The American Civil War had entered its second year when 21 year old William Phillips joined other young men from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to enlist in the Union Army. Responding to General Order No. 22 of the Pennsylvania Militia, as issued by Governor Andrew G. Curtin, William and his comrades from the Welsh village of Hyde Park — across the river from Scranton — joined a company of volunteers formed in Pittston, Pennsylvania. The company was named “Schooley’s Battery” in honor of its captain.
Captain David Schooley was the son of Isaac Schooley. He was born April 12,1824 and raised on his father’s farm. He went to local schools and later attended Wyoming Seminary, where he studied surveying, and later engaging in that occupation. Much of his early manhood was spent in the Pittston area, and it was from there that nearly all his battery was recruited.
Following the presentation of a flag and a rousing sendoff by the citizens of Pittston on Tuesday, August 12, 1862 the new unit — numbering about 150 men — travelled by train to Camp Curtin on the outskirts of Harrisburg, the largest Camp of Rendezvous in the Union Army. They were officially mustered into service as an independent company of Pennsylvania volunteer artillery. Schooley’s Battery soon received orders to report to Fort Delaware and departed Camp Curtin on August 21, 1862. Fort Delaware was a heavily fortified stone structure on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River guarded the seaward approach to Philadelphia. Its island location made it an ideal prison camp.
While at Fort Delaware the battery was limited to a sleepy routine of military maneuver and infantry drill but virtually no artillery training. In late September 1862, William and the men of Schooley’s Battery witnessed the arrival of 2402 Confederate prisoners captured during the Antietam campaign. In early November the battery suffered its first casualty with the death of First Lieutenant Urbane S. Cook — a favorite officer among the enlisted men.
On 27 November 1862, Schooley’s Battery departed Ft. Delaware aboard the side-wheel, iron-hulled steamer USS Philadelphia for service at Fort Lincoln, near Washington, D. C., as part of the Federal Defenses of Washington north of the Potomac. Shortly prior to the departure, Schooley’s Battery was officially attached to the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment and renamed Company M — one of 12 batteries in the regiment. David Schooley remained as Captain of the newly designated Company M. The 2nd PA “Heavies” were commanded by Colonel Augustus A. Gibson who, as a regular army Captain had previously commanded Fort Delaware prior to the arrival of Schooley’s Battery. Captain Schooley would retain command of Company M until his capture at Petersburg on 1 July 1864.
The soldiers of Company M arrived at Fort Lincoln on 30 November 1862, and settled into a routine of garrison duties that consisted of “spade and shovel work” on the fort and other earthen fortifications surrounding Washington, daily drills and target practice in heavy artillery, guard duty and patrols. It was considered a soft duty and many of the men — including William Phillips — spent much of their ample leisure time touring the sights of Washington and attending cultural events and other entertainment around the city. This basic routine would continue for the next 16 months.
In the spring of 1864 Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the newly named commander of all the Armies of the United States, began to reorganize the Army of the Potomac in preparation for an overland campaign against the Confederate capital at Richmond. Grant needed seasoned, well-drilled troops to fill infantry ranks in the army and ordered the redeployment of most of the troops manning the defenses of Washington. On 18 April 1864 the War Department issued Special Orders No. 153 creating a new regiment with excess men from the now bloated 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery. William B. Phillips was named Adjutant of the regiment which became known as the Provisional Second Heavy Artillery. Shortly thereafter, the new regiment was attached to the Ninth Army Corps under the independent command of Major General Ambrose Burnside.
The “Provisionals” and the Ninth Army Corp crossed the Rapidan River on 5 May 1864 and over the next month fought in the monumental battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Meanwhile, Company M and David Schooley remained on garrison duty until May 27 when they moved to Port Royal, Virginia and marched to Cold Harbor. The 2nd PA Heavy Artillery and the “Provisionals” were briefly reunited at Cold Harbor but neither regiment played a major role in the battle.
Following Cold Harbor, Schooley’s Company M joined the Union siege of Petersburg along with the 2nd PA Provisionals and the other troops of Grant’s Army. During the night of 1 July 1864, Captain Schooley was taken prisoner by Confederate forces while checking his picket lines. Eventually he would be taken to Camp Asylum at Columbia, S. C., where he would be held as prisoner along with other captured Union officers. Ironically, within about a month he would be joined there by William Phillips who would be captured at the Battle of the Crater on 30 July 1864.
With their captures, the war was essentially over for William Phillips and David Schooley. Both men would be paroled by the Confederates in early March of 1865. During the time of their respective captivities the siege of Petersburg continued with bombardments, patrols, sharpshooters, pickets, and skirmishes. The final breakthrough at Petersburg was begun in early April and on 9 April 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War.
The veterans of Schooley’s Battery returned to their previous lives in northeastern Pennsylvania and Luzerne County. There would be a reunion and group photo taken, but mostly the men went their separate ways. David Schooley was to remain as a Captain in the regular United States Army and serve a distinguished career, most notably out west as Captain of the 25th U.S. Infantry Company E “Buffalo Soldiers” from 1872-1880. He was given the honorary name “Walk-A-Heaps” by the Indians. After his retirement from the Army, he returned to his home, and spent the remainder of his life there. David Schooley died January 17, 1910.