Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
The companies comprising the Fifth Regiment were recruited in the counties of Centre, Lancaster, Hmutingdon, Lycoming, Northumberland, Clearfield, Union and Bradford. They were ordered to report at Camp Curtin, where on the 20th of June the regiment was organized by the choice of the following field officers:
- John I. Gregg, from Captain of Company E, Colonel
- Joseph W. Fisher, from Captain of Company K, Lieutenant Colonel
- George Dare, from Captain of Company I, Major
On the following day, Colonel Gregg was appointed a Captain in the Sixth United States Cavalry, when he resigned his commission in this regiment, and Captain Seneca G. Simmons, of the Seventh United States Infantry, a soldier of long experience and great merit, was chosen to succeed him.
On the same day, Governor Curtin received a telegram from Lieutenant General Scott, requesting him to send a force immediately to the relief of Colonel Lewis Wallace, commanding the Eleventh Indiana, at Cumberland, Maryland. The Fifth, together with the Bucktail rifle regiment, and Captain Easton’s battery of the First Artillery, was at once dispatched, the whole under command of Colonel Biddle, of the Bucktails. Proceeding by rail to Hopewell, it marched to the neighborhood of Bedford Springs, where it was halted for a few days, whence it again marched to the State line, where it encamped, remaining until the 8th of July, when it proceeded to Cumberland, six miles distant, and relieved Colonel Wallace.
On the morning of the 13th, the Fifth was ordered to move on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to bridge Number 21, about twenty miles above Cumberland, which had been burned a short time previous by the rebels. After a short delay here, the regiment moved on to New Creek, to the support of a detachment of the Bucktails which had been attacked. Lieutenant Colonel Kane, in command of this detachment, dispersed the forges of the enemy before his supports could arrive, and pursued them in the direction of Romney; but on arriving at Ridgeville, finding himself threatened by a superior force, he sent back for reinforcements, when the Fifth and the main body of the Bucktails proceeded to his relief, marching the whole distance on the double quick.
On the following morning, the Fifth returned to New Creek, where the troops were quartered in deserted houses about the town. On the 22d, the regiment proceeded to Piedmont, where it was stationed to afford protection to Union people, and to foster the sentiment of patriotism.
Soon after the Bull Run disaster, fears being entertained of an attack by the enemy on Washington, the Fifth was ordered to proceed thither via Harrisburg. Bivouacking for a few days in the neighborhood of Camp Curtin, it was hurriedly recruited and equipped, and on the 8th of Augxust taking up the line of march nine hundred and eighty-four strong, proceeded to Washington and thence to the camp established for the Reserves at Tenallytown. Here the drill which had been constantly practised since its organization was resumed, and every effort was made by the accomplished soldier who commanded it, to bring it to the highest state of efficiency. On the 14th of September, it was detailed to proceed to Washington and escort Governor Curtin to camp, where in Company with President Lincoln, General McClellan and other distinguished.civilians and soldiers, he reviewed the division and presented each regiment with a State flag.
In the organization of the Reserves which ensued, the Fifth was assigned to the First Brigade,1 commanded by Brigadier General John F. Reynolds. On the 10th of October, the whole division was ordered across the Potomac, and encamped near Langley. Schools were here opened for the instruction of commissioned officers, which were in session on two days in each week at regimental head-quarters, where they were examined and instructed in tactics, army regulations, and camp and picket duty. Company commanders were also required to hold similar schools for the instruction and discipline of non-commissioned officers.
On the 19th of October, the First Brigade made a reconnoissance to the neighborhood of Dranesville, where it bivouacked for forty-eight hours, returning on the 21st with teams laden with forage. On the 20th of December the brigade again marched to Dranesville, but did not reach the field in time to participate in the handsome victory which the Third Brigade there achieved.
On the 10th of March, 1862, the regiment broke camp. with a force of nine hundred and eleven strong, and joining in the general forward movement of the army, marched to Hunter’s Mills, where it bivouacked until the 14th, when it was ordered to Alexandria. Here it remained until the 9th of April, when it moved to Manassas and occupied the deserted quarters of the rebels. A few days later it was detailed to guard the Orange and Alexandria railroad, from Alexandria to Catlett’s Station. On the 7th of May, Colonel Simmons was ordered to report with his regiment to Falmouth, where it encamped and remained till the 25th, when the First Brigade was ordered across the Rappahannock, and occupied Fredericksburg, picketing the country in the rear of the town and along the river.
