Category Archives: 95th Pennsylvania Infantry

1862: Thomas D. Ayres to his Brother

This letter was written by Thomas D. Ayres (1838-1887), the son of Philadelphia paper manufacturer, George Washington Ayres (1811-1880) and Eliza Jane Williams (1818-1913). Thomas was married to Rebecca D. Hollis (1842-1916) on 19 September 1861 just after he had enlisted in Co. F, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry (“Gosline’s Zouaves”) in Philadelphia. Thomas survived the war, returned to Philadelphia where he and Rebecca had numerous children, and lived out his days as a confectioner. He died at the age of 49.

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is an unidentified corporal in Co. A of the Gosline’s Zouaves (W. Griffing Collection)

“Organized in Philadelphia during August 1861 under the enthusiastic guidance of John M. Gosline, the regiment was composed of men from the city and surrounding counties including one company of men from New Jersey that became Company B. First known as the “Pennsylvania Zouaves” and designated the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the organization was re-designated in September as the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry with a new monicker, “Gosline’s Zouaves”. Gosline envisioned a well-trained, disciplined and distinctive regiment that would stand apart from other volunteer units. Using his own financial influence with friends in Philadelphia, Gosline secured a contract with Schuylkill Arsenal outside of Philadelphia to provide his new regiment with a zouave-style uniform of his design.

The regiment’s first engagement with Confederate forces was at West Point (or “Brick House Point”), Virginia, on May 7, 1862. The regiment was initially deployed as skirmishers in the action and drove a Confederate cavalry force back into the main southern line where gray-clad infantry waited in an apparent ambush. Gosline skillfully pulled his zouaves back and ordered his men to occupy a barricade previously thrown up by other units, all the while keeping up a brisk fire on the Confederate infantry. The Confederates withdrew before nightfall leaving the ground in possession of Union forces. In their first action, the Ninety-fifth “behaved very well, bringing on the action with the enemy and keeping him well occupied”, according to General John Newton who commanded the brigade. (OR, Vol. 11, Pt. 1, p. 624) One officer and six enlisted men were wounded in the action, and eight enlisted men were killed.”
[See A History of the Regiment, 1861-1862]

To read other letters and diaries by members of the Gosline’s Zouaves that I have transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared, see:

Joshua Thompson, Co. A/H, 95th Pennsylvania (1 Letter)
Samuel Clayton, Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania (2 Diaries)
Walter Lackey, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania (1 Letter)
Edward Riggs, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania (1 Letter)


Camp at the White House [Landing]
Kent County, Virginia
May 17th 1862

Dear Brother,

I received your welcome and affectionate letter several days ago and would have answered it sooner only I had no postage stamps and you can’t buy one down here for love nor money.

I suppose you heard about the fight with the rebels at West Point. Our regiment was not mentioned in the Philadelphia paper at all as far as I can learn and they are the ones that ought to have the praise and not the Fire Zouaves for they were not within two miles of the battle all day. Our regiment lost about 10 killed and 15 or 20 wounded and the Division lost about 130 killed.

Our regiment went into the fight first and drove the Rebels out of their entrenchments. Our company stood up like men and if it had not been for our captain’s skillful maneuvers, we all would have been taken prisoners or killed so you may know we had a hard fight. But we are always ready for to fight the Rebels and can whip them out of their boots.

Tell Rebecca that I have not any letter from her for the last 3 weeks and have wrote to her every week regular. Goodbye. My love to you all. I will write again in a few days to you. I am your brother, — Thomas D. Ayres

Write soon and excuse this short letter for my paper is short and pen is bad. Your brother, — T. D. Ayres

Corp. Frank Miller of Co. E, 95th Pennsylvania, or “Gosline’s Zouaves”
An early war image when they still wore their scarlet lined pants.
(W. Griffing Collection)

1863: Walter Lackey to Thomas Walter

I could not find an image of Walter but here is a 6th Plate Ambrotype of Thomas W. Ward of Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania, or “Gosline’s Zouaves” (David Basco Collection)

This letter was written by Walter Lackey (1841-1898) of Philadelphia, who enlisted as a private in Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry (“Gosline’s Zouaves”) in October 1861. At the time of his enlistment he was described as a 20 year-old, 5’9″ tall, blue-eyed, light-haired printer. He was discharged with disability in June 1864.

