Pennsylvania Reserves

The Pennsylvania Reserves were an infantry division in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Noted for its famous commanders and high casualties, it served in the Eastern Theater, and fought in many important battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg.

30th Pennsylvania Infantry


March 17, 1865 photo of three Union soldiers who escaped Confederate Prison Camp including Lieutenant Richard Cooper New Jersey Infantry, Adjudant John J. Hastings 7th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry, and Captain Rees G. Richards Company G 45th Pennsylvania Infantry.

When President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to "put down the rebellion" in the spring of 1861, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania found itself with more volunteers than needed to meet its Federal quota. Although 14 regiments were requested, Pennsylvania exceeded this by providing 25 organized regiments.[1] The Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, was a political enemy of Andrew Curtin, Pennsylvania governor, and refused to take the extra men into Federal service. Curtin decided to retain the extra men and organized, trained, and equipped them at state expense. The creation of the special division was approved by the Pennsylvania legislature on May 15, 1861, "for the purpose of suppressing insurrections, or to repel invasions."[2] The men were trained at camps of instruction in four cities: Easton, Pittsburgh, West Chester, and Harrisburg. The training camp near Harrisburg was named Camp Curtin for the governor.

Fifteen regiments were formed, known as the 1st through 15th Pennsylvania Reserves (they were later designated the 30th through 44th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but generally retained the label of the Pennsylvania Reserves). At the time of the redesignation, Pennsylvania had other troops both in the field or in various stages of development using the same numbers. While many of these units used their designations into middle and late 1862, much confusion arose over the naming convention. Additional naming confusion occurred within the ranks of the reserves. The 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment (42nd Pennsylvania Volunteers) was additionally named the 1st Pennsylvania Rifles. Although better known as the "Bucktails," this regiment became officially known as the First Rifles. The same can be said regarding the 14th and 15th Pennsylvania Reserves (43rd and 44th Pennsylvania Volunteers), which officially were designated as the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery and the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, respectively.

The regiments were grouped into a division of three brigades, and the entire unit normally fought together until the initial enlistments expired in 1864. The exceptions to this include the 2nd Brigade, most of which did not take part at Gettysburg, as it was assigned to the Washington, D.C., defenses,[3] and the detachment of several artillery batteries and cavalry troops to other divisions.

Command historyEdit

The first commander was George A. McCall, and later division commanders were John F. Reynolds, George G. Meade, and Samuel W. Crawford. Truman Seymour twice was acting commander, once on the Peninsula and once at Antietam, when Meade became acting commander of I Corps. The initial brigade commanders were Reynolds, Meade, and Colonel John S. McCalmont (until Edward Otho Cresap Ord took official command of the 3rd Brigade).

Commander Date Official Designation Major Battles
George A. McCall 3 Oct 1861–13 Mar 1862 McCall's Div, Army of the Potomac
George A. McCall 13 Mar-12 June 1862 2nd Division, I Corps
George A. McCall 18–30 June 1862 3rd Division, V Corps Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Glendale
Truman Seymour 30 June-26 Aug 1862 3rd Division, V Corps Malvern Hill
John F. Reynolds 26 Aug-12 Sept 1862 3rd Division, III Corps (Army of VA) Second Bull Run
George G. Meade 12-17 Sept 1862 3rd Division, I Corps South Mountain, Antietam
Truman Seymour 17-29 Sept 1862 3rd Division, I Corps Antietam
George G. Meade 29 Sept-25 Dec 1862 3rd Division, I Corps Fredericksburg
Horatio G. Sickel 25 Dec 1862-1 June 1863 Pennsylvania Reserves, XXII Corps
Samuel W. Crawford 1–28 June 1863 Pennsylvania Reserves, XXII Corps
Samuel W. Crawford 28 June-28 Aug 1863 3rd Division, V Corps Gettysburg
William McCandless 28 Aug-1 Nov 1863 3rd Division, V Corps
Samuel W. Crawford 1 Nov 1863-20 Feb 1864 3rd Division, V Corps
William McCandless 20 Feb-1 May 1864 3rd Division, V Corps
Samuel W. Crawford 1 May-2 June 1864 3rd Division, V Corps Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Totopotomoy Creek


Initially assigned to I Corps, in June 1862, the division was transferred to the Virginia Peninsula where it served with the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign. The division then returned to its old corps (which was at the time designated III Corps in the Army of Virginia) during the Second Bull Run Campaign. The division's parent formation resumed its I Corps designation just prior to the Antietam campaign when it rejoined the Army of the Potomac. The division participated in the battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, particularly distinguishing itself at Fredericksburg, where it penetrated the Confederate lines. Between Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, the division was a part of the XXII Corps assigned to Washington, D.C. It was part of the V Corps again for the Battle of Gettysburg, where it distinguished itself on July 2, 1863, fighting around Little Round Top. One brigade drove Confederate forces from the western slopes of Little Round Top back to the Wheatfield. Under Crawford, the Pennsylvania Reserves continued to fight with the Army of the Potomac until just before the Battle of the Bethesda Church or Battle of Totopotomoy Creek, when the men's three-year enlistments expired.

A large number of the men re-enlisted and became the 190th and 191st Volunteer Infantry regiments and fought until the end of the war.

Regimental articlesEdit


  1. ^ Ent, Uzal W. (2014). The Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War: A Comprehensive History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7864-4872-2. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  2. ^ Sypher, Josiah Rhinehart (1865). History of the Pennsylvania Reserves: A Complete Record of the Organization. Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr & Co. p. 47. Retrieved 9 June 2018. pennsylvania reserves.
  3. ^ Ent, Uzal W. (2014). The Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War: A Comprehensive History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7864-4872-2. Retrieved 9 June 2018.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit