The History of
||Dept. of Philadelphia
THE First regiment, 3d Brigade, 1st Division of Pennsylvania militia, was organized under act of Assembly of 1858, and belonged exclusively to Philadelphia. Immediately after the first call for troops to serve for three months, Colonel Charles P. Dare, in behalf of the regiment, offered its services to the Executive of the Commonwealth, which were at once accepted. Recruiting commenced at the Arsenal, corner of Sixteenth and Filbert streets, on the 18th of April, 1861, and three days thereafter, the regiment left for active duty, having been mustered into the service of the United States on Sunday, April 21st, by Major C. F. Ruff, of the U. S. A., as the Twenty-third regiment Pennsylvania volunteers.
The officers were all active in recruiting, and received important aid, both material and moral, from a committee of citizens.The organization of the regiment was substantially preserved, the officers serving under their militia commissions. Colonel Charles P. Dare, Lieutenant Colonel David B. Birney, and Adjutant Casper S. Gillingham remained in the positions which they had for several years held. George C. Spear was elected Major on the 16th of April, from Captain of company A.
The regiment had no camp of rendezvous, having been ordered into active service on the day of its muster. The officers were all well versed in the school of the soldier, and were able to bring their men at once under discipline, and to impart to them skill in the practice of arms.
It moved on the evening of April 21st, to Perryville, on the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore railroad, where Colonel Dare was placed in command of the post, and the regiment was stationed, four companies at Perryville, two at Havre-de-Grace, two at Elkton, one at Bush river, and one at Gunpowder river, with intermediate guards along the road. The post and troops at Elkton were under the command of Major T.W. Sherman, U. S. A., afterwards Major General of volunteers, who had been ordered to report with his light battery for duty to Colonel Dare. There were also at Perryville, under Colonel Dare's orders, a fleet, of gunboats and transports, together with a marine battery, stationed on the wharves, and served by U. S. seamen. These were under the immediate command of Lieutenants Steadman and Watmough, U. S. N.
On the 28th of May, the regiment was relieved by the Eleventh Pennsylvania, Colonel Jarrett, and proceeded by rail to Chambersburg, where it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division of Patterson's army. At this place the Adjutant of the regiment, C. S. Gillingham, was ordered to the staff of Colonel Thomas, as Acting Assistant Adjutant General, and so continued to the close of its term of service. From Chambersburg the Brigade marched to Greencastle, where it encamped, remaining about a week, and from thence to Williamsport, where it was employed in guarding the fords of the Potomac.
The enemy, at this time, were posted at Harper's Ferry, under command of General Joseph E. Johnston. When he perceived that General Patterson's army, which had been organized at Chambersburg, was about to cross the Potomac, he evacuated that post and retreated to Bunker Hill. On the 17th of June, Colonel Thomas' Brigade crossed the river, and advanced to Falling Waters in pursuit of the enemy, Cadwalader's entire Division being ordered to follow. At this juncture the regular cavalry and all the artillery, together with Colonel Thomas, were, by the command of General Scott, ordered away, and re-crossed the river, leaving the three regiments and City Troop under command of Colonel Dare, with orders to follow the next day. At daylight the retreat commenced, with a large body of rebel cavalry hanging on the flanks and rear, but re-crossed the river without an engagement, and encamped on the old ground at Williamsport.
Two days later, the cavalry and artillery which had been ordered away returned, and Colonel Thomas again assumed command of the Brigade. The Twenty-third remained at Williamsport until the 2d of July, when it again crossed the Potomac, with the entire army of General Patterson. Advancing to Falling Waters, fire was opened upon the head of the column by a body of rebels concealed in a wheat field and wood. During the skirmish which ensued, the Twenty-third supported Captain Perkins' battery, and although some few were killed and wounded in other regiments, it had no casualities.
Advancing on the following day to Martinsburg, four companies were selected for provost duty, Major Spear, by order of Colonel Thomas, assuming command in the town. On the 4th of July, at twelve o'clock M., the troops of the Brigade were drawn up on dress parade, while Captain Perkins' battery fired a salute, the regimental bands playing National airs. The column again advanced to Bunker Hill, where the twenty-third was sent out on three occasions, in conjunction with the cavalry, for reconnoissances.
On the 17th of June, the entire column moved to Charlestown, and encamped around the town, when the provost guard was again taken from the Twentythird. Its term of service having expired, it was ordered to Philadelphia, where it arrived on the 29th of July, and on the 31st was mustered out of service. The discipline and soldierly conduct of the regiment throughout its entire term was excellent, receiving the commendation of the commanding General. Nearly the entire regiment re-enlisted for three years, and was permitted to retain its old number, the Twenty-third Pennsylvania volunteers
||Army of Potomac
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||To Johnson's Is. Ohio
||Army of Potomac
||From Johnson's Is. Ohio
||Army of Potomac
||Army of the Shenandoah
THE campaign in the Shenandoah Valley had scarcely terminated, when the Twenty-third Regiment was re-organized for three years or the war. In the three months' service it formed part of the Brigade commanded by Colonel Thomas, and was a well drilled and efficient body. Lieutenant Colonel David B. Birney, with the approval of Colonel Dare, then suffering from a disease from which he soon after died, had received authority from the Secretary of War to recruit its ranks, and the Governor had given permission to retain its former number. The old regiment was mustered out on the 31st of July, and two days thereafter three Companies were mustered in for three years.
