Friday, November 25, 2016

Discovering Emerguildo Marquiz: Mexican. American. Civil War Soldier.




I first came across his name nearly twenty years ago. . . .   




It was in the late '90s and I was back at home during one of my summer breaks from college. One day, I decided to take the short, eight-mile-drive from Orwigsburg to the Free Public Library in Pottsville to see what else I could discover about the life and services of General James Nagle. I already knew much about him--or at least I thought I did. General James Nagle--the house and sign painter and wallpaper hanger who in 1840 raised a volunteer militia company which he subsequently led in the Mexican-American War; General James Nagle--who, during the Civil War, organized and commanded no fewer than four regiments of volunteer infantry--including the 48th Pennsylvania--and who led a brigade at such fierce and fiery battles of 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. General James Nagle--who survived the horrors of war only to die of heart disease at age 44 in 1866 and whose remains lie buried in Pottsville Presbyterian Cemetery. 

Yes, this part of Nagle's story I knew well; all the dates, the regiments, the orders of battle, and so on. So I went to Pottsville that day to see if I could find out more about this man--his family, perhaps, his home life. . . who he was as a person. 

Pulling up a chair in front of one of those massive microfilm reader machines,I began scanning through the records of the 1850 Census. After searching through page after page--after page--I at last found what I was looking for, in the records for Pottsville's Northwest Ward, page 322, the entry for James Nagle and his family. I studied the entries, beginning at "Head of Household" at the top and then reading down the list of those who resided in the household, There was James Nagle, of course, age 28, a painter, with real estate valued at a decent and respectable $1,800; his wife, Elizabeth Nagle, age 29, and then their three children, Emma Nagle--their first born--age 7--five-year-old George Washington Nagle, and one-year-old James Winfield Nagle. But then, to my great surprise, I came across the next name, the next entry in the Nagle family household: Emerguildo Marquiz, age 11, born in Mexico. My curiosity was certainly piqued, and I sat there in silence wondering 'just who in the world was this Emerguildo?' 

Knowing that Nagle had served in the Mexican-American War three years earlier, in 1847, as the commander of a company of Pennsylvania volunteers during General Winfield Scott's campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, I naturally assumed that Nagle had essentially adopted this young child and returned with him to Pottsville where he raised him as one of the family. Naturally, though, I wanted to find out for certain. . .and this led me on a many years' long journey to discover more about  this Mexican-born boy named Emerguildo. 


1850 Census Records for James Nagle and Family
(Joseph Kaercher, also residing in the home, was the younger brother of Elizabeth)


And so I searched. . .
. . .and searched. . .
. . .and searched through all the records, coming up empty most of the time.

The thought crossed my mind that perhaps Emerguildo later served in the Civil War but I knew for a fact that I had never before come across his name while studying any of the rosters for the 48th Pennsylvania. But maybe he served in one of Nagle's other regiments. 

Nagle's first command in the Civil War was the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month regiment, which, from April to late July 1861 was assigned to General George Thomas's Brigade in General Robert Patterson's army in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. 

And there, in the ranks of the Llewellyn Rifles, which became Company G, 6th Pennsylvania, I saw it. . .not Emerguildo Marquiz, but an entry instead for an "M. Emrigeuldo." This had to be the same guy, I thought. Convinced now that he had served in the Civil War my next step was to contact the National Archives in Washington and request copies of his service records.  Several weeks later, and hopeful that I had included enough possible variations of spellings for his name, a copy of Emerguildo's file arrived at my door. The records did much more than simply confirm that he did, indeed, serve as a private in the 6th Pennsylvania, for along with his service files for the 6th were those for when he served as a bugler in the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. That was the first I discovered that Emerguildo had also served in the cavalry, and as a company bugler no less. Also in his service records was a letter written by James Nagle--I recognized his handwriting immediately. The letter was dated December 22, 1862, and by then Nagle was a a Brigadier General. "I have the honor to make application to have Emerguildo Marquis, Bugler in Captain White's Company 3rd PA Cavalry, detailed as bugler and orderly, for these Hd. Qrs.," the letter began. "He is a Mexican Boy that I brought along from Mexico. He was with me in the three months service, after that he enlisted in the Cavalry, and he is now desirous of joining me in some capacity, and I only have three mounted orderlies, and need a bugler at Head Quarters to sound the General Calls." 

