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PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

History of the Fifth Regiment

5th Regiment
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5th PA Regimental History

The Fifth regiment was organized at Camp Curtin, on the 21st of April, 1861, by the choice of the following officers: R. P. McDowell, of Pittsburg, Colonel; Benjamin C. Christ, of Minersville, Schuylkill County, Lieutenant Colonel; R. Bruce Petriken, of Huntingdon, Major. William Spencer was designated by Colonel McDowell as Adjutant. The companies, of which the regiment was composed, were hastily recruited in various sections of the State, and were the result of that outburst of patriotism which was everywhere manifested. At Lebanon, a public meeting was held at the Court House, at which, after some brief speaking, a company was enrolled under Captain John Ulrich, which became company G, and a liberal fund subscribed for the aid of the families of the men who volunteered. A similar spirit was manifested in nearly every county of the State, where companies were organized, and in a similar manner was our whole volunteer force recruited.

With no opportunity for drill or company exercise of any kind, the raw recruits were marched to the State Arsenal, where they drew their arms, the old regulation musket, and twenty rounds of cartridge, which, for want of accoutrements, were carried in their pockets. On the evening of the same day, April 21st, the regiment was placed on board a train of box cars, and moved down the Northern Central railway in the direction of Baltimore; but, during the night, the course of travel was reversed, and the next morning found the command again in Harrisburg. The train then moved to Philadelphia, where it arrived at four o'clock on the afternoon of the 22nd Two companies were here detailed to guard some steamboats in their passage through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal to Perryville.

The remaining companies moved, on the following morning, by rail, for the same destination. In the evening of the same day the regiment embarked on three steamers and proceeded to Annapolis, where it was quartered in the battery and boathouses. Remaining on duty here till April 26th, it was ordered to march on the railway towards Annapolis Junction, with the expectation that the column would be met by a train, on which it would be taken forward. But the train was found on the way off an embankment, where it had been precipitated by the malicious displacement of a rail. Arriving at the Junction, foot sore and weary, it was placed in position to repel an attack, which, it was rumored, would be made during the night from Baltimore. The men slept on their arms, prepared for any emergency. On the following day, April 27th, it moved by rail to Washington, and was quartered in a building just back of the City Hall. Here it was visited by President Lincoln and Secretary Seward, each of whom spoke briefly, to the great gratification of the men.

The regiment remained quartered in the city, engaged in drill and guard duty. On the 7th of May, uniforms were received from the State of Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, the 9th, the command marched out about a mile east of the city of Washington, when, for the first time, it was placed in camp. In this camp, which was called Camp Washington, the regiment remained, engaged in drill, till the 28th, when it was ordered to Alexandria, Virginia, where upon its arrival it was quartered in the city. On the 3rd of June, it again went into camp near the foot of Shuter's Hill, where it was assigned to the Brigade of Brigadier General Irwin McDowell. A portion of the Brigade was daily assigned to duty in Alexandria, as city police, and the remainder detailed for labor on Fort Ellsworth, then in process of construction.

While stationed at Camp McDowell, the Fifth regiment had a printing press in camp, where several numbers of a large and well-executed newspaper were issued. It was headed "The Pennsylvania Fifth." It was edited by John P. Ely, First Lieutenant of company G, and was principally executed by members of that company. The original articles, and the communications from members of other regiments, were, for the most part, spirited, and were interlarded with wit and humor, well suited to the leisure of the camp.

The Fifth regiment was transferred to the Brigade commanded by Colonel W.B. Franklin, previous to the advance of the army upon the enemy at Bull Run, but was ordered to remain on duty at Alexandria. Consequently it did not participate in the battle which ensued, and which resulted so disastrously to our arms. On the expiration of the term of service, the regiment was ordered to Harrisburg, where, on the 25th of July, the men were paid and honorably discharged.

Source: Bates, Samuel P. (Samuel Penniman), 1827-1902.: History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5; prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature, by Samuel P. Bates. Civil War Databases

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