General M’Clellan, with the grand army, had advanced up the Peninsula, and was confronting the rebels near Richmond. He was now calling for reinforcements, and the Reserves were ordered to his support. Embarking on the 9th of June, it moved by transport to White House, on the Pamunky, and thence marched along the Richmond and West Point railroad to Dispatch Station, and a few days later moved to Mechanicsville, bivouacking in sight of the enemy’s lines.
Battle of Mechanicsville
On the morning of June 26th, the Fifth was ordered to cross Beaver Dam Creek, and to picket the line along the left bank of the Chickahominy. At one o’clock P.M. the enemy crossed the river in large numbers, when the pickets retired across the creek and took up a position which had been selected for the battle, along its left bank. The First Brigade was posted on the right of the line, the Fifth occupying the left centre. Four companies, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Fisher, were thrown forward as skirmishers. Scarcely had the regiment gained its position, when the enemy opened with his artillery, which was vigorously replied to by our batteries; soon after his infantry came on in force, and the battle opened in earnest. The skirmishers fell back on the line of battle in excellent order, when a terrific fire was opened on the approaching foe, which never ceased nor slackened until he withdrew from the conflict, leaving the field strewn with his dead and wounded.
The Fifth lost in this engagement fifty killed and wounded.
Early on the following morning the regiment was ordered to fall back and take position on Gaines’ Mill, the position at Beaver Dam Creek being outflanked by the enemy. This order was executed with eminent skill and success. It was the intention of the commanding general to have held this division in reserve in the ensuing battle, on account of the severe fighting in which it was engaged on the previous day; but at two o’clock P. M. of the 27th, our line was so hard pressed by the enemy that he was obliged to order in all his available force, and the Fifth advancing to the front was soon hotly engaged, maintaining its position under a most withering fire until sundown, and until its ammunition was completely exhausted and the pieces of the men had become unserviceable.2 General M’Call and General Reynolds both made ineffectual efforts to get troops to relieve them, but the men nobly held their ground until ordered back to prevent capture.3 General Reynolds was captured towards the close of the day, and the command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel Simmons, that of the regiment upon Lieutenant Colonel Fisher.
Charles City Cross Roads
Retiring a short distance, the men slept on their arms for a few hours, when they where aroused and taken across the Chickahominy. Here the regiment lay under arms until the evening of the 28th of June, when it marched via Savage Station, and crossing the White Oak Swamp, arrived on the evening of the 29th at Charles City Cross Roads. The Fifth and a battalion of the Bucktails were thrown forward close up to the enemy’s line. Lest in the darkness friend should be mistaken for foe, the men were directed to bare the right arm to the shoulder. The pass word was “Bucktail” and the answer “five.
On the following morning, the brigade was withdrawn, and dispositions were made for repelling an attack from the direction of Richmond, and to protect the junction of the New Market and the Quaker or Turkey Bridge road. By half-past three in the afternoon the battle had fairly began, the rebels attacking with great fury. Soon after the contest opened, the enemy moved a heavy column to the right and came down with great impetuosity upon Seymour’s brigade. Colonel Simmons was immediately ordered to move with the Fifth and the Eighth regiments to its support, the Fifth gallantly led by Lieutenant Colonel Fisher. This order was promptly obeyed, the men moving forward at a double quick and charge bayonet, but not a moment too soon for a furious attack with infantry and artillery was met just in time to stay and repel it.
In this charge the Seventh and Seventeenth Virginia regiments were nearly annihilated, the greater portion being either killed wounded or taken prisoners. Shortly afterwards the enemy issued from the woods in front in great force, and for nearly two hours the battle raged fiercely, the enemy making desperate efforts to break our lines and gain the road, on which were passing the immense supply trains of our army; but without success.
In the heat of the struggle, Colonel Simmons, leading his men with determined bravery and unequalled skill, fell mortally wounded and died in the hands of the enemy. A soldier by profession and a man of the strictest honor, a patriot from principle and brave to a fault, the Reserve Corps lost no more trusted leader, nor loved companion in arms. Here fell, too, Captain Taggart, of Company B, an excellent soldier, whose loss was severely felt. In the three battles, at Mechanicsville on the 26th, Gaines’ Mill on the 27th, and Charles City Cross Roads on the 30th of June, the regiment lost eighteen killed, one hundred and fifteen wounded, and one hundred and three taken prisoners.
Resting upon the field until two A. M. of the 1st of July, the regiment proceeded to Malvern Hill, where was fought the last grand battle before Richmond, in the Peninsula campaign. The Fifth was under fire, but not actively engaged, and on the morning of July 2d, moved with the army to Harrison’s Landing, where it went into camp. The vacancy occasioned by the death of Colonel Simmons, was filled by the promotion of Lieutenant Colonel Fishery Major George Dare was appointed Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Frank Zentmyer, Major.
