When the war broke out in 1861, the 1st Safe Harbor Artillery decided to join the fight. For reasons unknown, they entered the war as infantry rather than artillery (probably because there was a greater need for infantry). Having already been a militia unit with existing officers, they ended up as a unit of their own - Company D, of the 30th regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, or - the 1st Penna. Reserves. The newest infantry units (as well as the one Cavalry and one Artillery unit) were all 3 year enlistments. So, of course, were all the subsequent units that came after. Our company's first commander was George Hess - married with several children and living in Safe Harbor just northwest of Conestoga.
Death of Capt. Hess. -We regret to learn that the worst anticipations of Capt. Geo. H. Hess' fate have been realized. News of his death in hospital at Richmond, on the , has been received. Capt. Hess was for a number of years the well known and popular host fo the Mansion House, Safe Harbor. We knew him personally, as a most amiable and courteous gentleman, and he could count his friends by thousand. He commanded Company D. Fourth Regiment Penna. Reserves, and did splendid service in the first two days' fighting before Richmond, falling severly wounded - shot through the breast - on the second day. His loss will be deeply felt by a devoted family and host of friends
People who died at Mechanicsburg, Virginia in Capt. Hess' company are John Gilbert, Peter McBride, W. love, J. Harnish and McCabe.
As long as there's a Company D, you will not be forgotten Captain. Thanks for your service and ultimate sacrifice. Rest in peace fearless leader.
Some of you may be wondering, who replaced George? William Wasson became the second, and I believe, the last captain of Co. D - which means that he took us through Antietam, Gettysburg, and other battles. Co. D mustered out in April, 1864.
From an anonymous letter written Oct. 16,1861 .......I must now tell you of a very bold feat that Co. D did on the morning of the 14th instant . . .Our Colonel was informed by two of our scouts who had been scouting around for the last day or two, that an old lady by the name of Mrs. Jackson, living but a short distance from a rebel camp, has been communicating with the rebels frequently, and informing them how we are situated and how we are moving. Our Colonel communicated the facts to our captain and said, "to take a regiment there will perhaps not do, but if he (Capt. Hess) had the courage to take his men there, search the house and bring her to camp, a great deal of honor would rest upon his company". As there was no other company willing to go, Capt. Hess immediately said his company would. Our company had been on guard that night, but we were immediately relieved and taken to our quarters to get a bite to eat. The captain then asked whether we were willing to go with him. We said we would, and rejoiced at the opportunity.
We left camp at 2 o'clock in the morning with a squad of only 34 men. . . . After marching between two and three miles beyond our cavalry pickets, we reached Mrs. Jackson's house. The captain ordered us to surround the house and let no servant or any one else escape from the place to make an alarm. We immediately surrounded the house, and the captain, on going up to the door, rapped. The servant immediately arose and opened the door. The captain told him to awaken the old lady, which he did. The old lady came down and asked what was the matter? The captain told her he came to search the house. She said he was welcome, but looked very much frightened. The captain and four sergeants went in and searched the house from top to bottom, finding two arms-full of important papers. While we were searching the house, the old lady said, "Boys, you will receive a great deal of honor by coming here. I am the mother of Jackson, who shot Col. Ellsworth at Alexandria, now in heaven". But we knew before we went there who she was. . . . After we had finished searching, the captain told her that she and Jackson's uncle must go along up to the general, as he was ordered to bring them along. She said she would die before she would go. The captain told her she need walk but a short distance, and then she would be hauled to camp, and brought back immediately to her home. She is now at Gen. McCall's headquarters, and it will be some time before she reaches home again.. . . . .General McClellan thinks it is the most daring attempt he ever knew of, for a squad of 34 men to go so near the rebel camp. They expected nothing else but that every man of us would be killed. There was a lot of cavalry with us, but they could go no further than the blockades; we had to go two miles further alone. We returnded to camp again at 7 O'clock on the same morning. General McCall says he believes this company would go through h--l. It was left altogether to our captain's own option either to go or to stay. He told the Colonel that his company would follow him wherever he led, and he told us before we went that he expected to be shot that night; we told him we were willing to die with him . . .