Even before the war, Mansfield and the rest of Tioga County were loyal to the union and firmly against the “peculiar institution” of slavery, as the Wellsboro Agitator called it at the time. A home at 304 N. Main Street, Mansfield, built by Ezra Davis in 1838, even served as a station on the Underground Railroad to shelter escaping slaves.
A printing press from Mansfield ended up in Kansas printing abolitionist newspapers. In 1856, the printing press was thrown in a river during the Pottawatomie Massacre over the future of slavery in the territory.
It was not surprising then, that Mansfield and surrounding Richmond Township responded to President Lincoln’s call for troops when war erupted in 1861.
Maj. Joseph S. Hoard, who suggested the founding of Mansfield Classical Seminary seven years earlier, sent out a call for local volunteers. By Nov. 2, 1861, 84 men had volunteered for the local unit. Another 20 joined later. The oldest recruit was Ebanezer Burley, 60. A number of recruits listed their ages as 18, though it was not uncommon for younger boys to lie about their ages to join the army as soldiers. James E. Young, 16, is listed as the drummer for the unit.
Most of the new privates came from Mansfield Borough, which had incorporated only four years earlier, and surrounding Richmond Township. Others came from nearby municipalities. One recruit listed his home as Hartford, Conn. while another was from Sullivan County, Pa. Many were farmers and laborers. Several were students at Mansfield Classical Seminary. There were also carpenters and mill wrights as well as a mason, blacksmith, glassblower, miner, cabinet maker, and boatman rounded out the privates and non-commissioned officers.
Victor A. Elliott, 22, a Michigan University student from Cherry Flats was elected captain. Abraham Young, a 43-year-old jeweler, was elected first lieutenant. George Gaylord was elected second lieutenant. Melvin L. Clark, 21, a mason from Mansfield, served as first sergeant.
One month earlier, the Richmond Ladies Soldier’s Aid Society (later called the Mansfield Soldier’s Aid Society) formed to provide financial and material support for the unit. According to minutes of the meeting posted on Tri-Counties Genealogy and History by Joyce M. Tice, the society formed after an appeal by the state quartermaster for supplies. The initial meeting was held Sept. 26, 1861. It was held following a religious ceremony on the National Fast Day. Mrs. Marriott made the first donation: ¾ pound of stocking yarn.
While the society’s regular meetings were held on every other Wednesday at 2 p.m., bad weather and sickness often forced meeting cancellations. Meetings became more regular after the Confederate Army invaded Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863 and 52 more local men left to serve in the militia for three months.
By the end of the war, the society had sent 22 large boxes and three barrels to the soldiers, including clothing, blankets, food, newspapers and books. Ice cream socials were held to raise funds for the effort. They were probably the first such society in the state and were highly regarded among the other societies. Sarah Morris, wife of Dr. Joseph Morris, served as secretary of the organization and was later promoted to the position of Associate manager of the women’s Pennsylvania Branch for this section of the county.
Among the first functions of the society was to settle on a name for the unit. They sent a letter to Maj. Hoard to settle on a suitable nickname.
It was Mrs. Morris who suggested “Tioga Mountaineers.” A flag with all the appropriate mountings was purchased for $21 and 50 cents was paid to the express agent. Hoard had asked for a flag costing not less than $20 and not more than $25.
The Mountaineers became associated with the institution on the hill in late October, 1861 when the Seminary hosted a send-off for the soldiers at their dining hall. The keynote address was delivered by George King, a veteran of the War of 1812, and father of Mart King, a prominent citizen of Mansfield. During the banquet, members of the society presented Hoard with the flag. Bailey speculates that the incident probably forever associated the mountaineer with Mansfield. None of the sources provides an exact date for the banquet, but the minutes of the Ladies Aid Society indicate that the men left for Troy at 11 p.m. that night.
The banquet was quite an affair as some volunteers stayed up cleaning until long past midnight and still did not get everything done. The minutes requested that anyone not willing or able to work not volunteer in the first place.
The first group of soldiers from Mansfield and vicinity went to Troy to board a train bound for Camp Curtain in Harrisburg for training.
First Sgt. Clark was not impressed with camp life, which consisted mainly of drilling. In November, he wrote home complaining that the men were housed in tents without floor boards, the food was not as good as expected, and the officers had not yet received their commissions. It was not until early February, 1862 that the men were finally issued their Harper’s Ferry muskets.
Company B, the Tioga Mountaineers, was one of 10 companies from across the state that formed as the 101st Regiment of the Pa Volunteer Infantry. There was some jockeying for position and the Mountaineers ended up on the extreme left of the marching line. Other companies in the regiment were raised in Allegheny, Beaver, Lawrence, Bedford, Butler, Adams, Cumberland, Northumberland, and Schuylkill counties.
Joseph Hoard was elected Major of the 101st, making him third in command of the regiment.
The first Mountaineer casualty was Pvt. Ora S. Cleveland, an 18-year-old farmer from Richmond Township who died of measles and pneumonia in a Harrisburg hospital.