Field & Staff
Organized at Harrisburg August, 1862. Left State for Washington, D.C., August 15, and duty there until September 12. Moved to Sharpsburg, Md., and attached to 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac. Duty at Sharpsburg, Md., until October 30, 1862. Reconnaissance from Sharpsburg to Smithfield, W. Va., October 16-17. Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 19. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15. Burnside's 2nd Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863. Duty at Falmouth until April 27. Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5. Mustered out May 20, 1865.
Regiment lost during service 1 Officer and 30 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 34 Enlisted men by disease. Total 65.
Two companies, F and I, of this regiment, were recruited in Juniata county. The remaining, with the exception of about half of company B, from Fulton, were exclusively from Franklin county. They were recruited in about three weeks' time, and rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, between the 6th and 10th of August, 1862, when a regimental organization was effected, with the following field officers:Many of the officers and men had served in the Second Regiment, for three months' service. On the 15th, the regiment proceeded to Washington, and crossing the Potomac, encamped for a week at Fort Albany, when it moved to the neighborhood of Cloud's Mills, and was there assigned to a brigade commanded by General E. B. Tyler. Drill and discipline was at once commenced, and studiously followed.
- James G. Elder, Colonel
- D. WVatson Rowe, Lieutenant Colonel
- James C. Austin, Major
On the 31st, six companies under Lieutenant Colonel Rowe, were ordered to proceed with a section of artillery to the Bull Run Bridge, on the Centreville Road. But before the detachment had moved, the disasters of the army and its retreat across that stream were known, and the order was countermanded. On the same day, companies A and B were detailed as guard to an ammunition train on its way to the front, and company K was sent to Fairfax Station to care for the wounded there collected.
Until the 12th of September the regiment remained at the fortifications in front of Washington.2 The division then crossed to Meridian Hill, and on the 14th, commenced the march towards Antietam, arriving on the 16th on the Monocacy, where Tyler's Brigade lay until the afternoon of the 17th, a large body of paroled Union prisoners, surrendered by Miles at Harper's Ferry passing by in the meantime. At three P. M., the march for the battlefield was resumed, and upon its arrival on the following morning, received twenty additional rounds of ammunition, and took position in reserve with the rest of Porter's Corps. But the fighting had now ended, and as the enemy withdrew, the brigade advanced to the river bank, and finally went into camp near Sharpsburg. The regiment was now near home, and received many visits from neighbors and friends of the men, who came bearing provisions and delicacies. The State colors were presented here, and the division was reviewed by President Lincoln. With the exception of a reconnaissance made by Humphreys' Division, with cavalry and artillery into Virginia, as far as Leestown, in which little resistance was encountered, there was little to mar the monotony of camp life while the regiment remained in Maryland. The visit of ladies of Waynesburg, and the presentation to company E of a beautiful banner, formed a most pleasing incident.
With the army the regiment moved to Warrenton, and subsequently to the neighborhood of Falmouth. At four o'clock on the morning of the 11th of December, it moved from camp for its initial battle. For two days it was held in suspense, the music of bands and the heavy booming of Burnside's cannon filling the air.
On the 13th the brigade crossed the Rappahannock, on the upper bridge, and passing up through the town, was led at half-past three out on the Telegraph Road to a low meadow on the right, where it was exposed to a heavy fire, of artillery, without shelter and without the ability to offer the least resistance. The only alternative was to stand in silence, and await swift destruction. After a little delay it was ordered to the left of the road, under cover of a hill. The road was swept by the enemy's shells, and the bullets of his sharp-shooters, and here Lieutenant Harry C. Fortescue was instantly killed. Three fruitless attempts had already been made to carry the frowning heights above, and now Humphreys' Division was ordered up for a final charge, for Burnside had said: "That crest must be carried to-night."
Forming his brigade in two lines, the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth on the right of the second line, with orders to the men not to fire, but rely solely upon the bayonet, Tyler sounded the charge. Forward went that devoted brigade, uttering heroic cheers, ascending the hill in well ordered lines, and on past the brick house on Marye's Hill, over the prostrate lines of the last charging column, and up within a moment's dash of the stone-wall where the enemy lay. But now that fatal wall was one sheet of flame, and to add to the horror of the situation, the troops in the rear opened, every flash in the twilight visible. Bewildered, and for a moment irresolute, the troops commenced firing.
