THE PITTSTON GAZETTE
May 4, 1922
Pittston Man=s Story of His War Experiences
John T. Reid of this city, a veteran of the Civil War, enlisted in this city in August, 1862, for three years or during the war, in Captain Bradley=s company. He left Pittston the latter part of August, for Harrisburg, was in Camp Curtin for three weeks, and was sworn into the service of the United States in September, drawing clothing, gun and accoutrements. He has written for the Gazette the following account of his experiences in the war:
A regiment known as the 142d Pennsylvania Volunteers was organized. Our company was known as Co. K. Our regiment commander was Col. Robert P. Cummins, of Somerset county, and the lieutenant-colonel Alfred B. McCalmont, of Venango county: John Bradley, of Luzerne County, Major. Lieut. Flagg was promoted to be captain of Co. K. After the regiment had been organized and its officers appointed, we took cars for the seat of war, Washington, D.C. The train stopped on the outskirts of Baltimore, and we marched through the city, with flanks thrown out on each side. It was midnight and three shots were fired at us, but no one was wounded. We passed through the city safely, boarded cars for Washington, arriving at the capital at 7 a.m. After a halt for breakfast, we marched past the capital and the White House, singing AJohn Brown=s Body@. President Lincoln stood outside the White House. He had his hat off and bowed and smiled as we passed.
We marched seven miles to the southwest of Washington and camped at Fort Massachusetts. We remained there for two months, drilling the infantry and heavy artillery night and day, at the same time cutting down trees to be used in preventing cavalry raids on the capital.
In November, 1862, we broke camp and joined the Army of the Potomac at Sharpsburg, Va. We were attached to the Third brigade, Third division of the First Corps. Breaking camp at Sharpsburg, we marched to Fredericksburg and camped at Falmouth, along the Rappahannock. We crossed the river on a pontoon bridge, Dec 12, 1862, and camped along the river until the morning of the 13th. The battle of Fredericksburg was fought on the 13th. Our position was on the extreme left. Our losses were heavy, numbering 23 out of 87. Having been defeated, we re-crossed the river at night and went into camp near Bellplain Landing for the winter. The time was spent in picket and camp duty and we also built some roads.
We broke camp in February, 1863. A general move had been ordered, known as ABurnside=s mud march@. We had for four days a great deal of mud and distressful conditions in general.
Our next engagement was Chancellorsville, and there we met another defeat. Our corps, the First and the Sixth, were making a feint below Fredericksburg to draw port of the enemy=s forces from Chancellorsville and the enemy was shelling us from the heights. We finally received word that the Eleventh Corps had broken and we were ordered to take its place. As we parted from the Sixth Corps a shell fired by the enemy took off the head of our Colonel=s horse. The Colonel was provided with another horse and we moved to Chancellorsville, a distance of 18 miles. It was very hot and 25 men dropped dead from sunstroke. We could walk 12 miles and never touch the earth, by reason of the blankets and clothing thrown away by the troops. We crossed the river at United States Ford, and went to the front with fixed bayonets and a yell. Just at this time the firing stopped and rain was pouring down. The orders were to retreat, as the river was rising, and the officers were afraid the pontoon bridge would be washed away. So we re-crossed the river and went into camp at our old quarters. Our picket lines were formed along the Rappahannock river, facing the enemy=s pickets, on the opposite bank. Our pickets occasionally visited the Confederate pickets by swimming the river, to trade coffee for tobacco. All the time we were drilling and reconnoitering.
Suddenly we started to move at a lively pace toward Washington. It was reported that Lee and his army had started 48 hours ahead of us for Pennsylvania. Our Corps, the First, was commanded by General John Reynolds. We reached the Pennsylvania line, formed a square, and lay on our arms all night, expecting a cavalry charge. This was on June 30th. It was rumored that the rebels were at Gettysburg, eight miles distant. On July 1st we received orders to double-quick to Gettysburg. The enemy was there in large force. Our Corps was 12 miles ahead of the army, and we hurried to Gettysburg. Gen. Reynolds was among the first to lose his life in the battle. The first day the army didn=t get up in time. Our Corps fell back and held the enemy in check till the army came up. That night only three members of our company were left. We lost very heavily, in killed, wounded and prisoners. I got a slight wound in the right hand. We supported Hancock at high water mark on the second day. The enemy was defeated and fell back, retreating to the Potomac. We charged on them and took 500 prisoners. Nearly all the Confederates had crossed to the Maryland side of the river. We also crossed the Potomac and caught up with the enemy, dogging their heels until they reached Thoroughfare Gap. There they gave us a warm reception, in the shape of minie balls and shells from their cannon. Of course we returned the compliment. At night we formed a square and lay on our arms. About 9 a.m. we were again called on in the shape of a cavalry charge. We received them and drove them back through Thoroughfare Gap. Our loss was small. The enemy started to retreat towards the Rappahannock. Our division was detailed to guard the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. The army went on and crossed the Rappahannock.. We had all we could do to watch Mosby=s men. They kept us in hot water for six weeks. One of our boys was shot while cutting bunk poles. At last we were relieved by other troops and joined the army at Culpepper Court House, Va. We went into winter quarters on the Rapidan river, and remained there, drilling and picketing, until May, 1864.
