Monday, January 28, 2008

129th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment

Part two of the 129th Story: Chancellorsville.

After the hard fought fight at Fredericksburg the 129th re crossed the Rappahannock River and went into camp once again. Although they did participate in the famous Burnsides Mud March from January 20th to the 24th of 1863. Most of their time was spent in camp licking their wounds and trying to regroup. It is interesting to note by looking at their rolls and company reports the men did not just sit back and do nothing Colonel Frick had the men drill daily, they were reviewed, they were issued new equipment and clothing, they marched by the company and by the regiment they worked hard at getting back into a fighting shape and by the beginning of the spring campaign now being led by Gen Joseph Hooker the 129th was ready.
The Chancellorsville campaign under General Hooker began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union army on the morning of April 27, 1863. The 129th began crossing the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Union Army moved towards Chancellorsville on April 30and May 1. Heavy fighting began on May 1 and did not end until the Union forces retreated across the river on the night of May 5 to May 6. The 129th was engaged heavily on May 3rd.
It is interesting to note that the time of many of the men’s nine month enlistment was over by early May, yet many stayed the course and fought with their comrades on May 3rd.
The following letter was written by a Schuylkill Countian who signed it “Co. E”:
Editors Miners Journal; Your readers may perhaps feel an interest in hearing some account of the part the 129th Regt. P.V. took in the late great battle. We left camp on Monday, April 27th and marched to Kelly’s ford, about 20 miles above here where we crossed the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge. From here we made a rapid march to the Rapidan, which river we forded and proceeded, with scarcely a halt, until on Friday May 1 we encountered the gray backs at Chancellorsville. This was one of the hardest marches this regiment ever made, we being on foot, at one time, for forty consecutive hours. But regardless alike of burning suns and drenching rains, the boys pressed on, and straggling was a thing un-thought of for where Cols Frick and Armstrong, and General Tyler lead, the 129th will follow.
Arrived at Chancellorsville, our Corps was ordered out a road leading towards Fredericksburg, to feel for the rebs. We proceeded about three miles, made the reconnaissance drew out the Rebs and returned in safety to Chancellorsville where we lay behind the batteries, while the First Division (Sykes) of our Corps opened the ball by engaging enemy forces which we had drawn out, and handling them severely. Our Division, the 3rd of the 5th Corps was now assigned a position on the extreme left of the line, upon a hill covered with timber, where we were to support a Massachusetts Battery. We proceeded to cut the trees and throw up breastworks, and were just congratulating ourselves upon the fine position we had, when early on Sunday morning our Corps was ordered to the centre, to take the place of the 11th which had skedaddled. It was said at the first fire. We were double-quick a couple of miles toward the right, and then our Brigade (Tylers) was ordered into a wood in front of a battery of brass pieces, to draw out the Rebs. We double quicked some half mile, down a road and then filed into the woods, to the left of the road. We had not proceeded far through the wood, before we encountered the gray backs drawn up in a line to receive us. We opened fire on them, and for some three hours, I suppose we gave them as warm a time as they have had. Three different times they charged on us and each time they were driven back, with great slaughter. I am proud to say the boys behaved with the coolness of veterans, firing by company, by wing and by volley, as the Colonel gave commands. The Colonel took his position on the left of our company directly by the colors, and his cool bravery inspired the whole command. It made the boys feel good as the expressed it, to see him occasionally take a rifle and try his hand. Adjutant Green at length came down from his position on the right and told the Colonel that the rebs had outflanked us. On the right and that the right of the line was falling back. ( Our position was on the extreme left of the Brigade) Colonel Frick replied that he had no orders to fall back, and that he would hold his ground; but looking up and seeing the whole line was in retreat, that we were far outflanked and must be cut off, he found it necessary to retire and he orders to that effect. We had some hand to hand fighting in the woods, for our colors, the rebs making a desperate effort to capture them. But the boys defended them bravely and brought them out, together with some of the would be captures. . Lieut. Col. Armstrong came nearly being taken. He was surrounded by about twenty gray backs, ordered to surrender, and even laid hold on, but he broke away and ran, and although his pursuers poured a volley after him, he made his escape. We drew the rebs out into an open field where the brass battery I spoke of opened on them with grape and canister, and made awful havoc. The rebs skedaddled back into the woods, where the battery finished the work with shell, while our regiment reformed behind the breastworks. We were soon ordered about a half mile to the left. To support Sykes Division in the trenches. Here we remained until Wednesday morning. about 2 o’clock when Sedgwick having been overwhelmed was driven back from Fredericksburg, the army began to fall back.
We re-crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford, our Division supporting the batteries which covered the crossing of our Corps, and made directly for our old camp, where we arrived about six o’clock that evening after a hard march of about 15 miles, over roads which my feeble pen cannot describe, and through a drenching rain. Sunday was a very hot day, and when the boys double quicked it into the fight, they threw away their shelter tents. Blankets and overcoats and as the weather has been pretty wet and raw since they have been pretty badly situated. Our loss in killed and wounded is 42. Major Anthony was badly wounded in the shoulder. He has the sympathy of the whole regiment for he has always shown himself a gentleman and a brave and gallant soldier.
There are rumors of another move today, and as the rebs are said to be falling back form Fredericksburg we may perhaps soon be once more on the to Richmond, The soldiers are in the very best of spirits, and swear the “Fighting Joe” is worth a dozen “Young Little Mac Napoleons.”

“Company E”

NOTE: The colors were twice seized, but were defended with great gallantry, and brought safely off. Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong fell into the enemy's hands, but made his escape in the confusion caused in his ranks by the fire of the Union batteries. Major Anthony was shot through the lungs, but was assisted off the field, and still survives what was then considered a mortal wound.
" The One Hundred and Twenty-ninth," says General Tyler in his official report, "' was on our left, and no man ever saw cooler work on field drill than was done by this regiment. Their firing was grand, by rank, by company, and by wing, in perfect order."
The loss was five killed, thirty-two wounded, and five missing. On the 6th, the regiment re-crossed the Rappahannock and returned to its camp near Falmouth. On the 12th, its term of service having fully expired, it returned to Harrisburg, where on the 18th of May it was mustered out. The return of companies to Easton and Pottsville was marked by flattering and enthusiastic demonstrations on the part of the citizens.

And to the Bravery of Colonel Jacob Frick I take this from John Hoptaks Blog on the 48th P.V.I..

Frick received the Medal of Honor for his gallantry at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Fredericksburg, Frick led his regiment in an attack against Marye's Heights. As he advanced toward the impregnable Confederate position, Frick was thrown when a shell struck and killed his horse. Dusting himself off, Frick saw the color bearer of the 129th get shot down. He rushed for the flag. Moments later, the staff was split in half and the flag fell over Frick's shoulder. He continued to urge his men forward, but the attack was a failure. The regiment lost some 150 men killed and wounded, and Frick was himself wounded with shell in his thigh and right ear. Six months later, Frick's heroism was repeated at Chancellorsville. Here, Frick and his men were cut off and partially surrounded. Many members of the 129th surrendered, and a Confederate soldier captured the regimental flag. Frick would have none of this. Rallying his men, Frick charged toward the captured flag and, in hand-to-hand combat, wrestled it away from the Confederate soldier

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