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One Hundred Third Regiment


Regimental History


103rd PA Regimental History



This regiment was principally recruited in the counties of Armstrong, Allegheny, Butler, Clarion, and Indiana. Recruiting was commenced early in the fall of 1861, the men rendezvousing at Camp Orr, near the town of Kittanning. The Seventy-eighth Regiment had occupied this camp a little earlier, and had been recruited in the same locality. Those most eager to volunteer had thus been gathered in advance. As the cold weather came on, the government being unable to furnish adequate clothing and camp and garrison equipage, much suffering was experienced. To remedy this evil, an appeal was made to the congregation of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Pittsburg, and wagons were sent out throughout the surrounding country for aid, the response from both of these sources being prompt and generous. To hasten forward the work of recruiting, which was beginning to languish, privates were given a ten days' furlough, with the promise of another, provided they each brought in one or more men with them on their return. A hundred were thus furloughed at a time. So well did this plan succeed that in January, 1862, the regiment was reported for duty, with one company in excess of the number required, which was transferred to the Second Pennsylvania Cavalry.

On the 24th of February it was ordered to Harrisburg, where a regimental organization was effected by the choice of the following field officers:Theodore F. Lehmann, Colonel Wilson C. Maxwell, Lieutenant Colonel; Audley W. Gazzam, Major.

It was soon afterwards ordered to Washington, where, upon its arrival, it was assigned to a provisional brigade of General Caseys' Division. With the corps the regiment proceeded to the Peninsula, and after remaining in camp a short time, near Hampton, moved forward and participated in the operations of the siege of Yorktown. The duty for a month was very severe, which, with exposure and the miasmatic influence of the climate, caused much sickness, and many died. When the enemy at length, finding his position no longer tenable, withdrew and retreated up the Peninsula, the regiment moved on with the corps in pursuit, and on the morning of the 5th of May, leading Keim's Brigade1, arrived upon the battle-field opposite the enemy's forts at Williamsburg. Major Gazzam, who was in command, was directed to lead his regiment, by the left flank, along the Williamsburg Road, and reported to General Peck, at a point near the opening of the woods, opposite the principal scene of action. It was immediately ordered into line,.and became engaged, capturing one of the enemy's flags and maintaining its ground with gallantry. A part of the regiment, which had, by accident, become separated from the head of the column, was soon brought up. Under heavy fire the regiment was soon moved to the right of the road, into a thicket, where it was held as a reserve to that part of the line. At dusk it reported to General Devens, and was placed on picket for the night. Early on the following morning it was discovered that the enemy had fled, and Williamsburg was occupied.

Moving forward after the battle, Casey's Division, in advance of the army, crossed the Chickahominy and took position at Fair Oaks, which it was proceeding to fortify, when, on the 31st of May, it was suddenly attacked. A portion of the One Hundred and Third had been posted on the picket line on the previous day, and in the skirmishing which ensued had one killed and several wounded. As soon as it became evident that the enemy was present in force, the main body of the regiment was ordered forward, by General Casey, to the support of the pickets, and directed to report at a picket station to the right of the Richmond Road, where further orders would be received.

On arriving at the designated point, Major Gazzam, failing to receive orders, posted his men in rear of the clearing, back of and to the right of the station, behind a ditch, partially filled with water, with the exception of companies B and G, which were directed to take position, under command of Captain George W. Gillespie, to the left of the road. Learning that the enemy's shalrp-shooters were felling the trees in Gillespie's front, he ordered that officer to advance and clear them. This order was gallantly executed, and only when overpowered by numbers, and after having suffered severe loss, did Captain Gillespie fall back to the main line.

While forming these companies on the left of his conmmand, Major Gazzam was thrown from his horse and stunned by the falling of a tree crushed by a cannon ball. Recovering himself he re-gained his position in line, when a volley, from the enemy advancing in its front, was received and the flag staff severed. It was now discovered that the enemy was also advancing on the right. Lieutenant Schott was ordered to half-wheel his company and protect that flank; but the enemy was coming also on the left and was being reinforced in front. Seeing that with his small force unsupported, it was impossible to hold his ground longer, Major Gazzam gave the order to fall back slowly. Retiring through the woods, it came to a stand on a small cross-road and poured in a steady fire; but, in heavy force, the enemy continued to press forward, his battle-flags plainly visible on front and flank.

