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PA Civil War > Regiments > 6th > History

PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

History of the Sixth Regiment

Recruited in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Mustered in April 22, 1861

6th PA Regiment, Regimental History

The patriotic ardor, incident to the commencement of hostilities, among the loyal masses of Schuylkill county, was not exceeded in any part of the Commonwealth. A military spirit had long been preserved among its people, and the discipline of its citizen militia had been well maintained. Two of its organized companies had gone in the First battalion, the first volunteer troops at the capital. Additional companies were hastily recruited in response to the President's call, and on Sunday, the 21st of April, a large detachment moved by rail to Harrisburg, followed on the next morning by a second. An immense throng gathered at the station in Pottsville to utter the "good bye." The enthusiasm, along the whole line of march, was unbounded; farm houses were decorated with flags, and the farmers' wives and daughters waved their hats and kerchiefs, with a zeal worthy of the inspiring cause.

Rendezvousing at Camp Curtin, the men were mustered, by companies, into the service of the United States, and on the 22nd of April, the regiment was organized by the choice of the following officers: James Nagle, of Pottsville, Colonel; James J. Seibert, of Pottsville, Lieutenant Colonel; John E. Wynkoop, of Pottsville, Major. John D. Bertolette was appointed Adjutant. At nine o'clock of the 22nd, the day on which it was organized, the regiment proceeded by rail to Philadelphia. The men here had their first experience of government rations, consisting of hard biscuit and salt pork; the former so hard, and the latter so well preserved, that it gave rise to the report among the men, that these provisions were branded "Vera Cruz," and were a relic of the Mexican war. The regiment was stationed at the Baltimore depot, a portion of the company occupying the large tent of the Young Men's Christian association. The kindness of the citizens of Philadelphia, in providing for the comfort and convenience of the men, was very marked and gratifying. Company drill was commenced, and regimental parade was regularly held, morning and evening, on Broad street. On the 7th of May, the regiment was ordered to move and take position on the line of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore railroad; one company at Newark, one at Chesapeake City, one at North East, one at Charlestown, three at Elkton, and three at Perryville.

After three weeks separation, doing guard duty in these positions, the companies were ordered to rendezvous at Perryville, and encamped on the hills overlooking the Susquehanna river. On the following day, May 28th, orders were received to strike tents and move, via Baltimore and the Northern Central railroad, to Chambersburg. Here the regiment was reviewed by General Paterson, and assigned to the Brigade of Col. George H. Thomas, since Major General in the regular army. On Thursday, the 5th of June, orderes were received to prepare two days cooked rations, and march on the following day to Greencastle. The entire Brigade moved at six o'clock in the morning, and on its arrival was ordered into camp. On the 13th of June, the Brigade was reviewed by Major General Cadwalader, commander of the Division, and was ordered to Williamsport, Maryland. The weather was intensely hot, the men fainting on the march, and falling out by hundreds along the road.

General Paterson, in command of the Department of Pennsylvania, having organized an army of some twelve thousand men, at Chambersburg, had submitted to General Scott a plan of operations for the reduction of Harper's Ferry, now held by the enemy. This plan had been approved, and General Patterson had ordered his column across the Potomac.

The brigade of Colonel Thomas, which formed the right of the column, advanced to the river on the morning of Sunday, June the 15th, and fording the stream, which was here breast deep, had proceeded some four miles on the Martinsburg road. At this stage of the campaign, and the army well across the river, General Scott became apprehensive that a plan had been formed for the attack and capture of Washington, before the meeting og Congress. He accordingly ordered all of the Regulars, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and Burnside's regiment and battery of volunteers, from Patterson's column, to Washington, leaving his army destitute of the two latter arms of the service. Without these, it was madness to advance in the face of an enemy with a well appointed force of all arms. General Patterson was, accordingly, obliged to give the order to countermarch, and return to the Maryland side.

The Sixth regiment went into camp near the town of Williamsport, from whence, the enemy's cavalry was visible on the opposite shore. On the following day, the enemy planted cannon along the heights. The Rhode Island battery returned on the afternoon of the 17th of June, and planted their cannon in the bed of the canal, the water having been drawn off for that purpose. On the following day Captain Doubleday also returned with his battery, consisting of one eight inch howitzer and one twenty-four pounder smooth bore gun, and commenced planting them on a hill commanding the approaches to the Virginia shore. While the regiment remained in camp, it was principally employed on picket and guard duty. On the 24th of June, it was ordered to break camp, and move to Downsville. Returning to Williamsport on the 1st of July, the army was again ordered to cross into Virginia. Moving to the vicinity of Falling Waters, the advance fell in with the enemy, and a sharp skirmish ensued. A brisk fire was kept up, and after a hot chase of about four miles, over hills and valleys, driving the enemy , the regiment was ordered to haLieutenant After an hour's rest, word came that General Negley's brigade was cut off, and the Sixth regiment, with a part of Wynkoop's brigade, was sent to his assistance; but, after a march of about two miles, it was ascertained that Negley was safe; whereupon the column countermarched to Hainesville, and occupied a camp just vacated by the enemy. On the following morning the column again took up the line of march for Martinsburg, which it reached without opposition, the enemy having retreated in the direction of Winchester. The Sixth regiment went into the town on the double quick, and was among the first to enter it. The destruction of property here, by the enemy, was immense; fifty-four locomotives, belonging to the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, were entirely destroyed, and whole trains of cars burned.

On the 15th of July, the 1st brigade was sent in pursuit of a body of rebel cavalry, which was extended some two miles beyond Bunker Hill, to which place it returned and there encamped. Remaining till the 17th, the brigade was ordered to Charlestown, where the Sixth regiment arrived at two o'clock in the afternoon, and encamped near the spot where John Brown was hung. The term of service of the regiment having expired, it was marched to the Head-Quarters of General Patterson, who spoke in complimentary and flattering terms of its services, and ordered its discharge. A guide was furnished, and the regiment marched towards Shepherdstown, intending to ford the river at that place; but missing the way, it was compelled to cross far below, opposite the mouth of Antietam creek. Advancing to Hagerstown the regiment encamped and remained three days, resting from its fatiguing marches. Taking rail transportation, it proceeded to Harrisburg, where, after nearly a week's delay, it was paid, and mustered out of service.

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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