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PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

Eighth Regiment

8th Regiment
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Regimental History

8th PA Regimental History

The Eighth Regiment was composed, in part, of companies which had held a previous militia organization, and were now filled up to the maximum number by new recruits, and in part of new companies, made up of men suddenly called together by the exigencies of the times. The Wyoming Artillerists, of Wilkesbarre, known in the regiment as company F, had been under the command of Captain Emley, who was afterwards made Colonel. It was the first company from Luzerne county, leaving on the 17th of April, 1861, and was inured to some degree of hardship from the first, being obliged to cut its way, a distance of over a mile, to the Kingston depot, through an immense field of drift ice. Company C had been a cavalry company at Wilkesbarre, commanded in turn by Captains Hoyt and Brisbane. Company G, in its militia organization, was known as the Wyoming Yeagers, and was joined by the remnants of a militia company from Pittston.

The several companies assembled at Camp Curtin, where company officers were formally elected, and the regiment was organized on the 22nd of April, 1861, by the choice of the following field officers: A. H. Emley, of Wilkesbarre, from Captain of company F, Colonel; Samuel Bowman, of Wilkesbarre, Lieutenant Colonel; Joseph Phillips, of Pittston, Major; Joseph Wright of Wilkesbarre, from Lieutenant of company C, was appointed Adjutant. Most of the officers had acquired considerable knowledge of military duty in various militia organizations. On the same day in which the organization was perfected, the regiment was ordered to Camp Slifer, in the neighborhood of Chambersburg. Here, on the 25th of April, it was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. Hardee's Tactics, which had previously been introduced in the drill of Company F, was made the authority for the instruction of the regiment. The drill was continued, daily, from eight to ten hours, in which a marked proficiency was attained, so much so, that many of the members, and especially of Colonel Emley's company, became drill-masters in the several organizations to which they were subsequently attached.

On the 7th of June, the regiment moved from Chambersburg to Greencastle, where it again went into camp, and during its stay, was exercised in battalion drill. Remaining but a few days, it moved to the Potomac, in the neighborhood of Williamsport, where it was posted along the shore to guard the fords. Here affairs began to assume a warlike aspect. The enemy was on the opposite shore, and the music of a stray bullet from his rifles occasionally saluted the ears of the men. While in this position, Lieutenant Colonel Bowman, having crossed the river, unattended, to reconnoiter, was suddenly seized by rebel scouts, and borne away a prisoner. He was a valuable officer, and the capture proved a serious loss.

Upon the advance of the army into Virginia, on the 2nd of July, the Eighth regiment, with Captain Doubleday's battery, was left to hold the fords, and to guard the stores at Williamsport. But soon after the arrival of the army at Martinsburg, Doubleday's battery was ordered forward, and companies A and B, Captains Strous and Travis, were detailed as guard. The battery consisted of three heavy pieces, one eight-inch howitzer, one twenty-four pounder, and one thirty pounder. The horses had but just been placed in harness, and were unaccustomed to the draft. On emerging from the ford, the banks proved difficult of ascent, and the pieces could only be moved by the assistance of the men. The march to Martinsburg and return, by the escorting companies, was made without rest, and was very exhausting. On the 6th of July, the regiment was ordered to rejoin the brigade, now at Martinsburg. Until the 17th it participated in occasional skirmishing, and joined in the advance on Bunker Hill.

In conformity with the explicit orders of General Scott, to keep in front of the enemy, so long as he should remain between Winchester and the Potomac, General Patterson had proposed an advance into Virginia and the initiation of an offensive campaign. The General-in-Chief permitted this advance, but enjoined that, should the enemy retire upon his resources at Winchester, the Union forces should not press him.

Remaining in the neighborhood of Bunker Hill, until the 17th of July, General Patterson commenced a flank movement on Charlestown. The enemy's cavalry, in force, under Stuart, watched these movements. Fearing that the enemy might advance, and cross the Shenandoah river by Keyes' Ford, the 3rd Brigade was pushed forward during the night of the 20th, and occupied a position commanding the ford. The term of service having now nearly expired, the regiment was ordered to march to Harper's Ferry, and turn over its camp equipage, and thence move by way of Hagerstown to Harrisburg, where, on the 29th of July, the men were 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.

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