the following post first appeared on the blog of Antietam Battlefield Guide candidate Dave Maher (Pennsylvania’s Emergency Men) on Nov. 29, 2011. Dave’s blog is an on going study of the men, moments, and stories of the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia of September 1862, and July 1863…with the occasional “detour” posts, ranging from archive finds to historic preservation; from local heritage to National Parks.
Having lived and studied in the small Cumberland Valley town of Shippensburg, I have always been drawn to the stories of the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry. Nearly six full companies of the Regiment hailed from farms and communities within Cumberland County, including Company D, which was raised right in the heart of Shippensburg. Much of the remainder of the 130th was organized in neighboring York County.
|flag of the 130th PA – Capitol Preservation Committee|
Raised in the late summer of 1862, the 130th was one of fifteen Pennsylvania regiments (122nd to 137th Regiments) organized to serve an enlistment period of nine months. Even though many earlier Cumberland County men had enlisted for three years with the famed Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, and had already seen many grand battles, the men of the 130th would not be left out. Those short nine months would take the 130th through some of the War’s most terrible battles. Antietam, where they doggedly battled the Rebels in the Sunken Road. Fredericksburg, where they took part in the bloody and hopeless assaults on the enemy position at Marye’s Heights. Chancellorsville, where they helped solidify the Union flank after a surprise attack by Stonewall Jackson sent thousands of Union troops fleeing in fear and confusion.
The story of the 130th fits in well with the story of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Men. A month before Lee’s movement northward, into Maryland, which triggered the “Emergency” in Pennsylvania, the 130th marched off to war. With Harrisburg a perceived target, and the Cumberland Valley a natural highway for the Rebel troops, one can imagine that the minds of the men in the 130th traveled back to the homes they left behind. The organizing of the Emergency Militia in defense of the Commonwealth may have helped put the 130th’s mind at ease, but as they took part in the pursuit of the Rebel army through Maryland and into the southern portion of the Cumberland Valley, one would expect that their determination was at its height.
As chance would have it, the 130th’s first battle was Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history. The men of the Regiment were no doubt unsure of what awaited them that September day, but by the end of battle, the 130th had held strong, and proved themselves veterans. Forty six members of the Regiment were killed, 132 were wounded. They did their part in ensuring the safety of their homes and loved not far to the north.
Nine months later in June 1863, after the 130th returned home, Robert E. Lee and the Rebel army once again threatened the peaceful Cumberland Valley by pushing north. In fact, when part of Confederate General Robert Rodes’ Division occupied Shippensburg, they pillaged the home of the Captain of Co. D, James Kelso, once word spread that a former Union officer lived there. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin once more called for the creation of a force of “Emergency Militia”. Scores of men who had recently returned home from service in a “nine month regiment” answered the call. Since these men had military/combat experience, many were given higher rank and authority in the newly formed militia units, as they marched off to fight for their homes.
As a student of the Maryland Campaign, and an adopted son of the Keystone State, something has always interested me about the stories of Pennsylvania’s nine month regiments. While six of these regiments saw fighting during the Battle of Antietam, the 130th has always had a special place in my thoughts. Perhaps it is the fact that I lived among the same towns, roads, and farms they once knew. Or, maybe it is the fascinating loss of innocence that raw, ‘green’ troops experience the moment they fire their rifles at an enemy, or the first time they witness a comrade struck down in battle. Either way, to best understand these men, it is best to hear their stories, thoughts, and memories in their own words. Below are a few such voices.
Speaking to an audience in 1894, at the Capt. Colwell G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) post in Carlisle, 1st Lt. John Hays, formerly of the 130th Pennsylvania, Co. A, documents the Regiment’s journey towards their “baptism of fire” at Antietam; a mere month since they enlisted.
“On Sunday, August 17, 1862, [the Regiment] was finally armed and equipped, and on Monday, August 18, it was carried in open cars over the Northern Central Railroad to Baltimore. On its march through the city, though it met with some scowling looks, it was complimented on its fine appearance, and the First Sergeant of Company A received a beautiful wreath as a mark of admiration for his manly, soldierly bearing, or for the fine appearance of the command to which he belonged. After reaching the station of the Washington Branch of the B. and O. Railroad, the Regiment was taken to the rooms of the Union Relief Committee and given a good supper. Late at night it left Baltimore and arrived at Washington early the next morning.”
