Penn’a Vol. Infantry.
Written at Morris Island, S.C.,
Sept. 1, 1864
By Noah Adams,
Co. G, 52nd Reg’t, P. V.
Noah Adams (5/7/1842 – 10/21/1907) served as a Private in the Fifty-Second Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (originally known as "The Luzerne Regiment" because six of its ten companies were recruited in Luzerne County) during the Civil War. He was mustered into service either on September 16, 1861 (Mott) or on November 4, 1861 (Bates). (William Adams, possibly Noah's brother, was mustered into service on the same date and served in the same company.)
Noah served in Company G, which was recruited in Columbia County (adjacent to Luzerne County, where he later shows up in the 1900 Census). On September 1, 1864, while stationed at Morris Island, S.C., he wrote this pamphlet providing brief, yet powerful descriptions of the major campaigns of the regiment. It is interesting to think that Noah wrote the pamphlet at the close of the war at the age of 24.
A copy of this pamphlet was given to William and Alyce Thomas by Mary (Thomas) Clarke with the following note, "Dear Alyce and Bill -- This is an old relic I have saved and is the only one left that I know of. Written by Bill's great grandfather in 1864. His grandmother's name was Adams, and she was the daughter of Noah Adams." It is this copy that served as the source for this transcription.
- Ken Thomas (Great-great grandson of Noah Adams)
Field and Staff Officers
52nd Regiment, Penn’a Vol.
Colonel – Henry M. Hoyt.
Lieut. Colonel – John B. Conyngham.
Major – Thomas B. Jayne.
Quarter Master – Charles P. Ross.
Surgeon – Dr. J. B. Crawford.
Assistant Surgeons – Drs. R. Sargent and John Flowers.
Company A. – Captain, G. R. Lenard; 1st Lieutenant, J. W. Gilchrist; 2nd Lieutenant, R. H. Waters.
Company B. – Captain, R. M. Bannatyne; 1st Lieutenant, N. P. Farr; 2nd Lieutenant, Merwin P. Burr.
Company C. – Captain, W. S. Chatham; 1st Lieutenant, W. V. Hollingworth; 2nd Lieutenant, David Hane.
Company D. – Captain, Samuel Cuskaden; 1st Lieutenant, J. P. S. Weldebaul; 2nd Lieutenant, Aaron Staughton.
Company E. – Captain, H. D. Weed; 1st Lieutenant, Silar A. Bunyan; 2nd Lieutenant, vacant.
Company F. – Captain, T. B. Camp; 1st Lieutenant, Burton R. Guston; 2nd Lieutenant, Alson Secor.
Company G. – Captain, N. Pierson; 1st Lieutenant, T. J. Mahoney; 2nd Lieutenant, John S. Marcy.
Company H. – Captain, J. B. Fish; 1st Lieutenant, J. G. Stevens; 2nd Lieutenant, David Wigton (resigned).
Company I. – Captain, H. H. Jinks; 1st Lieutenant, Thomas Evans; 2nd Lieutenant, Frederick Fuller.
Company K. – Captain, John A. Hennessy; 1st Lieutenant, H. A. Mott; 2nd Lieutenant, David Moses.
52d Regiment, P. V.
After nearly three years' service in the cause of our country, enduring all the suffering and hardships incident to camp life, encountering all the perils of battle, and earning for themselves a name and fame which neither envy nor malice can ever blot from their military escutcheons, the survivors of their fallen companions in arms of the noble and gallant 52nd Pennsylvania Volunteers stands as ready and as willing today, with as strong arms, as stout hearts and as determined spirits to strike a blow for the honor and glory of their country's flag as they were on the bloody fields of Williamsburg, of Fair Oaks, or during the memorable and perilous siege of Fort Wagner. A portion of this veteran regiment having re-enlisted, repaired some time since on furlough to their respective homes to enjoy a brief respite from their long, arduous and patriotic labors, but have now returned to the field of strife to spend, if need be, three years more to put down this gigantic rebellion and to preserve and perpetuate the government of their fathers.