By the 14th of August it as filled to the maximum number, and went into camp near the Falls of Schuylkill. David B. Birney was commissioned Colonel, Charles Wilhelm, Lieutenant Colonel, George C. Spear, Major, and John Ely, Junior Major; James E. Collins was made Adjutant. Remaining but a few days in camp, it was ordered to Washington, and reported to General Burnside, in command of troops stationed in the neighhorhood of the Capital not brigaded.
On the 8th of September the regiment was transferred to Camp Graham, on Queen's farm, four miles north of Washington. Here, by authority of the War Department, it was recruited to fifteen companies, twelve of which were from Philadelphia, one from Pittsburg, one from Wilkesbarre and one from Columbia. Its first colors were presented by friends in Philadelphia, before proceeding to the field in the three months' service.
The State flag was presented on the 14th of December, on behalf of Gov. Curtin, by Hon. Galusha A. Grow, Speaker of the Lower House of Congress, and was responded to by Hon. Wm. D. Kelley, of the same body, from Philadelphia, and by Col. Birney. Extensive preparations had been made for this ceremony, the camp having been elaborately decorated with evergreens, an elegant dinner provided, and the occasion was honored by the presence of the Secretary of War, distinguished members of Congress, and influentia1 citizens of Philadelphia.
The Twenty-third was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Fourth Corps, and received careful instruction and discipline from Colonel Birney. The Division was drilled in evolutions of the line once a week by Gen. Buell, while he remained in command. In these exercises the regiment always paraded as two battalions, each battalion numbering as many men as any other single regiment in the Brigade. In addition to regular drill, the men were employed in building fortifications, cutting timber, and doing picket and guard duty. Forts Lincoln, Totten, Stevens and Cedar Hill, are witnesses of their industry.
About the middle of December typhoid fever prevailed, and one ofiicer and fifty men died. Subsequently the camp was moved to high and airy ground, near Bladensburg, and the disease disappeared. A large number of blankets and stockings, and fifteen hundred pairs of woolen mittens were presented to the men by their friends in Philadelphia.
On the 17th of February, 1862, Colonel Birney was appointed a Brigadier General, and Captain Thomas H. Neill, of the Fifth Infantry, succeeded him as Colonel. He assumed command on the 20th, and almost immediately after, was ordered to detach five companies, and to transfer four of them, L, O, P and R, with Major Spear as Lieutenant Colonel, to the Sixty-first Pennsylvania, Colonel Rippey, and to disband company M, distributing the men among the remaining ten companies, and mustering the officers out of service. This order was obeyed with much reluctance and under protest.
On the 10th of March the regiment made its first march, in the direction of Vienna, with the intention of turning the enemy's left flank at Manassas; but after proceeding as far as Lewensville, it was ascertained that he had fallen back, and the command returned to camp.
On the 26th it marched to Alexandria, where it embarked on the steamer Vanderbilt for Fortress Monroe. In the advance of the army on the Peninsula, the enemy were first encountered at Warwick river, where the Twenty-third had one man shot - its first loss.
The command was engaged until the 4th of May, on picket, and fatigue duty on rifle pits and roads, when orders were received to storm a rebel fort on the south side of the river. The charge was made, but the line after floundering a while in the mud, ascertained that the enemy had retreated. The loss during the operations before Yorktown was eight wounded.
The Division made a forced march to Williamsburg, on the 5th of May, and arrived upon the battle ground late in the afternoon. The Twenty-third did not become engaged, but was under a heavy artillery fire, in which it had five men wounded. On the following day the enemy retreated, and the regiment skirmished with his rear guard and formed in line of battle on the south side of the town.
On the 10th it advanced and was engaged with the enemy, losing five men wounded. Proceeding through New Kent Court House and New Baltimore to Bottom's bridge, the enemy were found in form on the south side of the Chickahomony, with artillery so posted that the column was obliged to fall back about two miles, the Twenty-third losing four men, and encamped on the farm of the rebel General Garnett.
On the 23d, a detachment consisting of the 7th Massachusetts, Twenty-third Pennsylvania, and the Eighth Pennsylvania cavalry, was ordered to proceed on a reconnoissance towards Richmond. Four miles out, the enemy were met and driven, and the position thus gained was held during the night. On the following day the detachment had heavy skirmishing to the left of the Richmond road, which was continued till late at night. The object of the reconnoissance having been attained, the command retired to Seven Pines, and threw up breast-works. On the 28th it moved with the brigade, now under command of Brigadier General Abercrombie, to the Richmond and York River railroad.
The battle of Fair Oaks commenced on the 31st of May, the enemy attacking General Casey's Division holding the advance of the Union army, in overpowering force. Unable to withstand the storm, it broke, and Couch's Division, which was sent to its relief, soon became engaged.
