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History Of The 97th P.V.I.


History of the 97th PVI

Not Complete.....Up to 1863


(Part 1)


Drill, Drill, Drill

        On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries* under the command of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard opened fire on the Federal forces at Fort Sumter*, South Carolina. With this act of war, the Confederate States of America– which would number eleven states after the fall of Fort Sumter–would declare war on the United States of America. President Abraham Lincoln called on all states loyal to the Union for 75,000 volunteers. The war would last for four bloody years and cost the lives of an estimated 600,000 soldiers. The idea to recruit a Pennsylvania regiment first came from State Senator H. Jones Brooke of Pennsylvania. He then forwarded his idea to the Honorable Simon Cameron, Secretary of War. Cameron approved the request on July 25, 1861, four days after the Battle of Bull Run. Colonel Henry R. Guss was charged with having the regiment ready for marching in 21 days. Guss recruited most of his men from the 7th Pennsylvania Congressional District. Most of the officers that he recruited served with him in the Old 9th Pennsylvania. This regiment was a 90 day regiment* and served along the Delaware and Maryland border. This regiment was stop any army or Confederates crossing into these states. After the 90 days the regiment was disbanded. After contacting these men from the old 9th Pa., they started to recruiting for the ten companies in the regiment (see page 3). After the companies (see page 3) were recruited they were to assemble at Camp Wayne and Camp Everhart. They were both located in West Chester. Camp Wayne, today, is located where the West Chester University Dorms are. Camp Everheart is located in Everheart Park in West Chester. All ten of the companies assembled at Camp Wayne in West Chester. At the camp the men practice drilling non-stop. Before the companies were formed the regiment was supposed to be called the 49th Pennsylvania, but by the time the regiment was formed, that number was already taken. So Governor Curtain told them to be the 97th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. During the month of October (1861) the regiment would parade through West Chester every afternoon. People would turn out by the thousands to see the regiment. The regiment would drill* at least four to six hours a day. The ages of the regiment ranged from 18-40. The average age was 22. While the companies were being assembled Col. Guss set out to find the best surgeon. He found Dr. George Everheart and his assistant George Miller. After they were mustered* in as regimental surgeon, Col. Guss made David Jones; of Company H, Regimental Quartermaster. Guss was also in search of the best drummer in the county. He found James St. John Sr. "The Best Drummer in Pennsylvania." This 61 year old man was a drummer in the War of 1812. He brought his two sons Willie(12) and Thomas(15). But their ages were listed respectively as 17 and 18 in the muster books. Their mother also came along with them. The men in the regiment referred to her as "Mother". She cooked and cleaned for the men and the officers. She stayed with them for three years. On November 4th 1861 Governor Curtain came to West Chester to give the regiments first flag. The first color bearer was Sargent John D. Beaver of Company C. Beaver was from West Chester.

(Part 2)


