John T. Durang papers  1852-1881
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Biography

Durang, John T.

Rank : Capt.

Regiment : 19th Pennslyvania Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1861)
90th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1861-1864) 3rd Regiment,
Veterans Reserve Corps (after 1864 February 24)
Pennsylvania National Guard, ca. 1846-61 and 1866-1877

Service : 1861 May 18-1866 April 23

John T. Durang had a long and distinguished career in the Pennsylvania National Guard. In about 1846, Durang, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, joined the Pennsylvania National Guard that drilled on Race Street, attaining the rank of Captain. Probably the son of famed dancing master, Charles Durang (1796-1870), John was employed variously as a clerk and engraver before 1860. In December of that year, in response to the intensification of the secession crisis, his Guard unit expanded to eight full companies, with Durang at the head of Company A, and they were among the first militia units to offer their services to the governor at the outbreak of hostilities on April 16th. Within two weeks, the regiment had filled out its ranks and was mustered into the service for three months as the 19th Pennsylvania Infantry. From May through August, the regiment served in Baltimore, and had the distinction of arresting the "treasonous" federal Marshall, George Proctor Kane.

When their enlistment ended in August, the officers of the 19th Pennsylvania Infantry unanimously voted to reenlist. The 90th Pennsylvania Infantry mustered into the federal service on October 1, 1861, and passed the winter drilling at Camp McClellan, near Nicetown, Pa. Attached to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division under Irvin McDowell, they participated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, and with the main body of the Army of the Potomac, were engaged in a laundry list of famous battles including South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, as well as the Wilderness through Cold Harbor and Petersburg Campaigns. The 90th suffered terribly during their service, and reported a very high rate of both desertion and missing in action. For instance, the regiment entered the first day of fighting at Gettysburg with 190 men, of which 100 were killed, wounded, or reported missing. During the battle, Durang was shot through the left lung, unfitting him for further active duty.

On February 24, 1864, Durang was officially transferred to the 3rd Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps (the Invalid Corps), retaining his rank. The 3rd performed guard duty at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., and, after February, 1865, were ordered to Auburn, N.Y., to guard against desertions among the conscripts of the 193rd New York Infantry.

After the war, many of Durang's compatriots from the Veterans Reserve Corps entered into work with the Freedmen's Bureau, overseeing government farms or performing other work in reconstruction. Durang, however, returned to Philadelphia and to duty with the National Guard. The most notable incident his post-war military career appears to have been his involvement in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, in which the National Guard were sent by the Governor (on behalf of the railroad corporations) to break the strike. The regiment ended up in an exceedingly violent armed confrontation in which several on both sides were killed.