Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Dreadful Collision on the Cumberland Valley Railroad"

By September 26, 1862, the threat of General Lee invading Pennsylvania was over, most of the Emergency Militamen had been mustered out of state service, and were on their way home.  For the militiamen, Lee's Maryland Campaign of 1862, had been a relatively bloodless adventure [one militiaman had been accidentally shot and wounded by a nervous comrade while on picket duty near Williamsport, MD].  However, on this day 149 years ago, men of Co. I, "the Halleck Infantry" [aka "Spruce Ward Guards"], of the 20th PA Emergency Militia, from Reading, would become the first casualties of the Emergency Militia of 1862, while in the service of their state.*  Surprisingly, the carnage occurred far from any battlefield.  An account of the tragedy appeared in the Carlisle Herald, the following week:

     On Friday morning last, about 7 o'clock, a horrible railroad accident took place on the Cumberland Valley Railroad at Bridgeport [now Lemoyne, PA] in this county [Cumberland].  
     A troop train of some twenty freight cars, containing the 20th Regiment Pennsylvania Militia, including the Corn Exchange Company [Cos. A, D, & F] and Revenue Guards of Philadelphia [Co. K], was on the way from Greencastle [Franklin County], where they had been encamped for few days.
     The train was behind time, and had been waiting for a train at this place, but none coming, the train proceeded.
     The weather was very foggy, and it was with the utmost difficulty that objects could be described along the track, but everything went on smoothly until within about a mile of the [Susquehanna River] bridge, when the train came suddenly on an engine stationed on the track. 
     The engineer of the troop train immediately reversed his engine, but too late to prevent the collision, and the engines came together with terrific force.
     The car immediately behind the tender of the troop train [which carried Co. I] was crushed into fragments, and nearly all of its occupants either killed or wounded.
     The second car was driven into the first and completely destroyed, and a number of persons badly hurt.  The third car was thrown on top of the second, the wheels crushing through the top.
     The most horrifying portion of the scene was the cries of the wounded, some thirty in number, and the sight of the dead.  They were all carried to a house close by, and surgeons sent for from Harrisburg.
     It should be remembered that the Cumberland Valley Railroad was not managed by its own officers, but by persons appointed by the government.  The Company therefore is not responsible for any mismanagement, though it has been censured by many who are ignorant of the circumstances.  The three months troops, nearly 80,000 in number, who were sent to the Upper Potomac, were all carried over the road without a single accident, but it was then controlled by its own Superintendent, and the trains run by engineers and conductors who were well acquainted with the route.
     Since writing the above, two more of the wounded have died, and several others are lingering in their last agonies.

CVRR locomotive Utility, was stationed on the track the morning of September 26th, as the troop train, carrying the 20th PA EM, approached Harrisburg, colliding with the Utility

The 20th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia had been organized in Harrisburg on September 18th, too late to play any significant role in the Campaign, but were still sent south to the state border, traveling on the Cumberland Valley Railroad.  As the article points out, the CVRR, and all state military mobilization, was placed under the control of Thomas Alexander Scott, by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin.  Despite being clear of blame, the CVRR was constantly blamed for the accident in the Philadelphia press, which was where the majority of the 20th Regiment was from.  Ultimately, the CVRR was willing to pay $25,000 to the survivors who had been injured in the accident, which had been the worst in all of the Cumberland Valley Railroad's history. 

Casualties from Co. I, 20th PA Emergency Militia

2nd Sgt. Henry Fleck
Pvt. Augustus Keller
Pvt. Daniel Seiders
Pvt. Albert B. Werner

