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Bates - 91st PA

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[Samuel Penniman Bates. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869-71. 5 volumes. 'Ninety-first regiment', volume 3, pages 186-193. Transcription by Gary Steiner.]

NINETY-FIRST REGIMENT. [page 186] THE Ninety-first Regiment was recruited under Edgar M. Gregory, in compliance with an order of the War Department, during the fall of 1861, in the city of Philadelphia. In October, a force then being recruited by Edward E. Wallace was consolidated with it. The rendezvous was Camp Chase, at Gray's Ferry, on the Schuylkill, near the city. The command was mustered into service on the 4th of December, and the regimental organization was effected by the choice of the following field officers: Edgar M. Gregory, Colonel; Edward E. Wallace, Lieutenant Colonel; George W. Todd, Major.

On the 21st of January, 1862, the regiment was ordered to Washington, and upon its arrival went into camp three miles from the city, on the Bladensburg Road. Drill which had been regularly practiced at Camp Chase was resumed, and schools for officers, under the immediate direction of Lieutenant Colonel Wallace and Major Todd, were established. On the 28th of February, companies A and E were ordered to duty in the city, A at the old capital prison, and E for patrol. On the 19th of March, company G was stationed at Long Bridge, company D at the Central guard house, and the balance of the regiment was quartered at Franklin Square Barracks. On the 27th of April the regiment was ordered to Alexandria, where it relieved the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania, and was quartered in various parts of the city for provost duty, Colonel Gregory acting Military Governor, and Captain Joseph H. Sinex, Provost Marshal of the town.

The regiment remained on duty at Alexandria until the 21st of August, when it was relieved by the Ninety-fourth New York, and ordered to duty with the First Brigade,* Second Division, Fifth Corps, then on its way from the Peninsula to join General Pope's army, and encamped near Cloud's Mills, Virginia. Remaining in camp until the 28th, it was detailed to escort a train of eighty-seven wagons to Fairfax Court House, and had proceeded as far as Annandale, when it was ordered back to camp. On the evening of the 29th it was marched back to Fort Ellsworth, remaining that night and the following day, and on the morning of the 1st of September was moved to Fort Stevenson and encamped, on the 12th to Columbia College, and on the 15th started on the Maryland Campaign, arriving at Antietam on the morning of the 18th, after a tedious march, having been on duty the greater part of the time along the Monocacy Creek. Until the 16th of October it remained [page 187] in camp in Maryland, when the Third Division, with a part of the Second, crossed the Potomac, and proceeded on a reconnoissance up the valley. At Shepherdstown the enemy was encountered in some force, and a spirited skirmish ensued, in which his forces were driven across the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which had been destroyed. As the column retired the rebels followed closely, and at Shepherdstown it was ordered to about face and meet them; but they retired without risking an engagement, and the command returned to camp.

