Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Archive Find: "We had troops enough there to eat up Secesh with out peper or salt"

Digging through the collections of archives or historical societies, I find that I get distracted easily by items that aren't always what I had intended to be searching for.  While these items can take you on time consuming detours, I don't really mind them too much.  I recently came across several letters written by 1st Sergeant James Carroll, Co. G 10th U.S. Infantry, and I thought I'd share a couple interesting and colorful lines from a couple of his letters.

In "camp near Rockville Md" on September 9, 1862, Carroll wrote of his experiences during the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.
"...After 2 days march we then proceed to Bull Run and was engaged in that Battle on the 30th of Aug.  it was purty hard fighting but not as well of a fight as it might  We had troops enough there to eat up Secesh with out peper or salt if they had beeing rightly handled   I seen one of the purtiest sights that day I ever saw   A Brigade of Secesh charged on one of our Battries through our [lines?]   the Battry opened grape and cannister on them and mowed them down like you would grass but they did not stop  they continued there journey and took the Battries..."

In another letter dated July 13, 1862, Carroll describes the situation for the Union troops at the Battle of Gaines' Mill, noting the appearance of one of the most famous fighting units, on both sides, in the Civil War. 
"...the odds we were fighting was tremindious  I dare say five to one for the greater part of the time however we keept them in check all day   We are greatly indepted to the Irish Brigade for there Servis in the eve   They came in fresh in the evening and drove Back the Secesh to there old Standered so they had no odds after all"* 

*Arriving on the battlefield at Gaines's Mill, in the fading daylight hours of June 27, 1862, just as the Rebel Army was seizing victory, the Irish Brigade succeeded in stemming the wild and confused rout of the entire Union 5th Corps.  They soon advanced to support the U.S. Regulars, and enabled them to move to the rear in an orderly fashion.  After the battle, Confederate Gen. Daniel H. Hill remembered wild cheering coming from the Union lines, which was, "...caused by the appearance of the Irish Brigade to cover the retreat."  Irish Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher wrote later that he considered it, "...the most successful and masterly achievement of the Brigade...all the more so that we didn't fire a shot."  The 88th New York, of the Brigade, was the last Union regiment to leave the field, crossing back over the Chickahominy River before setting fire to the bridge behind them.  Gaines's Mill was just one of the many battles on the Penninsula, in 1862, in which the Irish Brigade would become legendary.    

"Brothers of Ireland" by Don Troiani, depicting the Irish Brigade (right) arriving on the battlefield at Gaines's Mill, with Meagher on horseback (center).

Bilby, Joseph G. Remember Fontenoy!: The 69th New York and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1995.

"Letters concerning James Uhler," 1862. Manuscript Collection, Civil War Era Letters. Cumberland County Historical Society, Hamilton Library, Carlisle, PA. 

Wylie, Paul R. The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Medal of Honor: John Hartranft at the Battle of Bull Run

For obvious reasons I have had Bull Run on the brain this week.  I'm very much looking forward to this weekend, where I will be participating in the 150th Battle of Bull Run reenactment, as a member of the recreated 69th New York State Militia color guard.  I am not looking forward to the brutal heat that will be awaiting me, however.  So, for the time being, while I can still enjoy modern A/C, I thought I'd write another post.

Since today marks 150 years since the first major battle of the American Civil War, I thought I'd take a moment to recant the story of one Pennsylvanian who left his mark on history at the Battle of 1st Bull Run.  When the Civil War broke out, John Hartranft, of Norristown, PA, was, among other things, the commander of the 1st Pennsylvania Militia.  Rushing to defend the flag, and answer President Lincoln's call for troops to put down the rebellion, Hartranft, immediately offered his service to the federal government.  On April 20, 1861, Hartranft and his men were sworn into federal service as the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteers, for an enlistment period of three months.

Maj. Gen. Hartranft in 1865.  Library of Congress

Arriving in Washington on May 8, the 4th Pennsylvania was quartered in government offices, and a local church, just as many other regiments from around the country flowed into the capital.  On June 30, in an early morning "scrap", pickets from the 4th exchanged fire with rebel troops near Fairfax, VA, killing and wounding several men of Company E.

