The recruiting for the 101st PA began in August of 1861 with Joseph H. Wilson, of Beaver County, being elected Colonel of the regiment on September 17th, 1861. The regiment was intended to be a cross section representation of the Commonweath and thus received the nickname of the "Keystone Regiment." The following list of Companies explains the counties in which they were recruited and the company nicknames. Additionally, some men enrolled from other counties, states & even countries.
|Company||County Recruited In||Company Name|
|A||Allegheny & Cumberland||Duquesne Guards & Duquesne Zouaves|
|D||Bedford||All Hazard Boys|
|G||Allegheny & Bedford|
|H||Beaver, Allegheny & Butler||Beaver Guards|
|I||Allegheny, Schuylkill & Northumberland||McFarland Rangers & "Tigers"|
*Named for Colonel Unger; Quartermaster at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, PA
Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, PA - Nov 1861 - 27 Feb 1862
Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA - 1 March 1862 - 31 March 1862
Fortress Monroe & Newport News, VA - 1 April 1862 - 15 April 1862
Siege of Yorktown, VA - 16 April 1862 - 4 May 1862
Battle of Williamsburg, VA - 5 May 1862
Battle of Fair Oaks / Seven Pines, VA - 31 May to 2 June 1862
Seven Days Battle and retreat to Harrison's Landing, VA - 1 July to 15 Aug 1862
Duty at Fortress Monroe, VA - 16 Aug to 17 Sep 1862
Duty at Suffolk, VA & Blackwater Expeditions - 18 Sep to 5 Dec 1862
Southwest Creek near New Bern, NC - 13 Dec 1862
Battle of Kinston, NC - 14 Dec 1862
Engagement at Whitehall, NC - 16 Dec 1862
Battle of Goldsboro, NC - 17 Dec 1862
Expedition to Fairfield, NC - 16 Feb 1863
Hyde County Raid, NC - 7 - 31 March 1863
Spinola Raid to Blounts Creek, NC - 4 - 10 April 1863
New Bern, NC - 21 May 1863
Expedition to Nichol's Mills, NC - 28 June 1863
Expedition to Gardner's Bridge & Williamston, NC - 5 - 7 July 1863
Expedition to Foster's Mills - 26 - 29 July 1863
Skirmish at Plymouth, NC? - 26 Nov 1863
Expedition to Gum Neck, Tyrrel Co., NC - 14 Dec 1863
Expedition to Harrellsville, NC - 20 Jan 1864 (Detachment)
Expedition to Windsor, NC - 30 Jan 1864
Expedition to Fairfield, NC - 16 Feb 1864
Battle of Plymouth, NC - 17-20 April 1864
Camp Fremont, Pittsburgh, PA
Named for Gen. John C. Fremont. In the 1856 election for President, Gen. Fremont was the newly formed Republican Party's first candidate.
From time to time during the recruiting process, men were sent forward to Camp Curtin from Camp Fremont in Pittsburgh and various other places around the state.
Company A left October 16th, 1861 for Camp Curtin.
Company H left Camp Fremont on October 22nd, 1861. They spent the 23rd at Wilkins Hall in Pittsburgh (formerly located on Fourth Avenue between Wood & Smithfield streets) & left at 5 a.m. on the morning of Oct 24th for Camp Curtin.
Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, PA
The time spent at Camp Curtin was filled with drilling, camp instruction, organizing the regiment and the selection of non-commissioned officers. After great rivalry between the companies for position in the line, it was settled that they would stand in the following order across the battle line from left to right: B, G, K, E, H, C, I, D, F, A. Company C was the Color Company.
In December of 1861 these men were given their regimental number; becoming the 101st PA Volunteers. The 101st were issued their arms, Harper's Ferry Muskets, around the 10th of February 1862. Governor Curtin presented their regimental flag on the 26th of February and they left Camp Curtin on the 27th for Baltimore, MD, en route to Washington, DC. They remained one night at Baltimore at McKim Barracks before proceeding to Washington, DC. McKim Barracks was located near present day Johnston Square Park.
Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA
On March 1st, 1862, the 101st arrived at the Baltimore & Ohio depot near the Capitol. They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and arrived at Meridian Hill around noon. They then went to camp there in Sibley tents. This camp was called Camp Wilson. The next month was filled with drilling, guard duty, dress parades, etc. Also during this time they exchanged their Harper's Ferry Muskets for Austrian Rifles. Companies A & B received Hungarian Rifles.
While in Washington, members of the 101st had the opportunity to meet President Lincoln, Vice-President Hamlin and see such sites as the Smithsonian, the Patent Office and the unfinished Capitol Building & Washington Monument.
