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The Porter Boys Of Co. H, 101st
PA Veteran Volunteer Infantry
by Robert C. Porter
Milestones Vol 22 No 4 Winter 1997

The known ancestry of this Porter line begins with Thomas Porter, who was reportedly born ca. 1758 near Belfast, Ireland. From Ireland, Thomas traveled to America, ultimately settling in Tyrone Township, York (now Adams) County, Pennsylvania. Thomas first appears on the tax records of Tyrone Twp. in 1779. Thomas was married to Sarah Walker, daughter of Joseph Walker of Tyrone Twp., and they reared seven children: Joseph, b-ca 1777; David, b-ca. 1781; Mary; Letitia; Ann; Thomas Jr., b-ca 1791; and Grizzy.

In 1804, Joseph and David Porter traveled to Boardman, Ohio and purchased 310 acres of property from Elijah Boardman for $911. Joseph married Margaret (LNU), who was a first cousin, and moved to Boardman in 1804. David did not follow until after the death of their father in late 1813. Joseph and Margaret raised eight children: William b-1804; Thomas, bca 1806; Rachel; Rebecca; Matilda; John W. b-ca 1815; Mary b-ca 1817; and James, b-ca 1819.

In 1825 William, then a resident of Poland, Trumbull Co., Ohio, made application for a marriage license to wed Mary Rolsten. In April, 1836, William and Mary purchased 181 acres, jointly with William's sister Mary Porter, in Bazetta Twp., Trumbull Co., Ohio, from William's father, Joseph, for $1500. Here were born the first ten of their twelve children: Joseph, b-1825; Robert M., b-1827; Margaret Ann, b-1829; Issac W., b- 1831; James, b- 1833; Mary Jane, b-1835; John, b-1836; Hugh T., b-1839; William, b-1841; and Samuel W., b 1843. The eleventh child, David, was born in 1846, in Warren, Ohio. Sometime between 1846 and 1850, William moved his family to a farm in North Sewickley Twp., Beaver County, PA, where the last son, Thomas, was born in 1850. It was from here that his four sons: John, Hugh T., Samuel W. and David would enlist in Company H. of the 101st PA Volunteer Infantry.

In 1860, war fever was running strong throughout the country. People from all walks of life were anxious to express their feelings to anyone willing to listen. In December, 1860, North Carolina seceded from the Union; then in April, 1861, Fort Sumter, in the Charleston Harbor, was fired upon and surrendered, thus signaling the start of the Civil War. Government officials in Washington. including Lincoln, felt that the war would end quickly; they therefore required the various states remaining in the Union to provide volunteers to serve for ninety days in the military.

One of the early enlistees who volunteered for a three month enlistment was John Porter. In May 1861, he enlisted in the 16th Ohio Regiment. At the end of his three month enlistment, without having seen any action, John was discharged at Oreville, Ohio and returned home to North Sewickley Twp.

In the Spring of 1861, several skirmishes occurred between Union troops and those of the Confederacy; however, on July 21, 1861, the first major battle of the war, First Bull Run, was fought, and the Union Army was beaten and driven back in chaos. This major defeat caused Union government officials to reevaluate their previous assessment of the abilities of the Confederate Army. They again called upon those states which remained loyal to the Union to provide volunteers, this time seventy-five thousand were requested to serve three year terms.

It was during this period of the war that the Porter brothers, like most young men of the time, were totally occupied with talk of joining the Union Army. In October, 1861, after helping their father bring in the crops, John, Hugh and Sam traveled to one of the nearby towns and sought out a recruiter, most likely Alexander Taylor, later captain of Company H., and enlisted in an infantry company. Like most PA companies, after 100 members were enlisted, they were transported to Camp Curtin in Harrisburg where they were united with nine other companies and received basic military training. In December, 1861, this unit received its regimental number; "101", and in February 1862 the regimental flag was presented. On March 1, 1862, the regiment arrived in Washington, D.C. and settled in, outside the city limits, for further training.

On March 30, the regiment departed their camp and traveled to Newport News, on the Virginia peninsula, to become part of the war machine being directed by General McClellan toward the Confederate capitol of Richmond, VA For the next two months, the three Porter brothers participated in the siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Williamsburg and other skirmishes. During these two months, the Army of the Potomac, as the Union Army was known, endured hardships which were heretofore unknown to its members. The weather was more of an enemy than the Confederates. Rain fell during most of the days, and the temperatures were unseasonably cold. As a result, by early June, 1862, nearly one third of the Army of the Potomac was unfit for duty due to illness. It is most likely that this weather played a factor in the health of John and Hugh Porter, as will be reported later.

On May 31, 1862, we find the 101st PA; as part of Wessells' Brigade along with the 85th, and 103rd PA Infantry, and the 96th NY Infantry, at Fair Oaks (Seven Pines), VA This brigade was assigned advance duty, with the 103rd PA on picket duty. At about 12:30 p.m. the Confederate Army, consisting of ten brigades, attacked and routed the pickets. This action marked the beginning of a battle that lasted three days and for the first time exposed the 101st to all out fighting. Later, after several weeks of movements, the Army of the Potomac began what is now known as the Seven Days Battle, again exposing the 101st to much fighting.

In August, 1862, Wessells' Brigade left the Peninsula for North Carolina, where they would remain until the spring of 1864.

On September 24, 1862, Hugh T. Porter was discharged from the regiment on a surgeon's certificate for chronic inflammation of the kidneys. Hugh returned to Western PA and in 1875 he married Carrie Remley. For a time Hugh worked aboard the Beaver River canal boats, later he was employed as an engineer on board boats traveling the Ohio River. In 1900, Hugh and his family were living in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh). Hugh T. Porter died July 13, 1900, and was buried in Uniondale Cemetery in Allegheny Co., PA.

