THE history of the regiment covers such a long period and the records from 1791 to 1815 are so cloudy and incomplete that it is not deemed practicable to give a detailed account of the events of that time. Besides, there is grave doubt as to whether we have the right to claim the record of the original Second Infantry, that regiment having been consolidated with the First Infantry in the reorganization of March 3, 1815. This sketch will, therefore, be divided into two parts, the first extending from 1791 to 1815, and the second from 1815 to the present date.
The Act of March 3, 1791, added to the army the Second Regiment of Infantry, with the same organization as the regiment then in service, viz.: a lieutenant colonel commandant, two majors, eight captains, eight lieutenants, eight ensigns, one surgeon, two surgeon's mates, and eight companies of about 100 men each. Colonel James Wilkinson of the Revolutionary Army, who afterwards became general-in-chief, accepted the position of colonel commandant.
In the fall of this year the regiment was ordered to take the field against the Miami Indians and proceeded to Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, arriving there the middle of September. About the end of October the army under Governor St. Clair commenced a campaign against Little Turtle, chief, of the Miamis. On the 4th of November, 1791, about 60 miles from Fort Washington, the Indians, 1500 strong, surprised the troops and put them to flight with great slaughter. The American army numbered 2000, and of these 38 officers and 555 men were killed or missing, and 21 officers and 224 men were wounded, many of whom died. It being impossible for the campaign to continue, the army returned to Fort Washington for the winter.
In May, 1792, the "Legion" became the military organization of the United States and the Second Infantry was called the Second Sub-legion. Under this title it formed a part of General Anthony Wayne's army till May, 1796, and in 1794 was with the command which defeated the Miami Indians so signally at the junction of the Au Glaize and Maumee rivers.
On the 1st of November, 1796, pursuant to the act of May 30 of that year, the Legion was discontinued and the Second Sub-legion became again the Second Regiment of Infantry. For nine years the regiment remained in the Northwest, and in 1805, under Colonel Thomas Butler, was stationed in the South with headquarters at New Orleans. In September, 1814, the regiment was made famous by the gallant defense of Fort Bowyer (now Fort Morgan), Alabama, against overwhelming odds of British and Indians.
*An abridgment of Lieut. W. M. Wright's History of 2d U. S. Infantry.
Major Lawrence, as brave a spirit as ever stood in his country's defense," was in command of the post and of 120 of the Second Infantry. He was brevetted for gallantry in this action, and Captains Chamberlain, Brownlow and Bradley, with Lieutenants Villard, Sturgis, Conway, H. Saunders, T. R. Saunders, Brooks, Davis and C. Saunders, were all mentioned by General Jackson in dispatches. Captain John M. Davis of the regiment was made a brevet major for gallantry at the siege of New Orleans.
The regiment went North in the spring of 1815 and was consolidated with the First Infantry by the Act of March 3d of that year, and here the chronicle of the original Second Infantry comes to an end.
A new Second Infantry was now formed in accordance with the Act quoted above, by the consolidation of the 6th, 16th, 22d, 23d, and 32d Regiments of Infantry, so it would appear that the date of organization of the present regiment would be that of the Sixth Infantry,—namely, April 3, 1808. On the regimental roster for 1815 we find Hugh Brady as colonel, and Henry Leavenworth and Ninian Pinkney as major and lieutenant-colonel respectively.
Colonel Brady entered the service as an ensign of infantry in 1792, was mustered out as captain in June, 1800, colonel 22d Infantry in July, 1812, transferred to the Second Infantry in May, 1815, and was from that time continuously in the service as colonel of the regiment until his death in 1851, at which time he had been a colonel for 39 years, and the colonel of the Second Infantry for 36 years.
Immediately after its organization the regiment was stationed at Sacketts Harbor and Plattsburg, N. Y., and remained, with the exception of a few company moves, at these stations until January; 1822, when the entire regiment was concentrated at Sacketts Harbor. In June, 1822, Colonel Brady, with regimental headquarters and Companies A, B, D, I and K, embarked at Buffalo on the steamboat Superior en route to Sault Ste. Marie, where they built a cantonment which was named after the colonel of the regiment which post is still known as Fort Brady. Late in the year regimental headquarters returned to Sacketts Harbor.
From this time until the outbreak of the Black Hawk War in, 1832, the record is almost uneventful. The regiment usually occupied two or more of the stations upon the Northern Frontier, —Forts Brady, Howard, Mackinac, Gratiot or Niagara; Madison Barracks, Detroit or Houlton (where a part of the regiment built Hancock Barracks), with frequent interchanges of stations among the companies.
In June, 1832, Companies A, B, D, G, H and I formed a part of the force destined for General Scott's command, then organizing at Chicago for the Black Hawk War, which had been going on for some time with a large balance of killed and wounded against the government. Asiatic cholera broke out while the troops were at Detroit and their sufferings were terrible. As soon as the epidemic had somewhat abated the command moved and in August was at Rock River, in what is now the State of Illinois.
In October, 1832, the battalion returned from the Black Hawk War, and
the companies were at first stationed at Forts Dearborn, Mackinac and Niagara, but in May, 1834, Companies A, B, G and I, were at Fort Brady; C, E, F and K, at Hancock Barracks; and D and H at Fort Gratiot.
In the spring of 1836 the Creek Indians commenced to show signs of hostility, which resulted in sending Companies F and K in May to Fort Mitchell, Ala., near the Creek Agency. As soon as they arrived Captain Dearborn with his command was ordered to escort a party of emigrating Creek Indians to their destination at Irvington, Ala., and in September, General Jesup ordered these two companies to proceed to Lounds County, Ga., for the protection of that and adjoining counties against the depredations of the Indians.
Companies A, D, G and H were sent to Tampa Bay, Fla., from their northern stations the next year, arriving September 21; and in September 1838, regimental headquarters and the four companies then at Hancock Barracks were also sent there. The entire regiment was now concentrated in Florida and all the companies were most actively engaged in this most arduous duty until the close of hostilities in the spring of 1842. It would be tedious to chronicle the different stations of the regiment, for it was on the move daily, fighting and building posts and roads. Some idea may be formed of the labors of the troops from the fact that over go forts and stockades, and 480 miles of road were built by the army in Florida.