Pvt. Edward Spangler of Co. K, then sixteen years old, remembered leaving Washington bright and early that morning, writing in his 1904 memoir, “at daylight we got our first view of the white marble Capitol. We had never before seen an edifice so large, noble, majestic and imposing in appearance. Its present lofty dome, with its tiers of columns, beautiful ornamentations, its summit surmounted by the colossal statue of Liberty, was then erected only a score of feet above the adjacent wings, with a huge crane projecting from the opening. After breakfast, the regiment with colors flying moved under a hot sun up Pennsylvania Avenue, unpaved and full of ruts, down to Long Bridge spanning the Potomac, which we crossed…”
Pvt. Edward Spangler
Describing the 130th’s march out of Washington, Lieutenant Hays adds that, “…[the regiment] marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and over the Long Bridge into Dixey’s land to take its stand against the army of the Rebellion. Marching down the avenue and across the city, the “Hallelujah Chorus” was started by some of the boys and when joined in by the whole regiment, nine hundred strong, it became a volume of sound that made the windows rattle and stirred the hearts of Union men in the Capital City. Early in the afternoon of that day it reached Division Camp Welles, beyond Arlington Heights and became part of the force under General Casey, then in charge of the fortifications near Washington.”
While in camp near Arlington, Co. K was ordered to stand guard around the impressive property, once home to Robert E. Lee. Edward Spangler noted that the buildings of the estate were, “…surrounded by venerable trees, consisted of a large and stately brick structure with slave quarters and stables. From the ample porch with its immense Colonial columns, we had a picturesque view of the Capitol City. The old portraits of the Custis and Lee families were still hanging on the parlor walls. The interior architecture in Mrs. Custis’ time, was a perfect reproduction of an aristocratic Virginia interior of a century ago. All about the place had the aspect of antiquity and former wealth and ease. It was rumored that our company was detached to perform guard duty at Arlington during our entire term of service. To this we emphatically demurred, as we had enlisted to fight the enemy, and not to protect from spoilation the property of the great Confederate chieftan.”
The 130th would remain near Arlington until August 27th, when the Regiment marched off towards their next encampments. For many of the men in the 130th, marching mile after mile was difficult and daunting. The march for these new recruits was made all the more worse by the blistering heat of that late summer in northern Virginia. Private Edward Spangler noted that the day, “…was very hot and sultry, and the marching with our heavy clothing and accoutrements very fatiguing. Many were exhausted and fell out of the ranks before half the distance was compassed.” Writing home to his brother, Elijah Daihl, of Co. D remarked of the heat and spoiled landscape, “This Cutry [Country] is like a Desert I don’t know what the rebbl wants with it now nor what any body els wins wit it I wouldn’t live here for any thing but for to fight the rebbles for I intend to fight them till they kill me or els I kill them.” Hays noted that the Regiment arrived, “…there with hardly two hundred and fifty men out of over nine hundred, because of the almost intolerable dust and heat.”
During the devastating Union defeat at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, the 130th was marched back to Washington where it became part of the “reserve army corps of the Potomac.“ “The terrific cannonading sounded to us like the continuous detonations of distant thunder. We were anxious to know the result of the battle, and had not long to wait, for, on the second day after, along came the retreating Army of the Potomac [and the Army of Virginia], dust-laden, ragged and weary,” wrote Spangler.
1st Lt. John Hays
The following week, Hays and the rest of the 130th Pennsylvania were “…ordered to take three days rations, canteens, blankets and overcoats, and join General Sumner’s Corps at Rockville, Maryland. Leaving a guard in charge of its camp and baggage, it marched over the Chain Bridge through Tenallytown to Rockville where on September 9th, with the 14th Connecticut and 108th New York Regiments, it was formed into the Second Brigade, commanded by Col. Dwight Morris, 14th Conn. of the 3rd Division, Gen. Wm. H. French, of the Second Army Corps, Gen. Edwin V. Sumner.”
