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PA Civil War > Regiments > 116th >Regimental History

PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

One Hundred and Sixteenth Regiment, Unassigned Men

116th Regiment
Additional Companies, Bios, Organization & Service

116th PA Regimental History
Part of the famous Irish Brigade
On the 11th of June, 1862, Dennis Heenan, a citizen of Philadelphia, of considerable experience in militia duty, and who had served as Lieutenant Colonel of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, received authority to recruit a regiment of infantry. Having selected suitable officers, he opened recruiting stations at ten different points in the city of Philadelphia, and commenced forming his companies. Early in July, the nmnbers were sufficient to entitle the companies to line officers, and they were successively mustered in. About this time a camp was established at Jones' Woods, near Hestonville, four miles from the city.

On the 31st of August. when about seven hundred men had been mustered, but companies A, F, and I still incomplete, upon the occasion of the defeat and hasty retreat of Banks, down the Shenandoah Valley, orders were received for the regiment to move without delay to Washington. The following were the field officers: Dennis Heenan, Colonel; St. Clair A. Mulholland, Lieutenant Colonel; George H. Bardwell, Major.

The original members of the regiment were principally from Philadelphia, though a number of recruits were received from Schuylkill, Montgomery, and Chester counties. The regiment received camp equipage, ammunition, and arms, the smooth-bore Springfield musket for buck and ball, at Washington, on the 6th of September, and immediately reported to General Couch, at Rockville, Maryland. The necessity for more troops in the Shenandoah Valley having passed, it was by him ordered back to the defences of Washington, and was assigned to duty by the commandant, Colonel Morris, in constructing Fort McClellan.

On the 21st, the regiment reported to General Sigel, at Fairfax Court House. It was here engaged in guard duty, and was regularly drilled by General Steinwehr, of General Sigel's staff. On the 6th of October, the regiment broke camp at Fairfax, and proceeded to Harper's Ferry, where it was assigned to the Irish Brigade commanded by General Thomas Francis Meagher.

At daybreak on the morning of the 16th, Hancock's Division proceeded on a reconnaissance towards Halltown, Virginia, on the Winchester Pike. After passing Halltown, the brigade formed line of battle, the One Hundred and Sixteenth on the right. After being for a half hour under a rapid fire of artillery, the line advanced, the enemy retiring, and entered Charlestown. The division went into camp here, and remained until the close of the month, when it crossed the Shenandoah River, and marched into Loudon Valley. At Snickers Gap, on the 8th of November, the enemy's cavalry was encountered, and a heavy artillery fire was kept up for some time. The regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and exchanged shots with rebel pickets.

On the following day the enemy retired, and the division moved to Warrenton. Here General McClellan having been relieved of the command of the army, took leave of it and issued a farewell address, which was read to the troops by General Meagher. Resuming the march, the division proceeded towards Fredericksburg.

On the evening of the 17th, when arrived within three miles of Falmouth, General Sumner in command of the right wing of the army, called for the Irish Brigade to ford the Rappahannock, and capture the rebel artillery on the opposite shore. The brigade was quickly put in motion, the men cheering and indulging in the wildest expressions of delight. When arrived near the river bank, the order was countermanded by General Burnside, who deemed it inexpedient to occupy Fredericksburg before his communications were established. The regiment went into camp about a mile north of Falmouth, where, on the 27th, it was ordered to build winter quarters.

On the 10th of December, the threatening of a coming battle having been for some time thickening, orders were received to issue to each man three days' cooked rations, and sixty rounds of ammunition. On the 11th, the corps, now a part of Sumner's Grand Division, left camp, and moving opposite the lower part of the city of Fredericksburg, was massed behind the ridge of hills skirting the river bank. On the morning of the 12th, the regiment crossed the river, and was massed near the stream, where it remained during the entire day, and following night. At eight o'clock on the morning of the 13th, it was marched up to the centre of the city, coming under a heavy fire of artillery, when Meagher addressed his troops in stirring words, and distributed to them sprigs of evergreen. At noon the order came for the division to charge the enemy's works. French's Division moved first, closely followed by Hancock's.

