May 10, 1864 ranks as one of Henry Keiser’s longest diary entries of the Civil War. The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House left an indelible mark on Keiser and the men of Company G, 96th Pennsylvania.
From Corporal Henry Keiser’s Diary:
Tuesday, May 10, 1864. The enemy charged our lines twice last night but were repulsed each time. The rebels shelled us considerably this forenoon. One shell struck a stack of Company K wounding seven men. This afternoon our Regiment was moved behind the brow of a hill to protect us from the enemies shells. Our batteries succeeded in silencing their guns in our immediate front. There has been hard and heavy fighting on our right all day. At 5 o’clock this evening we had orders to pile our knapsacks and placed William Buck to guard the. We were then marched a short distance from camp in light marching orders to form a charging line and were also one of the first Regiments to get into line. We then had orders to lie down the Rebels peppering away at us while the balance of the troops were getting into line.
The Rebs were about two hundred yards away, with strong Rifle Pits with head bags for protection at 6 o’clock p.m. all being in readiness the command to charge was given with instructions to reserve our fire until we jumped the rifle pits, which proved lucky for us as most of the Rebels’ guns weren’t loaded and they were at our mercy, although nearly half of our line was shot down before we reached the pit. We started on the full run with cheers (a brush pulling my cap off in the start and I went in bare headed).
Many a poor fellow fell pierced with rebel bullets before we reached the rifle pits. When those who were left reached the pits we left them have it. They were very stubborn and the bayonet and clubbed muskets were used freely before the pit was fully in our possession.
We captured, killed or wounded the big majority of the first pit. We sent the prisoners to the rear and went for the second pit, about 75 yards away. Carried that and some of our troops were closing in on the third pit where they had artillery in position, where our support, not giving us the aid expected of them, we were flanked and had to get back losing all we had gained, and having our dead and wounded in the enemies hands, all owing to the supporting Regiments not attending to their duty. It was dark by the time we got back to our old position where we had our knapsacks.
Just after getting back to the first pit taken, Henry Romberger of our Company, jumped clear over the rifle pit, as pale as a sheet. He was shot a little to the left of the navel. I told him to lean on me and I would take him out, but he said he must rest first. Just then an officer directed lot of us to the left, and I had to leave him. Shortly after than Lewis Romick seen him and washed his wound, but could not move him.
Those known to have been killed of our Company (G) are Sergeant B. B. Wagner of Hamburg, Berks County, Sergeant James M. Ferree of Lykens, Dauphin County, Corporal Josiah Workman of Wiconisco, Privates James Betz of Hamburg and Frank Workman, Wiconisco. Those wounded and got back to camp are 1stSergeant John Williams, Hamburg, wounded in right shoulder, Sergeant Joe Alvord, Lykens, left arm and side, John Beard, Hamburg, right shoulder, George C. Bear, Hamburg, top of left hand; Phil Baddorf of Lykens, left arm broken; Josiah Balliet, Hamburg, left leg; Lewis Fritz, Hamburg, through cheek; John Luke, Minersville, in head; Jno. Shollenberger, Hamburg, both legs; Daniel Stahl, Lykens, left leg; Harry Wagner, Hamburg, not known how wounded; H. Romberger, Wiconisco, left breast. The following are missing and not known what became of them, Edwin Mayer, Wiconisco, Daniel Betz, Hamburg and Elias Hardinger, Hamburg. We took about fifteen hundred prisoners. This is called Spottsylvania. The Regiment lost 130 men. Company G, 22 killed wounded and missing.
At the time of re-writing of this (October 24, 1912) and long before, the following is known. Henry Romberger was never heard from after we left him at the Rebel breast works and certainly died there. Of those who were wounded and got into our lines, Philip Batdorf died in hospital. Of those wounded and prisoners, Joseph Workman had left leg amputated at thigh and died in Rebel hands. David Machamer left leg amputated at thigh and came home some time after. Henry Wagner not known what became of him, but no doubt was killed or died in Rebel hands. Of those missing it is now known that Edwin Mayer and D. Betz were killed and Elias Hardinger was exchanged and died in hospital in Annapolis, Maryland.
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