1st Sgt. Samuel Hamilton (collar bone & lower jaw broken)
Cpl. Zeno Hoffmaster (left leg broken)
Cpl. Alex Werner (legs & chest bruised)
Cpl. William R. Williams (head bruised)
Cpl. Nelson Bell (right arm broken)
Drummer, Henry Redmond (wrist dislocated)
Drummer, Jacob Hamilton (bruised in the hips)
Pvt. Jacob Crow (head cut & legs badly bruised)
Pvt. Adam Deem (right shoulder dislocated, arms & legs badly bruised)
Pvt. Richard Eagle (ankle sprained & injured)
Pvt. William Eisenbise (legs injured)
Pvt. Henry Fix (chest badly crushed, shoulder joint injured)
Pvt. Henry Goodman (bruised about the head)
Pvt. Jacob Herst (right arm crushed & amputated at the shoulder socket)
Pvt. John Herm (head & shoulder bruised)
Pvt. Evan James (bruised at the back & chest)
Pvt. William Keller (badly cut about head, right collar bone broken, left breast crushed)
Pvt. John Killian (left fore arm bone splintered)
Pvt. Daniel Lausch (ankle injured)
Pvt. Isaac Moore (internally injured)
Pvt. Lewis Newdorfer (shoulder dislocated & injured about head)
Pvt. Bernard Omacht [or O'Macht] (bruised about the head & body)
Pvt. James O'Neil [or O'Neel] (injured about head, back & chest)
Pvt. Mark O'Neil [or O'Neel] (head severely cut and body injured)
Pvt. William Schuler (bruised in chest, arm injured)
Pvt. William Statt (body bruised)
Pvt. Michael Smith (left breast badly bruised)
Pvt. Ely Williams (legs bruised)

*It is worth pointing out that many of the men of Co. I had been among the first to answer President Lincoln's call for troops at the outbreak of war in 1861.  Many of the wounded, including Sgt. Henry Fleck, who was killed, were members of the Ringgold Light Artillery.  To learn more about the Ringgold Light Artillery, and the rest of the 'First Defenders', please click here and here, to read posts by friend and 'First Defender' historian, John Hoptak.

**Additional newspaper accounts obtained after the publishing of this post note deaths in other companies of the 20th PA EM; between 8 - 11 deaths total.

Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5 : prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

Civil War Muster Roll and Related Records, 1861-1866, 20th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, Records Group (RG) 19, Series# 19.11, Carton 127, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.

"Dreadful Collision on the Cumberland Valley Railroad", Carlisle Herald, October 3, 1862.

Westhaeffer, Paul J. History of the Cumberland Valley Railroad: 1835-1919. Washington, D.C. Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, 1979.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Medals of Honor at Antietam: Harrisburg's Soldiers' Grove

Soldiers' Grove
September 17, 1862 will forever be known as the bloodiest day in American History.  With roughly 23,110 Americans killed, wounded, or missing in the approximate twelve hours of fighting at the Battle of Antietam, the amount of truly sad and tragic stories are astounding.  Weaved throughout the tragic battle narrative, however, are stories of bravery and courage, just as astounding.  After the Battle, a total of twenty Medals of Honor were awarded for heroic actions taken during the fighting at Antietam.
For a history of the Medal of Honor click here.

view of PA State Capital building from Soldiers' Grove

Earlier in the week, with the coming anniversary of the Battle Antietam, I decided to take a stroll over to the Medal of Honor Memorial in Soldiers' Grove, located in the Capitol Complex, Harrisburg, PA.  and look for the names of the six Pennsylvania soldiers who earned their Medals that bloody day.

 Dedicated in 1994, "the Medal of Honor Memorial commemorates not just one person or one war, but several hundred individuals who acted heroically in many wars, campaigns, and conflicts.  Thirteen radiating arcs, representing the conflicts in which Pennsylvanians received the Medal of Honor, symbolize the tides of war.  

Medal of Honor Memorial
 Granite stones imbedded in the arcs identify the Medal recipients with the date and location of their deeds.  On a scale of two feet equaling one year, the width of the arcs and the intervening grassy areas indicates the duration of each conflict and the periods of peace which followed them.  At the center of each arc, random accounts of actual heroic deeds are inscribed on granite tablets and at the ends small diamond shaped insets give the name and date of each conflict.  Thus a walk across the memorial becomes a narrative experience which places the individual hero in the sweep of history.  At the far end of the memorial lie the shores of peace and the grove of remembrance.  The design affirms the passage of time, the evolving present and our lasting tribute to these remarkable lives."

Pennsylvania's Antietam Medals of Honor

Hillary Beyer, 2nd Lieutenant, 90th Pennsylvania, Co. H [Christian's Brigade, Rickett's Division, Hooker's Corps]
Entered Service at: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Citation: After his command had been forced to fall back [from the Cornfield, through the East Woods], remained alone on the line of battle, caring for his wounded comrades and carrying one of them to a place of safety.

Ignatz Gresser, Corporal, 128th Pennsylvania, Co. D [Crawford's Brigade, Williams' Division, Mansfield's Corps]
Entered Service at: Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
Citation: While exposed to the fire of the enemy, carried from the field a wounded comrade.

