Behind The Stonewall

Regimental History For The 79th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry

The following excerpt is from book "Pennsylvania At Chickamauga And Chattanooga - Ceremonies At The Dedication Of Monuments Erected By The Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania."  The excerpt can be found on pages 240 - 250.  The publish date on the book appears to be in 1900 by the State Printer of Pennsylvania, Stanley Ray. 

"In the early part of August 1861, Henry A. Hambright, of Lancaster, was authorized by the Secretary of War to recruit a regiment. With the exception of Company D, which was recruited In Washington County, the companies were all raised In Lancaster County. As fast as organized they were sent to Camp Wilkins, near Pittsburgh, and on the 11th of October the last company had arrived. The regimental organization was effected by the selection of the following field officers: Henry A. Hambright, of Lancaster, Colonel; John H. Duchman, of Lancaster, Lieutenant Colonel; William S. Mellinger, of Monongahela City, Major. The officers and most of the privates had served in the three months’ campaign. Brigadier General James S. Negley was assigned to the command of the brigade composed of the Seventy-seventh, Seventy-eighth and Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania Regiments, and on the afternoon of the 17th of October, it left camp and marched to Allegheny City, where the State colors were presented by Governor Curtin, who accompanied the presentation with a stirring address.
On the following day the brigade marched through the city of Pittsburgh, and embarked upon a fleet of steamers bound for Louisville, Kentucky. A short time before starting the deck of the steamer, Sir William Wallace, on which was a part of the Seventy-ninth, gave way with a tremendous crash, seriously injuring Adjutant C. R. Frailey, so much so as never after to return to the regiment. Daniel Landis, of Company B, and Daniel Clemens, leader of the band, also suffered some injuries. Soon after its arrival, the brigade proceeded by rail to Camp Nevin, on Nolin Creek, and three weeks later across the stream to Camp Negley. On the 17th of December it moved south, and after some delay at Bacon Creek it continued the march to Camp Wood, near Munfordsville, on the north bank of Green River. It was here engaged in drilling, and in picket, guard, and scout duty.
Upon the opening of the spring campaign, General A. McDowell McCook, to whose division Negley’s Brigade had been assigned, was ordered to proceed north via the Ohio River, and Join Grant in his movement upon Forts Henry and Donelson. At Bacon Creek the order was countermanded, and the division returned to Nashville. It remained in camp near the city until the 29th of March, when the Seventy-ninth was ordered to Columbia. Soon after its arrival a detachment under Captain Kendrick, of Company A, was sent out to repair the lines of telegraph between Columbia and Pulaski. While busily engaged in this duty it was suddenly pounced upon by a squad of Morgan’s Cavalry, and nearly the whole party captured. As soon as intelligence reached headquarters, four companies under command of Major Mellinger, a squadron of cavalry, and a section of artillery, were dispatched in pursuit. When near Pulaski, the prisoners, who had been paroled, were met on there way back to camp. Mellinger moved forward to the town, encountering a few rebel pickets who fled rapidly as he approached, and occupied it without opposition. He was soon after relieved by Colonel Sirwell of the Seventy-eighth and returned with his command to camp.
The Union forces in eastern and central Kentucky had at first been under the command of General Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame, but subsequently under General Sherman. The latter upon being relieved at his own request, was superseded by General Buell. Early in April the main body of the Army of the Cumberland moved to Pittsburg Landing, to the support of Grant, but the Seventy-ninth was left as a guard upon the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. On the 10th of May, General Negley, made an expedition to Rodgersville, Tennessee, the advance brigade consisting of the Seventy-eighth and Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania Infantry, two battalions of cavalry and a section of artillery, all under command of Colonel Hambright. The enemy was discovered upon the opposite side of the river, which is here about seven hundred yards wide. The brigade was hastily formed, the Seventy-ninth in advance, and opened fire. The enemy took shelter in some log huts standing along the shore, but were driven out by a few well directed shells. On the 16th the command moved on towards Florence. Before starting a detachment of eighty men, under command of Captain Klein, of Company F, was sent down the river in boats for the purpose of capturing and destroying rebel crafts and contraband property, that they should find on the way. In passing the Muscle Shoals, which extend ten or twelve miles, many difficulties were encountered, the boats grounding and the men being compelled to leap into the water and work their way through as best they could. Nine boats were destroyed and a rebel scout captured. From Florence the command returned again to Columbia.
