Field & Staff
Organized at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, May 1st, and duty there until May 9. At Lancaster, Pa., until June 3, and at Chambersburg, Pa., until June 16. Attached to Negley's 5th Brigade, Keim's 2nd Division, Patterson's Army. Moved to Hagerstown June 16, and to Williamsport June 18. Affair with Ashby's Cavalry July 2 (Co. "I" captured). Occupation of Martinsburg, Va., July 3. Advance on Bunker Hill July 15. At Charlestown July 17-25. At Carlisle, Pa., July 27-August 8. Mustered out August 8, 1861.
The Fifteenth regiment was organized on the 1st day of May, 1861, at Camp Curtin, by the choice of the following officers:While the regiment remained at Camp Curtin, the post was under the command of Colonel Oakford. Here the men were armed and partially supplied with clothing and equipments. An excellent brass band was attached to the regiment.
- Richard A. Oakford, of Scranton, Luzerne county, Colonel
- Thomas Biddle, of Philadelphia, Lieutenant Colonel
- Stephen N. Bradford, of Scranton, Luzerne county, Major
- John R. Lynch, of Wilkesbarre, was appointed Adjutant
On the 9th of May it was ordered to Camp Johnston, near the city of Lancaster, where the men were comfortably quartered in barracks, tents not having been provided. The Camp was under the command of Brigadier General James S. Negley, by whose excellent discipline the troops became very proficient in the duties of the soldier. They received many kind attentions from the people of Lancaster, by which camp life was relieved of many of its harsh and repulsive features.
On the 3d of June, the regiment moved via Harrisburg, to Camp Patterson, near Chambersburg, where it was assigned to the 5th Brigade,1 2d Division. On the 16th of June, the brigade marched to Camp Negley, in the neighborhood of Hagerstown, and two days thereafter made a rapid movement to Williamsport, under the apprehension of an advance of the enemy, but were obliged to return without having been gratified with the sight of a rebel.
On the 21st, the brigade marched to Camp Porter, where it was joined by the Twenty-fourth Pennsylvania, under command of Colonel Owen. While here, a general court-martial was convened for the Division of Major General Keim. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Biddle, of the Fifteenth regiment, was detailed as president, and Lieutenant H. C. Alleman, of company E, as judge advocate. This court-martial moved with the army, and was in session uninterruptedly during the remainder of the term of service.
On the morning of the 2d of July, the army crossed the Potomac, the 5th Brigade having the right of the 2d Division and passing Major General Patterson in review. About one mile from the ford Negley's Brigade diverged from the line of march of the main column, and moved by a road leading to the right, having Company A of the Fourteenth regiment, and Company I of the Fifteenth thrown forward to right and left as skirmishers.
Scarcely expecting to meet the enemy, the skirmishers, about three hundred yards in advance of the column, were suddenly confronted by a battalion of Colonel Ashby's cavalry, dressed in blue blouses, and having the general appearance of Union troops. Emerging from a thick wood in the direction of Falling Waters, they rode leisurely forward and halted at a fence. The skirmishers, mistaking them for our own cavalry, obeyed the order of Colonel Ashby to "let down the fence." No sooner was this done, than the rebel leader, followed by some forty of his men, rode into the field, surrounded the unsuspecting party, shot down the First Sergeant, and demanded the surrender of the entire body, consisting of the Second Lieutenant, John B. Hutchinson, and thirty-four men. Before they had time to fire, or hardly to comprehend their situation, they found themselves in the clutches of the enemy, and were quickly 'hurried:" away. The skirmishers on the left were prevented from firing, for fear of shooting their captive comrades.
The column was at once thrown into line, and marched in pursuit of Ashby; but, having no cavalry, the pursuit was vain. Ashby escaped with his prisoners, and the result of his strategy was heralded through the South as a brilliant affair. But among honorable men, stealing up to an enemy in the disguise of companions in arms, has always been regarded as an act of cowardice.
The prisoners were taken to Richmond on foot, and being the first captures of the war, after the fall of Sumter, were subjected to every species of insult by the exultant populace. After being kept awhile at Richmond, they were sent further South, for a spectacle, and were finally lodged in the New Orleans Penitentiary, where they remained until General Butler and Admiral Farragut came thundering at the defenses of the city, in April, 1862, when they were hurried away to Salisbury, and were soon after exchanged. Six of their number died in Southern prisons from harsh treatment and exposure.
The army marched to Martinsburg on July 3d, and the following day, the anniversary of our National Independence, was celebrated by hoisting the stars and stripes on the Martinsburg court house, with appropriate ceremonies. Remaining until the 15th of July, the Brigade moved to Bunker Hill, and two days later to Charlestown. On the 25th, the regiment was ordered to Hagerstown, which place it reached on the 26th. On the following day the Fourteenth and Fifteenth regiments encamped at Carlisle, where they remained until the 7th of August, and were mustered out of service.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania
Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.