|95th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
in the American Civil War 1861 to 1865
A History of the Regiment, 1861-1862
Organized in Philadelphia during August 1861 under the enthusiastic guidance of John M. Gosline, the regiment was composed of men from the city and surrounding counties including one company of men from New Jersey that became Company B. First known as the "Pennsylvania Zouaves" and designated the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the organization was re-designated in September as the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry with a new monicker, "Gosline's Zouaves". Many of the officers and a number of enlisted men had previously served in three-months regiments or state militia and so were prepared for military service. John Gosline, who received authorization from the War Department to raise the regiment, had served for several years in the Philadelphia militia as captain of the "Washington Blues", and with the outbreak of war mustered into the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Three Months Service). Gosline envisioned a well-trained, disciplined and distinctive regiment that would stand apart from other volunteer units. Using his own financial influence with friends in Philadelphia, Gosline secured a contract with Schuylkill Arsenal outside of Philadelphia to provide his new regiment with a zouave-style uniform of his design.
Recruiting from a headquarters that had served as the arsenal for his old militia company on the third floor of a building at the northwest corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets, Gosline had associates recruiting in other parts of the city. One of these officers was Gustavus Town, who had also served in the Eighteenth Pennsylvania and paid several visits to the Girard House in the city, a central gathering place for recruiting new regiments, to make contacts and inspire undecided men to join with Gosline's forming regiment. While recruiting efforts were underway, the first company of the new regiment congregated at Camp Gibson near Hestonville. Many of these men were veterans of Pennsylvania's three months regiments and formed the core of Company A, the first to be fully organized for the regiment. Hard work learning the manual of arms and company drill paid off and within a few weeks the group received their first issue of distinctive clothing provided by Schuylkill Arsenal.
By the first week of October the regiment was fully organized and during a formal dress parade was presented a set of regimental colors provided by Mrs. Mary Gosline and other patriotic ladies of the city. The National Color was made of silk and trimmed with gold fringe. The regimental color was made of dark blue material with the white figure of an American eagle in the center, its breast adorned with the Union shield. Around the eagle was a row of thirty four white stars, one for every state of the Union and the states in rebellion.
With new colors in hand and the regiment authorized for Federal service, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry left Hestonville on October 12, 1861, bound for the defenses of Washington.
The regiment passed the winter of 1861-62 in quarters at Kendall Green, Bladensburg, and near Alexandria, Virginia, where the Ninety-fifth was assigned to Brig. General John Newton's Brigade of General William B. Franklin's Corps. The regiment received its first set of state colors in March 1862, just before Franklin's command marched on Manassas Junction only to discover the Confederate forces gone once they arrived. Miles of formidable earthworks were empty along with the numerous log huts in which southern forces had spent the winter. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania occupied and stood picket in the works while other units made forays around the area, looking for enemy forces and abandoned stores. After a week or more in the Manassas area, Franklin marched his troops back to their quarters near Alexandria and the first "campaign" for Gosline's Zouaves ended on a very quiet note.
In April, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania was ordered to join General McDowell's command at Bristoe Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, but was ordered days later to return to Alexandria to be reassigned to the "Army of the Potomac" under General George McClellan, just then operating against the historic city of Yorktown on the Peninsula east of Richmond.
In late April, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania was transported to the Peninsula and its first engagement with Confederate forces at West Point (or "Brick House Point"), Virginia, on May 7. The regiment was initially deployed as skirmishers in the action and drove a Confederate cavalry force back into the main southern line where gray-clad infantry waited in an apparent ambush. Gosline skillfully pulled his zouaves back and ordered his men to occupy a barricade previously thrown up by other units, all the while keeping up a brisk fire on the Confederate infantry. The Confederates withdrew before nightfall leaving the ground in possession of Union forces. In their first action, the Ninety-fifth "behaved very well, bringing on the action with the enemy and keeping him well occupied", according to General John Newton who commanded the brigade. (OR, Vol. 11, Pt. 1, p. 624) One officer and six enlisted men were wounded in the action, and eight enlisted men were killed.
