The Companies composing the Seventh Regiment, recruited in several counties lying east of the Allegheny mountains, rendezvoused at Camp Wayne, near the town of West Chester, early in the month of June, 1861, and were organized on the 26th by the choice of the following field officers:
- Elisha B. Harvey, of Wilkesbarre, Colonel
- Joseph Totten, of Mechanicsburg, Lieutenant Colonel
- Chauncey A. Lyman, of Lock Haven, Major
These Companies had been principally raised and organized under the call for three months’ volunteers; but not being accepted, they were, at the urgent request of Governor Curtin, not disbanded, and were maintained and drilled, in many instances, at great expense to the individual members and their officers. Company A, the Carlisle Fencibles, was ready with full ranks, and its services were tendered as early as the 19th of April. When it was ascertained that the Company could not be accepted for the three months’ service, a hall was rented for its use, the members equipped themselves in a neat uniform, they were daily drilled, and by voluntary association it was kept intact and in readiness for service until the 6th of June, when it was accepted and received marching orders. The patriotic ardor manifested by this was shared by the other Companies, and the history of one is substantially the history of all. Few of the men or officers had had any previous military experience, except Colonel Harvey, and his was limited to the trainng of militia. He, however, proved an excellent drill-master, and under his instruction the regiment soon attained marked proficiency.
While at Camp Wayne it was fully armed, equipped and clothed by the State authorities. On the 4th of July the First and Seventh regiments appeared in fall dress parade, and passed in review before Governor Curtin and Major General M’Call, commander of the Reserve Corps.
On the 21st of July, the Seventh was ordered to Washington, and proceeded thence via Harrisburg and Baltimore. Before starting it was furnished with forty rounds of ammunition per man, and, in view of the threatening attitude of affairs following the defeat at Bull Run, upon its arrival at the Pennsylvania State line, the men were ordered from the cars to load their muskets, when they proceeded on their way and marched through Baltimore without commotion or incident.
On its arrival in Washington the regiment was ordered into camp at Meridian Hill, on the north side of the city. On the 27th of July, it was mustered into the United States service by Major Elwood. The arms received from the State of Pennsylvania were exchanged for muskets from the Washington Arsenal.
On the 2d of August the regiment broke camp and marched to Tenallytown, the point of general rendezvous for the Pennsylvania Reserves. The division was soon afterwards organized, and the Seventh was assigned to the Second Brigade,1 commanded by General George G. Meade.2
The performance of picket duty was here for the first time commenced, the picket line covering the important approaches to the seat of government on the west. The smooth bore muskets of the Companies on the right and left were exchanged for the Springfield rifle, with the design of using these Companies as skirmishers. In addition to the usual Company and battalion drill, particular attention was now given to skirmish drill and to practice in target firing.
Skirmish at Great Falls
On the 24th of August the regiment was ordered to march to Great Falls, on the Potomac, where it remained two weeks guarding the ford, which was threatened by the enemy. His pickets were in full view on the opposite shore, and on the morning of the 4th of September a considerable force suddenly appeared and opened fire from a battery of five guns, two howitzers and three rifled pieces. As Captain Cooper, who commanded the Union battery, was provided with only two smooth bore guns of short range, Colonel Harvey ordered him not to reply. A brisk fire of shot and shell was kept up for three hours from the rebel guns. Sergeant William Harper, of Company A, received a flesh wound from the fragment of a shell, which was the only casualty.
A few days later two rifled cannon were sent to the command, with which the Virginia shore was vigorously shelled, but without eliciting any reply. In his official report of the state of his division at this time General M’Call says:
“The Seventh Regiment. which has been on picket duty at Great Falls for two weeks past, returned last night. It has rendered valuable service and is in promising condition.”
While in camp at Tenallytown the Seventh, with other regiments, was on two occasions formed in line of battle to meet an expected advance of the rebels, and on another marched to Chain Bridge to reinforce General Smith’s Division in the event of an attack. Although the clash of arms did not occur on either of these occasions, the resolute spirit manifested by officers and men gave ample proof of the excellent discipline and efficiency to which they had attained.
On the 9th of October, under orders from General McClellan, the Seventh, together with the division, broke camp and moved to the neighborhood of Langley, Virginia. Here the division formed the extreme right of the Army of the Potomac, resting on the south bank of the river fronting Washington.
In this camp the regiment remained inactive during the winter of 1861-2, but the time was not spent in idleness. To give thorough training and secure perfect discipline in the division was the constant aim of the commanding general. Rigorous obedience to orders was strictly enjoined and enforced, the policing of camp and quarters carefully attended to, and rigorous sanitary regulations made to secure the health and comfort of the troops. Picket duty was regularly performed; dress parade and guard mount were observed in strict conformity with army regulations; periodical inspections were rigidly made; battalion and brigade drill was required daily in favorable weather, and schools of instruction for officers were regularly held. The regiment was frequently exercised in long marches, and the division was on frequent occasions called out for review. Occasional foraging expeditions were sent out into the neighboring country in which the regiment participated.
