On the 1st of August, 1861, Frederick S. Stumbaugh, a citizen of Chambersburg, received authority from the War Department to recruit a regiment, to be composed of eight companies of infantry, and one of artillery. A camp of rendezvous was established at Chambersburg, and subsequently at Camp Wilkins, near Pittsburg. The men were principally recruited in the counties of Franklin, Cumberland, Allegheny, Lancaster, Huntingdon, Blair, Fulton, and Luzerne. Company G, raised at Scranton, was composed of Welchmen, or of Welch descent, noted for their stern bravery, as were the men generally of this regiment, well proved on many a hard fought field.
A body of men known as company H, though never fully organized on account of lack of numbers, continued with the regiment some time, marched hundreds of miles, and was actually engaged in one battle, but was never paid, and was finally disbanded.
The company of artillery was recruited at Erie, under Captain Muehler, which received some accessions from a company recruited at Chambersburg, under Captain Housum. It remained with the regiment until the beginning of the year 1862, when it was detached, and never afterwards rejoined it.
In October, 1861, a regimental organization was effected by the choice of the following officers: Frederick S. Stumbaugh, Colonel, Peter B. Housum, of Franklin county, Lieutenant Colonel, Stephen N. Bradford, of Luzerne County, Major.
While at Camp Wilkins, company and regimental drill was studiously prosecuted, and the command was assigned to a brigade composed of the Seventy-seventh, Seventy-eighth, and Seventy-nine Pennsylvania Regiments, under command of Brigadier General James S. Negley.
On the 18th of October the regiment moved by transport to Louisville, and thence marched south on the line of the Louisville Railroad to the north bank of the Nolin River, where it was encamped for a month, and subsequently at Camp Negley, a mile south of the stream. Here the regiment was detached from Negley's Brigade, and assigned to Wood's,1 when it moved to the camp of the latter, five miles east. Proceeding leisurely forward, and spending considerable time in camps by the way, the regiment arrived at Nashville, on the 2nd of March, 1862, the capture of Forts Henry and Donaldson, two weeks earlier, by General Grant, having opened the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, and prepared the way for its occupation.
Soon after his victories of the 16th of February, General Grant, crossing over to the Cumberland River, moved up with his command, first encountering opposition at Pittsburg Landing. At the same time General Buell commenced a co-operative movement south, along the line of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, but was much delayed in building bridges and repairing the road. Before Grant had his army concentrated, General Albert Sidney Johnson, in chief command of the rebel army, at Corinth, Mississippi, twenty miles away, having gathered all together, moved stealthily up, and attacked the Union forces, reposing unsuspicious of danger, on the morning of Sunday, April 6th.
The advance division of General Buell's column had reached Savannah, eight miles from the Landing, on the evening of the 5th. The dull sound of musketry, and the heavy booming of cannon heard on the following morning, told to the quick apprehension of the soldiers that the battle had begun. Sending messengers in hot haste to his other divisions, moving toilsomely forward, to hasten on, Buell pushed forward with the head of his column, Nelson's Division, up to the point opposite the Landing, where he was to cross, but did not reach the field until near evening, and until the fighting of the day was nearly over. Of the five divisions which Grant had upon the field three had been routed, and two forced back; but massing his artillery he had succeeded in checking the enemy's fierce onset, when Nelson went into position, and helped to preserve a firm front.
During the night other of Buell's forces began to arrive. Crittenden came first, followed by McCook. The rest of his forces were too far away to be of any avail, though two brigades of Wood's Division arrived as the battle was closing. The Seventy-seventh was far back when the battle began, but throwing aside every incumbrance, and taking a full supply of ammunition, it moved upon the first intimation of need, and after a forced march of twenty miles arrived at Savannah at midnight. Standing in the pelting rain, awaiting transportation, until four on the morning of the 7th, it embarked on the Crescent City, and at seven steamed off. At eight it reached the Landing and debarked, and making its way, with difficulty, up the steep and slippery banks, moved to the scene of action. During the early part of the day it was held in reserve, though exposed to a severe fire. In the progress of the fight the enemy's cavalry charged upon it, but was handsomely repulsed. It was finally moved to the right, and formed on the left of Bousseauts Brigade. Here the enemy's sharp-shooters, concealed behind trees, were very troublesome, picking off officers with unerring aim.