On the 30th of October the army broke camp and moved to Warrenton, where M'Clellan was superseded by Burnside, and the army was re-organized, General Hooker being assigned to the centre grand division, composed of the Third and Fifth Corps. About the middle of November the division marched towards Falmouth, encamping at Stoneman's Switch, and remaining until the 11th of December, when it marched up to the Phillips House, the men laying on their arms until the morning of the 13th, the battle of Fredericksburg about to open. At nine o'clock it crossed the river, and after marching up through the town the regiment was formed to support a battery of the Second Corps in position bellied the stone enclosure of a grave-yard, just outside the town. After remaining in this position for some time, it was ordered out, and moving at double-quick was thrown into line on the Fredericksburg Road, the right resting at the tan-yard. It was here exposed to a hot fire of artillery, in which Lieutenant George Murphy and three men were killed, and Major Todd, a valuable officer, received a mortal wound. At five P.M. the regiment ordered to join in the charge upon the enemy's lines, well protected by the famous stone wall. Says a corespondent of Harper's Weekly: "Humphreys' Division of Butterfield's Corps was resting on its arms in the streets of Fredericksburg. General Butterfield sent an order to move it to the front. Simultaneously General Hooker ordered Hazard and Frank to take their batteries to the crest, which our infantry had made their fighting line all the day long, to open rapidly and concentrate their fire on a certain point in the stone wall. This was a perilous undertaking, but it was executed in a most gallant manner. Hazard was at once in position, though losing sixteen men and eighteen horses before he fairly began. Frank followed and took up a position farther to the left on the same line; and then both batteries opened with shell and solid shot, at a range of only two hundred and seventy-five yards. While the cannonading was going on, Humphreys, at the head of Allabaugh's Brigade, had crossed the mill-race and was forming his men behind the crest ready for the charge, and Tyler's First Brigade was following closely after, ready to support. The line was formed and the column moved gallantly forward, reached the line of battle, passed fifty yards beyond, when a deadly fire from behind the stone wall caused it to falter, and finally to fall back, re-forming under the crest from which it started. Humphreys and staff and many other field officers were dismounted in this charge, their horses being killed, while the brigade lost five hundred men in fifteen minutes. Now there was but one more chance. Tyler's Brigade had come up, and notwithstanding the turmoil, General Humphreys had succeeded in forming it in gallant style. The only hope now was with the bayonet. The men were ordered not to fire. Then with great exertions the batteries on the crest were persuaded to cease firing while the charge was being made. The officers were ordered to the front and the brigade, led by Generals Humphreys and Tyler, moved forward with a cheer. They reached the little rise in the ground within [page 188] eighty yards of the stone wall, where line after line of our men lay flat on the ground. They began to move over the living mass, when suddenly the prostrate men cried out, 'don't go there, 'tis certain death,' and rising began to impede the progress of the column, and by protestations of every nature implored the men not to go forward. Then the crisis came. The division was fighting its maiden battle. Older troops than they quailed before the murderous volleys now making great gaps through their ranks. The head of the charging column was enveloped in a sheet of living flame; the hideous shells were bursting all around and in their midst; the men began to load and fire; the momentum of the charge was gone; the column began to retire slowly, falling back to its place of formation. This was the forlorn hope of the day, and this was what it did: it demonstrated the strength of the enemy's position; demonstrated that the bravest troops in the world could not stem the torrent of fire which poured into that fatal place." The regiment lost in the charge two officers and eighty-seven men. At eight o'clock P.M. it was withdrawn and taken back into town; but at mid-night [of 14 Dec] was again led to the front to protect the removal of the wounded. At day-break it returned to town, remaining until the evening of the 15th, when it was ordered to the right to protect working parties engaged in throwing up earthworks. A few hours later it was moved to the left, relieving a portion of the Sixth Corps, the pickets being posted along the Richmond Railroad. During the night the army was withdrawn across the river. At day-break the pickets of the regiment were called in, and moving at double-quick through the town passed over, among the last troops to leave the hostile shore.

Upon the resignation of Lieutenant Colonel Wallace, Captain Joseph H. Sinex was promoted to succeed him, and Captain John D. Lentz to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Major Todd. Until the 20th of January, 1863, the regiment rested in camp, its chief duty picketing the rear line, and then set out on Burnside's Mud Campaign, marching in the direction of Banks' Ford. For several days it was employed in building corduroy roads and assisting to move the artillery and trains, and upon the abandonment of the movement returned to camp. On the 13th of April the right wing under command of Colonel Gregory was ordered to United States Ford, and the left under Lieutenant Colonel Sinex, to Banks' Ford, to picket the crossings and the approaches. The Assistant Surgeon [probably on loan from another regiment], one Sergeant, and four men of the right wing were captured, the former being speedily released, but with the loss of his horse and side-arms. [The morning report of 24 April names 2 men as captured 22 Apr 63 while on duty at United States Ford: Samuel Conrad (E) and George Kulp (E)]

Remaining until the 25th [probably 23rd; see consolidated morning report, 24 Apr 63], it was relieved by the One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, and returned to camp.

On the 28th, the Fifth, together with the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, started on the Chancellorsville campaign, the Fifth crossing at Kelly's and Ely's Fords, and reaching the Chancellor House at one o'clock on the morning of the 1st of May. Resting until noon it marched, left in front, down the road leading to Banks' Ford; but the division of regulars under Sykes becoming heavily engaged, the Third Division was countermarched and put upon the road leading to Richardson's Ford. It was formed in line on the right of the road, the left of the division resting on the river, and ordered to entrench. All day of the 2d it was kept busy throwing up earthworks, a heavy line of skirmishers well out upon the front. At six o'clock on the morning of the 3d it was relieved by the Eleventh Corps, and was again taken up to the Chancellor House. At nine o'clock the division was thrown forward into a wood with [page 189] thick underbrush. Advancing in line it struck the rebel skirmishers and drove them in; but soon came upon his main line, when the firing became earnest. Until near noon the fighting was severe, when the ammunition of the infantry having been exhausted, and repeated calls for more being unanswered, the line was forced to retire to the breast-works. The dead and most of the wounded were left upon the field. To screen his movements, the enemy set the forest on fire where they lay, and many perished miserably in the flames. The enemy followed up and had reached the edge of the wood just in front of the works, when the batteries opened on him a murderous fire, causing him to recoil. The regiment was then taken back and posted in the forks of the Chancellorsville and United States Ford roads. Here it remained until noon of the 4th, when it was moved to the rear, and ordered to throw up a new line of works. At night it again moved out to the front, and was formed in line to cover the retreat. At midnight it fell back to the fortified line, and a little before morning re-crossed the river, and returned to its old camp. Captain Theodore H. Parsons and Lieutenant George Black were mortally wounded. Colonel Gregory received a wound in the leg, and Lieutenant Colonel Sinex was dismounted.

