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“Of Battlefields and Bitter Feuds The 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers”

by David A. Ward

This article was published by

volume 3, number 3. 1993

As the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers trudged back to their camp near the Chickahominy River, on the morning of June 27, 1862, many of the men in the regiment sensed that overnight the war on the Peninsula had somehow profoundly changed. Tired from performing fatigue duty near Old Tavern, where the Unionists assisted in the construction of an earthen redoubt, the infantrymen weredenied rest upon reaching their destination. Instead of a much needed halt, the weary volunteers were issued two days’ rations and ordered to march toward the Chickahominy crossings. The booming of the artillery on the north side of the river, which grew louder with each step, foreshadowed the fury that awaited the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania on the Union held heights above Woodbury’s Bridge. At 3 p.m., after resting several hours in the vicinity of Golding’s farm, the Pennsylvanians were ordered to cross the Chickahominy to support the beleagured elements of Fitz John Porter’s V Corps, then under attack by elements of R.E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.2

Slowly, the soldiers of Brig. Gen. Henry Slocum’s division marched across the rickety span and up Turkey Hill toward the battle raging across Boatswain’s Swamp. Now, at last, the green volunteers, mostly Irish, German and Welsh immigrants from the southern anthracite coal fields of Schuylkill County, were advancing to meet the foe in battle. As the volunteers from Pennsylvania, commanded by Col. Henry Lutz Cake, marched toward the battleground, the men knew that the warm, humid Virginia weather would soon give way to a storm of lead and iron. The malestrom of battle at Gaines’ Mill would test the combat effectiveness of the coal miners turned volunteer soldiers.3

Nearly ten months prior to the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, Henry L. Cake, former colonel of the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteers, one of the ninety-day regiments formed in response to Lincoln’s initial call for volunteers, received permission from the War Department to recruit and organize a regiment of infantry. Cake, 33-years-old at the outbreak of the rebellion, was a natural choice to command the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers. After moving to Pottsville in 1847, he established a weekly newspaper, the Mining Record, and quickly became a familiar face at local political gatherings. As Cake’s influence within the community grew, he became a member, and later the chief financial supporter, of one of the town’s militia companies, the National Light Infantry. Throughout the 1850’s he also acquired interests in the booming anthracite coal industry. By 1861, he was one of the county’s most successful businessmen as well as an attractive political candidate, with lofty aspirations. During the early days of the Civil War, Cake commanded the 25th Pennsylvania, leading that unit through the Rockville Expedition and later participating in Robert Patterson’s movements in the Shenandoah Valley. This field experience secured for him the colonelcy of the 96th Pennsylvania from the "War Governor," Andrew Gregg Curtin.4

Near the end of September, Cake’s new command was mustered into United States service. Jacob G. Frick, a native of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, was elected by the line officers to serve as the regiment’s lieutenant colonel. Frick, 36-years-old at the start of the war, was a logical choice for this important position. Unlike the other volunteers, Frick served as a second lieutenant in the Mexican War and later acted as an assistant instructor of infantry tactics at Fort McHenry. Certainly, Frick’s military experience made him an attractive officer for a regiment of untrained citizens-turned-soldiers. Completing the field officer staff of the 96th Pennsylvania was Major Lewis Martin, a former junior officer with the 25th Pennsylvania. Now, however, this civil engineer would confront the formidable task of commanding volunteer soldiers in battle. To Cake, Frick and Martin fell the arduous task of training the volunteers of the 96th Pennsylvania in the intricate maneuvers of nineteenth century warfare and the rudiments of military drill and discipline.5

During the crisp October days, while Lieutenant Colonel Frick molded the 96th Pennsylvania into an effective fighting force, Colonel Cake was preoccupied with other matters. Throughout the late summer, and continuing into the autumn, Cake was frequently absent from Camp Schuylkill, the name given to the regiment’s camp of instruction, attempting to garner the necessary political backing which would enable him to earn a seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate. Cake’s political campaign, in which he failed to emerge victorious in the general election, succeeded only in undermining his military relationship with Lieutenant Colonel Frick. Before personality differences and regimental politics could divide the field and staff officers of the unit, however, the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Pottsville to join the Army of the Potomac. Upon reaching Washington, the 96th Pennsylvania was ordered to cross the Potomac and select a suitable site for winter quarters.6

Like the winter weather, officer relations, especially in the upper echelon regimental staff, turned cold and stormy during the long encampment in the Virginia countryside. At Camp Northumberland, the senior line officer, Capt. Peter A. Filbert, like Lieutenant Colonel Frick, began to experience personal as well as procedural differences, especially where military regulations were concerned, with Colonel Cake. During the winter at Camp Northumberalnd, Captain Filbert andLieutenant Colonel Frick emerged as harsh critics of Colonel Cake and the spokesmen of the field and staff officers dissatisfied with the colonel’s leadership.7 Like his friend Jacob Frick, Filbert scorned Cake for his disregard of military procedure and the colonel’s unorthodox management of the regiment. In detailed letters to his father, Filbert documented orders and directives issued by Cake which circumvented military regulations and procedures.8

According to Filbert, Cake’s first violation, and a most serious one, of military regulations ocurred at Camp Schuylkill. In late September, when the 96th Pennsylvania was still in its original camp of instruction at Pottsville, Cake, in the judgement of Captain Filbert, illegally mustered understrength companies into United States service. To muster these companies, Cake temporarily transferred men from companies above minimum strength to those that required additional soldiers. This procedure violated Article LII, Section 1642 of the Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, which stated that, "Officers mustering in troops will be careful that men from one company or detachment are not borrowed for the occasion to swell the ranks of others about to be mustered." 9 Filbert’s allegation brought into question Cake’s regard for military protocol and his management of regimental affairs. Such decisions by Cake only served to erode the colonel’s credibility with his chief subordinates.

Along with problems concerning mustering, Filbert also noted deficiencies with many of the rank and file of the 96th Pennsylvania in regard to routine camp duties. The senior captain complained bitterly about the unprofessional conduct of many of his brother officers. Throughout the winter, while conducting inspection tours as officer-of-the-day, Filbert noted that the sentries performing outpost duty often failed to challenge him as he approached their positions. In one report, written to Brigadier General Slocum, Filbert, ". . .found the guard well instructed, with the exception of the 96th Penn. Vol., in the Manual of Arms." Filbert also noted in his journal that one of the sentries was, ". . .taken up [with] intoxicating liquors."10

In his diary and letters, the senior captain also recorded the high rate of officer absenteeism from camp, the disregard of military regulations and the prevalent intoxication of many of the officers. On January 14, 1862, Filbert wrote in his journal, "Adjutant drunk in tent. Sgt. Major drunk in the tent. Major. . .sick in tent." In addition to expressing and documenting his dissatisfaction with Colonel Cake and lamenting the misconduct of any of the 96th Pennsylvania’s officers, Filbert was also preoccupied with a problem regarding the regimental sutler.11

As the winter winds whipped through the company streets of the 96th Pennsylvania’s camp, a bitter feud developed between the sutler and the line officers. This prolonged dispute, which caused considerable unrest within the officer corps of the regiment, further polarized Captain Filbert and Colonel Cake. The sutler controversy originated during the autumn of 1861, while the regiment was still bivouacked at Camp Schuylkill. After the regiment was organized, Cake ordered the line captains to purchase caps, at what the officers deemed an inflated price, from the regimental sutler. This directive provoked a great deal of resentment toward Cake from the line officers because the colonel forced them to pay for the headgear out of their limited company funds.12 In late February, 1862, when company funds were dwindling and needed most to procure food for the soldiers, Cake again enraged his subordinates when he ordered each company commander to purchase leggings from the sutler. This time, however, the angry line officers actively opposed Cake’s mandate. In order to address the sutler problem the line captains recommended that Colonel Cake refer the matter to the regiment’s Council of Administration. No doubt the captains believed that only the Council could find a solution to the controversy embroiling the sutler and the field and staff officers of the regiment.13