A few words touching the organization and services of the 52nd may not be out of place as a record memorial of their military origin and their subsequent movements and operations in the field.
The ten companies comprising the regiment were all raised in Pennsylvania, one company being from Union county, one from Clinton, one from Bradford, one from Wyoming, and six from Luzerne. They were organized at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, on the 5th of November, 1861, under the first call for sixteen Pennsylvania regiments after that for the twelve regiments of Pennsylvania reserves.
The regiment left Camp Curtin on the 7th of November for Washington City and encamped at Meridian Hill, where they remained till the 28th of March, 1862, when they embarked for Fortress Monroe, landing at Newport News, Va. Here they remained, doing picket and camp duties till the 16th of April, when they were removed to Warrick River in front of Yorktown, the brigade to which they were attached being under command of the brave Gen. Naglee. The regiment was stationed in front of Lee’s Mill, where they were engaged in picket and other hazardous and fatiguing service until the evacuation of Yorktown, being almost daily under fire from the rebel pickets and batteries. The 52nd having made a reconnaissance to the rebel works, under a sharp fire, were among the first to make the important discovery of the evacuation of the place by the rebels, which fact being immediately communicated by Gen. Naglee to the corps commander, the army moved, on the 4th of May, into the fort at Lee’s Mill. On their approach, a private in Co. F., of the 52nd, treading on a torpedo was instantly killed and six others of the same company were wounded.
From Lee’s Mill the regiment moved directly on towards Williamsburg, reaching within two miles of the battle ground about dusk, weary and exhausted from their long and fatiguing march, and bivouacked for the night amidst a drenching rain, without tents or shelter, and with little or nothing in the haversacks. Notwithstanding this they were early aroused and in motion the next morning, marching as rapidly to the front as the mud which was knee deep, would permit, and gallantly participating in that bloody and desperately contested action.
After remaining about a week at Williamsburg, the regiment again took up their line of march for the Chickahominy, encamping in a valley about two miles in front of the Chickahominy River. On the 21st Gen. Naglee selected from the 52nd 100 sharpshooters, whom he sent out in front to discover whether Bottom’s Bridge and the railroad bridge had been destroyed, and to ascertain the strength of the rebel forces in that neighborhood. Arriving at the bridge first named they discovered the rebel pickets and sharpshooters, with whom they had a heavy skirmish, driving the enemy across the railroad bridge to the south side of the river. The rebels set the bridge on fire as they passed over, to prevent pursuit, but our boys dashed into the river waist deep, and using their cups for buckets soon extinguished the flames, and a portion of them pursued the flying fugitives to the opposite side of the river, returning to the north side of the river the same night with a loss of but one man wounded.
On the 23rd, however, the whole or principal portion of Naglee’s command, the 52nd still constituting a part of it, crossed over as a fatigue party, and having constructed a long line of rifle pits, returned the same evening for their arms and blankets, and immediately moved back tot he south. Next morning, the 24th, they started out on a reconnoitering expedition toward the Seven Pines, encountering a rebel brigade near that point drawn up in the line of battle, when a smart fight ensued, in which our forces drove the enemy before them towards Fair Oaks, and bivouacked on the ground (or rather the mud) which the latter had previously occupied, the regiment having then been on duty for sixty consecutive hours without tents or knapsacks. The 52nd and the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteers were in the advance during both the march and skirmish, the former losing two men wounded, on mortally.
Next day, the 25th, Gen. Naglee intent upon reaching Fair Oaks, where the enemy was posted, at the earliest practicable moment, selected one hundred sharpshooters from the 52nd whom he sent ahead as skirmishers, and with the remainder of the regiment and a section of artillery followed closely and rapidly after the skirmishers. Gen. Keyes rode up and checked the celerity of the movement, saying to Gen. Naglee, "you are moving too fast," the skirmish having discovered the enemy in line of battle at Fair Oaks on the afternoon of the 25th. Information of the fact was immediately communicated to Gen. Naglee, who with the remainder of the 52nd and two pieces of artillery rushed forward and shelled the enemy from their position, driving them back a considerable distance, and bivouacked upon the filed. Moving on nearly half a mile further toward Richmond on the morning of the 26th, they encamped there till the morning of the 28th when they advanced still further on toward the Rebel Capital, and in conjunction with the 104th encamped at a point nearer to it than had been reached by any other regiment during the Peninsular Campaign, and remained there until the 31st of May, 1862.
