SEPTEMBER 2, 1890
ADDRESS OF PRIVATE HALSEY LATHROP
COMRADES of the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves1Organized at Harrisburg in June, 1861, to serve three years. It was mustered out June 11, 1864, by reason of expiration of service.[/efn_note:—We have assembled on this historic battlefield to dedicate this monument, erected by a grateful Commonwealth, in commemoration of your services as defenders of your country, generally, but especially your services on the battlefield of Gettysburg.
There are two matters of regret connected with these dedicatory services. First, that one better qualified has not been chosen as orator, and second, that more of the survivors of the old regiment are not here to participate in these services.
I am no orator; I am but a plain, blunt man. I can only speak right on, to tell you those things that you yourselves know—point to the record you have made, and let it speak for me.
In considering what might be appropriate to say on this occasion, my mind went back to the 27th day of July, 1861, when the one thousand men and boys (for many of us, were mere boys) stood up and subscribed to that oath which transformed them from State militia to volunteer soldiers of the United States army. The memories of the three years’ campaign of that regiment came up, and in my mind I followed them, first, to Tennallytown where we built that magnificent fort and named it after our own State. It stands today a monument of your industry and skill. Then, just as we were congratulating ourselves on its completion, and contemplating the ease with which we could repel any force that might come against us, we were moved across the Potomac, where, at Langley’s X Roads we established Camp Pierpoint, where we entered upon that system of drilling which would fit us for the arduous duties that awaited us, and from which we sallied forth on the various foraging expeditions, one of which occurred December 20, 1861, and resulted in the battle of Dranesville, where you, with the other regiments of the brigade, achieved the first victory for any part of the Army of the Potomac.
Comrades, I will not take the time to particularize, as I mention your various movements—your minds will readily fill in the details. The memories of the knapsack and other drills you underwent, and especially of the battle of Dranesville, where you received your baptism of fire, no doubt clings to you with greater tenacity than even the mud of Pierpoint. You could not forget if you would, and I venture to say, would not if you could, the breaking up of Camp Pierpoint, March 10, 1862, and your march to Hunter’s Mills and return to camp, near Alexandria, better known as Smoky Hollow; then your advance towards Manassas, and how easily took that stronghold of the enemy; then, after a few days, your march down the railroad to Catlett’s Station. Oh, how hot it was! And how we did unload those terrible knapsacks.
A few days later found us encamped on the banks of the Rappahannock at Falmouth, where we vied with each other in fixing up the picturesque quarters which we occupied during most of the month of May.
On June 10, just three months after we broke camp at Pierpoint, we boarded transports for a voyage down the Rappahannock, up to the York and Pamunkey rivers to White House Landing, where our regiment was left to guard the base of supplies for McCellan’s army, which was engaged in the Peninsular campaign, which ended with the seven days’ fight. About this time an eagle flew into a battery of United States artillery and lit on the shoulders of Lieutenant William Sinclair, and then it was Colonel Sinclair, of the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves, who, with his family, we are glad to see with us today.
You, no doubt, remember the beef you confiscated while there, the fort you built and what you named it, and how rapidly you evacuated your position at Tunstall’s Station and marched to White House Landing, where we again took transports for an excursion down the Pamunkey and York rivers, and where we met the Army of the Potomac returning from its unsuccessful attempt to take Richmond, who, when they knew that the Sixth Pennsylvania had arrived “thanked God and took courage.” Perhaps some of you have forgotten the chickens, pigs, etc., captured when you would go on picket, on the south side of the river; but you should not be too severely censured, for the beef we drew was so tainted with garlic that we could not eat it. Mush and milk was not very plenty, and even if we got the latter, behold the garlic was there too!
After laying there a little over a month, we descended the James, crossed the Chesapeake Bay, ascended the Potomac, landed at Aquia Creek Landing and took up our march for Fredericksburg, encamping near the spot where we had broken camp about three months before. But we did not long remain inactive. The situation of affairs demanded action. The rebel army was marching northward, so the campaign commenced which resulted in what is sometimes called the disaster of Second Bull Bun.
