History and Names of 6th Regiment

The Sixth Regiment U.S.C.T. – A History


Medal of Honor Winners

Alexander Kelly Alexander Kelly
First Sergeant, Co. F, 6th U.S. Colored Troop. Born in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania on April 7, 1840 Alexander Kelly entered service in Allegheny City, PA on April 7, 1863.He saw action on Chaffin’s Farm (Fort Harrison), VA on September 29, 1864. His citation read that Kelly “gallantly seized the colors, which had fallen near the enemy’s lines of abatis, raised them and rallied the men at a time of confusion and in a place of the greatest danger.His Medal of Honor was presented on April 6, 1865. He was a 23-year-old coal miner who stood 5 feet 3 and one-half inches in height. On September 3rd, 1863, he was appointed First Sergeant of his unit, at that time stationed at Camp William Penn, Chilton Hills, PA. Kelly was mustered out of the U.S. Army at Wilmington, NC, on September 20, 1865.
Thomas Hawkins Thomas R. Hawkins
(1840 – 1870) was a Union Army soldier during the American Civil War and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration – Medal of Honor – for his actions at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm.Hawkins joined the Army from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and by September 29, 1864 was serving as a Sergeant Major in the 6th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment when the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, Virginia, began. More than five years later, on February 8, 1870, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for “rescue of regimental colors” during that battle.Thomas Hawkins died at age 29 or 30, and a plaque in his memory was placed in Harmony Memorial Park, Landover, Maryland.

The greater portion of the enlisted men composing this regiment, were from various sections of the State of Pennsylvania, and were organized at Camp William Penn, near Philadelphia, between the 26th of July, and the 12th of September, 1863. The following were the field officers:

  • John W. Ames, Colonel
  • Clark E. Royce, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Joseph B. Kiddoo, Major

Colonel Ames had served as Captain in the Eleventh Regular Infantry, Lieutenant Colonel Royce, as Captain in the Ellsworth (New York) Regiment, and Major Kiddoo in the Sixty-third and One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Pennsylvania regiments. Of the line officers, Captain Robert B. Beath had served in the Eighty-eighth, Captain John M’Murray, in the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth, Lieutenant William A. Glass, in the Ninth Reserve, Lieutenant Frederick Meyer, in the One Hundred and Twelfth, and Lieutenant Frank Osborne, of Philadelphia, had lost an arm on the Peninsula.

On the 14th of October, the regiment left Philadelphia, to join the Army of the James, and upon its arrival at Fortress Monroe, was sent by General Butler, then in command, to Yorktown, where it went into camp, and during the succeeding winter, performed severe fatigue duty upon the fortifications. Troops were frequently sent out upon raids through the adjoining counties, and up the Peninsula, in which this regiment participated.

Early in February, 1864, it having been ascertained that Richmond was feebly defended, a plan was formed for surprising the garrison at Belle Isle, where large numbers of Union prisoners were confined, and of releasing them by a sudden and speedy movement from General Butler’s lines. The Sixth formed part of the force detailed for this enterprise, and executed the orders for its movement with great promptness and celerity; but on the night before starting, a soldier under sentence of death, escaped to the rebel lines, and gave information concerning the contemplated movement, enabling the enemy to make ample preparations for its defeat. The regiment marched forty-two miles in twenty-four hours, a severe test of its endurance, penetrating to Bottom’s Bridge, twelve miles from Richmond. But finding the ways obstructed by felled timber, and the enemy fully prepared to defeat the purpose of the expedition, the troops returned again to quarters.

