2012-07-19 / Columns

The Bugle Calls

This is the latest installment in a series of profiles of members of the 141st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, which was comprised of men from Bradford County who fought in the Civil War.

John J. Allen, a simple farmer from Herrick Township, mustered into Company A of the 141st Pennsylvania Volunteers in August of 1862. Earlier, in late July, John had been recruited by Captain Jackson at Wyalusing. A Captain Sailer, not of Bradford County, was the mustering officer at Camp Curtain, Harrisburg, where the entire company had jointly traveled to begin their martial life. Private Allen received a promotion almost immediately and served as a sergeant until May 20, 1864, when the grim reaper’s sickle cut John down.

Having survived the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, John, tragically enough, found his end would not come from a wound received in battle. A less glorious demise was in order for him. The 141st PA Volunteers had in late 1863 been incorporated into the 2nd Corp under Major Gen. Hancock. During 1864, life under Hancock was fast, furious and deadly. That year proved to be the costliest of the entire war.

At bloody Spotsylvania, the Union Army was once again repulsed by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Despite heavy losses, the foot race to Richmond was almost immediately underway again. The early summer heat was already oppressive in Virginia and the soldiers suffered tremendously from the rapid and horrible marches filled with choking dust. Typically they marched for fifty minutes and were given a ten-minute respite. Most all were quick to lie down and rest, for these veterans knew there would be more forced marching ahead of them. They also knew they might cover over twenty miles in a day.

At the end of another long hard day, the men set up their bivouac and Sergeant Allen pitched his tent. Afterwards, probably after a modest supper, he decided to lie down in his tent. He made a pillow out of his knapsack and rested his head upon it. Perhaps bored or just wishing to engage himself in his favorite pastime, he reached into his haversack and pulled out his fife. He began to play. History does not record how long he filled the air with his melodies, but it does record that, without warning, a bullet suddenly passed through several tents and struck him in the side of the neck just above the shoulder.

A comrade, likely of the 141st, had mishandled a rifle and it accidently discharged. The men sought out who, if anyone, may have been wounded by the untimely discharge. Eventually, they made their gruesome discovery. Sergeant Allen was not yet dead. Subsequently, the regiment was forced to take up the march again. As he could not be left behind, the severely wounded Sergeant Allen was placed in an ambulance while the advance continued. Thirty-two-year-old Sergeant John J. Allen passed away sometime during the march. With little ceremony he was buried somewhere alongside the Fredericksburg Road, where his body still remains. He left a wife and three small children behind. Lt. Col. Watkins said of him, “We lost a good man yesterday, Sergeant Allen of Company A.”

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