Within days, the Union Army, under the command of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, began to push it's way south toward the railroad hub at Manassas, VA, near a stream known as Bull Run.  By July 20, the Army stood poised on the banks of Bull Run, with Confederate forces clinging to the opposite banks; a decisive battle was surely immanent.  However, July 20 also marked the last day of service for Hartranft and the men of the 4th.  Realizing that every soldier would be needed in the coming fight, McDowell tried to convince the men of the 4th to stay on past their term of enlistment: 
"The General commanding has learned with regret that the time of service of the Fourth regiment, Pennsylvania volunteers, is about to expire. The services of the regiment have been so important, its good conduct so general, its patience under privation so constant, its state of efficiency so good, that its departure, at this time, can only be considered an important loss to the army. Fully recognizing the right of the regiment to its discharge and payment, at the time agreed upon, when it was mustered into service, and determined to carry out, literally, the agreement of the government in this respect, the General commanding, nevertheless, requests the regiment to continue in service for a few days longer, pledging that the time of muster out of service shall not exceed two weeks. Such members of the regiment, as do not accede to this request, will be placed under the command of proper officers, to be marched to the rear, mustered out of service, and paid, as soon as possible, after the expiration of the term of service."     

After some discussion among the men, the majority elected to return to Harrisburg, and be mustered out of service, having fulfilled their three month enlistments.  

Hartranft, and several other men of the 4th were very embarrassed by this turn of events.  How his fellow soldiers could turn back for home with the enemy so near, and a brewing battle that many believed would decide the national conflict, Hartranft could not understand.  He quickly volunteered to stay with the Army in whatever capacity he might be able to fill.  Colonel Hartranft was placed on the staff of the 4th Pennsylvania's brigade commander, Col. William Franklin.  

The following day, July 21, the Battle of Bull Run commenced.  Hartranft, and the men of Franklin's brigade pushed their way across Bull Run.  Just as Franklin's men were moving forward, the 4th Pennsylvania boarded trains bound for Harrisburg.  

Early on, the first major battle between the North and South seemed to be going just as Gen. McDowell had hoped, the rebels were on the run, but soon the Union lines began to give way in utter confusion and chaos as casualties mounted, and rebel reinforcements appeared on the field.  Col. Samuel Heintzelman, who commanded the division in which Franklin was a part, wrote in his official report, "Such a rout I never witnessed before.  No efforts could induce a single regiment to form after the retreat was commenced."  Continuing on with a scathing review of the actions of the "green" volunteers, Heintzelman stated, "...much excuse can be made for those who fled, as few of the enemy could at any time be seen.  Raw troops cannot be expected to stand long against an unseen enemy."

One of the new volunteers that was standing was Col. Hartranft.  As Col. Franklin noted in his after action report, Hartranft was, "...exceedingly valuable to me, and he distinguished himself in his attempts to rally the regiments which had been thrown into confusion."  For a time Hartranft's efforts paid off, as he was able to get Franklin's men to hold some resemblance of order, but as more and more of the Union Army began to melt away in panic, Hartranft could no longer hold back the inevitable.  The Union forces continued to rapidly retreat all the way back to the safety of Washington; the battle was lost.

For his actions at the Battle of Bull Run, John Hartranft received the Medal of Honor in 1886.  His citation reads, "Voluntarily served as an aide and participated in the battle after expiration of his term of service, distinguishing himself in rallying several regiments which had been thrown into confusion."

Hartranft would never live down the embarrassment felt at Bull Run as his regiment began to travel back to Pennsylvania, despite the raging battle of that summer day.  Seemingly, neither did most of the men of the 4th Pennsylvania.  After returning home, Hartranft raised another regiment, the 51st, which would be made up of many members of his old regiment.  The stigma of the 4th at Bull Run also appeared to have stunted Hartranft's rise to higher rank.  Three times, from September 1862 to June 1863, Ambrose Burnside, Hartranft's then commanding officer, unsuccessfully petitioned for Hartranft's promotion.  Even Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, when commenting on Hartranft's potential promotion, would remark, "Why, this is the Colonel of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment that refused to go into service at First Bull Run."

John Hartranft would go on to fight bravely with the 51st Pennsylvania, most notably as they stormed the now famous "Burnside's Bridge" during the Battle of Antietam.  Commanding a division in the Union Army's 9th Corps, Hartranft would capture Fort Stedman, outside Petersburg, VA in 1865, delivering a final blow to the crumbling Confederate Army, just weeks before it's surrender.  In the wake of  the assassination of President Lincoln, Hartranft would oversee the execution of the remaining conspirators.

After the war, Hartranft would serve as Pennsylvania's Auditor General, and as it's Governor from 1873 - 1879.  During his time as Governer, he quelled many uprisings and riots, most notably the famous "Molly Maguires" in the coal region.  He also restructured the Pennsylvania Militias into what we know of today as the Pennsylvania National Guard (28th Division), and after his service as Governor, he was named as the Guards' commander.

