The regiment that would become known as the 62d Pennsylvania Voluntary Regiment, Infantry, was created on the 4th of July 1861, the same day Congress assembled in extra session to authorize a levy for the recruitment of 500,000 soldiers. Sam Black, ex-governor of the Nebraska territory, had returned in June 1861 to his native Pittsburgh, a city then alive with war fever. Black quickly rose to the top of the political and military circles and used his influence to be granted authority by Simon Cameron, United States Secretary of War, to recruit a regiment. In preparation, he gathered about 30 associates who would form the core of his field and staff officers plus captains of several companies. Recruiting was made easier because of the existence of Home Guard units and other military groups that had formed as boys and men had been swept up with military fervor well before the election of Abraham Lincoln. Their numbers and ranks greatly expanded in Western Pennsylvania after August 1860, when Elmer Elsworth's Chicago Zouaves, a precision military drill company with exotically gaudy uniforms, visited Pittsburgh. The wave of patriotic zeal further erupted after Lincoln called for volunteers in early April of 1861, only days after he took office and was supplemented by subsequent official calls by the War Department and by Pennsylvania Governor Curtin.
On the Fourth of July, Black, known as a fiery orator, gave an impassioned speech at an Independence Day ceremony in a park in the city of Allegheny. His speech was just one part of the rally that included drilling exhibitions from as many as fifty teams and home guard units. After the ceremony came to a close, Black was handed a telegram that informed him that he had been officially authorized by the Secretary of War to form a regiment. With the dispatch in his pocket, Black immediately rode out and overtook the Eighth Ward Home Guards on Penn Avenue as they were marching home and invited them to be the first volunteers of the new regiment. The unit's captain, Edward Wright, ordered the company to break ranks to consider the invitation, and within five minutes the company agreed unanimously to join Black. Either through a similar contacts or prior arrangements, on that same day Captain James C. Hull and other officers of the Federal Guards from the city of Allegheny and Captain Thomas Espy and other officers and privates of the St. Clair Guards, mostly members of the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Upper Saint Clair, were also officially mustered in. In all, by the end of the first day, the new regiment was composed of 32 officers and 13 privates -- at least officially. Exactly who signed up on the Fourth is not clear, since many volunteers who signed up that day, including Captain Edward Wright, were not officially mustered in until the 22d of July or later. In the following days, recruitment efforts were expanded in the tri-cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and Birmingham, and elsewhere in Western Pennsylvania. The regiment was virtually full in less than two weeks.
To expedite the formation of his regiment, Black combined forces with recruiting officers from elsewhere in Western Pennsylvania to merge their companies into one new regiment. James Beck of Armstrong County and Thomas Monks and Thomas Kerr of Clarion County had all been making similar recruiting efforts as Black on the 4th of July. The Jefferson Guards had been formed even earlier and joined the new regiment out of disappointment. After Governor Curtin's call was for regiments to serve in the Pennsylvania Reserve, a large force had been recruited from Jefferson County, enough to create two companies. The governor, however, only accepted one company from Jefferson County. When Robert R. Means heard of Colonel Sam Black's recruitment efforts, he banded the remnants of his rejected Jefferson Guards B Company with a partially formed company from Punxsutawney to form a full company. It took little persuasion by Means for Black to accept his company into the new regiment.
As one means of recruiting, a broadside appeared on the streets of Pittsburgh and the other tri-cities in July of 1861 advertising the new unit as a Scott Legion regiment.
The original Scott Legion was an association of Mexican War veterans that served both as a militia group and a fraternal organization. Its veteran soldiers continued to practice military drills in uniform to stand ready to serve the nation again. It also provided aid to its members and their families, such as providing proper military honors at the time of a member's death. Sam Black (and perhaps other officers) had served under General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. General Scott, nicknamed "Old Fuss and Feathers," was the titular commander of the Union army at the time the 62d Pennsylvania was recruited. Two other Pennsylvania regiments, the 20th and 68th, both recruited in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, also used "Scott Legion" as a nickname. The Standard History of Pittsburgh calls the 62d regiment "the Scott Legion (No. 2)."
