed evincing the terrible ordeal to which the regiment was subjected.
On the 1st of July the army of the Potomac reached Malvern Hill, where it was drawn up to receive the enemy’s final attack, with the artillery, some two hundred and fifty pieces, advantageously posted. The Second Regiment being held with the division in reserve, did not become engaged. The attack, desperate and determined, was made in the afternoon of that day, with a recklessness scarcely paralleled; but the enemy received a disastrous repulse, and his columns were broken and thrown into irredeemable confusion. On the following day McClellan withdrew to Harrison’s Landing, where the Second Regiment encamped in a dense growth of pine.
On the 10th, a new Company under Captain William D. Reitzel, recruited in Lancaster county, joined the command as Company G. Colonel M’cCandless, who had led the regiment through all the battles of this campaign with only the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, here received his commission as Colonel, to date from November 1st, 1861. Major G. A. Woodward was promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Horace Neide, of Company A, to be Major.
On the 13th of July, Generals McCall and Reynolds, who had been prisoners in Richmond, arrived, and the division paraded to receive them. The former, on account of the state of his health, did not assume command, and subsequently resigned, General Reynolds succeeding him. General Meade was soon after so far recovered from his wounds as to resume command of his brigade, now the First, and General Seymour that of the Second, to which the Second Regiment now belonged.
McClellan was ordered to evacuate the Peninsula and re-inforce Pope, now confronting Lee upon the Rappahannock. On the 14th the Second Regiment, with the division, marched to the wharf, and embarking upon steamers proceeded to Acquia Creek, arriving on the 20th, and thence moved by rail to Falmouth. Here the Second Regiment was separated from the division, the latter being ordered to join the Third Corps, under General McDowell, at Kelly’s Ford. Early on the morning of the 22d, the Second moved on the Bealton road, passing through Hartwood and Grove Church, with the purpose of joining the division at Rappahannock Station; but learning that the troops had fallen back from that position, it bivouacked with General Morell’s Division, encamped near Crittenden’s Mills. On the following day Morell moved to the north-east and took up a strong position at the gold mines, near Morrisville. Desiring to rejoin the division, Colonel McCandless obtained permission to move with his regiment to Warrenton, where he arrived on the 26th.
Second Battle of Bull Run
The enemy’s forces under Jackson, Ewell and A. P. Hill, having gained the rear of the Union army, were operating in the neighborhood of Manassas Junction. Early on the morning of the 29th, the Reserves were pushed forward and were under fire during a considerable part of the day. Towards evening the First and Third Brigades were detached and advanced for the purpose of capturing a battery of heavy guns posted on the enemy’s right, and the First and Second Regiments to take a piece of woods to the left, and make a diversion in their favor; but for want of suitable rifled artillery with which to operate, were unable to secure it. At night the Second was placed on the picket line.
On the following day the army was drawn up on the Warrenton pike, the Reserves on the extreme left. It was soon ascertained that the enemy were forming for an attack on our left flank. At about two P. M., the Second, which with the Bucktails, had been skirmishing with the enemy from daylight, rejoined the division and was soon after ordered to the support of a portion of Porter’s Corps, which had given way. Hurrying across the field to the right under a heavy fire of shot and shell, a position was taken on a hill over-looking nearly the entire field, but soon after, by reason of the yielding of our line, it was moved to the Henry House Hill, where it was formed in column of brigade, with Ransom’s Battery of Napoleon guns in front. Here the Second remained for nearly an hour, exposed to a terrific artillery fire, and many fell; but the position was a vital one to the safety of the army. Soon the enemy was seen coming on in heavy masses, when the word was give to advance. Reynolds waving aloft a standard shot from its staff, led the charge. The enemy was driven back into the woods, where, meeting his reserves and being aided by powerful batteries that had obtained the exact range, he succeeded in turning the left flank of the advancing column, and in regaining his lost ground. In the original position the line was reformed, where it held the foe at bay.
