208th Regiment Infantry

Roster
 

A B C D E F G H I K

Field & Staff---Unassigned

Organized at Harrisburg August 16-September 12, 1864. Left State for Bermuda Hundred, Va., September 13. Attached to Provisional Brigade, Defenses of Bermuda Hundred, Army of the James, to November, 1864. Provisional Brigade, 9th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to December, 1864. 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Army Corps, to June, 1865.

SERVICE.--Siege operations against Petersburg and, Richmond, Va., September, 1864, to April, 1865. Picket and fatigue duty on the Bermuda Hundred front until November 27, 1864. Joined Army Potomac before Petersburg. Movement in support of Weldon Railroad Expedition December 7-11. Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865. Fort Stedman March 25. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Assault on and capture of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. At Nottaway C. H. April 9-20. Moved to City Point, thence to Alexandria April 20-28. Duty at Alexandria until June. Grand Review May 23. Mustered out June 1, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 2 Officers and 19 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 7 Enlisted men by disease. Total 28.

The original organizations of companies E, F, G, and I, were made from recruits from Perry county, A and D, from Snyder, B from Blair, C from Lebanon and Dauphin, and H, and K from Bedford, These companies rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, where they were filled to the maximum strength, and where a regimental organization was completed on the 12th of September, 1864, with the following field officers:

Alfred B. M'Calmont, Colonel;
M. T. Heintzelman, Lieutenant Colonel;
Alexander Bobb, Major.

Colonel M'Calmont had served as Colonel of the One Hundred and Forty-second regiment, and Lieutenant Colonel Heintzelmen in the Tenth, Seventy-sixth, and One Hundred and Seventy-second regiments. On the day following its organization, it started for the front, and upon its arrival, was assigned to duty in a provisional brigade, commanded by Colonel J. N. Potter, of the Twelfth New Hampshire, on the Bermuda Hundred front. It was here engaged in picket duty, fatigue duty in building roads, and in drill, until the 27th of November, when it was ordered to report to the Army of the Potomac. Soon after reaching the right bank of the Appomattox, it was put upon the march for the Weldon Railroad but returned without meeting the enemy. It was assigned to the Ninth Corps, where it became part of the First Brigade, Third Division, and was associated with the Two Hundredth, and Two Hundred and Ninth regiments. The division was posted in rear of the Ninth Corps line, as a reserve, and was commanded by General Hartranft. The regiment was encamped to the right of the Avery House; the headquarters of General Hartranft, and nearly in the centre of the division.

During the winter comparative quiet reigned, and though a terrible and almost ceaseless cannonade was kept up, none of the missiles reached the camps, except those of one gun, a sixty-four pounder, which was occasionally opened and was directed towards the Avery House. There was, however, little accuracy of aim, and they soon came to be regarded as harmless. Upon the occasion of the grand movement upon Hatcher's Run, in February, 1865, by the Second and Fifth corps, the division was sent to their support, and occupied a position on the line where the Union forces had been repulsed in a similar attempt to extend the line to the left, in the August previous. The ground was fortified, but the enemy did not attack, and after an absence of nearly a week, it returned to camp.

Upon the first signal of alarm, early on the morning of the 25th of March, when the Union lines were broken at Fort Steadman, and the fort and several batteries were captured, General Hartranft, who was quickly aroused, and ready for action, sent the Two Hundred and Eighth, which was nearest to his headquarters, under Lieutenant Colonel Heintzelman, in the absence of Colonel M'Calmont, and accompanied by Colonel Diven, in command of the brigade, to report to General M'Laughlin, having command of a brigade of the First Division upon the portion of the line captured. Moving hastily towards the scene of disaster, the regiment was brought into position on the right of General M'Laughlin's headquarters, the left resting within one hundred yards of Fort Haskell, and facing northward. A number of squads from the Third Brigade of the First Division, numbering some two hundred, chiefly from the One Hundredth Pennsylvania, were placed on the left of the Two Hundred and Eighth, making the line continuous to Fort Haskell. Upon coming into position, the enemy was discovered, having advanced upon the rear of the Union lines, and two or three well directed volleys were poured in upon him with good effect causing him to fall back in some confusion, to the cover of a ravine. Encouraged by the advantage gained, a charge was immediately ordered, and he was driven from the ravine to the cover of Battery 12, and the line of works connecting the battery with Fort Haskell. The position thus gained, the regiment held without wavering, though the enemy kept up a steady fire upon it from a sheltered position. In the meantime, the Two Hundredth and Two Hundred and Ninth regiments, under General Hartranft, in person, had been brought up on the right of the break, and though encountering most determined opposition, had checked the rebel onset, and were holding him at bay, and the three regiments of the Second Brigade had been brought within close supporting distance. At this juncture, General Hartranft received an order from General Parke, in command of the corps, to re-take the lost lines, and his troops being in readiness, he gave the order to assault.

