62d Pennsylvania Volunteers

Regimental History:
Peninsular Campaign

62d Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg


The 62d Pennsylvania's place in the organization of Army of the Potomac during the operations before Yorktown, Va., from 5 April to 4 May 1862:

The 62d Pennsylvania's place in the organization of Army of the Potomac during the Seven Days Battles, from 25 June to 2 July 1862:

Summary of the Campaign

The Peninsular Campaign was the largest offensive of the Civil War, even if it is not much remembered or commemorated. Devised and led by General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac (but recently no longer general-in-chief of all the Union armies), the campaign had as its goal the capture of the Confederate capital. Through either a siege of Richmond or a decisive victory against the Army of Northern Virginia, he expected to "crush the rebels in one campaign" and end the war. After the defeat by the Union at the First Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was under pressure to attack Richmond, but it seemed to Lincoln that McClellan was all too content to have the army train and drill as it maintained a defensive position around Washington. Lincoln did want it both ways: he wanted Washington defended, but he wanted an offensive to begin.

After it was discovered through reconnaissance, including one that included the 62d Pennsylvania, that Manassas and other Confederate positions outside of Washington had been abandoned and that the Army of Northern Virginia had retreated to the Richmond side of the Rappahannock River, McClellan scrapped his original plans and decided to move the Army of the Potomac to the tip of the Peninsula. He hoped to flank the Confederates and march it up to Richmond unopposed by the bulk of the Confederate army.

The Peninsula refers to that part of tidewater Virginia found between the York and James Rivers as they flow into the Chesapeake. Fortress Monroe, where the Army of the Potomac was transported, had remained under Union control and had the protection of the Union navy. The fort was located on a point of land called Old Point Comfort, where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and about sixty miles south-east of Richmond. The Peninsula ranges from seven to fifteen miles in width, and much of the country is low and swampy, full of thickets without much open ground, and a very primitive road system.

The plan failed for many reasons. Heavy April rains were chief among them. That spring the Peninsula's rivers were swollen, and its roads, which McClellan had been told were "good natural roads" and "passable in all seasons of the year," were soft and sandy or muddy and almost impassible. Even under more favorable conditions, the roads would have been ill-suited for the movement of tens of thousands of soldiers, their horses and wagons, and especially for heavy cannons. McClellan was also foiled by unreliable maps, poor advice and faulty intelligence, indecision, delay, faulty judgment, and resentment. A few Confederate tricks convinced him that the Confederate forces were larger than they actually were, and McClellan became overly cautious. Instead of a rapid march up the peninsula, McClellan opted for a siege strategy. A month-long siege of Yorktown gave the Army of Northern Virginia more than ample time to increase its force from around 12,000 to more than 50,000. Other lengthy delays later in the campaign allowed the Confederates to further reenforce even further. Although it was more a slow push than a rapid advance, the Union army successfully pressed forward, sending the Confederate army into retreat, until the highwater mark when Porter's Fifth Corps defeated Confederates at Hanover Court House, north of Richmond. McClellan expected at that point to coordinate an assault on Richmond with General McDowell's First Corps, but that was not to happen. McDowell was ordered to remain close to Washington instead. The decision to divide the Union army on both sides of the Chickahominy River weakened the fighting force, and concern about maintaining supply lines made him defensive when he might better have been served by being offensive. The commanding general lost the Peninsular Campaign, not his troops.

Regimental History

Transport to Fortress Monroe
The Peninsular Campaign began with what was a remarkable achievement -- the amphibious operation that transported either nearly or more than 120,000 soldiers (estimates vary) into enemy territory. The deployment began on 17 March 1862 and required nearly a month before it was completed. The headquarters of the Army of the Potomac were put on board the steamer Commodore on 31 March and arrived at Fortress Monroe on 2 April. The movement of troops to the Peninsula only became possible after the battle at sea between the Monitor and the Merrimac (renamed the Virginia after it was captured by the Confederates and refitted as an ironclad). The ironclad was not destroyed in that battle, but it was at least neutralized enough for a large navy operation to be conducted. The navy did not have enough ships to carry out this, the largest deployment ever at the time, on its own, so it hired or commissioned privately owned steamers and sailing ships to supplement naval vessels. In all more than 100 steamships, nearly 200 schooners and other sailing ships, and more than 80 barges were employed to transport soldiers, almost 15,000 horses, more than 40 artillery batteries, wagons, ambulances, food, and other supplies.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: Starting on 22 March and lasting two days, Porter's Division was transported. Twenty-five steamers and schooners to employed to transport General Fitz John Porter's division, but I haven't seen the names or descriptions of the ships that transported the 62d.
NON-BATTLE Reconnaissance at Big Bethel, 27 March 1862.
THE GIST: Shortly after Porter's Division assembled on the Peninsula, but before McClellan had arrived at Fortress Monroe, it was ordered to move out to do some reconnaissance. It marched to earthen breastworks near the village of Big Bethel about eight miles west of the fort. Although the Union troops were expecting stubborn resistance, they discovered instead that the Confederate troops had already abandoned their position. Only a small party had been left behind, and they quickly took flight. To have turned the Rebel forces so easily, at the site of a Confederate victory nine months earlier, however, did create a spirit of optimism among the Union forces.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: The right flank of the Morell's Second Brigade pursued the retreating Confederate forces briefly but to no effect. I am not sure if this included the 62d.