After dark, having been forced back about three-quarters of a mile, but still covering the turnpike, with ammunition nearly exhausted, the division fell back and rested on the east bank of Cub Run. Out of one hundred men with which the Second entered the engagement, two were killed, sixteen wounded, and six taken prisoners. Among the wounded was Colonel McCandless, hit in the groin while gallantly leading his men in the thickest of the fight.
Just before dark on the following day, the division was sent out to relieve General Reno, at Cub Run, and took position on a range of hills covered with heavy woods, where the men rested on their arms, undisturbed by the enemy. On the following day the command marched back to Centreville, passing long lines of ambulances and army wagons, on their way to the field for the wounded. A little before sunset of September 1st, just as the division had passed Chantilly, the enemy made a furious attack upon the rear, and the Reserves were put in position in a large open field, the shot and shell falling thick and fast amongst them, but doing little harm. In the midst of a thunder storm tne battle was fought, but darkness soon terminated the conflict.
Battle of South Mountain (Turner’s Gap)
Captain Reitzel, with Company G, having been left upon the Peninsula to march down with the wagon train, rejoined the regiment on the 6th of September. On the same day the command started on the Maryland campaign, and crossing the Long Bridge and passing through Mechanicsville and New Market, arrived on the 15th in the neighborhood of Frederick, where McClellan’s Army was principally concentrated.
On the morning of the 14th the left wing of Reno’s Corps engaged the enemy at Turner’s Gap on the Sharpsburg road. At the same time General Hooker advanced on the Old Hagerstown road and while moving along the base of the mountains was opened upon by several pieces of artillery. General Seymour, whose brigade occupied the extreme right, deployed the Bucktails as skirmishers, with the Second Regiment about fifty yards in their rear as a support.
Advancing up the first acclivities, they soon became engaged and succeeded in driving the enemy from a farm house where considerable resistance was made. Here the two regiments became mingled and were not again fully separated. The enemy was driven a considerable distance until coming. to a stone wall at the immediate base of the mountains, he clung to it with great tenacity, making a stubborn resistance; but the impetuosity and determination of these regiments carried them over it. The ground was very difficult, the mountain side being obstructed by stone walls, rocks and timber from behind which the enemy, in lines and squads, kept up an incessant fire. All order and regularity of the lines were soon destroyed. From wall and rock the enemy was driven, until the summit was reached and the loud cheer of victory rising from the crest, rolled down the mountain side carrying dismay to the hearts of the vanquished. The triumph was complete, and during the night the enemy retreated leaving his dead and wounded in the hands of the victors. The loss in the regiment was seven killed and ten wounded.
Battle of Antietam
The enemy had now fallen back and taken up a strong position stretching across the angle formed by the Potomac and the Antietam, his flanks and rear protected by these streams. It was three o’clock in the afternoon of the 16th, when the Reserves, followed by the division of Ricketts and Doubleday, crossed the Antietiam at a ford and at the upper bridge, and advanced to attack, and if possible turn the left flank of the enemy. The artillery soon opened, and the infantry drove the enemy from the first strip of woods over the fields to the second, the battle lasting until eight o’clock in the evening, the Reserves resting upon their arms, the Second supporting Cooper’s Battery.
At two o’clock on the following morning the Bucktails opened the second day’s fight as they had the first. Getting short of ammunition the Second was sent to relieve them, arriving just in the grey of the morning. Deploying, they crept stealthily to their position, and opened a heavy fire upon the enemy, both parties maintaining their positions. Soon after the whole corps came up, and the battle opened in earnest. Upon the repulse of Sedgwick on the right, the battle in front became more desperate. Already had Captain Mealy been taken from the field severely wounded, and Lieutenant Wimpfheimer had fallen. The regiment to the right of the Second had given way, and the enemy pressing hard had forced back its right flank, and, notwithstanding the gallantry of officers and bravery of the men, it was finally overpowered by superior numbers and forced back after six hours of hard fighting.