The Twenty-third was separated from the rest of the Brigade, and directed to take position on the Nine Mile road, west of the railroad. At two o'clock in the afternoon it met the enemy, and drove him back to, and quite through a piece of wood in front. The ground was difficult, the woods swarmed with the enemy, and this the first engagement in which it was under heavy infantry fire; but several charges were successfully made, in which three color bearers were shot and many brave men lost.
Late in the afternoon it was hotly attacked, in position beyond the road, and barely escaped capture by a column of the enemy which swept down in the rear. Colonel Neill had his horse shot under him, but fortunately succeeded in retiring to the line of the First Long Island, Colonel Adams, and formed on his right. In this engagement, the loss in killed and wounded was seven officers and one hundred and thirty-six men.
On the 1st of June the battle was renewed, but the regiment was ordered to march with General Palmer's command, on a reconnoissance to White Oak Swamp. On the following day it returned to find its camp destroyed and all articles of value lost. The picket line was re-established, and for severa1 days the men were under arms, exposed to the bullets of the enemy's sharp-shooters by day and his shells by night, surrounded by a battle-field where the dead, exposed to the intense heat of the season, still 1ay unburied, and greatly harassed by the incessant rains and constant watching.
On the 16th it was relieved by fresh troops, and was ordered to camp at Seven Pines. The severity of the duty to which it had been subjected produced considerable sickness, and so many officers, sick and wounded, were sent to hospitals, as to leave the regiment in a crippled condition.
On the 25th it was detached, and sent by itself on a reconnoissance towards White Oak Swamp. At the commencement of the seven day battle, one wing of the Twenty third, consisting of five companies, A, C, H, I and K, under command of Colonel Neill, was posted on the eastern edge of the White Oak Swamp, to prevent the enemy from crossing and turning the left flank of the retreating army. The duty was successfully accomplished, with a loss of nine men.
The other wing, under Captain John F. Glenn, was ordered to support a battery during the night, and on the following morning participated in the battle of Charles City Cross Roads, losing five men.
Marching all night through the dismal shades of the swamp, it arrived on the morning of the 30th, at Haxall's Plantation, on the James river, where the two wings united and marched to Turkey Bridge. From day break, until two o'clock in the afternoon, it was exposed to heavy artillery fire, when Colonel Neill was detached and ordered to support a battery, and report to General Howe.
Colonel Neill at once sent out a party of skirmishers to the front, to drive away the enemy's sharp-shooters, who had been engaged in picking off the cannoneers and battery horses; but was soon after re-called, reporting again to General Abercrombie, and immediately went into action, relieving two regiments in line of battle and opening fire at five o'clock, P.M. With great coolness the men held their position, rapidly loading and firing with fearful effect. Instead of returning their rammers to the pipes, they stuck them in the ground by their sides.
The left of the regiment was here in a trying position; it overlapped a battery which was obliged to fire over the heads of the men, and severa1 were lost by the premature explosion of our own shells; but the position was a vital one and the exposure was necessary to its retention. After being under fire for thirteen hours, its ammunition spent, it was relieved by the Excelsior Brigade. The importance of the service rendered was officially acknowledged by General Couch. The loss in this engagement owing to the sheltered position which it occupied, considering the heat of the action and the loss inflicted on the enemy, was slight, being only two killed and thirty wounded.
Taking up the line of march on the following morning, it moved, in the midst of a pelting rain, to Harrison's Landing, and to add to the discomfort of the men, they were, at the end of the march, halted in a ploughed field. Moving to better ground the regiment encamped and commenced fortifying.
It was rumored that the enemy had returned to Malvern Hill, and a part of the army under General Hooker, was sent to drive them back. The Twenty-third under Major Glenn, Colonel Neill being in command of a brigade, formed part of the expedition, and on the return was with the rear guard. The Peninsula campaign ended, the army of the Potomac was ordered to the support of Pope on the Rappahannock.
The Twenty-third left Harrison's Landing on the morning of the 16th of July, and, passing through Charles City, crossed the Chickahomony on a pontoon bridge, and, after a fatiguing march of seventy miles, in clouds of dust, and beneath a burning sun, arrived at Yorktown. Resting until the 28th, amusing themselves in fishing, bathing, and destroying fortifications, the regiment embarked on the City of Richmond, with a transport containing the Sixty-first Pennsylvania in tow, and arrived at Alexandria, on the 31st.
On the following day it made a hurried march to Chantilly, and arrived in time to participate in the action, losing five men.
On the 2d of September it was posted in support of a battery until three o'clock P.M., when the Division was detailed under Genera1 Hooker, to cover the retreat on the main road, the enemy following as far as Fairfax. At Alexandria the Division rested but a few hours, and then started on the Maryland campaign.
Crossing the Potomac on the chain bridge, it proceeded by the river road towards Harper's Ferry. At Poolsville, on the 11th, the Twentythird and the Thirty-sixth New York were detached, temporarily, forming an independent brigade, under the command of Colonel Neill, and ordered to guard the Potomac from White's to Nolen's ferry. Hence, it formed the extreme left of the army in the battles at South Mountain and Antietam, and was, in consequence, prevented from taking an active part, though it had the misfortune to lose one officer and twenty-four men captured by the enemy.