Capture of City Point
On the 5th of May, General Butler sent a force, of which the Sixth formed part, to operate on the James River. It moved by transport, and started as if to ascend the York and Pamunky rivers, but returned at night, and passing up the James, landed at City Point, from which the enemy had been previously driven by a company of sharp-shooters, selected from the several colored regiments, under command of Captain Philip Weinman, of the Sixth. After remaining a few days at this place, the regiment was stationed at Spring Hill, on the Appomattox, five miles from Petersburg. Here, in conjunction with the Fourth Colored, it built a strong earth-work, afterwards known as Redoubt Converse, intended for the protection of the pontoon bridge at that point. The Fourth was shortly afterwards withdrawn, leaving the Sixth as the nearest outpost to Petersburg. On the 20th, the enemy attacked the picket lines in strong force, with the design of capturing the works; but the regiment successfully maintained its position until reinforcements arrived, when the enemy withdrew.

In Front of Petersburg
On the 15th of June, the Sixth, together with the Fourth, Fifth, and Twenty-second Colored, attacked the left of the rebel earth-works in front of Petersburg, and by a determined charge carried the position, resting at midnight within the enemy’s strong fortifications. Early on the morning of the 16th, the colored soldiers of the Army of the James, hailed for the first time, the battleflags of the Army of the Potomac, a division under General Birney, marching in to their relief. The capture of these strong works by the colored troops, was well calculated to inspire respect among the veterans, now rapidly arriving from the Wilderness campaign, for none knew better than they how to appreciate valor.

Until near the close of August, the Sixth was kept almost constantly on duty in the trenches in front of Petersburg. It was then transferred to Dutch Gap, on the James, and assigned to fatigue duty upon the canal, which had just then been commenced. The labor here was harassing and fatiguing in the extreme, the men being compelled to work day after day under the steady fire of the rebel mortars. In addition to exhausting toil, and the effect of bursting shells, they were exposed to the noxious vapors of the river, and from these causes combined, the ranks of the regiments were rapidly depleted.

New Market
On the 29th of September, General Ord, in command of the Eighteenth Corps, attacked and carried a long line of entrenchments below Chapin’s Farm. At the same time, General Birney advanced from Deep Bottom, driving the enemy on the New Market Road, back to the heights. In this movement, the Fourth and Sixth Colored had the advance, and gallantly pushed the enemy, until he had arrived at his entrenchments forming the outer defenses of Richmond. Here a halt was ordered, and preparations were made for an assault. The enemy was strongly posted and was in heavy force; but at the signal to advance, the Sixth went gallantly forward in the face of a withering fire which thinned its ranks at every step. In its course, it was obliged to cross a small stream, and then an open field; but without wavering, it pressed on until more than half its numbers had fallen, and nearly all its officers were lost; when, seeing the fruitlessness of further pushing the charge with so weak a force, the signal was given to retire.

The regiment entered the battle with three hundred and sixty-seven, rank and file. Of this number, three officers and thirty nine men were killed, eleven officers and one hundred and fifty men wounded, and seven missing, an aggregate of two hundred and ten, more than sixty-two per cent. of its strength. Captains George W. Sheldon and Charles V. York, and Lieutenant Frederick Meyer, were killed; and Lieutenants Eber C. Pratt, Lafayette Landon, and John M’Avoy, were mortally wounded. Major H. J. Covell, Captain Robert B. Beath, and Lieutenants N. N. Hubbard, N. H. Edgerton, and J. W. Johnson, were severely, and Colonel Ames, Lieutenant Colonel Royce, and Lieutenant Enoch Jackman, slightly wounded.

General Butler, in an order of October 11, says:
“Of the colored soldiers of the Third Division of the Tenth and Eighteenth corps, the general commanding desires to make special mention. In the charge on the enemy’s works by the Colored Division of the Eighteenth Corps, at Spring Hill and New Market, better men were never better led, better officers never led better men. With hardly an exception, officers of colored troops have justified the care with which they have been selected. A few more such charges, and to command colored troops will be the post of honor in the American armies. The colored soldiers, by coolness, steadiness, and determined courage and dash, have silenced every cavil of the doubters of their soldierly capacity, and drawn tokens of admiration from their enemies.”

