Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 43 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 43 of 193)
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companies (" D," Capt. C. L. Conner, and " G," Capt.
S. D. Oliphant) were recruited in Fayette County,
the former at Brownsville and the latter at Union-
town, being previously known as the Fayette (juards.

The rendezvous of the Eighth was at "Camp Wil-
kins," Pittsburgh, to which camp the companies were
ordered early in June, 1S61, and on the 28th of the
same month the regiment formally organized,
under the following-named field-officers, viz. : Colonel,
George S. Hays, 51. D., of Allegheny County; Lieu-
tenant-Colonel, S. Duncan Oliphant (original captain
of " G" company), of Fayette ; Major, John W. Dun-
can ; Adjutant, Henry W. Patterson, promoted from
second lieutenant of " G" company.

On the 20th of July the regiment left for Washing-
ton, D. C, by way of Harrisburg and Baltimore. Re-
ceiving ei|iiipmeiits at llii' turnier place, and tents at
the latter, it aniveil at Washington on the 2-'5(l. and
encamped at Meridian Hill. On the 2d of August it
moved thence to Tenallytown, Md., where it en-
camped with other regiments of the Reserve Division
under Maj.-Gen. George A. McCall. The Eighth, to-
gether with the First Reserve, Col. R. Biddle Roberts ;
the Second, Col. William B. Mann ; and the Fifth,
Col. Seneca G. Simmons, formed the First Brigade,
under command of r.iig. < Jen, John F. Reynolds.

The regiment remained at Tenallytown about two
months, a period which was passed in camp routine,
picket duty, and frequent alarms along the line of the
Potomac, and on the 9th of October moved with its
brigade and division across that historic stream, and
took position in the line of the Army of the Potomac
at Langley, Va,, at which place the Reserve Corps
made its winter-ciuarters. In the battle of Dranes-
viUe, which was fnught on the 20th of December by
the Third Brigade (Gen. Ord's) of the Reserves,
neither the Eighth Regiment nor any part of Rey-

' nolds' brigade took part, being absent on a reconnois-
sance to Difficult Creek. On the 7th of December,
while the division lay at Langley, Capt. Jesse B.

' Gardner, of " G" company, was promoted to major of
the regiment, in place of Duncan, resigned.

On the 10th of March, 1862, the Eighth, with the
entire division, moved from the winter-quarters at
Camp Pierpont (Langley) to Hunter's Mills, Va., with
the expectation of joining in a general advance of
the army on the Confederate position at Manassas.
But it was found that the enemy had evacuated his
line of defenses and retired towards Gordonsville,
and thereupon the plan of the campaign was changed
by the commanding general, McClellan, and the Re-

j serve regiments were ordered back to the Potomac.
On the 12th, the retrograde march was commenced,
and continued through mud, darkness, and a deluge
of rain to Alexandria, where it was expected that
the division would embark with the rest of the Army

' of the Potomac for the Peninsula ; but this was not the

I case. The division of McCall was assigned to duty
with the First Corps, under Gen. McDowell, which,
with the exception of Franklin's division, was held
between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers for
the protection of the city of Washington.

From Alexandria the Eighth with its brigade
marched back to Manassas, thence to AVarrenton
Junction, to Falmouth, and (May 24th) across the Rap-
pahannock to Fredericksburg, of which place Gen.
Reynolds was appointed military governor. An ad-
vance from Fredericksburg along the line of the rail-
road towards Richmond was intended, but this was
found to be inexpedient, and as Gen. McClellan was
calling urgently for reinforcements in the Peninsula,
Reynolds' brigade was recalled from its advanced po-
sition on the railroad ; the entire division was marched
to Gray's Landing, and there embarked for White
House, on the Pamnnkey River, where it arrived on
the 11th of June. There had been a vast quantity of
stores collected at White House for the use of the
army on the Chickahominy, and the timely arrival of
the Reserves prevented the destruction of these stores

I by a strong detachment of Confederate cavalry under

I Fitzhugh Lee, who was then oti his way towards the
Pamunkey for that purpose.

From White House, the Eighth marched with the
division by way of Baltimore Cross-Roads to join the
Army of the Potomac in the vicinity of Gaines' Mill.

j Thence the division was moved to the e.xtreme right,
where it took position at Mechanicsville and along
the line of Beaver Dam Creek.