Nagle's request was granted and Emerguildo became a member of General Nagle's staff. I was struck by the fact that Emerguildo was a bugler. For me, this was most interesting, for the Nagle family was very much musically-inclined. In his younger days, James Nagle was a fifer; his brother Daniel was the drummer of the militia company James had organized and led off to Mexico, and his brothers Levi and Abraham were both musicians who would serve in the regimental band of the 48th Pennsylvania! Music must then have been an important part of the Nagle family upbringing and household. 

I was thrilled with what I had discovered and especially that Emerguildo, whom Nagle had "brought along from Mexico" had served on the general's staff! I was still hoping to find out more, however, but for a long while the trail on Emerguildo went cold. 

And it remained cold for some time. 

Civil War Service "Index Card" for Emerguildo "Marqueese," 3rd PA Cavalry
(Courtesy of Pennsylvania State Archives) 



It was now April 2007...and nearly ten years had already passed since I first came across that name, Emerguildo Marquiz. I was working at Antietam at that time and a very special visitor arrived to meet me at the Visitor Center: Mr. John Nagle, from North Carolina, a great-great grandson of General James Nagle. John and I had been in contact via mail and email for years prior to this, but this was the first time we had ever met. He brought along with him a number of old documents: letters, diaries, et cetera, all related in some way to James Nagle and I was quite simply blown away.  

Included in the collection of paper items he had with him was Emerguildo's original discharge certificate. As I discovered, Emerguildo was discharged from the service on August 24, 1864, upon the expiration of his three-year term in the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. The document also stated that Emerguildo has been born in Mexico, that he was twenty-six years of age, stood 5'1" in height, had a dark complexion, black eyes, and black hair. His occupation? Painter. 

A painter, just like General James Nagle.


John had also brought along a handwritten account of James Nagle's service in Mexico, penned by the general's youngest daughter Kate, which at last answered the question about just where Emerguildo came from and how he ended up in Pottsville with the Nagle family. 


"It was a long sad time for folks at home," wrote Kate, "but great rejoicing when word came that the war was over and the Army was waiting for orders to move; and greater was the joy when a telegram came saying Come to Philadelphia with the children to meet us. . . . A number of the wives of the Soldiers went to Philadelphia to meet their husbands. When they met them, they saw three persons who were not Soldiers, but little Mexican boys about 9 or 10 years of age. They were very small, dark skin, no shoes. . . .They learned to love the Soldiers, and when they broke Camp the little boys followed them (stole their way, so to speak). When they were discovered the Army was miles out of the City of Mexico. They would not go back. They were little orphans, and the Officers took charge of them and landed them at home in Pottsville. Captain [James] Nagle, Lieut. Simon Nagle, and Lieut. Frank B. Kaercher, each took a little Mexican boy to their homes. The one Captain Nagle cared for was, by name, Emerigildo Marquis, known as 'Marium.' He was treated as one of the family. He was sent to school, sent to learn a trade, Jeweler. He was away from home to work, but never forgot the family; he came home very often over the week ends. He lived to be about 45, grew up with the family. He loved Father & Mother Nagle, and the Children all loved him. He died at the Nagle home, about the year 1877."


I could hardly believe what I was reading. It felt like the end of long, long journey to be reading these words, written by General Nagle's own daughter about Emerguildo and confirming what I had initially assumed way back when I first came across Emerguildo's name: that Nagle must have brought him back from Mexico and raised him in Pottsville as one of his own; and now I knew that he must have also taught him music and the painter's trade. For me, it felt like quite the "discovery;" that I at last knew his story. Little did I know that just a few days later, I was to make yet another remarkable discovery about Emerguildo Marquiz. 

