Somerset County in the Civil War

Somerset County in the Civil War
(Laurel Messenger, Vol. II No.4 Nov. 1961)
(Editor's note: The account which follows is entirely military. It proposes to outline the service history of each regiment in which Somerest County men appeared in significant numbers. The editor wishes to acknowledger the aid of the following two sources: "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania," Vol. II, William H. Welfley. Lewis Publishing Co., N.Y., 1906 "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5" 5 vols. Samuel P. Bates. B. Singerly, Harrisburg, 1869-1871.
The isolated nature of the county may, in part, account for the fact that it was not represented by any company under Lincoln's first call for three-month volunteers.
At the outbreak of the war a volunteer company, the Somerset Guards, existed in Somerset; and it is probably that this unit formed the nucleus aroung which was formed the first company from the county that entered the service. The Commonwealth was then raising the men which became the Pennsylvania reserve Division, and the Somerset Guards became part of this division with the election of Robert P. Cummins as captain, James S. Hinchman as 1st Lt., and Cyrus Elder as 2nd Lt.
The departure of this company from Somerset may be said to be typical of other such county units early in the war, and included a public leave-taking with patriotic addresses, the singing of patriotic songs, and with women dispersing food -- altogether, a festive air. Welfley ways that the boys marched off to the tune of "The Girl I Left Behind Me."
39th Volunteer Infantry
After its removal to Harrisburg from Greensburg, this company became Co. A. 39th Volunteer Infantry and moved to the federal capitol with the Pennsylvania Reserves Division. The first action in which the company took part was little more that a skirmish at Dranesville, Va. No further action occurred until June 1862, when the company was moved with its division to the vicinity of Mechanicsville, Va., to become a part of McClellan's army and fight in the battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill. Other actions in which Co. A. took part before it was mustered out on June 11, 1864, are as follows: White Oak Swanp, Second Manassas, South Mountain, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Gourt House, and Bethesda Church. The company's fight at Fredericksburg was particularly vicious, as the list of its casualties attests. The total enrolled in the company during its peroid of service was 127, and its strength when mustered out was 58.
52nd Volunteer Infantry
The Somerset Company of men in the 52nd Volunteer Infantry appear to have been drafted; they were mustered in on September 26, 1864. A detachment of this regiment was the first to enter Fort Sumter on Feb. 18, 1865, and the first to entere Charlestown. The regiment joined Sherman's march through South Carolina and was with this same army when Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army in North Carolina.
Somerest Countians in this regiment appear to have been confined to four companies: C, E, I, and H, with most in C and I.
54th Volunteer Infantry
The greater number of men in the 54th Volunteer Infantry were recruited in Somerest and Cambria counties in the fall of 1861. Companies B, C and G were entirely made up of Somerset County men, and at least one-half of the members of Co. D. were also from our county.
The regiment was organized at Harrisburg; Jacob M. Campbell became its colonel, a native of Allegheny Twp.
The history of a company is necessarily the history of the regiment of which it forms a part, and so must be written from that standpoint.
After encamping near Washington until March 29, 1862, the regiment moved to Harper's Ferry and shortly was ordered to guard the line of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, whith which work it was involved for the next eight months. On Oct. 4 the whole of Company B was captured at Paw Paw, West Virginia, and taken to Richmond…By one reason or another, the Confederate authorities there declared it their purpose to execute these men, and Judge Jeremiah S. Black interceded on their behalf. After much difficulty, Judge Black succeeded, and the men of Company B were exchanged at City Point and subsequently rejoined their regiment.
The regiment now became part of the Department of West Virginia and remained in it until April 1864, when it joined Gen. Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley. Its first real battle took place on May 15, 1864, at New Market, where it suffered heavy loss. After fighting at Piedmont and taking part in the capture of Lexington, the regiment suffered in a forced march from Linchburg to the Kanawah River, a distance of 215 miles. September found the 54th again in the Shenandoah Valley and involved in the third battle of Winchester and during the same month (Sept.) at Fisher's Hill. It was one of the regiments surprised by Early's army at Cedar Creek on Oct. 19th and forced to retreat.