The Civil War sutler, according to Henry Castle, "ranked a trifle higher than a corporal, [and] a fraction lower than an army mule."14 Whatever his rank, he posed a peculiar dilemma for the regiment he served. The sutler, usually a civilian appointed to serve a particular regiment, sold provisions to the soldiers not furnished them by the government. In 1862, in order to prevent sutlers from charging exhorbitant prices for their goods, Congress enacted legislation to regulate the business of sutling. Article XXII, Section 198, of the Revised Regulations also sought to regulate sutling by, "imposing a tax. . .[upon the sutler payable to the regimental fund] not to exceed ten cents a month for every soldier of the command."15 While he might charge excessive prices, the Civil War sutler was subject to price ceilings and was required to pay a percentage of his monthly business — in effect an operating tax — to the unit he served. To insure that the sutler complied with the monthly assessment, Civil War regiments appointed and empowered a Council of Administration — composed of the lieutenant colonel, major and senior captain — to oversee the affairs of the sutler. The Council, too, disbursed money from the regimental fund to the various company funds.16 Thus, a sutler who did not contribute to the regimental fund posed a serious threat to the econometric scheme of a Civil War regiment. Such a situation developed within the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the first winter of the war.

During the winter at Camp Northumberland, the sutler, A.L. Gee, became the scourge of the line officers by refusing to pay monthly contributions to the regimental fund. Gee contended that he was exempt from the operating tax by virtue of a private agreement with Colonel Cake. Gee’s defiance of Army Regulations, coupled with Cake’s orders to his subordinates, directing them to purchase nonregulation equipment from the sutler, posed serious financial problems for the line captains who struggled to meet their monthly expenses under adverse economic conditions. Cake further exacerbated the sutler issue by refusing to support the Council of Administration in its efforts to collect the monthly operating tax from sutler Gee.17

But before the company commanders could present their grievances to Colonel Cake, the grand army assembled under George Brinton McClellan began to awaken from its winter slumber. On a brisk spring morning the soldiers from Schuylkill County tramped toward the wharves at Alexandria to board transports. Soon the Federals from Pennsylvania would exchange rifle fire with the Secessionists charged with the defense of Richmond — the symbol of the Confederacy — as participants in George B. McClellan’s ill-fated Peninsula Campaign.

Seven weeks after their first encounter with the Confederates — at the Battle of Eltham’s Landing — the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania prepared themselves for a general engagement. In late June, after a cautious and deliberate advance up the Virginia Peninsula , the Confederates were ready to launch an offensive to drive the Bluecoats from the immediate environs of Richmond. Now, the Confederates would be led by R.E. Lee, who succeeded Gen. Joseph E. Johnston after he fell wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) on May 31, 1862. After assuming command, Lee moved quickly, and on June 26 assaulted Brig. Gen. Fitz-John Porter’s V Corps — the right wing of McClellan’s army — along Beaver Dam Creek near the hamlet of Mechanicsville. After repulsing a series of poorly coordinated attacks, Porters command fell back under the cover of darkness to the heights near Gaines’ Mill, where Lee promptly struck again the following day.

Upon reaching the battlefield near Gaines’ Mill, the Schuylkill County regiment, along with the other units of Col. Joseph Jackson Bartlett’s second brigade, marched to the extreme right flank of the Union line. Bartlett’s command was ordered to support George Sykes’ United States Regulars, who were being hard pressed by Daniel Harvey Hill’s division.19 After arriving at Sykes’ threatened sector, Bartlett ordered his brigade to take shelter in a ravine, while awaiting further orders. According to one officer in the 96th Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill Countians, "rested. . .while a perfect shower of shot, shell and balls passed over our heads. It was intensely hot and dusty, and the fatigue of the men rendered this [halt] necessary."20 As the 96th Pennsylvania awaited instructions from Bartlett, Southern artillery fire enfiladed the position held by the Unionists. One veteran recalled that, "A shell fell into the closed masses of the regiment, but thank God! it did not explode, but bounding from the ground flew hissing down the ravine."21 In response to this incident, Cake moved his column forward to take advantage of the relative safety afforded by more favorable terrain. Late in the afternoon, after Bartlett sent forth his three veteran regiments, the New Yorker ordered forward the 96th Pennsylvania. After deploying his command in line of battle, in front of the McGehee farm house, Cake, on horseback twenty yards in front of the regiment, waved his hand and ordered the Pennsylvanians, "Forward! Double quick!”22

As soon as Cake’s command pressed forward, casualties began to mount. Lieut. Ernest Ellrich, "a brave and meritorious officer," was killed as he urged the men of Company B toward the enemy. Another Schuylkill Countian noted that, "From the beginning of the fight the Colonel was grand, cool, thoughtful [and] careful of his men.”23 Others in the ranks beleived Cake to be invinicible in battle. As the Pennsylvanians continued across the corn field, a private in Company D told Lt. Zaccur P. Boyer to, "Listen to the bullets." To this Boyer responded, "What of that." The private then exclaimed, "Look! They don’t hit the Colonel!"24 One volunteer later recalled that as the 96th Pennsylvania moved to support the Regulars, the regiment advanced "across the field in fine style, the men coming up square." 25 A mounted officer of the Regulars later proclaimed that the movement of the 96th Pennsylvania was "one of the best things of the action."

While holding their position beyond the McGehee house, Cake ordered his men to lie down, as Confederate infantry poured rifle fire into the Schuylkill Countians from their right flank. Minutes later, Cake ordered his troops to stand and deliver a volley, which "silence[d] [the fire] of the rebels for a short time." For the next hour, the 96th Pennsylvania was locked in combat with the 5th and 26th Alabama regiments, part of Brig. Gen. Robert E. Rodes’ fragmented brigade.26

As the 96th Pennsylvania blazed away at the Alabamians, Cake rode along the battle line encouraging his soldiers and insuring that his regiment maintained contact on the left flank with the 5th Maine and the 16th New York, holding the extreme right flank of the Federal position. Finally, at 8:30 p.m., after the 96th Pennsylvania sustained 13 killed and 61 men wounded, Bartlett issued orders to disengage and withdraw to the south side of the Chickahominy.27 Upon crossing Woodbury Bridge, several officers of the 3rd U. S. Regulars, according to one witness, "were eulogisitic in their praise of the Ninety-sixth." The Regulars agreed that the Schuylkill Countians, "had done nobly. . .in this. . .[their] first general engagement, [and]. . .had established a reputation for coolness and gallantry, which was only accorded to veteran troops."28

Bartlett, in his official after-action report, praised Cake for his "military excellence." While general officers complimented their subordinates, the soldiers spoke of the reality of war. In a letter home, Maj. Lewis Martin described the frightening lessons he learned at Gaines’ Mill. "I for one," Martin wrote to his wife, "always hooted at the idea of ‘Lead & Iron hail’ but I saw and heard. . .what I have no longer any curiosity to hear and see."29 A week following the great battle at Gaines’ Mill, the men of the 96th Pennsylvania, enfeebled and hausted, sought refuge at Harrison’s Landing.