Two companies, A and B, were deployed as skirmishers, and advanced, clearing the woods and securing immunity from peril. In the final charge the regiment was in the front, and took many prisoners, among them Colonel Battles, of the Twentieth Tennessee. At three P. M. the battle was over, the enemy retiring. The loss was three killed, and seven wounded. It was the only Pennsylvania regiment in this battle.
For eight days the regiment remained on the field, during which time it rained almost incessantly. On the 14th, the tents having been brought up, it moved on several miles, to escape the horrid stench of that bloody field. While here much sickness prevailed, which resulted in fatal fevers. Lieutenant Colonel Housum fell a victim to its blighting influence, and was obliged to retire from the field, leaving Major Bradford in command, Colonel Stumbaugh, since the battle in which Colonel Kirk was wounded, having been in command of the brigade. It was not until the beginning of May that the army moved in pursuit of the enemy, and another month expired before the Seventy-seventh reached the works about Corinth. On the 28th of May there was considerable skirmishing on its front, and it was engaged in throwing up breast-works.
Early on the morning of Friday, the 30th, a heavy explosion was heard in the direction of the town, and upon advancing it was found that his fortifications were deserted. General Vope, who had joined Grant, was sent in pursuit of the retreating rebels, and Buell commenced the march back into Tennessee. McCook's Division kept upon the right flank, proceeding along the line of the Memphis and Tennessee Railway, and passing through luka, Florence, Athens, Bridgeport, to the Cumberland Mountains, and thence north to Nashville, reaching the city early in September.
General Bragg, who now held command of the rebel army opposed to Buell, having collected a formidable force, had entered Tennessee, and was making for Kentucky, Louisville, seemingly his objective point. To prevent its occupation Buell, leaving only a small force for the defence of Nashville, hastened with the main body to its protection. By the 26th of September the regiment had reached the neighborhood of the city, Bragg having been beaten in the race. Resting but four days it about faced, and moved with the army in search of the enemy, Buell having resolved to offer battle. The division moved upon the extreme left of the column, in the direction of Frankfort, and first encountered the enemy's pickets at Fern Creek, and again at Claysville, where a spirited skirmish occurred.
On the 8th of October, the day on which the battle of Perryville was fought by the main body of the army, the division, having advanced a few miles beyond Frankfort, returned, it having been ascertained that Kirby Smith, with a heavy rebel force, was in front, and manoeuvring to cut it off from the main column. Re-crossing the river it moved on the Danviile Road, and at Lawrenceburg encountered the rebel vanguard. Skirmishing ensued at intervals, but by a forced march it succeeded in eluding pursuit and in defeating his purposes.
Moing back to the neighborhood of Nashville the regiment rested until the opening of the winter campaign. In the meantime Buell was superseded by Rosecrans, and Colonel Stumbaugh having resigned, the command of the regiment devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Housum. During the latter part of November the brigade was several times sent out on reconnoitring expeditions, in which the enemy was met, and on the 27th had a hot skirmish near Lavergne.
On the 26th of December the regiment broke camp, and joined in the grand mnovement of the army in the direction of Murfreesboro. On the following day skirmishing commenced, and the enemy was driven; until the 30th, when he was found in force covering the town, his left resting on the right bank of Stone River. McCook's Corps immediately went into position in his front, Johnson's Division on the extreme right, the Seventy-seventh on the left, and joining the right of Davis' Division, which stood next. The position of the regiment was upon the edge of a cedar brake, with a cornfield in front, the skirmish line of the enemy resting on the opposite side. In this position it remained nearly twenty-four hours with little firing, though the enemy was in close proximity.
During the night the movement of his forces, just in rear of his front line could be distinctly heard. This intelligence was communicated to Colonel Housum by the officer in command of the skirmishers of the Seventy-seventh, and Captain Robinson met General McCook about midnight, and informed him that he was sure that the enemy was massing his troops for an attack. The Colonel accordingly ordered his men to stand to arms, and there was no more sleep during that night. The other regiments of the division, unwarned or unsuspicious of danger, were still resting with arms stacked, when at daylight Hardee's Corps broke like a whirlwind upon Johnson's Division. The Seventy-seventh was ready for the onset, and poured in a destructive fire. Not so the troops upon the right, who were doubled up, and broken like a leaf in the hand of the destroyer. The battery horses were unhitched, and a part of them were, at that moment, being led away to watering.
