Biographical Profile: George Washington Thompson, Company A, Pennsylvania Volunteers, 100th Regiment
Transcribed by Jeff Pennington, Descendant of George W. Thompson and Adapted from Originally Published Article in "Crossroads to History" Magazine, Winchester, Virginia. Edited and Published to the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Website by David L. Welch
A Roundhead from Washington, Pennsylvania
by Jeff Pennington
George Washington Thompson was born on March 6, 1837 in Washington, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Parker Campbell Thompson, a blacksmith, and the former Mary Ann Wiley, a Virginian by birth. George W. Thompson was a gunsmith whose shop was located with his father's blacksmith business on the corner of Franklin and Chestnut Streets in Washington.
On May 4, 1858, the young gunsmith married Elizabeth Deborah Riddle and began raising his family. Thompson waited until after the Federal defeat at First Manassas to choose to fight, enlisting in the Roundhead Regiment (later designated the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry), on December 6, 1861 (Not 1862 as noted by Bates). At the time of his enlistment, Private Thompson was twenty-four years old and was described as having gray eyes, light hair and a light complexion. He stood a towering 5'11 ½' and weighed about 200 pounds. The average soldier was about 5'8''and weighed considerably less.
Daniel Leasure formed the Roundhead Regiment in August of 1861 on the authority of Secretary of War, Simon Cameron and General Winfield Scott. General Scott suggested the Roundhead label because Western Pennsylvania was settled by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians whose ancestors were once weakly allied with Cromwell during the English Civil War and who allegedly supported the independence of Scotland. Moreover, it was a region in which many adhered to a strict Protestant faith. Thompson, however, was not a Presbyterian, but instead practiced Methodism as a member of the Avery Methodist Church in Washington.
Private Thompson finally reached the Roundhead Regiment later in December of 1861, leaving his wife and two children behind. He probably arrived in time to participate in a skirmish at Port Royal Ferry and was with the Regiment at Beaufort, South Carolina.
On March 26, 1862 at Beaufort, the young gunsmith was detailed as regimental armorer for the Roundheads. Another notation in the same muster sheet indicated that Sergeant Treadwell made an application for Thompson's removal or discharge, on behalf of Ordnance. The reason for this is not clear, but Thompson then rejoined the ranks of Company A (the Washington Company) for the months of May and June 1862. On June 16, the Roundheads were hotly engaged and repulsed as part of Stevens' Brigade at the Battle of Secessionville on James Island, South Carolina. Very soon after this fight, the Roundhead Regiment was given the designation of 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. A few weeks later, on July 8, 1862, Thompson was again detailed as regimental armorer.
On July 12, 1862 the regiment left South Carolina by ship for Newport News with General Isaac I. Stevens' Division of the new Ninth Corps. The remainder of 1862 took the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to the battlegrounds of Second Manassas, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
After the Federal debacle at Fredericksburg, General Burnside was given command of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside requested that the Ninth Corps accompany him and two divisions were readied for the journey west. The Roundheads were included among the First Division.
The regiment departed Virginia by ship on March 22, 1863 for Baltimore. From Baltimore they went by rail to Parkersburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) and then by steam ship to Lexington, Kentucky on March 28. George Washington Thompson had been returned to Company A on January 10, 1863 and remained with them until October, when he was detailed as a company musician. [Note: Thompson oral history indicates that he took a drum home with him and that the drum was prominateley displayed in the veteran's home]. For much of the spring of 1863, the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched through Eastern Kentucky as an occupation force. On June 3, 1863, General Burnside was ordered to send 8,000 men to Vicksburg. He chose to send his own Ninth Corps.
After fighting near the Big Black River at Vicksburg, the regiment fought at Jackson, Mississippi. At the close of this campaign, George Washington Thompson and his fellow Roundheads were sent back to Kentucky and then to the Knoxville, Tennessee area where they fought at Campbell's Station and at Fort Sanders against Longstreet's Confederates.