At the conclusion of the campaign all but two of the regiments in the brigade were mustered out of service, and the Ninety-first was transferred to the Third Brigade, Colonel O'Rouke, Second Division, General Sykes. On the 28th of May the regiment was ordered to Stoneman's Switch, where it relieved the Thirty-Second Massachusetts, and was employed in guarding the railroad from the station to Potomac Bridge. On the 4th of June it was transferred to United States Ford, relieving the cavalry, and on the 9th fell back to Mount Holly Church, and thence to Catlett's Station. Here General Weed was assigned to the command of the brigade, and the march towards Gettysburg was resumed, the weather very hot, the men suffering much on the way, many of them being shoeless, and passed through Manassas Junction, Gum Spring, and Aldie, where it turned aside to support cavalry, crossed the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry, and arriving at Frederick City, rested until the 28th. In the meantime General Meade had taken command of the army, General Sykes succeeding him in command of the corps, and General Ayers of the division. Resuming the march, it arrived on the evening of the 1st of July at Hanover, where it halted for the night; but at eight in the evening it was ordered into line, and marched on rapidly towards the battle-field. At midnight the column was halted, and the men lay down in the road resting as best they could until four in the morning, when the march was resumed, and upon arriving on the ground, was thrown into position on the right of the line of battle, remaining about an hour, Captain Hall, of company E, receiving a severe wound while here. It was then moved to a position in support of the left centre. At two P.M. the brigade was ordered to move at double-quick to Little Round Top, to the relief of a part of the Third Corps, which had been hard pressed and was being driven. "Our brigade," says Colonel Sellers, "marched up one side of Little Round Top, as the rebels charged up the other, and was thrown into line to meet them. Our regiment was ordered at the same time to move at double-quick to the right, to support Battery I, of the Fifth United States, but had barely got to the place when we were about-faced and marched back to Little Round Top, and thrown into line in front of Battery D, of the Fifth United States, at once opening a brisk [page 190] fire on the enemy's sharpshooters, who were occupying the Devil's Den and the rocks around us, and were busily at work picking off our men upon the least exposure. General Weed was here killed, as was also Captain Haslett, who commanded the battery which we were supporting. During the night the men were busy in building stone walls for their protection." There was little fighting on the 3d, in the immediate front of the regiment. On the morning of the 4th the skirmish line advanced and captured some prisoners, passing over the enemy's breast-works and coming up with his rear-guard, when the skirmishers retired. The loss in the engagement was two officers and nineteen men.

At four o'clock on the afternoon of the 5th the regiment left Little Round Top, and marched to Marsh Creek, where it encamped. Leaving the direct line of retreat taken by the enemy, the corps proceeded by Utica, Middletown, and Boonsboro, and crossing Antietam Creek was formed in line of battle on the morning of the 11th, driving in the rebel skirmishers. On the 12th the line again advanced and threw up breast-works. During the 13th a heavy fire was kept up with good effect, and at night the enemy retreated across the river. On the following morning the line advanced to Williamsport, taking some prisoners.

The marching, counter-marching, and strategic manoeuvres which characterized the fall campaign of 1863, in the valley of Virginia, attended with hard marching, ceaseless vigilance, and constant activity, but with little hard fighting, was participated in by the regiment with its characteristic promptitude, and rapidity of movement, and upon the return of the army from Mine Run, where the campaign ended, was assigned to duty along the line of the Rappahannock, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. On the 26th of December a large proportion of the regiment re-enlisted, and was mustered for an additional term of three years. The men who could not re-enlist were transferred to the One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, and on the 2d of January, 1864 [They actually left on the 4th], the regiment left for home on veteran furlough. Upon its arrival in Philadelphia it paraded on Chestnut street, in front of Independence Hall. Head-quarters were established on Chestnut street below Fifth, and Lieutenant Shipley was detailed for recruiting service. On the 16th of February the regiment re-assembled and proceeded to the Upland Institute, near Chester, remaining until the 2d of March, when it moved to the front under command of Lieutenant Colonel Sinex, and went into winter-quarters at Warrenton Junction.