The 54th was sent to City Point, Virginia, where it was assigned to the Army of the James. On Feb. 7, 1865, the original term of enlistment expired, the regiment was reorganized, and Companies B and C can no longer be looked on as being Somerset County companies.
55th Volunteer Infantry
Company I of the 59th Volunteer Infantry was recruited mainly in Bedford and Blair counties in Sept. 1861; however, there were twelve men in this company from Shade Twp.
The first service of this regiment was in South Carolina, where it remained until April 1864, when it was embarked for Virginia. There it took part in fighting about Drury's Bluff and at Cold Harbor.
61st Volunteer Infantry
Most of the Somerset County men in the 61st Volunteer Infantry were in Companies F and G. It would appear that most of these joined the regiment in Sept. and Oct. 1864, when it was with Gen. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, where it remained until Dec. 3. It broke camp and moved to Peterstburg, where it took part in repelling the rebel attack on Ford Stedman, then fought at Sayler;s Creek, its last engagement.
85th Volunteer Infantry
The 85th Regiment was recruited in the summer and fall of 1861 by Col. Joshau B. Howell of Uniontown, Pa. One of its companies, H, was recriuted in Somerset County under command of Capt. James B. Tredwell of Somerset. Some of this company's members were from Somerset and vicinity, but most were from Lower Turkeyfoot and Addison townships.
The rediment was sent to Casey's division and became a part of McClellan's Army of the Patomac, but took little part in the seven days' battles. Lt. Henry S. Jackson became company commander when Tredwell was promoted to major.
On Dec. 5, 1862, the regiment removed fromm Suffolk, Va., to New Berne, N.C. At the beginning of April 1863, Company H, with the rest of the 85th, found itself on an island near Charleston, S.C., and soon took part in the siege of Fort Wagner, the regiment went to Hilton Head, S.C., from which it was sent north to reinforce the Army of the James in Va. In June of 1864 the company fought near Petersburg, where Lt. Norman B. Ream, mentioned elsewhere in the issue, was wounded. After taking part in actions in Virginia until Oct. 14, the regiment was transferred to the 187th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Soon thereafter it was sent to Pittsburgh, where it was mustered out on Nov. 22, 1864.
88th Volunteer Infantry
On March 10, 1865, a draft was made at Chambersburg for Somerset County's quota on the last call for men that was made during the war. These were assigned to the 88th Regiment, which was to contain county men in six of its companies with most serving in Companies A and G. Some of these were substitutes, who received money ranging from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars for taking the places of men who had been drafted. All receiving discharges June 30, 1865, after having served about three months.
93rd Volunteer Infantry
The second Company G, 93rd Regiment, appears to have been recruited in northern Somerset County in Sept. 1864, with John R. Kuhn as captain.
The original Company G. had been greatly reduced in numbers. The few men remaining and others were organized unto a new Company G, which, when it joined the regiment, fought with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley at Cedar Creek in Oct. of 1864. Transferred east, Co. G, fought in a few actions at Petersburg and at Sayler's Creek. It was mustered out June 27, 1865.
133rd Volunteer Infantry
The 133rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, was a nine months' regiment which was recruited in August 1862. Companies D and E were from Somerset County.
After being organized at Harrisburg, the regiment entrained for Washington, where it remained until mid-September, when it joined the Army of the Patomac under McClellan. It marched toward the Antietam but didn't reach that bloody field until after the battle. It fought at Fredericksburg, sustaining hearv losses in one of the charges against Marye's Heights. The 133rd also took part in the battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.
The term of enlistment having expired, the regiment returned to Harrisburg and was mustered out on May 19, 1863. 142nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers was organized at Harrisburg on Sept. 1, 1862, with Robert P. Commins of Somerset as colonel. Three companies from Somerset County were in this regiment -- C, D and F.