Second Battle of Bull Run
General McClellan’s Peninsula campaign was now at an end, and General Pope, in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, was beginning to feel the weight of the enemy’s force concentrating on his fronts The troops under McClellan were accordingly ordered forward to his support. Pope finding the line of the Rapidan untenable with his meagre force, withdrew to the Rappahannock, where, upon his arrival, he was joined by Reynolds with the Reserve Corps. Finding Jackson in his rear, Pope hastened with his little army to meet, and if possible overpower him before he could be reinforced. The Reserves moved via Warrenton and Gainesville to the First Bull Run battleground, arriving on Thursday, the 28th.
On the following day, the Fifth was deployed as skirmishers and was under a heavy fire of artillery during the entire day. On Saturday, August 30th, it engaged the enemy at four o’clock P. M., and the fight was maintained until six with unabated fury, when it was relieved.
In this engagement the regiment, being reduced by excessive fatigue and heavy details, numbered but two hundred men. The loss was one killed and twelve wounded. During this campaign it was under the command of Major Zentmyer, Colonel Fisher being absent in consequence of a severe injury occasioned by the fall of his horse.
Battle of South Mountain (Turner’s Gap)
During the night of August 30th, the regiment withdrew to Centreville and bivouacked until September 2d, when it fell back to Arlington Heights, encamping on Upton’s Hill. On the 6th of September, it was ordered to move with the division across the Potomac and advance into Maryland to meet the enemy, now glorying in his strength and rioting on union soil. He was encountered in the passes of South Mountain, strongly posted and confident of resisting successfully any attack which should be made against him. Colonel Fisher in the meantime had so far recovered as to be able to assume command.
“The Bucktail regiment” says Mr. Sypher, “commanded by Colonel M’Neil, was deployed as skirmishers in front of the division, and was closely followed by the whole line of battle; the enemy’s outposts were rapidly driven in, forced from the hills, and routed from the ravines, until suddenly the regiments of the First Brigade arrived at a cornfield, ‘full of rebels,’ protected by a stone wall at the foot of the abrupt mountain side; the Bucktails received a terrific volley of musketry, which brought them to a halt; General Seymour, who was on the ground with his men, seeing that this was the critical moment, called out to Colonel Roberts, commanding the First Regiment, to charge up the mountain, and at thesame instant, turning to Colonel Fisher, of the Fifth Regiment, whose men were coming up in well dressed lines, he exclaimed: ‘Colonel, put your regiment into that cornfield and hurt somebody.’ ‘I will, General, and I’ll catch one alive for you’ was the cool reply of Colonel Fisher. The Second regiment, commanded by Captain Byrnes, and the Sixth, Colonel Sinclair, were ordered forward at the same time. The men of the Fifth leaped the stone wall, immediately captured eleven prisoners, and sent them back to the General.”
The regiment steadily ascended the rugged side of the mountain under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and after a severe struggle, lasting five hours, carried the heights with the triumphant division and planted its standard upon the summit. It entered the engagement with three hundred and fifty-seven men. Its loss was one killed and nineteen wounded.
Battle of Antietam
On the night of the 14th, the men slept on their arms, on the rugged mountain crest. At early dawn of the 15th, finding that the enemy had fled, the regiment moved down the mountain, and passing Boonsboro, bivouacked for the night at Keedysville.
On the 16th, it crossed Antietam Creek, and moving to the right, engaged the enemy at four P. M., and was engaged at intervals during the night. The battle was renewed at daylight on the following morning, and raged with unabated fury on that part of the line where the Reserves were posted during the early part of the day, the Fifth not being relieved until one P. M.
Finding his army badly crippled and unable longer to offer successful resistance, Lee withdrew across the Potomac, and on the 19th, the Fifth marched to the river, near Sharpsburg, where it encamped. The loss of the Fifth in this battle was two killed and eight wounded.
After considerable delay, the army again advanced into Virginia, and by command of the President, General McClellan was relieved and General Burnside ordered to succeed him. The latter determined to move upon Richmond by way of Fredericksburg. On the 11th of December, General Franklin, who commanded the left grand division, to which the Reserves were attached, crossed the Rappahannock some distance below Fredericksburg and formed in line of battle facing the enemy’s entrenched camp.
