A History of the Regiment, 1861-1862Aside from its participation in the dismal “Mud March” in late January 1863, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania remained in winter quarters performing picket and guard duty as assigned until the opening of the Chancellorsville Campaign in April. On April 25th, the Army of the Potomac, now under Major General Joseph Hooker, moved west from the camps around Falmouth while the Sixth Corps moved to the Rappahannock River opposite Fredericksburg. The main Union force forded the Rappahannock River and took the Chancellorsville crossroads behind Lee’s position at Fredericksburg while the Sixth Corps demonstrated along the river front. Lee swiftly took steps to counter Hooker’s threat and moved his army west, leaving behind a token force under General Jubal Early on the heights above Fredericksburg. General Sedgwick’s orders were to demonstrate in front of the city and cross if favorable, take Fredericksburg and then drive into Lee’s army concentrating around Hooker near Chancellorsville.
The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania broke camp and moved to the banks of the Rappahannock River near Franklin’s Crossing, site of the successful river crossing the previous December just bbefore the battle of Fredericksburg. On April 29th, the Ninety-fifth and One Hundred-nineteenth Pennsylvania regiments stole down to the river bank before daybreak, boarded pontoon boats, and rowed across the river to secure the crossing site. The move was so quick and quiet that Confederate pickets were surprised and captured or driven out with only slight loss to either regiment. The Sixth Corps crossed the next day and on May 3, Sedgwick sent his corps forward. The heights above Fredericksburg were taken after a short, sharp fight. Sedgwick directed his corps west on the Orange Plank Road, driving Confederate skirmishers for almost three miles to Salem Heights where a solid line of Confederates waited rushed from the Chancellorsville battle front. The Confederates held a strong position covered by woods on both sides of the road with a clear view of the Union approach. Sedgwick’s forces had little or no cover, only the brick building known as Salem Church on the eastern side of the heights to block any fire.
The First New Jersey Brigade deployed and immediately advanced closely supported by the Third Brigade. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania advanced just behind the Third New Jersey Infantry north of the Orange Plank Road, the Confederate artillery and musketry increasing with every step. Moving at quick time up the slope through plowed fields and patches of brush, the first line was met with a wall of fire from Kershaw’s South Carolina Brigade. The New Jersey regiments stopped cold, but the Ninety-fifth rushed forward into the front line and intermingled with the 3rd New Jersey, the men returning fire with a ferocity not seen before. Many emptied their cartridge boxes completely, ransacking those of the dead and wounded around them for more ammunition.The First New Jersey Brigade deployed and immediately advanced closely supported by the Third Brigade. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania advanced just behind the Third New Jersey Infantry north of the Orange Plank Road, the Confederate artillery and musketry increasing with every step. Moving at quick time up the slope through plowed fields and patches of brush, the first line was met with a wall of fire from Kershaw’s South Carolina Brigade. The New Jersey regiments stopped cold, but the Ninety-fifth rushed forward into the front line and intermingled with the 3rd New Jersey, the men returning fire with a ferocity not seen before. Many emptied their cartridge boxes completely, ransacking those of the dead and wounded around them for more ammunition.
Union troops south of the turnpike slowly pushed up the ridge toward the brick church and the southern fire intensified. Colonel Town was everywhere along the battle line encouraging his men when he fell mortally wounded. Lt. Colonel Hall, Adjutant Eugene Dunton, and Captain Thomas D. G. Chapman were killed at the height of the battle with the regiment standing barely 100 paces from the Confederate line. Confederate troops north of Russell’s ever thinning line pushed out of the woods in a flanking movement, but were driven back by the combined volleys fo the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania and other regiments in close support. But it was obvious that neither the regiment nor the rest of the Union troops on the front line could take this punishment much longer. Confederate flanking fire from the south signaled a new threat and General Russell ordered his regiments to fall back into a defensive posture and rally.
As determined as he was, General Sedgwick could not break through the southern roadblock and with more Confederates approaching from the south he could do no more. The corps pulled back and formed a defensive line protecting Banks’ Ford. The Ninety-fifth rallied after sunset within the new Union perimeter and then took advanced positions for skirmish duty that lasted throughout the night. The final Confederate attacks were driven back the next morning and Sedgwick moved his corps across the Rappahannock that afternoon. The dismal Chancellorsville Campaign cost the regiment 5 officers and 18 enlisted men killed, Major Thomas J. Town, Captains Roberts and George West, five other officers and 102 enlisted men wounded, and 20+ missing, some taken prisoner on May 4 when a portion of the picket line was driven in.
