The original 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Company K, was recruited in Latrobe, Westmoreland County, on April 26, 1861 for a three-month enlistment answering President Lincoln's call for volunteers, becoming a "first defender" unit in the cause to save the Union. During this enlistment the 11th PVI fought and defeated the enemy, including Col. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, at Falling Waters, it's first battle. It was after this battle that the 11th regiment won the distinction for meritorious service and earned the nickname "The Bloody Eleventh."
Company K completed its three-month enlistment and re-enlisted out of Youngstown, Westmoreland County, on December 11, 1861 for three years service. Upon re-enlisting, the 11th was to be reassigned to the 51st PA, under a new flag, but having won one of the first and few Union victories in 1861, the 11th refused to muster under any banner but its own, retaining the now glorious distinction of 11th PVI.
Richard Coulter, a lawyer from Greensburg and a Mexican War Veteran was recommended to command and commissioned Colonel. Wounded at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania, he was reported among the slain more than once. His distinguished war record earned him a promotion to Brevet Brigadier General, August 1, 1864, ending the War as a Brevet Major General. His contemporaries described him as courageous, public-spirited, and honest forceful in character, honorable, and charitable with a generous nature.
Westmoreland County sent five companies of her sons to help fill the ranks of the regiment. Company C, recruited at Latrobe, Jacob Brierer, a carpenter, commissioned as Captain; Company E, recruited at Latrobe and Ligonier, Jacob McCurdy, a farmer, commissioned as Captain; Company F, recruited at Salem, David Cooke, a farmer, commissioned as Captain; Company I, recruited at Greensburg, George Cribbs, a farmer, commissioned as Captain; Company K, recruited at Youngstown, John Keenan, a hotel proprietor, commissioned as Captain. At 2nd Bull Run, Captains Brierer and Cribbs were wounded, Cribbs later dying as a result. Keenan was wounded at Thoroughfare Gap and promoted to Regimental Major, September 1, 1862. On September 8, 1864, during the opening of the Spotsylvania Court House Campaign, Major Keenan paid the supreme price for his convictions when he was shot dead, while at the head of the regiment, cheering forward the men.
From it's first duties at Falling Waters to it's last official duties at Appomattox Courthouse, the 11th PVI Co. K had fought in almost all the major battles and campaigns with the Army of the Potomac. The 11th was under the leadership of the Union's finest Generals, such as Col. Richard Coulter (Regimental Commander, later General), Baxter, Reynolds and Meade. During their continuous service to the union, the 11th PVI never yielded the field of battle without direct orders.
At the end of the three-year enlistment term, enough men re-enlisted to make the 11th a veteran volunteer unit for campaigns including Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. Over 2000 names can be found on the muster rolls, but by the time it followed Lee's Army to Appomattox Court House the regiment was a "mere shadow of itself."
Photo of the surviving members of the 11th PA Infantry at the Gettysburg Reunion on September 25, 1908
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