Company E

'Slippery Rock Volunteers'

100th Regt, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

  The Roundhead Regiment

 WE KNOW ONLY OUR COUNTRY  

History

In April 1861, after Fort Sumter, a distinguished medical doctor Daniel Leasure answered his  country’s call and immediately raised the “Lawrence Guards” in New Castle, the largest town in Lawrence County, PA.  The Lawrence Guards became Co. F and H of the 12th Pennsylvania, a 3-month regiment.  Though Pennsylvania’s regiment quota was filled when the three months were up, Leasure went to Washington to visit Secretary of War Cameron and asked if he could raise an independent regiment.  These two companies that made up the Lawrence Guards had developed a strong reputation around Baltimore and Washington D.C.  Cameron asked Leasure, “Can you bring out a full regiment with as good of men as the two companies guarding the bridges over the Gunpowder River?”   Leasure replied, “I have no other kind to bring”.  Gen. Winfield Scott who happened to be present replied, “We will call them Roundheads”.  This was in honor of Cameron’s Scotch-Irish ancestors who were loyal to Oliver Cromwell’s English Roundheads.  Also, many of the men from Lawrence and surrounding counties in Western Pennsylvania that became the 100th PA were of Scotch-Irish stock and were descendants of those loyal to Cromwell in the English Civil War.

A full regiment was mustered in late August of 1861 under command by Leasure. One of these companies, Co. E had been the “Slippery Rock Volunteers”, a local militia from Lawrence County that was formed in 1860-1861.  Their pre-Civil War uniform consisted of a yellow linen hunting shirt, trimmed with red fringe; they wore red leggings and a citizen’s hat with a white plume.  One of the young officers in this company was 2nd Lt. Norman J. Maxwell, my great great grandfather.  Co. E is our portrayal within the WCWA.

The Roundhead Regiment did not officially get their 100 state regiment number until July of 1862 when they were added to the new 9th Army Corps under Gen. Ambrose Burnside.  Because of this, they were simply known as the Roundhead Regiment throughout the war.

The Roundheads were a devoutly religious Presbyterian unit and were known to go to church call en masse with arms and carried their bibles in their breast pocket when going into battle.  Their regimental reverend, Robert Audley Browne would be close to the front lines during battle and is quoted to have said, “Trust in God and Keep your Powder Dry”, a quote that was a variety of the original English Roundhead quote, “Trust in Cromwell and Keep your Powder Dry”.  This religious conviction kept their moral compass straight and increased their bravery under fire.  Early in the war to help the Roundhead soldier along with these challenges, the command staff published a newspaper in the field for a time called “The Camp Kettle”.  The motto “We know only our country” loomed large.  Following the South Carolina campaign , the printing press, regimental band and regimental nurses were considered luxuries and were sent home.

Between their early campaign to South Carolina and their continued campaigns with the 9th Corps, the Roundhead Regiment was considered one of the most traveled union regiments of the war.  They saw action at many of the well known battles or sieges including Secessionville, 2nd Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg as a reserve unit, Vicksburg, Jackson, Blue Springs, Campbell Station, Knoxville, Fort Saunders, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, the Mine Explosion, and Fort Stedman.  At Fort Stedman, March 25, 1865, which is coincidentally the same day as National Medal of Honor Day, two Roundheads were awarded congressional medals of honor for their actions in retaking the fort-- Joseph Chambers and Charles Oliver.  Major Norman J. Maxwell who took over command of the regiment when Lt. Col Joseph Pentecost fell during the original confederate assault by Gen John B. Gordon’s troops, was promoted to Col. For his actions there and brevetted a brigadier general.

The Roundheads are tied to Washington State through Gen. Isaac Stevens, who lead them as a Brigade Commander in the Port Royal Campaign in November 1861 up to the Battle of Secessionville on June 16, 1862.  There, he lead a division with Leasure as one of his brigade commanders.   The Roundheads then fought under Stevens’ division command at 2nd Bull Run and finally Chantilly.

For detailed history of the regiment, refer to:

  • William G. Gavin's "Campaigning with the Roundheads", the History of the 100th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry, "Roundheads", 1989, Morningside Books; and

  • The website of the 100th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, "Roundheads" at  www.100thpenn.com/history.htm

All that remains (left) of the first 100th Pennsylvania flag at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. 

A portion of the flag was recovered by the 100th Pennsylvania, secured by Captain James McFeeters.   The remaining portion of the flag, orginally claimed to have been captured by the Confederates was eventually returned to the State of Pennsylvania and matched up with the recovered portion that McFeeters secured.  The shell that broke the staff of the colors and shredded the silk, struck and obliterated Lt. Richard Craven of Co. K, who had recovered the colors and died moment's later in his brave efforts to rally his men.

This flag presented to the regiment in July 1862 by their division commander, General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, first territorial governor of the Washington Territories, is available to see upon appointment at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, PA.