Soon after the close of the Chancellorsville Campaign with terms of service having expired among a number of regiments in the army, a reorganization of several brigades in the Sixth Corps took place. Captain Edward Carroll of Company F was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania on May 10th, about the same time the regiment was transferred to the Second Brigade, First Division, commanded by Brig. General Joseph J. Bartlett. Bartlett’s Brigade included the Fifth Maine Volunteer Infantry, Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, Thirty-first New York Infantry, and the One Hundred Twenty-first New York Infantry.
On June 6th, the Second Brigade forded the Rappahannock River at Banks’ Ford, drove in the Confederate pickets and established a position in a portion on the old breastworks constructed the preceding month. The brigade remained here until June 13th, when it was ordered to rejoin the corps and took up the line of march north, minus the Thirty-first New York that was scheduled to be mustered out of service within the week.
The road northward was long and difficult, with a number of rainy days and warm temperatures. The army reached Frederick, Maryland where it rested for a few days before moving northward once again, this time under a new commander, Major General George Gordon Meade. By July 1, the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania was camped with the First Division near Manchester, Maryland. That evening the corps marched toward Westminster and then Gettysburg, finally reaching the battlefield the following afternoon at 3:30 PM after an all night march. Exhausted, the zouaves stacked arms and collapsed on the ground until 4 PM, when the brigade was sent to the line of battle north of Little Round Top into a position supporting the Fifth Corps. As dusk fell, the Second Brigade moved forward in support of Crawford’s Division of Pennsylvania Reserves and the Ninety-fifth took up a position behind a stonewall at the western edge of Munshower Field. The regiment remained in this position under artillery and skirmish fire until 5 PM on July 3, when it was sent forward toward the Rose Farm as part of a reconnaissance in force. The regiment captured a handful of Confederates on burial detail and then skirmished with southern pickets throughout the next day. At 8 AM on July 5, the Second Brigade took up the line of march and was actively engaged in the pursuit of Lee’s army to the Potomac River until the campaign ended on July 14.
The remainder of the summer was spent moving back into the heart of Virginia, until late September and early October when the Army of the Potomac tested Lee’s strengths and weaknesses along the banks of Mine Run. The results of this campaign were negligible and the army finally went into winter quarters in late November. In December, approximately 250 officers and men of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania reenlisted, determined to see the end of the war. A large number of recruits were received during the winter encampment and by spring the regiment numbered over 300 officers and men when the Army of the Potomac broke camp and moved toward the crossings of the Rapidan River in early May.
Lee had concentrated his army near Culpeper and was quick to move his troops toward the Union threat, the meeting ground in an area known as the “Wilderness” approximately 15 miles west of Fredericksburg. The Second Brigade, now commanded by the energetic Colonel Emory Upton, former commander of the One hundred twenty-first New York, crossed the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford on May 4, 1864, and camped along the Germanna Road that evening. Early the next morning, the Sixth Corps moved again, southward toward Wilderness Tavern. The Ninety-fifth was designated flank guard and it was a struggle for the men to make their way through the thick pines and brambles bordering the line of march. Soon the soldiers could discern the rattle of musketry up ahead of them as the Fifth Corps under Gouverneur K. Warren opened the battle on the Orange Turnpike.
Sedgwick’s Corps was ordered to support Warren’s right flank and Colonel Upton was ordered to move into the woods and connect to the right of Warren’s line. The brigade moved into the woods toward the sound of battle, but progress was slow because of brush thickets so dense that they could not be penetrated. Movement in battle line was almost impossible and the regiments broke into columns to pass around thickets. Finally arriving adjacent to the Fifth Corps line, Lt. Colonel Carroll deployed the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania into a line of battle and advanced toward a slight rise covered in pine trees and brush. Fallen trees made the advance doubly difficult and companies became separated. Suddenly a group of Southerners rose up and fired at Colonel Carroll, killing him instantly. Captain Alexander Boyd, commanding Company A, spotted Carroll’s assailants and immediately ordered a charge. The Ninety-fifth rushed the hill, capturing 30 surprised Confederates, shooting down those who attempted to flee. Though the hill was in advance of the main Federal line, Upton believed it should be held and the men threw up a temporary line of breastworks. Flames soon began to devour the underbrush and thickets in front of the line and the men lay low, choking on the smoke and gagging at the smell of roasting flesh as the fires burned dead and wounded lying through the woods.