Later that same week after meeting with John Nagle at Antietam, I took a trip up to Schuylkill County to visit my family and to gather some photographs of gravestones in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery for a walking tour brochure I was just then putting together.  As I wandered around the graveyard, I came across the grave sites of Daniel and Mary Nagle, General James Nagle's parents, who are buried next to two of the general's sisters, Eleanor and Elizabeth. Two of the four of these Nagle family headstones were knocked over, and a third was severely leaning. So I went home, waited for my dad to come home from work, and my sister from her classes at Lehigh University, and then, with my mom as well, we all grabbed some pry bars and shovels and headed up to the cemetery to do some repair work. We reset the stone that was leaning, lifted up and reset the two that had fallen down. But then I noticed it... at the foot of the grave of Nagle's sister's was a stone that was sunken deep into the ground. My sister started to remove the dirt and grass that was covering the stone, and soon it struck us all. 

There inscribed upon the stone and underneath years of dirt and grass was the name "Emerguildo Marquis." 

I had to sit down for a moment to process all of this. . . 

In one week, in a just a few days, rather, his story was at last told and his grave "found." It's funny how some things work out this way.

As I then learned, Emerguildo passed away in 1880 at the much-too-young age of 42. He was buried along with the rest of the Nagle family, another testimonial to the fact that he was, indeed, considered a member of the family. 


The pictures below show me and my family helping to set the stones at the graves of the Nagle family in the Presbyterian Cemetery. including Emerquildo's.

The "Before" Picture. . .
(See the one at bottom right, buried in the ground?)


The Stone of Emerguildo Marquis
(Buried deep into the ground)





The "After" Picture
(The tall white monument in the background is the final resting place of General James Nagle)




And now, here we are, in November 2016. .  .All of this was nearly a decade ago--reading that account of Emerguildo, locating his grave site. Of course, I wrote about all of this back then when it occurred; for me, personally, it was such an amazing story. I thought then that it had all been told. But still, in the back of my mind, there was another piece of this puzzle missing. 

I could not help but think about what Emerguildo looked like. I naturally wondered if any photographs of Emerguildo existed and I had asked John Nagle on several occasions if he had ever seen any or if any even exist. He indicated that, yes, he believed there was a photograph. . . somewhere. He had seen it before, he was certain. 

He would first have to look and see if he could find it. . .


And then, amazingly, about two weeks ago and out of the proverbial blue. . .I received a message from John: 


He had found a picture of Emerguildo! 


The Soldier on the right is Emerguildo Marquiz; the young man on the left is General James Nagle's son, James Winfield Nagle, who was born in 1849. This photograph was likely taken between August 1861 and August 1864. Emerguildo is rather short (5'1") and appears to be holding gloves in his right hand. (Courtesy of John Nagle)



After all these years. . .nearly twenty of them!...at last a photograph of Emerguildo, at last a chance to finally see what this Mexican-American Civil War soldier looked like.

For someone who has spent over 25 years studying the Civil War, and especially General Nagle, the 48th Pennsylvania, and especially its soldiers, there is nothing quite like a moment like this. 



To Mr. John Nagle. . .thank you! 


Friday, October 28, 2016

A Sad End To A Promising Life: Captain Peter Fisher, Co. D 48th Pennsylvania Infantry

Peter Fisher, pictured as a Lieutenant
(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center) 
All I really ever knew about Peter Fisher was from what I gleaned from the regimental records.

I knew, for example, that he was twenty-two-years-old when he enlisted into the ranks of Company D, 48th Pennsylvania, on September 23, 1861; that he stood 5'9" in height, had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair. I knew also what Peter Fisher looked like, for there is a photograph of him held in the collections of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His residence was Pottsville and his occupation, a mason. He was enlisted as fifth corporal but was soon promoted to sergeant, then to lieutenant, and, ultimately to captain.