This was fatal. The momentum of tile charge was lost, and staggering back to the cover of the house, and descending the declivity, re-formed at the foot of the hill. At the head of his men, heroically urging them on at the farthest point in the charge, Colonel Elder fell, severely wounded. The loss in that brief charge was twenty-seven killed, fifty wounded, and three missing. Captains John Doebler, John P. Wharton, and John H. Walker, and Lieutenants James Pott, Josiah W. Fletcher, and William H. Mackey were among the wounded.
" It will be impossible for me," says General Tyler in his official report, "' to mention the many acts of heroism on that bloody field; but it is due to the officers and men to state that they performed their duties well, and they need no higher encomium than to know that their conduct on the field was highly complimented by their Division and Grand Division commanders."
" No prettier sight was ever seen," said Hooker, as he turned to leave the field after the failure of the assault, "than the charge of that division."
At nine o'clock the brigade returned to town, but at three on the following morning was again led to the scene of the evening's charge. Everything was now quiet. Lieutenant Walker with a detail was sent out and diligently searched the field for the wounded. In the morning the brigade was relieved and again returned. Toward midnight of the 15th, the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth was sent out beyond the town, on the advanced picket line, the army, in the meantime, rapidly re-crossing the stream. Towards daylight, a company of the Ninety-first and a body of Berdan's sharp-shooters were sent to its aid, and with these acting as skirmishers on flank and rear, it moved in the morning light, the last of the army over.
With an experience of suffering and hardship similar to that of the whole army beside, it participated in the Mud March, and after, settled down in, camp, where it remained until the opening of the Chancellorsville Campaign.
At mid-day of the 27th of April, with an effective force of twenty-nine officers and five hundred and seventy-seven men, the regiment moved with the corps, and crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan, arrived at the Chancellor House at noon of the 1st of May. Shortly afterwards, Griffin's and Humphrey's divisions moved out five miles to a commanding position, in sight of Banks' Ford, Slocum's Corps and Sykes' Division of the Fifth, moving simultaneously upon the Plank Road and turnpike, all leading in the direction of Fredericksburg. The open ground, well adapted for defense, had scarcely been attained, when the order was given to counter-march, Tyler's Brigade moving at double quick, and arriving just in time to escape the enemy, who was pressing in force upon Sykes.
On the following morning, Humphreys' Division moved near to the Rappahannock, in the vicinity at Scott's Dam, where it held a formidable position on high and steep bluffs, which were made to bristle with artillery. During the evening and night succeeding, while Jackson was making his famous onslaught on the Eleventh Corps, the regiment lay in this position, the enemy occasionally making his appearance, but showing no disposition to attack.
Early on Sunday morning, Tyler's Brigade was re-called and hurried away towards the right, arriving at the open ground on the Ely's Ford Road at eight o'clock. It was immediately put in position on the right of General French, its left resting in the air, the First Corps not being up to join it. Hardly was it in position, when the enemy attacked, coming on in double line of battle, reaching out to envelop its right. For nearly two hours, and until its ammunition was completely exhausted, and that found upon the persons of the dead and wounded had been used, did this gallant brigade hold its position against twice its numbers, pressing it in front and overlapping it in flank. Supports were loudly called for, and repeated demands for ammunition were made, but in vain. Neither were at hand.
Finally with ranks fearfully decimated, and with only the bayonet left for defense, it was forced to fall back, and emerging from the thick woods in its rear, re-formed in the open field in support of batteries. The enemy pressed closely after, but as he swarmed out upon the edge of the clearing, the guns opened with grape and canister, and his advance was checked. The regiment remained in support of these guns until the First Corps had gained its position, when it retired a short distance and remained inactive until daylight of the 6th, and then recrossed the river and returned to camp.
The loss was-nine killed, forty-nine wounded, and eleven taken prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Rowe, Captain John H. Walker and Lieutenant John G. Rowe were among the wounded.
General Tyler in his official report says: "The One Hundred and Twenty sixth, Lieutenant Colonel Rowe, was third in line, and for earnest, spirited work, they could not be excelled. Colonel Rowe exhibited the true characteristics of a soldier-brave, cool, and determined, and his spirit was infused into every officer and soldier of his command."
A week after the battle, the term of service of the regiment having expired, and returning to Harrisburg, it was on the 20th mustered out.