In 1889, John Hartranft died and was buried in his native Norristown.  A decade later, an equestrian statue of Hartranft was unveiled in front of the Pennsylvania State Capital in Harrisburg.  One of the speakers at the ceremony was the Confederate Henry Kyd Douglas.  Aside from his role during the Maryland Campaign of 1862, Douglas commanded a rebel brigade which faced off against Hartranft during the fighting for Fort Stedman in 1865.  Of Hartranft, Douglas stated that, "he was true to his friends and to his word of honor.  He was never known to desert a friend for any purpose on earth." 

Douglas' words rang true that day, and exactly 150 years after Hartranft's actions at the Battle of Bull Run, we remember why.

Hartranft statue - Harrisburg, PA
Gambone,A. M. Major-General John Frederick Hartranft: Citizen Soldier and Pennsylvania Statesman. Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1995.

"Governor John Frederick Hartranft," accessed 20 July 2011; available from; Internet

"Medal of Honor: John F. Hartranft," accessed 20 July 2011: available from; Internet.

Report of Col. Samuel P. Heintzelman, July 31, 1861. found in: Series I, Vol. II, United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Report of Col. William B. Franklin, July 28, 1861. found in: Series I, Vol. II, United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Saylor, Richard. Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania's Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, 2010.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Some of the men...were walking armories of miscellaneous weapons"

Louis Richards, a Private in Co. G, 2nd Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, wrote in 1883 of his experiences in September 1862.  Among his many recollections, Lewis gives us an interesting picture of how Emergency Militia of 1862 were supplied and outfitted.

On September 10, 1862, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin called upon all organized militias to report to Harrisburg for the defense of the Commonwealth.  Louis noted:
The companies were directed to be filled in accordance with the army standards of the United States, and as it was stated that the call might be sudden, the officers and men were required to provide themselves with the best arms they could procure, with at least sixty rounds of suitable ammunition, good stout clothing, uniform or otherwise; boots, blankets, and haversacks.

While still organizing in Reading, prior to taking the train to the capital, Louis describes his company’s supplies situation:
Arms of all kinds were in urgent demand.  Rifles and shot-guns, single and double-barreled, old and new; pistols of all designs, long and short, ancient and modern, together with some other unclassified implements of war, were brought out from their hiding-places, hastily cleaned and put in working order.  Some of the men, when equipped for the march, were walking armories of miscellaneous weapons.  The hardware stores were invaded in search of powder, shot, and ball.  A gum blanket, with which in most cases an army blanket, or in default thereof, a pair of ordinary red blankets, were rolled up; a haversack of canvas or oil-cloth, hastily put together at the saddler’s, a tin cup, knife and fork and spoon, made up the rest of the equipment.

After arriving in Harrisburg, Louis’ company received a welcomed surprise:
We were much relieved to find that we were to be furnished with arms and equipments by the State, as our force was far from effective in its present shape.  At the State Arsenal, on the Capitol grounds, we were supplied with Springfield muskets, knapsacks, haversacks, and canteens.  Delivered up our old guns to be returned home.  The muskets and bayonets, on first introduction, were handled with some curiosity.  As there were no scabbards provided for the latter, the bayonets had to be carried fixed to the pieces.  Of ammunition there was none on hand at present, but it was stated that a supply would be sent after us. 

Among the Governor’s call for militia to organize, was the strong suggestion for the troops to supply their own rations, for which Louis was very grateful after arriving in Harrisburg:
My haversack had been bountifully stocked by my good landlady at home, Mrs. B., whose liberality as a provider and kindness of heart will always be held in grateful remembrance by her guests.  The foresight of the Governor in mentioning in his proclamation the subject of rations, was generally commended, as little or nothing eatable seemed to be obtainable in this town since its occupation as a militia camp.

After leaving Harrisburg, and traveling south along the Cumberland Valley Railroad, the 2nd PA Emergency Militia camped just outside Chambersburg.  While there, Louis watched as more companies arrived, with one well equipped unit making a lasting impression:
Regiments were continually arriving from the railroad, and the shrieks of the steam-whistles, the blasts of bugles, clatter of drums, and the cheering of the troops enlivened the day.  Among the accessions were the Blue Reserves, of Philadelphia, a uniformed organization, which made a handsome appearance.