On the 18th of October, under orders of the commanding general, M’Call’s Division made a reconnoissance in force, marching beyond Dranesville eleven miles distant from camp.
On the 20th of December the battle of Dranesville was fought. At the first sound of the enemy’s guns, the Second Brigade was put in motion and reached the battle-field, eleven miles away, in less than three hours, arriving too late, however, to participate in the engagement.
On the 10th of March, the Seventh, in connection with the entire division, broke up winter quarters and proceeded to Hunter’s Mills, with the expectation of joining in the attack on the enemy at Manassas. It having been ascertained that the enemy had left his works and withdrawn towards Gordonsville, a change in the plan of campaign was adopted, and farther march was stayed. The men were here supplied with the small shelter tents, which they continued to use during the remainder of the war.
A furious storm prevailed, and on the 12th, in the midst of a deluge of rain, the division broke camp and marched to Alexandria. That march through mud and rain and over swollen streams, proved one of the most wearisome and painful made during the war. The Reserves were here assigned to the First Army Corps, commanded by General McDowell. It was expected that the regiment would embark from Alexandria with the rest of the army for the Peninsula, but in this the men were disappointed. The First Corps, with the exception of Franklin’s Division, was reserved for the protection of Washington. At Fairfax Station, near Alexandria, the regiment went into camp, where it remained four weeks.
On the 9th of April, it moved with the division to Manassas Junction, where it went into camp, some of the troops occupying the comfortable and commodious log huts built by the rebels during the previous winter. On the 17th, it marched to Catlett’s Station, and on the 11th of May, to Falmouth. While encamped here, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Totten resigned, and in the absence of Major Lyman, who had been detailed as Division Provost Marshal since November, 1861, Henry C. Bolinger, Captain of Company D, was elected to fill the vacancy.
Chafing under the restraint which seemed to be imposed upon them in being withheld from the army moving upon the Peninsula, the men received with joyful acclamations the order to join it. Embarking upon transports on the 9th of June, the regiment moved to White House, on the Pamunky, and thence along the line of the West Point railroad towards the front. Halting within six miles of Richmond, on the left bank of the Chickahominy, the division was placed in position on the extreme right of the Army of the Potomac, and was attached to the Fifth Corps, under command of General Fitz John Porter.
Battle of Mechanicsville
The Reserves were now face to face with the enemy, and eager for the fray. They had not long to wait. On the 26th of June, the enemy was encountered near Mechanicsville by the Bucktails, when the First and Third Brigades immediately took up a position on the line of Beaver Dam Creek, and awaited the onset. The Second Brigade was at Gaines’ Mill, but as the battle opened it marched rapidly to their support. By direction of General M’Call, the Seventh Regiment was posted on the left of the line.3
Three Companies, A, H and K??, were deployed as skirmishers, their line extending along the left slope of the hill on which Captain Easton’s Battery was posted, nearly parallel with the creek below. The other Companies, from their position on the hillside, could fire over the skirmishers. For six hours the regiment occupied this position, and as the enemy again and again charged the batteries, poured in an enfilading fire on his left flank.
At nine o’clock in the evening, Lieutenant Colonel Bolinger was ordered to take several Companies and so dispose them as to watch the enemy during the night. A part of this command was moved up so near to the rebel line, that the conversation of the men could be distinctly heard, being only separated by a small stream. All night long the wounded on the hill-side in front of the batteries, appealed with pitious moans and cries for aid, but nothing could be done for them. A little before day-break these Companies were withdrawn, and joining the rest of the regiment retreated by orders from the commanding general.
Battle of Gaines Mill
Retiring to Gaines’ Mill, where Porter’s Corps was drawn up to receive the enemy now advancing in heavy force on the right flank of the army, the Reserves, upon their arrival, were posted in the second line as a reserve. The Seventh held the left of the line, near the open ground stretching out to the Chickahominy, and immediately in rear of the brigade commanded by General Butterfield. Its position was several times changed during the engagement, and was entirely separated from the division.
Towards evening it was ordered by General Meade, at the request of General Martindale, to move to a ravine near the centre of his division line, to fill a gap between two regiments hitherto disconnected; but before reaching the point designated, it was met by General Martindale in person-the position having been filled by a regiment from another part of the field-who directed that it be led to the left of the line, where a desperate charge was being made by the enemy. Dashing forward, and cheering lustily as they went, the men met and checked the charging column. It was then ordered to move to the centre of the line of Butterfield’s brigade, where it united with the First Maine in resisting an attack directed upon Butterfield’s Artillery. The struggle was desperate; but the enemy in overpowering numbers was precipitated upon our weakened lines, which were obliged to yield.
