The Peninsula Campaign

The Peninsula Campaign

On Feb. 26, 1862 Gov. Andrew Curtin presented the regimental flag and the 101st started out the next day for Washington D.C., where they camped at Camp Meridian. Companies A and B exchanged their muskets for the more accurate Hungarian rifles. The other companies received Austrian rifles. Companies A and B later got the more standard Austrian rifles. The Union imported thousands of .54 caliber rifles from Austria. Many of these were later re-bored to the standard .58 caliber.

The 101st left Washington as part of the Army of the Potomac on March 28, which was commanded by Gen. George McClelland.   The Mountaineers were about to embark on the Peninsula Campaign,  in which the Union Army nearly captured the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va.

The Mountaineers saw their first real action at the siege of Yorktown. Pvt. Elisha Smith, 33, from Rutland Township was the first combat fatality among the Mountaineers.

Union forces took Williamsburg after a Rebel retreat on May 3. They were within 20 miles of Richmond, but the overly cautious McClelland did not press his offensive, instead waiting for reinforcements.

During this time, Maj. Hoard was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, making him second in command of the regiment.

Over the next several weeks, the Mountaineers marched around the swamps of Virginia during the rainy season. They arrived in Fair Oaks, also called Seven Pines, on May 26 and Fair Oaks on May 29 and began to dig rifle pits. The Rebel army was right on top of the 101st. Pvt. Samuel W. Jerould, 19, a farmer from Richmond Township was the first combat death at Fair Oaks.

On May 30, the entire regiment was on the picket line and Company B exchanged its first fire of the war. Lt. Col. Hoard was wounded and taken off the battlefield. He was treated at a Philadelphia hospital and was back home in Mansfield by July 12.

Back in Virginia, Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston’s force of between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers attacked the Union division of less than 6,000. The 101st held their line as long as they could and only retreated when ordered to do so. The soldiers lost all of their personal belongings during the retreat.

While the Union forces inflicted heavy losses at Fair Oaks, one-third of the men in the 101st were killed or wounded in the battle. Company B lost 23 men. The 60-year-old Pvt. Burley died after being taken to a hospital in Philadelphia. Several of the wounded, including Sgt. Justus B. Clark Jr. and Pvt. John C. Howe, rejoined the unit after recovering from their wounds.

Following Fair Oaks, the 101st marched with the rest of the Army during the Seven Days campaign, but only saw limited action. The army eventually retreated to Harrison’s Landing. On Aug. 16, the 101st began their march to Fortress Monroe, Va., arriving Aug. 24 only to learn that the boat carrying their knapsacks had sunk. It was the third time many of the soldiers had lost their belongings.

President Lincoln reviewed the troops four days after arriving at Harrison’s Landing.

Around this time, Lt. Col. Hoard officially resigned his commission and Capt. Elliott retired on a surgeon’s certificate due to typhoid pneumonia. Col. Hoard returned to Mansfield. He later moved to New York and then to Florida in the hopes that the climate would improve his health. He was 64 years old when he died.

Also discharged were Lieutenants Young and Gaylord.

The 101st was stationed at Fortress Monroe until Sept. 18, when they were ordered to Suffolk, Va. While at the fortress, the 101st drilled and recruited new soldiers to replace their losses.

Melvin Clark, who left Washington as first sergeant had been promoted to captain by Sept. 23, 1862.

While in Suffolk, the 101st was engaged in a few skirmishes, but nothing major.