Following the successful defense of Knoxville, an ill uniformed, underfed Ninth Corps went into camp at Blaine's Crossroads, Tennessee. There on December 28, 1863 George Washington Thompson reenlisted along with 200 of his regiment. Only 27 of those remaining in the 100th Pennsylvania chose to not become Veteran Volunteers.
After a veteran's furlough, the 100th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry, 977 strong, reformed at Camp Copeland near Pittsburgh. From there, they went to Annapolis where the Ninth Corps gathered for the 1864 campaign. George Washington Thompson was with his company through June of 1864. During this period, he and his comrades saw heavy action in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, along the North Anna River, at Bethesda Church, at Cold Harbor, and in the initial assaults on Petersburg.
Muster sheets for July 1864 through June of 1865 show him absent from the regiment and detailed in the First Division, Ninth Corps Ambulance Train. His skills as a metalworker were no doubt utilized in performing maintenance on wheeled vehicles. It seems probable that Thompson had received some sort of wound prior to this assignment and may have been ambulatory himself. His pension file only notes two wartime injuries. He claimed deafness in one ear from a shell explosion at Petersburg and Chronic Dysentery contracted at Vicksburg.
His family states that he suffered a flesh wound in the hip during the Battle of Wilderness and lost a finger when a bullet struck the flag staff after he rescued it. However, these stories have yet to be documented and it is equally likely that his finger was lost in the practice of his trade. He fortunately escaped the horror of the Crater and other hard fighting in the trenches, including Fort Stedman in which the Roundheads had a prominent role.
George Washington Thompson was later returned to and mustered out with his company on July 24, 1865. He returned to Washington, Pennsylvania where he and his wife raised a total of ten children. During the post war years, Thompson attempted to purchase 500 acres of land in east Tennessee near Knoxville, but never received title to the land. The local land office in Tennessee kept the land tied up with back taxes and recording fees. His family made continued attempts to obtain clear title long after the veteran's death, but without success. Thompson remained in his hometown and as an original member of Washington, Pennsylvania's first police force, he became a well-known citizen in his community.
In December of 1876, an unspeakable tragedy struck the policeman's family. The Thompson's youngest son, in search of a Christmas gift, reached into his father's coat pocket. There, the lad instead found his father's police revolver, which discharged and killed the child. Samuel Thompson was only five years old.
In spite of such a loss, George Thompson remained active in both the police force and in the community. He was a founding member of the Templeton Camp, Grand Army of the Republic, named for the commander of Thompson's company who fell at Manassas. Thompson was also one of the organizers of Company H, 10th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (part of the National Guard) in which he became a Captain. The 10th Regiment was heavily involved in the Philippine Campaign during the Spanish American War and was among the very first to enter Manila.
Several of George Thompson's sons served in Company H of the 10th Pennsylvania during the Philippine Campaign. At the time of the Spanish-American War, the Civil War Veteran was growing old and was unable to serve. After this conflict, George and Elizabeth Thompson moved with one of their sons to St. Louis, Missouri. In 1901, while on a visit to his hometown of Washington, Pennsylvania, the old veteran died. Thompson is buried in Washington, PA.
Sources: Campaigning with the Roundheads-The History of the Hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War 1861-1865, by William Gilfillan Gavin. Morningside Press 1989; Muster Sheets, Company A, 100th Pennsylvania Infantry, The National Archives; Reenlistment Documents of George W. Thompson, The National Archives; Pension file of George Washington Thompson, The National Archives; The Washington Observer, January 24, 1901; The 1850 Census for Washington County, Pennsylvania; The Thompson Family Photo Album, courtesy of Parker Campbell Thompson III.
This article is dedicated to my wife's family; Parker Campbell Thompson III, Mary Virginia Thompson, Robert Avery Thompson and Laura Elizabeth (Thompson) Pennington, all descendants of George Washington Thompson. Many thanks to Ms.Dana Johnson of Washington, Pennsylvania for her invaluable assistance with research needed for this article.
This article adapted from and reprinted with the permission of Crossroads to History Magazine published in Winchester, Virginia. For subscription or advertising information contact:
Crossroads to History
PO Box 1415
Winchester, VA 22604
Back to Biographies Page