In March, 1839, Captain Russell was proceeding in an open boat on the Miami River to Fort Dallas with a portion of his company (I), while the other part was marching by land, when his boat was fired upon by the Indians who were concealed on the shore. Not a man was touched by the first fire, and Captain Russell at once ordered the men to row for the shore and attack the enemy. Being in the bow of the boat he was the first to land and had given but a few brief orders when he was pierced by five Indian bullets, one of which passed through his brain killing him instantly. His subaltern, Lieutenant Woodruff, continued the fight and brought his captain's body to Fort Dallas. Captain Russell was a most popular and efficient officer, and his death was mourned by the entire army.
Lieutenant-Colonel Cummings, for many years in command of the regiment, was promoted to the 4th Infantry, December 1, 1839, and Major Bennett Riley, 4th Infantry, became lieutenant colonel of the Second. At the end of the year regimental headquarters were at Picolata under Major Loomis, and the regiment was scattered from one end of the territory to the other. Lieutenant-Colonel Riley assumed command of the regiment in April, 1840, and headquarters were moved to Fort No. 12.
In May, Lieutenant Martin, with three men of the regiment, en route from Wakahosta to Micanopy, was attacked by Indians, receiving three wounds. Two of his men were killed and the other brought the alarm to the post. Lieutenant Sanderson, 7th Infantry, started to the rescue but was ambushed and killed with five of his men.
In 1841 Lieutenants Anderson, McKinstry, and Davidson, led an expedition to the St. Johns. For two days and nights they crept towards the Indian camp, which contained 57 of Aluck's band. With a force of but 24 men they routed the Indians and, but for the treachery of their guide,
would have avenged in characters never to be effaced the monstrous cruelties practised upon the defenceless inhabitants of Florida. All of the above-named officers were mentioned in orders by Colonel Worth, commanding in Florida, and in dispatches to the Major General commanding the Army.
In March Lieutenant Alburtis was in command at Fort Russell, near Pilatka. His post was attacked and nearly captured by Halleck Tustenuggee, but Alburtis made a brilliant counter-attack and drove him off with heavy loss. The Second lost half a dozen men killed and wounded.
Early in 1842 the Seminole War began to show signs of coming to an end and the Second was engaged in keeping the enemy on the move and, in doing so had several fights, losing a few men. The troops engaged in this duty were under Major Plympton. On the 25th of January with 80 men of the regiment he gallantly encountered Halleck Tustenuggee on the head of the Hawk River, which runs into Druin's Lake east of St. Johns. A well contested fight ensued which lasted 45 minutes. The enemy retreated, leaving two warriors wounded on the field, one of whom died. One soldier was killed and two wounded. The evidence of blood on several trails leading from the battle ground was a guarantee that some of the Indians had suffered from bullet or buckshot.
In May of this year the regiment embarked on transports at Pilatka and reached New York early in June, en route to their old stations along the lakes. Headquarters, with Companies C, D, F and K, were stationed at Buffalo Barracks, now Fort Porter; A at Fort Niagara; B, E and I, at Madison Barracks; G at Fort Ontario, and H at Plattsburg.
There was no change until 1845, when headquarters and F went to Detroit Barracks, and C, D, E and K, were moved from their Lake Erie stations to Mackinac, Gratiot, Brady and Wilkins, respectively.
Texas was annexed in March, 1845, and in April of the next year diplomatic relations were broken off and war declared with Mexico. General Zachary Taylor, of Florida fame, fought and won the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in May, and in July was on his way to Monterey, at which point the gallant Second was ordered to join him. Major G. W. Allen and Lieutenant J. S. Woods, 2d Infantry, were in both these fights. Lieutenant Woods was afterwards killed at the battle of Monterey while serving with the 4th Infantry.
Headquarters, with Companies D, E, F and K, rendezvoused at Newport Barracks, Ky., August 12, 1846, and reached General Taylor's base of supplies at Camargo on the Rio Grande River, September 20.
Companies A, B, G, H and I, met at Fort Columbus, N. Y. Harbor, embarked September 2d, and reached Camargo October 13.
The entire regiment, except C Company which had been left at Mackinac for some unknown reason, was now concentrated at Camargo under Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett Riley, but arrived too late to take part in the gallant attack and capture of the city of Monterey.
The regiment joined Twiggs' Brigade at Montemorelos, December 17, which, with Patterson's Brigade, was about to start for Victoria as a corps of observation. They were recalled to Monterey on account of an expected
attack by Santa Anna at Saltillo, but this rumor proved unfounded, and on Christmas day, 1846, the regiment was again on the road to Victoria, arriving there after several skirmishes with the enemy along the road.
The regiment left Victoria January 14, 1847, and arrived at Tampico on the 25th, sailing for Lobos Island late in February. On March 2d the fleet of transports and vessels of war weighed anchor at Lobos Island and within a week the entire force landed, without the loss of a single man, on the beach of Sacrificios, a few miles south of Vera Cruz.
The investment of Vera Cruz began at once. Twiggs' Brigade occupied the extreme left of the American line. While it was moving into position, Lieutenant William Alburtis, a young officer of the regiment who served with great distinction during the Seminole War, was killed by a cannon ball from one of the Mexican batteries. Lieutenant D. Davidson was wounded at the same time. On the 13th of March the investment of the place was complete. This had not been accomplished except by the heaviest labor on the part of the troops. The Second Infantry, being on the extreme left, had to carry and haul all impedimenta and rations over the sand hills and through "intervening forests and chapperal" as no transportation had yet arrived from the depot at Brazos. Vera Cruz and the Castle of San Juan d'Ulloa surrendered March 28th, after a siege of 15 days. The troops rested until April 8, when, all preparations for a forward movement having been made the army commenced its march to the City of Mexico, the Second being in the leading division under Twiggs.
Santa Anna, with the remnants of his army which had been so thoroughly whipped by General Taylor at Buena Vista seven weeks before, was reported to be at Jalapa. After a most fatiguing march the regiment arrived at Plan del Rio on the 11th, where it encamped to await the arrival of the rear troops. The pass of Cerro Gordo was at the far end of the valley, and here Santa Anna had taken up a very strong position to oppose the further advance of the Americans. His line crossed the National Road, on which Scott must pass, some three or four miles from Plan del Rio.