In this section of the map, Fortress Monroe is shown at the bottom and Big Bethel is at the top, about 8 miles away.

NON-BATTLEHoward's Mills, near Cockletown, 4 April 1862.
THE GIST: On 2 April, almost immediately after his arrival, McClellan sent orders for two divisions of Heintzelman's Third Corps to advance toward Yorktown as part of a general advance by the Army of the Potomac. This advance on the right was to be matched by an advance on the left by a column of two more divisions that would outflank Yorktown. Early the next morning, Porter's Division broke camp and crossed Big Bethel Creek. Morell's Brigade almost immediately discovered the road to be nearly impassable. The brigade slogged ahead, however, and the next day reached Howard's Mills, where they discovered more Confederate breastworks. In what was called a skirmish, Confederates fired upon the Union forces with heavy guns. The brigade responded, and in the action several Confederate guns were silenced, and "the enemy were soon obliged to evacuate [Bates]." Fewer than a hundred on either side was killed or wounded. After the Confederates retreated, the division established a camp for the night.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: The 62d must have been at the head of Morell's Brigade with the 9th Massachusetts when they were met with cannon fire at Howard's Mills. According a description in Henry Wilson's Diary (1887), written by a member of the 22d Massachusetts, "the Sixty-second Pennsylvania stood the brunt of the fight this time, giving them a volley as they advanced, and then charging, drove them back into their works." Four members of the Sixty-Second were severely wounded, and when Private Adam W. Musser, of Company I, died of his wounds, he became the first member of the regiment to be killed in action. Musser's death is described this way in The Rebellion Record (1865): "The regiments of Gen. Morell's brigade, although saluted occasionally by the dropping in of shells among them, showed no signs of fear. A shell passed over the Ninth Massachusetts regiment, and struck in the pioneer corps of the Sixty-second Pennsylvania regiment. It first tore away the haversack of Jacob Bell, of company I, then struck ____ Musser, of company I, tearing away his cartridge-box, causing it to explode. After this it hit Jacob Rombaugh, of company D, on the left foot, inflicting a severe wound; slightly bruised John Reddy, a drummer-boy, and then hopped into the air and came down without exploding. Musser subsequently died of his injuries. He lived in Jefferson County, Pa., and was a single man."
On this map, Big Bethel is at the bottom. The map has a label for Howard's Bridge, rather than Howard's Mill, but there is a symbol for a mill at that location. I have marked it with an X. Cockletown can be found toward the top. The map indicates the distance from Big Bethel to Howard's Mill was about 4 miles.
NON-BATTLEReconnaissance to Warwick Road 5 April 1862.
THE GIST: The following morning, Union forces marched west through heavy rains that lasted several hours. The left side of the army halted when it reached the Warwick River. Expecting an easy crossing, the troops discovered something different. The river had been dammed strategically, so in some locations it was about 100 yards across. In addition, there were unexpected and formidable earthen fortifications and a strong fighting force. On the right the Union column continued toward Yorktown, when, as was expected, it reached its fortifications. The Union army now faced the Warwick-Yorktown Line that stretched the entire width of the Peninsula from , about 12 miles. Confederate guns and rifles opened fire from behind Although this line of defense was strong in artillery and looked and sounded formidable to members of the Union Army were fired upon, many of the guns were antiquated, and the numbers of Confederates behind those lines sparce. Nonetheles, the Union advance was halted, and McClellan switched tactics to begin the Siege of Yorktown.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: On that day, Porter's Division, traveled from Howard's Mill to Cockletown and further west toward Yorktown. Morell's Brigade, including the 62d, led the march, until it neared the entrenched works built along the Warwick River or the bluffs of Yorktown. At a crossroad between theYorktown and Warwick Roads, on or near the field where, in the Revolutionary War, the British had laid down their arms to surrender, the brigade was fired upon and took up a position with two regiments on the right of the Yorktown Road and two to the left on the Warwick Road. I am not sure which was the 62d's location. The heaviest fighting occured just after noon. Eventually the First Brigade relieved the Second, but Porter's Division remained in its advanced position until the following day.
BATTLE The Siege at Yorktown, Virginia, from 5 April to 4 May, 1862.
THE GIST: On 5 April, the column of Union troops abruptly halted its march before the Confederate's defensive line behind the Warwick River that stretched in front of Yorktown across the peninsula down to the James River. This was the first of Major General John ("Prince John") Magruder's defensive lines. In the first week of April he had only a small force, perhaps a tenth the size of McClellan's, but he convinced McClellan through a few old tricks that the size of the opposing force matched his own. McClellan gave up his strategy of a rapid advance and decided on a siege of Yorktown instead of an assault. He called for gunboats to be deployed against Yorktown, so a battle could be waged on two fronts, but naval support was denied. Once he decided on a siege, the army had to wait for more than 100 heavy guns and mortars to be moved up and for siege fortifications to be constructed. For almost a month, many Union troops were employed more as construction workers than as soldiers, cutting down trees, laying down corduroy roads made of logs, digging trenches, or building fortifications. The Confederates seemed to have better knowledge of Union activities than vice versa, as a day before McClellan had finally achieved the completion of the greatest assembly of artillery firepower that the world had ever seen and was only now ready for an assault, the Confederate forces slipped away and retreated to its next defensive line anchored at Williamsburg.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: General Fitz John Porter, who had advised McClellan to dig in instead of test the strength of the Warwick-Yorktown Line, was put in charge of the construction of siege fortifications, so during the month that the siege lasted, the 62d was kept constantly employed either serving picket duty or doing construction work. While some of the Confederate redoubt and trenches were expansions of those built during the Revolutionary War, the Union fortifications were all new and required heavier labor. The troops usually worked at night and slept in trenches or smaller holes during the day. The bad weather continued, and life was miserable. Duty in advanced picket lines was extremely hazardous, since soldiers were well within range of sharpshooters and cannon fire. Even when soldiers were moving earth or felling trees, however, they were often fired upon. On 10 April, Porter's Division relocated along Wormley's Creek, placing Morell's Brigade on the extreme right of the Union line. The ravines of Wormley Creek had been used in the Revolutionary War as an ideal means to approach Yorktown as they provided a covered approach, but the terrain would not have been easy for the movement of siege weapons. The regiment suffered few combat deaths while before Yorktown. However, living in unhealthy conditions, several members of the 62d died from disease.
The 62d Pennsylvania had a significant role at the end of the siege. McClellan had planned a massive bombardment of Yorktown to begin at dawn on 4 May, but around 3 a.m., a large fire inside the Yorktown fortification was observed and frequent explosions heard. At first daylight, three deserters crossed the York River under the flag of truce and were taken as prisoners to Colonel Black. They reported that the enemy had withdrawn and Yorktown had been evacuated. An observer aboard a hot air balloon was able to confirm that Yorktown appeared to have been abandoned. Brigadier General Charles D. Jameson, the general of trenches for the day, then ordered four companies of 62d, plus two regiments from the 22d Massachusetts to ascend the works, enter and take possession of Yorktown. Following almost 24 hours of picket duty, these six hundred volunteers breached the walls but encountered no or little enemy force. Colonel Gove, of the 22d Massachusetts, raised an American flag over Yorktown. A diary entry from a soldier in the 3d Pennsylvania Cavalry notes this in the April 6 entry: "The hard fighting is being done on our left. At 2 o'clock the enemy charged on one of our batteries, but couldn't stand the impetuous conter [sic] by the Sixty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Black. It's no use; they may as well fall back at once. This army can't be beaten." The 62d Pennsylvanians were among the first troops to ever experience land mines. A member of another regiment described them this way: "The scoundrels buried hundreds of torpedoes and prepared shells in the highways and abandoned works and about Yorktown, which explode by treading upon them,, and killed and wounded a number of our men."