The 101st PA was assigned to General Erasmus Keyes' 4th Army Corps, General Silas Casey's [3d] Division, Second Brigade. The Second Brigade was commanded by Brig. Gen. W. H. Keim and consisted of the: 85th PA, Col. Joshua B. Howell; 101st PA, Col. Joseph Wilson; 103d PA, Col. Theodore F. Lehmann; & 96th NY, Col. James Fairman.
Casey's Division left Meridian Hill on March 28th, 1862 for Alexandria, VA to be transported by ship to Newport News & Fortress Monroe, VA. The 101st PA boarded the transport ship Georgia on the evening of the 30th during a violent storm. In the morning, they found that the Georgia was too heavily loaded, and five companies of the 101st went ashore. Companies G & H were among the companies who went ashore. About 5000 men from Casey's Division boarded the steamer Constitution and left around 6 am. The Georgia left at 9 am. About noon, Companies G & H embarked on the steamer State of Maine with a total of about 1500 men from Casey's Division. The remaining three 101st companies left last on the steamer Hero.
Fortress Monroe & Newport News, VA
The State of Maine passed the Constitution & Georgia and arrived at Fortress Monroe first during the morning of the 2nd of April. Part of the Brigade, including Co. K of the 101st PA, landed at Newport News instead of Fortress Monroe. There were a lot of vessels at Fortress Monroe; including the Monitor. The troops arriving at Fortress Monroe would spend the night in the Cavalry barracks at Camp Hamilton located about a mile from Fortress Monroe and would march the following day to Newport News. During their short stay at Newport News, companies A & B exchanged their Hungarian Rifles for Austrian rifles. Now the regiment was completely outfitted with .54 caliber Austrian rifles. Once their force was assembled, they marched towards Yorktown, VA on the 16th of April to commence a siege. On the way to Yorktown, they passed by the Warwick Court House.
Siege of Yorktown, VA
Kiem's Brigade was ordered to the front and joined Casey's Division at Camp Winfield Scott on April 17th. They stayed at Camp Winfield Scott until the 3d of May, during which time they were called into the line of battle once or twice every night. Private Omer Morehouse of Co. B received a gunshot wound through the wrist on the 27th of April while on picket duty. On the 4th of May it was learned that the Confederates had fled. They left in pursuit of the enemy, passing the deserted fortifications of Yorktown and moved on by way of Burnt Ordinary [Toano], VA, ending up 6 miles East of Williamsburg, VA.
Battle of Williamsburg, VA
Early on the morning of the 5th of May 1862, General Hooker engaged the enemy. The 101st arrived at 4:30 pm and were formed in line and moved to the front. They were held under fire as a reserve until the close of the engagement. Their position fell opposite of Fort Magruder and they were exposed to heavy fire from the enemy. Shielded by a strip of woods, there were only five 101st soldiers wounded; including Samuel Dile, Co. A; James F. Wiley, Co. C; Peter Booty, Co. D: Abner Wesley Leonard, Co. F & Alexander Miller, Co. K. (Wilson Gilliam of Co. D also died at Williamsburg on the 16th of May, from unknown causes) The fighting ceased at dark and the regiment moved forward and to the left of the woods, being kept in line under cold rain until 11 pm. The Confederates retreated and the next day the regiment was ordered to the south bank of the York River. On the 7th, they were ordered to return and passed through Williamsburg and six miles forward on the Richmond Road; still holding the advance of McClellan's army.
Battle of Fair Oaks / Seven Pines, VA
On the 10th of May 1862 the Army of the Potomac began their march towards Richmond, with General Casey's Division, including the 101st PA, leading the way. They camped on the 13th near the New Kent Court-house and remained there until the 17th of May when they began their march towards the Chicahominy River. They arrived at the residence of General Lee called the White House. McClellan used the house as his headquarters. The White House stood on the site where the Custis mansion once stood where George Washington had spent the night and met Martha Custis, who later became his wife. During this time, many soldiers of the 101st PA saw McClellan for the first time.
On the 19th, Casey's Division headed onward to the Chicahomony River, arriving on the 21st. On the 22nd, companies D & I of the 101st PA crossed the Chicahominy and began digging rifle pits and slashing timber. The following day, Casey's Division, with the 101st in advance, crossed the river and encamped a few miles west of the Chicahominy. During the march from Williamsburg to the Chicahominy, many soldiers had become sick and several were left behind at various points. Colonel Wilson was one of the unfortunate ones to become ill and was left at Roper's Church with Lieutenant Colonel David B. Morris now being in command of the regiment. Gen. Keim, commanding the 2nd Brigade to which Casey's Division was attached, also became disabled by disease, with the command of the brigade being held temporarily by Colonel Howell, of the 85th PA, but eventually the command of the Brigade was assigned to General Henry W. Wessells.
