An ongoing project here at Wynning History is an examination of the service of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry regiment during the American Civil War. Recruited primarily from Schuylkill County and the surrounding mining region, the 96th assembled at Pottsville, Pennsylvania in September 1861. The roughly 1,100 officers and men marched off to war that fall, not really knowing what the next years were to be like.
The 96th Pennsylvania served with the Union Army from September 1861 until September 1864, when due to high casualties and low re-enlistment rates, the unit was mustered out of Federal service. In its three desperate years of service, the regiment experienced the horrors of combat and the desolation caused by disease.
It bled in hellish battles on the Virginia Peninsula, atop South Mountain in Maryland, at Spotsylvania Court House’s infamous “Muleshoe” and in many other engagements.
Plucked from Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, the men in the unit came from diverse backgrounds. Some were born in the Keystone State, but many others were born abroad: Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, among other locales. They worked as miners and laborers in the coal mines of Schuylkill County. They clerked in the local banks and businesses. They wrote for local newspapers. They came from every occupation that Northern society had to offer.
The Civil War bound these men and boys together through the trials of camp and combat. Friendships were built in the tent and lost on the battlefield. For those lucky enough to survive the conflict, the memories of their comrades never faded. They remembered and reminisced and regretted until the day that the last survivor of the 96th Pennsylvania had succumbed to the ravages of time.
This project at Wynning History is designed to examine their experiences during the Civil War and commemorate their actions to save their country. It is to honor their memory and to share their stories as we mark the 155th anniversary of the American Civil War. That conflict has served as the key turning point in our nation’s history. For the men of the 96th Pennsylvania, it became the most important, life-shaping event in their lives.