On September 19, the men of the 2nd were in position just outside Hagerstown, MD, when a report of “a considerable body of rebels” nearby spread through the ranks.  Though they were about to march into battle (as far as they knew), they were still lacking important equipment of war:
We were now supplied with sixty rounds of ammunition per man – the first we had received – and loaded our guns, which looked like business.  In default of the usual appliances [cartridge boxes] for that purpose, the cartridges were deposited in our overcoat pockets.  Thus ballasted, we were marched down the road…

Finally, in Maryland, Louis made a comical observation of one of his fellow soldiers, who had supplied himself with a beacon for ridicule:
J. H. F. [Jacob H. Forney], an ex-country justice of the peace, enjoys the distinction of being the only man in the company in regimentals, having donned a uniform made for him some years ago, when he was an orderly sergeant of a company which belonged to the Kutztown battalion.  His avoirdupois [weight] has greatly increased since the garments were made, and his harness is so tight that he finds marching very uncomfortable.  He stands upright a large part of the time from force of circumstances, and sits down with caution.

Illustration from Harper's Weekly showing the variety of the civilian "uniforms" of the militia

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

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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pennsylvania's Muster Rolls

The Pennsylvania State Archives had been working very hard on properly conserving each and every Muster-Out Roll for the Pennsylvania units that served during the Civil War.  As explained on the Archives' website, Muster-Out Rolls are, "the dated lists [that] ordinarily give the soldier's name, age, rank, unit, regiment and company; the date, place, and person who mustered him in; the period of enlistment; and the name of the commanding officer. Particulars concerning pay earned, promotions, capture by the enemy and the like also regularly appear.These documents are a rich resource for students of the conflict and genealogists alike.  Sadly, funding for the conservation project ran out with some 800 rolls still to be conserved.  Recently, however, the State Archives has been awarded a $300,000 Keystone Grant which will make the conservation and preservation of the remaining rolls a reality.  The work should be completed by July 2012, after which time, the Muster-Out Rolls will be scanned by, and eventually made viewable online.  This is great news.  Many of the documents have become increasingly brittle and faded over their roughly 150 year lives.  Conservation will ensure that they will continue to preserve the memory and service of the Keystone state's fighting men.  If you have any questions about the rolls or the ongoing project, please feel free to contact Linda Ries ( at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Also, be sure to visit the Pennsylvania State Archives, or any state archives, and be amazed by what you may find buried in the history that is preserved there for you.  Check out their website here, as well as their page for Civil War Records.

Detail of a Muster-In Roll from Co. G, 49th PA, located at the Pennsylvania State Archives

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Meet a Militiaman: Charles E. Amidon

Corporal Charles E. Amidon was 17 years old when he enlisted with Co. A, 34th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, on June 29, 1863.  Born in New Loudon, CT, Amidon, according to his discharge paper, stood at 5'5", had a light complexion, light hair, grey eyes, and was employed as a clerk.

Raised by Captain Jacob Smith in Mauch Chunk, PA (today known as Jim Thorpe), Amidon's company was soon moved to Camp Heister, in Reading, where it was organized into the 34th with other emergency companies.  In Harrisburg, Adjutant General A. S. Russell received word that the 34th Pennsylvania was officially organized and awaiting orders on July 5th, two days after the fighting at Gettysburg had ended.  However, where one crisis had ended, another loomed on the horizon.

Roughly a week after the Battle of Gettysburg, draft riots broke out in New York City.  Fearing the same kind of outbreak of violence and destruction, the 34th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia was forwarded directly to Philadelphia, in the hopes of keeping the peace.  Tensions were high, but due to the presence of the 34th, as well as the 46th and 59th Pennsylvania Emergency Militias, and the diplomacy efforts of the 34th's Colonel Charles Albright, peace and order were maintained.  In fact, the 34th's stay in Philadelphia was seemingly so successful, that on July 23rd, the citizens of Philadelphia presented the 34th with a "splendid regimental flag".

On August 10, 1863, Charles Amidon was officially discharged from state service.

Sometime during his stay in Reading, PA, Cpl. Amidon had his image taken by local photographer S. B. Howard, once again offering us the opportunity to come face to face with one of Pennsylvania's Emergency Men.  
Note: the insignias on Amidon's forage cap are his company letter and regimental numerals.
3 4

Pennsylvania State Archives
(to "meet" other militiamen, click here)

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, 34th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, Records Group (RG) 19, Series# 19.11, Carton 129, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA. 
Discharge of Charles E. Amidon (and photograph), Military Manuscripts Collection, Manuscript Group (MG) 7, Item# 110, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.

Letter to Adjutant GeneralCivil War Muster Roll, 34th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, Records Group (RG) 19, Series# 19.11, Carton 129, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.