On this memorable day was fought the sanguinary and terrific battle of Fair Oaks, in which the 52nd participated. The action raged from noon until dark, the regiment losing 119 killed and wounded and four prisoners, being within two of half their number engaged. The flag of the 52nd was the last to leave the field. Truly this was a most bloody and honorable record.
After the battle of Fair Oaks the regiment encamped on the banks of the Chickahominy near Bottom’s Bridge, where they remained till the 27th of June, when the whole of Naglee’s brigade moved to Bottom’s Bridge and threw up rifle pits during the night. Next day, the 28th, a portion of Stonewall Jackson’s army appeared on the opposite side of the river, and about noon opened a battery, the fire continuing on both sides till near night, when Naglee, having silenced the rebel battery, still held his position.
On the 29th the brigade moved from Bottom’s Bridge and crossed over to the James River side of White Oak Swamp, where they bivouacked. The next day Jackson opened on them with five previously concealed batteries, being about thirty guns. Hazzard’s battery replied briskly and our forces held their position during the day; and again, on the following day, they held a post of the greatest importance and danger.
At White Oak Swamp the most determined efforts of the enemy to cross the bridge in pursuit of our army were thwarted by our artillery and the 52nd Regiment stood for ten hours supporting it – quiet spectators of the most terrific cannonade, and other regiments were only kept in place by being ordered back when they approached our line. Retreating all night, the 52nd Regiment stood ready in position on the following day, expecting to be ordered to take part in the battle at Malvern Hill. Again retreating all night, at Carter’s Hill, on the 2nd of July, 1862, the regiment stood by the artillery and wagon train, and when all expected it would be destroyed, the 52nd brought it safely to Harrison’s Landing. Naglee’s brigade, covering the rear, left the landing on the 16th of August, and arrived at Yorktown on the 20th, from which place the regiment made two reconnaissances, one to Gloucester Court House, and the other into Mathews County, able amount of rebel property, including horses, mules, cattle, etc.
On the 25th of December, 1862, having been transferred to Gen. Foster’s department, they left Yorktown for Beaufort, N. C., where they arrived on the 2nd of January, 1863, and were thence transferred to the Department of the South.
They arrived at Hilton Head, S. C., on the 31st of the same month, and immediately encamped upon St. Helena Island, where they remained doing guard, picket and fatigue duty for a few weeks, when they embarked on an expedition to Edisto river, in connection with the navy, during Dupont’s attack on Sumter. Returning, they took up their quarters at Beaufort, S. C., from which place they were sent, on the 6th of July, and attached to Gen. Terry’s Division.
On the 9th of July, with the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the 52nd Regiment landed on James’s Island, then occupied by the enemy, whom they drove back, skirmishing meanwhile with rebel cavalry, and held possession of the Island up to within short range of the rebel batteries.
On the 16th at daybreak, an attack was made on Gen. Terry’s division by a large body of cavalry, that was handsomely repulsed by our forces.
On the morning of the 17th James Island was evacuated by our troops, who returned to Folly Island. There they commenced sending out fatigue parties as often as twice and sometimes three times a week, to aid in the accomplishment of an undertaking exhibiting the most remarkable instance of military engineering skill upon record, being an approach to Fort Wagner by parallels, along a neck of land but a few rods wide, in the face of ten batteries playing constantly upon the operators. The work was successfully accomplished, not, however, without much loss of life and limb, the men being every moment exposed to the most imminent peril.
On the 31st of August the regiment established their quarters upon Morris’ Island, where they remained either under the immediate fire or within range of the rebel guns.
From the 18th of July, 1863, the regiment numbered less than 300 fit for duty of its original strength, the results of casualties of battle, sickness, etc. They had done upwards of 16,000 single days work as pickets and more than 12,000 as a fatigue regiment.