The Brigade Battery, Edgarton's, was captured, and turned upon the Union forces. The right of the division had been driven and dispersed, and now a heavy column of the enemy made a determined attack upon the right of Davis' Division, which also gave way. Heavily pressed in front, with both flanks exposed, the Seventy-seventh was forced to retire a short distance, but re-formed on the right of Davis, on a line at right angles to the original position, facing to the west, to meet the fresh onset of the enemy on the right flank. Five hundred yards away was a rebel battery, and a short distance from it were Edgarton's guns. Colonel Housum determined to re-capture them, and ordering a charge, led his regiment on with unfaltering bravery, swept the enemy before him, and recovered the lost pieces. Not satisfied with his success, he pushed on towards the rebel guns; but here he was met by a powerful body of the enemy's supports, and was hurled back, losing all he had gained. In this last desperate encounter Colonel Housum was killed. His last words, addressed to his Adjutant, were
"Davis, I am wounded. Stay by the brave boys of the Seventy-seventh."
Again re-forming on the right of Davis' Division, under command of Captain Thomas E. Rose, the regiment continued the fight until overborne by weight of numbers, this division, also, was forced back, and took up a position on the right of the Nashville Turnpike, and just in rear of the rising ground whereon was massed the artillery which finally checked the rebel onset, and which has since been selected as the last resting place of the men who fell on that ever memorable field. During the night, and the following day until noon, it remained at the front, and was frequently engaged. It then moved back, and was posted in the position which it occupied on the previous day, where the brigade was gathered under command of Colonel J. B. Dodge, of the Thirtieth Indiana.
The fighting on the 2nd of January, the third day of the battle, on the left and centre was very severe; but the enemy, broken and dispirited, was forced to yield, and during the night hastily withdrew from the field. At Murfreesboro, on the 20th of March following, when General Rosecrans was reviewing the army, preparatory to his second grand advance against Bragg, as he came to the Seventy-seventh, in passing along the line, he halted in its front and said,
"Colonel, I see that your regiment is all right. Give my compliments to the boys, and tell them that I say 'It was the banner regiment at Stone River.' They never broke their ranks."
After the battle, and until the middle of February, the regiment was engaged in guard, scout, and foraging duty. It then went into camp at Murfreesboro, and was employed, until the opening of the summer campaign, in erecting fortifications. In the meantime Captain Rose was commissioned Colonel, Captain Frederick S. Pyfer, Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Alexander Phillips, Major, Major Bradford having resigned.
On the 24th of June the regiment broke camp, and moving by the Shelbyville Pike, the whole army being in motion, encountered Cleburne's Division of the rebel army at Liberty Gap. Colonel Miller, of the Twenty-ninth Indiana, in command, formed the brigade on the right of Willick's, which was in advance, and was first engaged. The enemy occupied a high hill, abrupt of ascent. The Seventy-seventh, in conjunction with the Twenty-ninth Indiana, charged and carried the heights, routing the enemy, and driving him to the next range, a mile distant.
During the ensuing night the enemy was reinforced, but on the following morning the Union line moved forward to attack. The Seventy-seventh was obliged to move over a level ploughed field, now trodden into deep mud. In passing this it was exposed to a hot fire, from which many fell, among them Colonel Miller, Colonel Rose succeeding him in command of the brigade. For nearly two hours the battle raged with unabated fury, when the enemy was again routed, and put to flight. The regiment lost one-third of its effective strength, Lieutenant William H. Thomas being among the killed, and Captain Kreps among the badly wounded.
Soon afterwards the rebel leader commenced his retreat towards Chattanooga,, and Rosecrans followed in pursuit, intent on again bringing him to bay.
On the 30th of August the regiment reached Stevenson, and on the following day crossed the Tennessee River. Passing over Sand and Lookout Mountains, the brigade moved down to near Rome, Georgia; but soon after returned, and ascending Lookout, passed along upon its summit, remaining some time near the falls of Little River, and on the 17th of September descended into Milemore's Cove, where it went into line in the enemy's front.