To add to the horrors of its situation, the Union guns, posted in the earthworks, opened fire, and in seeking to get the range of the enemy, threw their shot and shell full upon its ranks, doing fearful execution. Major Gazzam, seeing that his men, between two fires, were fast falling, endeavored to lead back the remnant remaining, in order, but as fast as formed they were picked off, and yielding to a stern necessity, he was obliged to allow them to retire as best they could through the slashings. On reaching the line a portion of the men were rallied to dispute the enemy's passage to the right of the road, in front of the fortifications, and others joined the Ninety-second New York.

Late in the day, those of the One Hundred and Third who were fit for duty were placed in rifle-pits, to the left of the road, where they remained until night-fall. The colors came near falling into the enemy's hands, the color guard being nearly all either killed or wounded. They were finally given to Captain McDowell, who brought them off the field. The loss in the engagement was eighty-four, killed and wounded. Among the killed were Captain George W. Gillespie and Lieutenant George D. Schott.

After the battle of Fair Oaks, keeping the left of the line of the army, the brigade was posted at White Oak Swamp, where it was immediately put to fortifying, and for a month, exposed to the heats of summer by day and the miasma of the swamp by night, without blankets and but half clothed, it was held to severe duty. Many fell sick, and so much was the command reduced that it was with difficulty, at times, that well men enough could be found to relieve the pickets. Captain McDowell and Lieutenant Crossen were so much reduced that they were sent to the rear, and both were obliged to resign on account of disability. Upon the death of General Keim, General W. L. Wessells succeeded to the command of the brigade, and General Casey was succeeded by General John J. Peck, in command of the division.

The Seven Days fight commenced on the extreme right of the army, and swinging, as upon a pivot, did not reach the extreme left, where the brigade lay, until the movement to the James was in full progress.

During the 26th, 27th, and a part of the 28th it remained inactive. On the afternoon of the latter day the march commenced, and on the morning of the 1st of July it reached Malvern Hill. During the forenoon, the brigade having marched during the entire night preceding, was suffered to rest, the booming of artillery and rattle of small arms, in close proximity, telling of the progress of the fight. At two in the afternoon it was ordered up and posted to support artillery, which the enemy was intent on silencing. His fire for a time was very hot, but soon slackened, and at night, repulsed on every hand, he retired from the field.

During the following night the army commenced retiring to Harrison's, Wessells' Brigade covering the retreat and repelling frequent attacks of rebel cavalry. On its arrival it went into camp, and on the 4th, was reviewed by the commanding General, who was received with enthusiastic cheers by all, save Casey's Division, which remained silent as he passed, having no heart to cheer the man who had most unjustly heaped reproaches upon it for its part in the battle of Fair Oaks.

On the afternoon of the same day the One Hundred and Third, armed with axes, was marched out to the wood in front of the encampment, looking, towards Malvern Hill, and set to felling the huge forest trees. Bred in the lumbering regions of the State, most of the men were familiar with the use of the axe, well attested, "As bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke." A belt of a hundred yards; was made along the whole front, and behind the abattis a breast-work was thrown up.

At the close of the Peninsula campaign the regiment had lost, by casualties and sickness, nearly half its original strength. When the army of McClellan was ordered to join Pope upon the Rapidan, Wessells' Brigade was included; but at the moment when it was about to depart, the order including it was countermanded, and it was directed to embark upon transports and proceed to Norfolk, whereby it was separated from the Army of the Potomac, never again to re-join it. Upon its arrival there, it was hurried away by rail to Suffolk, in expectation of at once meeting the enemy. But learning that the Union forces had been strengthened, the latter deemed it prudent not to molest them.

General Peck was placed in command of the district, and the men were kept busy in digging rife-pits, throwing up earth-works, and making periodical expedtions to Ft. Franklin, an insignificant place occupied by the enemy, and commanding the only bridge left upon the Black Water. As winter approached, substantial quarters were built, and the condition of the men, now numbering about five hundred, was much improved.

On the 5th of December Wessells' Brigade was ordered to break camp, and marching to the Chowan River, proceeded by transports to Newbern, North Carolina, where it joined the force under General Foster, then about to move on an expedition into the interior. With the exception of a slight skirminsh at Southwest Creek, little opposition was encountered on the march until the command reached Kingston, where the enemy was discovered occupying a strong position upon a little eminence, where stood a church, with a swamp in front thickly set with bushes and thorny vines, considered impassable.

Several attempts were made to force the enemy's lines but without success, the One Hundred and Third, in the meantime, supporting a battery, and exposed to a heavy fire from his guns. Fruitless efforts had been made also to cross the swamp, which had attracted the attention of the enemy, and had caused him to direct a plunging fire of artillery upon it. At this juncture the One Hundred and Third was called out and directed to make one more attempt to force a passage through the swamp. Under the rapid fire of the enemy's guns the regiment dashed in, and wading through mud and water, and cutting the impenetrable thicket of vines, it pushed toilsomely through, as best it could, and in less than half an hour rallied on the opposite edge for a charge upon the rebel works. Without firing a gun it rushed forward, and the enemy, unprepared for an attack from that direction, was quickly routed. The Eighty-fifth came promptly to its support, and almost an entire rebel North Carolina regiment was taken prisoners. A general attack rapidly followed and the enemy was completely routed. As General Foster came up, at the conclusion of the battle, he said to Colonel Lehmann, "you have a noble regiment, sir!"

At the conclusion of this expedition the brigade returned to Newbern and went into barracks on the Neuse River. Here, with little to do, in pleasant quarters, with abundant rations, the time passed pleasantly. During the spring of 1863, frequent expeditions were made into the surrounding country, but little of moment was effected.

On the 29th of March General Foster proceeded by steamer to Washington, on the Tar Piver, which the enemy was preparing to invest, for the purpose of directing its defence. Very soon after his arrival the town was surrounded, making escape from it very dangerous.

On the 7th of April, a part of the forces at Newbern, under command of General Spinola, set out to relieve the garrison at Washington and open water communication by an attack in the rear. This force was unsuccessful in its purpose, and soon after returned. But on the night of the 16th, General Foster ran the gauntlet of rebel batteries at Rodman's Farm and Hil's Point, and arrived at Newbern in safety, though the steamer had thirty-two holes in her hull.

Heading his troops in person, General Foster started on the following morning, and two days thereafter forced an entrance to Washington, and compelled the enemy to abandon the siege. General Wessells was now assigned to the command of the district of the Albemarle, with headquarters at Plymouth, and the brigade at once removed thither. It now consisted of the One Hundred and Third and One Hundred and First Pennsylvania, and the Eighty-fifth, Ninety-second, and Ninety-sixth New York, Colonel Lehmann being assigned to its command. A little later the latter regiment was taken away, and the Sixteenth Connecticut assigned to it.

The work of fortifying the town was at once commenced. The wood surrounding it was cut away to a distance of twelve hundred yards, and alterations deemed necessary made in the works. The only avenue of supply was by water. To keep this open, one company from each regiment was sent to Roanoke Island, in Albemarle Sound, well provided with defensive works erected by the enemy at the opening of the rebellion, and which had been captured by General Burnside early in the year 1862.

On account of the low grounds, extending for many miles around Plymouth, the continuation of the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia, the avenues of approach by land were few, most of them next to impassable. These were all held by the enemy, and at Williamstown, some distance above on the Roanoke River, he had a considerable force, and two miles higher up, at Rainbow Bluff, had erected a fort, which commanded the river, and effectually prevented the Union gun-boats fronm ascending further.

At Tarboro, within supporting distance, a division of the rebel army was posted, under General Pickett. The enemy had also been busy constructing a ram, the Albemarle, on the Upper Roanoke, with which he threatened the destruction of the fleet in front of Plymouth, and as a consequence the capture of the garrison. Frequent rumors had reached the headquarters of General Wessells of the readiness of the ram to move, accompanied by a powerful land force. The Union force at Plymouth at this time consisted of about seventeen hundred men of Wessells' Brigade, of whom at least six hundred were in hospital or sick in camp, one hundred and twenty men of the Twelfth New York Cavalry, two hundred men of the Fourth New York Battery, and one company of the Second Massachusetts Heavy Artillery.

In March a deserter from the enemy, a carpenter who had worked on the Albemarle, reported the guns on board, and the craft prepared to sail. He also reported a large land force in readiness to make an attack upon Plymouth simultaneously with the attack of the ram on the fleet. This was reported to General Peck, in command of the department, and to General Butler, in command of the army, with a request for reinforcements but the messages were lightly received, and no aid sent.

On the 17th of April the land force and the ram were both reported in motion, and a troop of cavalry, sent out to reconnoitre, returned, confirming the report. At three o'clock in the afternloon an outer fort, about two miles above the main works, was attacked by the enemy's land force. This fort was held by a detachment of the Eighty-fiith New York, which made a stubborn defence, and the enemy was driven off.

On the following morning the attack was renewed, the enemy determined to capture the work; but was again repulsed with great slaughter. During the succeeding night a redoubt, three-fourths of a mile in advance of the line of fortifications of Plymouth, was attacked, under cover of darkness, and tell into his hands, and its guns at daylight were turned upon Fort Williams, the main fort below. During the day these were silenced by the thirty-two pounders at Fort Williams. This work had been mainly constructed by company A, of the One Hundred and Third, under Captain Alexander, and was at this time occupied by that company, and a company of the Second Massachusetts Artillery. As yet the ram had not made its appearance, though it was reported to be lying five miles above on the river. Preparations had been made by the fort to give it a warm reception when it should make its appearance; but at two o'clock on the morning of the 19th, it succeeded in running past the fort without discovery, and escaped without receiving a shot. It immediately attacked the Southfield, a large steamer, which was sunk. Lieutenant Commander Flussser, of the Miami, was killed by the rebounding of a shell, which he had fired at the ram, and the gun-boat Bombshell was sunk at the wharf. The force in the fort, was now exposed to attack by the land force from front and flank, and from the ram in rear. Immediately throwing up a breastwork, near the river, the garrison fought on the entire day, though against hope, as the place was being invested by a force of fifteen thousand men, under General Hoke.

Before daylight on Wednesday, the 20th, the enemy succeeded in working his way through the swamp below Plymouth, and proceeding along the river bank, protected by the ram, threw a large detachment into the town. The troops stationed on that side found themselves surroundedl a and s assailed from a quarter in which they had anticipated protection from the gun-boats. They wsre compelled to fall back; but Colonel Lehmann, unaware of the force of the enemy occupying the town, taking the One Hundred and Third, which had held the centre at daylight, advanced with the design of re-taking it. He soon discovered his mistake, and returned to the fort.

In the meantime, the Sixteenth Connecticut. and One Hundred and First Pennsylvania had been compelled to surender. The enemy, finding that the fort could not be carried by assault, opened with his artillery upon it, the shells falling at a fearful rate among the men, and his riflemen picking off the gunners. While the ammunition lasted the guns of the fort were able to keep the rebel artillery at bay; but that soon became exhausted. There was then but one alternative, and at eleven o'clock on the morning of the 20th of April, the remaining forces surrendered.

Of the One Hundred and Third Regiment there were at the time of the surrender about four hundred, rank and file, many of whom had been enlisted since the organization of the regiment. One company was on duty at Roanoke Island, and a few men absent, in hospital and on furlough. The officers were immediately separated from the men, not again to be united, the latter being sent to Andersonville, to starve and die by scores, the former to Macon, Georgia, and subsequently those of the highest grade, including Colonel Lehmann, to Charleston, where they were placed under fire of the powerful Union batteries, then engaged in bombarding the city. The wounded, of whom there were thirty-five, were left with the surgeon at Plymouth, in the hands of the enemy.

Of the men who entered the Andersonville prison2, one hundred and thirty-two died while in confinement. Many died in the prisons to which they were subsequently removed, and while on their way to, and at Camp Parole, at Annapolis; and many more, after lingering sickness. When the regiment was mustered into the service there were seventy-two men upwards of six feet in height, of whom not one was present at the final muster out.

The officers of the regiment, after their release from confinement at Charleston, were paroled and returned to duty, Colonel Lehmann resuming command of the district of the Albemarle. The company which had not been included in the surrender, with the few men who were absent at the time, in all about eighty, were still on duty in the district and was known as the One Hundred and Third Regiment.

In the months of March and April, 1865, eight new companies, fully organized and officered, were assigned to the regiment. But as some of the officers of all the original companies were on duty, these new companies, though serving as a part of the regiment, were reported as unassiged men. The command was finally mustered out of service, at Newbern, North Carolina, on the 25th of June, 1865, but eighty-one of the original men being then present.



1Organization of Keim's Brigade, Casey's Division, Keyes' Corps: Eighty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Joshua B. Howell; One Hundred and First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel David B. Morris; One Hundred and Third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Theodore F. Lehmann; Ninety-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel James Fairman.

2While in confinement, Charles Lang, Hospital Steward of the One Hundred and Third, made a faithful copy, from the records of the prison, of Pennsylvania soldiers who died at Andersonville from February 26, 1864, to March 24, 1865, which was transmitted to his Excellency, Governor Curtin, by Thomas C. Tripler, Lieutenant and Adjutant of the Thirty-ninth Missouri, and was published by Surgeon General Phillips, in 1865.


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.
Contributed by George Rapp


103rd Regiment

Co. A | History



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