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 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.
Please pardon the lack of greatness on this post. I'm a gamer, not a http specialist.