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PA Civil War > Regiments > 142nd > History

PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers

One Hundred and Forty-second Regimental History

142nd PA Regimental History

The troops comprising this regiment, rendezvoused at Camp Curtin during the mouth of August, 1862, where they were mustered into service as they arrived, and on the 1st of September effected a regimental organization, by the choice of the following field officers: Robert P. Cummins, of Somerset county, Colonel; Alfred B. McCalmont, of Venango county, Lieutenant Colonel; John Bradley, of Luzerne county, Major. Companies C, D, and F, were from Somerset county, company A, from Mercer, B, from Westmoreland, E, from Union, G, from Monroe, H, from Fayette, I from Venango, and K, from Luzerne. On the day following its organization, it was ordered to Washington, and upon its arrival, was employed upon the construction of Fort Massachusetts, afterwards Fort Stevens, and in digging rifle-pits and cutting down the forest in its front. After completing this work, upon which it was engaged until past the middle of the mouth, it moved to Frederick, Maryland, where it was engaged in guarding the town, erecting hospital tents, and in caring for the wounded, from the bloody fields of South Mountain and Antietam.

Early in October, the regiment was ordered to report to General Meade, in command of the Pennsylvania Reserves, which then formed the Third Di vision of the First Corps, and was by him assigned to the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Albert L. Magilton, in which it was associated with the Third, Fourth, Seventh, and Eighth regiments. Colonel Magilton was an experienced officer, and was assiduous in his attention to the drill and discipline of the regiment.

With the division it moved to Warrenton, where a change occurred in the commanding general of the army, and in conformity with the new plan of campaign, marched to Brooks' Station, on the Acquia Creek Railroad. On the 9th of December, the division joined in the general movement of the army, to cross the Rappahannock and offer battle. The Reserves formed part of Franklin's Grand Division, and at noon of the 12th, crossed on the pontoon bridge which had been previously laid, taking up a position for the night along the river bank. Early on the following morning, and while the fog hung heavy over all the valley, the division crossed the ravine, which cuts the plain nearly parallel with the river, and was formed in battle line. Colonel Cummins had been in hospital at Washington, hut learning that a battle was imminent, though not yet recovered from a severe sickness, proceeded to the front, and arrived upon the field just as the Lieutenant Colonel was addressing to the men a few words of advice and encouragement, before going into battle, and expressing his regret at the absence of their leader. The regiment was at first formed in rear of the division, but was soon afterwards deployed on the left of it, in support of a battery. As the mist cleared away, the action opened with artillery along the whole line. Away to the left, the enemy had several batteries most advantageously posted, which completely enfiladed the Union lines, to which could be offered but feeble resistance. General Reynolds, who commanded the corps, and who was near Colonel Cummins, remarked to him that his regiment was too much exposed. At that instant one of the enemy's caissons on the heights exploded, and a charge of the whole line was immediately ordered. With a shout the regiment went forward, until three companies forming its left had crossed the railroad, when it was met by a terrific and most galling fire from the enemy's rifle-pits, at the edge of the woods in front. The space between was clear, and the first line of the Union column, which here consisted of but a few skirmishers, was driven back, when the regiment opened a rapid fire. The brigade commander, supposing he had a line in front, sent orders to cease firing. This was a moment of great peril. Exposed to a destructive fire, from which the rest of the brigade was shielded, it could only await destruction, without the privilege of returning it, and with no prospect of gaining an advantage; but with a nerve which veterans might envy, it heroically maintained its position until ordered to retire. Out of five hundred and fifty men who stood in well ordered ranks in the morning, two hundred and fifty, in one brief hour, were stricken down. Colonel Cummins had his horse shot under him, and Major Bradley was terribly mangled, receiving a mortal hurt.

After this disastrous charge, the division fell back to the position west of the ravine, which it had occupied on the previous day, where it remained, until, with the army, it re-crossed the river on the night of the 15th, and two days thereafter, went into winter-quarters near Belle Plain Landing. With the exception of the Mud March, in January, 1863, in the hardships of which, with the entire army, it participated, it was undisturbed, and few changes occurred until the middle of February, when General Hooker took command of the army, and a complete reorganization was made. The Reserves, having suffered greatly by incessant activity, and by battle, were withdrawn to the defenses of Washington, and fresh troops were substituted. By these changes, the One Hundred and Forty-second became associated with the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth, One Hundred and Fifty-first, and the One Hundred and Twenty-first Pennsylvania regiments, which constituted the First Brigade of the Third Division. it was temporarily commanded by Colonel Porter, of the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth, but eventually by General Thomas A. Rowley.