 Samuel Johnson, Private, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves (38th PA), Co. G [Anderson's Brigade, Meade's Division, Hooker's Corps]
Entered Service at: Connellsville, Pennsylvania
Citation: Individual bravery and daring in capturing from the enemy 2 colors [flags] of the 1st Texas Rangers (C.S.A.), receiving in the act a severe wound.

Jacob G. Orth, Corporal, 28th Pennsylvania, Co. D [Tyndale's Brigade, Greene's Division, Mansfield's Corps]
Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Citation: Capture of flag of 7th South Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.) in hand-to-hand encounter, although he was wounded in the shoulder.

William H. Paul, Private, 90th Pennsylvania, Co. E [Christian's Brigade, Rickett's Division, Hooker's Corps]
Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Citation: Under a most withering and concentrated fire, voluntarily picked up the colors of his regiment, when the bearer and two of the color guard had been killed, and bore them aloft throughout the entire battle.

Charles B. Tanner, Second Lieutenant, 1st Delaware, Co. H [Weber's Brigade, French's Division, Sumner's Corps]
Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Citation: Carried off the regimental colors, which had fallen within 20 yards of the enemy's lines, the color guard of 9 men having all been killed or wounded; was himself 3 times wounded.

Tanner's own account of the dangerous situation that day:
While covering that short distance, it seemed as if a million bees were singing in the air. The shouts and yells from either side sounded like menaces and threats. But I had reached the goal, had caught up the staff which was already splintered by shot, and the colors pierced with many a hole, and stained here and there with the lifeblood of our comrades when a bullet shattered by arm. Luckily my legs were still serviceable, and, seizing the precious bunting with my left hand, I made the best eighty yard time on record, receiving two more wounds

Tanner would later serve in the 69th Pennsylvania.  For more on Tanner, click here

Poem written for the Memorial by State Poet, Samuel Hazo

"Antietam on the Web", accessed 14 September 2011, available from; Internet.

"Charles B. Tanner: One of Delaware's Medal of Honor Winners", accessed 14 September 2011, available from; Internet.

"Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (M-Z)", accessed 13 September 2011, available from; Internet.

Doughty, Heather, and Mary Margaret Geis, Medal of Honor Recipients, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commemorative Edition, 10 November 1994. Harrisburg, PA: Office of the Cultural Advisor, 1994.

Antietam National Battlefield: Images

 video taken at dawn 9/17/10

149 years ago today, two American armies slaughtered each other by the tens of thousands (roughly 23,110) on the hills and fields outside of Sharpsburg, MD.  By sundown, the Battle of Antietam would cement itself as the single bloodiest day in American History.  One Emergency Militiaman, who could hear the Battle rage that day, off in the distance, would poignantly write:
"A dull gruff belch, at irregular intervals, accompanied by a sense of concussion, told the story of the distant conflict.  This inspired strange and solemn feelings.  Human lives were being offered up as a sacrifice upon the altar of our country, and thousands of homes would sit in dread suspense until it should be known upon whom the fatal blows had fallen."

For those who have studied the battle, I'm sure you are quite aware of the mesmerizing, yet shocking photographs of the carnage, like the one below.  Antietam was the first Civil War battlefield to be photographed, just days after the fighting ended.  When the images were printed in newspapers (woodcut versions) and displayed in galleries, the American people were not prepared for what they saw.  The scenes were nothing like the romantic descriptions of death on the battlefield that were commonplace in the pre-war era.  It was supposed to be gallant and heroic; a stark contrast to the bloody heaps of twisted and bloated corpses that were strewn about the fields of Antietam.  Numbers of casualties aside, the Battle of Antietam literally changed the way America viewed war.  [You may view a gallery of period Antietam images here.]

carnage near the Dunker Church - Library of Congress
For those of you that have have visited Antietam National Battlefield, it might be hard to imagine that scenes, like the one above, ever took place.  With the rolling landscape, the meandering creek, and charming buildings, Antietam is located in one of the most beautiful and serene settings.  Not exactly how you might imagine a Civil War battlefield to look.  A testament to the communities and people of the region, modern day Antietam is also a shining beacon for historic preservation, as a careful watch for development and sprawl enables visitors to better experience the story and history of the battlefield, and the region as well.