On the 17th Twiggs' Division was ordered forward on the National Road, and after some heavy skirmishing captured a fortified hill called the Alataya. Lieutenant C. E. Jarvis, 2d Infantry, was wounded in this engagement and several men of the regiment killed and wounded. On the 18th Twiggs was ordered to move forward before daylight and take up his position across the National Road in the enemy's rear so as to to [sic] cut off a retreat to Jalapa. "After the artillery had been engaged some time, he ordered Riley's Brigade [Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett Riley, commanding brigade and Second Infantry] to move forward through the valley passing to the right of the Telegrafo Hill, turn to the left of the Mexican line and seize the Jalapa road in rear." (Wilcox, p. 287.)
During this movement the regiment advanced under heavy fire from the Telegrafo, and Captain G. W. Patten, 2d Infantry, was shot through the hand by a grape shot. The enemy appeared in force on the sides of the mountain along the base of which the brigade must pass, and opened an annoying fire on its left flank. Riley detached two companies of the Second, one under Captain J. W. Penrose and one under Lieutenant N. H. Davis.
who engaged the enemy in greatly superior numbers, obliging the brigade to form line to the left to assist them. Riley was soon in the enemy's left rear, and General Twiggs ordered the rest of his division to move forward from the crest of the Alataya and storm the position which was done in gallant style.
"General Twiggs' order to Harney to charge was well timed. Santa Anna had directed a part of his forces on the Telegrafo to oppose Riley, who (hard fighter that he was) met and drove them back just as Harney's men carried the works on the crest." (Wilcox, p. 289.) In this fight Lieutenant Nathaniel Lyon, 2d Infantry, with his company captured three guns. The Mexicans were defeated overwhelmingly all along the line, and Santa Anna and the Mexican army were not heard of again until Scott was within a few miles of Mexico.
On the 19th of April the regiment entered Jalapa, remaining until the end of May, when it set out for Puebla. The marching was delightful, the road level, the country sterile with slight exceptions and the air crisp. The troops remained at Puebla some time, awaiting reinforcements and supplies which the War Department seemed utterly unable to furnish. Company C joined the regiment July 7, 1847.
The army commenced its march from Puebla, August 7, and the Second was, as usual, with the advanced troops. They arrived and camped at Ayotla on the 11th remaining, there until the 16th. On the 19th they moved to St. Augustin and immediately advanced to attack the enemy under General Valencia who had drawn up his division for battle at Contreras.
In the two days' battle of that name they had the same duty assigned them as at Cerro Gordo, viz. —that of turning the enemy's position; but this time the position was turned and the work carried without the assistance of a frontal attack.
"The brigade moved on until the advanced regiment reached a ravine on the right of San Geronimo. * * * Riley now passed through the village and Captain Wessells' company was detached to cover a reconnoissance made by Captain Canby, A. A. G., and Lieutenant Tower in the direction of Valencia's camp. Further to the right, Captain Silas Casey's company engaged a body of lancers, supposed to be the Guanahuato Regiment, and repulsed them with a loss of both men and horses. Several of Casey's men were wounded. A Mexican cavalry force threatening Wessells, he attacked, drove it off, and was then ordered to hold his position and observe and report any movement of the enemy from his intrenchments." (Wilcox, p. 365.)
The Second was now some distance in advance of the rest of the brigade and in danger of being cut off, so the 7th Infantry was ordered up to its support. While they were coming up the enemy threatened a charge on the Second, but the regiment was thrown into square to receive it and nothing more than a demonstration was made. The regiment returned to San Geronimo where it remained during the night. Early on the morning of the 20th they moved out of the village. Riley's Brigade was in advance and led off by the flank. The night was so dark and the ground so difficult that it was not until near daylight that its rear cleared the village. At this time Riley's Brigade consisted of the 2d Infantry, 7th Infantry, and the 4th Artillery acting as infantry.
"The troops were moved to the attack in a deep ravine around the left and rear of the enemy. After moving several hundred yards to a slope leading to a high point of the ridge, they came up out of the ravine and found that the enemy had just discovered the movement and was turning his guns and disposing his infantry for resistance." (Ripley.)
The leading divisions of the brigade were deployed as skirmishers and the regiment soon became hotly engaged with the enemy who served two guns upon it with rapidity and received the shock with a noisy, rolling discharge of musketry. Their aim, however, was inaccurate and but little loss was sustained. The advance was not interrupted for an instant, for the troops, having delivered their fire, rushed down with loud shouts in a vigorous charge, and entered the intrenchments almost in a a [sic] body.
The mass of Mexicans yielding before Riley's vigorous charge, gave way and fled headlong down the road in the direction of San Angel. In this engagement Captain Wessells and Lieutenants Lovell, Tilden and Gardner were wounded, and several enlisted men were killed. "The battle of Contreras was fought and won a little after sunrise on the 20th of August, 1847." (Wilcox, p. 400.)
The pursuit was taken up immediately through the village of San Antonio and on to the village of Churubusco, where Santa Anna had taken up a strong position along the near bank of the stream.
"South of the stream, some hundred yards, lay the scattered houses of the village of Churubusco. One of the most westerly of these was a massive stone convent which had been prepared for defense. It was surrounded by a field work, having embrasures and platforms for many cannon, and was the right point of the Mexican line." (Ripley.)
Here for the second time, in this day of its greatest glory, the regiment stood gallantly to its work and did the heaviest fighting done by any troops that day. Under Captain Morris it attacked the right of the Mexicans on the west side of the convent, the 7th Infantry being ordered to its support. The regiment advanced through a cornfield, and as it passed out of this into an open space in front of the convent, a volley of musketry killed Lieutenant Thomas Easley, a company commander, and killed or wounded twelve men with him. Captain J. R. Smith, struggling forward under the severest fire, was twice badly wounded, and 14 men with him were struck down at the same time. The Mexicans, elated by the effects of their terrible fire, moved out of the convent for a counter-attack, but it was repulsed by the Second U. S. Infantry. An attempt was made to advance and carry the work, but it was not successful, and the battle raged with renewed fury.