The batteries of the Reserves were now pushed forward and opened with case shot and canister that swept back the advancing foe, when the Second, with the division, charged with loud cheers over the ploughed field into the cornfield and the woods beyond. With varied fortunes the battle raged in its front, when the line, after having been again for nearly four hours under a murderous fire, was forced back by the weight of the enemy’s attack. The ammunition being nearly expended, the regiment took position immediately below the crest of the heights on which they had so gallantly fought. The Second entered this battle with one hundred and seventy-one rank and file. Of this number six were killed and twenty wounded. Colonel MCandless, Lieutenant Colonel Woodward and Major Neide being absent on account of wounds, the regiment was led in the last two engagements by Captain Byrnes.
On the 26th of September, the regiment broke camp, crossing the Potomac near Berlin, and passing through Middleburg and White Plains to the gap between Water and Pig Nut Mountains in the neighborhood of Warrenton, it was deployed as skirmishers, Companies A, B and H, under Captain McDonough, to the right of the road, D, E and G, under Major Neide, to the left, C and K as a reserve, following close in the rear. Advancing rapidly through dense underbrush over the crest of the mountains, they re-ilited beyond the gap, the way being found clear of the enemy.
On the 10th of November the regiment was called out to bid farewell to General McClellan, who had been relieved and superseded by General Burnside. On the 16th General Seymour, at his own request, was relieved of the command of the First Brigade, and was succeeded by Colonel William Sinclair, of the Sixth Reserves. Soon afterwards the regiment marched through Stafford Court House to Brooks’ Station, on the Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg railroad, where it went into camp. On the 25th Major Neide resigned on account of disability, occasioned by wounds received at Charles City Cross Roads.
On the morning of the 8th the regiment broke camp and moved to the neighborhood of White Oak Church, where the men received each, sixty rounds of cartridges. Preparations having been perfected for delivering a general battle, an attempt was made on the 11th to lay six pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock, four opposite the town of Fredericksburg, and two lower down. The enemy’s sharp-shooters rendering the attempt futile, the town was bombarded and set on fire in various places; but not until the infantry crossed in boats and drove out the sharp-shooters could the bridges be completed. Of this party was Joseph Kline, a boy of sixteen, of Company C, who could not resist the temptation to join it. He captured, before returning, a Mississippi rifle and accoutrements from a rebel whom he killed.
Battle of Fredericksburg
Early on the 12th the regiment marched to the lower bridge, and crossing, formed in line of battle on the elevated plateau where the whole of Franklin’s Grand Division was drawn up with artillery and cavalry posted. The Bucktails were ordered to the extreme left, and the Second was sent to occupy the buildings and out-houses at Smithfield, and to hold the bridge across Deep Run. Early on the morning of the 13th, the enemy threw out foot and mounted skirmishers on our left, and Colonel McCandless ordered Companies B, Captain McDonough, and H, Captain Mealey, to the support of the Bucktails, following hard upon with the balance of his regiment. Soon afterwards the entire division moved forward and formed the first line of battle, with Gibbon’s Division on the right. Scarcely had the dispositions been made when the enemy opened with artillery. Until twelve P. M. the Reserves had been lying under a terrific fire of round shot and shell, when the order to advance was given and received with loud cheers, the First Brigade, advancing over the field into the woods, and driving the enemy before them.
Having passed through a severe flanking fire from a rifle pit which lined the base of the woods, the regiment crossed the railroad and drove the enemy from behind the embankments, and then making a half wheel to the left, gained the rear of the pit and poured into its occupants a most destructive fire. Hemmed in on all sides, they neither gave token of surrender nor attempted defense, while it was difficult to stop the firing of our men. At length Adjutant Woodward, sheathing his sword, with cap his hand, advanced between the two lines and asked them if they “wished to fight or surrender.” “We will surrender if you will allow us,” was the reply. Over three hundred laid down their arms and surrendered, while at least one hundred lay dead or wounded in the pit. It was the Nineteenth Georgia Infantry.
