California and the Civil War
69th Regiment of Infantry, Pennsylvania Volunteers
(2nd California Regiment)
Organized at Philadelphia August 18, 1861. Left State for Washington, D.C., September 17. Attached to Baker's Brigade, Stone's (Sedgwick's) Division, Army Potomac, to March, 1862. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army Potomac, to June, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, to June, 1865.

Duty in the Defenses of Washington, D. C., until October. Affair at Vaderburg's House, Munson's Hill, September 29, 1861. Moved to Poolesville, Md., and duty on the Upper Potomac until February, 1862. At Harper's Ferry, W. Va.. until March 24. Moved to the Virginia Peninsula March 24-April 1. Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4. Moved to West Point May 7. Duty at Tyler's Farm until May 31. Battle of Fair Oaks, Seven Pines, May 31-June 1. Duty at Fair Oaks until June 28. Skirmish at Fair Oaks June 18. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Battles of Peach Orchard and Savage Station June 29. Charles City Cross Roads and Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing until August 16. Movement to Newport News, thence to Alexandria August 16-28, and to Centreville and Chantilly August 29-30. Cover Pope's retreat August 31-September 1. Chantilly September 1. Maryland Campaign September 6-24. Battle of Antietam September 16-17. Moved to Harper's Ferry September 22, and duty there until October 30. Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 30-November 20. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15. Burnside's 2nd Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863. At Falmouth until April. Hartwood Church February 25. Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Banks' Ford May 1 and 4. Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 13-July 24. Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 2-4. Pursuit of Lee July 5-24. At Banks' Ford and Culpeper until October. Advance from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17. Bristoe Campaign October 9-22. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. Robertson's Tavern or Locust Grove November 27. Duty on the Rapidan until May, 1864. Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7. Veterans on furlough March and April. Rapidan Campaign May 4-June 12. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Laurel Hill May 8; Spottsylvania May 8-12; Po River May 10; Spottsylvania C. H. May 12-21. Assault on the Salient May 12. North Anna River May 23-26. Line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Before Petersburg June 16-18. Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865. Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23, 1864. Demonstration north of the James at Deep Bottom July 27-29. Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30 (Reserve). Demonstration north of the James at Deep Bottom August 13-20. Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, August 14-18. Ream's Station August 25. Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28. Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865. Watkins' House March 25. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Vaughan Road near Hatcher's Run March 29. Crow's House March 31. Fall of Petersburg April 2. Sailor's Creek April 6. High Bridge and Farmville April 7. Appomattox C. H. April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. At Burkesville until May 2. March to Washington, D.C., May 2-12. Grand Review May 23. At Ball's Cross Roads until July. Mustered out July 1, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 12 Officers and 166 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 3 Officers and 107 Enlisted men by disease. Total 288.

An Informal History

The 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was originally the Second Regiment (Irish Brigade), 2nd Division, Pennsylvania Militia. It was formed from several State Militia groups:The Irish Volunteers, Hibernian Greens, Emmett Guards, Jackson Guards, Meagher Guards, Shields Guards, Patterson Light Guards, and the United Guards. The vast majority of the Regiment were Irish Descendants and Immigrants from the city of Philadelphia, though some came from Schuylkill County. By the start of the war the Regiment would be assigned to the California Brigade and designated the 2nd California. The Commanding Officer of the Brigade was Col. (Senator) Edwin Baker of California, who felt that California would remain loyal to the union cause if it had some representation in the East. After Col. Bakers death at Balls Bluff the regiment was designated the 24th Pennsylvania, then a short time later the 68th Pennsylvania.

An effort was made by members of both the 68th Pennsylvania and the 69th NYNG to form an Irish Brigade out of New York. Governor Curtin of Pa. adamantly opposed the idea and threatened to withhold the pensions of anyone who defected to the Irish Brigade. The 68th reluctantly stayed in Pennsylvania. but requested to have their regimental designation changed to the 69th Pennsylvania in honor of the 69th NY, to which the Governor acceded. They were then assigned to the Philadelphia Brigade, the only brigade to be named after the city it came from. The other regiments of the brigade were the 71st, 72nd, and 106th Pennsylvania. The 69th Pennsylvania., though not the only Irish regiment from the state, would be the only Pennsylvania regiment to carry Green Regimental Colors. Their first set of colors would carry the State Seal on one side and the Maid of Erin Harp wreathed in Shamrocks on the other. The second regimental colors would have the same state seal on one side, but on the other side were the Round Tower, Wolfhound, Harp, and Fenian Sunburst.

Though fighting anti-Irish and Nativist sentiment both in Philadelphia and in the Army of The Potomac the Irish Volunteers from Philadelphia would distinguish themselves in battle throughout the war. They never lost their colors, nor did they ever leave the field of battle unless ordered to do so. They would earn 45 battle ribbons throughout the duration of the war, serving until Lee's Surrender. Brig. Gen. Smyth, in command of the 69th at Appomattox, would be the last General Officer killed in the war, and distinguished themselves in every engagement they were involved in.

The 69th was credited by Gen. Jos. Hooker as having executed the first successful bayonet charge of the war at Glendale during the Peninsula campaign when they singlehandedly charged uphill against a Confederate brigade, chasing them from the hill.

They were heavily involved in the West Woods at Antietam, standing their ground though caught in a horseshoe by the Confederates (Including Stonewall's Brigade), taking extremely heavy losses until finally being ordered from the field.

At Gettysburg on the evening of July 2nd, they charged out against Wright's Brigade, who had taken the 2nd Rhode Island Artillery battery, and retook the guns. On the afternoon of the 3rd they were at the little stone wall in front of the copse of trees, the focal point for Pickett's Charge. Of the 250 men left in the 69th fit for duty not one man left his post. At one point they had become completely surrounded, and kept the fight going hand to hand until the charge was broken. They suffered 60 percent casualties in that charge, leaving only 100 men fit for duty.

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Updated 20 June 2017