The army moved on the Spring campaign on the 4th of May. "About eleven o'clock in the evening of the 3d of May," says the report of the campaign, "the regiment left Culpepper and marched to Germania Ford on the Rapidan, crossing the river at six o'clock on the morning of the 4th, and marching to near Wilderness Tavern, where we were thrown into line of battle, and posting pickets, bivouacked for the night. On the morning of the 5th, marching to near Parker's Store, we were thrown into line of battle on the right of the brigade, and advanced through a dense thicket of underbrush until we had got outside of the skirmish line, on the edge of a cleared field, when the brigade charged across it, but was driven back, retiring to our old position, where we remained during the balance of the day and that night. The next day we were advanced out to the left of the road to protect the pioneers who were throwing up a line of works. At three o'clock P.M. our [page 191] regiment was ordered to relieve a division of the Pennsylvania Reserves on the left of the road, and upon getting into position posted out skirmishers close up to the hill on which the rebels were entrenched. We lay there that night, skirmishing with the rebels until one o'clock A.M. of the 7th, when we were ordered to fall back as quickly and quietly as possible, to the line of works which had been thrown up in our rear. The rebels followed us closely, and at day-break, thinking that we had retreated, made a charge, but were repulsed and driven back in disorder. We remained behind the works all day, the rebels making two or three attempts on our line, but being each time driven back. About nine P.M. we were withdrawn and moved slowly along the plank road, through a complete forest. At about mid-night the led horses at the head of the column becoming frightened at the firing of the skirmishers, rushed through the column knocking down many of the men. Color Sergeant Robert Chism was so badly trampled that he died after having one of his legs amputated. The regiment was quickly re-formed and resumed the march, arriving at Todd's Tavern at seven on the following morning."

The enemy was already there when the regiment arrived, and it was immediately thrown into line relieving the cavalry. Advancing to a little knoll called Laurel Hill, under heavy shelling, it at once opened fire. After holding this position for a few hours it retired to a ridge in rear, leaving the skirmishers on the hill, and commenced throwing up a line of earth-works. The next two days were spent in strengthening the works, the skirmishers keeping up a steady fire upon the front. On the morning of the 12th it was ordered to advance and make a diversion in favor of the Second Corps, about to make a grand charge. It moved over the skirmish line, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, to the edge of the woods where the enemy lay, driving him from his pits. Lieutenant Colonel Sinex and Lieutenant Shipley were here wounded, and Major Lentz assumed command. Upon its arrival in front of Spottsylvania Court House, in conjunction with the One Hundred and Fortieth New York, it was ordered to charge the enemy at the Myers' House [on 14 May], which was gallantly executed, the rebels being driven out. An hour later a brigade of the Sixth Corps relieved these two regiments, and after holding the position a short time, was in turn charged and lost it. At dusk, the Ninety-first and One Hundred and Fortieth New York were led back and ordered to re-take it. They were obliged to move up the hill under a rapid shelling from our own batteries, and when the position had again been carried, were relieved, and moved to the left, into position directly in front of the town.

As the army moved on, digging and fighting its way towards Richmond, the regiment was constantly at the front, and actively employed. On the 23d it crossed the North Anna, and in the engagement which there ensued, lost eleven in killed and wounded. Re-crossing the stream it moved on, crossing the Pamunkey near Hanovertown, and after advancing a few miles, threw up breast-works on which the enemy charged, but was repulsed with heavy loss. A mile further on, the Richmond Turnpike was reached, where breast-works were again thrown up, but were soon abandoned, and the command moved to the left, relieving the Fourth Division, passing under a heavy fire to gain the position. Captain Francis, of company F, and four men were wounded [on 1 June 1864]. On the 6th of June the command arrived at Cold Harbor. Here the Ninety-first was transferred to the First Brigade, Colonel Sweitzer, of the First Division. Marching and intrenching, the corps finally reached the James, and crossing [page 192] on the 16th of June, moved up in front of Petersburg, taking position on the left of the Ninth Corps. At day-light on the morning of the 18th the division moved down the first line of rebel works, which had been captured the day before, and was placed in line of battle in rear of the Third Division, when the order to charge across, and capture the Suffolk and Petersburg Railroad was given. Advancing at double-quick the enemy was driven to his next line of works, and the line of railroad which had been previously captured and lost was regained and held. A hot fire was kept up for over four hours. Lieutenants Edward J. Maguigan and Justus A. Gregory were wounded. At dusk, the division moved to the left, and was ordered to charge the enemy occupying a hill, where the mine was subsequently sprung. The position was carried, and a line of works was thrown up. In these two engagements the regiment lost eighty-two in killed and wounded.

