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PA Civil War > Regiments > 128th > History

PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Regiment

Recruited in Berks County, Pennsylvania

129th PA Regimental History

The One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Regiment was recruited in response to the proclamation of the Governor, of July 21st, 1862, calling for troops to serve for nine months. Companies A, B, E, H, I, and K, were recruited in Berks county, D, and G, in Lehigh, and C, and F, in Bucks. They rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, and were mustered into the United States service from the 13th to the 15th of August. A meeting of the line officers was held, at which W. W. Harmersly, of Lehigh county, was chosen Lieutenant Colonel, and Joel B. Wanner, of Berks county, Major, and were subsequently commissioned by the Governor. No choice of Colonel was made, the sentiment strongly prevailing that a person of military experience should be selected for that position. On the 16th, the regiment was ordered to Washington, and as no field officers had yet been commissioned, it moved under command of Captain William H. Andrews, of company E. Soon after its arrival at the Capital, it crossed the Potomac, and encamped for a week on Arlington Heights. On the 21st it moved to Fairfax Seminary, and on the 29th to Fort Woodbury, where, for a week, during which the fierce fighting at Bull Hun and Chantilly occurred, it was incessantly engaged in felling timber, and erecting fortifications. In the meantime, Captain Samuel Croasdale, of Bucks County, had been appointed Colonel, and the staff selected.

On the 6th of September, the regiment in light marching order, re-crossed the Potomac, and entered on the Maryland campaign. At Frederick City, where it arrived on the 14th, it was assigned to Crawford's Brigade, of Williams' Division, Mansfield's (formerly Banks') Corps, composed of the Twenty-eighth New York, Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Tenth Maine, Fifth Connecticut, and One Hundred and Twenty-fourth, and One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania regiments. Moving rapidly forward, the command arrived at evening in front of South Mountain, where it was held in position during the night in expectation of a renewal of the battle, which had been fiercely raging during the day, on the following morning. But the enemy retired, and late on the evening of the 16th, it arrived at Antietam Creek, the troops across the stream under Hooker having already opened the battle. At eleven o'clock on the same evening, it was led across to their support, and at two on the morning of the 17th, bivouacked in a ploughed field, in immediate proximity to the hostile lines. At early dawn the battle opened and the brigade was immediately advanced in close column of company. At half-past six A.M., the regiment was ordered into the fight, and made a most gallant charge through the wood and into the memorable cornfield, where the enemy lay concealed. Unfortunately the charge was made by the flank, and before the regiment could lie formed in line, the fire of the enemy had become very hot. While in the act of giving his orders, and bringing his command into position, Colonel Croasdale was instantly killed, and soon afterward Lieutenant Colonel Hamersly was severely wounded, and borne from, the field. Fresh from civil life, hardly a month in service, with two of their commanding officers stricken down before their eyes and comrades falling on every hand, the men fell into some confusion. This was, however, soon corrected, and the command held the ground where the struggle had been most desperate, and where the regiment lost some of the, bravest and, the best. It was finally relieved by order of General Williams, in command of the division, and rested on the field until nightfall. The loss was beyond measure severe, being thirty-four killed, and eighty-five wounded, of whom six subsequently died of their wounds. In addition to the Colonel, Captain William H. Andrews, under whose, command the regiment was originally led to the field, and who had exhibited, .thc most determined courage in the fight, was among the killed.

After the battle, the regiment was alternately encamped at Sandy Hook and on Maryland Heights, at the latter place being employed in constructing fortifications. Clothing, which had been much needed, was finally obtained, and a school for the instruction of officers of the new regiments, presided over by Major Mathews, of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, was established. In the, meantime, Major Wanner resigned, and resumed the duties of his office as Mayor of the city of Reading, which position he had left to recruit this regiment. Lieutenant, Colonel Hamersly, whose arm had been terribly torn, and mutilated, being unable to resume command, the line officers united in a petition to the, Governor for the appointment, of Major Mathews to its, command. He was accordingly commissioned Colonel, and subsequently Captain Cephas W. Dyer, Major. Upon assuming command, Colonel Mathews, who was a strict disciplinarian, made a sensible address, in which he gave some most excellent advice and admonition, complimented it for its bravery at Antietam, and concluded in a patriotic strain of devotion to the country. Squad, company, and battalion drill, for which it had had, little opportunity before was now studiously prosecuted, and it soon attained a high degree of proficiency. On the 10th, of December, the Twelfth Corps, which had been left, to hold the upper Potomac, when the rest of the army advanced to Warrenton, was ordered to move rapidly to Fredericksburg Burnside being on the point of attacking the enemy at that point. On the 16th the regiment arrived at the Neabsco River, where it was halted, and on the following day turned back to Fairfax Station, the struggle at, Fredericksburg being over. With the exception of toilsome marching on the 28th, after Stuart's Cavalry, it remained in camp until the 19th of January 1863, when it proceeded to Stafford Court House, upon the occasion of Burnside's second abortive campaign. It was here placed in winter-quarters, and was employed in guard and picket duty until the opening of; the spring campaign under Hooker. While here, Lieutenant Colonel Hamersley, being permanently disabled by the wounds received at Antietam, resigned, and Captain L. Heber Smith was commissioned to succeed him.

On the 1st of May, the corps having reached Chancellorsville, the brigade was ordered to entrench on the Plank Road leading through the Wilderness. Later in the day the regiment was moved out to the United States Ford, to open the way over the Rappahannock, but returned again at evening to the entrenchments. During the night it was ordered out upon the front, where it remained until morning, and during the day participated in the fighting upon the left centre. At evening, the enemy succeeded in breaking the right wing of the army, and coming in upon the flank, occupied the Union works. The night was very dark, and in retiring to its original line, the regiment suddenly found itself in the clutches of the foe. Colonel Mathews, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, Captains William B. McNall, George Newkirk, Richard H. Jones, Frederick M. Yeager, and Peter C. Huber, Lieutenants John Obold, and James H. Anthony, and two hundred and twenty-five non-commissioned officers and men were taken prisoners and marched to Richmond. The balance of the regiment, under command of Captain Kennedy, succeeded in reaching its position in the line, which it held with the utmost tenacity, losing Captain Richards, and a number of men wounded, the battle raging on this part of the field with great violence. The brigade having suffered severely during the preceding two days, was, on the afternoon of the 3d, ordered to the rear as guard to prisoners, and crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford; but in a few hours was ordered to return, and was again summoned to the front. At the close of the battle, the regiment, now reduced to one hundred and seventy-two men, returned to Stafford Court House. On the 12th of May, the term of service having expired, it was relieved from duty and proceeded to Harrisburg, where, on the 10th, it was mustered out. Colone1 Mathews and the officers and men who were taken prisoners, were held but a short time in captivity, returning in time to be mustered out with the rest of the command. Upon its return to Reading, it was honorably received by the authorities and citizens, and was there finally disbanded.

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.

128th Regiment

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