Gaines’ Mill proved to be the most deadly battle of the Seven Days’ engagements for the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Following the withdrawal of the Unionists south of the Chickahominy, Lee continued to press his offensive, which culminated in the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. A week later, the 96th Pennsylvania, along with the balance of McClellan’s army, the Bluecoats sought refuge along the banks of the James River at Harrison’s Landing.30

On July 13, while the 96th Pennsylvania was encamped in the glue-like mud of Camp Haeseler on Westover Plain, the line captains confronted Colonel Cake on the unresolved sutler issue.The officers submitted a petition to Cake demanding that he instruct the sutler to reduce prices and pay the monthly operating tax to the regimental fund. Upon receipt of the document, Cake confiscated the swords of the officers and placed them under arrest. In regard to the incident, Captain Filbert recalled, "He [Col. Cake]. . .placed us under arrest [and] asked for an apology, which has not been given and far from giving." A day after the nasty proceedings, Cake reprimanded his officers and told them, "You can now take your swords and go to your quarters [but] until you apologize I can not respect you as officers of this regiment."31 Two weeks later, perhaps sensing a mutiny within his command, Cake granted approval for the Council of Administration to convene, examine Gee, and find a solution to the ongoing sutler problem. But before the Council could meet, one of its members resigned from the Pennsylvania regiment.32

In late July, Lieutenant Colonel Frick, Filbert’s friend and ally throughout the sutler ordeal, tendered a letter of resignation to Brig. Gen. Seth Williams, adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac. Frick left the 96th Pennsylvania in order to accept the colonelcy of the newly formed 129th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a nine-month regiment.33 While Frick returned to Schuylkill County to assume command of his new regiment, Filbert decided that he would vigorously pursue the sutler issue to a conclusion. On August 1, after much unnecessary delay, the Council of Administration finally met with sutler Gee. After examining Gee, the Council resolved that the sutler, in a compromise agreement, would pay the amount due the regimental fund retroactive to November, 1861.34

After learning of the Council’s settlement with Gee, Cake told Filbert that, "he would get rid of him and four other officers whom he disliked." 35 The prolonged sutler squabble was deemed by Cake to be a personal affront toward him by his junior officers. He also considered the incident to be a challenge to his authority and an assault upon his character. The sutler affair, too, further alienated Colonel Cake and Captain Filbert and thrust them closer to a final confrontation. But before the closing act of the Filbert - Cake feud could be played out, the 96th Pennsylvania evacuated Harrison’s Landing, destined to confront elements of Lee’s army in the shadow of South Mountain. In late August, after returning to Alexandria from the Union encampment at Harrison’s Landing, the 96th Pennsylvania, along with elements of the VI Corps, helped cover the retreat of Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia and its defeat at Second Bull Run. Soon after Pope’s withdrawal to the environs of Washington, the VI Corps marched northwestward into the Maryland countryside toward an impending rendezvous with Lee’s victorious army.36

On September 14, the vanguard of Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin’s VI Corps reached the village of Burkittsville, Maryland, situated near the base of Crampton’s Gap. The day before, a confident McClellan issued orders to his VI Corps commander. “My general idea,” McClellan wrote, “is to cut the enemy in two and beat him in detail ... You will move at daybreak in the morning ... Having gained the pass [Crampton’s Gap] your duty will be first to cut off, destroy, or capture McLaws’ command and relieve [the garrison at Harpers Ferry].”37 Ascertaining that the Confederates were determined to hold this vital pass over South Mountain, Franklin made preparations to attack the Secessionists. After consulting his chief subordinates, Franklin directed Major General Slocum, commanding the first division, to deploy his command and assault the Confederates arrayed in a line of battle at the base of the mountain.38

After assessing the tactical situation and determining that the enemy force consisted of "four cavalry men, two guns and no infantry," Slocum ordered Bartlett to send his brigade across the farm fields toward the Secessionists. Arayed behind a stone wall, three small Virginia regiments from William Mahone’s Brigade, two dismounted cavalry regimens from Col. Thomas Munford’s Brigade, and a battery of horse artillery, awaited the Unionist onslaught. Elements of two additonal regiments under Col. William T. Parham joined the Confederate battle line soon after th fighting began. This force, facing an entire Union division, numbered no more than 1,000 men and was commaded by Colonel Munford.39

Near 5:30 p.m., Cake received orders to draw in his skirmishers and march his men behind the first division, to the extreme right of the Federal position. Upon reaching their assigned positon and deploying in line of battle, Bartlett rode up to the Schuylkill Countians and thundered, "Now Pennsylvanians, do your duty!"40 After Bartlett inspired the troops, Cake ordered the 96th Pennsylvania forward and led his command across the rolling terrain toward the Confederates posted along the Church Mountain Road at the base of South Mountain. As the Pennsylvanians closed on the Southerners, one of the line officers shouted, "Forward into the road and give them the bayonet — it is death for all to hesitate now!"41 Emerging from a cornfield, 81 of the regiment were felled by a thunderous volley from the 6th Virginia and 10th Georgia. It was at this point that Major Martin, while attempting to push forward the right wing of the regiment, was mortally wounded.42 According to Colonel Cake, the murderous rifle fire did not turn back the oncoming Federals. In his after-action report Cake wrote, "Shocked but not repulsed, the men bounded forward, determined to end it with the bayonet.” After the battle, Cake recalled that the enemy fell back upon the mountain, and those, “... who were not hurt, and who seemed too much surprised to get away, begged lustily for mercy.” As the Graycoats scrambled up the mountain, additional Confederate units were arriving at Crampton’s Gap to support the fleeing refugees.43

After overrunning the Confederates at the stone wall, the Pennsylvania regiment reformed its ranks for the final ascent up the steep mountainside of Crampton’s Gap. After firing a volley into the refugees fleeing up the slope, the Pennsylvanians continued their pursuit of the disorganized Confederates. As the Schuylkill Countians surged up the mountain they encountered the 15 North Carolina and the 16th Georgia, elements of Brig. Gen. Howell Cobb’s Brigade who were trying desparately to hold back the oncoming tide of Unionists. Cobb, however, was too late. Not even a section of the Troup Artillery could slow the Unionists as the reached the crest of the mountain.44

As the Federals reached the summit of the mountain, rifle fire from the Confederates became sporadic. At this point the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania knew that they were on the verge of a decisive victory. As twilight descended upon Crampton’s Gap the Confederate commanders vainly attempted to form one last line of battle to halt the Unionists. But too many attackers caused the dispirited Secessionists to break ranks and flee wildly down the west side of the mountain. Recollecting the assault in his after-action report, Cake wrote, "It was a most exhausting charge. I let the men advance nearly as fast as they could and wanted to.”45

Writing in a post-war memoir about the fighting at Crampton’s Gap, Henry Boyer stated that the Pennsylvanians advanced up the steep mountainside, ". . .horribly killing or wounding all we could of those who resisted or would not stop, and mercifully sparing and capturing all who manifested a disposition to surrender."46

As darkness cast its shroud across the Catoctin Valley, the jubilant Unionists celebrated their victory atop Crampton’s Gap. The next morning several members of the regiment returned to the scene of the previous day’s carnage. In his diary, Capt. Jacob W. Haas, commanding Company G, boasted that, "Where we advanced they [the Confederates] laid the thickest."47 Walking along the stone wall, Henry Boyer also surveyed the dead soldiers. During the battle, Boyer believed that the men of the 96th Pennsylvania, "bayoneted a hundred and fifty in that road, but when we returned to bury them we found but tweleve."48