Information had been received that a quantity of arms was secreted in a barn across the Potomac, and Lieutenant Garsed, of company B, with twenty-four men, and nine of the Second Rhode Island Cavalry, crossed for the purpose of bringing them in; but a band of the enemy, divining the purpose, laid in wait for them and captured the entire party.
On the 20th General Stoneman, with one brigade of the Third Corps, arrived and assumed command. Two companies of the Twenty-third, A and E, Captains Wood and Wallace, were detailed to proceed to Harper's Ferry on a reconnoissance. Fording the river, they soon ascertained that the enemy had left, and having obtained other valuable information, returned the same night, bringing in a few prisoners.
On the 24th the regiment marched to Downsville, where it rejoined the brigade, now in command of General Cochrane, which was transferred to the Third Division, Brigadier General John Newton, Sixth Corps, Major General William B. Franklin. On the 22d, Lieutenant Colonel John Ely returned, having been absent since the battle of Fair Oaks, where he was severely wounded. A new stand of colors, including guidons, was received, the gift of ladies of Philadelphia.
After the battle of Antietam the regiment remained on picket duty on the Potomac, near Hancock, until the 1st of November, when, with the Sixth Corps, it re-crossed the river at Sandy Run Ford, near Harper's Ferry, and proceeded to Stafford Court House, skirmishing daily with the enemy. Remaining until the 5th of December, its camp was removed to a point within three miles of Belle Plains, as uncomfortable a location for mid-winter as the country afforded.
On the night of the 10th, it was ordered forward to take part in the impending battle of Fredericksburg. Under cover of the artillery, the pontoons were successfully laid, in the face of the rebel sharp-shooters, and a crossing effected by the left Grand Division, composed of the First, Sixth, and a part of Fifth Corps. The Twenty-third was placed in the advance, under the immediate command of Major Glenn, who was ordered to seize the Stone House at Franklin's Ford, and feel the enemy, which was adroitly executed. The enemy fell back as the line advanced, and the pickets were established without loss.
On the morning of the 13th, the Third Division was massed for a charge; but at twelve o'clock, P.M., the order was countermanded and the Twenty-third was placed in support of a battery, remaining till evening, with the loss of but two men.
Early in the day, General Vinton, of the Second Brigade, Second Division, was shot, and Colonel Neill, who had some days previously received the commission of a Brigadier General, was ordered to its command. On the night of the 13th, the regiment removed to the extreme right of the left Grand Division, holding this position until the night of the 15th, when it re-crossed the river. Lieutenant Colonel Ely, who had been temporarily absent, here assumed command and was subsequently commissioned Colonel, to date from December 13th.
The regiment went into winter quarters at a point about three miles south of Falmouth, near the Headquarters of the Sixth Army Corps, where it remained until the 18th of January, 1863, when it moved to United States Ford, in the expectation of a bloody campaign, on the right bank of the Rappahannock; but, owing to the inclemency of the weather and state of the roads, ended in a "mud march." The regiment returned to its camp on the 22d, more fortunate than many others that were employed nearly a week in escaping from the mud. So long were the troops in counter-marching, that the rebel pickets, in derision, offered to cross and lend a helping hand.
Upon the initiation of the Chancellorsville campaign, the brigade was detailed to assist in carrying the pontoon boats down the river. The boats were carried nearly two miles on the backs of the men, lest the rumbling of the pontoon trucks, along the river bank, would give the enemy notice of the intended movement. It was accomplished with great fatigue; but the precaution was wisely planned, the enemy being taken by surprise, and a landing effected with but small loss.
The army did not cross until the morning of the 2d of May, when the bri-gade was ordered to take the advance. Moving by the river road it passed through the enemy's lines at midnight, and under cover of darkness arrived without opposition in front of the stone wall in the rear of Fredericksburg.
At daylight of the 3d, the regiment, under command of Colonel Ely, was detached from the brigade and ordered to make a feint towards the enemy's entrenched position, on Marye's Heights. The right wing, consisting of five companies, was deployed under Lieutenant Colonel Glenn - the left wing being held in reserve - and advanced to within ten yards of the stone wall, the enemy opening with musketry and artillery from the sides and summits of the hills along his whole line, and thus developing his position. The purpose of the manoeuver having been attained, the command returned under cover, in good order, with a loss of sixteen men, and held the ground, with the aid of the batteries, until the final charge.
The Sixty-first and Eighty-second Pennnsylvania, and Forty-third and Sixty-seventh New York, were formed in column of companies to charge over the bridge and up the hill, on the left of the town, while the Sixth Marine, Fifth Wisconsin and Thirty-first New York were to charge over the stone wall in front. At eleven o'clock, A.M., the movement commenced. The Twenty-third Regiment was not of the storming party, having already done its work; but seeing a regiment, whose term of service had expired, break at the moment of extreme peril, the men of the Twenty-third, without orders, giving one grand huzza, started upon the run for the opening in the broken line, and entered the works with the triumphant column. Its loss in this charge was six killed and twenty-seven wounded.