Captain John MacFarlan took command of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania that evening and led the regiment through the remainder of the battle. An attack for the morning of May 6 was countermanded and the regiment lay on their arms through the day while the sounds of firing increased to the southeast and south of the corps line. About three hours before sunset, Lee sent Ewell’s Corps to attack the Union right held by the Sixth Corps. The overwhelming assault moved slowly through the burning woods and Sedgwick’s troops began to give way. Upton was ordered to send two regiments to the right to bolster the driven flank, and the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania and One hundred twenty-first New York responded. Led by Lt. Colonel Duffy, the acting inspector general of the division, the two regiments made their way through the brush and woods when they suddenly received musketry fire from the left flank. Masses of men, some panic stricken, suddenly broke through the column, separating companies and platoons in the confusion. Swept up in the confusion, officers rallied their companies and reformed the zouaves in rifle pits near Sedgwick’s headquarters where both regiments reformed. The situation looked grim as more and more Federals emerged from the woods, wild eyed and panicked. Moments later, Colonel Upton arrived on the scene and directed the regiments back into the attack. Realizing that support was behind his brigade, Upton moved the One hundred twenty-first New York and Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania back to form on the right of the reserve. Two companies of the Ninety-fifth were thrown out as skirmishers and engaged enemy pickets into the night until they were withdrawn after 10 PM.
With the Second Brigade reformed, Upton’s regiments led the march of the Sixth Corps to Wilderness Tavern where they formed a defensive line between the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road. The brigade left this position at 9:30 on the morning of May 7th and marched toward Chancellorsville before turning southward toward Spotsylvania Court House. Arriving after 6:30 PM, the brigade formed in line of battle behind the Fifth Corps preparatory to an attack that was never made. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania remained in this position until early on May 9th, when the brigade moved to the left flank of the Union line and threw up breastworks where they remained on picket and skirmish duty. The regiment did not participate in the attack on the enemy’s works devised by Colonel Upton, which took place the following evening, but rejoined the brigade on May 11 when preparations were being made to attack the Confederate salient called by many the “Mule Shoe”.
The assault took place early on the morning of May 12th. The Second Corps attacked first and broke through the salient, capturing colors, cannon, and most of the Confederate troops occupying the tip of the Mule Shoe, among them Gen. Edward Johnson, the division commander. The Sixth Corps, now commanded by Maj. General Horatio Wright, moved up to support the right flank of the Second Corps, which had been thrown back to the outer line of works. Upton’s brigade had been moving all night, first to the right of the Union line and then back to the left, arriving near the scene of action at 9:30. “The right flank of this (Second) corps being threatened, General Russell directed me to move to the right at double-quick to support it,” Upton reported. “Before we could arrive it gave way.” Upton ordered MacFarlan to rush the Ninety-fifth to the threatened break, and the men immediately tramped forward toward the smoking line of earthworks. “As the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers reached an elevated point of the enemy’s works,” Upton continued, “about 600 yards to the right of the Landrum house, it received a heavy volley from the second line of works. Seeing that the position was of vital importance to hold, and that all the troops had given way up to this point, I halted the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, faced to the front, and caused it to lie down. Its left rested near the works connecting with the Second Corps, while its right, refused, lay behind a crest, oblique to the works. Had it given way the whole line of intrenchments would have been recaptured and the fruit of the morning’s victory lost, but it held the ground until the Fifth Maine and One hundred and twenty-first New York came to its support, while the Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania passed to its right. For eighteen hours raged the most sanguinary conflict of the war. The point remained in our possession at the close of the struggle, and is known as the Angle.”
Upton’s brigade held their position at the “Bloody Angle” throughout the day, trading musketry with Confederates of McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade and Harris’ Mississippi Brigade, the men shooting at shadows in the thick smoke and driving rain. Every now and then a soldier, enraged or perhaps half-mad, would jump upon the works and shoot down into the Confederates crowded on the other side of the barricade, firing muskets handed to him by comrades until a southern marksman would shoot the man down. Private George Galloway of Company G remembered: “The dead and wounded were torn to pieces by the canister as it swept the ground where they had fallen. The mud was halfway to our knees (and) our losses were frightful. What remained of many different regiments that had come up to our support had concentrated at this point, and had planted their tattered colors upon a slight rise of ground where they staid during the latter part of the day.”