A few weeks previous, the Fifth Regiment had been transferred from the First to the Third Brigade, which now consisted of the Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth regiments. The Reserves, commanded by General Meade, early on the morning of the 13th, moved forward and occupied the first line of battle, with Doubleday’s Division upon the left flank and Gibbon’s upon the right, as supports. The Third Brigade occupied the left of the line, with the Ninth Regiment deployed as skirmishers. The dispositions had scarcely been made, when the enemy opened from a battery posted on the Bowling Green road, to the left and rear of the line. The Third Brigade was immediately faced to the left, forming with the First nearly a right angle. Simpson’s, Cooper’s and Ransom’s Batteries were soon brought into position, which together with the batteries of Doubleday silenced and compelled the withdrawal of the enemy’s guns.5 During the progress of this artillery duel, a body of rebel sharp shooters advanced along the Bowling Green road, but were soon dispersed by the marksmen of the Third Brigade, sent to meet them. The line now advanced, the Fifth Regiment occupying a position upon the left, nearest to the enemy’s breast works. The struggle became desperate, but the Reserves, unaided, advanced with determined bravery, sweeping everything before them until they had penetrated and completely broken his lines. In this advance, the Third Brigade encountered a destructive fire from a battery posted on the heights on its left. In the face of this deadly fire the troops boldly crossed the railroad and ascended the acclivity; but so terrible was the storm of battle from both infantry and artillery that they were compelled to withdraw.
Battle of Fredericksburg
Here General Jackson, who commanded the brigade, was killed, and was suceeeded by Colonel Fisher, of the Fifih, Lieutenant Colonel Dare assuming command of the regiment. The loss of the Fifth in this engagement was twenty killed, eighty-eight wounded and sixty one taken prisoners. Major Zentmyer and his brother, acting Adjutant, were among the killed, and Lieutenant Colonel Dare among the wounded.4
Battle of Gettysburg
In February, 1863, the Division was ordered to the Department of Washington, for the purpose of recruiting its sadly depleted ranks. The Fifth was for a time stationed at Miner’s Hill, and was afterwards assigned to duty in the city of Washington. When the army marched under Hooker on the Gettysburg campaign, the Fifth Regiment, together with the brigade now commanded by Colonel Fisher, was ordered to join it, and was assigned to the Fifth Corps, General Meade, subsequently General Sykes. Upon its arrival on the field, the brigade was for a time held in reserve in the vicinity of Little Round Top. The enemy had discovered that this eminence was the key to the Union position, and was struggling hard to gain possession of it. The Third Brigade of the First Division of the Fifth Corps, under command of Colonel Vincent, of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, had been ordered to move on the double quick and occupy it. Scarcely had Vincent reached it and taken position, when Hood’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps, in three lines, came rushing on, with deafening yells, determined to possess the coveted prize. With the energy of desperation they struggled to clear the rugged sides and carry the heights. Failing upon the left and front, they poured through the little valley between Round Top and Little Round Top, doubling up the left flank of Vincent, occupied by the Twentieth Maine, and threatened his rear. For some time possession seemed doubtful. At this critical juncture Colonel Fisher was ordered to advance with the Fifth, Lieutenant Colonel Dare, and the Twelfth, Colonel Hardin, to the relief of the hard pressed and well nigh crushed brigade. With a cheer that sounded above the clangor of battle, sending gladness to friend and terror to foe, the command went forward at a double quick, dashing up the hill and gaining the summit in time to share in the victory, and to render its possession secure. During the night these regiments were advanced to the summit of Round Top, and the two hills were joined by a strong line of breastworks, constructed of loose boulders, and the position made amply secure. The loss of the regiment in this engagement was two wounded.
In the campaigns which ensued during the summer and fall of 1863, wearisome in execution, but in general fruitless in results, the Fifth participated. During the month of December, the Third Brigade was sent to Manassas Junction, and ordered to guard the line of the Orange and Alexandria railway, over which the supplies of the army were received. The Fifth Regiment was stationed at Alexandria to act as a train guard, and to protect the army stores from the depredations of the enemy constantly lurking along the line of the road.
In February, 1864, in a skirmish with guerrillas near Brentsville, Major Larimer, who upon the death of Major Zentmyer, had succeeded to the Majority, was killed. Colonel Fisher immediately started in pursuit, ordering the cavalry which he had with him to take a full supply of extra halter straps, determined to execute summary punishment upon the dastardly foe; but the guerrillas succeeded in making good their escape.
During the comparative inaction of the winter and spring of 1864, the regiment was recruited and re-organized in preparation for an active campaign. Captain Smith, of Company C, was promoted to the rank of Major.