On the 24th of May, an artillery engagement took place near Savage's Station with the 101st PA and other infantry regiments being called in as reserves. However, the 101st never engaged the enemy. On the 26th, Casey's Division marched to Seven Pines, VA and on the 29th to Fair Oaks. Upon arriving at Fair Oaks, efforts were made immediately to dig rifle pits due to the fact that the rebels were directly in front of them, with whom shots were occasionally exchanged.
On the 30th, the entire 101st was on the picket line, with Company B engaging the enemy. At the time it appeared nothing more than a skirmish, but the following morning, the Confederate forces under the command of General Joseph Johnston began their full attack. The battle lasted approximately 3 hours. Colonel Morris was wounded in the leg early in the battle and had to be carried off the battlefield. At that time, Captain Charles W. May gained command of the regiment. It was said, "He fought like a tiger!" Casey's Division, being out in front of the rest of the Army of the Potomac had less than 6,000 men, compared to an estimated Confederate force of 30,000 to 40,000. The 101st PA held their ground as long as they could; losing many men in the process. They were forced to retreat, but did not retreat until ordered to do so. Marching back about two miles, they lost all of their belongings, except what they were carrying with them when they went into battle.
Shortly after the battle, the men learned of the death of Colonel Wilson, who had been left behind due to illness. He died at Roper's Church, VA on May 30th due to Typhoid fever. It was a sad day in the life of the 101st.
After the battle, Gen. McClellan didn't have kind words about Casey's Division, but later issued a retraction. Many men of the Division were irate about his comments; some to the point of refusing to fight without a retraction. Many penned letters to prove that they fought bravely during the battle. Here is one such letter written by Adjutant Robert Fulton Cooper, 101st PA to Secretary of State, Eli Slifer. It also demonstrates Cooper's desire to become the Colonel of the regiment. The original letter is in the Pennsylvania State Archives.
"Near Seven Pines, Va., June 6th 62
As you will learn hereafter, if you have not already heard, the 101st Reg't P.V. behaved most gallantly on the 31st. - Gen. McClellan's dispatch concerning Casey's Division to the contrary notwithstanding. Say to Gov. Curtin that the flag he presented us on our leaving Harrisburg was borne proudly forward and penetrated eighteen times by the enemy's bullets. It is ours still.
Fifty of our men were at work on the fortication, and fifty on picket duty when the battle begun; and excluding our sick, we advanced with not more than four hundred in ranks. For more than one hour we maintained our line and held our ground on the extreme right of the division, in the face of an enemy five times our number, into whom all this while we poured a stream of deadly fire.
It was our fortune to fight immediately under the eye of our Brigadier General Wessel who was not retired over 60 paces from the right wing of the Regiment, which I commanded. Lt. Col Morris, commanding since the death of Col. Wilson, occupied a central position, but was severely wounded during the action, and it was not until our cartridges were exhausted, and I so reported to the General, that, by his order, we retired from the ground, slowly, reluctantly. Not one man broke his walk.
Our casualties amount to fifty per cent of the force we took into the field, being nearly two hundred killed and wounded. If any Pennsylvanian mourns over this, let him do it proudly. We feel that nothing short of stars are fit to patch our flag.
And now, Sir, I have been tried at Williamsburg and before Richmond. Our Colonelcy is vacant, and Lt. Co. Morris has sent me word to prepare and send in his resignation. Turn, if you please, to that paper presented you last winter by my sensational friends, asking my appointment to some important command, and say - am I not now entitled to the Colonelcy of this Regiment?
We have retired to the Long Bridge on the Richmond side of the Chickahomoney, only to breathe and gather together our sick and convalescent; but stand ready and willing for any service that may be required of us. The entire division is here also.
I just heard Gen. McClellan this morning corrects his first dispatch, and will hereafter do us full justice. All night.
Yours very respectfully
R. F. Cooper, Adjt 101st Reg. P.V.
Co. Eli Slifer, Sect State, PA"
Cooper would resign 15 days later due to "ill health."
Seven Days Battle & retreat to Harrison's Landing, VA
After the Battle of Fair Oaks, Wessells' Brigade was ordered south of the Williamsburg Road near White Oak Swamp. The Brigade engaged in picket and guard duty until the beginning of the Seven Days Battle. The 101st PA was engaged on detached service until the close of the Seven Days Battle at Malvern Hill. At this time, not much is known about their actual involvement in the Seven Days Battle.
On the 2nd of July, the Army of the Potomac began their retreat to Harrison's Landing, along the James River. Wessells' Brigade was bringing up the rear and engaged with Confederate cavalry on several occasions. The 101st PA arrived at Harrison's Landing on the 3d and all of the forces were reviewed by General McClellan the following day along with two Princes of the House of Orleans of France. Three days later, they were reviewed by President Lincoln.