On Thursday, the 2Gth of June, was fought the bat-
tle of Mechanicsville, the first of that series of bloody
engagements known collectively as the Seven Days'
Fight, and also (with the exception of the severe
skirmish at Dranesville in the previous December)
the tirst engagement in which the Penn.sylvania Re-
serves took part. In this battle the Eighth (having
in the morning of that dav relieved the Second) occu-



pied the left of its brigade Hue, and about the centre
of the line holding the bank of Beaver Dam Creek.
The First Reserve Regiment was on its right. On a
crest of ground nortlieast of the creek was posted
Easton's Battery. At the margin of the swamp which
skirts the creek the Eighth was deployed, Companies
A, D, F, and I being thrown forward as skirmishers
under command of Lieut. -Col. Oliphant. The battle
commenced at about three o'clock in the afternoon,
the Georgia and Louisiana troops of the enemy wad-
ing the stream and rushing forward to the attack.
" A brief artillery contest, in which the shells burst
in rapid succession in the very midst of the infantry,
was followed by the advance of the rebel columns, and
the battle became general. A charge of the enemy
below the swamp, with the design of capturing
Easton's Battery, caused the skirmishers to be re-
called, and the regiment moved to itg support. But
the enemy being repulsed by other troops it returned
to its former position. Three times the close columns
of the enemy charged down the opposite slope witii
determined valor, but were as often repulsed and
driven back. At night tlic men rested upon the
ground where they had fought. The dead were col-
lected, wrapped in their blankets, and consigned to
the earth, and the wounded were sent to the rear.
The loss of the regiment in killed, wounded, and mis-
sing was nearly one hundred. Company F being
upon the skirmish line, and- not comprehending the
order to withdraw, remained at its post, and fell into
the hands of the enemy."

At daylight in the morning of the 27th of June the
Eighth, with its companion regiments of the Reserve
Corp.s, was withdrawn from the battle-ground of the pre-
vious day, and moved down, parallel with the Chicka-
hominy, some two or three miles, to Gaines' Mill,
where Gen. Fitz-John Porter's corps (of which the
Reserves formed a part) was placed in line of battle for
the renewed conflict which was inevitable. Butter-
field's brigade occupied the extreme left, Sykes' di-
vision of regulars the right, and McCall's Pennsyl-
vanians were placed in the second line. Approaching
them were the Confederate commands of Gens. A. P.
Hill, Longstreet, D. H. Hill, and the redoubtable
" Stonewall" Jackson, in all more than fifty thonsand
men, against half that number on the Union side.
The battle opened by a furious attack on the regulars
composing Porter's right. These, after having re-
pulsed the enemy in his first attack, finally gave way
before a renewed assault. The Eighth Reserve, in the
second line, was posted where a road was cut through
rising ground, and the excavation afforded some shel-
ter, but the regiment suffered quite severely from the
shells of the enemy, which were directed at a battery
which it was posted to support. The battle raged furi-
ously during all the afternoon. At about five o'clock the
enemy advanced in heavy masses from the woods, and
the Eighth Reserve, with the Second Regulars, were ad-
vanced to meet the assault in their front. The hostile

line recoiled before them, and was swept back to the
woods, but they rallied in superior numbers, and the
two regiments were in turn driven back, with a loss
to the Eighth of twenty-four in killed and wounded.
During the battle the heroic Reynolds, the brigade
commander, was taken prisoner by the ena-ny.

The day of Gaines' Mill closed iu blood and defeat
to the Union forces, and during the night the shat-
tered Pennsylvania Reserves, with the other troops,
succeeded in crossing the Chickahominy and destroy-
ing the bridges behitid them, though two bridges
farther down the stream (Bottom's and Long Bridges)
still remained, and it was not long after sunrise on
Saturday morning when the Confederate force under
the indomitable Jackson was massed at the upper
one of these and making preparations to cross to the
south side. Other hostile forces were also advancing
directly on McClellan's left wing, and in view of this
rather alarming situation of affairs, the general had,
as early as Friday evening, decided on a retreat by
the whole army to James River, where a base of sup-
plies could be held, and communication on the river
kept open by the co-operation of the Union gunboats.
The troops were informed of the proposed change by
an apparently triumphant announcement (intended
merely to encourage tlie soldiers and lighten in some
degree the gloom of the great disaster) that a new and
mysterious flank movement was about to be executed
which would surely and swiftly result in the capture
of Richmond. No such assurance, however, could
conceal from the intelligent men who formed tl;e
Army of the Potomac that their backs and not their
faces were now turned towards the rebel capital, and
that the much- vaunted " change of base" was made
from necessity rather than choice.

