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 A Brief history of the 83rd Pennsylvania


tabspace.pngThe Eighty-third encountered more fighting and lost more men in battle than any other Pennsylvania regiment; in fact, its loss in action was exceeded by only one other in the entire Union army. None of its losses were caused by blunders, none occurred in disastrous routs; its dead always lay with their faces to the enemy. With its "twin regiment," the Forty-fourth New York, it was assigned to Butterfield's Brigade, Morell's Division, Fifth Corps. Colonel McLane was killed at Gaines's Mill, and Vincent fell at Gettysburg while in command of the brigade. At Gaines's Mill, the regiment lost 46 killed, 51 wounded, and 99 missing; four days later, at Malvern Hill, it lost 33 killed, 115 wounded, and 18 missing--a total of 362, out of the 554 present at Gaines's Mill. At Manassas, under Lieutenant-Colonel McCoy, it lost 14 killed, 72 wounded, and 11 missing, out of 224 officially reported by McCoy as present and engaged. It had the honor, at Gettysburg, of participating in the brilliant manoeuvre of its brigade--Vincent's--in seizing Little Round Top at a critical moment, helping materially to save the fortunes of the day. At Spotsylvania, its casualties amounted to 21 killed, 119 wounded, and 24 missing; total, 164. General McClellan once publicly pronounced the Eighty-third "one of the very best regiments in the army."

 

tabspace.pngThe 83d regiment, composed principally of men from the counties of Erie, Crawford, Warren, Venango and Mercer, rendezvoused at Camp McLane, near the city of Erie, and was mustered into the U. S. service between July 29 and Sept. 8, 1861, for three years. The regiment was recruited by Col. McLane, who formerly commanded the Erie regiment in the three months' service, and embraced nearly 300 of his old command. It left the state for Washington on Sept. 18, about 1,000 strong, was there assigned to the 3d brigade of Porter's division — later the 1st division of the 5th corps — and remained in the vicinity of Washington until the following spring, being subjected meanwhile to a rigid course of instruction and discipline. By the opening of the spring campaign it had become one of the most proficient regiments in the army. After engaging in the preliminary march of the army to Fairfax Court House early in March, 1862, it was moved to the Peninsula and there embarked on Gen. McClellan's Peninsular campaign. After engaging actively in the siege of Yorktown it advanced to Hanover Court House, where it engaged and drove the enemy, and was again engaged for half an hour on the Ashland road, 8 men being wounded. It then remained encamped for a month along the Chickahominy river and was hotly engaged at Gaines' mill, where it fought with great bravery and sustained severe losses. It went into this action 550 strong and lost 265 in killed, wounded and prisoners, both Col. McLane and Maj. Naghel being among the killed. On the retreat to the James, Porter's corps led the advance. In the action at Glendale the 83d supported Griffin's battery and was hotly engaged the following day at Malvern hill, losing about 150 in killed, wounded and missing, Capt. Campbell, commanding the regiment, being among the wounded. On the arrival of the command at Harrison's landing it could muster only 80 muskets.

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tabspace.pngIt now joined the forces under Gen. Pope, having been reinforced at Newport News by about 50 recruits, and fought with its usual gallantry at the second Bull Run battle, losing 20 killed and about 50 wounded, among the latter being Lieut.-Col. Campbell, commanding the regiment. Maj. Lamont was among the captured. The 83d was present but only slightly engaged at Antietam, but at the battle of Fredericksburg its loss was 6 killed and 30 wounded. It was encamped for the winter of 1862-3 near Stoneman's station, participated in the Mud March in Jan.1863, and on April 29 started on the Chancellorsville campaign.  Its loss at Chancellorsville was very small and after the battle it returned to its old quarters. Two weeks later it was ordered to the Rappahannock to guard the fords and about July 15 started towards Pennsylvania.

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tabspace.pngThe 83rd arrived on the field of Gettysburg on the morning of July 2 and went into position in support of the artillery at the center. Col. Vincent commanded the brigade, Gen. Barnes the division, and Gen. Sykes the corps. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 2nd it was ordered to the extreme left and took position on Little Round Top, where it fought with great gallantry until evening. On the third day of the battle it was posted to the rear of the left center and suffered but little. Its loss in the battle was 6 killed and 38 wounded, 6 of whom subsequently died. Col. Vincent was among the mortally wounded. After the battle it joined in the pursuit of the enemy. About this time the regiment received about 400 drafted men and substitutes, a majority of whom proved to be worthless and were constantly deserting. It now shared in the marches and countermarches of the fall campaign, being engaged at Rappahannock Station and Mine run, and finally went into winter quarters behind the Rappahannock.

tabspace.pngWhile here 169 men reenlisted. It moved on the spring campaign of 1864, being assigned to Bartlett's brigade, Griffin's division, 5th corps, under Gen. Warren. In the first two engagements, at the Wilderness and at Laurel hill, it fought with desperate gallantry and lost over 300 men. It was subsequently engaged at the North Anna river and Totopotomy, but was in reserve at Bethesda Church. It crossed the James on June 16 and joined with the army in the siege of Petersburg, occupying an intrenched position close up to the enemy's works, where it was subjected to an almost ceaseless fire until relieved on the night of the 20th. It was then moved to a position on the Jerusalem plank road, and on Aug. 16 to the Weldon railroad. On Sept. 18 the original term of service expired, when, of its 350 effective men, about 100 were mustered out and the others were organized as a battalion of six companies, which was active at Poplar Grove church, and lost heavily at Peeble's farm on the evening of the same day. It was inactive during October and November, but shared in the raid on the Weldon railroad in December, after which it went into winter quarters on the Jerusalem plank road. It fought at Hatcher's run in Feb., 1865, and then encamped at Hampton Station until the opening of the final campaign. Meanwhile Cos. G, H, I and K were assigned it in March, 1865, which, with a number of recruits, brought it up to the maximum strength of a regiment. In the Appomattox campaign it was actively engaged at Jones' farm, White Oak road, Gravelly run, Five Forks, Sutherland's station and Jetersville, and joined in the pursuit to Appomattox Court House. It was mustered out at Washington on June 28, 1865, and returning to Harrisburg, the men were finally paid and discharged there on July 4. The 83d was engaged in 25 battles during service, two more than any other infantry regiment from the state.

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