On the 19th, changing rapidly several miles to the left, where the fighting was very heavy, it was ordered into position, and charged, driving the enemy nearly two miles. The Seventy-seventh was on the extreme right of the division, and had attained a position considerably in advance of the troops on its right. But as the enemy seemed thoroughly beaten, no immediate evil resulted. General Willick, however, immediately ordered Colonel Rose to send out a detachment to the right to ascertain how wide was the gap between his troops and next of the line. Two companies, under Lieutenant Colonel Pyfer, were dispatched, who soon returned reporting the distance a mile and a quarter. General Willick ordered the position to be held, and said that troops would be sent to fill the gap. Just at dark a heavy rebel column of fresh troops attacked with great violence. That fatal gap was not filled, and the Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, and Seventy-ninth Illinois, with flanks exposed, were left to battle alone with an overpowering hostile force.
With a coolness and courage rarely paralleled, the men held their ground, and when at length outflanked, and the line enfiladed, there were signs of wavering, the officers seized the colors, and with unwonted heroism, and daring, inspired the men, by their example, with fresh enthusiasm to maintain the fight, and to hold the ground. The action became desperate, and hand to hand, and to distinguish friend from foe was difficuLieutenant In the midst of the fight the rebel General, Preston Smith, was shot down by Sergeant Boysen, the General having taken the Sergeant for one of his own men, and being in the act of striking him with his sword for some conceived offence. But the odds were too great, and that little band of heroes was forced to yield, all the field officers, seven line officers, and seventy men of the Seventy. seventh falling into the hands of the enemy. Those who escaped retired during the night, and under the command of Captain J. J. Lawson took part in the fierce fighting of the following day. On the 21st they retired, with the army, to Chattanooga, and were engaged in fortifying, and in repelling the advance of Bragg.
On the 26th of October the command moved to the summit of Waldenis Ridge, and thence, by Jasper and Shellmound, to Whiteside, where it remained until the close of the year. In January a large proportion of its members reenlisted, and were given a veteran furlough. Upon their return to the front, in April, they found Sherman preparing for his Atlanta campaign.
At Tunnel Hill, on the 7th of May, they first encountered the enemy, from which position he was driven, and on the following day at Rocky Face Ridge, the contest contiuing until the morning of the 13th. At Resaca, and at Kingston it lost severely. Again on the 25th, at New Hope Church, they were warmly engaged. Temporary breast-works were erected, and for three days the fighting continued. On the 4th of June they were moved three miles to the left, where again the ground was hotly contested. At Ackworth, on the 6th of June, Colonel Rose, after his long confinement as prisoner of war, re-joined his regiment, and resumed command. From the 19th to the 23d it lay close up to the base of Kenesaw Mountain, where it was hotly engaged, and was exposed to a terrible fire of artillery, losing heavily.
On the 24th, with the entire corps, (it being now in the Third Brigade, First Division of the Fourth Corps,) it moved to the right, and for four days had sharp fighting. A desperate assault was then made upon the fortifications, which was repulsed; but the lines still held their position close up to the enemy's works until July 3d, when he again retreated. At Smyrna the enemy made a stand, and the brigade was ordered to assault his works. They were gallantly carried and occupied. At the Chattahoochee River the regiment was kept busy for several days in skirmishing, and at Peach Tree Creek, on the 20th and 21st, was hotly engaged.
The enemy now retired to his fortifications about Atlanta, and for a month the regiment was constantly employed in the operations of the investment. Captain John E. Walker was killed on the 5th of August. On the 25th of August it moved to the Montgomery Railroad, and was employed in destroying the track. On the 1st of September it struck the Macon Road, and assisted in effecting its destruction for a long distance.
At Jonesboro the command went into position on the left of the Fourteenth Corps. The enemy was driven to his second line of works, from which he opened a heavy fire. Halting for the troops to come up, preparations were made for renewing the engagement in the morning; but when morning came it was discovered that he had retired.
At Lovejoy the regiment was warmly engaged on the 2nd, 3d, 4th, and evening of the 5th of September. On the 3d Major Phillips lost an arm, and Lieutenant H. R. Thompson was killed.
After the fall of Atlanta, Hood, now in command of the rebel army, moved north upon Sherman's communications. Sherman followed as far as Gaylesville, Alabama, where, finding that he could not bring his adversary to battle, he sent Stanley with the Fourth Corps, and Schofield with the Twenty-third, to report to Thomas, in command at Nashville, while he turned back with the balance of his army to Atlanta, and subsequently to the sea.