The 62d is unusual because it had twelve companies instead of the standard ten for an infantry regiment. Companies L and M were added a month after the first ten companies had mustered in. Both were formed by officers who had been in three-month regiments who, for reasons that are unclear, tried to form new companies rather than remain in the three-year regiments that evolved out of the three-months regiments. Several officers and privates from Company L had served in the 13rd Pennsylvania Regiment Infantry, and several officers and privates from Company M had served in the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment Infantry. The two new companies formed quickly. The Blair Guards (soon to become Company M) mustered in on 9 August 1861 only 10 days after its core officers had mustered out of its old regiment. The Chambers Zouaves (Company L) mustered in on 29 August, having mustered out on the 6th of August. Had another Western Pennsylvania regiment been near completion, these companies would likely have joined it, but instead, since the 62d was still in limbo before being sent to Washington, D.C., the two extra companies were tacked onto Captain Black's regiment, officially joining on 31 August 1861.
Although the number 62 might not indicate that the volunteers were among the early wave of patriots to join the war effort, this regiment was one of the first three-year regiments to leave Pittsburgh. The regiment's original designation was as the 33d Independent Regiment. The enumeration problem stemmed from the authority Black received to recruit. Black had recruited his regiment under federal authority outside the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps system, so he lacked state authority to muster in a regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers. The re-designation from 33d to 62d did not occur until 19 November 1861.
One reason the issue took so long to resolve was because both federal and state efforts had been made to recruit regiments, and a certain amount of petty jealousies resulted. The federal government put a quota on the number of three-month regiments required from each state. In Pennsylvania, the quota was filled in less than a week, and only six Allegheny County companies were included. Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania and others in the state campaigned to allow the quotas to be overfilled, but their efforts were turned down. Independently, then, the governor called a special session of the legislature to bypass the quota system. Legislation was passed on 15 May 1861 to organize the 'Reserve Corps of the Commonwealth' for defense of the state. The corps initially consisted of thirteen regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and one of artillery, formed from companies to be furnished by the counties in proportion to the number of men already in service from each county. Curtain became known as a War Governor and was all for the union, and he was foresighted enough to know that additional regiments would be needed, but he did act with a certain amount of states rights adamancy.
The 62d Pennsylvania volunteers must have joined for many different reasons. Many were caught up in the rampant war fever. The Fourth of July in 1861 was celebrated in Pittsburgh by a grand parade of Home Guard companies and many passionate and persuasive speakers. Sam Black, a soldier, lawyer and politician, was the best of them, according to several sources. Sam Black was an expert stump speaker. He was sparkling with wit and often thrillingly eloquent. When aroused, his whole frame shook, his locks were tossed about, and his eyes flashed fire. Black could also claim a distinguished military experience, having led a Pennsylvania regiment in the Mexican War , where he gained some fame as the hero of the siege of Pueblo. Black's oratory helped him become a very successful recruiter. Few audiences could resist his transcendent power over them, including the audience on that 4th of July in Pittsburgh.
Perhaps it sounds odd today, but anti-slavery sentiment was very unlikely to have been a motive for many volunteers in this regiment. Because its recruiting officers, especially Sam Black and J. Bowman Sweitzer, were active in the Democratic Party, a "great majority of [the 62d] were of the Democratic faith." [Under the Maltese Cross], and the Democratic Party strongly opposed the abolitionist movement. Black was a loyal unionist, but not a abolitionist. He had been appointed governor of the Nebraska Territory in 1859. His tenure became controversial when he twice vetoed bills that would have outlawed slavery, only to have the territorial legislature overrule him. A territorial governorship was part of the federal patronage system, and after Lincoln won the election in 1860, Black, being a Democrat and a Buchanon appointee, resigned in early 1861, even before Lincoln took office. Nonetheless, Black returned to Pittsburgh for the sole purpose of organizing a regiment in Lincoln's army to fight against "the great crime of Secession."