On the morning of the 2lst the regiment having moved on the previous evening down the Suffolk Railroad, the left wing, under Captain Sellers, of company G, was detailed as skirmishers, and advancing on the enemy's breast-works, the left resting on the Jerusalem Plank Road, drove the rebel skirmishers up to the ground on which Fort Hell was afterwards built. Here the regiment lay until after night-fall, when it was relieved by the Sixty-second. On the 3d of July the term of service of the latter regiment expired, and it was relieved from duty, the veterans and recruits being transferred to the Ninety-first. From the 6th to the 21st the regiment was engaged in building forts and strengthening the works, Colonel Gregory being in command of the brigade. It was then taken to the front, and until the 28th was employed in putting up bomb-proofs. At half-past four on the morning of the 30th the men were held in waiting, and upon the explosion of the mine, opened a rapid fire upon the enemy's works, 'but without avail. Until the 18th of August the regiment was engaged in garrisoning forts, after which it moved with the corps upon the Weldon Railroad, which was attended with severe fighting, and resulted in the destruction of a considerable portion of the road. On the 30th of September the regiment joined in the movement to Peebles' Farm, where upon its arrival it was thrown into line, and advanced, driving the rebel skirmishers. At mid-day the division was ordered to charge the rebel works, which was executed with success, capturing a fort with four guns and a number of prisoners, driving the enemy out of his works to right and left of the fort. Relieved by the Ninth Corps, the division moved to the left, where at four o'clock the enemy attacked. General Griffin led his division to the assistance of the Ninth, checking the rebel advance. Engaged in building breast-works and strengthening the position, the division remained here until the 8th of October, when the regiment charged and captured the Davis House, driving out the enemy and burning it. On the 14th one hundred drafted men were received and distributed among the companies.

In the advance to Hatcher's Run, on the 28th, the regiment participated, being severely engaged, losing Captains Casner and Closson wounded, the latter mortally, and on the 7th of January, 1865, in the movement for the destruction of the Weldon Railroad, losing several men captured. On the 6th of February it was again upon the march, and in the severe engagement at Hatcher's Run which ensued, lost Captain John Edgar, Jr., killed, Lieutenant William E. Frailey wounded, and Captain George P. Finney captured.

On the 29th of March the final campaign, so long sought, [page 193] but never reached until now, was opened. At Dabney's Mill and at Gravelly Run the enemy was found, and after heavy skirmishing was driven, the Ninety-first losing Captain Hope and thirteen men wounded. At Five Forks the enemy was surprised, and large captures made. Here General Warren, in command of the corps, was relieved, and General Griffin succeeded him. At Sailor's Creek a line of breast-works was thrown up, and the division, supporting General Custer, captured some two hundred wagons, which were destroyed. At a rapid rate it moved on to the neighborhood of Appomattox Court House, where upon its arrival a truce was proclaimed, and soon after, the surrender of the rebel army. Upon the announcement of the latter event, the corps moved through the town, and was ordered to receive the rebel surrender. The next morning the command was drawn up, the right resting on Appomattox Creek, the enemy marching up and stacking their arms, the ceremony lasting the entire day. From Appomattox it moved by easy marches back to Petersburg. The regiment rested here and at Sutherland Station until the 4th of May, when it marched up to Richmond, and thence to Bailey's Cross Roads, near Alexandria, when it went into camp. On the 23d of May it participated in the grand review at Washington, and on the 10th of July was mustered out of service. Colonel Gregory was transferred to duty in the Freedman's Bureau, and the regiment, after having been nearly four years in the service, returned to Philadelphia, where it was finally disbanded. By a vote of the officers, the colors which had been presented to the regiment by citizens of Philadelphia, were deposited in Independence Hall, and the State flag was returned to the State Capitol.

[note to page 186:] *Organization of the First Brigade, General E. B. Tyler; Third Division, General A. A. Humphreys; Fifth Corps, General Fitz John Porter; Ninety-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Edgar M. Gregory; One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, James G. Elder; One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Jacob G. Frick; One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Matthew S. Quay.

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