On the 29th of May, General Negley was ordered to proceed with an independent force consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery across the mountains to Chattanooga. Colonel Hambright was now in command of the brigade which formed part of the force, and Major Mellinger of the regiment. The enemy’s pickets were first encountered at Walden Ridge. They fell back, as Negley advanced, upon their main body under command of General Adams, drawn up in line of battle ready to dispute the passage of Sweden’s Cove. Three companies of the Seventy-ninth, under Captain Klein, were thrown forward as skirmishers, which scoured the hills and brought in a few prisoners. The cavalry was held under cover in the timber, and the artillery, which had been brought up and advantageously posted, opened fire. A few shells sent the enemy flying in confusion, when the cavalry emerging from the woods, gave chase. Two miles out he was overtaken when a spirited skirmish ensued in which high loss was considerable. Without further opposition the command advanced, and arrived in front of Chattanooga on the 7th of June. The enemy was found on the opposite side of the river, well entrenched, close to the bank, and on the summit of the hill overlooking the stream, and prepared with artillery to dispute the crossing. Hambright’s Brigade was ordered forward to reconnoiter the ford. Sypher’s and Nell’s sections of artillery were brought into position, with the Seventy-ninth in support, Company A, Captain Benson, being thrown forward to the river bank to act as sharpshooters and to pick off the enemy’s gunners. The Fifth Kentucky Cavalry, Colonel Haggard, and the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, Major Wynkoop, were thrown to the rear under cover, and out of the range of the enemy’s guns for the protection of flanks and rear. His infantry soon opened from his entrenchments, and his artillery, consisting of one twenty-four pounder, one eighteen pounder, and four smaller pieces, was served with spirit. The fire was promptly returned, and for five hours a brisk cannonade was kept up, silencing his guns, and causing him to beat a hasty retreat. The loss in the Seventy-ninth was one wounded. The object of this expedition was a diversion in favor of General Smith, who was attempting to force his way through Cumberland Gap, into East Tennessee. The end having been accomplished, General Negley returned with his command to Shelbyville, having been absent but fourteen days, had two engagements with the enemy, and performed a toilsome march of two hundred and eighty-four miles.
The 4th of July was celebrated by the command with becoming honors, raising a National flag, firing salutes, and parading. Hon. Edmund Cooper delivered an oration, after which the command was treated to a dinner prepared by the citizens. To this date the following changes in the regiment had occurred: seven men had deserted, thirty-three had died, and fifty-one had been discharged, leaving nine hundred and seven, of whom fifty were in hospitals. Early in July, Major Mellinger, with four companies was ordered to Wartrace to reinforce General Barnes, who, having left a small force to hold the place, had gone in search of the enemy. A few days later the entire regiment was ordered forward. A detachment of two companies was sent to Duck River with orders to fortify the south bank, erect a stockade on the north bank, and protect the railroad bridge at that point. It soon became evident that the position must be abandoned, and before the works were completed, an order was received to reduce them, and retire with the regiment to Tullahoma.
Upon its arrival it was assigned to a brigade composed of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Nineteenth Regulars, commanded by General William S. Smith. From Tullahoma the brigade proceeded to Manchester, where a detachment of the Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry was engaged in picket duty. On the 8th of August the regiment was ordered to Nashville, and upon its arrival encamped on College Hill, south of the city. The enemy hovered about the Capitol, and made frequent attempts to capture the place and destroy the railroad. The regiment was sent by General Miller on the 20th, to the support of a party of Indiana troops defending the trestle-work of a bridge near Gallatin, and threatened by a superior force. Before its arrival the enemy had succeeded in destroying it, but could not overpower the guard. It was, subsequently, again ordered to Gallatin to the support of the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, which had been attacked by Morgan’s bands, but did not arrive in time to have a part in the engagement. After remaining a few days it returned again to Nashville, and was assigned to the Third Brigade, General Starkweather, First Division, General Rousseau, Fourteenth Corps, A. McDowell McCook. The brigade was composed of the Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania, First Wisconsin, Seventeenth Kentucky, and Fourth Indiana Battery. About this time the regimental band was mustered out by general order of the War Department, and returned home.