The roads are not well labeled on the map, but I have placed an X
by the crossroad of the Warwick and Yorktown Roads seems to have
been. It is where the road from Cockletown to Yorktown (on which
we know the 3rd Corps would have been traveling) meets the road
that connects Warwick Courthouse to Yorktown. The location, where
the wooded area ends to expose advancing troops to Confederates
behind the fortifications, also seems a logical place for them to have
first been fired upon.

I have placed an X where Porter's headquarters was listed during
the Siege of Yorktown. I am presuming that Porter
would be headquartered close to his division.

Transport, Encampment at West Point, and March to Gaines Mill, 4 to 26 May 1862.
While other corps engaged the Confederates at Williamburg, won a victory, and forced the Confederates into retreat, Heintzelman's Third Corps was transported up the York River to West Point, Virginia, with the idea that it could cut off the Confederate retreat and attack it from a second front. West Point is located where the York splits to become the Pamunkey and Mattapony and was established as the northern supply center for the Union Army. The Third Corps was attacked not long after it arrived, but easily repulsed a smaller force. The Army of the Potomac, now divided on either side of the Chickahominy River, then proceeded on its march toward Richmond. The march along the Chickahominy was not easy. The roads contrasted between being muddy and almost impassible or hard and dusty. Along its banks of the Chickahominy it is either very swampy or thickly wooded or both. The Chickahominy was swollen in the spring, but it was subject to sudden variations. After torrential rains (of which there were several), it would overflow its swollen banks and could bridges, especially the temporary ones the army constructed. The army marched with wagon trains, heavy guns, even herds of cattle, and often had to halt to improve roads or build bridges, or wait for an improvement in the weather. On 13 May, left West Point and marched 20 miles along dusty roads reaching Cumberland Landing, which was only 5 miles away. This was only one example of the unfamiliarity of the Union army commanders with the terrain of the Peninsula. A few days later, the division marched to White House Landing. On 18 May, while the army remained in camp there, Porter's Division was reformed into the Provisional Fifth Corps (it would remain "provisional" until an act of Congress approved the rearrangement of the Army of the Potomac), with Porter in command. On 20 May the Provisional 5th Corps had advanced five miles to Tunstall's Station. By 22d it arrived at Bottom's Bridge, within a dozen miles of Richmond. The Confederates had retreated before the Union advance, and optimism was high. By 26 May the corps had completed its march to Gaines Mill, eight miles from Richmond. The regiments received orders to to ready to move at dawn. The troops were provided with 80 rounds of ammunition and three days' rations.
BATTLE Battle at Hanover Court House, Virginia on 27 May 1862.
THE GIST: The first major battle for the Provisional 5th Corps occurred at mid-day immediately upon completion of an eight hour march. It had rained so heavily that morning that fires could not be lit and the march begun before 4 am had to be started without coffee. The march was made through muddy roads and was both miserable and exhausting. When the troops approached Hanover Court House, however, there was no time to rest. Ordered to reconnoiter at Hanover Court House, it encountered a North Carolina brigade commanded by General L. O. Branch plus a Georgia regiment two miles south of town at Peake's Station, of the Virginia Central Railroad. With Morell's First Division taking the lead, the corps advanced and drove the much smaller Confederate force into retreat. However, by pursuing the retreating Confederate force, Porter exposed the rear of the Union army that was positioned at Kinney's Farm. A segment of the Confederate army that had worked its way around and made a flank attack. Martindale's Brigade suffered severe casualties before Porter learned of the engagement and dispatched Griffin's Second Brigade back to the fight. This re-enforcement proved enough to put the Confederate forces in retreat and turned the retreat into a rout. Federals gained both the station and a mostly abandoned Confederate camp, capturing many arms and prisoners.
The strategic importance of Hanover Court House came from its communication links between Richmond and northern Virginia, the railroad station and telegraph lines. More importantly the troops stood between the 5th Corps and the Army of the Rappahannock (commanded by General Irwin McDowell) should it join the Army of the Potomac on its assault of Richmond. However, even though the Army of the Rappahannock was only fifteen miles away, because of activity of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, it was pulled back to help defend Washington, and the strategic importance of Hanover Court House immediately diminished, and the Union victory in battle became mute.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: Held in reserve until mid-afternoon, the Sixty-Second were part of the Second Brigade called into the battle to relieve a Morell's First Division that was under the counter-attack. Initially the Second Brigade was ordered to move at double quick to reinforce the engagement at Peake's Station. When it arrived where it had been directed, however, all was quiet. After news of the Confederate counter-attack from the rear was received, under Porter's orders, the Second Brigade did an about-face. The 14th New York was split off to engage the enemy to the front, bu the 62d and 9th Massachusetts retraced their steps and then crossed a wheatfield [a precursor to the 62d's experience at Gettysburg] to enter the woods on the western edge of Kinney's Farm where it was able to flank the North Carolinians. Under enemy fire, the two regiments passed through a deep ravine and across a swamp before meeting the rebels. The 62d reformed its line on the crest of the high ground and drove the enemy into quick retreat, breaking to the right and rear. Colonel Black ordered a movement by the right flank and moved forward to the railroad. Forming a line with the 9th Massachusetts, the 62d pushed forward and tried to cut out its means of retreat. Companies A and L on the right flank were sent to pursue up the railroad, and four other companies under Captain Wright's command were sent forward into another woods to serve as skirmishers. The Confederates then broke and fled in disorder. A pursuit was maintained until dark when the recall was sounded. In his report of the conduct of the 62d regiment, Colonel Black indicated that the 62d was responsible for capturing 81 prisoners, including 7 officers, and a great many arms. Six of the 62d were wounded, none were killed, and not one missing. In their first combat situation, the fatigued and untested 62d fought well, were victorious, and were proud and optimistic about their future, and a bit disparaging in their consideration of the Rebel fighting force. Their opinions were soon to change. In this, their first combat situation, the 62d came as close as they ever would again in being the pivotal force in deciding a battle.
Encamped near Gaines Mills, Virginia, from 27 May to 26 June 1862.