The brigade now pressed vigorously on and continued driving the enemy back, until the crest of the heights was gained, and the enemy’s rear, but having no support, the foe swarming out on all sides and bearing down upon this small force, it was compelled to yield. Through the succeeding day and night there was considerable picket firing, and on Monday a flag of truce was agreed upon to bring off the wounded and bury the dead.
On Monday night, soon after dark, the regiment was ordered under arms, and, leaving the camp fires brightly burning, moved slowly and noiselessly towards the river, and crossed on muffled pontoons. Colonel Sinclair having been severely wounded, the command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel McCandless, and that of the regiment upon Captain Mealey.
The regiment went into the engagement with one hundred and ninety-five muskets. The loss was seven killed, twenty-eight wounded and four taken prisoners. Charles Upjohn, of Company K, captured the flag of the Nineteenth Georgia. Color Sergeant William Derr was shot on the plateau while crossing a fence, and Colonel McCandless ordered two of his men to carry him to the rear, but he refused to permit them, telling them to “take the flag and go on.”
Before advancing to the charge and while the men were lying upon the ground exposed to a hot fire of artillery, the flag staff was cut in two by a round shot. Jumping to their feet the men gave three cheers and then laid down again.
After the battle of Fredericksburg, the Reserves participated in the movements of the army until the 5th of February, when a telegram was received from General Doubleday, division commander, stating that in consideration of the arduous and gallant services of the Reserves, they were to be withdrawn to the neighborhood of Washington, to rest and recruit. The Second was not, therefore, engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville, but still enjoyed little rest, being constantly employed on picket and guard duty, even more arduous than before.
At Union Mills, on the 8th of March, Captain John M. Clark, with sixty men, Company F, which had been detailed to duty with the artillery, rejoined the regiment. Colonel Sinclair, commanding the brigade, resigned the Colonelcy of the Sixth Reserves to take command of a battery of horse artillery, and was succeeded in command of the brigade by Colonel MCandless. Lieutenant Colonel Woodward assumed command of the regiment.
HEADQUARTERS 2D REGT, INFANTRY, P. R. V. C.
FAIRFAX STATION, VA., June 17, 1863.
To Colonel W. McCANDLESS,
Commandling First Brigade:
We, the undersigned, officers of the Second Regiment, Infantry, Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, having learned that our mother State has been invaded by a confederate force, respectfully ask that you will, if it be in your power, have us ordered within the borders of our State, for her defense. Under McCall, Reynolds, Meade, Seymour, Sinclair, and yourself, we have more than once met and fought the enemy, when he was at home. We now wish to meet him again when he threatens our homes, our families and our firesides. Could our wish in this behalf be realized, we feel confident that we could do some service to the State that sent us to the field, and not diminish, if we could not increase, the lustre that -attaches to our name.
Battle of Gettysburg
On the 15th, long trains of ambulances, wagons, and the reserve artillery of the Army of the Potomac, passed by the camp of the Second, and on the same day General Hooker and staff, and towards night the Twelfth Army Corps. On the 17th, the main body and the rear guard of the army arrived, and resing a night and a part of a day near by, moved on into Maryland. To see the whole army marching to meet the enemy on Pennsylvania soil, and be obliged to remain behind, was too mortifying for Pennsylvanians to bear. Officers were, accordingly, sent to Washington to intercede for marching orders, and on the 17th, the following communication, signed by the field and line officers was addressed to Colonel McCandless, who forwarded it through the proper channels to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
On the 25th, orders to march were received, and the First Brigade together with the Third was attached to the Fifth Corps, commanded by General Meade, and subsequently commanded by General Sykes. On the 2d of July the regiment reached the battlefield, and at five o’clock in the afternoon, at a critical period in the fortunes of the day, when the broken ranks of the Third Corps, and its supports, were falling back, overborne by the masses of the enemy, the First Brigade was ordered forward. Already had the advancing foe approached within fifty paces of the brow of Little Round Top. Starting forward with a shout, and delivering a solid volley as they went, they crossed the marshy open space in front, cleared the rocky face of the slope beyond:and halted not until they reached the stone wall bordering the skirt of woods, where the enemy made a last desperate rally.