After the battle, Capt. Henry Royer informed his father that it was, "a wonder that. . .[my] brave and gallant company [H] were not annihilated." In recalling the assault Royer wrote, "It required no skill. Our course was plain, straight, onward and forward. Oh! how they did fight, and how they did fall!"49

While members of the regiment attended to their wounded comrades, formed burial details and rested from the rigors of the battle and campaign, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum passed through the camp of the 96th Pennsylvania. Spotting Colonel Cake, the general pleasantly nodded and quipped, "Colonel, your coal heavers did well!”50

After the Battle of Antietam, the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania encamped near Bakersville, where they rested from the rigors of the Maryland campaign. While the Schuylkill Countians enjoyed the respite from waging war near Baker’s grist mill, the nasty business of regimental politics once again took center stage. In the aftermath of the battles of South Mountain and the sanguinary day at Sharpsburg, VI Corps headquarters directed Colonel Cake to fill the two staff officer vacancies exisiting within his command. Frick’s lieutenant colonelcy was unfilled since his resignation at the close of the Peninsula Campaign, while Martin’s mortal wounding at Crampton’s Gap created the need for a new major. Military Regulations prescribed that, "vacancies in established regiments, to the rank of colonel," should be "filled by promotion according to seniority."51 What appeared as a simple matter — promoting the two senior officers to fill the vacant regimental officer positions — became a complicated affair within the officer ranks of the 96th Pennsylvania. The quest for these coveted offices would array Captain Filbert and Colonel Cake directly against each other. During the course of the next few months, both men would wage a bitter dispute regarding these two important appointments.52

Upon learning that Cake had been ordered by VI Corps headquarters to fill the vacant staff officer positions within the 96th Pennsylvania, Filbert was excited at the prospect of advancing to the grade of lieutenant colonel. Although Filbert viewed the colonel with disdain and stated to his father that the "Cake faction" was intent only on "elevating and favoring Pottsville men of the regiment," he nonetheless believed that Frick’s resignation and Martin’s death would end all political machinations within the 96th Pennsylvania.53 The cautious Filbert, however, constantly reminded himself of Cake’s penchant for promoting his cronies when vacancies arose, and for dismissing his enemies when that avenue suited his needs. The senior captain often recalled Cake’s delight in relating the story of how he "was rid of two of his officers and would follow the other to the Gates of Hell."54 While Filbert knew of Cake’s past indiscretions in regimental promotions, and the colonel’s propensity for violating military procedure, he believed that Cake would not be able to influence the appointments of the new lieutenant colonel and major. Filbert, however, underestimated the malevolence of the regimental commander.

On the evening of September 29, Cake summoned the line officers to his tent and informed them of an order from VI Corpsheadquarters directing him to promote two men to fill the vacant staff officer positions within the regiment. Cake also explained that he did not wish to conduct these promotions in accordance with Military Regulations. He proposed that the line officers elect the new lieutenant colonel, while reserving for him the privilege of appointing the new major. After meeting with Cake, Filbert and his brother officers unanimously agreed to elect the senior captain to the lieutenant colonelcy and to deny Colonel Cake the authority to appoint the officer of his choice to the rank of major. After reflecting upon the situation, Filbert told the company commanders that, "he would stand by [them] and prefer to remain a captain [than] to act dishonorable."55 The next day, Filbert delivered the following message, on behalf of the line officers, to Col. Cake: "Sir, In filling the vacancies now existing in the regiment we respectfully suggest that our preference is that it be done in regular line of promotion according to seniority."56 Cake responded to this declaration by issuing Regimental Order Number 39, which altered the arranagement of the seniority roster. Upon learning of Order 39, Filbert wrote lengthy letters to Governor Andrew Curtin and Oliver Duff Greene, Acting Adj. Gen. of the VI Corps, explaining the situation within the camp of the 96th Pennsylvania. The issuance of Filbert’s letters, along with the disclosure of army documents supporting his claim to the lieutenant colonelcy, to Curtin and Greene, clearly indicated that the senior captain and Colonel Cake were locked in a power struggle from which neither could loosen his grip. To insure that his commission as lieutenant colonel would not fail, Filbert wrote to his father and asked for political support in Harrisburg. In the same missive, Filbert also stated that he would try to "make things uncomfortable" for Colonel Cake, whom he referred to as the "old war horse.”57

In later October, Filbert’s father informed him that his commission as lieutenant colonel had met with approval.58 On the last day of the month, an optimistic Peter Filbert, believing that at long last he and Colonel Cake could lay aside their grievances, strode toward the colonel’s tent to be formally recognized as lieutenant colonel of the 96th Pennsylvania. Cake, however, astonished Filbert by refusing to honor his commission, stating that he had a policy of not recognizing officers who did not obtain their promotions through him. Failing to gain Cake’s approval, Filbert gathered his documentation and reported to Lieutenant William Borrowe, mustering officer of the first division, VI Corps. After examining Filbert’s supporting evidence, Borrowe mustered the former senior captain in the grade of lieutenant colonel.59

Upon learning of Filbert’s resourcefulness, Cake informed him that "he [Cake] had been beaten in his object." Further, Cake threatened Filbert by telling him that "he could control the military department and was going to have him [Filbert] dismissed," from the service of the United States. Filbert so infuriated Cake, that the colonel told him "to take his [Cake’s] commission," as he intended "to resign at once."60 Cake, however, was not about to renounce his colonelcy of the regiment. Rather, he immediately began to design an elaborate trap in which he hoped to snare Lieutenant Colonel Filbert.

On the same day that Filbert was mustered by Lieutenant Borrowe, Cake penned a letter to VI Corps headquarters, requesting that the new lieutenant colonel be called to appear before a military board of examination.61 On November 11, while the VI Corps was in the vicinity of Thoroughfare Gap, Filbert underwent questioning before a military review board.62 During the Civil War, a system of examining boards was established to determine an officer’s fitness to command troops in the field. According to the historian Stanley Swart, the examining board system was established so that the "army could by-pass regular court-martial proceedings in ridding itself of unqualified volunteer officers through the rank of colonel, using instead a faster and more informal procedure." Filbert hoped that his appearance before the board of examination would firmly establish him as the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and end his problems with Colonel Cake. After his greuling session before the board, where he was examined on tactics and army admninistration as well as other matters, Filbert felt confident that the turmoil surrounding his lieutenant colonelcy could finally be pushed aside. He was eager to meet the challenge of his new found duties.

As November turned into December, the mighty Army of the Potomac, under its new leader, Ambrose Burnside, marched toward a rendezvous with the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. During the great battle along the Rappahannock, the 96th Pennsylvania held a portion of the VI Corps line in the Deep Run ravine sector.63 After the battle, the 96th Pennsylvania went into winter quarters near White Oak Church. Soon after the Pennsylvanians went into camp,Lieutenant Colonel Filbert received a shattering dispatch from VI Corps headquarters. Much to his dismay, he learned that the military examination board had rendered an adverse decision in his case. Effective immediately he was dismissed from the service of the United States.64 Now, more than ever, Filbert felt the wrath of Colonel Cake. The lieutenant colonel, perhaps humiliated in losing his struggle with Cake, departed for home with dignity and honor. Shortly after Filbert returned to Schuylkill County, Cake also left the White Oak Church encampment. Declining health forced Cake to return to Pottsville, where he planned to convalesce under the care of his personal physician. During the winter, although Filbert and Cake were far from the battleground of Virginia, the pair would engage in one last encounter concerning regimental politics.

