72nd Pennsylvania Infantry
|72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry|
|Active||August 1861 to June 24, 1864|
|Engagements||Battle of Ball's Bluff
Battle of Savage's Station
Battle of Malvern Hill
Battle of South Mountain
Battle of Antietam
Battle of Gettysburg
The 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry (originally raised as the 3rd California) was a volunteer infantry regiment which served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was part of the famous Philadelphia Brigade. They wore a very Americanized zouave uniform, consisting of a zouave jacket trimmed with red without a tombeux on the jacket, sky-blue trousers with a red stripe down the leg, a sky-blue zouave vest trimmed in red, white gaiters, and a dark blue kepi. The jacket was decorated with 16 ball brass buttons down the front of the jacket, which were not part of the original French Zouave uniform.
The 72nd was recruited from among the firemen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in early August 1861, with DeWitt Clinton Baxter as its colonel, Theodore Hesser as lieutenant colonel, and J. M. De Witt as major. It became part of Edward D. Baker's California Brigade, also composed of Pennsylvania regiments with California designations. After Baker's death at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, Pennsylvania reclaimed the regiments as its own, and each unit was redesignated with a new numeral. After some months of patrolling along the Potomac River, the 72nd was transported to the Peninsula. It saw its first action at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 1, 1862. During the Seven Days Battles, it supported the army's rear guard.
The 72nd was transferred to northern Virginia too late to fight in the Second Battle of Bull Run but did see light skirmishing at the Battle of Chantilly. At the Battle of Antietam, the regiment participated in the attack on the West Woods, being routed along with much of the rest of the division. Nearly half of the regiment was lost, including several officers killed.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, it defended the Angle on July 2 and 3. On the evening of the 2nd, it helped defeat Confederate Brigade General Ambrose R. Wright's attack, advancing just over the stone wall. The next day, it was placed in reserve for the brigade near the copse of trees. During Pickett's Charge, its position served as a rallying point for the left wing of the 71st and two companies of the 106th Pennsylvania, which had been driven back. Despite Brigadier General Alexander S. Webb's best efforts, these troops refused to counterattack for several minutes. This might have been due to the 71st's colorbearers being shot down. (Civil War regiments often followed the regimental flag since orders would have been difficult to hear on the battlefield.) At Gettysburg, Col. Baxter replaced the wounded General Webb in command of the Brigade, and Lt. Col. Hesser replaced him in command of the 72nd Regiment.
A total of 1,600 men fought in the 72nd, of whom 1,053 became casualties, a 65% casualty rate.
Casualties during the war
- Killed and mortally wounded: 12 officers, 198 enlisted men
- Wounded: 25 officer, 533 enlisted men
- Died of disease: 1 officers, 119 enlisted men
- Captured or missing: 2 officers, 163 men
- Total casualties: 40 officers, 1,013 enlisted men
- An address delivered at Gettysburg, August 27, 1883 (1883) at the Internet Archive
- Reply of the Philadelphia Brigade Association to the foolish and absurd narrative of Lieutenant Frank A. Haskell: which appears to be endorsed by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion Commandry of Massachusetts and the Wisconsin History Commission (1910) at the Internet Archive