Falling back some distance, the regiment was twice rallied to save the artillery;4 but in vain, and the efforts of the men were now directed to bringing off the caissons filled with ammunition, which, if suffered to fall into the hands of the enemy, would be used for their destruction. As our men were mounting the horses attached to one of the caissons, a rebel soldier placed his musket close to the head of the leader, a large gray horse, and fired, killing him instantly. With perfect self possession the soldiers cut away the harness, and with the remaining three horses hastened away, bringing off the ammunition in safety. Among the officers especially active in rallying the men to the support of the artillery, was Captain King, of Company H. Remaining on the field to the last, he was captured with twenty of his own Company and a number of others belonging to the regiment, who stood by the guns until they found the enemy in their flank and rear. Early in the engagment Colonel Harvey became separated from his regiment, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Colonel Bolinger. Falling back in the evening, the regiment halted on the hillside for the night, and on the following morning was withdrawn across the Chickahominy, taking position in the rear of General Smith’s Division. The loss in this engagement was very heavy, comprising in killed, wounded and missing nearly half of its effective strength.
At ten o’clock Saturday night, the entire division moved on, in a body, over the corduroy road leading to Savage Station. On the way, while passing through a dense forest, in the darkness, a body of rebel cavalry attempted to charge upon the column from an opening on the side of the road, but finding the Seventh ready to receive them, they quickly withdrew. At daylight the regiment passed Savage Station, and marched through White Oak Swamp towards Charles City Cross Roads. The progress of the column was slow, the Reserves being charged with the protection of the reserve artillery of the entire army, consisting of thirteen batteries, in command of General Hunt. In addition to the trains, a drove of twenty-five hundred beef cattle encumbered the way. The men were several times halted on the march by the road side, but were not allowed to make fires to cook their coffee, lest it should attract the notice of the enemy. The trains so blocked the way that the Reserves were not across White Oak Creek until near noon of the 29th.
Charles City Cross Roads
It was anticipated that the enemy would advance on the roads leading from Richmond, and make a determined effort to break through our lines for the purpose of cutting off and crushing a portion of the army now struggling to save its trains. General M’Call was ordered by the General-in-Chief to put his division in position to repel any attack from the direction of Richmond.
At ten o’clock P. M. the Seventh reached the Charles City Road, and was immediately placed on picket. In a short time it was withdrawn, and ordered to the support of batteries commanding the roads. In the morning it was relieved and ordered back about a mile and a half, where it lay in the open field until afternoon, the feeling beginning to prevail that the hard fighting for the present was over. This impression was confirmed by an order from General M’Call, which was read to the troops, commending in the most flattering terms the conduct of the division in the battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines’ Mill, and promising a brief respite from the fierce conflicts in which it had been engaged.
Hardly was the reading of the order finished when the picket line was attacked and driven in by the skirmishers of Anderson’s Division of the rebel army. The line was hurriedly formed to receive the attack which was not long in coming, the Seventh occupying a position on the right of the line and of the road leading to Richmond. The enemy’s artillery at once opened, eliciting a prompt reply, and after a half hour’s vigorous firing from either side, he sent forward a regiment which was promptly repulsed by the Seventh.
Noticing a movement of the enemy in a clump of woods in his front, General Meade ordered the Third, Fourth and Seventh regiments to enclose the timber, and by sweeping over the ground, capture the party. The attempt was made; but through some misunderstanding of the officers commanding, was only partially successful, and the troops were thrown into some confusion. Some time after this, the regiment was stationed in rear of the Fourth Regiment, in support of Randall’s Battery, when the enemy made a determined attack upon the latter, which resulted in a fierce hand to hand struggle, the men clubbing their muskets and freely using the bayonet. Until darkness put an end to the contest the struggle to gain the Quaker City Road, on which our trains were moving, was continued with a desperation and recklessness rarely paralleled in warfare, but without success.
The material of the army was brought safely through to Malvern Hill, and during the night the troops were all withdrawn to the new battle ground. In the sanguinary contest which ensued on the following day the Seventh was not engaged, the division being held in reserve. A triumphant victory was achieved. On the following day the army was withdrawn to Harrison’s Landing, where it encamped and fortified.
The seven days fighting ended, upon mustering the regiment, only about two hundred out of that full ranked, well disciplined body of men who embarked upon the Rappahannock less than a month before and marched to the Peninsula with brave hearts and exultant spirits, were present to answer to their names. The loss in killed, wounded and missing, was three hundred and one. Captains R. M. Henderson, E. G. Lantz, W. W. White and S. B. King; Lieutenants L. G. McCauley and J. L. Zug, and Lieutenant E. Beatty, acting ordnance officer on the staff of General M’Call, were among the wounded.
On the 4th of July, Colonel Harvey resigned, and Lieutenant Colonel Bolinger was promoted Colonel, Captain R. M. Henderson, of Company A, Lieutenant Colonel, Major Lyman being still absent as Division Provost Marshal. A number of promotions were also made among the line officers, and several meritorious non-commissioned officers were promoted to be Lieutenants.
On the 31st, the camp was shelled by the enemy from a position occupied on the opposite side of the James. Soon after, the Seventh, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Henderson, marched with the brigade to dislodge them, and to protect the camp and shipping from further annoyance. Sharp shooters taking refuge in the house of Edmund Ruffin, who boasted that he fired the first shot at Fort Sumpter, had fired upon the transports. Orders were given to take possession of the house, and to destroy it if found occupied by rebel soldiers.