Captain Thompson Morris, commanding the 2d Infantry, states (referring to the sorties of the Mexicans) that a column of several hundred passed out of the front gate of the convent and, under cover of the standing corn, advanced towards the left of his regiment, but was driven back; that a second effort was made and checked, and that subsequent sallies met the same fate. (Wilcox, p. 389.)
Finally the Mexican left was driven in, but still the convent held out and was not taken until the colors of the Second Infantry were planted in its rear. The battle of Churubusco was now won but the fighting had been very severe and the losses correspondingly heavy. Our regimental losses
were as follows:—Captain J. W. Anderson, killed; Captain J. R. Smith, twice wounded; Lieutenant Julius Hayden, severely wounded; Lieutenant Christopher Lovell, twice wounded; Lieutenant Thomas Easley, killed; Lieutenant W. M. Gardner, wounded the second time in one day; and Lieutenant T. W. Sweeney, severely wounded. Seventeen officers of the regiment were present on August 20th, and before sunset seven were either killed or hors de combat, and about forty men either killed or wounded at Churubusco alone.
The night of the 20th was spent in bivouac on the ground so dearly won, and on the 21st the regiment marched to Coyoacan, near the City of Mexico, where it remained during the armistice. It took post, September 7, in the Hacienda Nalvarte, on the extreme right of the American line, and remained in this position with the rest of the brigade, threatening the enemy's left during the fierce fight at Molino del Rey, but was ordered up in the afternoon to assist in the capture of the place, arriving too late to be of any assistance. The regiment advanced to Piedad on the 9th September.
A question now arose as to whether it would be most advantageous to cannonade and capture the Citadel of Chapultepec at the west of our line, or to operate on the line of the San Antonio gate on the east. The western or Chapultepec line having been chosen, the Second was left at Piedad to assist in the demonstration on the San Antonio gate. It remained in this position, skirmishing frequently with the enemy, until it entered the City of Mexico on the 14th of September, 1847.
Although the Second was not engaged at Chapultepec on the 13th, the storming party from General Quitman's position was largely composed of the regiment and was led by Captain Silas Casey, 2d Infantry.
"A detail from Twiggs' Division consisting of 250 men and 13 officers, Captain Silas Casey, 2d Infantry, commanding, was ordered to report to General Quitman early on the morning of the 13th as the storming party of the right of the line."
At 8 o'clock A. M. on the 13th, Lieutenant C. M. Wilcox was ordered by General Quitman to go at once to Captain Casey and give the order to advance.
"On reaching the storming party the order was given to Captain Casey who formed his line in a few seconds and gave the order 'forward.' They moved down the road towards Chapultepec at a double-quick, and for 600 yards were exposed to a raking fire from the Castle, but were partially concealed from view and protected from the fire of the batteries near the road by several adobe houses to the left of it, and by rows of maguey growing along the edge of the ditch. Beyond the houses showers of grape came from the guns of the batteries on the left of the road, passing among and over the men, causing a few casualties, and the hostile musketry opened, knocking over a few men. * * * Two hundred yards beyond the adobe houses the road made a slight bend to the left; 200 yards beyond this were the two Mexican batteries; and in advance of the bend a short distance was a ditch, eight or ten feet deep and nine or twelve feet wide. Here the stormers were brought to a halt, as the ditch could not be passed." (Wilcox, pp. 459-60.)
"But the troops held their ground and pressed on, until, finally, the castle above having been taken, they entered the Mexican barricade with a portion of the Rifle Regiment." (Ripley.)
Captain Casey and Lieutenants Lyon and Steele were wounded in this action. After the march into the City of Mexico on the 14th, the regiment was engaged most of the day in street fighting.
The war was now over but the regiment remained in the City until the 17th of December, on which day it marched to Tacubaya and went into camp until March 27, 1848, when it left for home, reaching Fort Hamilton, N. Y. Harbor, in September. Three months later the entire regiment was on board transports bound for California via Rio Janeiro, Cape Horn and Valparaiso.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett Riley, 2d Infantry, was promoted colonel of the First Infantry in January, 1850. He was a most gallant officer and commanded the Second throughout the Seminole and Mexican wars. In 1843 he presented the regiment with a drum-major's baton. On the silver knob is engraved the date of presentation with his name and the regimental motto "Noli me tangere." This baton has been carried ever since at the head of the regiment and is the most valuable regimental relic we have. Colonel Riley was brevetted colonel for Chakotta, Florida; brigadier general for Cerro Gordo, and major general for Contreras. He died in 1853.
The regiment remained in California until late in 1853, occupying stations from Goose Lake, Oregon, on the north, to Yuma, Arizona, on the south, and scouting over the entire country as far as the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas. The companies were stationed but a few months in any one place and all their moves were made by marching, with the exception of a few trips on transports up and down the coast. After the return of the regiment to New York it moved west to Carlisle Barracks and thence down the Ohio and up the Missouri to Fort Leavenworth, where it arrived in June and July, 1854.
For the next six years, or until the commencement of the war, the companies were stationed along the Missouri River and as far west as Forts Kearny and Laramie. Among the posts occupied were Ridgeley, Pierre, Abercrombie, Randall and Miller.
In 1851 Colonel Brady was succeeded by Colonel E. A. Hitchcock, who resigned in 1855 and Colonel Francis Lee took command of the regiment. Colonel Lee died in January, 1859, and was in turn succeeded by Colonel D. S. Miles, who was killed at Harper's Ferry.
In January, 1861, the regiment was stationed as follows: Headquarters and Companies E and F at Fort Kearny; A, D and I, at Fort Abercrombie; C and K at Fort Ripley; G and H at Fort Riley; and B at Fort Scott. In February, Company B (Captain Lyon) was transferred to St. Louis Arsenal. It was engaged (June 17) in the action fought at Booneville, Mo.
