History of the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserve Corps


by Chris Rasmussen & Jim Owston

Because Josiah R. Sypher published his History of the Pennsylvania Reserves in 1865 and Samuel P. Bates his History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1869, the accounts of many of the individual regiments of the Reserves, the Keystone State's grand division, have never been adequately chronicled. Of the fifteen regiments comprising the Reserves, only six regimental histories were ever published: two of these concerned the 13th Reserves, better known as the Bucktails.

The Ninth Reserves, which had over eleven hundred men serve in its ranks, is one of the unchronicled regiments. The history of the 9th will relate their long overlooked narrative. It will include stories of young men who left their jobs and families and flocked to Pittsburgh in order to preserve the Union and defend their flag. many of whom were fated to never return to home and loved ones.

The men of the ninth embodied the entire range of personas of the common soldier, from hero to coward, from saintly to villainous, as illustrated by the following:

Twenty-one year old Joseph McQuaide, the youngest son born to a Westmoreland County couple in their September years, who gave his life's blood on the plains of Manassas.

Educator Robert Taggart who traded an annual salary of $800.00 for $10.00 per month as a private in the Iron City Guards.

Elikam (Ell) Torrance, the son of a Presbyterian minister, who pleaded with his parents to allow him to enlist at the tender age of sixteen. Torrance later gained national prominence as National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, Chairman of the Gettysburg Fiftieth Reunion Committee and the originator of the Blue-Gray Organization.

Captain Emil von Sothen, a former aid to the King of Hanover, who "double-quicked" to the rear when a shell exploded over his company and was never to be seen again.

Samuel Baker of McKeesport who murdered fellow soldier William Coyan while on picket duty. Upon his release from prison, he returned to the front and was killed weeks later at South Mountain.

Lt. Colonel Robert Anderson, a Mexican war hero and dearly loved by his men, left the regiment in shame amid charges of drunkenness.

The history of this regiment will chronicle its formation, camp life, the campaigns, detached service, the subsequent service in the 190th P.V.I. and the men's personalities that cry out from beyond the grave. In addition, the history will serve to correct many of the errors contained in Sypher, Bates and other volumes. The book will contain an appendix of biographical information relating to every known person associated with the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. This information includes soldiers, original enlistees who resigned, servants (including contraband), the sutler and patrons. The two researchers are attempting to unearth every possible document relating to the regiment including official records, diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, pensions, photographs, memorabilia, census records and other related documents.

This collaboration began in June 1998, when unbeknownst to each other, both Jim Owston and Chris Rasmussen were working individually on the same project. Motivated by a desire for a greater knowledge of his family, Jim began in 1992 by attempting to discover further information about one of his two relatives in the regiment: Captain Charles W. Owston. While he originally intended his research to lead to a chapter in a family history he was compiling, he decided to write a narrative on Owston's company, the Pittsburgh Rifles. Because information regarding other companies (especially C) seemed more readily available, he switched his focus to the entire regiment in 1994. Chris, avidly interested in the Civil War since childhood, began researching Allegheny County regiments in 1997. While initiating his study of both the 8th and 9th Reserves, he later narrowed his focus to the 9th. This narrowing led Chris to an exhaustive search of original source material found in western Pennsylvania. While both Chris and Jim consulted some of the same archivists and librarians in 1997 and 1998, neither was aware of each other until Jim stumbled upon Chris name on the 9th Reserves Web Site. After a weekend of exchanging email messages, the two worked out an amiable and synergistic arrangement wherein they would collaborate on the project. Original interests were divvied up among the two historians with each deciding which topics and chapters that they wishes to participate as the lead author.

The collaboration has allowed both men to focus their efforts without duplication of materials and research energies. Since Jim had begun the biographical section over a year ago, he has continued this project with the addition of data collected from the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg and the National Archives in Washington. Prior to leaving Pittsburgh for Washington, Chris scoured the local newspapers from the era in hopes of finding additional valuable information. Since his latest job assignment is within walking distance of the National Archives, he will concentrate his new research on brigade, divisional and pension records. He also intends to continue his newspaper research during visits to Pittsburgh. Jim plans to return to NARA during the winter to extract further personal information regarding the men.

One difficulty in writing a history of the 9th is the lack of original documents. Many of the original company books were lost on two occasions. The first occurred in August 1862 when a barge containing company records among other items capsized at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The second loss was a year later when, upon the march to Gettysburg, the unit left records at Frederick, MD. The books were missing when the regiment returned in July 1863. In addition, there appear to be more personal accounts surviving from Companies A and C with comparatively little material concerning the remaining eight companies still in existence. While making the challenge more formidable, it has created a level of excitement in the overcoming of such odds. Chris and Jim are committed to writing the most comprehensive regimental history as possible. In addition to the forthcoming book, the team has plans for a web site to generate interest in both the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves and the project in general. While most of their combined efforts have been conducted at distance and through email, the two had an opportunity to meet each other for the first time in Bellevue, PA on August 22.

In the spirit of cooperation and an indebtedness to the organization that brought them together, Chris and Jim concluded that best solution for naming their forthcoming volume was to allow the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves to make the final decision. Each of the authors have submitted two names and are asking the unit to make this all important decision by picking the title. They ask that the unit remember to take this endeavor seriously as a title can either make or break a book. The rejected titles will be utilized as chapter titles. The choices consist of the following:

From Wilkins to the Wilderness: A History of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves

Baptized in Blood: The Civil War Exploits of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves

The Boys of '61: The 9th Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War

The Spirit of 1861: The 9th Pennsylvania Reserves Go to War

Jim Owston and Chris Rasmussen are working on a regimental history of the 9th.

Return to the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves Home Page. For further information write to 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, c/o 1887 Old Ramsey Rd., Monroeville, PA 15146.
URL: http://www.9thpareserves.org/Library11.htm
July 1998