In mid-1862, George W. Welsh was a 21-year-year-old butcher living in the rural village of York Sulphur Springs (later shortened to York Springs) in Adams County. He decided to join the army and, on October 8, enlisted in the 127th Pennsylvania Infantry, a nine-months’ regiment. He was mustered in five days later as a private in Company I. The colonel of the regiment was William W. Jennings, later the sheriff of Dauphin County and a wealthy industrialist.
The regiment was sent to Washington, where they guarded the Chain Bridge. The regiment saw its first campaign when Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac moved to Fredericksburg in November. While engineers constructed pontoon bridges over the Rappahannock River on December 10 to facilitate an attack on Confederate positions on the heights beyond the city, the 127th supported the artillery batteries bombarding the distant Rebels.
Welsh and his comrades in the regiment were loaded into boats for an amphibious assault that evening, and they succeeded in crossing the river with few casualties. After some sharp skirmishing, the Federal soldiers entered the town and pillaged it. One of his fellow soldiers wrote, “We killed every thing we met, went into pig stables took out all the pigs and killed them, also all the chickens, turkeys, geese, calves, oxen, and in fact everything we met that was fit to eat.”
During subsequent fighting on December 12, Private Welsh was wounded. He survived his injury and mustered out of the service on May 29, 1863, when his term of enlistment expired.
Many of the men of the 127th re-entered the army as emergency militiamen under Colonel Jennings in the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia during the Gettysburg Campaign. They were defeated and routed in a skirmish at Witmer Farm northeast of Gettysburg on June 26 and retreated to Harrisburg.