At half-past two, P. M., orders were received to advance in the direction of Chancellorsville, and occupy the plank road; but before reaching it, the enemy were encountered at Salem Church, where a severe engagement ensued, in which the regiment supported Maxhammer's Battery, sustaining but small loss.
On the night of the 3d it was ordered to the front, where it remained until near the close of the day, when the enemy attacked in strong force and the corps was forced to retire towards Bank's Ford, leaving most of the pickets to be taken prisoners. The ford was reached at dark; but the enemy made so hot a pursuit that another line of battle had to be formed to check his advance, and the regiment finally recrossed the river at about two o'clock on the morning of the 5th, proceeding to its old camp near Falmouth. The loss in this campaign was seventy-one killed and wounded, and two taken prisoners.
Remaining in camp, engaged in drill and picket duty until the 6th of June, the Sixth Corps for the third time, crossed to the south side of the river at Deep Run, and the Twenty-third was at once placed on the skirmish line, close up to the enemy's front. Until the 13th, heavy skirmishing, with considerable loss, was kept up from behind breast-works and rifle pits, shot and shell being freely used and the sharp-shooters on both sides unusually active.
Re-crossing the river, the regiment started on the Gettysburg campaign, and was repeatedly engaged in picket duty while on the march. The weather intensely hot, and the movements at times forced, told heavily upon the endurance of the men, and in a march of eighteen miles on the 16th, twenty-two of the division suffered sun-stroke, from the effects of which six died.
Crossing the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry, Sedgwick's Corps marched via Poolesville, New Market and Manchester to Westminster, where it arrived on the 30th of June. Here it remained in camp until the evening of the 1st of July, when, at eight o'clock, orders to march were received, with intelligence that a battle was in progress at Gettysburg, thirty miles away, and that Reynolds had fallen.
The corps was at once put in motion, the men in high spirits, cheering and singing as they went. Without pausing for a moment's rest, the column hastened on over the weary miles, and arriving on the battle-field at four o'clock on the evening of the 2d, was immediately ordered to the support of the Fifth Corps, which had been desperately engaged during the day. Forming in mass it started at a double quick, every man cheering to the full capacity of his lungs. The enemy dispirited by the appearance of fresh troops soon fell back, and only one brigade of the Sixth became engaged.
On the morning of the 3d, the Twentythird was ordered to reinforce General Geary's Division of the Twelfth Corps, at Culp's Hill, on the extreme right. At ten o'clock, A.M., Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, commanding in the absence of Colonel Ely, was ordered to detail two hundred men and eight officers to advance as skirmishers and test the significance of the lull in the enemy's fire. Colonel Glenn, detaching the right wing, companies A, D, G, H and F, leaving the left under command of Major Wallace, advanced about fifteen paces beyond the breast-works, when they were met by so terrific a fire that they were compelled to lie down under protection of the line occupying the works. Soon afterwards, an order was received from General Geary to return, which was executed in good order and with small loss.
The regiment remained in line, firing at short range, until relieved by an Ohio regiment, when it retired about one hundred yards under shelter of a small ravine. Soon after, the enemy opened with all his artillery - prelude to his last grand charge - when it was ordered to reinforce the left centre, upon which the whole rebel fire was concentrated. In executing this order, it was compelled to cross an open plain, under as heavy a fire of artillery as ever rocked a battle field. The Twenty-third suffered little, though the balance of the brigade lost heavily.
After marching from point to point during the day, it finally rested for the night on the line where the First Division of the Second Corps grappled with the foe in his last desperate struggle. The 4th was spent in skirmishing with the enemy, bringing in the wounded, and burying the dead. The loss during the battle was two officers and twenty-nine men, killed and wounded.
Discovering on the morning of the 5th, that the enemy were retreating, the Sixth Corps was ordered in pursuit, and coming up with his rear guard on the Chambersburg pike, five miles from Gettysburg, commenced skirmishing. At daylight on the morning of the 5th, the regiment moved to the support of the cavalry, and was at once placed on the skirmish line. The corps encamped near the town of Fairfield, and the Twenty-third was detailed for picket duty during the night, capturing and bringing in eighty-three prisoners.
Abandoning the direct line of pursuit, the corps moved to the left, through Emmittsburg, and attempted to cross the mountains with artillery to Middletown; but the road being a difficult one, the night very dark and the rain descending in torrents, the heavy pieces were soon fast in the mud, and had to be taken apart before they could be turned about, and got back upon the main road through Frederick. A fragment of the corps reached the summit at midnight, while the greater portion were resting on the road, or were lost on their march up.
On the 10th it fell in with the enemy near Funkstown, where a spirited engagement ensued, It remained in line during the entire day of the 11th, and in attempting to push forward, the skirmishers lost heavily. On the 12th, it was ascertained that the enemy had fallen back during the previous night to a strong position, and was entrenched. The Union lines were at once formed in front of it, and orders were issued to build breast-works, and be in readiness to attack at daylight.
Morning found the works completed, and the army in line ready for the onset, but at eight o'clock the order to attack was countermanded, and the troops remained inactive during the entire day. On the following night the enemy escaped across the river, and further pursuit was abandoned. An examination of his position, showed it to have been another Malvern Hill, and had the Union army attacked, it would doubtless have shared the fate of the rebels on that memorable field.