        On November 12th 1861, the regiment was to be ready to move out. There orders were to report to Washington D.C. as soon as possible. On November 15th Col. Guss issued the first marching orders. When the regiment finally formed up, they marched through West Chester for the final time. From West Chester they marched to Philadelphia. The regiment reached Philadelphia the same day. Marching 45 miles in one day is unheard of. Most armies could only march 20 miles a day. In Philadelphia they took a train to Baltimore. The 97th reached Baltimore on the 17th of November at 5:30am. There, the regiment bordered another train at 8:30am bound for Washington. The regiment reached Washington around 3:00pm. The next few days the regiment received it's first taste of army life. On November 20th 1861, the regiment marched to the Washington Arsenal. There, the regiment traded in there old smoothbore muskets for the brand new 1861 Springfield Rifles. The Springfield Rifles at the time were top of the line. On that same day Col. Guss received orders to go to Fort Monroe. On November 20th the 97th marched out of Washington to board a steamship. By the time the 97th reached the wharf, two steamers had already left. So companies B, E, G, H, I, K, and the band boarded the Georgia. Companies A, C, D, and E had to march 2 miles down stream to board the Louisiana. Both of the steamers arrived at Fort Monroe on the 22nd of November. Fort Monroe was a Federal fort at the time. It housed about 5,000 men at one time. When the boats arrived on the 22nd, they were told they were not allowed to land the boats. So the steamers went 1½ miles down the stream. When they landed the 97th marched through the town of Hampton and made camp outside of the town. The town of Hampton was burned to the ground by the Confederates when the regiment marched through it. At camp, the 97th placed pickets* around them. In the morning the pickets reported that they saw Confederate Calvary ride very close to them. But they did not approach them. On December the 8th 1861, Col. Guss was issued orders to report to the Department of the South Head Quarters and wait for further orders. On that day the men departed on steamers headed to Port Royal, South Carolina. When the regiment landed on the 15th of December they formed up and set up camp in an abandoned cotton field next to Fort Walker. Fort Walker was abandoned. The Confederates abandoned it because they only had 2,000 men in it. The Union had 12,000 men. The field that they were camped in was behind the fort. For the next few days the regiment flattened the ground so they could drill. Brigadier General Thomas Sherman was now in charge of the division the regiment was in. On December 31st 1861 the regiment was ordered to support the land and navel attack on January 1st 1862. The combined forces of the navy and infantry were to attack the enemy at Port Royal, South Carolina. The regiment was formed up at 12:00pm. On January 1st 1862. The attack went so well the regiment was not used at all. Later that month on the 21st , the regiment again boarded steamers to help the attack on Fort Pulaski. At the time, the fort had 5,000 men. When the steamships landed, the regiment found out it was 18 miles below the fort. The regiment helped build a road through the thick forest in order to place heavy siege mortars and cannon. The regiment stayed with the batteries of guns to protect them. At 8:15am on April 10th the guns fired upon Fort Pulaski. At 2:00pm to next day the Fort surrendered. On February 26th, the 97th left to help another navel and land attack. On the 26th of February the 97th boarded the Boston. The regiment was to help attack Fort McAllister. They were on the steamer for 2 days. The finally landed on March 1st. While they were there they took Fort Clinton because it was abandoned. Theat night the 97th was ordered to post pickets. When they came back in the morning they had found 2 batteries. They took the batteries and held them all night. These batteries help cover the retreat from Fort Clinton. While they were at camp the men received their first pay check. On Mach 24th the men were order to strike there tents because they were to go help support troops in Jacksonville. At the wharf near Fort Clinton, the 97th boarded the Cosmopolitan and took off for Jacksonville. When the regiment landed the set up camp in Jacksonville. While moving through Jacksonville the next day, troops uncovered a very large army of Confederates. The Confederates advance on the Union troops. The Confederates had about 14,000 men. That's when the 97th was told to retreat from Jacksonville. The were to go board ships and get out of the vicinity of Jacksonville. The Federal army was not up for a fight. Another factor was that it would take days in order to get reinforcements to the front lines. By that time the army could be crushed. On April 8th, the entire Union army was evacuated from Jacksonville. On April 10th, they landed and set up camp. Once again the 97th was ordered to board the U.S.S. Delaware to help support the attack on Charleston, South Carolina. The 97th boarded the Delaware on the 19th and landed on the 20th. The regiment set up camp 18 mile away from Charleston. Many people in the regiment caught Typhoid Fever. On June 2nd 1862 the regiment advanced on Charleston. That night the men set up camp near Legarville, South Carolina. At this camp the regiment had over 840 men in the ranks. That night the regiments pickets were charged at. The pickets pulled back. Heavy skirmishing took place for the rest of the night. In the morning the enemy was found in Secessionville and heavily entrenched. On June 10th and 11th the Union Army shelled the entire area. After the shelling the 79th New York lead the attack against the rebel breast works*. The first assault failed and fell back to a safe position. Then the 97th and 3rd New Hampshire lead another assault. The regiments took the first position in the breast works. While the regiments were in the works, a Confederate battery started shelling them. Col. Guss ordered the men to fire at the battery. So they did. But they could not drive them back. Then a Union battery opened fire on it. The union battery destroyed the Confederate one. The men than retreated from the works. They took all of there wounded and dead. The On June 10th the Rebels advanced in front of the 97th. The Rebs came within 10 feet of the regiment. But the men held out with minimal casualties. Then 2 more Rebel regiments approached the 97th but they held. The battle lasted for more then two hours. The next few days were filled with tense skirmishing. The regiment was then pulled out and sent back to Hilton Head. There the regiment rested. At this point in the regiment stayed inactive until April 3rd, 1863. Col. Guss at this point did not like to get his regiment into any major military operations. They stayed back from all of the fighting. Because of this they sat around in camp for nearly an entire year doing nothing. Things changed when they were assigned to help with the siege of Charleston.

(Part 3)

Keep Up Your Fire Boys!

        Finally, the regiment became active in April of 1863. They were to help with the siege of Charleston. So the regiment departed on the 3rd of April to the bay of Charleston. The steamers arrived on the 5th of April at 3:00 am. The ship laid anchor and waited for the rest of the forces to arrive. In the morning the ships were met by heavy fire from Fort Sumter, Fort Wagner, and many other batteries set around to help protect Charleston*. One transport ship landed, but it met heavy resistance. So they retreated back to the ship. The entire force retreated on the 8th. The siege failed and the army returned back to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Again on July 9th, the army boarded transports and headed towards Charleston. The Army consisted of about 45,000 men. The men would land all over the Charleston area. The bulk of the army would land near Charleston itself. The rest would land on an island called Morris Island. On the 11th of July the 7th Connecticut landed on the island. The forced the rebels to retreat from there rifle pits*. The 7th Connecticut tried to pursue them but the artillery from Fort Wagner stop them. Later that day, about 15,000 men landed