Then, abruptly, on July 21, 1864, he was dismissed from service.

I did not know why he was dismissed; the regimental records did not indicate why. . .I knew only that he had been dismissed.

Then, two weeks ago, I received an email from a descendant of Peter Fisher's and I discovered the reasons why. And not only that, but I discovered more than I ever thought I would about this young captain who had risen so rapidly through the ranks...about his inspiring and promising start and about his sad, sad ending.

He was born in Germany--specifically in the Duchy of Saxe-Meinigen--on February 8, 1839, and was the ninth child born to Johann Georg Fischer, a master butcher, and to Margaretha Eckhard Fischer. Peter would never truly get to know his father, who died in 1841 at age 45, just two years after Peter's birth. Young Peter would spend his childhood in Saxe-Meinigen but at age fifteen, he set sail for a new country--and a new life. He arrived in the United States on August 10, 1854, after a forty-nine-day voyage aboard the Bark Parkfield. In immigrating to America, young Peter Fisher was following in the proverbial footsteps of an older sister, who had made the journey across the Atlantic several years earlier with her husband and baby. At age fifteen, Fisher--who declared himself a tailor--took up residence first in Ashland, then later in Pottsville, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Six years after his arrival, on September 21, 1860, twenty-one-year-old Peter Fisher petitioned for U.S. citizenship and became an American citizen. Seven months later, this new American would volunteer his services to fight for and defend his adopted country.

Peter Fisher's Petition For U.S. Citizenship 
[Courtesy Mr. Charles Achenbach] 
On April 17, 1861, Peter Fisher marched off to war as a private in the Washington Artillery, a Pottsville-based militia company, which, early the next evening, arrived in the nation's capital along with four other companies of Pennsylvania volunteers. As it turned out, the 475 soldiers composing the ranks of these five Pennsylvania companies were the very first Northern volunteers to reach Washington following the outbreak of war and they would thus all become known, proudly, as First Defenders. Upon his arrival in Washington, Private Peter Fisher found himself billeted in the U.S. Capitol Building, and a short time later, he shook the hand of a grateful President Abraham Lincoln, the leader of Fisher's new nation now steering that nation through its greatest trial. Fisher and his fellow First Defenders would spend most of their three-month term-of-service quartered in an around Washington, D.C. In late July, 1861, and with their ninety-day commitment fulfilled, he and the other members of the Washington Artillery were discharged and returned home to a hero's ovation in Pottsville. But the war was a far, far way from being over and throughout Schuylkill County, volunteers continued to answer their country's call. Most of the returning members of the Washington Artillery would re-enlist that summer, this time to serve not for ninety days but for "three years or the course of the war," whichever should come first. Fisher was among those who chose to volunteer once more, and on September 23, 1861, he was mustered back into Federal service, this time as fifth corporal in the ranks of Company D, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

He must have surely shined as a soldier and an officer both in camp and upon the field of battle, for on December 10, 1862, this twenty-two-year-old mason from Pottsville who, less than ten years earlier, had set sail for a new life in the United States, was promoted from corporal to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. The next summer, he was commissioned captain of Company D.

So then how, after such a meteoric rise through the ranks, was this man suddenly dismissed from service, late in July 1864?

As noted earlier, the regimental records do not indicate the reason, or reasons, why; they simply note that he was "dismissed." It was not unusual for volunteer officers to be dismissed; indeed, it was somewhat common. And since most of the time this occurred it usually involved either alcohol or cowardice, my natural initial assumption was that Fisher must have been dismissed for one of these reasons. But as I discovered two weeks ago, this was not the case.

As it turns out, Captain Peter Fisher was officially dismissed from the service of the United States, with loss of all pay and allowances, for "conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, in appearing at a theater in Cincinnati, in company with a prostitute, and for absence without leave."

Those were the reasons why.