Having been strengthened by recruits and conscripts, the regiment now (Sept. 1864) numbers 960 strong, and not only do the veterans of the regiment exhibit a readiness and even a pleasure in aiding and instructing their fresh and less experienced comrades in the duties of their new position – some of whom, however, had previously seen service – but the drafted men themselves manifest a corresponding desire to perfect themselves in a knowledge of military duties. They are our own citizens, friends and neighbors at home, and no less likely than others to possess the true spirit of bravery, patriotism and love of country because they chance to have been drafted, and there is no doubt that when the occasion arises for showing their valor they will prove themselves worthy to participate in the glory and fame achieved by their companions, by being enabled to say, when this terrible war shall have ended, "I was a soldier in the 52nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, in the war for the Union."
Few regiments in the army can show such a record as the 52nd. Consisting originally of 930 men, it was at one time reduced to 218 fit for duty. What has become of the other 712 men who with the few that remain in a condition for service had left their quiet and peaceful homes to peril their lives for the preservation of the government and to sustain the honor of the flag they had been taught to venerate as the symbol of their liberties? Some of them have been discharged, by reason of impaired health and consequent unfitness for further duty; others have gone home on account of wounds honorably received in battle; some few have been transferred to the navy; others among the non-commissioned officers, for their known military skill and bravely, have been assigned to the command of colored regiments, and a few commissioned officers have had occasion to resign and return from active service. But there is a considerable list remaining to be accounted for. Where are they? Disease and the sword answer, we have done it. The rude little mounds upon the fields of Williamsburg and of Fair Oaks, the swamps of the Chickahominy and the sand hills in front of Fort Wagner reply here; and the breezes that sweep over the malarious marshes of the Southern clime sigh out their echo – we, too, have done our share in this work of death. Such is war. If it has its dangers, it had its honors also, and those of this gallant veteran regiment who shall survive the terrible struggle, and return to their homes and the dear ones they left behind them, are destined to receive not only the thanks of a grateful nation and the plaudits of their own State government, but they will be greeted by a hearty welcome and reception from their more immediate friends and neighbors and by the warm and endearing caresses of those to whom they are bound by the ties of kindred and affection.
After being transferred from the army of the Potomac to the Department of the South, the 52nd Regiment were landed at Port Royal, S. C. In this new field it was placed under new generals, serving at Port Royal and Beaufort under Generals Foster and Hunter and at Charleston under Generals Gilmore and Terry.
During the siege of Charleston the regiment took an active and prominent part from the beginning to the end serving in the land attack upon the city by way of James’ Island, the siege and capture of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, the boat infantry service in Charlston Harbor, and the night attack upon Fort Johnson, crossing the harbor in boats in the night and attacking the fort at daylight, where all who landed were either killed, wounded or captured, Colonel Hoyt and Lieutenant Colonel Conyngham, who led the attack, being among the captured, and Lieutenant Bunyan, acting adjutant, among the killed.
Afterward, under Major Hennessy, the regiment was first to enter Charleston City, at its fall, the major raising the stars and stripes upon the ruined ramparts of Fort Sumter before entering the city, in February, 1865. This flag, the first United States colors raised on the fort after Major Anderson took down his flag in 1861, is now in possession of the 52nd Survivors’ Association.
From Charleston the regiment engaged in an expedition to Santee river, then joined Sherman’s army in its final Carolina campaign, being attached to Ruger’s 2nd division, Cox’s 23d Corps, Army of Ohio, commanded by General Schofield (now general of the army). In this final campaign the regiment was under the command of Colonel John B. Conyngham, who had but lately been exchanged from Libby Prison, and coming back as Colonel, he led us under Sherman until the Rebel Army of Gen. Joe Johnson laid down its arms at Greensboro, North Carolina, shortly after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The regiment remained in the field until July 12th, 1865, when it was mustered out at Salisbury, N. C., having a record of nearly four years continuous service, by land and by sea, under McClellan, Hunter and Foster and Gilmore and Terry, and finally, at the closing scene, under the world-renowned Sherman – a record of which it may well be proud.This article was donated by Ken Thomas
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