Sweitzer in words and action gave no sign of supporting the end of slavery. In 1851, as a United States Commissioner, at the request of two slave catchers, he executed a warrent for the arrest of a black man named Paul Gardner, whom the slave catchers claimed was an escaped slave named Woodson. At the trial Judge Thomas M. Irwin, father-in-law of Sam Black, ruled to uphold the Fugitive Slave Law and allow the slave catchers to return to Kentucky with Woodson. Although Sweitzer could claim he was simply carrying out the law as it then stood, others in his position had been known to delay or circumvent the law. Ten years later, Sweitzer showed his own heart more clearly when he spoke at a public meeting in favor the Crittenden Compromise, which would have guaranteed the permanent existence of slavery and even extended it as a means to resolve the succession crisis. However, when the compromise failed and war declared, Sweitzer proved to be loyal to the cause of the union.
Major Gust Lowry (writing when he was the 1st Lieutenant of Company C) explains somewhat his reason for joining the regiment in a letter written early in the Peninsular Campaign: "We all know that there is a God of battles, and I hope we may all trust in him and to his will. And I hope that my dear friends at home will not regret that I have come here. I have only done what seems to be the duty of all young men and what so many have done. I could not have stayed at home & not thought that I was shirking a duty, and loosin [sic] respect in myself."
A similar expression of why men fought in the Civil War is found in a letter from Samuel J Alexander to his wife Agnes dated 1 September 1861: "It ought to be a consolation to know that you have a Husband that is man enough to fight for his Country."
Feelings of patriotic duty aside, many must have seen the war as an adventure and novelty. The company was fully recruited a week before the First Battle of Bull Run had been fought, so the grim reality of war was yet unreported. There were still expectations of a quick victory, so although they must have realized they would be facing death and injury, few believed they would have to serve the long three years or imagine the boredom and hardship that army life would provide. Some, of course, must have joined for remunerative reasons. $13 a month was very good pay for many, and, additional state aid was promised to families of soldiers. In July 1861, however, generous bounties were not yet being paid to enlistees, so patriotism might have weighed in more heavily as a recruiting factor than it could have later. Side note: From company records, it appears that the regiment was paid on the 30th of even-numbered months, except when they were on the march on in the midst of battle.
The original volunteers did not step forward because of a bounty. However, since a federal law was passed between the time most signed up (the 4th of July) and when they were mustered in (24 July or later), authorizing the states to pay a bounty of $100 as a recruitment tool, they should have been eligible to receive one. It is not clear that they ever did. From the act of 22 July 1861 (12 Stat. L., 268), in which President Lincoln was authorized to call up half a million soldiers:
SECTION 5. * * * Every volunteer, noncommissioned officer, private, musician,
and artificer who enters the service of the United States under this act
shall be paid at the rate of 50 cents in lien of subsistence. * * * And in
addition thereto, if he shall have served for a period of two years, or during
the war, if sooner ended, the sum of $100.
A bill proposed in the House of Representatives in 1884 provides evidence that the volunteers of the 62d P.V. had had their $100 withheld. The bill was to authorize the Committee on the Payment of Pensions, Bounty, and Back Pay to make the payment of bounty hitherto withheld from the volunteers of the Sixty-second Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry. I have yet to find a record that the bill became law, so I don't know if the volunteers, at least those honorably discharged after serving at least two years, ever received their money or not.
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This page authored and maintained by John R. Henderson (jhenderson @
icyousee . org), Lodi, NY.
Last modified: 24 January 2013, 150 years after the 62d Pennsylvania took part in Burnside's ill-fated "Mud March."
The Sixty Second Pennsylvania Monument, pictured at the top of the page, was dedicated at Gettysburg on 11 September 1889. The image was printed in the book, Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, Ceremonies at the Dedication of the Monuments, published in 1904.