Charge of the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry
— 1862 Peninsula Campaign —
In April 1862, Union forces under Gen. George B. McClellan began a major campaign to capture Richmond, marching west from Fort Monroe up the Peninsula between the York and James rivers toward the Confederate capital. A Confederate army half their size opposed them. Slowly but inevitably, the Federal juggernaut overcame three Southern defensive lines and was soon camped in Richmond's eastern suburbs. New commander Robert E. Lee, however, led a Confederate offensive that drove the Union army away during the Seven Days' Battles, June 25-July 1.
This is the ground at the Whitlock farm where Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's division attacked Union Gen. George A. McCall's Pennsylvania division on June 30, 1862. The Union line was in jeopardy.
Gen. Joseph Hooker, desperately seeking to plug the widening gap here, turned to Gen. Edwin V. Sumner. Sumner told Hooker, "I will give you one of my best regiments, the 69th Pennsylvania." Soon, the regiment fixed bayonets and marched toward the sound of the guns. A wet ravine stalled the men momentarily, but they quickly surged up the slope and charged into Longstreet's division. In a brief, violent engagement here, near the Whitlock house, the regiment recaptured several abandoned Union cannons. The Confederates retreated into the nearby woods.
During the night, the Union army continued its withdrawal south, vacating the hard-won field. The next day, the two armies clashed again in the bloodbath at Malvern Hill.
The 69th Pennsylvania suffered 7 killed and 34 wounded in its charge but endured far more in the years to come. Of the 1,007 men who joined in 1861, only 56 were present at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.
"Gen. Hooker personally complimented the regiment on the field for having made this ? successful bayonet charge."
- Adjutant Anthony W. McDermott, 69th Pennsylvania Infantry.