No sooner had the Irish Brigade filed into the street running in the direction of the enemy's works, than he opened a terrible fire of artillery upon it; but undismayed, it pushed steadily forward. As it approached the canal, a shell burst near the head of the regiment, killing Sergeant Marley, and wounding Colonel Heenan, and several men. Lieutenant Colonel Mulholland immediately assumed command, and crossing the canal on the sleepers of a bridge which had been nearly destroyed by the enemy's shells, and by wading, halted his column.

Here the division was formed by brigade front, at two hundred paces interval, the brigades in the order of Zook, Meagher, and Caldwell, and the command was given to advance. As the lines went forward, the enemy opened a terrific fire upon them, which ploughed great gaps in the ranks; but closing up, they moved on towards the stone wall behind which the enemy's infantry lay. On the immediate front of the regiment was Cobb's Brigade, which poured in a merciless fire of musketry as the devoted Irishmen came within range, mowing them down by scores at every step. Still they moved on to within a few paces of the rebel line. The regiment had by this time lost nearly all its officers, and half its men. No support was to be seen. To pass the wall was to become prisoners. Unwilling to turn back, it halted, and dressing line on the little rise of ground just under the rebel works, opened fire, pouring in a steady rain of buck and ball. It had now lost Colonel Heenan and Major Bardwell, severely wounded, Lieutenant Foltz, killed, Lieutenants Nowlen, Willauer, and Montgomery, wounded, the latter mortally. Lieutenant Colonel Mulholland fell next, and in quick succession, Lieutenant Maguire, shot through the shoulder and leg, and Captains Smith and O'Neil, and Lieutenants Reilly and Miles; but still the regiment held its ground.

Sergeant William H. Tynell sat quietly on the crest of the hill, and waved the colors of the regiment to and fro, almost in the face of the enemy, until shot in five places. The ammunition now giving out, the colors were sent back to the town, and were accompanied by a few of the men; but many remained near the rebel works until after dark, when Lieutenant Francis T. Quinlan took command, and led them back, re-forming in the town.

On the morning of the 14th, the regiment was ordered to fall into line for the purpose of again charging the enemy's works, but the order for the charge was soon after countermanded. On the night of the 15th the army was withdrawn, and the regiment returned to its old camp north of Falmouth. The loss was two officers and twenty-three men killed, and ten officers and fifty-three men wounded, forty-three per cent of the entire strength.

The regiment being greatly reduced in numbers, on the 23d of January, 1863, it was consolidated, in pursuance of an order of the War Department, into a battalion of four companies, to be commanded by a Major. Companies A, D, F, and G became company A; I, and E, became B; B, and C, became C; H and K, became D. Supernumerary officers were mustered out of service. Lieutenant Colonel Mulholland, as soon as he had recovered from his wounds, returned, and assumed command with the rank of Major.

Shortly after daybreak, of the 27th of April, the battalion broke camp, and marched on the Chancellorsville campaign. It first moved to Banks' Ford, and thence to United States Ford, where it was placed on the picket line. On the following day it returned to Banks' Ford, and on the 30th again proceeded to United States Ford, halting near the Gold Mines, and at ten P. M., crossed the Rappahannock, bivouacking in a deserted rebel camp.

On the first of May, the Irish Brigade held a road. leading to the United States Ford, on which the enemy was expected to force his way. There was heavy firing close at hand during the day, but it did not reach the brigade. In the evening the brigade was moved to Scott's Mills, where it remained until the following night, when, the enemy under Jackson having attacked and routed the Eleventh Corps, on the right of the army, driving it in confusion towards the centre, the brigade was brought up to check the flying troops. During the night the engineers traced a line three-quarters of a mile nearer the river and the ford, than the original line, which was rapidly fortified, and the brigade was moved out near to Chancellorsville, to cover the withdrawal of the troops. Soon after getting into position along the road, the line stretching out towards the Chancellor House, the Fifth Maine Battery came up and took position on its left, and close to the battalion, which held the left of the brigade. With forty pieces the enemy swept the open ground around the Chancellor House, concentrating his fire upon the Fifth Maine, which was doing excellent service. Soon its commander was mortally wounded, its horses were nearly all killed or wounded, the caissons blown up, and the gunners fallen. The enemy was already within a few hundred yards, and the guns were almost within his grasp.

At this juncture the battalion was ordered to rescue them. Regardless of the deadly missiles which swept that devoted ground, they rushed forward, seized the guns, and through the mud and mire into which the ground had been trodden, dragged them off. and brought them all safely to the point where the reserve artillery was parked, The brigade now retired to the new line, where the battalion joined it. Here the enemy repeatedly attacked, but was repulsed at every point, and during the night the line was well fortified.

On the 5th, the battalion returned to its camp near Falmouth. General Hancock caused the following communication to be addressed to Major Mulholland:
"The Major General commanding the division directs me to express to you his gratification at the manner in which you performed your duty as field officer of the day, for the division, on the 4th and 5th inst., at Chancellorsville. The General was especially pleased with your action in extinguishing the fire in front of the picket line. He had ordered the fire to be put out several times, but the order was not carried out until after you were placed in command of the pickets."
With heavy guard duty and constant drilling, when the weather would permit, the battalion remained in camp until the opening of the Gettysburg campaign. Just before marching, company A was detailed as guard to division headquarters. Moving upon the left flank of the army through Virginia, and encountering the enemy at Thoroughfare Gap, the corps crossed the Potomac on the 24th of June, and by forced marches, reached a point within three miles of the battle-field, on the evening of the 1st of July, where it bivouacked.

Early on the morning of the 2nd, the corps moved upon the field, and was deployed in column of regiments, the One Hundred and Sixteenth upon the front line, and took position three-quarters of a mile to the right of Little Round Top. Firing commenced early, but all was quiet on its immediate front until three in the afternoon. The enemy then attacked the Third Corps, away to the left, which was driven, after offering a gallant resistance, and the First Division of the Second Corps was ordered in, to check the advance of the victorious foe.

Marching rapidly to the menaced point, the brigades of Kelly, (formerly Meagher,) and Cross, were deployed, the One Hundred and Sixteenth on the extreme right of the division, and advanced to the attack. After passing the wheat-field, they entered the wood where the enemy lay, and were soon hand to hand with his veteran troops, made confident and daring by their triumphs over the Third Corps. With a wild cheer the Irish Brigade dashed among them. The struggle was desperate. The enemy's line finally gave way, and many of his men were taken prisoners, the crest where he had stood being strewn with his dead and wounded. But this well earned triumph was but momentary. On the right of the division was a gap in the Union line of half a mile. Through this the rebels began to pour, and form a line in flank and rear, which made it necessary for the division to retire rapidly, but in tolerable good order. It was rallied by Colonel Brooke, a short distance to the rear, and darkness coming on, the fighting ended.

In this charge, Captain John Teed and Lieutenant George Halpin, were taken prisoners the latter severely wounded in the leg. Orderly Sergeant Francis Malin, was killed.

After dark the division marched back to the position which it had left in the morning, where it remained until the close of the battle. When the battle was over, the battalion joined in pursuit of the flying foe, and at Jones' Cross Roads, near the Potomac, came up with him, where it was employed in throwing up a strong line of works, in close proximity to St. Mary's College. At day-break on the morning of the 14th, the Union forces moved upon the enemy's entrenched line, but found it abandoned.

In the campaign that followed, which culminated in the quiet abandonment of offensive operations at Mine Run, the battalion shared the fortunes of the Second Corps, being several times engaged and under fire, but sustaining no considerable losses. After retiring across the Rapidan on the 2nd of December, it went into winter-quarters near Stevensburg, three miles from Brandy Station.

Early in the spring of 1864, authority was given to Major Mulholland to recruit six new companies for his regiment, and to fill the four companies of which it was now composed, to the maximum strength. Major Mulholland repaired immediately to Philadelphia, and established headquarters on Chestnut street, where companies E, F, and G were rapidly filled, and recruits for the companies at the front obtained. Companies H, I, and K were recruited in Pittsburg, by Richard C. Dale.

Upon the arrival of the recruits in camp, the regiment, consisting of ten companies, eight hundred strong, was reorganized with the following field officers: St. Clair A. Mulholland, Colonel; Richard C. Dale, Lieutenant Colonel; John Teed, Major.