Before Colonel Diven could reach Lieutenant Colonel Heintzelman with the order to advance, which he had received, the lines began to move forward. Eager to be with the foremost, without awaiting orders, Heintzelman gave the signal to advance, and in the most gallant manner, Battery 12, and the lines to the right and left of it were carried. In the folds of the battery, one hundred prisoners were taken, and along the line, two hundred and fifty more, including a Colonel, Adjutant, and several line officers. The men of the Two Hundred and Eighth were of hardy habits, and were skilled in the use of the rifle, and when ordered to fire, took deadly aim, sweeping all before them. Among rebel prisoners they had the reputation of being sharp-shooters. At the moment when the final charge was made, Colonel Diven was struck by the fragment of a shell, and the command devolved on Lieutenant Colonel M'Call, of the Two Hundredth regiment. The loss was four killed and thirty-eight wounded. Captain Prosper Dalien and Lieutenant F. W. Keller, were among the mortally wounded. Captain Dalien was an officer of great merit, and was serving as acting engineer officer on the staff of General Hartranft. He was a native of France, educated at Nancy and at the military school at St. Cyr, had served through the Italian wars of 1859, as Lieutenant of Cavalry, and was brevetted Captain, and presented with two medals for gallant conduct at Solferino, by Napoleon III.

After the re-taking of the main line, the picket line was re-established, and Captain Shollar of company B, was detailed as brigade officer in charge. The enemy's dead were delivered under flag of truce, many of whom were found to have been shot in the head, and a large proportion were lying in front of the position occupied by the Two Hundred and Eighth.

" When you were about to make your final charge," said a rebel officer to Captain Sholler, "a council of war was being held by our Generals; but it was the shortest council of war you ever saw; for when they beheld such magnificent lines advancing, they adjourned, by each taking to his heels without ceremony."

The attack had been so sudden, and the disaster was so appalling, that when the joyful tidings came, that Hartranft's single division, almost unaided, had successfully stemmed the current of disaster, and had triumphantly retrieved all that was lost, the feeling of exultation and gratitude knew no bounds. Especially was this feeling shared at army headquarters, and by the President, and Secretary of War.

The following communication from General Parke, accompanying one from General Meade, touching the prompt promotion of General Hartranft to Major General, illustrates this feeling. "The commanding General instructs me to transmit herewith, a copy of communication from the commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, of yesterday's date, which will explain itself. He bids me say, however, in connection therewith, that such prompt recognition of your services on the 25th instant, by the President, Lieutenant General, and the Major General commanding this army, affords him the greatest pleasure, and he begs you will accept his hearty congratulations on your well deserved promotion."

The letter of General Meade to General Parke, was in these words: "The commanding General directs me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date, recommending Brigadier General Hartranft, United States Volunteers, for the brevet of Major General of Volunteers, for his conspicuous gallantry in re-capturing Fort Steadman, during the action of the 25th instant, as well as for his industry in organizing and disciplining his division, composed of new regiments. In reply, I am directed to inform you, that before the receipt of your letter, a recommendation of this same effect had been made by the commanding General, to Lieutenant General Grant, to which a response was received, that this nomination had been made to the Secretary of War, and a telegraphic answer returned, 'the appointment shall be made.' Since then, the commanding General has been informed by telegraph, that Brigadier General Hartranft is brevetted Major General, and that the appointment has been forwarded by mail. Your recommendation is, however, forwarded, to complete the record."

When affairs had become settled upon the lately broken and disordered front, the regiment was relieved from duty, and returned to its quarters. The night of the 26th, was the last spent in camp. After that, it was kept in motion until daylight on the morning of the 2d of April, when it joined in the attack upon the rebel works in front of Fort Sedgwick. It was of the assaulting column, and with unflinching determination, moved over the ground, where the enemy's missiles, from small arms and powerful batteries, dealt death and destruction on every hand. His strong works were carried, and his guns, which had for many months belched forth their fiery flame upon the Union lines, were turned upon his retreating troops. At an inner line he made a stand, and during the long day he kept up a desperate fire, and made determined struggles to re-gain his lost ground. In one of these assaults, he succeeded in carrying a portion of the line held by detachments sent to the help of the division and posted upon the left of the regiment; with great bravery it resisted the attack, and though suffering from an enfilading fire, held the position until relief came, and the abandoned ground was re-taken. At night the fire began to slacken, and pickets were thrown upon the front, Lieutenant Colonel Heintzelman being division officer. At a little before daylight, General Hartranft ordered him to advance and feel the enemy. Cautiously the pickets moved forward, but they found the works abandoned. The columns were speedily put in motion, and on entering Petersburg, it was found that the enemy had escaped across the Appomattox, and was flying southward.

After remaining until noon, the regiment returned to camp, and made preparations to join in the pursuit. The loss in this engagement was nine killed and thirty-nine wounded.
The regiment moved with the division upon the line of the South Side Railroad to Nottoway Court House, which it reached on the 9th, where the news of the surrender of Lee was received. Here it remained until the 20th,when returning via Petersburg to City Point, it proceeded to Alexandria, and encamped near the seminary, and subsequently south of the town. The men now became exceedingly impatient to return home, many of them being farmers, and seed-time rapidly passing. But not until the first of June, were arrangements perfected for their release. On that day, the recruits were transferred to the Fifty-first Pennsylvania, and the rest of the regiment was mustered out of service.

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Source for history & rosters: History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-1865; prepared in Compliance With Acts of the Legislature, by Samuel P. Bates, A Member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Volume V, Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer. 1871.