On the 15th of August, the purpose of the expedition having been accomplished, the brigade was relieved, and embarking upon the James, proceeded via Fortress Monroe to Acquia Landing, arriving on the 17th, and soon after marched to Kelly’s Ford, on the Rappahannock. This movement united the Reserves now commanded by General Reynolds, with the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Pope.
Battle of Groveton
Remaining on the line of the Rappahannock disputing with the enemy the passage of the fords until the 22d, the division moved by devious ways to the neighborhood of Groveton, where it again confronted the enemy. The Reserves occupied the left of the line and joined the corps of Sigel on the right. On the 29th, desultory fighting, resembling a series of heavy skirmishes, was kept up during the entire day without bringing on a general engagement. This manoeuvring was continued during the early part of the following day, and finally resulted in a heavy battle, in which the Seventh, gallantly led by Lieutenant Colonel Henderson, maintained its ground with heroic bravery, eliciting the warm commendation of Generals Reynolds and M’Dowell. At the close of the day the division was ordered back to Aqueduct Bridge, and thence, two days later, to Upton’s Hill. Late in the action Colonel Henderson was severely wounded and borne from the field. The loss of the regiment was very heavy. On’the 31st, a severe engagement occurred at Chantilly with the forces of Jackson, but the Seventh did not become engaged. On the same day, Colonel Bolinger returned and resumed command.
At the close of Pope’s campaign, the Seventh went into camp at Munson’s Hill, near the Potomac, where it remained until the 7th of September, when, with the Army of the Potomac, it moved to Washington, and thence to Meridian Hill, encamping upon the same ground that it occupied in the flush of its full ranks and enthusiasm, in July, 1861. Two days later the regiment marched through Maryland to Frederick City, and upon its arrival was immediately ordered forward to meet the enemy, holding the passes of the South Mountain.
Battle of South Mountain (Turner’s Gap)
Moving to within a mile of the base of the mountain, it struck off, by a by-road, a mile and a half -to the right of the main pike, where it was deployed on the open ground and advanced toward the enemy, driving back his skirmishers to the foot of the mountain. Here the enemy was met in force; but the impetuosity of the assault upon his like caused it to break, and he retreated up the rugged side of the mountain, closely pursued by the Reserves. Just as the line reached the summit–the enemy in full retreat, but still firing from behind rocks and trees–a rebel soldier turned and deliberately fired at Colonel Bolinger, who was in the front urging on his men, the ball entering and tearing the flesh from his right arm and passing through his right breast, inflicting a severe and dangerous wound. The command then devolved upon Major Lyman; but the victory was already complete.
Battle of Antietam
On the following morning the division received orders to move, and on reaching the turnpike found that the entire army had passed. Proceeding to Boonsboro’, and thence by the Sharpsburg pike to Keedysville, it moved a short distance to the right of the town, near Antietam Creek, and encamped for the night. On the following day, the 16th, at twelve o’clock the division marched to the right, and took position in the skirt of woods near the Hagerstomn turnpike, on which the right rested. It was here deployed and was soon engaged, driving the enemy’s pickets a half mile, and attacking his main line. It was twilight when this point was reached, and at dark our artillery was placed in position and opened a most terrific fire upon the enemy at short range. This lasted until ten o’clock. At daybreak on the following morning, the regiment moved forward with the brigade six hundred yards along the pike, towards Sharpsburg, the right still resting on the turnpike, when the enemy was ensountered in the cornfield in force. A fierce infantry contest ensued, in which the enemy was driven back a distance of fifty yards, but subsequently regained the ground. Here the line received a raking fire of musketry from the woods on the left, around Ehich the left of the division line made a curve, sustaining a heavy loss.
At this juncture a battery was brought into position on commanding ground in rear of the line, and opened a fire of canister upon the enemy that enabled the infantry to advance to the fence, which was held until nine o’clock, when the division was relieved. The Seventh, holding a position which could not for the time be filled, was retained a half hour longer in line, when it also was relieved; but as it was withdrawing, the regiment which had taken its place being new and unused to battle, fell into disorder and abandoned the ground, when the Seventh was again ordered back. At ten o’clock it was again relieved and marched back to the woods in the rear. On reaching the woods General Sumner rode up and asked, “What regiment is this?” “The Seventh Reserves” was the answer. ” I want you,” said the General, “to again advance to the fence in your front, on the rising ground in view of the enemy.” This was promptly done, though at a fearful cost. Captain Colwell, and privates John Callio, Leo Faller, David Spahr and William Culp, all of Company A, being killed or mortally wounded by the explosion of a single shell.
On reaching the fence, Sumner’s Corps having repulsed the enemy’s onset, the regiment was ordered back to the rear, and at eleven o’clock rejoined the division. On the 18th a detachment of the regiment, under Captain King, was ordered out for the burial of the dead. On the 19th it moved forward two miles to the Potomac, when it was discovered that the enemy had escaped into Virginia.