Headquarters and Companies C and K reached Washington from the west in July and were engaged at the battle of Bull Run, July 21, but suffered small loss. These companies were with Major Sykes' regulars, who, "aided by Sherman's Brigade, made a steady and handsome withdrawal, protecting the rear of the routed forces and enabling many to escape by the Stone Bridge." Companies A, D and I, joined regimental headquarters at Georgetown in August.
During July, Companies B and E were in the field in Missouri, and on
August 2d were engaged with the enemy at Dry Springs, Mo. In this fight Company E was commanded by 1st Sergeant G. H. McLoughlin, and B by 1st Sergeant Griffin. Captain Steele, 2d Infantry, was in command and makes the following statement in his report:
"About 5 o'clock P. m., Sergeant McLoughlin's line of skirmishers was attacked on the left and front by a large body of cavalry, some 200 or more of whom were on foot and about the same number mounted. Sergeant McLoughlin gallantly repulsed the first attack but was soon overwhelmed with numbers and obliged to retreat upon the reserve, and all fell back into the road, where I came to their support with the other two companies of my battalion. (W. R., Vol. III., page 49.)
One man of E Company was wounded. The rebels were finally routed with heavy loss. In this action B Company was in support of the volunteer troops.
At the battle of Wilson's Creek, where 3700 men attacked 23,000 Confederates after a fatiguing night march, and fought them successfully over six hours, the same companies of the Second played their usual role of brave and unflinching devotion to duty and the cause.
The action commenced at daylight on the 10th August, 1861, General Lyon commanding the Union forces, with the battalion of the Second, a battery, and some volunteers in reserve. Early in this engagement, while General Lyon was leading his horse along the line in rear of Captain Totten's battery and endeavoring to rally our troops, which were at this time in considerable disorder, his horse was killed and he received a wound in the leg and one in the head. The General mounted another horse, and swinging his hat in the air, called to the troops nearest him to follow, but in a short time a fatal ball lodged in his breast and he was carried from the field a corpse. Thus gloriously fell as brave a soldier as ever drew sword, a man whose honesty of purpose was proverbial, a noble patriot, and one who held his life as nothing when his country demanded it of him.
The Union forces were now all but beaten, but just at this time the enemy was observed to be about to renew his efforts, and at once commenced along the entire line the fiercest and most bloody engagement of the day. Not the slightest disposition to give way was manifested at any point. Captain Steele's battalion was some yards in front of the line and in imminent danger of being overwhelmed with superior numbers, the contending lines being almost muzzle to muzzle.
The volunteers rallied, and attacking the enemy's right flank poured in a murderous fire. From this time a perfect rout took place throughout the rebel front, and it was evident that Totten's battery and Steele's little battalion were safe.*
At 11.30 A. M. the Union forces withdrew unmolested to Springfield, about 12 miles distant. In this action the regiment lost Captain Nathaniel Lyon, killed, and 39 killed or wounded of the 98 men present for duty that morning.
In December Companies B and E were sent to Washington where the regiment (except Company H, at Fort Larned, Kansas) was concentrated under the command of Captain A. Sully. It remained there on provost
* See report of Major S. D. Sturgis, W. R., Vol. I, page 64, et seq.
duty until it moved to Fortress Monroe in March, 1862, with Sykes' Brigade of regulars at the opening of the Peninsular Campaign. From the time of its arrival at Fortress Monroe to June 27th, the regiment moved up the Peninsula to the Chickahominy, skirmishing with the enemy and in reserve during the heavier engagements.
The following are extracts from an account of the regiment at Gaines' Mill, written by Major F. E. Lacey who was the first sergeant of Company I in this the first heavy fight of the regiment in the Civil War.
Bright and early on the morning of the 26th camp was broken, everything packed up, and we moved to Mechanicsville to support McCall's Pennsylvanians who were at that point. Early on the morning of the 27th our line is formed in a sunken road near the old mill which gives the battle its Union name. A grave, a fatal blunder is here made. All the entrenching tools are sent to the rear. We are here between three and four hours before the action commences,—ample time to construct works which would have cost the enemy dearly to approach. About 11 o'clock A. M., the Confederate skirmishers come slowly and cautiously into view, followed by artillery. During this time the infantry is taking position in a strip of timber immediately in our front. The first gun is fired by the rebels; a little later a shot from the enemy kills four of our men. A shell from one of our guns blows up a caisson in a Confederate battery just opposite to us. The artillery duel lasts about half an hour. Soon after it ends the enemy's infantry comes out of the woods to attack us. As they are forming line the Second opens fire on them and sends them reeling to the timber. A fresh regiment takes its place and meets the same fate. Two musicians of I Company—mere boys—go out under a heavy fire and bring in some wounded men. Their names are Robert Nelson and Bartly Scanlan. A body of Confederates now comes out of the timber; the Second springs at them with cold steel and drives them back to the woods.
Here Brinley was killed and Jordan severely wounded—shot through the knee—two gallant officers, a great loss to the regiment. The intrepid bearer of the National colors, —Sergeant Thomas Madigan of A Company, a veteran of the Mexican War, —received a wound from which he died a few days later. The brave old fellow had participated in every battle in which the regiment was engaged in the war with Mexico. The next to take his place, —Corporal Konsmiller, a fine young German, —was shot through the head and killed.
We are now in a critical position, fighting in open ground, the foe in the woods. The enemy repeatedly tries to break our line, but fails; the old Second never wavers but stands like an iron wall. The left wing of the corps having been driven back a considerable distance, we fall back and form in an old peach orchard. This position is held until nearly sunset. Resistance now seems to be in vain, our ranks are fearfully thinned, so we fall back in line of battle with colors flying. We soon Come to a bunch of timber and are halted; the left wing does not hear the command and continues its march through the woods. The reason for the halt is explained. A crippled battery is left behind us, the enemy is near at hand, the right wing is asked to save the battery and responds with a hearty cheer, and at the same time dashes to the front led by Lieutenant Parker, 2d Infantry, one of General Sykes' aides. The battery is passed, the wing halts within thirty yards of the advancing enemy, opens fire and brings them to a stand. Lieutenant Drum greatly distinguishes himself. Now the fearless Parker receives a volley: he sways in his saddle and falls from his horse dead. The guns are saved; but at what a cost! We lose more men in this last charge than at any time during the day. The remnant falls back and at dark is
united with the left wing and the battle of Gaines' Mill, after eight hours of hard fighting, is ended.