The Spring campaign opened on the 3d of May, and at 3 P. M of the 5th the regiment went into position with the Second Corps, now commanded by General Hancock, on the Brock Road in the wilderness. A few minutes after four o'clock, Hancock attacked Hill's Corps, in what General Hancock terms in his official report, "repeated and desperate assaults." Steadily and gallantly, at very close quarters, the regiment fought, until dusk, when it was relieved by the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania.

General Hancock, in referring to this part of the fight, says:
"During the contest, the Irish Brigade, commanded by General Smith, and the Fourth Brigade, Colonel Brooke, both of Barlow's Division, attacked the enemy on his right and drove his line for some distance. The Irish Brigade was heavily engaged, and although four-fifths of its members were recruits, it behaved with great steadiness and gallantry, losing largely in killed and wounded."

At four A. M., on the 6th, the regiment moved a mile to the right, where, at four in the afternoon, the line was attacked heavily, the combined forces of Hill and Longstreet, with re-doubled energy, striving to break through and crush the left of the Union army. In every attempt they were repulsed, and at night retired to their works.

On the 8th, the regiment moved with the corps to the left, to Todd's Tavern, where breast-works were thrown up. The regiment was ordered out upon the picket line, where it drove in the enemy's pickets, advancing close up to his line of works.

On the 10th, the corps was ordered to cross the Po River. When only Barlow's Division was across, the enemy attacked with great impetuosity. The One Hundred and Sixteenth, which was on the picket line, was first struck, and suffered severely. Colonel Mulholland was wounded in the head by the fragment of a shell, but kept the field until the close of the fight. The division fell back across the river at dusk, where it was again attacked. The brigade was ordered to charge, but the regiment, impatient at the delay in forming, charged alone, and, with great enthusiasm and the wildest cheers, drove every thing before it, eliciting the warm commendation of General Smith, by its gallantry.

At midnight of the 11th, the Second Corps having moved to the left, formed in close column by division, opposite the key to the enemy's position at Spottsylvania. At early dawn it charged and carried his works, capturing an entire division, with guns and colors. The regiment maintained well its reputation for courage and gallantry, being under fire until late in the afternoon, and at night furnished heavy details for picket duty. In this engagement, Lieutenant Colonel Dale, who was in command of the regiment, was killed, and Lieutenants Robert J. Alston and Samuel G. Vanderheyden were wounded.

At daybreak on the morning of the 18th, the regiment joined in a charge upon the rebel works, but was repulsed for lack of support, losing heavily. On the 26th, it was detailed to destroy a part of the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad, and was closely employed during the entire day at this labor.

At six A. M., on the 28th, it crossed the Paumunky, and was immediately put to work throwing up breast-works. On the 30th the whole line advanced, moving to the support of the skirmish line. A picket detail of the regiment, under Lieutenant Joseph W. Yocum, charged a part of the enemy's entrenched line, and carried it.

On the following day, Colonel Mulholland, while corps officer of the day, was severely wounded upon the picket line, at the time supposed mortally. During the month that had elapsed since the opening of the campaign, the regiment had lost one officer killed, and five wounded, and twenty-eight men killed, seventy-eight wounded, and thirty-five missing; an aggregate of one hundred and forty-seven.

The regiment arrived at Cold Harbor on the 2nd of June, where it was immediately employed in throwing up works. On the following morning it moved to the front, and joined in the charge on the enemy's entrenchments, but suffered a grievous repulse, losing Captains Crawford, Cosslett, Leib, and Sacriste, and Lieutenants Forest, and Sloan, wounded. Colonel Byrnes, in command of the brigade, was killed. Never was the regiment engaged in more desperate fighting than in this battle. The enemy made several night attacks, but was in every instance signally repulsed. The entire loss was sixteen killed, forty-one wounded, and five missing.