On the 3d of October the division was reviewed by the President, and on the 12th the Seventh was detailed as a part of the force sent out to meet the rebel cavalry on its raid under Stuart. Clothing was soon after provided, and on the 26th it moved by way of Berlin across the Potomac to Warrenton, arriving on the 6th of November, and was immediately placed on the picket line. The regiment remained in camp here until the 16th, when it moved with the army, now in command of General Burnside, in the direction of Fredericksburg. After a three days’ march the division halted at Belle Plain, near Acquia Creek, where the regiment went into camp on familiar ground.
Battle of Fredericksburg
On the 10th of December demonstrations were commenced in force against the enemy, to secure the crossing of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. A general bombardment of the city was opened on the 11th, and on the following day the army crossed the river and took position on the right bank below Fredericksburg. Standing in line of battle for several hours, in front of the heights bristling with cannon and bayonets, the Seventh was exposed to an almost continuous enfilading fire from Stuart’s Light Battery on its left,5 while at the same time the enemy’s guns in front were kept actively at work. During this artillery duel, which it bore with unshaken firmness, the horse of the Adjutant, Lieutenant Stout, was struck by a shell, and the Adjutant himself slightly wounded. To remain quiet under such a fire was more trying than active conflict with the foe, and it was a relief to hear the order to charge, the Seventh obeying it with alacrity. Moving forward upon the heights, leaping ditches, and disregarding every obstruction, the line penetrated deep into the woods, until it surprised in their very trenches the soldiers of Longstreet’s Corps.6 The enemy’s line was broken and thrown into confusion, and the Seventh alone sent over one hundred prisoners to the rear.
Though the advantage gained was lost, and the final event proved the battle a failure, yet the Seventh made no more glorious record during the war than in this fight, and can point with pride to its trophies won, and prisoners captured. The enlisted men of Company A, particularly, came out of the fight laden with spoils. Jacob Meloy found the sword of a rebel captain; Edward B. Rheem received the sword from a captain of the First Kentucky Regiment, and a Virginia captain delivered up his sword into the hands of Henry Hyte. But more glorious than all, the battle flag of the Nineteenth Georgia was gallantly seized from the rebel color bearer by Corporal Jacob Cart, who immediately delivered it to Captain Beatty. Upon General Meade’s application, this flag was next day sent to general headquarters and officially recognized as the only trophy at Fredericksburg. The War Department afterwards awarded a medal to Corporal Cart for his gallantry.
A memorable incident occurred, during the action, to private David D. Curriden, also of Company A, who in advance, had become separated from the regiment, and in a counter charge of the enemy was captured. While in the hands of his captors, a lucky turn in the fight brought forward a force of union troops, and the rebels, to their surprise, suddenly found themselves transformed from captors to captives. Private Curriden not only regained his freedom, but had the honor of escorting to the union lines as prisoners, not less than three rebel officers, one of whom gave his name as Colonel E. W. Atkinson, Twenty-sixth Georgia Volunteers, in command of Lawton’s Brigade.
In his report of the battle of Fredericksburg, General Meade says:
“The Seventh engaged the enemy to the left, capturing many prisoners and a standard, driving them from their rifle-pits and temporary defences, and continuing the pursuit till encountering the enemy’s reinforcements they were in turn driven back.”
The losses of the Seventh in this battle were grievous. Lieutenant Comfort was killed; Colonel Bolinger received a painful wound in the ankle; Adjutant Stout was wounded as already mentioned; Lieutenant Zug, of Company H, was wounded in the arm, which was so shattered as to require amputation; Lieutenant Snyder, of Company B, was severely wounded, losing a leg. The casualties among the enlisted men were six killed, seventy-two wounded and twenty-two missing.
On the 14th, picket and heavy artillery firing was kept up nearly the entire day. On the following day, Captain King, with a detail from the brigade, was sent out to the truce line, for the purpose of exchanging the wounded and bringing them off the field. They had lain there since the 13th, and the hands and feet of many were frozen.
On the 15th of December, the Seventh, in connection with the entire army, re-crossed the river, and next day resumed its quarters in the old camp near Belle Plain. The only notable event which transpired during the ensuing winter was the attempt to again cross the river and offer battle, but which ended in the “mud march.” The sufferings and hardships of that march were such, that the army would, doubtless, have preferred to have been summoned to a pitched battle, than to have again endured its trials.
The Reserves by this time had become so much reduced by hard fighting, that earnest efforts were made by the Governor and military authorities of the State to secure their return to Pennsylvania in a body, with a view to recruiting their ranks. This purpose was not effected; but the division was, on the 8th of February, 1863, by order of the War Department, transferred from active operations in the field to duty in the Department of Washington. Embarking at Belle Plain on the 7th of February, the regiment proceeded to Alexandria, and on the 11th marched to Upton’s Hill, where it remained in camp until the 14th of April, and was then for a time on duty at Camp Convalescent.