The departure of Cake from Virginia did not bring an end to officer politicking within the regiment. In early March 1863, after ensuring that Lessig would receive command of the regiment, Cake retired from military life. Upon his promotion to major, Lessig devised a complex plan to garner his colonel’s eagle and elevate two of his close associates to fill the vacant posts of lieutenant colonel and major. In a letter to his brother, Captain Jacob Haas described the plan. “Today,” wrote Haas, “Lessig forwarded my name for Major; Matt Richards for Lt. Colonel and his own for Colonel, to the Governor. Bartlett, Brooks and Sedgwick hace endorsed the recommendation. ... I jump three other Captains, but they can’t win the way we have it put up.”65

Lessig’s intricate promotional scheme, however, was not approved by Governor Curtin. A month later, the new Federal commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, readied the Army of the Potomac to march to the Rappahannock, where the Confederates were reported to be “ thick as lice,” according to Captain Haas.66 In a boldly conceived plan, Hooker proposed to move most of his army west, along the Rappahannock River, croos the Rapidan River and strike at the left and rear of the Army of Northern Virginia. Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s VI Corps, was given the mission of crossing the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, thereby preventing the Confederates from sending troops from that area to defend against Hooker’s primary envelopment several miles to the west.67

Early on the morning of April 28, the bell in the Episcopal Church, in Fredericksburg, rang out the alarm that the Federal columns were marching toward the Rappahannock. By early afternoon, "Uncle" John Sedgwick, commanding the VI Corps, had his infantry headed for the area known to the Unionists as Franklin’s Crossing — the spot used by Major General Franklin to cross the river in the December battle. The next day, after successfully crossing the river and driving back the Confederate pickets, the 96th Pennsylvania went into position in the vicinity of the Bernard farm.68

On May 3, the soldiers of the Greek Cross Corps marched by the right flank, toward Fredericksburg, with orders to break the Confederate position atop Marye’s Heights. As the first division of the VI Corps tramped along the Old Richmond Stage Road, Bartlett ordered Maj. Lessig to lead his regiment against a Confederate position near the railroad, in the Deep Run sector, which posed a threat to the flank march of the corps.69 Early in the morning, after reconnoitering the ground his regiment was to advance across, Lessig instructed his command, "to unsling knapsacks, fix bayonets and [to] advance at a double quick."70 As the 96th Pennsylvania moved forward, a Secessionist battery positioned behind the railroad line, sprayed the Federals with deadly grape and canister charges. Suddenly, with a cheer, the Schuylkill Countians,supported by the 5th Maine, surged toward the Confederates, prompting Maj. Gen. William T.H. Brooks to solemnly state, "that’s the last we’ll see of the Ninety-sixth." Brigadier General Bartlett also shared Brooks’ sentiment. The New Yorker, astride his horse, could only mutter, "Noble men, noble men.” In this assault, the 96th Pennsylvania lost four men killed and 19 wounded.71

By the time the Schuylkill Countians reached Fredericksburg, the Confederates had been driven from their fortified heights and Sedgwick was preparing to march his troops toward the Chancellorsville crossroads. It was quickly decided that Brig. Gen. William T.H. Brooks’ First Division would lead the march of the VI Corps, following the Plank Road, toward the fighting at Chancellorsville. Just west of Fredericksburg, near Salem Church, Brooks’ column was slowed by artillery fire from Cadmus Wilcox’s batteries posted along the Salem Heights ridge. Not knowing the strength of Wilcox’s brigade, Brooks deployed a strong skirmish line and unlimbered his artillery in an effort to sweep aside the Secessionists. Bartlett instructed Lessig to move the 96th Pennsylvania south of the Orange Turnpike, and then to assault the 8th Alabama, already deployed along the ridge west of Salem Church. Little did Lessig know, as he ordered his regiment forward, that "Brooks’ Lambs" were advancing to their slaughter.72

As the 96th Pennsylvania formed on the extreme left wing of the Federal line, Lessig prepared to move his tiredcommand against the Graycoats concealed by the belt of woods running along Salem Heights.73 Bartlett formed his brigade on the extreme left wing of the Federal line, with the 5th Maine anchoring the Union flank, and the 96th Pennsylvania and 121st New York next in line.74 In a lengthy letter written nine days after the battle, Captain Haas, described the resultant clash of arms with Wilcox’s Alabamians.

As we got in the edge of the woods I saw a few Rebel skirmishers popping at our skirmishers. I told my men to take plenty of room and leave a pace between each file. We passed on and when within 30 paces of the field on the other side of the woods, suddenly I saw two lines of battle of the "Rebs" rise to their feet. I ordered my men to put in a volley which they did with fine effect. . . . And then the circus commenced. We fired as fast as we could and Johnny Reb done the same.75

Although the Pennsylvanians displayed great valor, they could not break through the Confederate position. Slowly, Bartlett’s brigade yielded to the intense rifle fire and began to give way and fall back. As Bartlett’s line of battle collapsed, Lessig sought to execute an orderly withdrawal of the 96th Pennsylvania. With consumate skill, the Pennsylvanians retreated, stopping at the eastern edge of the woods to deliver a final volley. For the 96th Pennsylvania this day proved to be their most difficult under arms. First, they lost five killed and 18 wounded in the morning fight at Fredericksburg, followed in the afternoon with 16 killed, 54 wounded and 29 missing in the combat at Salem Church.76 As nightfall ended the fighting, the veterans of the 96th Pennsylvania realized that there would be no linkage with Hooker’s beleagured forces at Chancellorsville.

Though fatigued, the Unionists were not dispirited. Shortly after the close of the Chancellorsville operation, Pvt. Daniel Faust, in a letter to his mother, spoke for the soldiers in the 96th Pennsylvania when he wrote, "We had a nice little dual with them [the Confederates] and I think if we had stuck to it a little longer we would have whipped them severely.”77

Following the Chancellorsville operation, the 96th Pennsylvania returned to their winter camp site at White Oak Church. In June, after R.E. Lee pushed his army northward, the VI Corps, along with the balance of the Army of the Potomac, abandoned its camps near Fredericksburg and started along the road which would become the Gettysburg Campaign. For the Schuylkill Countians, the great forced march conducted on July 2 — which earned for the veterans of the Greek Cross Corps the sobriquet "Sedgwick’s Foot Cavalry" — proved to be their brightest moment in the operations in Pennsylvania. At Gettysburg, the VI Corps was not heavily engaged, arriving on the battlefield in the late afternoon of July 2. SEdgwick’s command was subsequently dispersed and sent to different sectors along the Union line.79 In the autumn of 1863, after pursuing the Confederates back across the Potomac, the 96th Pennsylvania moved down the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. In early November, the Schuylkill Countians played a supportive role in the dramatic night attack upon the Confederate works at Rappahannock Station. After the aborted Mine Run Campaign, the 96th Pennsylvania went into winter quarters in the vicinity of Brandy Station, Virginia, where they camped until the following spring.80

On May 4, 1864, the 96th Pennsylvania, along with the other elements of the Army of the Potomac, tramped out of its winter quarters toward the lower crossings of the Rapidan River. As the soldiers marched away from Brandy Station, little did they know what awaited them at a strange, fearful place called the Wilderness. As the Bluecoats attempted to march through the impenetrable thickets, Lee’s army moved quickly east and struck Grant’s columns a savage blow. Arriving on the battlefield several hours late, the 96th Pennsylvania, along with the first division of the VI Corps, deployed north of the Orange Turnpike along the eastern edge of Sanders’ Field. The carnage of the fighting that had taken place several hours before could be seen everywhere. After conducting a reconnaisance, the 96th Pennsylvania held its sector of the Union line and performed skirmish duty in its front during the Wilderness fighting. Overnight, May 7-8, to the tune of a camp ditty, Ain’t I Glad to Get Out of the Wilderness, the VI Corps marched toward the vital crossroad at Spotsylvania Court House.81