Battle of the Wilderness
On being relieved at Alexandria, the Fifth was ordered to join its brigade and move to Culpepper, and on the 4th of May, with the grand army under Grant, crossed the Rapidan and was at once engaged in the Wilderness fight. Early on the morning of the 5th, the Reserves, now under Crawford, were sent forward towards Parker’s Store, and formed in line near the plank road. The Fifth Regiment was held in reserve.
In the progress of the battle, Crawford finding his flanks exposed, was obliged to withdraw his division. This movement was successfully executed on the part of the Fifth. In the struggle which ensued on the following day, near the Fredericksburg and Orange Pike, Lieutenant Colonel Dare, in command of the regiment, was mortally wounded and died in camp during the night. Major Smith succeeded him, and was soon after commissioned Lieutenant Colonel for gallant conduct on the field.
In the series of engagements which ensued, from the 6th until the end of the month, when the sound of battle along the lines was almost perpetual, and the groans of the dying were scarcely hushed for a single hour, the Fifth participated with its accustomed gallantry. On the 31st of May, the term of service of the regiment having expired, in Company with other Reserve regiments, it was relieved from duty, and bidding adieu to the veterans still facing the foe upon the banks of the Topopotomy, it proceeded by steamer from White House to Washington, and thence by rail to Harrisburg, where on the 11th of June it was mustered out of service.
- Organization of the First Brigade, Brigadier General John F. Reynolds; Pennsylvania Reserves, Major General George A. M’Call. First (30th) Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, ColonelR. 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.
- Previous to the arrival of Slocum’s brigade, Reynolds having repulsed the enemy in his front, and hearing the tremendous contest on his left, had, acting under a true maxim, and with the generous spirit of a soldier, moved to the sound of cannon, and led his men, regiment after regiment, where our hard pressed forces required most assistance. As each regiment entered the woods to the relief of their exhausted companions, the effect was immediately shown by the enemy being driven before them, as evidenced by the sound of musketry growing more and more distant. Some regiments which had been withdrawn, after having exhausted their ammunition, reformed, replenished their boxes, and returned, in one case even for the third time, to this unequal contest. For each regiment thrown into action, there seemed to be two or three fresh regiments brought up by the enemy; but our men maintained their own and successively repulsed them, until the last regiment had been advanced; as if for a final effort, just as darkness was covering everything from view, the enemy massed his fresh regiments on the right and left, and threw them with overpowering force against our thinned and wearied battalions. General Porter’s Official Report.
- EXTRACT FROM GENERAL M’CALL’S OFFICIAL REPORT.- Here I found General Reynolds coming from the woods with the First and Eighth regiments of his brigade, he having relieved them and brought them out of action, in consequence of their ammunition being exhausted. He reported to me that the Fifth regiment had likewise nearly expended all its ammunition and ought to be relieved. On hearing this I at once directed my Assistant Adjutant General, Captain H. J. Biddle, to ride down the line and, if possible, to bring up a regiment (of Morell’s division, I think) that I had seen in reserve as I rode along the line. Moore’s Rebellion Record, Comp. Vol., p. 666.
- In company K, of the Fifth Regiment, there were three Sergeants, bound together by the strongest ties of friendship; they were Christian young men, who, at the beginning of their term of service, had resolved to read a portion of the Holy Scripture each night before lying down to rest; also, that no profane nor vulgar language should be tolerated from any one while in their tent. These young men pledged themselves to be ahelp to each other in times of need, and if sickness, wounds, or death fell upon eitb er, the others were pledged to administer whatever comfort was possible, and finally to transmit to friends at home a report of the fate of their comrade. But when the fierce storm of battle swept along the heights of Fredericksburg, Sergeant James Speaker fell dead upon the field, and near by his side lay Sergeants Edward M. Shreiner and Charles Hollands, both mortally wounded, yet each unconscious of the other’s presence. When night came, and the rebels were on the field plundering the dead and wounded, Sergeant Slueiner was so rudely handled that he groaned aloud, and immediately in a weak, low voice, some one enquired “‘ Edward, is that you?’ The companions recognized each other and Sergeant Hollands gave the sign of Masonic recognition, which was responded to by the rebel bending over him, and the fainting comrades were placed side by side.
In the morning they were taken to Richmond. Shreiner died and was buried in the rebel capital. Hollands lingered many.months, was paroled and sent to Annapolis. He advised the friends of his slain companions how they had fallen, and of the final disposition that had been made of the bodies of Sergeants Shreiner and Speaker, and having thus lived to discharge his last promise, he died in the hospital soon after landing from the steamer. From History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, Sypher, p. 418.