The 97th Pennsylvania was organized in the late summer of 1861 in Chester County, PA. The regiment moved to Washington, D.C. and then on to Fortress Monroe, for transport south to Port Royal, South Carolina. Additionally the regiment saw action in Fernandina, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. It then took part in General Benjamin Butler's Bermuda Hundred campaign. During the battles at Drewry's Bluff, Foster's place and Green Plains the regiment suffered more than two hundred casualties. At Green Plains six bearers fell and Corporal Thomas Forsythe bore the first state color back to the rear as the shattered regiment fell back. The first state color was pierced by more than 100 bullets that day. In June of 1864 the regiment requested a replacement color, stating that the first color was so tattered that it could scarcely be unfurled. The new color was received on September 1, 1864 and saw action in several skirmishes in the fall of 1864 on the Carolina coast. In January of 1865 the regiment was included as part of the expeditionary force charged with the capture of Fort Fisher at Wilmington, NC.
On January 15, 1865 the regiment under the command of twenty-year-old Colonel Galusha Pennypacker (a distant relative of Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker) attacked the fort. As the column reached the fort, Color Sergeant William McCarty was hit in the knee and forced to relinquish the flag. Colonel Pennypacker seized the color and led the regiment forward but just as he placed his flag on the ramparts he was badly wounded in the side and hip. The courageous colonel refused to be removed from the field until he could inform his superior General Alfred H. Terry that his regiment's flag was the first to be planted on Fort Fisher. The colonel was expected to die from his wound but survived the war. For his bravery that day Pennypacker was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1891. The second state color was also badly damaged in the attack, receiving 107 bullet hits and a canister shot.