We kept the enemy in check five hours against overwhelming odds, losing 138 men in killed, wounded and missing. The strength of the battalion going into action was 446 aggregate.
Sergeant Lacey was severely wounded in this fight and became an officer about a month later.
In the change of base to Harrison's Landing the regiment formed a portion of the rear guard and took part in the action at Malvern Hill, suffering no loss. It was in camp at Harrison's Landing until August 14 when it left to join Pope's army in front of Washington, arriving in time to take an important part in the second battle of Bull Run.
The regiment left its camp on the Gainesville road early on the morning of August 30, and moved in the direction of Bull Run Creek, and was formed in line of battle on the left bank of the creek between 8 and 9 o'clock A. M., remaining in that position until about 3.30 P. M., when orders were received to fall back and take position on the right bank of the creek in the timber, near the crest of the ridge. It remained here some fifteen or twenty minutes before the enemy opened his fire, which was intensely severe and continued so for about three-quarters of an hour, when it was ordered to fall back to the timber across the road. Both officers and men conducted themselves, without a single exception, in the coolest and most determined manner, although casualties were very numerous. (W. R., Vol. XI I, Part 2, page 499.)
In this engagement Lieutenant Wm. Kidd was killed and Lieutenants Ellinwood and Markley wounded. 71 men were killed, wounded or missing.
The regiment left camp at Centerville September 2, and marched to Antietam Creek, near the village of Sharpsburg, Md., where it arrived September 15 and went into position, remaining there two days exposed Lo the enemy's artillery and sharpshooters. On the 17th it crossed the creek and went into action in support of Tidball's battery which was hard pressed by the enemy. Lieutenant J. S. Poland, who was in command of the regiment in this fight, makes the following statement in his report:
"Lieutenant McKee, commanding Companies I and A, 2d Infantry, while deploying to the front was severely wounded and compelled to leave the field. The command of these companies devolved upon 1st Sergeant F. E. Lacey, commanding Company I, 2d Infantry, who handled them well. In advancing to the fence at which our line was to rest, the skirmishers were obliged to pass over a ridge completely commanded by the enemy's sharpshooters and battery posted to the left of the cornfield in front of the right of my line. When we appeared above the crest the enemy opened with a heavy fire of case shot and canister. The line did not waver but rapidly moved to the fence. The right advanced beyond, however, before I could convey the order to them to halt at the fence, and by a well directed fire compelled the enemy's cannoneers to leave their guns. * * * Lieutenant McLoughlin and Sergeant Lacey commanded the companies on the right. Sergeant Lacey was soon after wounded and unwillingly compelled to leave the field. Our position was held until all the ammunition had been expended on the left and nearly all on the right."
In a very short time the regiment was relieved by the 17th Michigan and the 1st Battalion of the 14th U. S. Infantry.
The regiment camped on the battle-field, and on the 29th crossed the Potomac at the ford below Shepherdstown, W. Va., in pursuit of the enemy, and moved about a mile beyond the river where they were discovered in force. The regiment skirmished all day, but had no casualties and recrossed the river that night. In this fight 1st Sergeant Daniel W. Burke, of B Company, distinguished himself by returning and spiking a piece of artillery in the face of the enemy's sharpshooters.
The colonel of the regiment, Dixon S. Miles, was mortally wounded by a piece of shell at Harper's Ferry during September and died shortly afterwards. Sidney Burbank succeeded him as colonel of the Second.
The regiment camped at Sharpsburg, obtaining a much needed rest and reequipment, until October 28, when it started for Fredericksburg, Va, arriving there about a month later.
At 2.15 P.m., on the 13th of December, 1862, the regiment left its bivouac near Falmouth and formed under cover of the Phillips house and close to the ponton bridge. It crossed the river shortly after and went into position on the left of the road on the south side of the village.
"At 5 P. M., the battalion was ordered to move to the crest of the hill, 100 yards in advance of its former position, to protect the withdrawal of a battery. During this forward movement the battery was withdrawn and the battalion halted in rear of a ditch, the banks of which afforded good cover."
At 10 P. M., they advanced to within about 80 yards of the stone wall occupied by the enemy.
"On the morning of the 14th the enemy opened a murderous fire, driving in our pickets. The battalion was ordered to lie down behind a slight elevation of ground (about one foot), giving some protection, where it was obliged to remain until dark, under a terrific fire, the plane of which passed not more than a foot over the ground on which they lay."
"To move even was sure to draw the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, who were posted in the adjacent houses and in tree tops, and whose fire we were unable to return. Thus the troops remained twelve long hours unable to eat, drink or attend to the calls of nature, for so relentless was the enemy that not even a wounded man or our stretcher-carriers were exempted from their fire."
"Never did discipline shine more resplendently, never was the reputation of a regiment more nobly, more incontrovertably confirmed than that of the Second: never could a battalion more signally gain the title of brave and excellent soldiers than on that ever-to-be-remembered Sabbath of December 14, 1862." (W. R., Vol. XXI, pages 426-27.)
The regiment remained in Fredericksburg until the morning of the 16th, when it returned to its old camp near Potomac Creek. Sixteen men were wounded in this battle and three missing.
The regiment spent the winter of 1862-63 in its camp at Falmouth, and no movement of consequence was made until late in April when the Chancellorsville campaign commenced. The following are extracts from an account written by Patrick Breen, who was a corporal in the color guard of the regiment during this battle, and afterwards 1st sergeant of C Company and Ordnance sergeant, U. S. A. He is now retired and living at Vincennes, Ind.