Early in September the movement of Buell’s Army north commenced. Bragg with a strong force had broken into Kentucky, ravaging and destroying on every hand, and was directing his course towards Louisville. Buell made forced marches to reach it in advance of him and was successful, arriving in front of the town on the 26th. Foiled in his purpose, Bragg soon turned back, and, having collected immense stores began to make his way south. Encumbered with his trains, his progress was slow. Buell moved in pursuit and came up with him near Perryville. To save his trains Bragg was obliged to turn and give battle. Artillery firing commenced early on the morning of the 8th of October. Rousseau’s Division was hastened forward and drawn up in line, Barnes’ and Lytle’s Brigades on the right, Harris’ in the center, and Starkweather’s on the left, with Terrill’s Brigade of Jackson’s Division on the left, in front of, and somewhat in advance of the main line. Favored by irregularities of ground, and woods in his front, the enemy was enabled to approach upon the left in heavy force unobserved, and at a little after noon, fell upon Terrill’s Brigade in great violence, accompanied with unearthly yells. This brigade, composed of raw troops, staggered under the terrible blow, and soon fled in confusion. General Jackson was killed by the first volley. Starkweather’s Brigade stood in rear of Terrill, the First Kentucky and Fourth Indiana Batteries on the hill, the Twenty-first Wisconsin in front, the Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania, the First Wisconsin, and Twenty-fourth Illinois in rear and in support of the batteries. As soon as the panic stricken troops of Terrill had passed to the rear, the enemy followed up his advance, with intent to crush and turn McCook’s left, but was met by Starkweather who stood firm. The batteries of Bush and Stone did fearful execution, and the infantry poured in a steady fire. Three times the rebels charged with determined valor, but were as often bloodily repulsed. At length, the ammunition having been exhausted, the infantry retired to replenish it, the guns were moved back near Russell’s House, and the infantry again returned to its place in the line. The battle raged upon the right with equal violence, and the line was carried back but the divisions of Mitchell and Sheridan, of Gilbert’s Corps, stubbornly held their ground and the enemy was at length forced to give up the contest. Upon advancing on the following morning, it was discovered that he had fled during the night. The Seventy-ninth lost in this engagement, thirty-seven killed, one hundred and forty-nine wounded, and three missing, an aggregate of one hundred and eighty-nine. Captain Samuel J. Boone and Lieutenant Henry J. Test, were of the killed.
The army followed up the retreating rebels, harassing their rear, passing Drainesville, where a large number of their wounded were found, Stanford, Crab Orchard, Lebanon, and Bowling Green, at which place the pursuit was stayed, and General Buell was superseded by General Rosecrans. While here sanitary stores from the "Patriot Daughters of Lancaster" were received. On the 9th of November the brigade, under command of Colonel Hambright, was sent to Mitchellsville with orders to guard the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The regiments were detailed along the road, the headquarters of the Seventy-ninth being at Camp McCloud, six miles south of Mitchellsville. A month later the brigade was summoned to join the main body of the army encamped at Nashville, and about to start on the campaign of Stone River. Upon its arrival Rousseau’s Division was assigned to General Thomas’ Corps. On the 27th, the division left camp and marched down the Franklin Pike, thence across to Nolansville, and to the Murfreesboro Pike, at a point about ten miles north of Murfreesboro, where a junction was formed with the main column on the evening of the 29th. Early on the following morning the army moved forward, the advance soon encountering the enemy’s skirmishers, who fell back before it. Late in the evening the brigade was dispatched to Jefferson, on the Stone River Pike, to protect the train and cut off the retreat of the rebel cavalry. On Tuesday, the 30th, the wagon train belonging to the brigade separated from the main train and followed the column to Jefferson. While on the way it was attacked by Wheeler’s Cavalry and before help could be obtained twenty-two wagons, containing stores and camp equipage, were burned, and six men captured. On the following morning the brigade crossed the Stone River Bridge and moved on towards Murfreesboro. Two miles out, a number of stragglers were met who reported Rosecrans’ Army cut to pieces and retreating towards Nashville. Soon an orderly came who directed the brigade to return and join the division, which was accomplished before nightfall. It was moved into a thicket of cedars and posted to repel an attack. The following day, January 1, 1863, was spent in feeling the enemy and reconnoitering. Early next morning the enemy opened a brisk fire. The infantry was rapidly moved forward and the engagement, which soon became general, raged with unabated fury for four hours. The Third Brigade was in line with the left resting on the pike, the Seventy-ninth In support of Loomis’ Battery. The rebel guns, half a mile distant, opened a rapid fire upon it, to the sore annoyance of the supports, but was finally silenced. In the afternoon the enemy made a fierce assault upon the left, but was met and driven by Negley’s command. During the evening the brigade was moved to the front line, the Seventy-ninth occupying a rifle-pit which was hastily thrown up after darkness had set in. Companies C, E, H and I were thrown out as post pickets, but the enemy having learned their position, posted a battery so as to command it and drove them out, gaining possession of the cedars and holding them until the following evening. During the night he was dislodged; but before morning had withdrawn, leaving his dead unburied. The loss of the regiment was two killed and ten wounded.