Grant was made commander-in-chief, with headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. May 3rd we started on our wilderness campaign. There was scarcely a day when we were not exchanging shot and shell along the line with the enemy. At some places we fought for 48 hours without a break or a rest. The second night we moved toward Spottsylvania. All through the night we were feeling our way, making only four miles. Just in front of us appeared the enemy=s cavalry,
and we drove them back. Their infantry then came on us with strong force and opened with artillery and musketry fire. The brigade on our right broke. This compelled us to fall back across a field. Before we got back to the field, it was pitiful to hear the wounded moan and cry. To make matters worse, the woods got on fire and burned many of the helpless soldiers. At night we lay on our arms behind breastworks and many of us thanked God we were alive and out of that field. After fighting here for days we moved to the left and found ourselves in line at Spottsylvania, in a miserable swamp, pegging at the enemy for two days. We lost heavily. I got a slight scalp wound. The enemy fell back. We advanced and took their breastworks. To make it worse we got a very cold rain and the dead were robbed of their blankets to keep us warm. Our losses were heavy.
We were ordered again to move to the left flank, but to leave a picket line. The enemy=s cavalry charged on us the next day and we pickets did some hard running for four miles till we reached the army. We all thought picketing was rough business. We were now at Stony Creek. One brigade pushed forward in line of battle for a mile. We captured 100 rebels, a cow, a calf, some pigs, chickens and a barnful of tobacco. We had a good feast that night. We were soon on the march and kept it up all day. At night we came to the North Anna River. We soon greeted the enemy on the opposite shore. The pontoons were soon down and we hurried across the river. There was no enemy in sight. It was near dark. We got some fence rails and carried them, expecting to camp, make a fire and get coffee. All at once we ran on the enemy in solid line of battle. They gave us a warm reception. It was a sheet of fire, the worse I ever saw. Our artillery got over to help us. We sent the enemy over the fields with a heavy loss. We advanced our line half a mile, and built works. For twenty-four hours we had very hard fighting. It was almost sure death for a man to put his head above the breastworks. Late at night, as usual, we moved to the left. Early the next morning, we were in front of the same old enemy at Cold Harbor. Here they fought like wild cats. Our cry was, AOn to Richmond@. We fortified and fought over the works for a week, with a heavy loss on both sides. Late on a rainy day, we made another flank movement through the Chickahominy Swamp to the James River, which we crossed at City Point in transports, moving to Petersburg, Va., but our old enemy was there, well fortified. June 18, 1864, we drove the enemy over a field one mile into the woods. Here we were double-quicked to the left. We were in two lines of battle, under heavy firing, and the head officers, viewing us with their field glasses, complimented us on our coolness. We drove the enemy into their last works at three o=clock. The whole army was ordered to charge on their works, take Petersburg, and on to Richmond. We charged at the appointed time in two lines of battle. We charged over a hill to a ravine, and stopped to fix bayonets. We looked back for our supporting line to come up, but saw none. Our general, Chamberlin, got wounded. The enemy was giving up grape and canister. Here we lay, with our right and left flanks broken and no support, and a raking fire, till three o=clock the next morning. We then got orders to fall back to the brow of the hill from which we charged and built breastworks. The enemy shelled us with their cannons, but we slept behind our breastworks, for we were nearly played out after 48 hours= hard fighting. After we had two days rest behind the breastworks we were relieved by the Ninth Corps.
Our next move was to build a fort and we named it Fort Hell. It was well named, for the enemy got their mortar batteries to play on us. We had to dig Agopher holes@ in the ground. About this time Burnside=s corps was undermining a Rebel fort and blew it up. The enemy was detected undermining one of our forts. I was often called in the night to go down in the magazine to listen. We built another fort in the rear of Fort Hell, took the cannons out and put them in the rear fort and put wooden ones in Fort Hell. We were relieved again, moving by the left flank two miles. We met the enemy=s cavalry in line, guarding the Weldon railroad. They fired a volley at us. We formed two lines, fixed bayonets, and charged on the cavalry with a yell. We got possession of the railroad and a few prisoners and horses. We tore up the road.. At night I went on picket. We expected that the next day the enemy would try to take the railroad from us. We made breastworks with the ties, and the rails were twisted around trees. Early in the morning, the enemy advanced two lines of battle with a yell and drove in our pickets. How I escaped being killed or captured I don=t know, for the minie balls were zipping like hail stones and the enemy yelling, AHalt, you blue-belly Yankee@. I ran the gauntlet and thank God I didn=t get a pass to some Rebel prison. The enemy=s loss was very heavy. We held the railroad to the end of the war.
