Near the close of July 1861 Henry R. Guss,
citizen of West Chester who had commanded a company in the Ninth Regiment of
the three months service, received authority from the Secretary of War to
recruit a regiment for three years. Enrolling was immediately commenced and in
two months time its ranks were full. Companies D and I were principally from
Delaware County, and the remaining companies were principally from the county
of Chester. The companies rendezvoused and Camp Wayne, near the borough of West
Chester and were organized under the following field officers: Henry R. Guss,
Colonel; Augustus P. Duer, Lieutenant Colonel; Galusha Pennypacker, Major.
Clothing, arms and equipment were furnished from the arsenal in Philadelphia.
There was a band, consisting of 22 members. On the 12th of November Governor
Curtin visited the camp and presented the state colors. On that date the
command broke camp and proceeded to Washington, were they were camped a half
mile north of the Capital.
After a week new Springfield rifles muskets were issued, and
the regiment proceeded to Fortress Monroe via Baltimore, and went into camp
near the ruins of the village of Hampton. It was soon after ordered to Port
Royal South Carolina, embarking on the steamer Erickson on December 8. On
January 21 the regiment was brigaded with the 6th Connecticut, 4th New
Hampshire and the 9th Maine, and embarked on an expedition to Warsaw Sound,
Georgia, designed as a diversion for the capture of Ft. Pulaski. On the 28th
they proceeded to St. Mary’s River, and the transports were anchored off
Fernandina, Florida. On March 5, the 97th landed and possessed the town,
together with Ft. Clinch. On the 9th, company A made a scout to Harrison’s
Landing, but found no enemy. On the 24th the regiment proceeded to Jacksonville
to reinforce troops already there. The evacuation of Florida was ordered later
in March, and the regiment returned to Hilton head.
On April 19, the regiment went to North Edisto Island, and
was engaged in Fatigue and guard duty until the beginning of June, when it
crossed the Edisto with General Wright’s command and moved across John’s Island
to Legareville. With a squadron of cavalry it made a reconnaissance on the
island on June 7, and encountered a body of the enemy which was driven.
Companies G and H were left to occupy Legarville the rest of the regiment
encamping with Wright’s division in front of Secessionville. On the evening of
the 10th the pickets of the 47th New York and the 97th Pennsylvania were
attacked. The loss to the 97th was three killed and eleven wounded. The battle
of Secessionville was fought on June 16 the regiment escaped with only small
loss. It remained on the island until July 1, when it returned with the 6th
Connecticut to North Edisto, and thence to Hilton head.
By the middle of October there were many cases of
intermittent fever, and frequent cases of yellow fever, many of which proved
fatal. On November 20, the regiment, with the exception of company C, was
removed to St. Helena island, where the health of the men rapidly improved.
Early in April 1863 the second expedition against Charleston
left Hilton head. The first Brigade, First Division, 10th corps consisted of
the 8th Maine, 76th Pennsylvania and the 97th Pennsylvania, and was under the
command of Colonel Guss. It landed at Folly Island where it remained during the
bombardment of Sumter. The Attack was not successful and land forces again
returned to Hilton head. On April 21 the 97th was detached from the First
Brigade and ordered to the Third Brigade, commanded by General T. G. Stevenson,
then occupying Seabrook Island.
About the middle of June General Gilmore assumed command of
the department and began preparations against Charleston. The 97th was in
Stevenson’s brigade and was held in readiness to advance if the assault on
Battery Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts was successful. They were ordered
forward, but almost immediately recalled when the failure of the assault was
apparent. Two companies of the 97th, A and F under Lieutenant Col. Duer, were
ordered to the abattis on the beach, whence they were to advance as skirmishers
as near to the fort as possible and cover the parties detailed to pick up the
wounded, which was done by companies C, D, E and I. On September 6, orders were
given to make an assault on the following morning, however it was found that
the enemy had abandoned the works.
On October 2nd the regiment was again ordered to garrison
duty at Ft. Clinch. On February 9, 1864 a detachment led by Major Pennypacker
crossed the river and moved up to attack the enemy at Camp Cooper, near Baldwin
Station, 14 miles distant. The camp was unoccupied, and the command returned to
Fernandina. A week later Major Pennypacker with three hundred men were sent to
the Woodstock and King’s Ferry Mills on the St. Mary’s river to secure lumber
and mill fixtures. On the 22nd Major Pennypacker was ordered to return with all
possible dispatch, the engagement at Olustee have proved disastrous. There was
a subsequent reconnaissance up the St. Mary’s on the steamer Island City with
company F under Captain Lewis, in which the enemy’s pickets were encountered
and driven, and some rebel property and machinery captured.
On April 3 Lieutenant Colonel Duer, who had been suffering
from disease, resigned and Major Pennypacker was promoted to succeed him.