The casualties up to this time had been as follows: nine commissioned officers had resigned; one died of disease; two killed In action; three wounded in action; one captured; thirty-seven enlisted men killed in action; one hundred and fifty-six enlisted men wounded; seventeen died from wounds received in action; fourteen captured, paroled and ex-changed; six captured, paroled and not exchanged; one hundred and three discharged for disability; eighteen members of band, mustered out; forty died of disease; fifty-three deserted and two transferred; six-teen recruits received. It numbered at this time thirty-five commissioned officers, and six hundred and eighty-eight enlisted men, of whom twenty-five officers and four hundred and eighty-four men were present for duty. One hundred and forty-eight were sick, of whom seventy-six were wounded. The remainder were on detached duty. Of the one hundred and three men discharged for disability, thirty-five were for wounds.
After the battle the regiment went into camp at Murfreesboro, where supplies of clothing, and a beautiful flag, the gift of citizens of Lancaster, were received. Foraging expeditions were frequently sent out, occasionally meeting parties of the enemy. On the 19th of April, the Third Brigade, In company with other troops under command of General Reynolds, was ordered to McMinnville. Two cotton mills, several gristmills, and a large amount of stores, including twenty-five thousand pounds of bacon, were destroyed, and sixty prisoners taken. The command moved to Liberty, where a large steam-flouring mill was destroyed and a large amount of forage and provisions collected, and dispatched to the army.
On the 1st of June, the division was reviewed by General Rousseau, and on the 24th, the summer campaign opened. By skilful maneuvering the enemy was turned out of his position, and sent flying across the mountains to Chattanooga, which he was determined to hold. Rosecrans followed on, crossed the Tennessee River, at Bridgeport, struck boldly out across the mountains, and arrived on the 17th upon the Chickamauga Creek in rear of the rebel army. Bragg, taking the alarm, evacuated Chattanooga, and moved out to, and beyond Ringgold, where, having been heavily reinforced, be faced about, assumed the offensive, and gathered in his forces for a decisive battle. Negley had been sent on the 12th to Dug Cap, to cut off Bragg’s way of retreat by the valley beyond, but encountered obstinate resistance, and it now became fully evident that he intended to fight. The Third Brigade, now changed to the Second, was sent to Negley’s relief, who was thereby barely enabled to get off in safety. On the 18th, the army was massed in the valley beyond Crawfish Spring, across the Rossville Road, covering Chattanooga. The First Division, now commanded by General Baird, marched during the entire night to reach its position. At eight o’clock on Saturday, the 19th, a dull heavy sound was heard away to the left. Deepening in intensity, it crept nearer and nearer, and at ten the battle was in full progress. Bragg had massed his forces, and having crossed Chickamauga Creek was hurling them upon the Union left, Intent to reach the Rossville Road and break the Union line of retreat. In the early part of the battle the Second acted as a support to Scribner’s Brigade. It was not long, however, before the impetuosity of the rebel attack caused Scribner to waver and finally to give way. The enemy eagerly followed up the advantage, and pushed through the break to the right, screening his movement by the woods. The Second Brigade was now ordered forward. As it moved by the flank the enemy suddenly sprang up from his lurking place and poured in a galling fire, causing fearful havoc. Taking advantage of the confusion produced by this sudden attack, he charged upon the brigade battery, and captured it, before the pieces could be unlimbered or a gun fired. Having suffered severely, the division was moved half a mile to the rear where the line was reformed, and late in the afternoon, favored by the heavy fighting on the extreme right, advanced and retrieved much of the ground that had been lost in the early part of the day. Just before dusk the enemy made a determined assault, when the Union lines were again forced back. In the darkness Lieutenant Colonel Miles and about twenty enlisted men became separated from the regiment, and were taken prisoners. A new line was finally established and all night long the men labored erecting temporary earthworks.