Adjutant N. Ht. Edgerton was promoted to Captain, Sergeants Kelly and Elsberg, and Corporal Kelly were awarded medals for their gallantry, and the words “Petersburg,” and “New Market Heights” were ordered to be inscribed on the flag.

The regiment afterwards sailed with both commands sent out for the reduction of Fort Fisher. The latter, under General Terry, proved successful; but the colored troops were not engaged with the storming party, being sent some miles inland, to prevent reinforcements from reaching the enemy, performing this duty in a satisfactory manner.
On the 19th of January, 1865, the Sixth participated in a sharp encounter at Sugar Loaf Hill, North Carolina, where Captain Newton J. Hotchkiss was mortally wounded, dying two days after, and considerable loss in killed and wounded was sustained.

On the 11th of February, during a sharp contest on the skirmish line, Daniel K. Healy was severely wounded, and Lieutenant Edward Field, commanding company A, was killed. Upon the death of Lieutenant Field, the direction devolved on Sergeant Richard Carter, (colored,) who commanded with great skill and courage, until the company was relieved.

The regiment participated in all the movements of the division in North Carolina, until the final surrender of the rebel forces, when it was ordered to duty at Wilmington, and remained there until its muster out of service on the 20th of September.

Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 , Harrisburg, 1868-1871.

Organized at Camp William Penn, near Philadelphia, Pa.,
July 28 to September 12, 1863.
Moved from Philadelphia to Fort Monroe, Va., October 14; thence to Yorktown, Va.
Attached to United States Forces, Yorktown. Va.,
Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, to January, 1864.
2nd Brigade, United States Forces, Yorktown, Va., 18th Corps,
Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, to April, 1864.
2nd Brigade, Hincks’ Colored Division, 18th Corps, Army of the James, to June, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 18th Corps, to August, 1864.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 18th Corps, to December, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 25th Corps, to December, 1864.
2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 25th Corps, to March, 1865.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 10th Corps, Dept. of North Carolina, to August, 1865.
Dept. of North Carolina to September, 1865.

Duty at Yorktown till May, 1864.
Wild’s Expedition to South Mills and Camden Court House, N. C., December 5-24, 1863.
Wistar’s Expedition against Richmond February 2-6, 1864.
Expedition to New Kent Court House in aid of Kilpatrick’s Cavalry March 1-4.
New Kent Court House March 2.
Williamsburg March 4.
Expedition into King and Queen County March 9-12.
Expedition into Matthews County March 17-21.
Butler’s operations south of the James River and against Petersburg and Richmond May 4-June 15.
Capture of City Point May 4.
Fatigue duty at City Point and building Fort Converse on Appomattox River till June 15.
Attack on Fort Converse May 20.
Before Petersburg June 15-18.
Bailor’s Farm June 15.
Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond June 15 to December 17.
In trenches before Petersburg and fatigue duty at Dutch Gap Canal till August 27.
Moved to Deep Bottom August 27.
Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, New Market Heights, September 29-30.
Fort Harrison September 29.
Battle of Fair Oaks October 27-28.
In trenches before Richmond till December.
1st Expedition to Fort Fisher, N. C., December 7-27.
2nd Expedition to Fort Fisher, N. C., January 7-15.
Bombardment of Fort Fisher January 13-15.
Assault and capture of Fort Fisher January 15.
Sugar Loaf Hill January 19.
Sugar Loaf Battery February 11.
Fort Anderson February 18-20.
Capture of Wilmington February 22.
Northeast Ferry February 22. Campaign of the Carolinas March 1-April 26.
Advance on Kinston and Goldsboro March 6-21.
Occupation of Goldsboro March 21.
Cox’s Bridge March 23-24.
Advance on Raleigh April 9-14.
Occupation of Raleigh April 14.
Bennett’s House April 26.
Surrender of Johnston and his army.
Duty in the Dept. of North Carolina till September.
Mustered out September 20, 1865.

Regiment lost during service:
8 Officers and 79 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
5 Officers and 132 Enlisted men by disease.
Total 224.

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