I need not stop to discuss this battle or its results, enough to know that the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves faithfully and gallantly discharged every duty that was imposed upon them, and if you did not come off from that ill-fated field with flying colors it was because the flag-staff had been broken by a missile from the enemy; but “our flag was still there.”
A few days later found you at Arlington Heights, with terribly diminished ranks, but full of hope and determination for the future. The rebels, flushed with victory, still pursued their northward way. Now came the march through Maryland and Virginia, passing through a country that had not been devastated by the ruthless hand of war. We found rails were plenty, chickens did not roost, so high as in Virginia, peaches, apples, and other fruit were in a most desirable condition as to quality and quantity. Of course orders against foraging were very strict, and of course you strictly obeyed those orders. You no doubt remember the orders, only take the top rail of the fence. This order you strictly compiled with though if often happened that so many had preceded you at the fence that the bottom rail was the top one.
Sunday morning, September 14, 1862, found you encamped on the banks of the Monocacy, near Frederick City, Maryland, with orders to “move forward.” You had taken a refreshing bath in the creek the night before, and some of you even went so far as to put on a clean shirt. But I will venture to say that a whole lot more of you failed to make this change, because of a lack of that very desirable article. You were thinking how perfectly lovely it would be to attend church in Frederick this beautiful Sabbath day, but, alas! you were under contract for the magnificent sum of thirteen dollars a month to obey orders, though you perish in the attempt. The Orders were, “forward march!” and that order held good until the order to “halt!” was given. The order to “halt,” was given by the enemy’s guns on South Mountain, but, not recognizing their authority, you pushed forward, and ere that Sabbath sun had set behind the western hills your flag floated in triumph from the summit of South Mountain, while the enemy, who had so stubbornly resisted your ascent of the mountain, were very rapidly descending the opposite slope. But I must stop right here and go to the rear, for one of my legs went on a strike just as we reached the mountain top, hence your subsequent movements, until you arrived at Fredericksburg, are unknown to me from personal observation. But I am assured that at Antietam, three days later, you nobly played your part. Of your return march, through Virginia, I will not speak. At Fredericksburg you made a record that you can point to with pride, and had the adjoining division and those who should have supported you, properly seconded your efforts the history of Fredericksburg would have read differently from what it does.
History records how gallantly you charged across that open field, swept by the enemy’s fire—took an advanced position and stubbornly held it until all hope of reinforcements had vanished, when, with ammunition nearly gone, you yielded to overwhelming numbers and sullenly retired to your original position. Again your humble servant was knocked out just as the long-looked-for reinforcements arrived, and so I must necessarily pass over your return to the vicinity of Washington where you remained until the second attempt of the rebels to invade the Northern States, which resulted in the battle of Gettysburg. But I know you were rejoiced when you knew you received the order to march, when you knew you were to again join the Army of the Potomac in its attempt to repel the advancing hosts of Lee.
Your next meeting of the enemy, in hostile array, was at New Hope Church, on the Mine Run campaign the latter part of November, 1863(if we omit the little difficulty at Bristoe Station where, if memory serves me we did not play an important part), where your gallantry in deploying as skirmishers, under a withering fire from the enemy, called forth, as it deserved, the compliments of the commander of the forces there, and excited the admiration of all who beheld it; and in fact, boys, we felt a little proud of it ourselves. Our advance through that tangled second growth of pine and cedar, in the face of stubborn resistance from the enemy, you must remember well. That night, upon the skirmish line in the immediate presence of the enemy, without an opportunity of making our usual cup of coffee, was one of the episodes of active campaigning. How cheerfully we yielded our position on the “skirmish line in the morning, to our relief, and with what enthusiasm we engaged in the manufacture of a cup of coffee as soon as opportunity presented itself. Then up and away for the main body of the Army of the Potomac, from which our brigade had been separated, for a short time, while on a scout with Gregg’s division of cavalry. We found them on the banks of Mine Run confronted by Lee’s army, strongly fortified in a naturally strong position and preparing for what bade fair to be the most desperate battle of the war. The contemplated charge was not made and we returned to winter quarters, near Bristoe Station and Broad Run. Your record in the Wilderness in May, 1864, is one of
“Picket line and battle fray,
And weary marching night and day.”
gloriously winding up your three years’ term of service. May 30, 1864, at Bethesda Church, where you probably killed more rebels in one hour than you killed in any one battle in which you were engaged.