During their stay at Harrison's Landing, they were engaged daily in heavy drill and spent some time on picket duty. Gen. Casey resigned shortly after the Battle of Fair Oaks and the Division received a new Division commander, General Peck.
Duty At Fortress Monroe, VA
On the 16th of August, 1862, the 101st's knapsacks were loaded on to a ship and they began their march from Harrison's Landing along the James River towards Fortress Monroe; spending the night of the 16th in a 100 acre cornfield. They roasted the corn for supper and cut down the stalks to use as bedding. By morning, the cornfield was of no use to its owner, having been put to good use by the Army. At daybreak on the 17th, the march began again; passing through Charles City. A total of 26 miles were marched in 13 hours. On the 18th, they marched 16 miles, passing through Williamsburg and the old battleground. They encamped and spent the following day in the same location. On the 20th they marched through Yorktown and encamped just outside of town for a few days. The 101st arrived at Fortress Monroe on the 24th and it was learned that the ship carrying their knapsacks had sunk. For many in the 101st, this was the third time that their knapsacks had been lost!
The 101st remained at Fortress Monroe until the 18th of September. During that time, they were drilled quite often. Due to the great loss of soldiers during the Peninsula Campaign, the 101st began the recruiting process to fill up their ranks. Due to the negative press concerning Casey's Division at Fair Oaks, Wessells' Brigade was basically pushed out of the 4th Army Corps and transferred to the 7th Army Corps, Department of Virginia.
Duty at Suffolk, VA
On the 18th of September, 1862, Wessells' Brigade was ordered to Suffolk, VA. They left Fortress Monroe by water and headed to Norfolk, where they boarded trains to Suffolk, arriving there on the same day. Upon arriving at Suffolk, they began building forts and digging rifle pits due to apparent enemy buildup in the area. Due to illness and wounds in the high ranking officers, Captain May of Co. F held command of the 101st PA.
On the 23d of September, with three days rations, Wessells' Brigade began a reconnaissance to the Blackwater River. They arrived the next morning at a church two miles beyond Carrsville (19 miles from Suffolk). After eating breakfast, they marched to the banks of the Blackwater River opposite of Franklin, VA. They engaged Confederate pickets and drove them across the river. Wessells' artillery began to fire on the enemy with the artillery fire lasting for nearly two hours. The 101st PA attempted to cross the river, but were prevented from doing so due to enemy sharpshooters, who wounded several men of the 101st. Wessells' Brigade, unable to get across the Blackwater, returned to Carrsville the next day, but continued its artillery fire. They returned back to Suffolk on the 26th.
Throughout the month of October, the 101st returned to the Blackwater two more times with nothing more than skirmishes taking place. Wessells' Brigade made one last expedition to the Blackwater on the 17th of November. This time, they brought along two pontoon bridges with them. However, one pontoon was too short and the other broke after only a few soldiers managed to get across. Wessells' Brigade was forced again to return to Suffolk without ever achieving their goal of crossing the Blackwater.
Captain May held command of the 101st until Lt. Colonel Armor returned. Feeling that there was a lack of recognition for his efforts and no further promotion, Capt. May resigned in November and went home.
Southwest Creek near New Bern, NC
On the 4th of December, 1862, Wessells' Brigade was ordered to go to New Bern, NC to reinforce General John Gray Foster. Foster was organizing his forces to go to Goldsboro, NC as a diversion to help General Burnside at Fredericksburg, VA. Wessells' Brigade left Suffolk, marching to the Chowan River near Gatesville, where they boarded ships. They proceeded down the Chowan River into the Albemarle Sound, past Roanoke Island, and then up the Neuse River arriving at New Bern on the 9th. On the 11th, Wessells' Brigade, along with Gen. Foster's 12,000 troops, began their march towards Kinston, NC enroute to Goldsboro.
Wessells took the advance and encountered some of the enemy's cavalry, with only light skirmishing taking place. However, a large number of Confederates were encountered on the evening of the 13th. Wessells' Brigade drove them across Southwest Creek and captured two artillery pieces. Lt. Col. Armor was accidentally hurt and sent back, with Major Alexander William Taylor assuming command of the 101st.
Battle of Kinston, NC
On the 14th of December, 1862, the Confederate forces were located along the south side of the Neuse River near the bridge heading into Kinston. The pickets of the 101st PA advanced from their position at sunrise and engaged the Confederates.
The Confederates retreated across the bridge into town and began to burn the bridge to prevent access to the town. However, the fire was stopped and the Union troops pushed forward as the enemy retreated out of town on the north side of the Neuse. Foster's troops, in control of the evacuated town, helped themselves to many supplies including a large lot of Rebel clothing. The following day, they crossed Kinston Bridge, back to the south side of the Neuse, burnt the bridge and continued on their way to Goldsboro.