Continuing their arduous march on September 13th, through stifling heat and choking dust, Spangler and the rest of the 130th, “…crossed a commanding range of hills… We beheld the church-spired city of Frederick and the broad, fertile and opulent valley of the Monocacy, shut in by low mountains of surpassing grace and outline, with all nature abloom, – a scene in the fierce sunlight of enchanting beauty.” Once in the city, Spangler experienced a heart warming welcome from throngs of happy citizens. Upon entering the city, “…with full brigades with all the pomp of war and past the Army Commander [McClellan] and glittering staff, the streets resounding with applause, amounted to an ovation. The stars and stripes…were now unfurled and floated to the breeze. Ladies, dressed in their best, waved their handkerchiefs and flags. The populace cheered to the echo, tokens of a most cordial welcome, and supplied water and refreshments to the thirsty and hungry men. Their smiles and tears of gratitude and joy, attested their loyalty to the Union in no uncertain degree.” Such a reception was a rare occurrence, especially for Union army veterans who were more accustom to the shuttered windows, jeers, and cold shoulders received while marching through towns in the South. The patriotic display did much to raise the hearts of soldiers, whether veteran or untested, as in the case of the 130th.
McClellan entering Frederick, MD – Library of Congress
The next day, the 130th Pennsylvania would get their first view of battle, albeit from a distance. Hays remarked that, “on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, the 14th of September, 1862, when that battle [of South Mountain] was being fought…in the distance could be seen puffs of smoke rising from the mountain side and from its summit, and the dull sound of battle could be heard.” All day long, the men of the 2nd Corps were “start and stop” marched toward the passes on South Mountain at Turner’s and Frostown Gaps. Each stop brought rumors of Union victory and an end to the fighting, and with them, the men of the 130th prepared to bivouac for a much needed rest. However, each time, “camp fires had been made, tin cups of coffee put on [the fire], and green corn placed on the coals to cook for supper…the order to advance was given, and at the double quick, away they had to go, three of four miles across the country, plunging down steep hills, falling into streams of water hidden in the darkness, until the battle field of South Mountain was neared and the noise of the conflict had died away and the battle was over.” Edward Spangler remembered of the exhausting ordeal that, “it fell to the unfortunate lot of our and other companies to be stationed in a meadow entirely too soggy to recline upon for much needful rest and slumber. Fatigued, weary and almost famished, we were compelled to stand in this uninviting spot for hours.”
Soon, the men of the 130th would have their first taste of a Civil War battlefield, but probably not in the way many anticipated. There in the dim light, remembered Hays, “…could be seen a long line of men resting quietly along the road, and beside them the wearied men of the 130th laid down to rest for an hour or two until early dawn, they were again roused to find that the tired men beside them were those gathered from the field whom the battle had put to sleep forever, and then on to the base of the mountain where still lay some who had been missed by their comrades.” John Hemmingen (or Hemminger), a Private in Co. E, “awoke and found where [he] had lain a human foot and fingers, that had been sacrificed for or against the Union cause.” For young Edward Spangler, a similar experience forever burned in his memory: “The first evidence I saw of the conflict was a dead cavalryman, evidently a courier. He was shot through the head, and his blood-covered face and glassy eyes made a ghastly sight. He was the first dead soldier I saw, and it was by no means a pleasing spectacle. As I reached the crest of [South Mountain],…hundreds of dead Union and Confederate soldiers covered the ground, denoting the violence of the contest.”
The next morning, John Hays and the 130th made a “…weary march…over the mountain, through Boonesboro and Keedysville, across the [Little] Antietam [Creek], until at night a halt was made in the rear of the hill that overlooked the ground to be made historic by the efforts of the contending heroes. There, during Monday night, all of Tuesday and Tuesday night, lay the Regiment with its, and other commands, old and new, and learned on [Wednesday] the never to be forgotten whiz and ringing bang of bursting shells.
Wednesday morning brought the terrible Battle of Antietam; the 130th Pennsylvania would be “green” no longer.
130th Pennsylvania monument at Antietam – Dave Maher
Armstrong Jr., Marion V. Unfurl Those Colors!: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.
Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5 : prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
Daihl, Elijah McGee. letter to brother Rueben. accessed 27 November 2011. available from: http://webspace.ship.edu/jqbao/ShipMuseum/page26/page29/page59/page59.html#2; Internet.
Hays, John. The 130 Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. An address delivered June 7, 1894, before Capt. Colwell Post 201 G. A. R. Carlisle, PA: Herald Printing Co., 1894.
Spangler, Edward W. My Little War Experience. York, PA: York Daily Publishing Co., 1904.