The 12th New Jersey
Regimental History
trenz pruca
minneapolis, mn

Lt. Charles Troutman

The 12th New Jersey was formed during the summer of 1862 when President Lincoln called for an additional 300,000 men to form the ranks of the Union Army. The 12th trained in Woodbury through the late summer of 1862 and was officially mustered into the United States service on September 4, 1862 with a total of 992 men.

The 12th moved to Ellicott Mills, Maryland just outside of Baltimore for three months until they were given orders to again move Southward towards the war. The 12th was ordered to Falmouth, Virginia to join the 2nd Corp which was to last throughout the war. Most of the time was spent in drills, inspections and reviews.

In 1863 the raw 12th New Jersey joined with the 14th Connecticut and the 108th New York which were two regiments which had been engaged in Antietam and Fredericksburg. The fresh 12th was badly needed in the brigade.

The Chancellorsville Campaign began for the 2nd Corp when they left their camp in Falmouth on April 27th. The 12th was in the lead when they crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford. On the morning of May 1st, the 12th New Jersey contacted the Confederates East of Chancellorsville. At dawn of May 2nd, Stonewall Jackson’s Corp outflanked the Union right. The 2nd Corp  was in reserve and formed a battleline that repulsed Jackson’s veterans. On May 3rd, the 12th fell back to protect the 2nd Corps artillery. The 12th New Jersey had been under heavy fire for the first time and has resisted bravely and stubbornly. The regiment had been welded into a fighting unit and had been accepted by the veterans of the brigade.

They lost 24 killed, 132 wounded and 22 captured. The regiment returned to Falmouth and performed guard detail until mid June when news had spread the Confederate cavalry had been observed near Chambersburg, PA.

Under Presidential orders, the troops moved Northward screening the capital while cavalry sought out the Confederate army destination. The 2nd Corp turned towards the impending battle and headed towards the protection of Lee’s invasion of the North through Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, July 1st Northwest of the tiny town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania the 9th New York Cavalry encountered Confederate General Archer’s advance as the confederates were heading to Gettysburg in search of badly needed shoes (the shoes were never found). The 12th reached Gettysburg after a long hard march around midnight on July 2nd. General Meade was disturbed by the open spaces in the lines on Cemetery Ridge and he moved the 2nd and 3rd Corps into those positions by 7:00 AM. That night, Union commanders met with General Meade and warned him that an attack would probably come at their position the next day. Confederate sharpshooters occupied the Bliss Farm  which was situated halfway across the field, now known as Pickett’s Charge. The 12th New Jersey volunteered to clean them out which resulted in capturing over 90 Confederate sharpshooters and officers. Just after 1:00 PM, 130 Confederate cannons opened fire and 180 Union guns replied. It was the greatest number of cannon fire in the history of warfare to that time. It lasted for almost an hour until the guns eventually fell silent. A magnificent scene unfolded, a sight that would never been seen again, as from out of the protected woods filed a mile long line of gray infantry with battle flags fluttering and swords and bayonets gleaming. The Union troops watched in fascination as the Brigades formed in precise alignment as though on dress parade. Then 15,000 men under General George E. Pickett stepped off for the long march across the valley to Cemetery Ridge. The 14th Connecticut and the 12th New Jersey out in front as skirmishers burned the annoying Bliss Farm before retiring to their position with the 2nd Corp. The 2nd Corp has borne the brunt of the charge. The 12th New Jersey, using their 69 caliber muskets broke their cartridges apart using only buckshot and waited until the Confederates were only a few hundred yards to their front. When the smoke cleared, not a single man from the advancing Confederates in front of the 12th remained standing. The 12th New Jersey’s losses were two officers and 21 men killed, four officers and 79 men wounded and 12 men captured. Among the first volunteer nurses to go to Gettysburg was Miss Cornelia Hancock, a Quaker from Salem County. She helped to tend to nearly 20,000 Union and Confederate lying on the bare ground without shelter of any kind.