For a month, both sides dug in the next two days following its victory, the Federals destroyed railroad tracks and cut down telegraph wires. The Fifth Corps then abandoned Hanover Court House and marched back to Gaines Mill, where, even though it would still be on the north side of the Chickahominy River, it would be closer to the main Union force. In contrast to its earlier march through the Peninsula on to Richmond when it repaired roads and bridges destroyed by retreating Confederates, the Fifth Corps now destroyed bridges and placed obstacles on the roads behind them as it fell back to Gaines Mill. They camped at Gaines Mill, north of the Chicahominy River. As the only Union division north of the river, they became vulnerable to attack. But for a month, they waited. By being on the north of the river, the did not participate in the Battle at Fair Oaks, in which nearly 12,000 lives were lost. The 62d regiment spent the month in picket duty, primarily constructing bridges across the Chicahominy River to provide better communication and transportation links with the remainder of the Union army. They also spent much time cursing the heavy rain.
Seven Days Battles
BATTLEBattle at Mechanicsville, also known as Beaver Dam Creek, on 26 June 1862
THE GIST: Beaver Dam Creek, about five miles west of Gaines Mill (and not much farther from Richmond), was the location of a battle on the first day of the Seven Days' Battles. The Fifth Corps in its advanced position toward Richmond was the only Union army on the north side of the Chickahominy River and, therefore, unsupported by the remainder of the Union army, all south of the Chickahominy. The Fifth Corps immediately became the chief target of the Confederate army. Confederate forces greatly outnumbered the Fifth Corps, and assaults were made the Union fortified position all day. Commanders in the war never seemed to learn the hopelessness of direct assaults on well fortified positions. The Union forces, in smaller numbers, and although driven back at times, withheld the repeated assaults, and so to this extent, the battle was a Union victory. Anticipating an even greater force to battle the next day led by Stonewall Jackson, General Porter withdrew the Fifth Corps to a bluff near Gaines Mill, an equally strong position much closer to the rest of the Union army and reinforcements.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: The Second Brigade was held in reserve until late in the afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of the army led by Stonewall Jackson. Jackson's forces arrived but did not join the battle that day. The Second Brigade moved up to extend the right flank about an hour before the end of the battle. The 62d was under fire, but did not move out of its position and suffered no losses.
BATTLE Battle at Gaines Mill, Virginia, also known as Chickahominy and First Cold Harbor, on 27 June 1862.
THE GIST: The next conflict in the Seven Days Battles in which the 62d saw action was a battle between pretty much the whole of Lee's Confederate forces against the Fifth Corps, with reinforcement from a division from another corps arriving late in the day. The battle was a tactical victory for General Robert E. Lee, as the Confederate goal to remove the Fifth Corps from its threatening position against Richmond was achieved and McClellan never further advanced on the Confederate capitol. On the morning following the battle at Beaver Dam Creek, the Fifth Corps claimed a fortified position on an elevation overlooking the Gaines Mills Creek, also known as Boatswain Creek, and the swampy ravine through which it flowed. About noon the battle commenced as Longstreet's Corps advanced. The Fifth Corps held fast all afternoon, as the Confederate attacks were poorly coordinated and the Federal troops held such a strong position. Only in late afternoon after Stonewall Jackson, who had gotten lost, by confusing Old Cold Harbor with New Cold Harbor, finally arrived and oriented, were the Confederates finally finally able to take advantage of their superior numbers and break through the Union line. The arrival of reinforcements from Slocum's Division of the Sixth Corps allowed the Union army to hold its line. The battle continued to be waged even after dark. Another assault by the Confederates was poorly coordinated but was enough to break the Union line. A fierce Union cavalry charge brought more even more chaos and loss of life, and did little to change the course of the battle. Between 2 and 4 am, the Union divisions crossed to the south side of the Chickahominy to rejoin the rest of the Federal army, destroying bridges behind them. Following this battle, McClellan, never known as a bold general, forsook his plans to advance on Richmond and ordered a general retreat. For all intents and purposes the Peninsular Campaign against Richmond was now over.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: The initial thrust of the Confederate attack occurred before noon against the Union left, where Morrell's Division was in position. The Confederate attack was first met by the Second Brigade, with the 9th Massachusetts in the most forward position. The Second Brigade not only held steady, but the still mostly green soldiers repulsed the early onslaught. With the enemy held in check but still providing heavy fire, the 62d Pennsylvania, in position immediately behind the 9th Massachusetts, was then ordered to move up. In the early afternoon, the 9th Massachusetts and the 62d Pennsylvania were then ordered to push forward, with the 62d in the extreme right position. Brave, valiant Colonel Black, in his first real chance to lead his regiment in a major battle, ordered a bayonet charge across the swampy ravine. Brave or foolhardy, Colonel Black was killed almost instantly. Lieutenant-Colonel Sweitzer took command and pressed the regiment forward still. They succeeded in driving the Confederates back, but they succeeded too well. Once they gained the woods on the other side, they then found themselves surrounded on three sides, and under fire. The regiment, as reported in "Seven Days' Contests (p. 240 of The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, Volume 5)," by W.B.D., was to be "the first one to come off the field in disorder, the men frightened and panic stricken at the death of their beloved colonel." Three officers and 74 privates were captured before the regiment was able to return to the Union line and reform a line as best it could with the rest of the Second Brigade near its original position. For the rest of the afternoon, the remnant of the regiment held its ground and fought back intermittent attacks. No lull occurred in the fighting on that part of the field until around 5 o'clock. By then Jackson's force had been added, and a better coordinated attack was starting to win the day for the Confederates. General Truman Seymour, a Sixth Corps brigade commander, rode up and asked if the 62d had any ammunition. When Sweitzer said their supply was completed exhausted, the general directed the regiment to refill their cartridge boxes and move at double-quick to the extreme left of the line, where Confederates had broken through. After traversing the swampy ground, the exhausted and depleted regiment advanced again facing a heavy volley of musket fire. The 62d found themselves in the middle of the great confusion caused by the Union cavalry rushing back from its unsuccessful charge. The Confederates were able to take advantage of the situation and captured guns and a large number of prisoners, including 74 of the 62d's volunteers. The regiment then lost its second colonel of the day, as Sweitzer was badly wounded and then captured. He was taken to Richmond, where he was incarcerated in Libby Prison until released in a prisoner exchange a month later. Captain James C. Hull of Company A took command of the regiment. The casualties at Gaines Mills were among highest of any battle for the 62d Pennsylvania. The next morning, two soldiers were very nearly killed or captured, when they tried to retrieve Captain Black's body.