Our next move was to Hatcher Run. Here we charged the enemy and routed them. Our losses were light. Our next move was to Chapin Farm. We had a heavy skirmish there. The next battle was Dabney Mill. We lost heavily. The Regiment went in with 75 men. We lost seven color bearers, killed and wounded. That afternoon our losses were 23 killed and wounded. My chum, Nate Allen, died that night from wounds he got that afternoon. Our next move was a raid to the border of North Carolina. We had a division of cavalry with us. We burned bridges and tore up twenty miles of railroad. On our return we burned everything in the country - houses, barns and stacks of hay. We found some of our men hanging to trees, with their throats cut. The poor fellows could not keep up with the army. It was a forced march. Everyone who got sick dropped out till we came back, not thinking we would find them on trees. The general ordered us to burn everything for one half mile wide. We got back to the army at Petersburg during the winter. A good many of the enemy deserted to our lines. We were ready to start out again. All at once the enemy made a dash and captured our pickets and captured Fort Steadman. Here we had a desperate fight for two hours, regaining the fort and capturing 2,500 prisoners.
The next night, at 2 a.m., our corps and the cavalry corps, commanded by Gen. Sheridan, started for the South Side railroad. We got to the railroad behind a big woods and were soon in line of charge through the woods. We drove the enemy in flying disorder and captured some prisoners. It rained for 36 hours. When it cleared up we pushed forward a short distance and then stopped to make coffee in some thick pines. We thought to build fires and dry our clothes. Our skirmishers were getting driven in. We got into line, double-quicked down the hill, and through a stream of water up to our waists. As we went up a hill, the enemy gave us a hot reception in the shape of a shower of bullets. We lay down and fired low to send them back aflying. The next morning, we advanced, took the South Side railroad, Five Forks and 13,000 prisoners. This was the last hard fight we had. At Five Forks I was on picket. I put my videttes out with orders to fire at everything they heard. I went two posts to the right to make coffee, for we expected the
enemy would charge on us at break of day. My coffee was ready to drink. The videttes fired, fell back on the picket line, fired and fell back again. I ran to my post and left my coffee for the enemy. When I reached my skirmish pit, all the pickets had fired and fallen back to the army. It was breaking day. I glanced to the left and saw the enemy coming double-quick, with fixed bayonets. I grasped my gun, fired left everything for the enemy but my gun and acouterments, and ran, the minie balls zipping and the enemy yelling, AHalt, you blue-belly Yank@. The harder they yelled, the harder I ran. I was very lucky I wasn=t killed or booked for a free pass to Richmond. I got to my regiment bare-headed with two slight wounds. The enemy=s loss was heavy. We were behind works. Our losses were light. Five Forks was the last hard-fought battle of the war. After it our army pursued the enemy until we met them at Appomattox Court House. We were six days on the chase from Five Forks to Appomattox, with a skirmish every day till we got to Appomattox. We were nearly starved. Our supply trains could not keep up. The next day, they came up and we got our grub. We divided with the enemy. They had nothing to eat for two days. Lee surrendered and our corps was drawn up in line to receive the enemy. They marched up to us, about 15 feet in front of us, stacked their arms, put their colors on their stacks, bade us good-bye and went home. The war was over.
The next day we had to bring their supply trains and artillery back to Birksville Junction. Each company had one wagon. I put my gun in our wagon. Sam Davis was the driver. I captured a horse, mounted on his back and struck out into the country to get some grub, for I gave all mine to the Johnnys. I came to a large plantation and asked the boss if he would please give me something to eat and I would pay him for it. He said, AYes@, and called a negro wench. She came and he told her to make some corn cakes. I got one as big as a pan cake, with a little molasses, for fifty cents. I struck out for the road to meet the wagon train. Lots of wagons went by me, but I couldn=t see our driver, Davis. At last I asked for Co. K, 142d Regt., wagon. They told me it was a mile back, stuck in the mud. The driver got out and left his wagon.. I had to go back and get my gun. The farmers got the team. We got to Birksville in two weeks, turned over our wagons and my horse to the quartermaster and started for Washington on foot. Got to Arlington Heights in May and went into camp until the grand review of the Potomac Army at Washington, D.C. Mustered out at Washington, May 29, 1865, got our pay and came home to Pittston.
Were in 24 battles. Total enrolled in the 142d Regt., Pa.V., 935; killed, 141; wounded, 429; died of disease etc., 102; captured, 158; total loss, 830.
List of Battles:
1 Fredericksburg, VA., Dec. 1862.
2 Burnside Mud March
4 Gettysburg, Pa
5 Frankstown, Md
6 Thoroughfare Gap, Va
7 Rappahannock Station
8 Meade=s Retrograde Movement
10 Laurel Hill
12 Tolopotomy Creek
13 North Anna River
14 Cold Harbor
15 Petersburg, 18th of June, and under fire every day for three months.
16 Weldon Railroad
17 Harcher=s Run
18 Chapin Farm
19 Hatcher=s Run
20 Dabney=s Mill
21 Weldon Railroad Raid
22 Fort Steadman
23 Five Forks
John T. Reid was a cousin to Isabella Reid Shields. Therefore, he was the son to an Uncle of
hers. The Uncle would have been a brother to her father, John Barcroft Reid.) Written on
the newspaper in Isabella=s handwriting are the words: ACousin Johny Reid@.These Articles were donated by: Isabell Durrenberger
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