Towards the close of April, after months of severe weather, the spring campaign opened. On the 27th the regiment moved from camp, and proceeded with the corps to a point on the Rappahannock opposite Franklin's lower bridge, near the mouth of the little stream which turns Pollock's Mill. This movement was made for a diversion in favor of Hooker, who, with three corps of his army, had moved above, and crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan, had advanced to Chancellorsville, though the corps was kept under orders to cross and attack the enemy, and was held near the river bank, under a heavy, artillery fire from the enemy on the opposing heights. On the morning of the 2nd of May, under orders from Hooker, the corps withdrew, and marched to join the main army. The enemy plied his guns with renewed, zeal as he saw the columns put in motion, and Colonel Cummins had his horse shot under him while at the head of his regiment, and while in the act of giving the order to march. All day long the march was continued, and at night, just as the troops were preparing to bivouac, having crossed the river at United States Ford, orders came for the corps to move immediately to the front, a great disaster having befallen the army that evening, in the rout of the Eleventh Corps. Foot-sore and weary, the men sprang to arms, and were led on through the dense underbrush of the wilderness- heavy booming of cannon, and the faint rattle of small arms, telling that time deadly struggle was still raging-to a position on the right of the line. Heavy breast-works were thrown up, and every preparation was made to hold the ground. But the heavy fighting did not reach that part of the line, and three days thereafter, with the rest of the army, the corps re-crossed the river and returned to its old camping ground.

Here it remained until the march commenced which ended at Gettysburg. Soon after time assignment of General Meade to the command of the army, General Reynolds was directed to take command of the right wing, composed of the First and Eleventh, corps, General Doubleday succeeding to the command of time First Corps, General Rowley to that of the Third Division, and Colonel Biddle, of the One Hundred and Twenty-first, of the First Brigade. Upon the arrival of the brigade upon the field, it was formed in line in the open ground, to the left of the wood where General Reynolds fell, and soon became the target of time enemy's batteries in front and right flank. Its position was frequently shifted to avoid the fire, but it stubbornly held its ground. Finally, just previous to the general advance of the enemy along the whole front, from beyond the Millersburg Road on his right, to time Alms House on his left, a part of the brigade was ordered to the support of General Stone's Brigade, which had been hard pressed by infantry. But at that moment the enemy was descried advancing in double lines, from a wood three- quarters of a mile to the left and front of the ground where the brigade was posted, and it was immediately wheeled into position to meet it, the One Hundred and Forty-second holding the right of the line, until joined, a few minutes later, by the One Hundred and Fifty-first, which was moved up by order of General Rowley, to fill a gap existing between this and the Iron Brigade, further to the right. For some time the brigade maintained its position against a vastly superior force. The enemy not only poured in a rapid fire in front, but moved a body of his troops along the road to the left, and completely flanked the position. With ranks terribly thinned, the brigade could hold its ground no longer, and the left of the line began to crumble. The One Hundred and Forty-second fell back slowly. The One Hundred and Fifty-first, on its right, held its ground a few minutes longer. Colonel Biddle, seizing a stand of colors, gallantly rode forward, and the line instinctively about wheeled and followed him. The horse of Colonel Biddle was shot. Colonel Cummins fell mortally wounded. His horse had been killed a few minutes previously; Near him fell the Acting Adjutant, Lieutenant. Tucker. The regiment again fell back slowly towards the Seminary. Here it joined a mass of men from various brigades and divisions, in some confusion, who were holding and continued to hold the position until the batteries had been withdrawn, and until. the enemy, moving along the road south of the Seminary;. had completely flanked the position.. As the troops retired through the town; they were subjected to a severe fire from a flanking column, which was sheltered by fences and buildings.

On reaching the Cemetery, whither it had been ordered, the remnant of the regiment was collected, and less than a hundred were in rank. About forty, who had become separated from the rest in the retreat, re-joined them before morning. The appearance of General Sickles, riding into this enclosure where the men were resting, with his staff and corps ensign, was hailed with cheers, as the first assurance that the remainder of the army was not far off. In reply to a question, the General said pleasantly that his boys were there, and were anxious for a fight. In the action of the 2nd, the regiment was not involved but was held in reserve just back of the Cemetery, on the Taneytown Road. On the morning of the 3d, together with the One Hundred and Twenty-first, it was moved to the left, half a mile, and posted on the right of Stone's Brigade, mid-way between the Cemetery and Round Top. In the terrible artillery duel, which opened at a little after noon, it was exposed, in open ground, to the full effect of the deadly missiles. Almost the entire field was in full view from the position it occupied. The rebel fire was unusually accurate. Caisson after caisson on the Union side was exploded, and guns were disabled. But new caissons were speedily brought up, and fresh batteries were hurried forward to take the places of those lost, preserving an unbroken front. The grand charge of the infantry which followed, struck with its main force to thins right of the line where the regiment stood, and it consequently suffered little loss, and easily held its position. Captain Charles H. Flagg, serving on the staff of General Rowley, was killed, near the close of the day, one of the last officers of' the Union army who laid down his life on the Gettysburg field. The loss to the regiment in the entire battle, was fifteen killed, one hundred and twenty-six wounded, and eighty-four missing and prisoners; an aggregate of two hundred and twenty-five. Colonel Cummins, Captain Flagg, and Lieutenants Andrew Gregg Tucker, and Edward Hurst, were of the killed, and Captains Adam Grimm, Charles R. Evans, William Hasson, and J, M. Dushane, and Lieutenants Frank M. Powell, J. Robert Walter, Samuel S. Swank, Cyrus P. Heffley, Charles E. Huston, and Jeremiah Hoffman, and William L, Wilson, Acting Adjutant General of the brigade, were of the wounded.