An excerpt of a letter by B. J. Coll, about the Battle of Gaines Mills, reprinted in The Fifth Army Corps (Army of the Potomac): A Record of Operations During the Civil War by William Henry Powell (1896) and in the Washington Post, 6 October 1902: "It was on Saturday, June 28, the Confederates advanced. Lieut. Patterson and I were lying together, wounded, with probably 300 other wounded men of our corps lying around who had been carried there, and on account of wounds could not get away. When they advanced to where we lay, we were subjects of considerable curiosity to them. At a short distance from us we saw a group of officers. Lieut. Patterson inquired from the Confederates standing around who they were. They told us they were Lee, Longstreet, A. P. and D.H. Hill, and General Jackson. Jackson came up and asked the lieutenant "Whose troops were engaged today?" He replied "General FitzJohn Porter's corps." He then asked if that was all of the troops engaged. The lieutenant answered "Yes." The general then said if he would repeat that lie he would cut his ears off with his sword. The lieutenant answered that "Notwithstanding the fact that I may lose my ears, I repeat that the only troops engaged yesterday were those of General Porter's corps. Slocum's division came over late in the evening, but did not become engaged." I think he must have felt humiliated to think that General Porter's corps kept nearly the entire Confederate army at bay during the entire day of the 27th, and then retired across the Chickahominy during the night."