Marching back to Berlin, the regiment halted for rest, and was there inspected and supplied with clothing. On the 19th, the corps crossed the Potomac, and proceeding to Manassas Gap, supported the Third and Fifth Corps in their passage, and moved on to Chester Gap, and thence to Warrenton, where it went into Camp, laying out and decorating the grounds in an elaborate and tasteful manner in the hope of permanent occupation. But on the 15th of August, the regiment was ordered to the mouth of the north fork of the Rappahannock. Leaving five companies at the cross roads of the Orleans and Waterloo pike, the remaining five were placed to guard the bridges and fords of the river.
On the 17th of August it was relieved from picket duty, and ordered back to its old camp, where it was reinforced by one hundred and forty-six drafted men, and the brigade was detached from the Third Division, and joined to the Second under Genera1 Howell.
Division drill was ordered for every day in the week, and inspection and review on Sunday, a severe ordea1 for dog-days. Sunstroke was not uncommon, making it necessary for the officers to establish hospitals on the drill ground, the same as if going into action.
Colonel Ely re-joined the regiment on the second of September, and assumed command, and on the 16th it broke camp and moved to the neighborhood of Culpepper. Remaining till the 1st of October, it again struck tents and made a forced march, in a furious rain-storm, to Catlett's station, and, with the corps, was posted as guard to the Orange and Alexandria railroad, the army still at Culpepper. Here the regiment remained doing fatigue duty upon breast-works, and picketing the lines, till the 12th, when all the rolling stock of the road, filled with government property, arrived at Warrenton Junction, and four companies under command of Captain Rees, were sent to guard them.
Late in the evening a report was received that the enemy was advancing, when the balance of the regiment, and one company of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, were ordered to reinforce the guard, and during the night the rest of the brigade, under General Shaler, was sent to its succor. At daylight, the army began to arrive and the stores were safe.
On the morning of the 15th the brigade marched to Centreville, and formed in line of battle, at the same time that the Second Corps was engaged at Bristoe Station. Remaining until three o'clock on the following morning, it moved to Chantilly and again formed in line. The rebel army refusing to accept the wager of battle offered, and, beginning to retire, the Union army was ordered forward, the Sixth Corps reaching Warrenton on the 21st, after considerable skirmishing, the regiment going into camp in its old quarters.
On the morning of November 7th it again struck tents, and marching to Rappahannock station, was in line during the brilliant engagement of the Sixth Corps at that place, resulting in the capture of two thousand prisoners with all their small arms,severa1 colors and four pieces of artillery.
On the 8th it moved to Kelly's ford, and crossing the river on the following day, was detailed to destroy rebel fortifications. One of these forts had a checkered history. It was first built by General Pope and faced to the south. When Lee approached the right bank of the river, he changed it to face to the north. Upon the advance of Meade to Culpepper, "about face", was the order, and it again looked to the south. As Lee advanced on the retreat of the Union army to Centreville it was elaborately reconstructed and made to frown upon the north; and now, for the fifth time, spade and pick are busy on its surface, and it again faces with the advancing column.
Proceeding to Brandy station on the 13th , it remained in camp till the 27th, when it started on the Mine Run expedition, crossing the Rapidan at Germania ford. At half a mile from the river it formed in line, where French's troops had already engaged the enemy.
On the following day it marched to Robinson's tavern and took position on the right of the line, and Sunday morning, 29th, was ordered to support General Gregg's Cavalry. On the 30th it was assigned to the extreme left of the army, with orders to prepare for a charge, which was to be made at eight o'clock. The charge was never made, and lying exposed to intense cold without fire until the night of December 1st, the whole army fell back, the regiment re-crossing the river at Ely's ford, and proceeding to its old camp. The loss in the campaign was one killed and seven wounded.
On the 6th of December Colonel Ely resigned, on account of wounds and sickness contracted in the line of duty, and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel John F. Glenn, who was commissioned Colonel. Major William Wallace received the commission of Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Henry Rees that of Major. Brigadier General Alexander Shaler commanded the brigade. The friends of the regiment in Philadelphia gave a ball for its benefit, and with the proceeds, six hundred pairs of woolen gloves and a beautiful stand of colors, bearing the names of the battles in which the regiment had been engaged were procured.
A short time previous ear-comforters for the men had been provided by patriotic ladies in Bucks county. As an incentive to heroism, Colonel Ely had distributed in September previous, one hundred silver medals for that number of enlisted men who were designated by their company officers as most deserving of merit in the bayonet charge at Marye's Heights, May 3d, 1863.
On the 30th of December, in compliance with the proposition of the government, two hundred of the regiment re-enlisted as veteran volunteers, and proceeded under command of Colonel Glenn, to Philadelphia, on a veteran furlough.