The regiment encamped with the division along the Chickahominy River where disease including malaria and "swamp fever" struck down scores of men. According to Norton Galloway, who wrote a brief history of the regiment in 1884, Colonel Gosline did his best to instill discipline in the regiment with drill and duties to keep the men occupied, and it was during this time when the regiment traded their Austrian Rifles for new Model 1861 Springfield Rifles, the most up to date infantry weapon in the Union army. Gosline's promise to arm his soldiers with the best weapons available had come to fruition. It was also during this time when General Henry Slocum succeeded to the command of the division after the promotion of General Franklin to corps command on May 18, 1862. Newton's brigade, including the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania, Eighteenth New York, Thirty-first New York, and Thirty-second New York, was officially designated as the Third Brigade, First Division of the Sixth Corps. Under Slocum's direction, the First Division would distinguish itself at the Battle of Gaines's Mill on June 27, 1862.
Ordered to the scene of the battle that afternoon, Slocum's Division arrived around 4 PM and was placed on the left of the Union line held by the Fifth Corps under General Porter. Newton's Third Brigade led the division onto the field. Soon after forming a battle line, a strong Confederate attack threatened to break through the Union left around the flank of the Fifth Corps. Taking the Thirty-first New York and Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania from the brigade, General Newton led the two regiments in a bayonet charge through a dense stand of trees filled with Confederate troops. The attack turned the southern drive back and drove the shocked Confederates across swampy ground to a slight ridge where they rallied. Soon, volleys of southern musketry filled the air but the Thirty-first and Ninety-fifth held their ground. Both Colonel Gosline and Major William B. Hubbs were mortally wounded while attempting to organize the defense, both officers dying on June 29. The regiment retired with their wounded to a hill overlooking the scene of the charge as darkness fell, but the toll was high- 10 killed, 84 wounded, and 18 missing. Lt. Colonel Gustavus Town succeeded to command and was commissioned colonel on June 28, 1862. Captain Elisha Hall of Company C was promoted to lt. colonel and Captain David Foley, Co. I, promoted to major. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania was not engaged for the remainder of the "Seven Days Battles" and withdrew with the army to the James River before transport back to Alexandria. It was the beginning of the Maryland Campaign, General Lee's first northern invasion.
After a series of methodical marches that began September 6, Franklin's Sixth Corps arrived at Crampton's Gap near Burkittsville, Maryland. This important pass through the South Mountains was held by a Virginia brigade commanded by Brig. General William Mahone and a cavalry brigade under Colonel William T. Munford. On September 14, Franklin attacked. Slocum's First Division struck the Confederate forces posted on the mountain side along a narrow road north of the Sharpsburg Road. Confederate sharpshooters and artillery swept the open fields in front of the southern positions, successfully halting the Union attack. Newton's brigade was deployed in support of the Second Brigade under General Joseph J. Bartlett, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania being sent ot the left of Bartlett's line. After an hour and one half of trading shots and maneuvers, a general advance was ordered and the entire line (save one regiment) moved forward in mass up the slope and into the trees, knocking back Mahone's soldiers posted behind a stone wall. General Cobb's Georgia Brigade arrived to support the beleaguered Mahone and fighting raged over the mountainside and into the pass itself. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania drove into the pass, trading shots with Cobb's men who stubbornly gave ground. The zouaves broke through the trees and pounced upon the Troup (GA) Artillery, which was just about to limber up and move back. Overwhelmed, the Confederates withdrew leaving behind their dead and wounded along with a 12-pdr howitzer and limber. Darkness halted the Union advance and Colonel Town was ordered to place his regiment out as pickets for the night. The following morning, members of the Ninety-fifth searched Confederate haversacks, knapsacks and other equipment lining the Sharpsburg Road, thrown away during the southern retreat. Loss of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania at Crampton's Gap was termed "comparatively slight" by Colonel Town as he considered the amount of artillery and infantry fire showered on the regiment during the advance and melee in the gap: 1 killed, 13 wounded and 1 enlisted man missing.
The Third Brigade was not engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, though the Ninety-fifth performed duty in support of the skirmish line south of the city until December 15th, when the corps withdrew. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania lost four enlisted men wounded during the debacle along the Rappahannock River, a very small number when compared to the total Union loss.
Text by John Heiser, 1994, updated October 2008
Co. C, 53rd PVI, Inc. copyright 2008