March to Malvern Hill, 28 June to 30 June 1862.
With the rest of the Fifth Army Corps, the wounded and depleted regiment crossed the Chickahominy via Alexander's Bridge in the early morning of the 28th. It spent part of the next day in bivouac at the Trent farm. The morning was spent in rest and recuperation and refilling cartridge boxes and haversacks. Soldiers could hear sounds of a nearby battle. At 2 pm on the 28th, Porter's Corps marched first to Savage Station and then to the south side of White Oak Swamp. Roads were narrow and muddy, cut up and blocked, and causeways and bridges had to be built, so the ten mile march took more than eight hours. They bivouacked on the south side at Britton's farm, near Glendale (more of a crossroads that a real village). Colonel Patrick Guinin of the 9th Massachusetts regiment reported that Griffin's brigade position was the junction of Charles City and Quaker Roads. The morning of the 29th was spent in rest and recuperation and refilling cartridge boxes and haversacks. On that day was the Battle at Savage Station. Regimental histories credit the 62d as participating in the battle, but its engagement was minimal at best. After sounds of a nearby battle were heard, Morell was ordered to move up his division to be in a supportive position, Morell reported that his division formed a partial line of battle, facing toward Richmond. The guns ceased, however, and the division was not engaged. Guiney reported that they remained where they had bivouaked all day. The Fifth Corps was ordered to move that night along Quaker Road to Turkey Bridge and Malvern Hill, a cleared and elevated land on the north bank of Turkey Creek near where it flowed into the James River. The troops started before dark, and although Malvern Hill was only five miles away, they did not reach their destination until 9 am on the 30th.
BATTLEBattle at Turkey Bridge, on 30 June 1862.
THE GIST: Known as the Battle of Turkey Bridge or Malvern Cliff, this engagement was part of or coincidental to the Battle of Glendale (Frayser's Farm) and the Battle of White Oak Swamp. The three names for battles in the same area on the same day is one indication of the lack of coordination of the armies on both sides. General McClellan, having briefly outlined some defensive strategies with his generals, had retired to a gunboat on the James where he remained throughout the fighting. General Lee, hoping to cut the retreating Union Army in half, was unable to coordinate his armies, nor execute his plan successfully (only partly because, once again, Stonewall Jackson failed to follow orders), nor counter the Union counteroffensive. Turkey Bridge, largely an artillery battle on the extreme south and left of the confused and discontinuous Union line, once again saw the Fifth Army Corps capable and victorious. Porter's troops, having marched all night, were already in place on Malvern Hill north of and overlooking Turkey Bridge that morning. Finding it a strong natural position, they immediately prepared the field for battle building breastworks and trenches. Around 4 pm, Morell's division, including the 62d, holding the extreme left near Turkey Bend on the James River, were fired upon by batteries from Henry A. Wise's Brigade of General Theophilus Hunter Holmes' Division. Answering back from superior numbers and position, Union guns from both Malvern Cliff and gunboats on the James River drove the Confederates into a panicked retreat until they were out of range.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: As part of the Second Brigade of Morell's division, the 62d was ordered to the front. Here is an excerpt from Morell's report: "The Second Brigade, General Griffin, was ordered to the front. The artillery advanced toward the woods, and was supported on the left by the Ninth Massachusetts, Colonel Cass, and Sixty-second Pennsylvania, Captain Hull, and on the right by part of Couch's division. While getting into position a few casualties were caused by shot thrown from a battery on our left and rear and on the opposite side of the valley, which, however, was soon silenced by guns near Malvern house."
BATTLE Battle at Malvern Hill, on 1 and 2 July 1862.
THE GIST: In the last of the Seven Days' Battles, the Union position on Malvern Hill proved to be impregnable even as received multiple assaults by the Confederate forces upon it over the course of next two days. The first attack occurred at 10 am, with Griffith brigade of Morell's division being in the center of the action. Subsequent assaults were repeated at noon and 2 pm. Then around 5:30 the most determined attack by the Confederates was begun.
DETAILS ABOUT THE 62D: With the loss of its field officers at Gaines Mill, the 62d Pennsylvania was now led by Captain James C. Hull of Company A. Their role in this battle was to support Battery D of the 5th US Artillery, which became a special target first by Confederate batteries and then an infantry charge. At Malvern Hill, the flag of the Sixty-second Pennsylvania was five times cut down, but quickly raised and displayed again each time, but one. The color bearer, Sergeant William H. Smith, of Company D, was cut off from the regiment, but "secreted the flag upon his person and hid himself in a stable near by." (Bates) Following a Union charge, he was able to reunite the flag and himself with his regiment. For his gallantry he was commissioned a lieutenant. In the battle, Company D's Lieutenant John D. Elder was killed.