Sauers, Richard A. Advance the Colors!: Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags, vol. 2. Lebanon, PA: Sowers Printing Co., 1991.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

the "Mechanicsburg Infantry"

The following appeared in the October 4, 1862 issue of the Cumberland Valley Journal, a newspaper from Mechanicsburg, PA.  After they returned home from service in Maryland as Co. F, 1st Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, the names of the brave men in town who rushed to the "call" the month before were printed in the Journal.  Interestingly, one of those names was David Carmany, the newspaper's editor.  Note the last two sentences at the end of the muster roll.
"MUSTER ROLL OF THE 'MECHANICSBURG INFANTRY' - The following is the muster roll of the company raised in this place in accordance with the proclamation of the Governor - for State defense - as it was composed upon leaving for the State line:

Captain, ..................................T.J. Kerr
First Lieutenant, .............G.W. Chalfant
Second Lieutenant, ........S.N. Emminger
1st Sergeant, ........................Jacob Emminger
2d      "     .................................S.G. Newman
3d      "      .............................George Hummel
4th      "     ...................................Alpheus Dale
Quartermaster Sergeant, .............R.H. Thomas
1st Corporal, .................................L.D. Keefer
2d       "      ........................................J.J. Clark
3d       "      ...................................D.D. Barton
4th      "      .................................Joseph Ritner
5th      "      ....................................S.F. Huston
6th      "      ..................................T.S. Comfort
7th      "      ..................................R.W. Oswald
8th      "      .....................................Henry Null

Privates                                          Privates

                             Barrick, George                       Llloyd, Charles A.
                             Beelman, George                     Lloyd, James E. 
                             Bishop, Eli                              Machlin, James L.
                             Bitner, Wm. H.                      Martin, Alfred
                             Bowman, B. F.                       Mateer, A. H.
                             Boyer, J. S                            Mateer, Samuel A.
                             Bobb, G. W.                           Miller, Augustus
                             Brindle, David                        Miller, J. C. 
                             Carl, Joseph                           Miller, William 
                             Carmany, D. J.                      Mohler, George H.
                             Clark, Andrew A.                  Nichol, J. M. 
                             Coble, D. W.                          Oswald, W. H.
                             Coble, Jacob                           Otstot, George
                             Coover, John R.                      Painter, B. C.
                             Coover, John L.                      Rich, A. G.
                             Coover, George                       Roddy, Thos. P. 
                             Cowden, Andrew                    Rupp, John C.
                             Dale, James A.                       Schutt G. L.
                             Dallam, George C.                  Seifert, Emanuel
                             Duey, George                         Seifert, Henry
                             Duey, Jacob                           Seifert, Peter
                             Eberly, A. K.                         Schroeder, H. B.
                             Eberly, Henry M.                   Sheely, William
                             Eberly, Levi                           Shellenberger, B. F.
                             Eberly, W. H.                        Slyder, Jacob
                             Friese, Michael, jr.                  Smith, James A.
                             Garber, Andrew A.                Smith, John J.
                             Gosweiler, Martin                   Statler, A. J.
                             Harkins, Daniel                      Statler, J. B.
                             Hauck, G. W.                         Statler, J. F.
                             Heffelfinger, Samuel               Titzel, C. H.
                             Heigly, David                         Titzel, G. W.
                             Hinkle, Samuel                       Tyson, James
                             Hurd, Daniel                          Weitzel, Peter
                             Hurst, D. W.                         Wengert, Amos
                             Irvin, James D.                      Wilson, William
                             Kauffman, Isaac                    Whisler, William H.
                             Kauffman, Isaac H.                Zimmerman, J. C.
                             Keene, E. S.                           Zug, J. E.
                             Leidig, Joseph 

During the absence of the company - in Maryland - thirteen returned home, from various reasons.  What the reasons were we do not pretend to say."

The author of the piece certainly did not need to say; it was already implied.  With whole companies, and sometimes regiments, being raised from the men of one town or one county, immense amounts of pressure were placed on each man to not abandon his comrades (his neighbors).  For many soldiers, having to face your friends and family again after the embarrassment of "skedaddling" in the face of the enemy was sometimes looked upon as something worse than the dangers of battle.  During the Maryland Campaign, there are several accounts, among the Emergency Militia, of men heading for home the moment rumors spread through the ranks that the enemy was near by.

Just as often, if not more common it would seem than "skedaddling", some Emergency Militiamen returned home before being ordered to do so because many felt a great unease about crossing the border, and fighting for the protection of Maryland.  Many felt very strongly about the fact that they had signed up to serve Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania only.  Since they could be ordered to march beyond Pennsylvania's borders, and fight with the Federal army, they feared there was nothing to stop them from being ordered to continue fighting and marching south, for the duration of the war.  In several instances, whole companies turned around and marched home when they arrived at Greencastle, near the border.  In the end, regimental commanders, and even Gov. Curtin himself, convinced the Keystone men that the best place to defend Pennsylvania, was in Maryland.