On May 1st, advancing in open country in line of battle, Captain Salem S. Marsh
commanding, the regiment halted on the right of the Sixth Infantry in the centre of a field. It was on the right of the entire 5th Corps. Not more than five minutes had elapsed after halting in line before a volley of musketry was poured into our ranks by the unseen enemy, who had been hidden from view by the heavy timber not more than 200 yards in our front. After the first fire was delivered by the enemy we commenced to peg away at the rebels in the timber. In a few minutes the regiment, with the brigade, fell back about 25 yards and opened again on the enemy. The fire of the regiment had a telling effect on the rebels as they could be seen limping off the field every minute. The regiment remained in its new position but a short time when it was discovered that the rebels were moving around our flank. Captain Marsh, ever on the alert, was quick to discover the intentions of the enemy and immediately thwarted the move by changing front to the half-right, at the same time maintaining his position in line with the brigade. Shortly after this a rebel bullet struck him in the forehead, killing him instantly. The command now devolved on Captain S. A. McKee. During the short time that Captain Marsh was in command of the regiment, he endeared himself to the very hearts of his men by his bearing as a soldier and an officer, and his gentlemanly manner at all times, no matter what the occasion.
After we attained the timber to the right of the turnpike and were supported by Hancock's Division, the rebels gradually advanced, very cautiously, and we did not open fire on them until within short range, and then with such effect that they very soon retired from the contest, leaving their dead and badly wounded in our hands. Thus ended the day for the Second Infantry at the battle of Chancellorsville. We laid all the next day behind improvised breast works, rudely thrown up with whatever implements were at hand at the time; even the bayonet was brought into use in this entrenching business. The regiment remained in the entrenchments until the evening of the 3d, and the retreat of the army having commenced that evening in a drenching rain, the morning of the 4th found the 2d Division, 5th Corps, the last troops crossing the river, covering the retreat of the Army of the Potomac, and the 2d Infantry was with it.
Company H from Fort Larned, Kansas, joined the regiment at Benson's Mills, Va., June 13, 1863.
The regiment left Frederick June 29, and made long, rapid and fatiguing marches to the field of Gettysburg, where it arrived about 8 A. M. July 2, and went into position on the right of the 5th Corps. Twenty men of the regiment were thrown forward as skirmishers into a body of woods, beyond which and to the right could be seen the enemy's pickets. After a skirmish of nearly two hours, during which there was considerable firing and some casualties, the line was marched by a flank movement to the left and rear about two miles, where it rested until about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, at which time it moved in the direction of the heavy cannonading on the extreme left of the Union line of battle. As it advanced the rapidity of the firing increased and staff officers rode up rapidly to hurry the command to the front, which was done at a double-time. As soon as the brigade reached the vicinity of Round Top, it formed line to the right, with the 2d Infantry on the right of the line, and advanced at a double-quick down a steep hill and across a marsh fifty yards wide and ankle deep with mire. During this movement the regiment suffered from a severe fire of sharpshooters from the right, left, and front. The marsh being passed, the Second moved rapidly forward and drove a body of the enemy's sharpshooters from
a rocky and exposed elevation, pursuing them into the woods beyond. Here it halted and took shelter behind a low stone wall and remained inactive while column after column of Union infantry moved across and perpendicular to its front. After these troops had passed, the regiment was ordered forward beyond the wall with instructions to wheel to the left in a rye field. The wheel was about half completed when the enemy was observed to be moving rapidly to outflank the right, so the Second halted and opened a rapid and continuous fire, which was sharply returned.
Major A. T. Lee, 2d Infantry, commanding the regiment, was wounded at this time, but gallantly retained command until the loss of blood compelled him to retire just at the close of the battle, Captain McKee succeeding him. The enemy continued to grow stronger on the right flank and the regiment was ordered to retire. The word was scarcely given when three lines of the enemy, elevated one above another on a slope to the right, poured in a most destructive fire, almost decimating the regiment and cutting off the color staff, causing the colors to fall into the hands of the color bearer. Under a most withering fire from the sharpshooters on the left and a column of the enemy's infantry on the right and rear, overwhelmed with a perfect storm of shot and shell, the regiment fell back slowly, recrossed the stone wall, the rocky elevation and the marsh in as good order as the formation of the ground would admit, and returned to its original position on the crest of the hill.
On June 30 the returns show 13 officers and 224 men present for duty. The regiment was only engaged from about 5.30 P. M. until about dark, and in this short time lost Lieutenant Goodrich and seven men killed, and Major Lee and Lieutenants McLoughlin, Burke and Lacey, with 53 men, wounded. On the third and last day of Gettysburg the regiment was in reserve, and although held in readiness was not engaged again during the battle.
The regiment left the battle-field July 5, and having taken part in a reconnoissance near Manassas July 23, reached Warrenton on the 29th, having marched 320 miles since the 1st of June.
In August and September the regiment went to New York for the draft riots, and after the return to Virginia in September took part in the Mine Run campaign, but without coming into contact with the enemy.
The end of the year 1863 found the regiment encamped at Catlett's Station, Va. The only event worthy of note which occurred during the next three months was the death of Captain McKee of the regiment, who was killed by guerrillas while riding from one camp to another.
In the reorganization incident to the coming of General Grant in the spring of 1864, the Second was placed in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps. It set, out from Rappahannock Station for the Wilderness campaign at sunrise on May 1st, and encamped that night at Brandy Station. Crossing the Rapidan at Germannia Ford at noon on the following day, the regiment found itself on the road leading to Mine Run and was ordered forward to attack, driving the enemy some distance back on the pike. It was severely engaged all the afternoon and returned that night to its original position. Early on the morning of the next day it was placed on picket
and remained on that duty until two o'clock on the morning of the 8th, when it rejoined the rest of the brigade at Laurel Hill and was engaged there all day.
From this time until the end or the month it was one continuous round of marching, fighting, picket duty, and entrenchment building. On the 1st of May there were 10 officers and 181 men present for duty, and during this campaign the loss out of this small number was five officers wounded and 45 men killed, wounded and missing.
June 1, 1864, the day before the battle of Cold Harbor, the Second Infantry practically ended its career in the Civil War. The commissioned and enlisted strength had reached such a low figure—less than 100 men—that in accordance with the request of the regimental commander the remaining enlisted men were transferred to C Company, and that company was given a full complement of officers, non-commissioned officers and men. After the battle of Cold Harbor,—where this company lost 8 men killed and wounded, and two officers and 19 men captured,—it went on duty as provost guard of the 2d Division, 5th Corps.