Here are details mentioning the 62d from Musket and Sword, Camp March, And Firing Line of the Army of the Potomac, by Edwin C. Bennett of the 22d Massachusetts (Boston, 1900): General Charles Griffin, in addition to the command of an infantry brigade, seemed to have charge of the artillery of the 5th Corps, in our front. He was very active, passing continually from the infantry to the batteries. He had a horse shot under him, but mounted that of his orderly, and continued his rounds. About 5 p. m. he came over the crest, and beckoned to General Martindale. He said in his characteristic shrill tone: "Fetch on you infantry, general." The Confederates were swarming with frantic energy to the assault. We deployed in line of battle in an instant. The order to advance was more than welcome to all. We wished to fight like men and accomplish something with muskets at close range and not to be slaughtered like cattle in the shambles, as we had been for nearly three hours. We went on in perfect alignment, and soon reached the guns. We were in support of a battery of howitzers. The officer in charge was nervous, and said that as his horses were to the rear he feared that his pieces would be lost. He gave some orders to us, which act was a breach of military courtesy. Lieutenant F. K. Field reproved him sharply, telling him not to interfere, and added that the infantry line was there to stay and win. We lay down thirty yards in rear of the 62d Pennsylvania, which was in line with the battery and in touch with its left. The field where we were placed had been some previous year prepared for wheat. It was in beds or ridges six feet wide. The ditches or hollows were eighteen inches below the crowns of the beds. The men in two ranks occupied one of the depressions. The file closers, commissioned officers and sergeants, did not withdraw to the hollow of the next ridge but remained upon its summit.... The Confederates attacked in several lines, moving from the woods, nine hundred yards distant. Our batteries were served with tireless energy. Every discharge would cut gaps in the ranks of the infuriated enemy, but still they rushed on meeting the deadly rain of bullets from our infantry, and yelling like fiends. It remained for the infantry to turn the tide, and aid in inflicting a crushing defeat upon our reckless adversaries. The 62d Pennsylvania fought grandly, I saw their colors drop several times, but before they could touch the ground they would be grasped, and again waved in defiance. They must have lost one third of their number without yielding an inch. The wounded who were able, would retreat to our line, and feeling reassured would halt. Greetings would be exchanged and their remaining cartridges given to us. One stalwart private hurried to us, using his musket as a staff. He examined his wound which was in the calf of his leg, and quite severe. He said, "It is not so bad as I thought, I will get even right now." He hobbled back to his regiment, accompanied by the applause of our men. The 62d Pennsylvania having practically exhausted its ammunition, faced to the left, and filed to the rear. We moved forward and took their place, and dressed our line and commenced firing, using sixty rounds each at least.... The Confederates were repulsed at every point. The force of their onslaught was declining when we relieved the 62 d Pennsylvania. We expended all our ammunition, and the ordnance train was on the way to the rear, but the enemy brought forward no reserves. We gathered wheat straw from our front, and endeavored to sleep. The groans of the wounded arose like a chorus. Occasionally a howitzer would be discharged, and the flash would penetrate the gloom almost to the woods. Men from the ambulance corps, aided by volunteers were searching by the light of lanterns for wounded friends and comrades. But the great mass of the unfortunate were not relieved that night. We were roused about 1 A. M., and began our march to Harrison's Landing. The rain soon became heavy, making the route tedious, but we plodded on.
March to and Encampment at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, from 2 July to 14 August 1862.
Following this victory, McClellan withdrew the Union army to Harrison's Landing on James River, where it would be protected by gunboats. McCellan's army no longer threatened Richmond, and the Confederate forces withdrew. The Peninsula Campaign came to an end.
On 31 July, confronted the enemy only once. While on picket duty, the 62d engaged the enemy at Harrison's Bar. It "was again exposed, but suffered little." (Bates)
While still at Harrison's Landing, Lieutenant-Colonel Sweitzer was exchanged and released from prison and rejoined his command with the promotion to Colonel.
March to Newport News, from 14 to 18 August 1862.
The Fifth Corps marched 60 miles in three days. It broke camp, crossed the Chickahominy River near its mouth, marched by way of Williamsburg and Yorktown to Newport News.
Embarkation from Newport News, 20 August 1862.
The Fifth Corps embarked from Newport News on transports to leave the Peninsula, not to see it again until 1864. The troops arrived at Aquia Creek on the 21st.