The regiment was ordered to Washington the day following its organization, and from there proceeded to Frederick, Md., where it acted as a guard unit and helped to care for the wounded from the South Mountain and Antietam battles. Early in Oct. the regiment reported to Gen. Meade, then in command of the Pennsylvania Reserves, who assigned it to the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the first Army Corps, which formed a part of Gen Franklin's grand division. The regiment subsequently served in the battle of Fredericksburg, and of 550 men in its line of battle, the killed, wounded and missing numbered 270.
The regiment took part in the famous "Mud March," after which it remained in winter quarters until late in April. Although it was present at Chancellorsville on May 3, heavy fighting did not reach its part of the line.
The service of the 142nd at Gettysburg was outstanding. On the opening day of that battle it was joined on Seminary Ridge by John Burns, an elderly citizen of Gettysburg, who refused to stay out of the fight and so fought with the regiment until it was forced to retire to Cemetery Ridge. In this battle, the regiment suffered heavy loss. When it opened it numbered 326 officers and men. Its losses were 15 killed. 126 wounded, and 84 missing or captured. Most of this loss occurred on July 1, since on the other two days the regiment was little exposed. After having a horse killed under him, Col. Cummins was mortally wounded on July 1 and died the next day.
Most of the ensuing winter was spent in guard duty along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad or in winter quarters at Culpeper, Va. In the 1864 campaign, it was again on active duty, having its first encounter with the enemy in the Wilderness. In fact, the regiment fought almost continually while Grant attempted to outflank Lee.
Most of the action of late 1864 occurred on or near the Weldon Railroad, one of the rail arteries leading out of Petersburg. The regment spent the winter of '64 - '65 in winter quarters. When it finally moved from camp, it fought almost continually during the final campaign of the war. It was mustered out May 29, 1865.
171st Volunteer Infantry
The 171st Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers was a nine month state drafted outfit. As made I Somerset County, this draft was supervised by the Hon. Isaac Hugus of Somerset. Those from this county were organized into three companies--E, H and K-and were mustered into U.S. service on Nov. 1 and 2, 1862.
Most of the limited service of the 171st took place at Suffolk, Va., New Bern, N.C., and at Harper's Ferry.
181st Volunteers-20th Cavalry
A three-year regiment, the service of the 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry was in the Shenandoah Valley, first under Gens. Sigel, Hunter and Crook, taking a part in the battle of New Market, the Lynchburg campaign of Gen. Hunter, and at Snicker's Gap. It remained with Sheridan's army all through his campaign in the Valley and went with him when his cavalry joined Gen. Grant in front of Pettersburg, where it remained until it took an active part in the final campaign of the war.
182nd Volunteers-21st Cavalry
Organized in July of 1863, the term of service for the 21st Cavalry was for six months. While their were no distinctive Somerset County companies in this regiment, the county nevertheless had a considerable number of representatives in the ranks of at least Companied E and M.
198th Volunteer Infantry
Company F of the 198th Regiment was organized in Cambria County, but at least seventeen were from Somerset County.
204th Volunteers--5th Heavy Artillery
The 204th Regiment of Heavy Artillery was organized on Sept. 10, 1864, near Pittsburgh. One company was composed mostly of men from out county. It was raised in August 1864 chiefly through the efforts of Capt. William M. Schrock and Cyrus L. Snyder. A federal as well as a local bounty was offered to men who would enlist in this company; and, in addition, the term of service was to be of one-year's duration. One hundred and six men were secured.
As it turned out, Battery K was a artillery unit in name only. Once they were in the service they were speddily armed with rifles and became, in effect, an infantry company.
The first part of the battery's enlistment was spent in the mountain passes west of Washington attempting to keep then and the railroads open against repeated attacks of Col. Mosby's partisans. Aside from several encounters with Mosby's command, the regiment was not in any engagement with regular forces. In the spring of 1864 it was sent on a burying detail to the site of Second Bull Run, where several thousand bodies had lain uncared for since the time of the battle in the summer of 1862.