May 30, you bade your comrades, who re-enlisted and who were to continue in the service with the One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, farewell, taking with you the glorious old flag that Governor Curtin had given you at Tennallytown in 1861, faded and battle-torn to be sure, but no stripes missing, and its stars all there. You returned it to Harrisburg, where you can see it today, a silent but eloquent testimonial of your service in the war for the preservation of the Union.
Thus, comrades, I have briefly spoken of what is a tithe of your service in putting down the rebellion. I have not spoken of the terrible losses you sustained in the battles I have mentioned. That is the sad side of the picture. Your heroic dead lie on every battlefield on which you were engaged.
Suppose we could see arrayed in line before us now, the old regiment of 1861, only with places vacant where should stand those who lost their lives in battle and died of disease during the war. What a spectacle it would present! Then let the survivors appear in their present condition—what a change! Truly, we would say with the old song
“The boys in blue are growing gray,
Thin grows our ranks and thinner;
We’ve faced Death’s battle many a day,
But Death today is winner.”
And how many empty sleeves and missing legs? Those strong, athletic forms have become bowed by premature old age. The hardship of soldier life in camp, battle and prison pen, has done its work. But we must not pause to contemplate, lest we be overcome with emotion. While we drop a tear to the memory of the dead, let us dedicate this monument to the living. So remove the drapery and let there appear the record of your services and your losses. Yes, cut the strings so that all who behold may see what the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves suffered, that the. “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, might not perish from the earth.”
ADDRESS OF COLONEL H. B. McKEAN.
COMRADES: You have met to-day on this heroic battlefield to perform a most interesting ceremony. The place where more than a quarter of a century ago the most terrific battle was fought that has been recorded in history. Allow me to congratulate you, my comrades, that you were members of that grand old regiment—the Sixth Pennsylvania Reserves.
Its officers and men were courageous in battle and courteous in civil life. Your timely arrival of Washington, D. C., with the other regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserves, immediately after the first battle of Bull Run, in 1861, saved the Capital. The Third Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, consisting of four regiments, was, a grand body of men, commanded by that grand soldier. General E. 0.C. Ord, who was made the first major-general of the brigade. Commanders Generals George G. Meade, J. F. Reynolds and Ord, you know were in the first successful engagements of the Army of the Potomac. At Dranesville, Va., December 20, 1861, Captain Ent, commander of a company in the Sixth Regiment, fired the first shot, his company acting as skirmishers.
The Sixth made the first charge, then ordered by General Ord to charge the Confederate battery under the command of the “Little Adjutant.” How well you obeyed the order, capturing the battery and several prisoners.
Your loss was slight—two killed and a number wounded. Among the wounded were Captain Bradbury and Halsey Lathrop. That was your first baptism of fire.
Comrades, the great State of Pennsylvania, has erected this granite monument to perpetuate the heroism of the members of the Sixth Regiment on this field of battle. A grateful people remember your heroic deeds here on that hot day, July 2, 1863. You with the other regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserves, Third Division, Fifth Corps, arriving on the north side of yonder Little Round Top, charging the advancing Confederates and driving them back to the point where this monument stands. You held it as you always did, saving from capture Little Round Top and the field. During the three years of service you were in all the principal engagements of the Army of the Potomac—the first in and the last out.
Comrades, your military history is written in letters of gold so high on the tablet of fame that no one can erase it, and my congratulations shall be; Brave in battle, chivalrous in peace and heroic in every trait that develops true manhood.
ADDRESS OF MAJOR W. H. H. GORE.