Sunday morning dawned dull and cold. A dense fog hung over the entire valley, obscuring every object. Screened by the mist, the enemy moved out and commenced the attack, on the right, before the line had been properly formed. By ten A. M., the fight had become general, the crash of infantry and roar of artillery mingling peal on peal. For hours the battle raged without a lull. The batteries of the First Division which had good range, poured in grape and canister with fearful rapidity, as the enemy in heavy columns charged again and again upon this one unsupported line. The carnage in its front was fearful, the artillery opening wide gaps. In his dense ranks, and the fire of the infantry sweeping them with a shower of leaden hail. In the center, the Fourteenth Corps held firmly its ground and was ready to advance, but the wings had been broken and scattered. At length the enemy’s fire began to slacken, and General Thomas, apprised of the disasters on other parts of the field, fell back. During the night he retired four or five miles to the neighborhood of Rossville, and on the night of the 21st, wrapping the wheels of the artillery with shelter tents, withdrew without molestation to Chattanooga. The Twentieth and Twenty-first Corps were already in line in front of the town, and the dispositions were soon made which rendered Its occupation secure, the two wings resting on the river. The Seventy-ninth entered the battle with seventeen officers and three hundred and fifty men, of whom sixteen were killed, sixty-six wounded, and forty-seven missing, an aggregate of one hundred and twenty-nine. Captain Lewis Heidegger, was among the killed, and Lieutenant Frederick Strasbaugh mortally wounded.
The enemy immediately invested the town, and cut all communications, except by mountain paths. The army soon began to suffer for want of food, the animals dying by thousands from starvation. General Hooker with two corps of the Army of the Potomac finally arrived, and under the skillful leadership of General Grant, who had now superseded Rosecrans in chief command, the river was opened and supplies began to be received, but in Insufficient quantities, and the men were still obliged to subsist on short rations. On the 23rd, 24th and 25th of November the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge were fought, which drove the enemy in disaster from our front. While these battles were in progress the Seventy-ninth was posted in the forts around Chattanooga and was not engaged.
On the 9th of February, 1854, two hundred and sixty-five of the regiment re-enlisted, and were mustered in on the 12th. On the 22d, instead of the veteran furlough as was anticipated, the regiment was ordered to move with the division to Tunnel Hill, held by the enemy. Forming line of battle as it came up with the hostile force, it advanced, under fire, and flanking the position compelled its abandonment. The enemy retired to Buzzard’s Roost, where he was in strong force well posted to resist attack. After reconnoitering it, the command fell back without assaulting, passing Tunnel Hill and encamping at Tyler’s Station. The regiment lost two wounded in this encounter. After a few days delay at this point, the veterans received the order for their furlough, and leaving Chattanooga on the 8th, arrived at Lancaster on the 16th. Returning at the expiration of the furlough, they found the brigade lying in front of the enemy at Buzzard’s Roost, and at one P. M., on the 9th of May, once more moved into line. The campaign on Atlanta was now fully inaugurated, and the regiment prepared to breast the storm of battle, which continued to rage with little interruption until that stronghold of rebellion had fallen. Shortly after getting into position Colonel Hambright was struck by a fragment of shell, which disabled him, and Major Locher succeeded to ‘the command. On the 11th the regiment was on the skirmish line and had one killed and several wounded. The enemy having fallen back, the division moved along the base of St. John’s Mountain, through Snake Gap, had a brisk skirmish midway between Dalton and Resaca. and arrived at Resaca on the 16th of May. The Seventy-ninth was here detailed to collect the arms and bury the dead left upon the field. Fifteen hundred stands of arms were gathered, and two hundred and twenty-eight of the enemy’s dead buried. Soon afterwards, the regiment was sent to escort a wagon train to Acworth. This duty done, it rejoined the brigade, and was again engaged on the 18th of June, losing eight men wounded. In the operations in front of Kenesaw Mountain it was employed in throwing up works, and in skirmishing, losing several killed and wounded. In the advance of the enemy on the 20th, Major Locher and seven enlisted men were wounded, and the command devolved on Captain J. S. McBride. In connection with the Twenty-first Ohio it was ordered to charge the enemy’s works, and succeeded in driving him out, but with a loss of one killed and sixteen wounded.