In June of 1865 the regiment was ordered to Pittsburgh and mustered out on June 30. An account of the company's only casualty appears in Welfley, pp. 319-320:
"The only casualty in the company was the result of an unfortunate mistake on the part of a picket guard. It was known that the Rebel force under Col. Mosby was hovering about their camp, and consequently the commanding officer was on the alert against any surprise or attack. One night a report came in that the picket guard on a certain post had been driven in, and Sergeant Johnston Husband was detailed with a squad of men to make the rounds and investigate whether this was so. The guard had not been molested at this post, and being on the alert, when Sergeant Husband and his party approached their post in the darkness, they were supposed to be Rebels. The challenge to halt was given, but almost simultaneously they were fired on, and Sergeant Husband was wounded in his leg so severely as to require amputation.
Capt. William M. Schorck's Independent Company of Six Months' Volunteers
Capt. Schrock's Independent Company was recruited under a call for volunteers to serve six months made by President Lincoln in June 1863. The rendezuous of the company was at New Centreville, an, and eighty men were enlisted within five days. They were mustered into U.S. service at New Centreville on June 24th, 1864. According to Welfley, it was the only company mustered into service within the county during the war.
The company marched from New Centreville to Berlin, when on June 9th it was ordered to Huntingdon, Pa. It went into camp at Camp Juniata, where it remained for several weeks. From there the company was ordered to Harrisburg, from which place it proceeded to Gettysburg, where it did duty about the field hospitals until Oct. 23, after which it performed provost duty in various parts of the state.
Until Oct. 2 the company was known as an independent company. However, on this date it was attached to the First Battalion, Six Months' Pennsylvania Volunteers as Company H. It was mustered out on Jan. 8, 1864.
2nd Regiment, Maryland Potomac Home Brigade
Although this was a Maryland regiment, Company K contained a considerable number of Somerset County men, mostly from Wellersburg and adjacent Southampton twp.
The regiment was for the most part employed to guard the Baltimore & Ohio railroad from New Creek (now Keyser, West Virginia) to east of Cumberland, Md., although it did see limited service in the Shenandoah Valley.
Welfley (p. 322) affords the reader an interesting glimpse of the manner in which Company K guarded the railroad:
"At Cumberland, a couple of gondola cars had been in some way roofed over or covered with iron rails, the sides were pierced by port-holes, and they carried small brass gund, probably three or four-pounders. These armored cars, or iron-clads, as they may be called, were run back and forth over the road to such points as were threatened by the Rebels, who were quite persistent in their efforts to burn the bridges and otherwise interrup the free use of the railroad, the keeping open of which was a matter of vital importance. In one of the frequent encounters that took place east of Cumberland, the enemy also had one or two light pieces of artillery, a well directed shell from which, entering a port-hole of one of these iron-clad cars, exploded and put it out of business. These iron-clad cars were manned and operated by Capt. Petrie's Company K through almost the entire war."
The Regular Army
A small number of men from Somerset County served in the regular army, most in thew 19th Infantry, Company G. These were as follows, according to Welfley (p. 323: Simon P. Sweitzer, Henry D. Lohr, Augustus Swice, Geb-(partly gone for two names) Shutx, Austin Chor-(whole line gone) Peter Boyer, Robert Caton, William Poleman, Christian Hochstetler, Jacob Kifer, John Kifer, Jacob Byers, Ludwig Barron, Jacob Keefer, Jacob Arnold, George Stemm, George Enfield, and Eli Shaulis.
The Somerset County men in the company enlisted about Jan. 20th, 1862, and served about a year in the Fifth Corps of the Army of the Potomac. They were engaged in the battles of Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg. It is interesting to note that the men in this regiment and a handful in the Second Battalion of the 15th infantry were perhaps the only Somerset County soldiers to serve in the Western theater, for in March 1863 the 19th was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and served in its principal engagements, including Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. The regiment was also in the Atlanta campaign. It was mustered out on Jan. 20th, 1865.
(end of article)

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