After the last grand charge of the enemy on. our left centre, on the afternoon of the third day, his sharp-shooters with a battery in the immediate front of the Reserves, became very troublesome. McCandless was ordered to silence, or capture them. The Bucktails, First, Second.and Eleventh, crossed the wall and advanced through the woods to an open field, now waiving with golden grain, while Colonel Ent of the Sixth crept cautiously up to the battery which he stormed and captured. When the Sixth was fairly engaged, Colonel McCandless, with the balance of his brigade, which, after attracting the attention of the enemy and drawing his fire had dropped upon the ground, now moved by the right flank, and filing left formed in line of battle in a woods at right angles with the stone wall, and deploying skirmishers to the front, right and left, charged on double quick over the field for half a mile, receiving the enemy’s fire from the woods on three sides. Half-wheeling to the right and pouring a few volleys into the woods, they charged up to the crest. Halting for a few moments, they faced about, wheeled the line a little to the right and charged through the woods in their rear, through the meadow, and up over the steep activity on the opposite side, taking the enemy in flank, driving them n confusion, and penetrating far into their lines The trophies of this brilliant raid, besides the captures of the Sixth, were six thousand stand of arms, the flag of the Fifteenth Georgia, and three hundred prisoners, including a Colonel and many line officers. The ground of the previous day’s fight was retrieved, and with it the wounded who had lain where they fell, suffering the pangs of many deaths. The Second Regiment went into battle with one hundred and forty-seven men, and lost ten killed and thirty wounded. It was led by Captain Smith of Company K.
Lee having retreated to the Potomac, the Fifth Corps advanced along the South Mountain, and crossing, approached the outposts of the enemy near the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown pike, where the Second and five companies of the Fifth, all under Colonel Woodward, were sent out on picket. On the following morning, Sunday, Companies C and H, Captains Byres and Mealey were sent to occupy a piece of heavy timber in advance and, to the left, in close proximity to the enemy’s picket pits. Considerable firing took place but without loss to the regiment, and on the following night the rebel army made its escape across the Potomac.
On the 1st of September, Lieutenant Colonel Woodward was transferred to the Invalid Corps, on account of wounds received at Charles City Cross Roads, and was succeeded in command of the regiment by Major McDonough, who was soon after commissioned Lieutenant Colonel and Captain R. Ellis, Major.
In the operations of the Army of the Potomac, in its advance to Warrenton, its retreat to Centreville, and its advance again to Mine Run, the regiment shared in the hardships of the campaign, losing two wounded and one prisoner at Bristoe Station; one killed at New Hope Church; one wounded and one prisoner at Mine Run; one wounded at Bristoe Station, January 24th; one killed at Bistoe Station, March 27, 1864.
The Wilderness Campaign
The Wilderness campaign, under Grant, opened on the 4th of May, the army crossing the Rapidan and moving by the right flank of the rebel army, posted at Orange Court House, ten miles away. Companies A, D, E and H, under Captain Mealey, were detailed, with a like number of the Sixth, as train and ambulance guard, and did not rejoin the main body until the 11th.
In the formation of the line of the army, Sedgwick held the right. Soon after getting into position, the enemy’s skirmishers were discovered in front with their main force on our right. General Crawford detached the Second, Seventh and Eleventh regiments of the brigade, and ordered McCandless to move upon the enemy. Filing to the right, the column advanced, driving him in upon Wadsworth’s Division, already hard pressed. Here a stubborn resistance was made, and McCandless, seeing the critical position of Wadsworth, ordered a charge, heading it in person.