On the 13th, the regiment crossed the Chickahominy, and on the following day the James, reaching the outer works before Petersburg, at mid-day on the 15th. At five P. M., of the 16th, brigade was ordered to charge the enemy's entrenched line. In making this charge, the regiment had to pass over an open field exposed to a terrible fire of artillery and musketry, where many fell. The enemy's first line was taken by the brigade, but its commander, Colonel Kelly, was killed, and Lieutenants Detweiler, McKnight, and Yocum, of the regiment, were wounded. The loss was eight killed, twenty-two wounded, and sixteen missing. Many guns and prisoners were taken.

On the 21st, the regiment joined in the movement to Ream's Station, where, upon its arrival, it was deployed as skirmishers, and had a warm encounter with the enemy. At noon of the following day, it moved through a dense wood nearly a mile, when it was ordered to lie down. While in this position, it suddenly received a fire from the rear, the enemy having pushed through a gap existing between the Second and Sixth corps.

In this critical situation, it exhibited the highest type of soldierly character. Though pressed upon in front, and taken in flank, it boldly held its position for some minutes, when having received word to fall back, it retired in good order, though under a galling fire. Lieutenants Charles Cosslett, Cope, and Burk were captured, and Lieutenant Yocum was badly wounded. The engagement was known as the battle of Williams' Farm.

Soon after its return to its position in front of Petersburg, the Irish Brigade was broken up, and the One Hundred and Sixteenth was assigned to the Fourth Brigade of the First Division. On the 27th of July, the regiment moved with the corps to Deep Bottom, where it participated in the battle of Strawberry Plains, and with little delay returned again to the Petersburg front.

About the middle of the following month, the corps again proceeded to Deep Bottom, and in the engagement which ensued, the regiment lost heavily, being much exposed. On the 23d the corps made a descent on the Weldon Railroad, striking it near Ream's Station, where the troops were immediately set to work destroying the track. On the 25th, the enemy attacked in great force and with desperate impetuosity. The regiment maintained its well earned reputation for courage in this fight, but lost heavily. Captain Garrett Nowlen, who was in command, was killed. Captain Samuel Taggart succeeded him, and he too fell mortally wounded about an hour afterwards.

Captain Crawford and Lieutenant Springer were taken prisoners, and at the close of the engagement, Lieutenant Eugene Brady assumed command, he being the ranking officer left for duty. The regiment had seventeen killed, ten wounded, and thirty-one missing.

Returning to Petersburg, it was for a time engaged in garrisoning forts, and during the succeeding three or four months, it was much engaged in picket duty, which was very severe, losing many in killed and wounded.

On the 27th of October, upon the occasion of the reconnaissance in force along the whole line in front of Petersburg, and while large detachments from the entire army were moving upon the Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, and Armstrong's Mill, Colonel Mulholland, who was now in command of the brigade, and who was left in the entrenchments, made an attack upon the enemy's works in his front. One hundred men of the One Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, under Captain Brown,2 volunteered as a storming party, and carried one of the enemy's forts in the most gallant manner, taking several officers, and many men prisoners. During the engagement, Captain Henry D. Price, of the One Hundred and Sixteenth, at that time Acting Assistant Adjutant General on the staff of the Colonel, was killed. The One Hundred and Sixteenth, though under a heavy fire for some time, suffered but small loss.

On the 9th of December, the division moved out to Hatcher's Run for a reconnaissance, and during the day, drove the enemy from his lines at the Run. The purpose of the movement being attained, it returned to camp on the following day. On the 5th of February, the division again moved from its quarters and proceeded to Dabney's Mills, where a severe skirmish was had, and the regiment was exposed to a heavy artillery fire, but was spared much loss by the inaccurate aim of the rebel gunners. On the following morning it was relieved and returned to camp, where it remained quietly in the works until the beginning of the eleven days' campaign, which virtually closed the war. In this the regiment actively participated, doing efficient service on every field, but suffering severe loss.

At Five Forks, on the 31st of March, Lieutenant Eugene Brady was killed, and Lieutenant Colonel Megraw, Adjutant Thomas Ewing, and eighteen men, were wounded.

After the surrender of Lee, on the 9th of April, the regiment returned to Alexandria, where, on the 3d of June, companies A, B, C, and D were mustered out of service. At Washington, on the 14th of July, the remaining companies were mustered out, and the One Hundred and Sixteenth, after three years of trying duty, well performed, ceased to exist.

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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