Peninsular Campaign/Seven Days Battles Casualties, June 25-July 2, 1862

The Peninsular Campaign included, for the 62d, Yorktown, Mechanicsville, and the Seven Days Battles. In some of the battles the regiment was held in reserve or saw little action. Most of the 62d Pennsylvania's casualties occurred at the Battle at Gaines' Mill and Malvern Hill. Numbers from "Return of Casualties in the Army of the Potomac during the operations before Richmond, Va., June 25-July 2, 1862, inclusive" and "Return of Casualties in the Union forces at the battle of Gaines Mill, Va., June 27, 1862." Tables in The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1902.


Battle at Gaines Mill

Peninsular Campaign

Officers Killed



Enlisted Killed



Officers Wounded



Enlisted Wounded



Officers Captured or Missing



Enlisted Captured or Missing






The New York Times reported the following names of prisoners in Richmond who had been wounded and left in the Gaines Mills hospital after the battle of 27 June 1862:

Corp. T. Conolly--ball through left foot.
J. M. Shannon--through right foot.
Lieut. A. King--foot amputated.
Capt. Thos. Esby--ball in spine, dangerous.
A. Robb--through right thigh, fractured.
L. C. Young--ball through left leg--fractured.
F. Winkle--through right leg, fractured.
John McCool--right thigh, flesh.
---- Powers--right leg fractured.
David Henry--through right breast, serious.
John A. Davis--through left thigh and right leg.
S. W. Crossman--shot in left thigh and bowels, serious.
L. Hearn--ball through butt.
J. Orr--in right hip.
G. W. T. Levake--through left leg.
J. Davis--through hip and leg, severe.
J. Harris--right side and leg.
A. Ward--fracture under jaw.
Irvin Shannon--through right ankle.
Henry Stagle--ball in left hip.

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Last modified: 27 June 2017, 155 years after the Battle of Gaines Mill
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