On the 18th of June it returned to Alexandria, and was assigned to duty in the command of General Slough. Various changes here took place in its organization. Lieutenant Colonel R. M. Henderson resigned his commission, to accept the office of Provost Marshal of the Fifteenth District of Pennsylvania, under the general enrollment law. Major C. A. Lyman was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain L. B. Speese, Major. Lieutenant E. Beatty, promoted to the Captaincy of Company A, was ordered on special duty as Assistant Adjutant General at the headquarters of General Martindale Military Governor of Washington.
During the summer and fall of 1863, the regiment remained at Alexandria, where its duties consisted mainly of provost and guard duty, which were discharged with an efficiency that elicited the warm commendation of the commanding general.
In the latter part of April, 1864, orders were received directing the regiment to prepare again for active operations in the field. On the 18th, the line of march, which for more than a year had been suspended, was again resumed, to join the grand army, which was preparing to launch forth on its campaign in the Wilderness. At Manassas it halted and remained. several days. The Reserves, now commanded by General S. W. Crawford, were attached to the Fifth Corps, under General Warren, the First Brigade, to which the Seventh belonged, being commanded by Colonel William McCandless.
Battle of the Wilderness
On the 2d of May, the regiment broke camp and advanced along the Rapidan, crossing on the following day, and encamped at night in the wilderness, near the Chancellorsville battle ground, the Reserves occupying the centre of the line. On the following morning, quite early, it was advanced about three miles, the First Brigade resting in an open field for an hour, when it marched to the right, was deployed and advanced into the woods, where it soon met the enemy, and the battle opened. The Second Regiment was immediately deployed and advanced as skirmishers, while the Seventh and Eleventh were advanced in line of battle.
Soon the skirmishers were driven in, but the enemy were met by our main force and routed, retreating into the woods in their rear. In moving forward through the dense forest in pursuit, Company B on the left, and also the right of the line, became detached from the body of the regiment, and failing to receive any orders to return or change its course pushed steadily on. Fired with patriotic ardor the men paused not, until suddenly they found the enemy closing in on their rear, with every avenue of retreat cut off. At first the firing from the rear was supposed to be from our own men, but this idea was soon dissipated by the appearance of the rebels.
An effort was made to break through to the left, but was met by an unyielding resistance. The right was then tried and a detour made through the woods, but with like ill success. Finding that he had been the victim of a skillfully laid ambuscade, and that he was completely surrounded, Colonel Bolinger was compelled to surrender, as further resistance would have involved a hopeless butchery of his men, But had they known the fate to which their inhuman captors were to subject them, they would, doubtless, have preferred slaughter upon the field to the endurance of the horrors of captivity which it was their lot to experience.
Two hundred and seventy-two officers and men were captured, and were immediately marched to the rear of the rebel army at Orange Court House, and thence to Lynchburg, Virginia. The enlisted men were speedily conveyed to the infamous rebel prison pen at Andersonville, Georgia, and the officers were sent to Macon, and were subsequently placed under fire of our guns at Charleston, for the protection of the city–a novel material for the bulwarks of a town in civilized warfare.
The triumphant march of Sherman to the Sea opened the miserable prisons of the captives, after a confinement of seven months and twenty-three days; but long before relief came, many had fallen victims of cruelty and starvation. Of the privates, sixty-seven died at Andersonville, the numbers of whose graves are given in the accompanying rolls, a much larger number, doubtless, at Florence, not ascertained, while many expired on their way home, and others have died lingering deaths, the results of exposure and privation.
The sad and unlooked for event of the capture of nearly the entire regiment, from no fault of any of its officers, but happening in the chances of war, at the very threshold of General Grant’s campaign, terminated its military career. Captain Samuel B. King, of Company H, who had been relieved at his own request, on the day on which the battle of the Wilderness was fought, from recruiting service in Pennsylvania, returned to the division and was assigned to the command of those who escaped capture, and the recruits, in all numbering one hundred and ten. This miniature battalion, the representative of the regiment, had its place in the brigade, and participated in the desperate fighting which ensued, up to the expiration of its term of service, when, with the division, it was ordered to proceed to Harrisburg, where on its arrival an enthusiastic welcome, from the Governor and military authorities, awaited it; Proceeding thence to Philadelphia, it was duly mustered out of the United States service on the 16th of June, 1864.
NOTE: Samuel Elliot, of Carlisle, a private in Company A, kept a Diary of his prison life, and after his release published it in a neat pamphlet of seventy-five pages. The following extracts in confirmation of the statements in the text, and as illustrative of life, or rather death at Andersonville, are here given:
Sunday, May 22. Arrived at Andersonville, sixty miles from Macon. Here we were drawn into line and counted off into nineties, which constituted a detachment. After we were counted off a rebel officer said, “if there is any man among you who can write his name let him step two paces to the front;” the whole ninety, with one or two exceptions, stepped to the front; he then called for a Sergeant who could write his name; after getting one, placed us in his charge; our names were taken and we were marched into a prison containing about thirteen acres of ground, surrounded by a high stockade built of heavy pine logs and closely guarded by numerous sentinels who stood on elevated boxes overlooking the camp. About eight feet from the stockade was a low, rough built railing called the “dead line,” to lay a hand on or pass which was death from a guard’s musket. The camp contains about fifteen thousand men, most of-whom have been prisoners from eight to ten months, and were once strong, able bodied men, but are now nothing more than walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin, and can hardly be recognized as white men. The horrible sights are almost enough to make us give up in dispair–the ground is covered with filth, and, vermin can be seen crawling in the sand. In the centre of the camp is a stream of dirty water so warm and greasy we can scarcely drink it. The sights I saw on this, my first day in Andersonville, so filled me with horror that I can give but a poor idea of this prison den.