General Meade reluctantly decided that he must attack on July 14th only to find that the Confederates had managed to escape across the Potomac into Virginia. This ended Lee’s invasion campaign to disrupt the North.

In 1864, the 12th camped near Stevensburg, Virginia until the end of April and the 12th was kept in reserve. As the spring progressed, the 1st and 3rd Corp were disbanded and assigned to other Corps. Desertion mounted as men grew tired of the war. On March 12th 1864, the rank of Lieutenant General was revived and Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to command all of the Union Armies (George Washington and Winfield Scott were the only two men to hold this rank prior to Grant’s commission).

On May 3rd, the 12th New Jersey marched out of winter quarters and marched passed Chancellorsville reminding them of their first battle about one year before into the gloomy Wilderness. Confusion filled the entire day as troops struggled through the forest often scarcely able to see their comrades. The Wilderness became an inferno of thick smoke broken by flashes of gunfire. Many wounded perished as the undergrowth caught fire.

By May 7th, General Grant broke off the battle and shifted further South of the Wilderness towards Spotsylvania Courthouse. Grant kept up a relentless pressure. The 12th New Jersey entered the battle near the Po River. On May 12th, the 2nd and 6th Corp were given the task of attacking a bulge or salient in the Confederate defenses. The vicious hand-to-hand combat lasted almost all day and would become notorious as the battle of the "Bloody Angle". At midnight, the exhausted 2nd Corp retired having captured two Generals, 4000 men and 20 cannons. Their own losses were severe which included the death of Lieutenant Colonel Davis. The battered 12th New Jersey engaged in a light skirmish on May 13th and the following day were sent to the rear of the lines to rescue 270 Union wounded who had almost been captured by Confederate cavalry. There were 21 men killed, 122 wounded and 19 missing and presumed dead.

With minor skirmishes along the way, the 12th was sent to the big Union base of City Point, Virginia on August 2nd. The 12th would find itself fighting in and around Petersburg, Virginia through the fall and into February of 1865. On March 29th, Sheridan’s Cavalry demolished the extreme right flank of the Confederate line which lead to the falling of Confederate fortifications at Petersburg. Confederate General A. P. Hill was killed as the gray lines collapsed all the way to the Appomattox River. General Lee was forced to put his shattered army into retreat.

At Saylers Creek, on April 6th, the 2nd Corp captured many prisoners including General Ewell. On Palm Sunday, April 9th, the Army of Northern Virginia was formerly surrendered by General Robert E. Lee to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Captain William A. Potter of the 12th New Jersey was one of the five officers selected to deliver all of the surrendered colors of the Army of Northern Virginia to the war department on May 1st.

The 12th New Jersey returned in leisurely fashion to Washington by May 2nd. It participated in the grand review of the Army of the Potomac on May 23rd and was assigned light duties around Washington until July. Veterans of the 12th New Jersey were given leave on June 11th and left for Trenton where their unexpected arrival the next day lead to a rather dreary foodless reception. Paid off on June 17th, most of the men left by train to Camden where they went separate ways to their homes. They were soldiers no longer. The officers and men still in Washington were mustered out on July 15th, officially terminating the service of the 12th New Jersey Volunteers.

Of the regiment that had left Woodbury on September 7, 1862, less than half remained in service at the end of the hostilities. Over 1500 men had served in the regiment. There had been almost half as many replacements as the original number mustered in on September 4, 1862. Official records list nine officers and 177 men killed or mortally wounded in action and 101 men dead of disease. Officers discharged or resigned, mostly because of disability, totaled 26. Official records are not available for the wounded but at least 410 were discharged because of disabling wounds.

Descendants of the men who served in the 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry may well be proud of their forefathers who fought and died to keep this a strong and united nation


Capt. Edward Stratton

Lt. James Stratton

Lt. Col. Richard Thompson

Lt. John Fogg

Capt. Thomas Slater

Capt. Charles Lippencott

Lt. J. Frank Brown