Troops moving up to the firing line sloshed through ankle deep mud and puddles while squads dragged heavy cases of ammunition up to the regiments massed on the reverse slope. The musketry continued unabated throughout the day in one continuous roar and at the peak of it all, a huge oak tree, 22-inches in diameter that stood near the Angle and just to the left of the brigade’s position, crashed down into the Confederate works. It had been almost shot in half by the never ending fusillade of rifle fire. Upton’s Brigade was finally relieved at 5:30 PM by a brigade of the Second Corps, and the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania retired a short distance to the rear. The exhausted men collapsed behind a line of works in the wet woods, war of the balls that continued to whine overhead. The fighting mercifully ended late in the evening as the Confederates withdrew to a newly completed line at the base of the Mule Shoe.
Dawn revealed the true horror of the day before. The southern trenches were filled with muddy water stained crimson by blood from half-submerged Confederate bodies. Outside the works, unrecognizable remains clad in remnants of blue uniforms lay in grotesquely twisted forms, shot to pieces by the constant barrage of musketry. Many of the dead had been simply trampled into the mud. It was a sight that few would ever forget.
General Horatio Wright in 1865
The Second Brigade rested for a day before it lead the division march behind the Ninth Corps to the Union left flank near the Anderson farm. On the morning of May 14, Upton’s brigade, now reduced to 800 officers and men, crossed the Ni River and relieved the US Regulars on Myers’ Hill. Upton notified General Wright of the extremely broad area that he was required to cover connecting to the flank of the Fifth Corps with three of his regiments with only the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania in reserve. The Second and Tenth New Jersey Infantry Regiments came to Upton’s assistance as the men threw up a line of earthworks using fence rails. Around 4 PM, an observer on top of the house identified movement toward the hill and Upton sent forward the Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania followed by two companies of the Second New Jersey. Scarcely had the regiment entered the woods when they came back, the commander of the Ninety-sixth relating that they spotted two brigades of Confederates forming for a charge. Upton ordered the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania and Tenth New Jersey forward to support the Ninety-sixth, and the two regiments arrived just as the southern attack began. A small Confederate force of cavalry and artillery was able to gain the flank of the Union line and despite the efforts to repel the attack, Upton found his position untenable and retreated from the hill, back across the Ni River. Well directed volleys kept the southerners at bay until the last regiment was across. Upton’s losses were around 100 killed and wounded, the Confederate forces suffering almost twice that number. After nightfall the hill was retaken and Upton ordered his exhausted men to dig new earthworks behind which the brigade remained for the remainder of the battle.
The Sixth Corps was withdrawn from Spotsylvania on May 21st and turned south toward the North Anna River where the Second Brigade successfully destroyed a portion of the Gordonsville-Orange Railroad before withdrawing back across the river. Lee countered the Union move along the North Anna River, and General Grant ordered the army to withdraw to turn Lee’s right flank. The Wilderness Campaign cost the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania one officer and 42 enlisted men killed, five officers and 123 enlisted men wounded (eleven mortally), which includes the 26 killed, 82 wounded, and 27 missing at Spotsylvania Court House alone.
Battered by losses in the Wilderness, Upton’s Brigade was reenforced by the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery under Colonel Elisha Kellogg on May 21. One of the many heavy artillery regiments stripped out of the Washington defenses, the Second Connecticut brought approximately 1,500 officers and men into the Second Brigade as the corps marched southward toward the North Anna River. The First Division crossed the North Anna near Jericho Bridge on May 24th in support of the Fifth Corps, Upton’s command being moved to the Virginia Central Railroad where the regiments tore up and destroyed over half a mile of track and ties. The brigade recrossed the North Anna and marched with the corps supply trains to Chesterfield, across the Pamunkey River, and then to Hanover Court House. May 30th found the footsore Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania camped near Atlee’s Station outside of Mechanicsville adjacent to the road to Cold Harbor.