The enemy now fell back to his entrenched lines about Atlanta, and the operations to turn him out commenced. In these the regiment participated, and, upon the fall of the city, the division was commended for its gallantry in an order from General Carlin in command. After the occupation of the city the division was sent back as far as Marietta, where it was engaged in repairing the railroad, which the enemy had destroyed. The losses during the entire Atlanta campaign were six killed, eighty-six wounded, twelve mortally, and two taken prisoners, an aggregate of ninety-four.
On the 16th of November, clothing and rations having been issued, the regiment set forward on the Great March to the Sea. The following brief extract from the record of its progress will illustrate the general character of that memorable march: "24th of November, left camp at seven A.M., crossing the Oconee River, marching ten miles on Sandersville Road and encamping. 25th, not on the march; day spent in foraging. 26th, left camp at seven A. M., the division in rear of cavalry train. A swamp at Buffalo Creek delayed the train, and it was midnight before the wagons all got over. 27th, left camp at seven A.M., crossing the swamp, marched three miles to Scragg Creek Swamp, passing through Sandersville at one P. M., and thence southeast, striking the Macon and Savannah Railroad and encamping. 28th, left camp at eight A. M., and at Davidsboro Station came up with the Twentieth Corps, engaged in tearing up the road." On the 21st of December, the regiment entered Savannah, the enemy having retired without offering serious opposition. After Its occupation the regiment went into camp a few miles from the city, where supplies of clothing were issued, and where it rested for a month.
On the 18th of January, 1865, the regiment broke camp, and passing through the city, started with the army on the march north through the Carolinas. On approaching the Black River, on the 15th of March, It was ascertained that the enemy in force under Hardee was in front. Three days later a part of the Twentieth Corps had an engagement at Swiss Farm, the First Division of the Fourteenth Corps being in line, but not engaged. On the morning of the 19th the division, the Third Brigade in advance, moved for Goldsboro. Skirmishing began soon after leaving camp, and the line of battle was formed as the troops came up. The enemy was found in position and soon opened briskly. The Seventy-ninth was posted in support of the First Division Battery, but was soon ordered away, three of its number being wounded as it passed. A line of works was hastily thrown up and a charge ordered to develop the enemy’s strength. The Seventy-ninth was of the charging column. It moved boldly up to within thirty yards of the rebel works, when receiving a murderous fire, and the supporting regiment giving way, it was forced to yield. The charge had been made along the entire line, but was re-pulsed at every point, with heavy loss. Soon after, the division was flanked, and the rebels swarming in behind the works drove regiment after regiment towards the right. The Seventy-ninth held the extreme right of the division, and the enemy now in flank and rear had reached the line of the brigade. Quickly changing front to meet the advancing foe, the regiment charged, encountering a terrific fire. By hard fighting the brigade held the ground until the troops in rear had thrown up breast-works, when it retired. During the night the works were strengthened and securely established. In this engagement, known as the battle of Bentonville, the loss was thirteen killed and forty-six wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Miles, in command of the brigade, was among the wounded. On the 22d the command moved on to Goldsboro, where the regiment received two hundred recruits. From Goldsboro it moved to Raleigh, and thence to Martha’s Vineyard, where it was encamped when news was received that General Johnston had surrendered, and the war was practically at an end. At quick step and with light hearts, the division marched via Richmond to the neighborhood of Washington, where, on the 12th of July, the regiment was mustered out of service."

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