Engagement at White Hall, NC
After leaving Kinston on the 15th, Confederates were engaged at White Hall (now Seven Springs), NC the next day. The enemy was situated on the north side of the Neuse River with the Union forces mounting their guns on a high hill on the south side. The battle was mainly an artillery dual with very little involvement from the infantry. A Rebel ram, the Neuse, was under construction at White Hall and it was thought that it was destroyed during the fight, but in actuality, very little damage was done to it. After the engagement, Foster's troops headed for Goldsboro, still traveling on the south side of the Neuse River and encamped that night just 8 miles from Goldsboro.
For further info regarding the battle at White Hall & the Rebel ram Neuse see:
Battle of Goldsboro, NC
On the 17th of December, 1862, Foster's troops arrived at Goldsboro, NC near the railroad bridge of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. A great artillery battle ensued with the enemy with very little Infantry involvement. The bridge was torched, and with that accomplished, the troops began their march back to New Bern. The Confederates crossed the river and attempted to capture a battery, but Wessells' Brigade was turned back to deal with them. Shells were thrown over the heads of Wessells' infantry and very little injury was inflicted upon them.
On the 1st of January, 1863, Foster's troops arrived back at New Bern and the 101st PA went into camp in Sibley tents on the South side of the Trent River; about a mile or two from New Bern, NC. The month of January was spent in drill & dress parade.
During January Wessells' Brigade was attached to the 1st Brigade, 4th Division, 18th Army Corps. They would remain in the 18th Corps for the duration of the war.
On the 7th of February the 101st received four months pay for the months of July - October 1862. On the 9th, the 101st moved their camp once again to within a half mile of the bridge across the Trent River heading into New Bern.
Colonel David B. Morris returned on the 13th of February; having recovered from his wounds received at the Battle of Fair Oaks and was placed in charge of the regiment.
Expedition to Fairfield, NC
On the 16th of February, 1863, General Wessells dispatched the army gunboat Foster, under the command of Captain McLaughlin, up the Alligator River to Fairfield, NC. Her crew was re-enforced by Lieutenant John B. Helm, of Co. G, and 30 additional men of the 101st PA. A band of guerrillas, the Spencer Rangers, were encamped there. Capt. William H. Spencer's Company of Partisan Rangers were responsible for funneling many wagons of foodstuffs, etc. out of the Hyde Co. area to the Confederate Army. This expedition was conducted in a heavy snow-storm, but the small federal force surprised and captured 28 of the Spencer Rangers, including Captain Spencer and a lieutenant. Much property was also taken. This was done without the loss of a single man. Even though Lieut. Helm had the cooperation of the army gunboat Foster, the 101st detachment effected the capture.
Hyde County Raid, NC
A company of home guards had been organized in Hyde County, NC. These men had evaded the Confederate conscription, but instead of offering protection to the people of Hyde County, they were a menace to both supporters of the Union and the Confederacy. Frequent raids were being made into this fertile county by the Union Cavalry to forage for supplies. During one such raid, the company of guerrillas ambushed Co. F of the 3d NY Cavalry and Co. G, 1st NC Volunteers. They killed three men and six horses, as well as wounding two Lieutenants and twelve men of the 3d NY Cavalry and one of the 1st NC Volunteers.
Colonel Morris, with the 101st & 103d PA were dispatched to the county, accompanied by Co. F of the 3d NY Cavalry and one piece of artillery and its caisson. They boarded the Northerner and Escort on the afternoon of the 7th of March and proceeded to Swan Quarter, Hyde County, accompanied by the North State and two scows. The troops arrived on the morning of the 8th with part debarking later that afternoon and the remainder the following morning. They set up camp on the 9th; eight miles from Swan Quarter. During the night, one man, Thomas Voliva, was captured for firing on the pickets.
The 10th was spent marching 25 miles around Lake Mattimuskeet, from north to east, ending up at Spencer's farm. An additional 30 miles were marched around the lake on the 11th. In all, 11 men supposedly belonging to the band of guerrillas were captured as well as about 60 citizens. The citizens were released at Swan Quarter after taking the oath of allegiance. The 11 prisoners were sent to the provost-marshal in New Bern, NC.
On the morning of the 12th, Captain Richardson of Co. F, 3d NY Cavalry and 300 men were sent out 7 miles to the farm of Judge Donald to bring in a quantity of cotton, corn & bacon for the troops at New Bern. A large amount of supplies were acquired during the Hyde County Raid:
17 horses, 13 buggies, 1 yoke oxen, 1 schooner (Snow Squall), 8 cart-loads of cotton, about 1500 pounds of bacon, about 400 bushels of corn, and approximately 40 slaves who followed the troops to the boat landing.
