When I did character development for McShannon’s Chance, I decided to place Trey’s wartime service in a real Union regiment. In my research I discovered the 60th Cavalry, 3rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. After reading about the regiment’s proud record of service, I decided that was the place for Trey.
The 60th was formed at the beginning of the war, with the bulk of its companies mustered in Philadelphia and Washington. Their commander, Colonel William W. Averill, noted for his discipline and dedication, turned the regiment into a tight-knit, well-trained fighting unit which served in many of the Civil War’s major battles. The 60th was in the thick of the fighting in Antietam in 1862, and at Gettysburg the following year, when two of their men were cited for bravery. They saw action at Chancellorsville and at the Battle of the Wilderness, a particularly hideous affair where the battlefield caught fire, trapping hundreds of wounded who perished in the flames. First-hand accounts state that at least two hundred Union troops burned to death. The 60th served as as an emergency unit, filling in gaps in the ranks as needed and doing what they could to rescue the wounded. After two exhausting days they then had to ride immediately to Spotsylvania, to the next battle. Chronicles state that ‘many fell by the way due to exhaustion’. One can only imagine.
The 60th continued to serve with distinction to the very end of the fighting at Appomattox. When all was said and done, like so many Civil War regiments, the 60th lost substantially more men to disease then they did in action, but they had every right to be proud of the part they played in their country’s history.
I didn’t end up using this information in Chance. Like most soldiers, Trey doesn’t talk about his wartime experiences. However, he did write about them at the time, and those letters are part of McShannon’s Heart. That story is moving along, and I’m looking forward to bringing it to you.