51st Pennsylvania InfantryOrganized: Montgomery County, PA; mustered in 11/1861
Disbanded/Mustered out: Alexandria, VA 7/27/1865
|Commanding Officer: |
Col. John F. Hartranft
|Maps Showing this Unit:|
Detail Map #9: Burnside Attacks the Lower Bridge
Detail Map #10: Rodman's Division Crosses at Snavely's Ford
Detail Map #11: Burnside Climbs Toward Sharpsburg
Detail Map #12: AP Hill Hits Burnside's Flank
Battlefield Tablets for this Unit:
Tablet #56: Ninth Army Corps - 15 Sep, 7 AM to 16 Sep, 3 PM
Tablet #58: Sturgis' Division, Ninth Army Corps - 16 Sep, 9 PM to 17 Sep, 5 PM
Tablet #100: Ferrero's Brigade, Sturgis' Division - 17 Sep, 1 PM to 17 Sep, 7 PM
Tablet #122: Army of the Potomac - 17 Sep, 10 AM to 17 Sep, 6 PM
Tablet #70, cont: Ninth Army Corps - 17 Sep, 3 PM to 17 Sep, 5 PM
Tablet #68: Ferrero's Brigade, Sturgis' Division - 17 Sep, 6 AM to 17 Sep, 9 PM
Tablet #70: Ninth Army Corps - 17 Sep, 7 AM to 17 Sep, 3 PM
Tablet #57: Ninth Army Corps - 17 Sep, 7 AM to 17 Sep, 5 PM
This Regiment's Chain of Command:
Army - Army of the Potomac
Corps - Ninth (IX) Army Corps
Division - 2nd Division, IX Corps
Brigade - 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, IX Corps
History of the Unit:
Some time previous to the first Battle of Bull Run, Colonel Hartranft, who commanded a regiment [4th PA Infantry] in the three months' service, applied for, and received authority to recruit one for the three years' service. Calling about him many of his old officers and men, the ranks of the new regiment were soon filled with a body rarely excelled for qualities essential to good soldiers.
They left Camp Curtin (Harrisburg) in November 1861, and were soon on Burnside's Carloina Expedition, where they saw their first action at Roanoke Island in February 1862, and fought at New Bern, NC, in March.
The Regiment then served with the IX Corps in Gen. Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia.
In the Antietam Campaign:
... Against this position [the Lower Bridge], strong by nature, rendered doubly strong by art, the Eleventh Connecticut and Crook's Brigade, supported by Sturgis' Division, were ordered to the assault. As this force advanced up the open valley, by the road which leads along the river bank to the bridge, it was exposed to so warm a fire from the opposite heights, alive with the enemy, that it was forced to halt and reply. Sturgis' troops reached the head of the bridge, and the Second Maryland and the Sixth New Hampshire charged at double quick with fixed bayonets; but the concentrated fire of the enemy upon it, forced them to fall back. After repeated efforts these regiments were withdrawn.
Burnside, nettled at the failure of this attempt, and the consequent delay of his columns, and knowing full well in whom he could trust, ordered forward the Fifty-first.
General Ferrero dashing up to the regiment said, "'General Burnside orders the Fifty-first Pennsylvania to storm the bridge." Hartranft, avoiding the road by the river bank, led his men in rear of the heights overlooking the river, until he arrived opposite the bridge, when he moved boldly down the slope for the crossing. The instant his men came into the open ground in the valley they received a withering fire from the enemy's well posted infantry, and many fell. A fence skirting the road proved a serious impediment, and in crossing it, the men were particularly exposed. Here fell Captains Bolton and Hart, severely wounded, a serious loss at this juncture.
Unheeding the enemy's bullets or the obstructions by the way, the column moved forward with a determined front, and made straight for the bridge. As they entered, a storm of missiles swept it, but no danger could stay that tide of living valor. Hartranft, who led the way, paused in the midst, and was hastening on the rear of his column, when he was joined by Colonel Potter, with the gallant Fiftyfirst New York. With a shout that rang out above the noise of battle, the two colums rushed forward, and were soon firmly established on the thither bank.
The bridge was carried! A regiment was quickly advanced, and took position on the heights commanding the bridge and its approaches, driving out the enemy and rendering the crossing for infantry secure. The whole corps now advanced rapidly, took position on the heights above the bridge, and immediately advanced to the attack. The Fifty-first was posted on the second range of hills overlooking the creek, some distance below the bridge. Here it was soon hotly engaged with the enemy under cover of a stone wall, and in a cornfield on its left. Its ammunition was soon exhausted, and a fresh supply failing to arrive as ordered, the men held their position with the bayonet until relief came.
But all this struggle and costly sacrifice was vain. The enemy, relieved by the slackening of the battle on the left, and the arrival of a fresh corps from Harper's Ferry, was enabled to concentrate an overwhelming force upon this single corps, and it was forced to yield. The loss of the regiment was one hundred and twenty-five. Among the killed was Lieutenant Colonel Bell, a vigilant officer and most estimable man, and Lieutenants Beaver and Hunsicker. Of the wounded were Captains Bolton and Hart, Adjutant Shorkly, Quartermaster Freedly and Lieutenant Lynch. Upon the fall of Lieutenant Colonel Bell, Major Schall was promoted to fill the vacancy, and Captain William J. Bolton, of company A, was promoted to Major.
(description from Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871)
The remainder of the War:
Summary list of actions:
Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15.
Burnside's second Campaign. "Mud March" January 20-24, 1863.
Moved to Newport News February 19, thence to Covington and Paris, Ky., March 26-April 1. Moved to Mount Sterling April 3, to Lancaster May 6-7 and to Crab Orchard May 23.
Siege of Vicksburg June 17-July 4.
Siege of Jackson July 10-17.
Duty in Kentucky till October.
Operations in East Tennessee till November 14.
Knoxville Campaign November 4-December 23.
The Regiment reenlisted January 1, 1864, and was on Veteran furlough January 11-March 9.
At Annapolis, Md., till April 23.
Rapidan (Overland) Campaign May 4-June 12.
Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9.
Moved to City Point, thence to Alexandria April 20-28.
Grand Review May 23.
References, Sources, and other Notes:
Find excellent references at Pennsylvania in the Civil War online.
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