Colonel Morris' official report reads in part, "The only buildings burned by my order were the outbuildings of a farmhouse near Fairfield, in which we found a rebel officer's coat, ammunition, &c. I regret to state that a small mill at Swan Quarter was fired and burned, and also a barn filled with corn adjoining Spencer's farm was burned by an unknown party; also a number of stacks of fodder on the farm of Judge Donald was burned without my order."
The following diary entry is from a unknown soldier from either the 101st or 103d PA:
Source: History of the 101st PA Veteran Volunteer Infantry; John A. Reed; 1910 pages 68-69.
March 7th 
An expedition (consisting of the 101st and 103 Penna. Vols and a Company of the 3d N.Y. Cavalry) was sent into Hyde county, to break up a band of guerrillas. We landed on the 9th at Swan Quarter, a small village near the coast, march 14 miles on the north side of Mattimuskeet Lake, burnt up the guerrilla captain's house, and took all the horses that were of any value to serve in our cavalry instead of in that of the rebels. The county was the richest we had yet seen in the southern states, and, considering that most of the work was done by slaves, was very well cultivated. We encamped at night opposite some deserted breastworks of the rebels, and having captured large quantities of hams, chickens, etc., during the day, began cooking them. All the pots, pans and kettles of the neighborhood were pressed into service, and many who lost their chickens were obliged to lend their utensils to cook them in, which must have been very pleasant to the feelings of "Chivalry."
We were aroused about midnight by firing at the picket line, but it turned out to be caused by an old one-eyed man [Thomas Voliva] whom we took prisoner and carried to Newbern.
His story was that he and his son had been out to shoot bears, that they knew nothing of our being there, until they were fired into by our pickets, and that his son had got "right smart of scared" and had "skiddaddled," leaving his gun behind; this might all be true, but it is most likely that the "bear" they were after was one of Uncle Sam's "two-legged ones."
10th. Early in the morning we cooked and eat the remainder of our chickens and then continued our onward march. Every man and horse we found was taken along -- the horse for his usefulness, and the man to keep him out of mischief. We captured about 50 prisoners today, and a more boney, lank, lantern-jawed, set could scarcely be found, and we took so many horses, mules, oxen, carts, carriages, etc., that we were almost all mounted Infantry. Negroes, with all the goods they could collect, left "ole massa" to come with us; sometimes in whole families, with the "picaninnies" strapped to their backs, and most of the captured ox-carts were given to the women and children to ride in. It rained all day and the roads were very muddy, but this was a slight annoyance for we were wet through and muddy as possible, so we splashed along without any regard to either, knowing we were as bad off as we could be -- a kind of philosophy soldiers are often brought to believe in. Distance marched today was 15 miles.
11th. Onward still, and a better country than this for forage could not be found, and certainly none of the "starvation of the South" was known here, for this was a "land of milk and honey, " though there was no way for us to get the latter but by lifting the hive and taking it out with the bayonet, and the way the bees came out and stung made the "darkies" turn up the whites of their eyes, for they were often put to the work.
We passed the plantation of Judge Donald, one of the largest slave owners in that section. He formerly owned 600, and had 400 at this time but a large number followed us, and many carts and oxen were pressed into service from this place. At night we reached Swan Quarter, with about 80 prisoners and 150 horses and oxen which we had taken, having marched 26 miles, and remained until the 13th.
13th. Our prisoners had to either take the oath to Uncle Sam or go to Newbern as prisoners; most of them took it and were turned loose, but the most suspicious were taken to Newbern, with the one-eyed man already mentioned. We now embarked on the boat, and took along the most valuable of our captured property.
Also read Sergeant Justus Clark's letter with mention of aftermath of raid.
The actions of the Union forces did not go unnoticed by the provisional Union Governor of NC, who sent a message to General Foster deploring the excesses committed on this raid. For further details pertaining to this raid, read the following reports from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:
O.R. Series I, Volume XVIII, pages 157-158 - Captain Richardson's report.
O.R. Series I, Volume XVIII, page 181 - Colonel Morris' report.
O.R. Series I, Volume XVIII, Page 182 - Gov. Stanley's correspondence to Maj. Gen. Foster
Spinola's Raid to Blounts Creek, NC
General Foster and a small force went to Little Washington, NC to inspect their defenses and became trapped due to the enemy moving in and surrounding him. It was decided to send a force of troops to Washington from New Bern to relieve Foster.
On April 4th, 1863, General Wessells was absent, so the 101st PA & 5th MA, under the command of General Prince, boarded the steamer Northerner and arrived the next day at the Rebel fortifications south of Washington. Gen. Prince didn't think that it was advisable to attack the enemy at that point and received word from Foster to make an attack by land. They returned to New Bern without engaging the enemy.