After the battle, the two armies moved southward, and by the close of July, were facing each other on the opposite banks of the Rappahannock. Here, nearly two months of fine summer weather were spent in comparative inactivity. Two months more of maneuvering and hard marching followed, ending in the abandonment of the campaign at Mine Run, without fighting a general battle, and in the retirement of the army to winter-quarters around Cullpepper. About Christmas, the One Hundred and Forty-second, and the One Hundred and Twenty-first were consolidated with Stone's Brigade, composed of the One Hundred and Forty third, One Hundred and Forty-ninth, and One Hundred and Fiftieth, which subsequently, upon the breaking up of the First Corps, became part of the Fifth Corps. Early in April, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel McCalmont was detailed on special duty, and in September following, was commissioned Colonel of the Two Hundred and Eighth, when he resigned his commission in this regiment. Major Horatio N. Warren, who had succeeded Major Bradley, from this time forward had command, and in September following was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and finally to Colonel.

On the morning of the 4th of May, the regiment moved from camp on the Wilderness Campaign. At noon of the 5th, while making its way toilsomely through the mazes of the Wilderness, it came suddenly upon the enemy, lying in wait, and a fierce struggle commenced. The nature of the ground precluded the use of artillery, and the two opposing lines came to close quarters.

The losses in the regiment were heavy, but the ground was successfully held until near the close of the day, when it was forced to retire. Lieutenant George H. Collins was among the killed, in this fierce encounter. 0n the morning of the 6th, the brigade having been transferred temporarily to the Second Corps, it advanced with it to a most sanguinary conflict, wherein the enemy was driven, and in turn drove the Union forces. Finally, the enemy made a determined onslaught upon a portion of the works along the Gordonsville Road, and succeeded in planting his colors upon them. The brigade was at that time in reserve, but seeing the peril to which the line was exposed by this sudden break, the order to advance to the rescue was given. Instantly responding, this gallant brigade dashed forward, and soon recovered the captured works, sending the enemy flying in confusion. On the 7th, the regiment was led with the brigade to the rear, where it rested until evening, when it marched, and arrived on the following morning on the enemy's front, at Laurel Hill, relieving a portion of the Fifth Corps. Breast-works were thrown up, and with varying success, but without material advantage, the ground was held until the 13th, when the command moved on to a position in front of Spottsylvania Court House, where it remained for a week, throwing up breast-works in the meantime, and being subjected to a heavy artillery fire. On the 21st it again moved on, and at North Anna, Bethesda Church, and Tolopotomy Creek, was at the fore front and by its gallantry, won from General Cutler a most flattering recognition.

On the 6th of June the brigade arrived at Cold Harbor, where it was transferred to the First Division, General Chamberlain commanding. At the swamps of time Chickahominy it was again set to digging, and here the brigade remained nearly a week, at the end of which the march was again taken up, and on the 14th arrived at the James River, crossing on the 16th. Advancing towards Petersburg, the old enemy was found in position, and on the 18th the division charged, driving in his skirmishers, and suffering severely in front of his main works, but holding the ground and fortifying it.

On the 21st the division again advanced, under a heavy fire, and took position close up to the enemy's works, which was also fortified, and here the brigade remained until the middle of August, in the meantime being employed upon the construction of Fort Hell, one of the strongest and most exposed on the Union line. On the 18th the regiment joined in the raid upon the Weldon Railroad, and by its energy and enterprise soon gained a reputation unexcelled for ability in making destruction complete. It afterwards took up a position with the brigade, where it was attacked, and severe fighting ensued, in which the enemy was routed, after a most sanguinary contest. It was engaged in fortifying and erecting works on this ground, until the 30th of September, when it marched to Peeble's farm, where the brigade was posted upon an eminence, which it proceeded to fortify; but where, in consequence of the enemy flanking the position, it was roughly handled, and from which it was finally driven. Early in December, the Fifth Corps made a second raid upon the Weldon Railroad, completely destroying it for a distance of twenty miles, and burning station houses and stores by the way. In this the regiment participated, and upon its return went into winter-quarters. With the exception of a sharp action on the 6th of February, 1865, at Dabney's Mills, in which the regiment suffered considerable loss, it remained in quarters until the opening of the spring campaign. On the 30th of March it moved from camp, and pushing along the Quaker Road, crossed the Boydton Plank Road, driving the enemy back into his main line of works. On the 1st of April, at Five Forks, the fifth Corps again came upon the enemy, and severe fighting ensued, in which the regiment suffered heavily, Colonel Warren and Major Elder being severely wounded. The enemy was routed, and many prisoners and guns graced the train of the victors. The whole rebel army was soon in full retreat, and after eight days of rapid marching, and desperate fighting, failing to escape the clutches of the Union forces, General Lee surrendered. After the surrender, the brigade was placed in charge of rebel property, which it escorted to Burkesville Station. After a halt of two weeks here, it proceeded to Petersburg, and thence through Richmond to the neighborhood of Washington, where, on the 29th of May, it was mustered out of service. Civil War Databases

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