COMRADES :—The history made by the Sixth Regiment you help make, and are as familiar with it as I am. What I say here, or what we do here, will not alter the facts as they are handed down to future generations by the historian. I propose, on account of time, to give but a brief history of the regiment:
Organized as it was, from companies recruited from the three month service, the companies were all recruited in the month of April, 1861, as consisted of two companies from Bradford, one each from Tioga, Susquehanna, Wayne, Columbia, Montour, Snyder, Dauphin and Franklin counties. Owing to the call being filled they remained in Camp Curtin until after the passage of the act creating the Pennsylvania Reserves, when the were organized into the Sixth Regiment, with W. W. Ricketts, colonel; W. M. Penrose, lieutenant-colonel; H. J. Madill, major; H. B. McKean adjutant; R. H. McCoy, quartermaster; Charles Bower, surgeon, and Z Ring Jones, assistant surgeon. They were sent to Greencastle and placed in a camp of instruction under Major Harshberger as instructor. After the disastrous battle of Bull Run, a call was made on Governor Curtin for troops, and the Reserves were rushed to Washington; the Sixth was the first regiment to arrive and was mustered into the United States service July 27, 1861, and sent to Tennallytown, D. C. While in this camp over one-half of the regiment was stricken with typhoid-fever, greatly retarding the efficiency of the regiment. While in this camp the Reserves were formed in three brigades, the Sixth with the Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth formed the Third Brigade. October 9, 1861, the division was moved across the river into Virginia and went into camp near Langley.
December 20, the Third Brigade and the First Rifles fought the battle of Dranesville—gained the first victory for the Army of the Potomac.
March 16, 1862, they broke camp and marched to the victory of Hunter’s Mills, then back to Alexandria. In the meantime Colonel Ricketts and Lieutenant-Colonel Penrose had resigned and their places were filled by William Sinclair as colonel and H. B. McKean, lieutenant-colonel. The quartermaster also resigned and A. A. Scudder was appointed.
The division was attached to McDowell’s Corps, and in April marched to Manassas, Catlett’s Station, thence to Fredericksburg. In June they were on transports and went down the Rappahannock, up the York and Pamunkey rivers to White House and attached to the Fifth Army Corps. The Sixth was halted at Tunstall’s Station to guard the road and keep open the communication with the front. While here Colonel Sinclair joined us and assumed command; the left wing of the regiment was sent to White House to guard the stores; the Seven Days’ battle opened at Mechanicsville, and the regiment was cut off from the main army, and after destroying the vast accumulation of stores, was taken by boat, via Fortress Monroe and James river, to Harrison’s Landing, where they were joined by the balance of the division. The Sixth Regiment was here transferred to the First Brigade which now consisted of the First, Second, Sixth, Ninth and Bucktails.
The next move was by boat from Harrison’s Landing to Aguia Creek, thence by rail to Fredericksburg, thence by way of Kelly’s Ford to Warrenton, where they joined Pope’s army and took an active part in the battle of Second Bull Run. Falling back with the army to Washington they marched through Maryland to South Mountain, and in that battle was on the extreme right of the army, and was attached to the First Corps; at this battle and Antietam the regiment met with severe loss, especially in officers. Major Madill was now promoted to the colonelcy of the One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Captain Ent was promoted to major.
In November the march was again resumed, ending at Fredericksburg, where, on the 13th of December, the regiment, in connection with the balance of the Reserves, made the most gallant charge of the war. Had I time I would say more about this battle, but I will pass it by leaving to future historians to give us the honors that we that day earned.
Our losses here were greater than any other battle we ever fought; we were but a handful left for duty, and the Reserves were ordered to Washington and vicinity to rest and recruit, the Sixth was sent to Fairfax Station, where it remained until June, 1863, when it again joined the army—was attached to the Fifth Corps and marched for this historic field; and here, on this ground, where we are dedicating this monument, we aided in fighting the battle of Gettysburg. Moving with the Army of the Potomac, marching and skirmishing, we finally went into winter quarters at Bristoe Station. In the meantime Colonel Sinclair had resigned and field officers were filled by promoting Ent to colonel, Dixon to lieutenant-colonel and Gore to major.
In the spring of 1864, they took in all the fighting under General Grant, through the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna river to Bethesda Church, doing their full share of the work in that arduous campaign, ending their service with brilliant victory at Bethesda Church.
And now, comrades, I have briefly sketched the history of your regiment, its marches and hardships, its gallant fighting; it never disgraced itself; there were other regiments as good as yours, but none better. We have met here to-day to dedicate this shaft as a monument of your valor, but your history will be a monument that will last as long as the American nation exists, and until after those stones shall have crumbled into dust.