The enemy was broken and driven from his position, but such was the impetuosity of the charge, that most of the brigade staff, Captain Byrnes, and many others were captured. (The term of service of these captives had nearly expired; but for ten months they were confined in rebel prison pens, being driven about from point to point, to elude the grasp of Sherman, and for a time, under fire at Charleston.) The loss in the three days of fighting was one killed, three wounded and six taken prisoners. In the movement upon Spottsylvania Court House, the Second regiment being on picket, did not move with the main body of the army. During the afternoon of the 7th, a sprinkling fire was kept up in which Captain Smith was slightly wounded. During the night it quietly withdrew, and marching to the battle-field, about fifteen miles distant, was under fire at 2 P. M., of the 8th.
On the morning of the 10th, the battle opened with a sharp cannonade, and the Second was engaged in constructing rifle pits, and afterwards was placed on picket. About noon the enemy in front became restive, and a spirited skirmish opened which lasted until dark. At one A. M., of the 12th, the regiment moved into rifle pits, and at daybreak a heavy artillery duel opened, in which the enemy’s guns were silenced. As soon as the firing ceased, the infantry was ordered to charge, and leaping the rifle-pits they passed through the valley and up to the enemy’s breast-works, but were driven back; again they returned and held their position until relieved.
In the several engagements around Spottsylvania, of the 8th, 10th and 12th, the loss was nine killed, nine wounded and two taken prisoners. Of the wounded was Colonel McCandless. At Guiney Station, on the 21st, the regiment was again under fire, but did not become engaged and had no casualties.
At the North Anna, on the 23d, the enemy was met in force, and after the usual shelling, his lines advanced to the charge, but were signally repulsed, the division taking over four hundred prisoners. On the 25th the three years’ term of service of the regiment expired, and General Crawford put the question to the men, whether they would go home alone or remain until the 31st, when the other regiments of the division would be relieved. They unanimously decided to remain.
Shady Grove Church
Re-crossing the North Anna, the regiment moved with the division, and on the 28th crossed the Pamunky. About two o’clock of the 30th, near Shady Grove Church, the enemy’s skirmishers were met. It was about this hour of the day, and at this place, that the enemy were met under similar circumstances just before the battle of Mechanicsville, three years before, the first battle in which the regiment was engaged.
Forming in a favorable position, breast-works were thrown up, the Second being posted to hold a wood to the left and rear of the division. The enemy advanced with confidence to the attack, but as their first line approached a fence and hedge a short distance in front of the rifle-pits of the regiment, a crashing musketry fire was opened upon them, while the artillery poured in canister and one-second-fuse shells. Those of the enemy not killed or wounded by the fire, threw themselves upon the ground and soon after surrendered.
This, the last battle fought by the Reserve Corps, was participated in by the Second five days after its term of service had expired. Soon after it moved to Harrisburg, where it was honored by a public reception, and thence to Philadelphia, where similar honors awaited it, and where it was mustered out of service.
- An excellent History of the Second Reserves, embracing 362 octavo pages, is published by John E. Potter, of Philadelphia, prepared by the Adjutant of the regiment, Major E. M. Woodward, from which, by permission of the author, are drawn many of the facts embraced in this record.
- Our Campaigns; Woodward, page 60.
- Organization of the First Brigade, General John F. Reynolds; Pennsylvania Reserves, General George A M’Call. First (30th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel R. Biddle Roberts; Second (31st) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel William B. Mann; Fifth (34th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Seneca G. Simmons; Eighth (37th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel George S, Hays.,
- EXTRACT FROM GENERAL M’CALL’S OFFICIAL REPORT.-In a short time the enemy, who was commanded by General Robert E. Lee in person, boldly advanced in force, under cover of a heavy artillery fire, and attacked my position from right to left. It was not long, however, before I was satisfied that his main attack was directed upon my right, and in consequence I ordered Kern’s Battery thither, and supported it by advancing from the Reserve, the Third Regiment, Colonel Sickel. Here, for a long time, the battle raged with great fury. The Georgians now rushed headlong against the Second Regiment, but only to be mowed down by those gallant fellows, whose commander soon sent to the rear some seven or eight prisoners taken in the rencounter of two hundred being taken prisoners.