Duriii;;- all the day succeeding the battle (^^atunlay,
June I'Stlii thr l^i-htli lay at Sav.age i^tatiiui, on the
York Kiver Kailmad. On Sunday it moved with the
other regiments to and across Wliite Oak Swamp,
and at about sunset came to the vicinity of Charles
City Cross-Roads, where on the following day a fierce
battle was fought, in which the Eighth took gallant
part. The first assault of the enemy was received at
about one o'clock in the afternoon. "In the forma-
tion of the line the First Brigade was held in re-
serve, but as the struggle became desperate the
Eighth was ordered in. Its position fell opposite the
Sixth Georgia, which was upon the point of charging,
when Gen. McCall gave the order for the Eighth to
charge upon it, and Col. Hays leading the way with
a shout that rang out above the deafening roar of the
conflict, it dashed forward, scattering the Georgians
and driving them beyond the marsh in front. A few
prisoners were taken. Later the enemy pressed
heavily upon that part of the field, and the line was
forced back, the Eighth gradually retiring until it
reached a new line which had been established, where
it remained till darkness put an end to the conflict."
The loss to the regiment at Charles City Cross-Roads



was sixteen killed and fourteen severely and many !
others slightly wounded.

In the terrific battle of Malvern Hill, which was
fought in the afternoon of the following day, the j
Eighth, being held witli the division in reserve, did !
not become engaged. The battle was opened at
about four o'clock p..m., and from that time until
darkness closed in, the roar of musketry, the crash of
artillery, and the howling of canister was unintermit- ,
ting. Finally the carnage ceased, and the men of j
the North lay down on the field (as they supposed)
of victory. Bat at about midnight orders were re- i
ceived to fall in for a march, and the Pennsylvania
Reserves, with other commands of the Army of the
Potomac, moved silently down the hill and away on
the road to Berkeley (or Harrison's Landing), where
they arrived and encamped on July 2d. The loss of
the Eighth Reserve Regiment in killed, wounded,
and missing during the Seven Days' battles was two
hundred and thirty.

After a dreary stay of more than a month at Har-
rison's Landing, the Eighth was embarked on the
11th of August, and with the other Reserve regiments
proceeled to Acquia Creek, on the Potomac, under
orders to reinforce Gen. Pope. The division (except
the Second Regiment) was moved to the vicinity of
Kelly's Ford, and there joined to the Third Corps,
under Gen. McDowell. In the engagements of the
29th and .30th of August the regiment took gallant
part, liisliig five killed, seventeen wounded, and about
thirty missing, out of a total strength of about one
hundrc I etlcclive men with which it entered the
campaign. At this time the command of the regi-
ment was hold by Capt. C. L. Conner, of " D" com-
pany, from Fayette County.

Immediately after the close of Pope's disastrous
campaign the Reserve division moved with the army
into Maryland and fought at South Mountain and
Antietani. In the former battle the Eighth lost
seventeen killed and thirty-seven wounded, and in
the latter twelve killed and forty-three wounded. In
this battle (Antietani) the Reserve-, l)cini;- in the corps
of Hooker, moved across the creek with (hat fighting
general in the afternoon of Septeiiibcr KJtli and
opened the fight, the pu^ition i>l' that corps being on
the right of the army. On the fullowing morning
the battle opened early, and the First Brigade moved
forward, passed through a small wood, and formed
line in a large cornfield beyond. The Eighth was
ordereil into a grove tn t!ie left to dislodge a body of
the enemy whii had shrltrrcd themselves there and
were engaged in pickinii nil' the I'nion artillerymen.
This duty was well ami gallantly performed. "The
grove was soon cleared, and li-nni it a steady and
effective fire at close range was delivered upon the
rebel line concealed in tlie eninlield. Vnr four hours
the battle raged with un:il)ate.l fm-y and with varying
success when the IJeserves were relieved by fresh
troops." On the following day the enemy commenced

his retreat to the Potomac, covering his design by the
feint of bringing in fresh troops from the direction of
Harper's Ferry.

At the battle of Fredericksburg, Va., on the 13th
of December, 1862, the Eighth again fought with the
greatest gallantry, and experienced a heavier loss
than on any previous field. In the crossing of the
Rappahannock the Reserves covered the laying of
the pontoons for the passage of Gen. Franklin's
grand division, and after the crossing they were
selected to make the first attack on that part of the
field. " In the heroic advance of this small division
in the face of the concentrated fire of the enemy's
intrenched line, in scaling the heights, and in break-
ing and scattering his well-posted force the Eighth
bore a conspicuous and most gallant part. Never
before had it been subjected to so terrible an ordeal,
and when after being repulsed and driven back by
overwhelming numbers it again stood in rank beyond
the reach of the enemy's guns scarcely half its num-
bers were there. Twenty-eight lay dead upon that
devoted field, eighty-six were wounded, and twenty-
two were captured."

