Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The 106th Pennsylvania leaves Philadelphia: "that our flag should remain unsullied and our country undivided."

On September 29, 1861, Colonel Turner G. Morehead, commanding officer of the 5th California (later 106th Pennsylvania), recieved orders from Colonel Edward Baker to prepare his regiment to move along with the rest of the California Brigade. Baker's California Brigade, composed of Pennsylvanians primarily from the Philadelphia area, was leaving Philadelphia for its new camp near Washington D.C. In essence, the regiment that would soon become the 106th Pennsylvania was now leaving for war.

The following day, on September 30, 1861, the men of the brigade began their march through the streets of Philadelphia for the train depot, where they were to board trains to take them first to Baltimore, and then to Washington. Josiah Ward, a member of the regiment, wrote the following of the scene:

A perfect ovation greeted us along the whole route, the people on the sidewalks cheering and applauding as we passed, the excitement increasing as we reached the depot, the crowd already there greatly augmented by the throng that accompanied us on the pavements. Mothers embracing their boys, wives and children their husbands and fathers, and the more subdued yet as affecting lover's good-bye, all tended to sadly impress those participating. Amid intense excitement we were placed in the cars and at one o'clock, with cheer after cheer breaking the stillness of midnight, the train started on its way, bearing another detachment of our country's defenders, who were severing the closest ties that bind man to earth, to die, if need be, "that our flag should remain unsullied and our country undivided." Many were there who clasped the hands of their loved ones then for the last time, as they did die in defense of their country or were stricken down by disease that hurried many a brave man into an untimely grave (Ward, History of the 106th Pennsylvania, 4-5).

On October 1, the Pennsylvanians fighting under the banner of California began arriving in Washington. While exhausted from the long journey, the men were glad to be outside of the rail cars. Over the course of the next few days, they made their way toward their destination on foot, moving through the city to Poolesville, Maryland. There, the men joined their division and met their division commander, General Charles Stone. Stone reviewed the regiment, then sent them along to another campsite where they joined several other regiments of their brigade, such as the First California Regiment and the Philadelphia Fire Zouaves (71st and 72nd Pennsylvania respectively). On the following day, the 69th Pennsylvania would arrive as well, completing the brigade's alignment. Over the course of the next few weeks, these men began their military lives in earnest. Soon, some would experience the terror and confusion of battle at the infamous Battle of Ball's Bluff.

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