Recruiting The Regiment: The Erie Regiment

On April 21, 1861 John W. McLane of Erie issued a call for volunteers, for a term of service of three months. In 1859 he had formed the Wayne Guard, a company of volunteers that served as a mostly ceremonial unit. The Wayne Guard would be the core of the new regiment.

Col. John McLane
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Within four days twelve hundred men answered McLane’s call for volunteers, and they immediately applied for the entire number for immediate service, instead Pennsylvania governor Andrew G. Curtin issued orders for ten companies of seventy-seven men each.

McLane set up a camp on what was then the local fairgrounds, on the east side of the city. He named it Camp Wayne, after the revolutionary war hero who had died in Erie in 1796. On April 27, officers were elected. McLane was elected Colonel; Benjamin Grant, Lieutenant Colonel; Matthias Schlandecker, Major; and Strong Vincent as Adjutant. The next day, April 28, the regiment moved to Pittsburgh, by rail, and established Camp Wilkins, just upriver of the city on the Allegheny River.

Camp Wilkins was made the place where volunteers from the western part of the state would rendezvous, and Col. McLane was placed in command. Within six weeks the number of volunteers overwhelmed the camp, which created the need for a second camp. A new site, named Camp Wright, was set up twelve miles further upriver, and the men from Erie relocated to it for the remained of their term of service.

In July, the regiment’s three months enlistments were up, and they returned to Erie and were mustered out. In August Col. McLane raised a new regiment, this time for three years’ service. In a little more than four weeks, almost one thousand men volunteered for this regiment, nearly three hundred of them from the original Erie Regiment. They were mustered into service in early September as the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Not only did the Erie Regiment make up the core of the 83rd, but Matthias Schandecker would go on to form the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteers within weeks of the creation of the 83rd. Hiram Brown, who was the Captain of Company B, first would serve with the 83rd, and while recovering from wounds suffered at Gaines’ Mill would go on to form the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteers. First Lieutenant David McCreary, also of the original Company B would go on to succeed then Col. Brown as commander of the 145th. Amos Judson, who wrote the history of the 83rd Pennsylvania, and Oliver Wilcox Norton, who published serval volumes on his war experience, most notably about Strong Vincent and the defense of the Little Round Top were also members of both the Erie Regiment and the 83rd.

Although the Erie Regiment never saw battle, and never travelled further that Pittsburgh, many of the men who served in it went on to serve with the three later regiments from Erie, and other Union units, and contribute to Union victory.

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