Unable to win the race to Spotsylvania, U.S. Grant sought to continue his tactical offensive in hopes of achieving some breach in Lee’s defensive line. While the lieutenant general assessed the grand tactical situation, a young West Point trained colonel named Emory Upton submitted a bold, innovative plan to army headquarters outlining a method for assaulting the Secessionist works.82 Upton believed that the Unionists could successfully storm an entrenched position if the Bluecoats attacked on a narrow front, four lines deep, without pausing to fire their weapons until a limited penetration was achieved. After listening to the proposal, Grant and Meade thought so highly of the plan that they gave Upton tweleve veteran regiments to use in the attack and arranged to have a full division standing by ready to exploit whatever success was gained.83

After reconnoitering the rebel works, Upton elected to strike the Confederate entrenched line, known as the "Mule Shoe," along the western face of the salient where three Georgia regiments commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert Doles were positioned. Late in the afternoon of May 10, as the twelve Union regiments waited at the staging area for the order to advance, Upton issued detailed instructions concerning the assault to the unit commanders. Upton directed Major Lessig to wheel the 96th Pennsylvania to the right, along with the 121st New York, as soon as the Unionists gained the Secessionist ramparts, and then to overrun the Confederate batteries posted in that sector.84 At 5 p.m. the soldiers were ordered to unsling their knapsacks. From the staging area, the volunteers in the first line of the assault column — the 5th Maine, 96th Pennsylvania and 121st New York — could peer across the open terrain, which gradually sloped upward toward the formidable Confederate position. In front of the Secessionist entrenchments were lines of bristling abatis, sharpened branches pointing toward the oncoming Federals.85 As the time for the attack drew near, Upton reminded each regimental leader to repeatedly shout the command "forward" throughout the assault in order to prevent the troops from stopping as they advanced across the ground. The West Pointer also admonished the Federals not to cheer, nor to stop and render assistance to wounded comrades.

Shortly after 6 p. m. the Union artillery fell silent. At that point, Upton, astride his horse, turned to his strike force, and shattering the serenity of the pine forest, shouted, "Attention battalions! Forward, double quick! Charge!" As the VI Corps soldiers streamed out of the woods, one volunteer recalled his immediate thoughts upon hearing the order to advance.

I felt my gorge rise, and my stomach and intestines shrink together in a knot, and a thousand things rushed through my mind. I fully realized the terrible peril I was to encounter. I looked about in the faces of the boys around me, and they told the tale of expected death.86

With a yell, contrary to Upton’s orders, the three lead regiments rushed forward across the plain toward the Confederate works. As the Northerners advanced, a sheet of flame burst from the Rebel entrenchments, spraying a storm of leaden hail across the slope up which the 96th Pennylvania charged. Canister from Confederate artillery also crashed through the Unionist ranks at every step, slowing the progress of the attack column. One historian has suggested that it tok the head of Upton’s column — with the 96th pennsylvania spearheading the attack — “no longer than sixty to ninety seconds to reach Doles’ works.”87 Upon reaching the Secessionist ramparts, the lead elements of the 96th Pennsylvania clambered over the parapet and fired their weapons into the mass of Southerners defending the rifle pit. Henry Keiser, of Company G, later recalled that as the 96th Pennsylvania stormed the Confederate line, "the [Secessionists] were at our mercy as most of [their] guns were empty while ours were loaded."88 After breaching the Confederate position, the engagement soon devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Describing the action in his diary, Keiser stated that, "they [the Secessionists] were very stubborn and the bayonets and clubbed muskets were used freely before the pit was fully in our possession."89

Within minutes, the disorganized Graycoats sought refuge in a second rifle pit. Unable to carry their success forward, due to enfilading fire, to the new Confederate line, Upton was compelled to abandon his assault. Shielded by the darkness, the exhausted soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania retreated back across the ground to the safety of the Federal line. Upton later estimated his casualties at 1,000 killed, wounded or missing.90 Little did the tired volunteers of the 96th Pennsylvania know, as they rested from the fury of the battle, that in less than 48 hours they would spearhead another offensive against the deadly "Mule Shoe.”

Early on the morning of May 12, the rainfall that soaked the soldiers throughout the night gave way to misty drizzle and heavy ground fog. The wet conditions and poor visibility, however, did not alter the plans of the Union high command. Near 7 a. m., two and one half hours after Winfield Hancock’s II Corps attacked the northern point of the Confederate position, Emory Upton’s brigade again deployed in line of battle. After reconnoitering the tactical situation, Upton ordered his command to advance at the double-quick toward a point along the western face of the salient, to be known forever after to the veterans as the "Bloody Angle." Intense rifle fire from the Rebels defending the salient disordered the oncoming Federals and forced the Schuylkill County men to seek protection from the fearful Confederate volleys behind a crest of ground close to the Secessionist works. In a post-war memoir, one volunteer recalled that he could not imagine "how any of us survived the sharp fire that swept over us at this point - a fire so keen that it split the blades of grass all about us, the minies moaning as they picked out victims by the score." Under heavy musketry from the determined Confederate defenders, the veterans of the 96th Pennsylvania positioned themselves along one side of the V shaped Bloody Angle — near the apex — and throughout the afternoon exchanged rifle fire with the Secessionists. Fighting face-to-face across the parapet, the combatants struggled 16 hours for this sector of the Confederate line. According to Henry Keiser, the tired, wet, mud stained soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania "received a continual shower of lead over the [rifle] pits," throughout the day.92 In the afternoon, following a brief cease fire, the fighting at the Bloody angle turned white hot.

As the rainfall intensified, the Unionists surged forward in a vain attempt to gain a foothold inside the enemy breastworks. According to Lewis Luckenill, the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania "were firing as fast as they could load." In a desperate measure to support the infantry assault, Upton ordered forward Battery C, 5th U. S. Artillery, and instructed the gunners to wheel their pieces to the Confederate ramparts and open fire at short range with double charges of cansiter. This unprecedented use of field artillery, although it temporarily stunned the Confederate defenders, could not enable the Unionists to dislodge and push back the southerners. Undaunted, Upton then instructed the soldiers to concentrate their rifle fire against the top, or head logs, of the Confederate breastworks, which the Unionists "splintered like brush-brooms." As darkness ended the fighting at the angle, the battered remnants of the 96th Pennsylvania withdrew from the firing line. While falling back across the open ground, Henry Keiser overheard one Union captain remark that, "The Devil couldn’t stand it in there.”96

Following the fighting at Spotsylvania, the 96th Pennsylvania marched with the VI Corps to North Anna, and on June 1 supported an infantry assault at Cold Harbor. Soon after, the Army of the Potomac reached the suburbs of Petersburg, the 96th Pennsylvania — numbering slightly more than 100 men — moving into position along the line of the Weldon Railroad.97 In July, the VI Corps, under the command of Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright, was transferred to Washington, D.C., inresponse to Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s incursion down the Shenandoah Valley.