The balance of the regiment, under Major Wallace, remained in camp at Brandy Station until the 6th of January, when, with the brigade, it was ordered to Johnson's island, Lake Erie, and proceeded thither via Wheeling and Sandusky. From the latter place, the troops marched across the lake to the island on the ice. Here they remained guarding prisoners consisting of four thousand two hundred rebel officers and enjoyed a period of repose, having comfortable quarters, and abundant rations. On he 11th of February they were joined by the veterans under Colonel Glenn.
On the 9th of May, the Twenty-third and Eighty-second Pennsylvania regiments were ordered to the front, and arriving at Washington on the 13th, proceeded on the following day to Belle Plain. The campaign in the Wilderness had already opened, and, as the first fruits of the desperate encounters, seven thousand rebel prisoners were gathered in at this point.
The newly arrived regiments were ordered to report to General Abercrombie, in command of prisoners, and were assigned to guard them. Colonel Isaac C. Bassett of the Eighty-second, was placed in command of both regiments, and Colonel Glenn was made commissary of prisoners. The prisoners were formed into companies. Of one hundred each, men from the same State being kept together and separate from the others. Rolls were made and the companies were sent to Point Lookout, Fort Delaware and other depots.
After completing this work, the regiment was ordered to join the brigade, which, since the breaking up of the Third Division, had become the Fourth Brigade, First Division of the Sixth Corps. It marched to Fredericksburg, and was detailed to guard a supply train of five hundred wagons on the way to the front. Delivering the train near Bowling Green, it crossed the North Anna River and joined the brigade.
Moving with the division for the destruction of the Virginia Central railroad, it reached its destination after a hard march, and the work of burning ties, heating and twisting rails, and demolishing bridges, was commenced. In the midst of a heavy storm, the division bivouacked, but at ten o'clock was ordered out to throw up breast-works, toiling nearly the entire night.
On the morning of the 26th, the division returned, and re-crossing the North Anna, after a march of forty miles, reached the Pamunky, and on the 29th proceeded to Hanover Court House, where the Twenty-third was immediately placed on the skirmish line, remaining out a1l night and losing two men wounded.
Marching and entrenching by the way, it arrived on the 1st of June at Cold Harbor, a name suggestive at this season of agreeable sensations, but one ever to be associated with bitter memories in the history of this regiment.
Upon its arrival, it was at once formed in line of battle on the left of the Richmond and Gaines' Mills cross-roads, and was selected to storm the enemy's works in its front. The Eighty-second was ordered to its support. At four o'clock, P.M., the advance was begun, the enemy's skirmishers falling back, and firing the woods as they did so, the charging column passing, through the flame. The wood was about one hundred and fifty yards in width, and on arriving at the skirt, a full view was presented of the desperate work before it. In front was an open field, and about five hundred yards away on a little hill, were the enemy's works. The open space between must be crossed without shelter, except an old brick house situated mid-way.
Preparations were made for the final charge; the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania being posted on the right, but the left unprotected by either infantry or artillery. At five o'clock orders were given to advance, and at the word "forward," the men brought their muskets to a charge, and moved on the double quick, until the enemy opened a heavy fire, when they dashed away upon the run, and gained the hill. A part leaped the breast-works and held possession, but the right of the line had become separated, and the left was exposed to a flanking fire of grape and canister from the enemy's artillery. The Eightysecond came up nobly to their support, but after fighting, twenty-five minutes without reinforcements, they were obliged to retire about fifty yards, when the balance of the Sixth Corps coming up on the right, and the Second Corps on the left, by hard fighting the position was held and entrenched. But the charge across that open field, and the twenty-five minutes, of hand-to-hand fighting in the enemy's works, left few of the Twenty-third to return to their places in the line. Nine officers and one hundred and eighty-eight men were, killed and wounded, and three men not wounded taken prisoners. Of these, Captain Henry Marchant, Lieutenant James Johnson, John D. Boyd and James G. Williamson, among the officers and seventy-one men, nearly one-half of the entire loss, were killed.
On the morning of the 2d, the lines of the two armies hugged closely their breast-works, the sharp-shooters being in close proximity and very active. A heavy rain set in during the afternoon, which lasted the entire night.
On the 3d, a hot fire was opened early, and continued all day, in which Major Wallace and six men were wounded and three killed. In the evening one company was deployed to advance about ten yards and dig rifle pits. The night was very dark, and unperceived by the enemy, the men crawled cautiously out, and by daylight of the 4th, they had thrown up a safe cover, where they remained during the day, under a terrific fire.
At three o'clock on the morning of the 5th, they were relieved from the first, and ordered to the second line, remaining under a brisk fire until eight o'clock, P.M., when the regiment was ordered back to the third line, where the men, after cooking a supper, for the first time for five days, laid down and had a good night's sleep. Heavy firing was continued, and on the 7th, the Twentythird was detailed to dig and construct a covered way to the front.
On the evening of the 8th, it was again ordered to the front line and remained there, under a heavy fire, until the following evening, when it returned to the second line, and, on the night of the 12th, the attempt to break through the enemy's works having been abandoned, a movement towards the left was again resumed.
Marching and counter-marching, held in line of battle, and laboring day and night on intrenchments while on the way, the regiment finally arrived on the 16th at the James river, and halted on the farm of ex-President Tyler. Here it was embarked on the steamer Cauliflower for Bermuda Hundred where it landed, marched to the right of General Butler's head-quarters, and was immediately ordered into line of battle.