In honor of the tranquility of Antietam, and the contrasting horrific destruction that took place there, I thought I would share just a few photos of Antietam's silent beauty, which I tried to capture while out and about on the battlefield.
[FYI: check back this evening for another Antietam related blog post]

128th Pennsylvania monument (l), 137th Pennsylvania monument (r)

Antietam National Cemetery

130th Pennsylvania monument at the Bloody Lane

a tree swallow stands guard

the Otto Farm

position of Battery B, 4th US Artillery, along Hagerstown Turnpike

Irish Brigade monument

cannon on the Piper Farm

Burnside Bridge

Dunker Curch at sunrise

Richards, Louis. Eleven Days in the Militia During the War of the Rebellion; Being a Journal of the "Emergency" Campaign of 1862. Philadelphia: Collins, Printer, 1883.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"A Welcome With Bloody Hands To Hospital Graves"

From the Shippensburg News, September 13, 1862, we gain a glimpse into the events, hysteria, and "fires of patriotism" that were sweeping up through the Cumberland Valley in those late summer days.  The writer appears to have a harsh tone towards his "skedaddling" neighbors, and those looking for excuses to avoid the coming fight.  Yet, at the same time, the article offers an even harsher tone for any rebels who might threaten invasion.  Having lived for several years in the historic town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, quietly nestled in the middle of the Cumberland Valley, I hope you find this article as fascinating as I do.  It has been many generations since Pennsylvanians have had to scan the horizon for invading armies.  The American Civil War unleashed this country's greatest tragedy, and turned it's citizens' lives upside down.  We will never be able to experience or understand the emotions of the day, but newspaper articles such as this, and letters and diaries left behind offer us our greatest opportunity to feel and understand.   

This week has been one of unusual excitement.  On Thursday it rose to fever heat.  The alarming news of the morning by a company of refugees from imaginary danger, threw the community into a state of feeling - The rebel raid into Maryland has been followed by a "skedaddle" in considerable numbers from all points along the Pennsylvania line.  With every fugitive comes a different story, the magnitude of which depends upon the stage of the fever or degree of alarm, and its credibility can be measured by the narrator's pulsations.  To heighten the interest of the day, and perhaps the alarm, scores of maimed, half deaf blind and withered, crowded around the Commissioners and Surgeon's office claiming exemption from the coming draft.  The impression upon the mind of the stranger must have been the Infirmary had disgorged itself upon our square.  It would have afforded a rare field of usefulness to the self sacrificing philanthropist and a splendid market to the dealer in nostrums.  We were reminded of the philosopher's allegory where in all the people of the world bring their infirmities into one great heap.  O, the degeneracy of the race! and how pitiable these invalids in the necessity of a universal skedaddle.

But we glory in announcing that amongst sound and healthy remaining, the zeal in our country's cause is still earnest and cheering.  The fires of patriotism are still alive.  The flame of love of country still burns with unabated warmth.  On the morning of that day - in the midst of the interest, and after a few telling and patriotic remarks by Revs. Gotwalt and Nevin -  two volunteer companies were formed for state defense.  It is understood that the company of infantry will be composed of men in the vigor of early manhood - the cavalry company of those past the age of forty five, or who are not subject to military duty.  This latter will act as scouts night and day.  With this vigilance our people may go to their beds with some feeling of security.  This community is not alone in this earnest demonstration.  The rebel who hopes to have an easy conquest of this valley will in due time wake up to a "welcome with bloody hands to hospital graves".  A free people thus aroused - fighting upon their own soil - for their own firesides, for their own alters, for their freedom, and for truth and rights, will put to flight the ruthless invader and send to their last account the slave minions who fight for death of human freedom and the perpetuity of human slavery.

Shippensburg News, September 13, 1862

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10, 1862: The Militia is Called

By September 9, 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had pushed it's way north, across the Potomac River, and was massed in and around the town of Frederick, MD, some 25 miles south of the Pennsylvania border.  Over the past several days, the Rebel army steadily moved north and west into the border state.  Knowing that the Union forces were in a state of demoralization resulting from their defeats that summer, Gen. Robert E. Lee hoped this movement by his army would draw the massive force of Union troops out from their defenses surrounding Washington, in order to give chase.  This would not only thrust a disorganized Union army prematurely back out into the field, but might help expose Washington and Baltimore to Confederate invasion, further hesitating and confusing the Union as to Lee's intended targets. 