For the 96th Pennsylvania, however, its fighting days were numbered and its feuding days were over. On September 19, 1864, at Opequon Creek (Third Winchester), the 96th Pennsylvania merely guarded the VI Corps wagon train along the Berryville Pike, while the balance of the Greek Cross Corps veterans attacked and routed Early’s Secessionists. Three days after the battle along Opequon Creek, their term of service expired, the veterans of the 96th Pennsylvania turned their backs on the valley and began the journey back to Schuylkill County. Upon returning home, a column in the Miners’ Journal reported that, "Three years before [the 96th Pennsylvania] left Pottsville a thousand strong. The bullet and disease had done their work, and many who left. . .in full health and vigor, fill graves in Virginia hills." During its three years of field service, the 96th Pennsylvania fought in five battles, ably performing its duties in each engagement. In sum, the unit forged a reputation as a courageous, steadfast and dependable regiment of infantry.

While the soldiers of the 96th Pennsylvania forged a credible war record, regimental politics, officer factionalism, and the ongoing squabble with the unit’s sutler, served only to divide the regiment’s field and staff officers. In December of 1863, just as he had done nine months earlier, Lessig sought to manipulate officer promotions at the highest levels within the 96th Pennsylvania. Governor Curtin again refused to approve Lessig’s scheme to promote him to the rank of colonel and to appoint two junior officers as his chief subordiantes. Finally, in January 1864, the line officers recommended to Curtin that Lessig be appointed lieutenant colonel and Levi Huber, captain of Company B, be promoted to the rank of major. The soldiers believed that this proposal would, “...end all dispute and prove agreeable to all interested as well as promote the good of the service.” A month later, a Regimental Council of Administration was convened, “...for the purpose of assessing a tax on the Sutler to raise a Post Fund.”98

After the war, Henry Cake returned to the anthracite coal industry and later served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. In 1869, Peter Filbert succeeded in overturning his dismissal from the army and was recommissioned in the grade of lieutenant colonel. The men of the 96th Pennsylvania, like most veterans, held reunions, erected monuments and marched in parades to commemorate their service in the Army of the Potomac.

Slowly, the gray-bearded veterans passed through the Gilded Age and into the cemeteries in Pottsville and the surrounding towns. Perhaps, however, Emory Upton, at one of the regiment’s annual reunions, best characterized the military career of the 96th Pennsylvania. The wiry, red-haired general was asked, "Why was it you always called on the Ninety-sixth Regiment?" To that Upton snapped, "Why, we called on you because we could depend on you. It was not very much, perhaps, to your comfort, but it was very much to the service.”99


1David A. Ward is Assistant Director, Technical Services at the Edsel Ford Memorial Library, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut. He is Program Chairman of the Civil War Round Table of the Northwest Corner. This article is based on his master’s thesis: "Amidst a Tempest of Shot and Shell : A History of the Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers," (New Haven, Conn. : Southern Connecticut State University, 1988).

2Frak J. Welcher, The Union Army, 1861-1865, Organization and Operations. Vol.1 The Eastern Theater, (Bloomington, IN : Uni. Press, 1989), p.395.

3Lewis Luckenbill, Diary, June 27, 1862, Civil War Round Table of the Northwest Corner Collection, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Penna.

4For an incisive biographical sketch of Cake see, "Colonel H.L. Cake Dead at Northumberland," Pottsville Miners’ Journal, August 28, 1899; U.S., Congress, House, The Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971 (Washington, D.C., 1971), 690; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York, 1945), v.5, 352; Edmund McDonald, "The First Defenders," Philadelphia Weekly Press, March 24, 1886; Henry L. Cake, "The Dark Days of ‘61 : How Schuylkill Responded to Lincoln’s Call for Aid," Pottsville Daily Republican, October 1, 1891; Marvin W. Schlegel, "The Workingmen’s Benevolent Association : First Union of Anthracite Miners," Pennsylvania History, v.10 (October 1943), 243-267.

5John T. Boyle, "An Outline Sketch of the Ninety-Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers," Philadelphia Weekly Times, July 17, 1886; Samuel P. Bates, Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania(Philadelphia, 1876), 58-59.

6Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, (Harrisburg, PA : B. Singerly, 1869-1871), v.3, p.382.

7For evidence of the personality rift between Filbert and Cake, see Filbert to Father, March 4, 1862, Filbert Papers, Harrisburg Civil War Round Table Collection, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Penna.

8Filbert to Brother, March 30, 1863, Filbert Papers. 9Filbert, Diary, November 2 and 4, 1861, Filbert Papers, documents the transferral of troops for the purpose of mustering; Filbert to Father, March 4, 1862, Filbert Papers. U.S., War Department, Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861 (Philadelphia, 1861), 496.

10Filbert, Diary, December 9, 1861, Filbert Papers.

11 Ibid., January 14, 1862.

12Filbert to Father, September 30, 1862, Filbert Papers.

13Filbert to Father, July 26, 1862, Filbert Papers; See also, Filbert to Thomas M. Vincent, [undated copy in Filbert correspondence beginning, "The undersigned has...], Filbert Papers.

14Henry Anson Castle, The Army Mule and Other War Sketches (Indianapolis, 1897), 111.

15Revised Regulations, 34-36.

16Donald P. Spear, "The Sutler in the Union Army," Civil War History, v.16, no.2, (June 1970), 121-138; James McCaffrey, "A Short History of the Civil War Sutler," Civil War Times Illustrated, v.24, no.4 (June 1985), 36-39; Waldo Campbell Hibbs, "The Sutler," Blue and Gray v.3 (1894), 207-209; Francis A. Lord, Civil War Sutlers and Their Wares (New York, 1969); See also, "An Act to Provide for the Appointment of Sutlers in the Volunteer Service, and to Define Their Duties," The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America (Washington, D.C., 1859-1863), v.12, Chap. 47, 371-373; Francis A. Lord, They Fought for the Union (New York, 1960), 130-131, 240.

17Filbert to Brother, March 30, 1863, Filbert Papers; Revised Regulations, 34-36.

18The engagement at Eltaham’s Landing is also referred to as the Battle of West Point. See, Dwight E. Stinson, “Eltham’s landing : The End Run That Failed,” Civil War Times Illustrated, v.1, no.10 (February 1963), p.38-41.

19Timothy J. Reese, Sykes’ Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864 (North Carolina : McFarland, 1990), 76-91.

20Francis B. Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism of Schuylkill County, in the American Slaveholder’s Rebellion... (Pottsville, Penna., 1865), 423.

21Ibid, 426.

22U.S., War Department, The War of the Rebellion : A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 vols. in 128 Parts (Washington, D.C., 1880-1901), v.11, Pt.1, 455. Hereinafter cited as O.R.

23Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism, 427.


25Boyle, "Outline Sketch," Weekly Times, July 17, 1886.

26O.R. v.11, Pt.2, p.446-450, 455; Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism, 430.

27Ibid., 456.

28Boyle, "Outline Sketch," Weekly Times, July 17, 1886.

29Ibid., p.449; Lewis J. Martin to Folks at Home, July 5, 1862, Martin Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William Clements Library.

30William F. Fox, Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-1865 (Dayton, OH : Morningside, 1985), p.286.

31Filbert, Diary, July 13-14, 1862, Filbert Papers.

32John Fernsler, Diary, in possession of Mrs. Marion Fernsler, Pottsville, Penna.

33Jacob G. Frick to Seth Williams, July 25, 1862, Record Group 94, The Adjutant General’s Office - Compiled Union Service Records, National Archives.

34Filbert, Diary, August 1, 1862, Filbert Papers; Filbert to H.L. Cake, August 1, 1862, Filbert Papers.

35Filbert to [?], [undated copy of letter beginning, "I left my situation...], Filbert Papers.

36Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.397.