Monday 23. Twenty-three years old today–a miserable place to celebrate one’s birth day.
Thursday 26. Rained all night, and as our shelter leaked we were completely soaked, besides being cold and hungry. Wirz has a squad of his men digging a deep trench inside the 4 dead line “so as to prevent further tunneling.”
Sunday, June 12. Drew half a pint of mouldy rice and a small piece of pork for a day’s ration.
Wednesday 15. A poor cripple shot for stepping inside the “dead line;” he said he was so miserable he wished to die, and took this means of having his wish gratified.
Thursday 16. The small rations, of such poor quality, with the rainy weather, is killing the nen off at a terrible rate-there are now over one hundred bodies at the gate to be carried to the “dead house.”
Friday 2. The majority of the camp drew fresh meat which the rebel Quartermaster calls beef, but he can’t fool “old soldiers” with his mule and horse flesh. It might have been pretty good had they brought it in within a week after its death, or had given us a large enough piece to allow for the maggots; we were too hungry to consider long about eating it also drew “chicken feed,” and a small piece of wormy pork-quite a variety for one day; went out for wood: the first time I have been outside the stockade since here. What a relief it is to see the outside world and get a breath of fresh air.
Monday 27. For a long time the camp has been in a great state of excitement caused by a band of wretches who term themselves “Mosby’s raiders.” They watch every squad of prisoners brought in and take from them everything of any value. Several men have been killed by them and others badly wounded.
Sunday, July 10. The “six raiders” found guilty of murder to be hanged to-morrow. Wednesday 27.-More prisoners from Grant’s and Sherman’s armies, among them a number of one hundred day men, whose term of service has almost expired. They say the rebels should release them on that account.
Thursday 28.-The rebels fired a solid shot over the camp for the purpose, I suppose, of;showing us they had ammunition on hand. They are very much afraid of us making a break when the gates are opened to pass prisoners through. When the shot was fired a loud cheer was given, and cries of “lay down,” “stand to your guns,” &c., could be heard in all parts of the camp.
Wednesday, August 3 . On different battle fields I have witnessed many horrible sights, but none to compare with what I saw to-day-a man lying on the bank of the stream being eaten to death by maggots. They could be seen issuing from his eyes and mouth, and his body was eaten completely raw in several places. We could do nothing with him but let him alone to die a miserable death.
Wednesday 10. This evening we were called upon to witness the death of another of our comrades, Van B. Eby. He bore his prison life bravely, but has at last fallen a victim to illtreatment and starvation. He was loved by all who knew him, and his loss is mourned by many friends.
Saturday 20. Heard the glorious news that the “Dutch captain,” Wirz, is dangerously ill, and has been sent to Macon. Many thousand wishes have this day been made that he may never recover.
Thursday 25. Charles Jarimer, a recruit of our Company, and a bunk-mate of mine, died to-day, after a long and painful illness; helped to carry his body to the ” dead house”-a house built in the rear of the hospital, outside the stockade. There were about twenty-five other bodies, most of which had been stripped of all their clothing, and were so black and swollen they could not be recognized. While I was there I saw them piling the bodies one on top of the other, into the wagon, to be hauled to their graves or ditches. I passed through the hospital on my way back, and the sights I saw there were enough to make one sick: the tents were filled with what could once have been called men, but were now nothing but mere skeletons. The short time I was there I saw several die. A man is never admitted to the hospital until there is no hope of his recovery, and when once there it is seldom, if ever, he returns.
Sunday, September 4.-Attended the funeral services of a member of Company F, who died during the night. It is terrible to see how our regiment is thinning out; every day brings the sad news of the death of one or more of our comrades. Death! nothing but death! throughout the prison. Rations small-almost starved.
Monday 12. No transportation ready for us; had to lay at the gate all night, where we were almost eaten up by musquitoes, fleas and lice. At seven o’clock the gates were opened and we once more breathed the pure, fresh air. I have often heard of the slave traders packing the slaves in rows in vessels, but never had any idea of what it was until we were packed into the ears at the depot: one man sits down with his knees up, and another would sit with his back to him, so as to fit closely, and so on until the car was full. After a very uncomfortable ride we arrived at Macon, where we were allowed to stand up and stretch our limbs, which gave us a great deal of pain, after sitting so long in one position. Each car was supplied with a slim allowance of corn bread. Left Macon at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Wednesday 14. Passed through Charleston at day-light, but had no opportunity of seeing the city, Arrived at Florence, South Carolina; distance travelled last night and this morning two hundred and fifty-nine miles.