Now, on the 9th of September, Lee hoped to further allude the Union Army of the Potomac, by crossing both Catoctin and South Mountains to the west of Frederick.  This would not only shield his movements, but would cause the Union army to put further distance (including two mountains!) between them and their base of supply in Washington, if they continued the chase.  It also would allow Lee to gain access to his communication/supply line in the Shenandoah Vally of Virginia, and the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania, which would provide Lee a chance to pick clean of supplies a population that was, for once, not in Northern Virginia.  The Cumberland Valley, as it does today with Interstate 81, enabled easy access to Harrisburg, the capital of one of Lincoln's most powerful war-machine states.

Messages, reports, and wild rumors began to flood Harrisburg.  No one knew exactly where Lee and his rebel horde were, or where they were going.  However, to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, it was painfully obvious; Lee would try to capture Harrisburg with it's vital railroad hub and army training grounds.  It was even thought Lee would move further west to capture the arsenal at Pittsburgh and strike a large blow against the North's ability to wage war.  Either way, Pennsylvania was ripe for the picking, and, for Gov. Curtin, the Union army was not moving fast enough to catch up to and destroy Lee before the Rebels would be able to invade the Keystone state.  Curtin decided to act.

Having issued a proclamation the week before, calling for the formation and training of militia companies, in case Pennsylvania was to be invaded, Gov. Curtin issued a new proclamation, calling into action the "Emergency Militia".

Headquarters Pennsylvania Militia
                        Harrisburg, Sept. 10, 1862

            No. 35

   In view of the danger of invasion now threatening our State, by the enemies of the government, it is deemed necessary to call upon all the able bodied men of Pennsylvania to organize immediately for the defense of the State, and be ready for marching orders, upon one hour’s notice, to proceed to such points of rendezvous as the Governor may direct.
            It is ordered –
   First.  That Company organizations be made in accordance with the number required under the law of the United States, to wit:
   One Captain,
   1st Lieutenant,
   2nd Lieutenant,
   80 privates as the minimum, and 98 privates as the maximum standard of each company.  The company officers to be elected by each organization.
   Second.  As the call may be sudden, it is desirable that the officers and members of each company provide themselves with the best arms they can secure, with at least sixty rounds of ammunition to suit the kind of arms in possession of the soldier.  Such persons as cannot secure and bring arms with them will be furnished by the government after their arrival at the place of rendezvous.
   Third.  Each officer and member of the company shall provide himself with good stout clothing, (uniform or otherwise) boots, blanket and haversack, ready to go into camp when called into service.
   Fourth.  Each company organization to be perfected as soon as possible, and report the name of officer in command, the number of men and the place of its headquarters, to theses headquarters in order that they may be promptly notified to move when their services are required.
   Fifth.  Organizations when ordered to move, will be furnished with transportation by the government.
   Sixth.  On arrival at the place of rendezvous, they will be formed into regiments or such other organizations as the Governor, Commander-in-Chief of Pennsylvania may direct.
   Seventh.  So far as practicable and as my be found consistent with the interests of the public service, companies from the same localities will be put together in such larger organizations as may be formed.
   Eighth.  Organizations formed under the recent proclamation are earnestly requested to adopt without delay such measures as may be necessary to comply with this order.
   Ninth.  Organizations called in the field under this order will be held for services for such time only as the pressing exigency for state defense may continue.
   By order of                                                       A. G. Curtin,
            Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

Read my previous post on the response in Reading, PA to the Governor's proclamations.

Carlisle Herald, September 12, 1862

Carman, Ezra. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Vol. 1, South Mountain. ed. Thomas G. Clemens. New York: Savas Beatie, 2010.

Harsh, Joseph L., Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862.Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1999.

Hoptak, John David. The Battle of South Mountain. Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pennsylvania State Archives: Summer 2011 Newsletter

Please take a few minutes to read through the Pennsylvania State Archives' Summer 2011 edition of their newsletter Access Archives.  The State Archives have been incredibly helpful and supportive of my research, and I encourage you to visit it, and the State Museum located next door.  Inside the newsletter you will find some great tid bits on recent "goings on" in the Archives, a few of which are related to Pennsylvania in the Civil War.  Also, be sure to check out the recent acquisitions.  I know I'll be digging through the Civil War diaries of Cpl. John A. Magee, Co. E, 100th PA, hopefully finding some fascinating Maryland Campaign/Battle of Antietam entries.

location of PA State Archives, Harrisburg, PA - Bing Maps