37George B. McClellan to William B. Franklin, Letter, September 13, 1862, in The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan, ed. by Stephen W. Sears (New York, 1989), p.454-455. 38William B. Franklin, “Notes on Crampton’s Gap and Antietam,” in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. by R.U. Johnson and C.C. Buel (New York, 1956), v.2, p.593.

39Joseph J. Bartlett, "Crampton’s Pass," National Tribune, December 19, 1889; John M. Priest, Before Antietam : The Battle for South Mountain (Shippensburg, 1992), p.276; O.R., v.19, Pt.1, p.826.

40O.R., v.19, Pt.1, p.394.

41H.C. Boyer, "At Crampton’s Pass," Shenandoah (Penna.) Herald, August 31, 1886; Samuel Russell to Benjamin Bannan, October 4, 1862, Miners’ Journal; See also Joseph J. Bartlett, “Crampton’s Pass,” National Tribune, December 19, 1889.

42Boyer, "At Crampton’s Pass," Herald, August 31, 1886.

43O.R., v.19, Pt.1, p.393-396.

44O.R., v.19, Pt.1, p.827.

45Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants : A Study in Command (New York, 1943), v.2, 190; ); OR, v.19, Pt.1, 394-395; J[oseph] F. von Deck, "Let Us Burn No More Daylight," Lincoln Herald, v.88, no.2 (Summer 1986), 43-46; For a recent examination of the operations at Crampton’s Gap see, John M. Priest, Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain (Shippensburg, Pa., 1992), 272-304.

46H.C. Boyer, "At Crampton’s Pass," Shenandoah (Penna.) Herald, September 3, 1886.

47Jacob W. Haas, Diary, September 15, 1862, Haas Papers, Harrisburg Civil War Round Table Collection, United States Army Military History Institute.

48Boyer, "At Crampton’s Pass," Herald, September 3, 1886.

49Henry Royer to Father, September 23, 1862, Norristown (Penna.) Herald.

50Boyer, "At Crampton’s Pass," Herald, September 3, 1862.

51"The Survivors of the 96th : A Red Letter Day for the Veterans," Miners’ Journal, September 17, 1886; Revised Regulations, 11.

52Filbert to Father, September 30, 1862, Filbert Papers.

53Ibid., August 7, 1862, Filbert Papers. 54 Filbert to Father, August 28, 1862, Filbert Papers.

55Filbert, Diary, September 29, 1862, Filbert Papers.

56Ibid., September 30, 1862, Filbert Papers.

57Filbert to O.D. Greene, October 6, 1862, Filbert Papers; Filbert to A.G. Curtin, October 13, 1862, Filbert Papers; Filbert to Father, August 7, 1862, Filbert Papers.

58Filbert, Diary, October 23, 1862, Filbert Papers.

59Ibid., November 2, 1862, Filbert Papers.

60Filbert to Brother, [undated letter headed, "Camp near Burkittsville], Filbert Papers.

61H.L. Cake to R.P. Wilson, November 2, 1862, Record Group 94, The Adjutant General’s Office - Compiled Union Service Records, National Archives.

62Stanley Swart, "Military Examination Boards in the Civil War : A Case Study," Civil War History, v.16, no.3 (September 1970), 242; See also, John W. Powell, "How to Pick Out Bad Officers," Civil War Times Illustrated, v.30, no.1 (March/April 1991), 46-49.

63Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.398.

64Filbert, Diary, December 29, 1862, Filbert Papers.

65Haas to Brother, March 16, 1863, Haas Papers.

66Haas, Diary, April 19, 1863.

67Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.399.

68O.R., v.25, Pt.1, 579-580.

69Ibid., Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism, 248-249.

70Ibid., p.249.

71O.R., v.25, Pt.1, p.581; George W. Bicknell, History of the Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteers (Portland, Maine, 1871), 219. After the battle, Lessig penned a long letter to the Pottsville Miners’ Journal describing the role of the 96th Pennsylvania in the battle of Salem Church. This letter, slightly abridged, was reprinted in Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism, p.249, and offers details not available in the after-action reports printed in the Official Records.

72O.R.Æ)1Ø, v.25, Pt.1, 559-560, 567-568, 581-582; The appellation “Brooks’ Lambs,” was taken from the back of a carte-de-visite featuring W.T.H. Brooks, Jacob W. Haas, Civil War Photo Album, estate of James F. Haas.

73Ibid., p.581.


75Haas to Brother, May 12, 1863, Haas Papers.

76O.R., v.25, Pt.1, 189, 590; Lessig’s appended list of casualties, set forth in Wallace, Memorial of the Patriotism, p.242-244, offers higher total losses (21 killed, 72 wounded and 29 missing).

77Daniel Faust to Sister, May 23, 1863, Faust Papers, Harrisburg Civil War Round Table Collection, United States Army Military History Institute; See also, Ralph Happel, Salem Church Embattled ([Fredericksburg, Virginia]), 25-52; Joseph G. Bilby, "Seeing the Elephant: The 15th New Jersey Infantry at the Battle of Salem Church," Military Images (Jan./Feb. 1984), 3-15.

78The reference to "Sedgwick’s Foot Cavalry," can be found in, Dedication of the Equestrian Statue of Major-General John Sedgwick (Hartford, Conn., 1913), 56.

79Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.401.

80Ibid., p.405.

81Bruce Catton, Grant Takes Command (Boston, 1968), 209.

82Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.408.

83 For a concise sketch of Emory Upton, the assault at Spotsylvania and his impact upon the evolution of Civil War infantry tactics see, Stephen E. Ambrose, "A Theorist Fights : Emory Upton in the Civil War," Civil War History, v.9, no.4 (December 1963), 341-364.

84O.R., v.36, Pt.1, 667-668; William D. Matter, If it Takes All Aummer : The Battle of Spotsylvania (Chapel Hill, 1988), p.156.

85Isaac O. Best, History of the 121st New York State Infantry (Chicago, Illinois, 1921), 134-136.

86George T. Stevens, Three Years in the Sixth Corps (Albany, New York, 1866), 331-332; Best, History of the 121st New York, 129.

87Matter, If it Takes All Summer, p.162.

88Henry Keiser,Diary, May 10, 1864, Keiser Papers, Harrisburg Civil War Round Table Collection, United States Army Military History Institute.


90Matter, If It Takes All Summer, 156-166.

91G. Norton Galloway, "Hand-to-Hand Fighting at Spotsylvania," essay in, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. by Robert U. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel (New York, 1956), v.4, 171.

92Keiser, Diary, May 12, 1864, Keiser Papers.

93Luckenbill, Diary, May 12, 1864, Luckenbill Papers.

94Galloway, "Hand-to-Hand Fighting," 173-174; O.R., v.36, Pt.1, p.669.

95Emory Upton to G. Norton Galloway, quoted in, G. Norton Galloway, "Capture of the Salient," Philadelphia Weekly Times, November 18, 1882.

96Keiser, Diary, May 12, 1864, Keiser Papers.

97Welcher, The Union Army, v.1, p.411.

98Lessig to Curtin, December 2, 1863, RG 19, Records of Military Affairs, Office of the Adjutant General, Muster Rolls and Related Records, 1861-1866, Pennsylvania State Archives; Ibid.; D. Webster Bland to Curtin, January 18, 1864; Ibid., W.H. Lessig, “Regimental Order No. 69,” February 25, 1864.

99J.W. Conrad, quoted in, "Proceedings and Speeches Made at the Transfer of Battle Flags to the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, December 14, 1913," Publications of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, v.5, no.2 (1932), 22.

We would sincerely like to thank David A. Ward and the publishers of Civil War Regiments for permission to use this article.