The men of the 95th Pennsylvania had a long and glorious record of achievement on the battlefield. They wore an “Americanized” zouave uniform. Later in the war, they turned in their scarlet pants, scarlet trimed kepis, and tan gaiters, but the jacket, and vest still remained, and they wore the zouave jacket, and vest up until their regiment was mustered out at the end of the war. The regiment lost six field officers during the war: two colonels, two lieutenant-colonels, a major and an adjutant; this is the second highest total of officer casualties for any Union regiment during the war.

According to a notice posted in the Bridgeton Pioneer (New Jersey) on 21 April 1898, Walter “dropped dead at his home” in Philadelphia. He was only 55.

Other letters and diaries by members of the 95th Pennsylvania transcribed & published on Spared & Shared include:
Joshua Thompson, Co. A/H, 95th Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)
Samuel Clayton, Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania (2 Diaries)
Edward Riggs, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)


Camp of the 95th Regt. Penn. Vols.
Near Warrenton, Va.
October 24, 1863

Cousin Tom,

I received your letter and owe thee an apology for not writing to thee before. But the truth is, I have not written to anyone but the folks at home. It is not necessary to tell thee all about our summer campaign to prove that it has been a severe one.

“It is rumored that Gen. Meade is about to be superseded by Gen. Dan Sickles. I have surmised for some time that such would be the case. The fact is, Gen. Meade is getting much too popular for that consummate villain H. W. Halleck.”

—Walter Lackey, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania, 24 October 1863

The last ten days has also been an eventful period to our army and may be the cause of a change in command of this army. It is rumored that Gen. Meade is about to be superseded by Gen. Dan Sickles. I have surmised for some time that such would be the case. The fact is, Gen. Meade is getting much too popular for that consummate villain H. W. Halleck. I can’t see what the President means by the course he is pursuing in regard to the army. My eyes have been opened lately by many facts in regards to officers which I had been led to believe were “loyal to the core,” but who are sympathizers with the rebels. It is a sad reality that our lives are at the mercy of such men. They are fully competent to command and as brave as the bravest, but their hearts are not in the cause.

I believe Gen. Meade to be brave and patriotic, and that our Corps General Sedgwick is also loyal, but there are division and brigade generals in our Corps who are wanting in patriotic motives. Our regiment is in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Corps, commanded respectively by Generals Bartlett, Wright, and Sedgwick.

Last week we evacuated the line of the Rapidan and fell back to Centreville without any loss to our Corps. On Monday we again moved forward and are now lying at Warrenton—a very pretty little place, but shows signs of decay which are the fruits of the rebellion. The inhabitants are of course “Secesh” in feeling, but they have a great liking for Uncle Sam’s “greenbacks.” They sell very high. For instance, yesterday I wished to buy a few cakes (having got tired of hard tack) and I went into town and bought a dozen for 50 cents. The cakes were about two inches in diameter. Cabbage sells for 30 cents a head, butter $1.25 cents a pound and everything else in proportion.

The rebels in falling back from Manassas destroyed all the small culverts and tore up the track of the railroad. Consequently our supplies have to be brought in wagons from Gainesville.

Tracks of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad torn up by the retreating Confederates in the fall of 1863.

I feel very well satisfied with the result of the election in Ohio and Pennsylvania and hope that New York will not go astray.

There is no signs of the army going into winter quarters although there is some talk of it. We are today having a heavy storm and I suppose cold weather will follow. Give my regards to thy father, mother, and the rest of the family. I should be pleased to hear from thee at thy earliest convenience.

Truly as ever, — Walter Lackey

Co. K, 95th Reg. P. V., 2nd Brig, 1st Div., 6th Corps, Washington, DC.