Captain Price was promoted to Major. On April 23 the 97th was relived by the
157th New York and returned to Hilton head, where it jointed the 10th Corps in
its movement to Fortress Monroe to reinforce the Army of the James under
General Butler. The 97th was assigned to the 1st Brigade, Third Division,
composed of the 55th and 97th Pennsylvania, 4th New Hampshire, and the 8th and
9th Maine. The Brigade was commanded by Colonel Richard White, General Ames
commanded the division and General Gilmore the Corps. The army landed on May 7
at Bermuda Hundred and moved to Foster’s Plantation, where a line of earth
works was thrown up which eventually extended from the James River above to the
swamps and tide water of the Appomatox below. On the 9th the 97th took park in
the action at Swift Creek near Petersburg, and on the 10th was ordered to
support the movement upon Richmond, being subsequently engaged in the action at
Drury’s Bluff. On May 16th the rebels attached at daylight under cover of fog.
The 97th was on duty at General Butler’s headquarters and was ordered to join
the 13th Indiana and to take position at the Wier Bottom Church Road At dusk
they withdrew to the entrenchments. The loss was two wounded and five captured.
On the 18th the revels assaulted a portion of the line near Green Plain. The
97th was ordered to the front to retake the line, and four companies were
deployed by Lt. Col Pennypacker and advanced in a skirmish line supported by
the rest of the regiment under Major Price. At 10:00 PM the regiment was
relieved. The regiment lost 19 killed and 38 wounded. On the 19th of May
companies A, B, C and E were detained for picket duty and to occupy the same
line held on the previous evening. The enemy charged but was repulsed with
considerable loss. The next morning the enemy again charged in force against
the positions of the 97th, the 9th Maine and the 13th Indiana, and the fragment
of the command remaining retreated. Lt. Col Pennypacker, with the remaining 300
of the regiment which had not been engaged, was ordered to advance and
recapture the portion of the line which was lost. The loss in this charge was 3
officers and 44 men killed, 8 officers and 121 men wounded and 12 taken
prisoners. Lt. Col. Pennypacker was wounded.
On the 27th the 18th Corps and part of the 10th Corps was
dispatched to White House and thence marched to joint the army at Cold Harbor.
The 97th remained at the front there until its return to the south side of the
James on the 12th of June. On the 22nd Colonel Guss resigned and Lt. Col.
Pennypacker was promoted to succeed him, but was prevented by wounds from
joining the regiment for several weeks. The following day the 10th Corps was
ordered to the front before Petersburg, the 97th taking position in front of
Cemetery Hill, where it kept constantly engaged, losing men almost daily. Upon
the occasion of the explosion of the mine on the 30th of July the 97th was
formed in the rear of the batteries bearing on the rebel works, and when the
assaulting column had gone forward was ordered to advance in support. A portion
of the enemy’s works was captured, but the forces were eventually withdraw, as
it was found impossible to hold the advantage gained. The 97th was relieved at
Colonel Pennypacker returned and assumed command on August
13. The regiment moved across the James and participated in the capture of the
entrenchments at Deep Bottom and in the action at Strawberry Plains on the
15th, losing 10 killed, 11 wounded and 18 captured. On the20th the regiment
returned to its old position at Bermuda Hundred. Towards the close of August
the regiment to the Petersburg front, occupying the lines from the Appomatox to
Cemetery Hill. Col. Pennypacker was assigned to the command of the Second
Brigade, Second Division, composed of the 47th and 48th New York, 76th, 203rd
and 97th Pennsylvania. The command of the regiment devolved to Captain Lewis in
the absence of Major Price due to sickness. On the 28th of September the 10th
Corps attacked New Market Heights and Fort Gilmore. The loss was 10 wounded and
2 missing. Toward the close of October the 10th Corps was engaged near
Darbytown. The 97th lost 2 killed, 8 wounded and 1 missing. In December the
Army of the James was reorganized and the white troops of the 10th and 18th
corps became the 24th Corps.
On December 7 the 97th, as part of the Second Division of
the 24th Corps, proceeded to Fortress Monroe, and on the 13th accompanied the
expedition of Butler and Porter against Ft. Fisher North Carolina. The troops
were eventually withdrawn and returned to their camps on the James. On the 2nd
of January 1965 the same troops again departed for the reduction of Ft. Fisher.
Ame’s division, consisting of the brigades of Curtis, Pennypacker and Bell was
selected for the assault, after landing on the peninsula. Pennypacker, while
carrying the standard of the 97th was the first man in a charge over a
traverse, and was severely wounded while planting the colors on the third
traverse. The attack was successful, but the regiment Lost 4 killed and 47
wounded. The regiment encamped near the magazine in the fort, but was ordered
away before it’s accidental explosion.
The 97th participated in the advance on Raleigh, but was
detached and sent to the assistance of a cavalry train under Kilpatrick, and
remained with it until it reached the State Capital, whence Sherman pushed up
and received the surrender of the rebel army under Johnston at Durham’s Station
on April 26th 1865. From April until July 10, 1865 the regiment remained at
Raleigh, engaged in various duties including putting into operation the
Freedman’s Bureau. During this time several died of sickness. On May 23, 1865
Col. Pennypacker was promoted to Brigadier General. The regiment was finally
mustered out at Weldon on August 28, 1865. The remaining 600 returned to
Philadelphia, where they were entertained at the Cooper Shop and Union
Volunteer Refreshment saloons. Retiring to Camp Cadwalader it remained until
September 4, when it was pain off and disbanded.
History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865; Bates, Samuel P.
97th Pennsylvania Soldier's Monument
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Image from a 1905 postcard
(collection of David Glenn Jr.)