Regimental headquarters were established at Newport Barracks, Ky., late in June, and immediate steps were taken to recruit the regiment. In December, 1864, its total enlisted strength was 405. At this time Headquarters and Companies A, B, , E, G, I and K, were at Newport Barracks Ky.; C at Elmira, N. Y.; F at Sandusky, Ohio; and H at Trenton, N. J.
In the fall of 1865 the entire regiment (except H Company, at Jeffersonville, Ind.) was concentrated at Crittenden Barracks. In spite of the extraordinary efforts to bring the regiment up to a proper numerical strength it still lacked 314 men in January, 1866, but in July several detachments came out from Fort Columbus, so that at the end of the month only 13 men were required.
The regiment remained in Kentucky, with the exception that a few companies were temporarily stationed in West Virginia, until April, 1869, when it moved south to Georgia.
In accordance with the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1869, the consolidation of the Second Infantry with the Sixteenth took place at Atlanta, Ga., in April and May of that year. By this consolidation Colonel Burbank was succeeded by Colonel S. W. Crawford. Two days after the consolidation the regiment left Atlanta and took station as follows: Headquarters and Companies B, D and I at Huntsville, Ala.; A, F and K at Mobile, Ala.; C, and E at Montgomery, Ala.; and G and H at Atlanta.
Headquarters were moved from Huntsville to Mobile in January, 1872. In February, 1872, Colonel Crawford retired, promoting Colonel Wallen. During the same year regimental headquarters left Mobile on account of the prevalence of yellow fever and took station at Mount Vernon Barracks until December when they were transferred to McPherson Barracks. While at this station Colonel Wallen was retired and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Woods, 5th Infantry, was promoted to the Second, only to be retired eight months later. He was succeeded in December, 1874, by Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Wheaton, 21st Infantry, who joined the regiment at Atlanta and remained constantly in command until April 25, 1892, when he
was appointed a brigadier general and took command of the Department of Texas.
In October, 1876, several companies were ordered to various points in the South during the excitement attending the presidential election of that year. This delicate duty having been satisfactorily performed the companies returned to their proper stations and for the first time since the Civil War the entire regiment was together at Atlanta in April, 1877. In February of this year Lieutenant McIntyre was brutally murdered in Gelnier County, Ga., while on duty with and guarding two U. S. deputy marshals and revenue officers engaged in arresting illicit distillers. The party, consisting of Lieutenant McIntyre, one corporal and two deputies, were in the house of one Jones, seated and talking quietly, when an armed mob of 25 or 30 supposed illicit distillers surrounded the house, burst open the front door, and with insults and imprecations commenced a rapid discharge of fire-arms at the four men and several women and children in the room. After a desperate fight of five or more minutes, Lieutenant McIntyre fell dead at the front door, shot through the heart. He was much beloved in the regiment and had served continuously and creditably in the field during the war. The regiment had now been in the South since leaving the field at Cold Harbor in June, 1864. During this time the companies had been constantly moving from point to point, sometimes by rail or boat and again by marching. Their duty was most arduous and disagreeable, acting as posses for U. S. marshals, enforcing the election laws and the laws attendant on the reconstruction, breaking up illicit distilleries, etc., etc. The following were some of their stations: —Guyandotte, W. Va., Jacksonville, Ala., Summerville, Ga., Columbia, S. C., Tuscaloosa, Spartanburg, Chattanooga, Asheville, Tallahassee, St. Augustine and Aiken.
The Nez Perces Indians were on the warpath in the spring and summer of 1877, and the regiment was ordered to Idaho and Washington Territory to take part in the campaign. It left Atlanta July 13, and proceeded by rail and boat to Lewiston, Idaho, where it arrived after a journey of 16 days. Soon after arriving, the regiment marched to Spokane Falls to head off the Indians who were reported as moving in that direction. The troops were on the move all that summer and fall, but in December had settled down for the winter at the following stations :-Headquarters and Companies A, B, D, F and G, at Fort Lapwai, I. T.; E at Fort Colville, W. T.; C and K at Mount Idaho; and H and I at Spokane Falls, W. T.
In March and April, 1878, Companies A, G, H and L Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. Merriam commanding, established Camp Coeur d'Alene, I. T., at the source of the Spokane River on Coeur d'Alene Lake, and soon after commenced the construction of the most beautifully situated post in the country—Fort Sherman.
In the spring of this year the Bannock Indians left their reservation, and a portion of the regiment was out until late in the fall and aided materially in bringing them to terms. Company C did harder work in this campaign than any other organization in the regiment, marching over 1630 miles. The following June saw this company in the field again. This time they were after a marauding band of Indians known as the "Sheep-eaters."
While passing through a deep cañon near Big Creek, I. T., on July 27, they were ambushed and had two men wounded. Two days later they struck the Indians again and had a slight skirmish but no casualties, and or. August 29 they lost one man killed in action near the same place.
Regimental Headquarters moved from Fort Lapwai to Fort Coeur d'Alene in August, and Companies D, E and F, marched to Lake Chelan, W. T., and established the camp since immortalized by the regimental ballad, "When Camp Chelan was new."
January, 1880, found the regiment stationed as follows :—Headquarters and Companies A, B and G, at Fort Coeur d'Alene, I. T.; C and H at Fort Colville, W. T.; D, E and I, at Camp Chelan, W. T.; F at Fort Harney, Ore., and K at Camp Howard, I. T.
In October the companies at Chelan, including Company F, which arrived there in August, moved to the junction of the Spokane and Columbia rivers and commenced the construction of the post now known as Fort Spokane.
During the remainder of the regiment's sojourn in the Northwest, little of note occurred to break the monotony of frontier garrison life. Boisé Barracks, I. T., Fort Klamath, Ore., and Fort Townsend, W. T., were garrisoned by companies of the regiment before they came East in 1886 to Fort Omaha, Neb., where they are stationed at the present date (March, 1895).
The regiment was engaged in the Sioux Campaign of 1890-91 at Pine Ridge, and was under fire at the defense of the agency at that place. The present colonel, John C. Bates, was promoted to the regiment from the 20th Infantry in April, 1892, when General Wheaton was promoted brigadier general.