Early in February, 186.3, the Reserve regiments
were ordered to the defense* of Washington to rest
and to receive recruits, which were being sent
forward from Pennsylvania to fill their decimated
ranks. There the Eighth remained until the open-
ing of the spring campaign of 1864, when it was
again ordered to the front, and rejoining the Army of
the Potomac moved forward with Gen. Grant into the
Wilderness. It left Alexandria on the 19th of April,
proceeded to Bristow Station, and thence on the 29th
marched to Culpeper Court-House. On the 4th of
May it crossed the Rapidan, and on the oth was once
more engaged with the enemy, losing six killed and
twenty-seven wounded. On the 8th it moved to
Spottsylvania, and in the series of conflicts which
continued until the 1.5th it was almost constantly
under fire, and behaved with its accustomed steadi-
ness, though its loss during that time was but three
killed and sixteen wounded. Its three years' term of
service having now expired, an order of the War
Department was received on the 17th of May reliev-
ing it from duty at the front, directing the transfer of
its recruits and re-enlisted veterans to the One Hun-
dred and Ninety-first Regiment, and the mustering
out of its other men and ofliccrs. Under this order
those wdiose terms had expired proceeded to Wash-
ington, and thence to Pittsburgh, wdiere the remnant
of the regiment was mustered out of service.

Gen. S. Duncan Oliphant,' the subject of this
sketch, is the second son of a family of eleven chil-
dren — six sons and five daughters — of F. H. and .lane
C. Oliphrnt; was born at Franklin Forge, at the
" Little Falls" of the Youghiogheny River, Franklin
township, Fayette Co., Pa., Aug. 1, 1826.



/iZ-t^t^. a^,lXlD£o/-}Aa^^.'f



His experience of school commenced when quite a
child, while his father lived in Pittsburgh, — the in-
struction of a private tutor in the family at Franklin
Forge, and subsequently at different schools from time
to time in Uniontown, mostly in the old Madison
College building; and his preparation for college at
Bethel Academy, near Pittsburgh, and the Grove
Academy, at Steubenville, Ohio.

In the fall of 1840 he entered the freshman class
of Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Washington Co.,
Pa., where his older brother John, Gen. J. B. Sweit-
zcr. Rev. Johnson Elliot, John Sturgeon, Daniel
Downer, William Parshal, and Tliomas Lyons, of
Fayette County, were among his college-mates. He
was one of the four orators representing the Philo
Literary Society, along with Gen. Joshua T. Owen,
of Philadelphia, Gen. James S. Jackson, of Kentucky,
and Col. Rodney Mason, of Ohio, on the annual ex-
hibition in the spring of 1844, graduating in Septem-
ber following. In October of the same year he en-
tered Harvard Law School; graduated from it in
June of 184fi; entered the law-office of Gen. J. B.
Howell and Hon. E. P. Oliphant, his uncle, and was
admitted to practice in the several courts of Fayette
County in September, 1847.

Having some passion and taste for the military
life he joined the old Union Volunteers in the fall of
1847, and in January, 1848, he was elected and com-
missioned captain ; appointed aide-de-camp on the
staff of Maj.-Gen. Cyrus P. Markle. In 1849 he was
elected and commissioned lieutenant-colonel, com-
manding the battalion of uniformed militia of Fay-
ette County. Taking an active part in anything
useful to the town and county, he commanded the
Union Fire-Engine Company for many years, and
was for three terms president of the Fayette County
Agricultural Society, holding its annual fairs at
Brownsville. He was fond of horses, the chase, the
rifle, and the shot-gun, and was something of an
expert in all manly exercises.

Acquiring some experience at the bar of Fayette
County, he moved to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1850,
and entered into partnership with Hon. Thomas Wil-
liams; but the atmosphereof the "Smoky City" prov-
ing uncongenial to his wife's taste and health, he re-
turned to Uniontown in the fall of 1852, and resumed
the practice of law there.

About this time the building of a branch railroad
from Uniontown to Connellsville began to be seriously
agitated. Col. Oliphant took an active interest in the
enterprise, calling meetings and soliciting subscrip-
tions for stock, working on when others had aban-
doned hope. The Fayette County Railroad was due
ehiefly to his — in conjunction with the Hon. Na-
thaniel Ewing's — constant and persevering energy.
He was secretary and treasurer of the company from
the commencement of the enterprise until after the
road was finished.