On November 20, 1862, John Porter was discharged on a surgeon's certificate due to having tuberculosis. John also returned to Western PA where he married Emeline Stevens. He was living in Emlenton, Venango Co., PA at the time of his death on January 14, 1902.

Sam remained with the regiment and participated in many minor actions in Eastern North Carolina. In May, 1863, Wessells' Brigade relocated to Plymouth, NC and settled in as garrison troops. The typical day involved the digging of rifle pits, reinforcing of forts and general soldiering. In a letter written by Sam to his parents on July 3, 1863, from Plymouth he states:

"Well I haven't much to rite to day as it is very warm here to day and I have to go to work pretty soon it is now about 1 OClock we have a great deal of work to do to the fort yet it has been so wet this last week that we couldent do eny thing at it. We will have a very favore fourth here as there is nothing going on but soldiering and working."

In January 1864 the U.S. government realizing that the war would likely continue beyond the three year enlistments of many of the soldiers in the field, asked these soldiers to reenlist. Thirty day furloughs were offered as an enticement and those regiments which achieved a 70% reenlistment rate would be permitted to call themselves veterans. Many soldiers refused to reenlist and many regiments disappeared; however, for the most part, the garrison soldiers at Plymouth, NC re-enlisted and those regiments stationed there all exceeded the 70% rate. On January 1, 1864, Samuel W. Porter re-enlisted. In anticipation of going home on furlough the Plymouth soldiers received new uniforms and equipment.

On February 27, 1864, David Porter, just over 18 years old, enlisted in the army, as a replacement troop, in Company H. of the 101st PA Veteran Volunteer Infantry. He traveled directly to Plymouth, NC where he was reunited with his brother Sam. David's training would be provided "on the job" by the other members of his company.

As winter 1864 changed into spring the Plymouth soldiers still waited for their promised furloughs. General Wessells was reluctant to grant the furloughs due to the rumored build up of Confederate forces in his region.

In the late afternoon of Sunday, April 18, 1864, the 2400 or so Plymouth soldiers were preparing to stand full dress parade, most were attired in their new uniforms, when Confederate troops serving under Maj. General R. F. Hoke commenced an attack on Plymouth that would last until the early afternoon of the 20th. Assisting these 7000+ Confederate troops was the newly launched Confederate ironclad ram the "Albemarle", which defeated the Union vessels on the river behind the town, thus completely surrounding Wessells' Brigade. On April 20, General Wessells found his position to be untenable and with sunken heart, he surrendered his command to Confederate General Hoke. General Hoke was a true southern gentleman, and, in respect for the bravery shown by Wessells' Brigade, he presented orders to his troops denying them the right to take any belongings from the captured Union boys.

After several days of travel, on broken-down Confederate railways, during which time they were dubbed the "Plymouth Pilgrims", the dispirited Yankees of Wessells' Brigade were deposited outside the gates of Camp Sumter (Andersonville Prison), GA They arrived at the prison late at night and were held outside until daybreak at which time they were marched in. Their immediate reaction was one of horror. Never had they seen such squalor. Unfortunately, they were to become part of this hell with some never to leave. Upon arriving inside the compound these troops were fully equipped and wore newly issued uniforms, they being "new fish" became easy targets for a group of ruffian thugs known as "the Raiders". Many were mugged and robbed and left with next to nothing.

Day-to-day life was an effort at survival. The food was skimpy and generally unfit for human consumption. The water supply was undrinkable. Shelter was lacking as were all other facilities. The other prisoners were filthy and sickly. Many were not to be trusted and others were outright criminals who victimized their brothers in arms, often murdering them. Many of the guards were likewise cruel and took pleasure in shooting the prisoners.

On June 26, 1864, David, after suffering the depravities of Andersonville Prison for two months, died in the prison hospital of typhoid, diarrhea and intermittent fever. He is buried, with over thirteen thousand other prisoners, in the nearby cemetery in grave number 2590. The effect this loss must have had on Sam can only be imagined. His younger brother, whom he most likely had promised to protect, had died from disease after only five months in the army.

Sam survived four months at Andersonville and was then transferred to Florence Prison, in Florence, SC on December 13, 1864, Samuel W. Porter was paroled by the Confederates at Charleston, SC. He was then transported to Camp Parole near Annapolis, Maryland, where he began his slow recovery. On December 25, he received a 30-day furlough and traveled home to his family for further recovery. Twice he was granted 30-day extensions to this furlough. In March, 1865, he rejoined his regiment in North Carolina, and on June 25, 1865, he was mustered out of the Army, with his company, after nearly four years of military service.

On February 8,1866, Sam married Mary E. English, an orphan, who was raised by neighbors in North Sewickley Twp. Together they reared seven children: Amelia, Frank C., Margaret E., Sarah L, William and Maude E. Life for Sam was difficult, he suffered with various pains throughout the remainder of his life. Due to his poor health he had difficulty in keeping steady work, he and Mary raised their children to be productive citizens, in spite of having to live in poverty. It was not until the 1890's, when Sam started receiving a government pension of $6 a month, that conditions improved for Sam and his family.

Sam outlived Mary, who died in 1905, and he remarried in early 1907 to Mary Brown of New Castle. Sam would also outlive his second wife who died in 1909. Samuel W. Porter died on March 17, 1912, while a patient at the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie, PA He is buried with his first wife in Grand View Cemetery, Beaver Falls, PA

Submitted by Robert C. Porter, 150 Rockland Road, Westminster, Maryland, 21158, a g-g-grandson of Samuel W Porter.