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PA Civil War > Regiments > 129th > History

PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

History of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Regiment

Recruited in Schuylkill, Northampton and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania

129th PARegimental History

Five companies of this regiment, A, B, E, G, and H, were recruited in Schuylkill county, four, C, D, F, and K, in Northampton, and one company, I, was recruited in Montgomery. They rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, where, on the 15th of August, 1862, a regimental organization was effected, with the following field officers: Jacob G. Frick, of Schuylkill county, Colonel; William H. Armstrong, of Northampton county, Lieutenant Colonel; Joseph Anthony, of Schuylkill county, Major. Colonel Frick had served with credit as Lieutenant in the Mexican War, and as Lieutenant Colonel of the Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Regiment, until the 29th of July, 1862. On the day following its organization, after having been hastily armed and equipped, it was hurried away to Washington, and on the 18th went into camp in the neighborhood of Alexandria. Company and regimental drill was early commenced, and by the active and intelligent efforts of its Colonel, the regiment rapidly attained a marked degree of efficiency. While the command was stationed here, two companies were detailed to re-build a bridge across Bull Run, where they remained as guard. On the 30th the remaining companies, after having been held for four days in constant readiness to march, proceeded as guard to an ammunition train to Centreville, passing on the way the corps of Fitz John Porter, in light marching order, bound for the front. The cannonading had been heavy throughout the day. Towards evening it rapidly came nearer, and at five P.M., after having safely delivered the train, the command was, for the first time, under fire, the rebel artillery throwing shells into the woods near Centreville, where it was resting. Proceeding on its return to Fairfax Seminary, it was brigaded on the 3rd of September with the Ninety-first, One Hundred and Thirty-fourth, and One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania regiments, commanded by General E. B. Tyler. Brigade, battalion, and company drills were studiously practiced, and on the 7th its camp was changed to a point near Fort Richardson.

On the morning of the 14th, the brigade started on the march through Maryland, arrived at the Monocacy on the 16th, where it was halted, and on the 17th resumed the march to the sound of heavy cannonading, arriving early on the following morning on the field at Antietam. But the enemy had by this time retired, and the command soon after went into camp, where for six weeks, with the exception of an expedition up to Shenandoah Valley with the division, the regiment remained engaged in drill and unimportant picket duty. On the 30th of October the army commenced crossing into Virginia and moving down the valley, continuing the movement, with a slight interruption at Warrenton, until it arrived opposite Fredericksburg, and Burnside's bloody, but fruitless campaign was inaugurated. Shortly after noon of the 13th of December, the division crossed the Rappahannock, and proceeding through the town to a position in full view of the field, awaited the order to enter the fight. It was not long delayed, and again advancing by a main road, the brigade halted in low, open ground, where the men were ordered to lie down. Tempted by the easy range and unprotected situation of the brigade, the enemy opened a destructive fire from his batteries, by which Lieutenant Jacob Parvin, Jr., was mortally, and a number of privates severely wounded. Moving to the left of the road, the division was shortly after formed in line of battle on the crest of the hill, the brigade in two lines, the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth on the left front. In the hopeless and fruitless charge which followed, made under a ceaseless fire of musketry and artillery from the impregnable position which the enemy held, officers and men did everything that true soldiers could do, traversing in good order the lines of the dead and wounded left in previous charges, and pressing forward in the gathering darkness until they attained position in advance of every previous charge, and from which it was impossible to go farther. In the brief space that it was in motion, the regiment lost one hundred and forty-two in killed and wounded. The caps of some were subsequently found close up to the famous stone-wall, and an officer and seven privates of company D were taken prisoners. Captains George J. Lawrence, and Jonathan K. Taylor, were mortally wounded. Captain Taylor was shot through the lungs early in the charge, but refused to leave the field, and retired with his command. Captains William Wren, Jr., Herbert Thomas, E. Godfrey Rehrer, and Levi C. Leib, and Lieutenant A. A. Lukenbach, were wounded. Lieutenant Joseph Oliver was wounded and fell into the enemy's hands. The loss in killed was sixteen. General Tyler in his official report of the battle says: "Colonel O'Brien, One Hundred and Thirty-fourth, led the right front; Colonel Frick, One Hundred and Twenty-ninth, the left; Colonel Elder, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth, held the right rear, and Colonel Gregory, Ninety-first, the left rear. These officers discharged their respective duties creditably and satisfactorily, their voices being frequently heard above the din of battle, urging on their men against the terrible shower of shot and shell, and the terrific musketry, as we approached the stone wall. Of their conduct I cannot speak too highly. Lieutenant Colonel Rowe, Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong, Major Anthony, and Major Thompson, are entitled to great credit, for their efforts and officer-like conduct during the engagement. ***Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong had a horse shot under him. Adjutant Green exhibited great coolness in the discharge of his duty. It may not be improper for me to say that Captain Thomas, Acting Inspector General on the staff of the division commander, having his horse shot, thus prevented from serving him, joined his company in the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth, and was severely wounded while leading his men in the charge."

After dark the regiment was again marched upon the field for guard duty, but was withdrawn towards midnight. On the 14th and 15th, it remained in the town, losing one man by the shot of a sharp-shooter, and on the morning of the 16th, after having spent the night in throwing up a breast-work on the right of the town, re-crossed the river and retired again to camp. The knapsacks which had been thrown aside before going into battle, had been carefully guarded, but were not recovered. During the cold rainy days preceding the 23rd of December, when extra clothing and blankets were furnished to supply the place of those lost, the men suffered greatly from exposure, one dying, and many being thrown into hospitals. Drill and picket duty, which was at times severe, the Mud March from the 20th to the 24th of January, 1863, and occasional reviews, filled up the measure of its duty until the opening of Hooker's first campaign.

The regiment marched with the corps on the Chacellorsville campaign, thought the time of many of the men had already expired, and took part in the fighting of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of May. In the principal contest on the morning of the 3rd, it was closely engaged in its place in the division line of battle in the wood in front of the Union batteries. After nearly two hours of sharp musketry firing, the ammunition became exhausted, and the right flank of the division was turned. The command was given to face by the rear rank and retire, in order that the batteries might have full play upon the rebel columns coming in upon the flank. It was executed in as orderly a manner as the thickly wooded ground would permit, but the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth, bringing up the rear, had not left the wood before the enemy closed upon it, and some spirited hand-to-hand encounters occurred. The colors were twice seized, but were defended with great gallantry, and brought safely off. Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong fell into the enemy's hands, but made his escape in the confusion caused in his ranks by the fire of the Union batteries. Major Anthony was shot through the lungs, but was assisted off the field, and still survives what was then considered a mortal wound. "The One Hundred and Twenty-ninth," says General Tyler in his official report, "was on our left, and no man ever saw cooler work on field drill than was done by this regiment. Their firing was grand, by rank, by company, and by wing, in perfect order." The loss was five killed, thirty-two wounded, and five missing. On the 6th, the regiment re-crossed the Rappahannock and returned to its camp near Falmouth. On the 12th, its term of service having fully expired, it returned to Harrisburg, where on the 18th of May it was mustered out. The return of companies to Easton and Pottsville was marked by flattering and enthusiastic demonstrations on the part of the citizens.

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.

129th Regiment

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