On the 12th of April, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired

upon. Col. Oliphant at once commenced to raise a
company of volunteers for the defense of the Union.
In this he the active co-operation of Capt. J. C
Ramsey, Maj. J. B. Gardner, Henry W. Pattcreon,
Henry C. Danson, William H. McQuilkin, Martin
Hazen, and others. On the 15tli the company was
full and oft' to the rendezvous in Pittsburgh, where
the company was organized, electing S. D. Oliphant
captain ; J. B. Gardner, first; J. B. Ramsey, second;
and Henry \V. Patterson, third lieutenant. The com-
pany then went into Camp Wilkins with the name of
" Fayette Guard," and was cast in the organization of
the Eighth Regiment, Company G, Pennsylvania Re-
serve CoriDS, at Camp Wright, on the Allegheny Val-
ley Railroad, of which Capt. Oliphant was elected
lieutenant-colonel. On the 16th of June, 1861, he
was presented with a beautiful sword by his friends
in Pittsburgh, of which the Daily Post of the 17th
says, —




" Lust evening

one of Ih


,-..■ |i:ul.



House was filled

by apurtj

nl' 1

, :i.'sai

1 -(/


en to witness

a pleasing and



■illV, 1

il a

1 nr

common ono

amid the incidents of these


s uf vva

, hi

t in

this instance

a peculiarly gi-ac

=rul nnd a


iriato «

A Ik

aiitiful sword

was presented to


Atmvl t-

. D

01 i

d.ant by his

fi-iends as a tok

en of tluii


for tlio



1 heir esteem

for the virtues i

cculiar to




h he

so eminently


" In a speech c

onceived i


t cxccll



and delivered

with true manly

ccling, th

'. SIV

ir,l was



1 to Col. 01 i.

phant by Algorn

n S. Bell,


of thi.



was rccvivod

by Col. Oliphant

with deep


IS, and



was a model

of calm eloqucnc

c, such as


comes when


heart speaks

"The gentlemen were col


mates tc



■e both mem-

bers of the legal profession, and the friendship of their early
days has been refreshed and strengthened by the growing es-

called firth feeling allusions to bygone days and classic re-
membrances. The generous impulses of both hearts poured out
in simple, touching words. There was no effort at display, no
high-flown effort at big. round words, but the men spoke to
each o'her as brother might speak to brother.

" We never recollect to have witnessed a similar ceremony
more happily consummated. The audience symiiatlii?.cd heartily
with the sejitiments expressed by the speaker, and at the close
of the ceremony gave their hearty congratulations to the officer
whom they had assembled to honor."

On the 20th of July, 1861, the regiment received
marching orders for Harrisburg; took cars at Pitts-
burgh on Sunday morning, the 21st, arriving at Har-
risburg on Monday morning. " Bull Bun" had been
heard from, and the regiment was hurried on through
Baltimore to the defense of Washington ; went into
camp at Meridian Hill, moved thence to Tenally-
town, where the Pennsylvania Reserves were assem-
bled and organized into brigades under Gen. George
A. McCall. The Eighth Regiment was brigaded with
the First, Second, and Fifth Regiments, under com-
mand of Brig.-Gen. John F. Reynolds.



Late in October, 1861, the Pennsylvania Reserves
were ordered to the south side of the Potomac, to the
extreme right of McClelhm's line, Camp Pierpont,
witli division lieadqiiarters at Langley, on the Dranes-
ville turnpike.

Tlie monotony of tlie winter of 1861-62 was only
broken by tlie little bratJe of Dranesville, eight or ten
miles south of Camp Pit-rpoiit, the first success of the
Union arms on the soil of Virginia, fought princi-
pally by the Third Brigade of the Reserves, uuder
Gen. Ord ; the First Brigade, in which was the Eighth
Regiment, under Gen. Reynolds, being in reserve,
and coming up near the close of the battle. About
the 1st of April the Reserves took up the line of march
ibr Frcdericksliurg, en the Rappahannock River,
halting snuie diy- at Al.xandria, Manassas Junction,
and Catletfs Statu.n, .iriiving at Falmouth, and sliell-
ing a detachment uf n brls out of the town, but not
in time to ]>rcvent thein fnim firing and liur;iing a

span of th(
river. The
tlie town, 1



ksburg side of the
camp on the hill above
itli the army of Gen.
lutv at Falmouth and

Fredericksburg until the 8th of June, 1861, when the

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 43 of 193)