Gen. Prince became ill, so the command of the expedition was given to General F. B. Spinola. A force of 6,465 troops, including the 101st PA, started their march for Washington. They arrived at Swift (or Blounts) Creek and found it heavily fortified with Confederate infantry and artillery. A force of Union infantry and artillery, of which the 101st was part, was sent to the front and engaged the enemy for almost two hours. The Rebels were being forced back, but Gen. Spinola considered the enemy force too strong to continue and returned the troops to New Bern.
After the failure of Gen. Spinola, Foster made a daring escape from Little Washington coming down the river under heavy fire back to New Bern. General Wessells had returned and Foster put together a force of men, including Wessells' Brigade, to go to Washington and relieve those still trapped there. This time, there was no resistance and they made their way to Washington with no opposition. They returned back to New Bern arriving on the 27th of April. After Wessells' return, he was ordered to take his brigade to Plymouth, NC by boat. At 1:00 the 101st left their camp on the South side of the Trent River and marched to New Bern, where they boarded the Thomas Collier. They arrived at Plymouth, NC at 6 o'clock in the evening on the 6th of May, 1863. They spent the night on the ship. In the morning they departed the ship and formed outside the town, where they were issued new tents. The 101st PA was posted on the eastern end of town on the south side of the Roanoke River.
Expedition to Nichol's Mills, NC
The first expedition that the 101st PA participated in after arriving at Plymouth, took place on May 17, 1863. They left Plymouth onboard the gunboats Commodore Perry and the Valley City to recapture or destroy two boats, the Emily and the Arrow, that had been captured a few days previous on the Currituck Canal by Pasquotank Guerrillas. However, the enemy escaped up the Chowan River.
On the 27th of June, Co. A was sent to Fort Park, Roanoke Island, NC, after the building of Fort Compher was complete. They arrived at Roanoke Island at 5 p.m. along with Co. C, 103rd PA & Co. I, 85th NY.
The next expedition, under the command of Capt. R. Ferguson of the 12th NY Cavalry, began at 9 p.m. on the 28th of June and included Companies D & I of the 101st, with Lieutenants Longanecker and Brown. The force moved to Nichol's Mills and laid a bridge and crossed over. The 101st remained at Nichol's Mills and the 12th NY Cavalry continued onward to meet up with the 96th NY Volunteers. Unfortunately, the two regiments ran into each other in the dark and due to lack of communication fired upon each other. Luckily, no soldiers were wounded. The regiments returned to Plymouth, arriving at 3 a.m., with their mission a failure.
Expedition to Gardner's Bridge & Williamston, NC
In order to divert the attention of the enemy from a cavalry expedition which was supposed to have left New Bern in the direction of the Weldon Railroad, General Wessells detached a portion of his command, under Colonel Lehmann (103d PA), with instructions to move on land from Fort Gray toward Jamesville, and to threaten the strong position of the enemy at Gardner`s Bridge, 2 miles beyond.
A second detachment under Colonel Morris, of the 101st PA, was ordered to embark onboard gunboats with the intention of landing at Williamston; enclosing the rebel force at Gardner`s Bridge between the two detachments. Colonel Morris left Plymouth on Sunday, the 5th of July 63 with soldiers from both the 101st & 103d PA. They left about 4 p.m. with the 103d on board the gunboat Southfield and the 101st on board the Commodore Perry. They were accompanied by the gunboats Whitehead and Valley City. Due to the swift current, the 101st didn't arrive until Monday evening at around 4 o'clock. The 103d didn't show up till around 8 p.m. Companies I and K of the 101st were sent ashore, while the Whitehead fired several shots into the town.
Due to the late arrival of Col. Morris' detachment, the cooperation between the two detachments didn't happen. However, the rebel forces did leave Jamesville and made a stronghold about 3 miles out of town, where the Union gunboats could not effect them.
Colonel Morris returned his troops back to Plymouth, arriving there on the 7th of July 1863. Most of the time spent at Plymouth from this point forward, other than some small skirmishes and expeditions, was spent in fortifying the defenses at Plymouth and engaging in drill.
Towards the end of 1863, as enlistments were coming to their completion, the officers of the regiment began to entice the men of the 101st to re-enlist, with the majority of the men re-enlisting on the 1st of January 1864. The regiment was now veteranized.