Crossing the Appomattox on the morning of the 19th, it marched and formed in front of Petersburg under a heavy artillery fire. In the afternoon an attempt was made to push the line forward in the face of a murderous fire of infantry, the Twenty-third losing ten men wounded.
The regiment was afterwards ordered on the skirmish line with its right resting on the Appomattox, where it remained until the evening of the 20th, losing one man killed and three wounded.
On the 21st the Sixth Corps being relieved by the Eighteenth Corps, was ordered to the extreme left of the line, about four miles south-east of Petersburg, where it formed on the left of the Second Corps. Advancing about four hundred yards in the face of very hard skirmishing, the line halted and threw up intrenchments.
On the following day the line again advanced, and now through a wood with thick underbrush where it met strong resistance and again threw up breast-works. Subsequently the rear was fortified and the position made secure.
At four o'clock on the afternoon of the 29th, orders were received to move at once, and, taking the Jerusalem plank road, the Twenty-third marched to Ream's station on the Weldon railroad, where it was immediately placed on the picket line, and on the 30th skirmished with the enemy, driving them through the wood.
Returning to its place in the brigade, it was, on the 1st of July, employed in destroying the railroad and in throwing up fortifications. On the 2d it returned with the Brigade to its old position in front of Petersburg.
These advances by the left were beginning to be very troublesome to the rebel leader. To divert attention from that direction, and, if possible, to change the theatre of war to the old battle ground, in front of Washington, he had dispatched Genera1 Early, with a heavy column to meet , now threatening Lynchburg and the James River Cana1, and eventually to menace Washington.
Hunter was quickly sent flying across the mountains into West Virginia, and Early, advancing into Maryland, replenished his failing commissary and began demonstrations in the direction of Baltimore and Washington. To meet the threatened danger, Genera1 Grant sent the Sixth Corps from his own army, and the Nineteenth Corps, just arrived from New Orleans, the whole under command of Glenera1 Wright, to Washington.
The Twenty-third leaving the trenches on the evening of the 9th, and marching to City Point, embarked on the Steamer Eastern States, and arrived at Arsena1 wharf, Washington, at twelve o'clock on the 11th. Marching immediately to Fort Stevens it was ordered to the front in support of the skirmish line now confronting Early's advance. Early had succeeded in creating much consternation and had pushed up within a few miles of the Capital, but, finding the battle begrimed veterans from Petersburg across his path, decided to withdraw into Virginia.
Wright followed up the retreat, but without decided results. Marching via Poolesville, the Twenty-third crossed the Potomac at White's ford, and after a heavy skirmish, was thrown upon the picket line four miles south of Leesburg, where it remained until the morning of the 18th, and then started forward to rejoin the division, which had preceded it. Passing through Snicker's Gap, it went into line of battle on the mountains near the Shenandoah river, but it being an exposed position and having several wounded by the enemy's shells, it moved to the right, and fording the river marched out on the Winchester pike. At this juncture, Wright was ordered to return to Washing ton, and thence proceed to join the army before Petersburg, under the supposition that Early was on his way to join Lee.
The retrograde commenced on the 20th, the army passing through Leesburg and re-crossing the Potomac at Chain bridge. But Early remained in the Shenandoah valley, and soon after turned upon Crook, who had been left in command of a small force, and drove him precipitately into Maryland. Wright was accordingly ordered again to turn his face towards Harper's Ferry.
Starting on the 26th, the Twenty-third proceeded via Rockville, Centreville, Knoxville and Sandy Hook, and arrived at Harper's Ferry on the 29th, the same day that, the rebel cavalry under M'Causland wantonly fired and destroyed Chambersburg. Here the forces of Crook, and a part of Hunter's - arrived from their long detour - were met.
The Twenty-third crossed the Potomac on the 29th, at the Ferry, and marched to Halltown; but on the following day returned to the Maryland shore and proceeded to Frederick. The heat was intense, and the men were worn out with marching and counter-marching, large numbers suffering from sun-stroke.
On the 7th of August, the regiment with the division, again crossed the Potomac, and marched through Halltown, Berryville and Winchester to Cedar Creek, where it remained unti1 the 17th, occasionally indulging in a skirmish and in throwing up breast-works, when another retrograde movement commenced which continued to Charlestown. Here the picket line was surprised on the 21st, and driven in, and only after much trouble and considerable loss, was the ground re-gained.
A short time previous, Major Gen. Philip H. Sheriden had been placed in command of this Department, and a brighter day was about to dawn for the Union arms in the Shenandoah valley. But the term of service of the Twenty-third had now expired, and bidding adieu to their companions in arms, and transferring the veterans to the Eighty-second Pennsylvania, it proceeded to Philadelphia, where, on the 8th of September, it was mustered out.
Losses: Regiment lost during service 5 Officers and 110 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 3 Officers and 70 Enlisted men by disease. Total 188.
© October 31, 2010
- "Birney's Zouaves" The 23rd PA Infantry Volunteers