Florence, South Carolina
Thursday 15. Have had nothing to eat for two days; am so weak I can scarcely walk, and hungry enough to eat anything. Some talk of another prison at this place. Taken into a large woods where we remained until three o’clock, when we were again placed on cars and taken about two miles from the town, where we went into a large field to encamp. On our way here each man of our “bunk” took a rail from the fence, which helped considerably in building our shelter, besides furnishing us with fire wood. The camp is strongly guarded by boys from ten to fourteen years of age, old men and blood hounds. No rations; tired and almost starved.
Sunday, October 9. A large squad of prisoners brought in from Charleston, who report General Sherman in possession of Macon, and that he re-captured about two thousand of our sick.
Tuesday 11. A large supply of clothing from the Sanitary Commission arrived for our sick, but instead of giving it to them, the rebels picked out the best for themselves, and gave the balance to the Irish “Regulators.” This is a body of men who have formed themselves into a band to preserve order throughout the camp, and they treat the poor weak prisoners a great deal worse than the rebels do. I have seen several of our men taken to the swamp and whipped until they were not able to stand. If one of the Regulators wants a tin cup or pan, all he has to do is to pick one out and go to the Judge (one of their number) and claim it; the man, who is the rightful owner is obliged to give it up, and if he says a word about it he is taken to the whipping post to receive ten or twenty lashes.
Tuesday 18. Cold, disagreeable day; a lot of sanitary blankets were brought in camp to be distributed among the men who were entirely destitute of shelter. Six blankets were to be drawn by lot, by each one hundred men, but before drawing, the following oath was administered: “You do solemnly swear that you are entirely destitute of shelter, that you do not possess a blanket, or do not bunk with any one who does.” I believe there has been enough blankets sent for all the men who are without shelter, and that the rebels have kept as many as they wished for their own use. Drew meal and fresh beef; cold rain in the evening.
Monday 31. While at Andersonville I did not suppose the rebels had a worse prison in the South, but I have now found out that they have. This den is ten times worse than that at Andersonville. Our rations are smaller and of poorer quality, wood more scarce, lice plentier, shelters worn out, and cold weather coming on. I have stood my prison life wonderfully, but now I am commencing to feel it more sensibly, and am getting too weak to move about. To add to my misery I have the scurvy in the gums.
Thursday, November 3.-Passed a miserable night; was obliged to lie down in the water, and this morning I am so stiff and sore that I am scarcely able to stand. I am soaking wet and my cold is much worse. We have a little wood, but it is so wet we cannot cook with it. Drew nothing but meal.
Tuesday 8. Great excitement over an election held in camp for Lincoln and M’Clellan, and if the votes had only been counted they would have given Lincoln a nice little help. The election was held as follows: Two bags of beans, one of white and one of black, were placed inside the dead line; an empty bag was nailed to the stockade, and as the men marched by they took their bean and deposited it in the empty bag. Ten thousand votes were cast, and when counted they gave a majority of over two thousand for Lincoln. Men were out electioneering, and there was quite as much excitement as there would have been over an election at home, only the whisky and fighting were dispensed with.
Wednesday 23. Rained all night, and we were obliged to take turns staying up to bail the water out of our cellar, which came in almost as fast as we could dip it out. We were obliged to huddle together to keep warm, but it was a hard matter, as we were obliged to lay in about six inches of water. This morning I am cold and wet, and I can truly say I never felt so miserable in all my life. We have not had a bite to eat for seventy hours, consequently I am almost famished. Drew a pint of meal.
Friday, December 2.-We are all so weak from starvation that we have been obliged to suspend work upon our shanty.
Wednesday 7.-Cold, rainy, windy morning; called out before day-light with the glorious news to fall into line to be examined for parole. Can it be possible that the day of deliverance has at last arrived?. While our hundred were marching inside the dead line I trembled with fear lest I should not be taken, but my fears were allayed when the surgeon pressed upon my arm and told me to go. I cannot say how I felt When he told me this; I trembled, not with fear, but joy. Eleven hundred and eighty of us were marched outside the stockade, where we signed the parole papers, and stood around small smoky fires until late in the afternoon.
Sunday 11. Rained nearly all night; could not sleep on account of the cold and lice. It seems as if for every one we burned two came in its place Still raining this morning. Fell into line at one o’clock and were again marched to the rebel truce boat and steamed into the harbor.
Passed Fort Sumpter (now nothing but a mass of ruins) and Moultrie, when we met our boats. It would be impossible to describe the feelings of the men when our dear old flag came into view; tears of joy filled many eyes, and cheer after cheer rent the air. After we were marched on our boats we each had a pound of boiled pork, nine hard tack and a quart of coffee issued to us. It was an amusing sight to see us devour these rations–any person would have thought we had not had a bite of anything to eat for a week.
Monday 26. Arrived at Harrisburg some time in the night and took lodgings at the “White Hall.” After breakfast I went to the depot and met my brother, who passed me without knowing me. It is not necessary for me to tell of the joy it gave me to meet my friends, or of the joy it gave them to see me, after so long an absence.