The regiment arrived in position west of Old Cold Harbor at 11 AM. Upton’s Second Brigade was placed in line straddling the road to New Cold Harbor, with Truex’s brigade of the Third Division on the right and Eustis’ Third Brigade of the First Division on his left. Between the Sixth Corps line and the Confederate works was a slight decline to a stand of pines. On the other side the ground rose toward the Confederate position held at this point by Clingman’s North Carolina Brigade. Upton formed his regiments in four lines, the Second Connecticut forming the first three lines (one battalion in each), with the Ninety-fifth and Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania, Fifth Maine, and One Hundred twenty-first New York in the fourth. Of the old regiments, there were barely 300 officers and men present. Soon after 6 PM, Truex’s brigade moved forward and Upton followed his lead. The Second Connecticut “moved to the assault in beautiful order”, through the trees and up the slope where a vicious cross fire and dense abatis checked the advance. Some men were able to make their way through paths between the abatis and log obstructions, but could not claw their way into the works. Upton ordered his brigade to lie down and not return fire. Soon after, Clingman’s left regiment was turned by a flanking fire and Upton moved the Second Connecticut around to take the position which was held through the night and into the next morning. Nothing more could be done; Confederate secondary lines, fully manned and no more than 50 yards away, covered the area with a cross fire of infantry and artillery and luckily, orders to renew the assault never arrived. Upton’s, Truex’s, and Smith’s brigades (the latter also from the Third Division), had made the most headway for the Sixth Corps and the casualty count showed how vicious the fight had been, especially among the larger, untried regiments. The Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery lost 313 officers and men on June 1, compared to 11 total in the battle wise veteran regiments that had learned to take advantage of ground cover for protection and use their skills in avoiding open ground easily swept by cannon and musket.
Over the next two days, the Ninety-fifth spent time on picket duty and reversing captured southern earthworks while under a constant fire of sharpshooters. General Grant ordered an all out attack for the evening of June 3, which took place without the movement of numerous brigades including Upton’s. Having moved the Second Connecticut back to a low area of ground for cover, the young general only shifted some of his regiments around but did not order any to go forward. Many other commanders in the Sixth Corps did likewise, the futile attack meaning more death with no foreseeable gain. Barely a week later, the Sixth Corps moved out of the Cold Harbor battlefield and crossed the James River to strike at Petersburg. The opening attacks proved successful, but the arrival of Lee’s main body thwarted additional Union success. At this point the Ninety-fifth was whittled down to a shadow; barely 150 officers and men were in the ranks, missing a number still on sick leave, injured, or on detached duty.
The corps settled into a routine of trench warfare as the siege of Petersburg began, with forays around the Confederate flank. The Ninety-fifth did picket and skirmish duty, built earthworks and bomb proofs. On June 21, the Sixth Corps moved south and west in support of the Second Corps, which was moving to cut the Weldon Railroad, one of the major supply lines into Petersburg. The next day, a bold counterattack by Confederate troops under William Mahone and Cadmus Wilcox drove the Second Corps back and past the Jerusalem Plank Road. The First Division of the Sixth Corps rapidly threw up a thin line of breastworks and met the enemy attack, fighting with a determination not to be driven back. The Second Corps units also made a stand along the road, where the men cut down trees and dug defensive works while advanced regiments fought off the Confederate attacks. By nightfall both corps had established a strong line that could not be penetrated and the works were improved throughout the following days.
On June 12, Lee struck upon a bold plan, sending a Confederate force under General Jubal Early down the Shenandoah Valley to draw troops away from the Petersburg front. Early’s invasion of Maryland and subsequent threat to Washington drew the Sixth Corps from the Petersburg front on July 7th. The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania, commanded at this time by Captain F. J. Randall, arrived in Washington by river transport on July 11, just in time to assist in the repulse of the Confederate feint against Fort Stevens the following day. Early withdrew and retreated to the Shenandoah, followed by the combined forces of the Sixth, Nineteenth, and Eighth Corps, the new Army of the Shenandoah, commanded by General Phil Sheridan. Sheridan’s forces roved southward down the valley toward Winchester, driving off Confederate forces and seizing stores. It was a new type of warfare, designed to not only defeat the Confederate Army but to destroy the southern will to continue. In mid-September, Early finally turned to face his antagonist just south of Winchester, Virginia. The Battle of Opequon opened early on the morning of September 19th with Sherdian sending the Sixth Corps into the center of the fight. Before moving to the front, General Russell designated the Second Brigade to be held in reserve while the Ninety-fifth and Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania, the two units now combined into a battalion, guarded the corps wagon trains.
Though the Battle of Opequan was a Union victory, the losses sustained by both sides were severe. Among the dead was General Russell, killed by a shell fragment while directing a brigade into position. General Upton immediately assumed command of the division, leaving Col. Joseph Hamblin of the Sixty-fifth New York in command of the Second Brigade.