With the Fourth Corps the regiment moved to Pulaski, on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, arriving on the 3d of November. Three weeks later it retired to Columbia, and here the enemy again made his appearance, and was warmly greeted, not having been seen for a month. His main columns approached on the Waynesboro Road, and the Seventy-seventh, with other troops, was posted on an eminence commanding it. Without attempting to force his way in front? he designed by a flank movement, to cut off the Union forces from their way of retreat to Nashville, and thus beat them in detail. In this he came nigh being successful.
Remaining until after dark, on the 29th, the regiment moved in rear of the column, and succeeded in eluding the rebel chieftain, and safely reaching Franklin. Here it was decided to make a stand, the lines were established, and temporary breast-works thrown up covering the town, which is situated in an elbow of the Harpeth River. The First Division of the Fourth Corps was posted on the right of the line, covering the roads leading west, with its right resting on the river. The Seventy-seventh was deployed as skirmishers, connecting on the left with the skirmishers of the Twenty-third Corps. Scarcely had the line been posted, four companies upon the outer line, and the remaining ones in close proximity in reserve, before the enemy came up in line of battle, and commenced a furious attack. The skirmishers upon the right, not having got into position, gave way, and his line pushed on in pursuit. The Seventy-seventh maintained, heroically, its position against overwhelming odds, until nearly surrounded, but succeeded in cutting its way back, bringing in all its wounded and some of its dead. It was now posted behind the breast-works, on the left of the Thirtieth Indiana, where it remained until the close of the battle.
At midnight the forces withdrew across the Harpeth River, and retired to Nashville. Hood followed, and sat down in front of the town. Having gathered in and re-organized his forces, mounting what he could, Thomas marched out on the 15th of December, and attacked him in his intrenchments. The regiment moved on the Granny White Pike, and was engaged with the troops on the right, that stormed the heights where the rebel lines were first broken. At night it moved three miles to the Franklin Pike, and at daylight, with other troops, attacked the enemy in the new position to which he had withdrawn. In movin' over the hill, to the right of the pike, it was exposed to a terrible cross fire of grape and canister, losing heavily, Colonel Rose having his horse killed under him, and Lieutenant Baldwin being killed. But undismayed it pushed forward, carried both lines of the enemy's works, and captured one of the batteries from which it had suffered so severely in advancing. The rebel army was completely routed, losing heavily in men and material. The pursuit was vigorously pushed, but swollen streams, and almost impassible roads, delayed the column. The Seventy-seventh followed up, occasionally skirmishing with his rear guard, until it reached Huntsville, Alabama, where it rested.
On the 13th of March, 1865, the regiment broke camp, and moved to Strawberry Plains, East Tennessee, where it was joined by three new companies under Captains Rohrbacker, Bell, and Shock. Two weeks later it pushed on to Bull's Gap, and here received two more companies under Captains Brauff and Shaw.
On the 25th of April the regiment returned, by rail, to Nashville. While here Major William A. Robinson was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain J. J. Lawson to Major. In the re-organization of the forces, which was here made, the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade of the First Division of the Fourth Corps, and Colonel Rose placed in command of the brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson of the regiment.
The rebel armies east of the Mississippi, thoroughly beaten, had laid down their arms, and surrendered to the victors; but on the west they still preserved a hostile front. The Seventy-seventh, with other forces was, accordingly, ordered to Texas. Moving by rail to Johnsonville, it proceeded, by transport, to New Orleans, where it bivouacked for three weeks on the field of Jackson's victory, and thence by steamer, to Indianola, Texas, arriving on the 27th of July. From here it marched to Green Lake, where a halt of ten days was made, and then proceeded to Camp Stanley, four miles above Victoria, on the Gandaloupe River. Here it remained until the first of October, when it returned to Victoria.
On the 5th of December, it received orders to return home, and breaking camp, marched to Indianola, a distance of fifty miles, where it embarked, and on the 6th of January, 1866, arrived in Philadelphia, and was finally mustered out of service.
1Organization of the Fifth Brigade, (subsequently the Second,) General Thomas J. Wood, Second Division, General A. McDowell MI'Cook, Buell's Army, (subsequently the Twentieth Corps.) Seventy-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Frederick S. Stumbaugh; Twenty-ninth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Colonel John F. Miller; Thirtieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Sion S. Bass; Thirty-fourth Regiment Illinois Volunteers, Colonel Edward N. Kirk.
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