Expedition to Harrellsville, NC
General Wessells commanded Lieut. Colonel Maxwell, 103rd PA to take a detachment of Infantry to Harrisville, Hertford Co., NC to break up a Confederate Commissary Depot. Two gunboats, with 300 men, went up the Chowan River on 20 Jan 1864. The force included detachments from the 101st PA, 103rd PA, 85th NY, 15th CT and possibly others. They arrived at Harrellsville at 4 am on the 21st. After their arrival, they were resisted by one company under Capt. Langley Tayloe of St. Johns and one under Capt. Hillary Taylor of Mill Neck. Both companies claimed to be the one that ran Union soldiers away from Harrellsville, but General Wessells reported the expedition to be a success. Wessells reported that they destroyed 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of pork, 270 bushels of salt, 10,000 pounds of tobacco, 32 barrels of beef and other stores. They also captured some prisoners, horses, mules, etc.
In March 64, the 101st PA was ordered to New Bern, NC, but no enemy appeared so they returned to Plymouth. After returning, they were ordered to Roanoke Island. They stayed for a couple weeks and then returned to Plymouth.
Battle of Plymouth, NC
The Battle of Plymouth began at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday, April 17th, 1864 with an attack by Confederate forces under the command of General Robert F. Hoke on the small Federally garrisoned town of Plymouth, NC. All of the 101st PA were garrisoned at Plymouth at the time; with the exception of Co. A, and some new recruits, who were at Fort Park, Roanoke Island, NC.
At this time it is not known exactly where all of the specific 101st regiment's companies were situated during the battle. Throughout the battle as the Confederates pushed their way through the 101st's defences and into town, companies of the 101st were on the move.
The 101st were assigned to Fort Compher (sometimes called Fort Comfort) and Conaby Redoubt, including a smaller entrenchment on the South side of Columbia Road next to Fort Compher. Additionally, they manned the outer entrenchments on the East side of town.
Co. A was on Roanoke Island when the battle began but arrived on the Massasoit when it returned from transporting the non-combatants. It is assumed, from a few accounts, that Companies D, I, G, B and part of K were in Fort Compher and Co. E was at Conaby Redoubt. Some of Co. H were wounded near Fort Compher but outside of the fort. It is believed Co. H was posted in the outer entrenchments on the East side of town, as well as Co. C & F.
When the battle began, there were less than 3,000 Union troops occupying Plymouth. Hoke's forces contained somewhere between 12 & 15,000 troops. Shortly after the battle began, the Massassoit was loaded with the women & children, non-combatants and some of the wounded and taken to Roanoke Island for safety. After the Massasoit arrived at Roanoke Island, Co. A boarded the ship and were brought back to Plymouth.
On the 18th, the first of the forts at Plymouth would fall - Fort Wessells [85th (NY) Redoubt].
On the morning of the 19th the newly constructed C.S.S. Ram Albemarle, under the command of Commander James W. Cooke, came down the Roanoke River and sank the U.S.S. Southfield. Lt. Commander Flusser of the U.S.S. Miami was accidentally killed, and the river was cleared of the U.S. Navy's fleet. With the Albemarle in control of the river, and the Confederates surrounding the entire garrison of Plymouth, the Union forces had no means of escape or the ability to bring in reinforcements. On the evening of the 19th, the 101st's pickets skirmished with advancing Confederates who were moving over to the east end of town. David Fisher of Co. H was killed during this engagement.
On the morning of the 20th, Confederate troops under the command of General Matt W. Ransom hit the 101st hard. The 35th NC captured Fort Compher and the 8th NC captured Conaby Redoubt. However, the 101st didn't give up without a fight. When things were at their worst and the 101st knew that they would be captured, they began to rip the flag into small strips and then burned and buried the rest, thereby preventing them from falling into enemy hands. After the fall of Compher & Conaby, the Confederates rushed in and captured the rest of the town with the exception of Fort Williams, the principal fort at Plymouth. The surrounded and highly outnumbered Union forces left within the fort under the command of Union commander Brigadier General Henry Wessells were forced to surrender between 10 & 11 a.m. on the 20th of April. Despite the heavy fighting, only approximately seven of the 101st were killed during the battle, but many more were severely wounded.
The Union prisoners, who became known as the "Plymouth Pilgrims", were kept overnight in a field on the outskirts of town. The following morning they began their march to Tarboro, NC where they would board the trains and head deeper South to Prisoner of War Camps.
Battle of Plymouth account by Hospital Steward George H. Slaybaugh, 101st PA Infantry.
Battle of Plymouth account by Corporal Jacob D. Brown, Co. D, 101st PA Infantry.
Fate of the 101st PA Colors during the Battle of Plymouth, NC.
The imprisonment which followed the fall of Plymouth resulted in 40% of the 101st being buried in Southern graves. An additional 10% would die shortly after being paroled or arriving home.
For the imprisonment that followed the fall of Plymouth, please see The Imprisonment of the Plymouth Pilgrims.
This is certainly a sad ending to the history of the 101st. However, these men must be remembered for what they did to preserve the Union and keep it whole.