In late January 1864, Captain Peter Fisher was reported as being absent from his regiment--absent without authorized leave. At that time, the veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania were just then making their way back home to Schuylkill County for a much-deserved thirty-day furlough, after having spent a miserable winter encamped in the snow covered mountains of east Tennessee. Their journey home took them through Lexington and Covington, Kentucky, and presumably through Cincinnati, Ohio. The regiment had passed through the Queen City back in April, 1863, on their way westward to Kentucky and ultimately to Tennessee; now, they were retracing their steps on their way back home. But as the rest of the regiment boarded train cars and headed home, Captain Peter Fisher decided to stay. He was AWOL from January 25, 1864, until March 13, 1864, when he was arrested in that theater, in company with that prostitute. Several months later, on July 21, 1864, he was dismissed from service by way of the Adjutant General Office's Special Orders No. 244.

The circumstances surrounding Fisher's dismissal from the service were in no way unique as there were others dismissed for the same or similar reasons. What makes Fisher's story both compelling and sad, however, is what else was happening in his life during this very same time and how short a life he had yet to live following his dismissal.

It was Peter Fisher's great-great grandson, Mr. Charles Achenbach, who reached out to me several weeks ago. He was hoping to locate the grave of Captain Fisher but, unfortunately, I could not help him. I knew only that he had been buried in Pottsville's Odd Fellows' Cemetery but despite the many, many times I spent exploring that graveyard, I had never came across Fisher's grave. Over the next few days, however, Mr. Achenbach very generously shared with me his family's story, his ancestry, and some documents pertaining to Captain Peter Fisher. He is Fisher's great-great-grandson, which means, of course, that Fisher must have been a father. And, indeed, he was. He was married as well. Sometime early in the 1860s, either before the war or while Fisher was at home on leave in Pottsville, the precise date is not clear, Peter Fisher wed Anna Barbara Welsch, the daughter of a brew master and also a native of Saxe-Meiningen in Germany. And on February 6, 1864, Anna Barbara gave birth to a baby boy, Johannnes Fisher, who would go by John for the rest of his life. It is not known if Peter Fisher was present when his son John was born, for this fell during the time he was Absent Without Leave from the regiment. Perhaps he was; likely, he wasn't. It was just a month later, he was arrested in that theater in Cincinnati.

John Fisher, Mr. Achenbach's great-grandfather, was raised by his mother Anna Barbara and by her new husband, Mr. Frederick Fenno, a veteran of the 105th Pennsylvania "Wildcats, in the Fenno household, and alongside nine step-siblings. Anna Barbara married Fenno likely in 1868, and Fenno raised John as one of his own children.  Throughout this life, however, John had kept his last name of Fisher, even though he would never know his father, Captain Peter Fisher, who was dead less than five months after his dismissal from the service.

It is not clear how Fisher died. Perhaps it was due to an illness he contracted during the war. Indeed, his service records do indicate that he was in the hospital in July and August of 1862 and July and August of 1863. But whatever the cause, Captain Peter Fisher passed away on December 16, 1864; dead at the age of twenty-five.

It was, indeed, a sad end to one who's story had been so inspiring. The story of a fifteen-year-old immigrant to the United States, who grew up without a father, who nevertheless found a new life in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and who, just seven months after becoming a citizen of the United States took up arms in defense of his adopted land; the story of a young man who proved to be a good soldier, rising rapidly through the ranks from private to captain. But then, during what should have been the happiest days of his young life, everything came crashing down. . .

I am grateful that Mr. Charley Achenbach shared the story of his ancestor with me, and I thank him for providing so much of the information for this post, as well as for the photographs posted below of Anna Barbara Welsch Fisher Fenno and Johannes Fisher. I thank him also for his willingness to let me tell that story on this blog.

Mr. Achenbach's hope is to locate Captain Fisher's final resting place and his headstone in Pottsville's Odd Fellows' Cemetery, in order to get it properly marked with the words "First Defender" upon his grave, as a tribute to Fisher's service. Having learned Fisher's story, I, too, hope that he succeeds.


Anna Barbara Welsch Fisher Fenno  (1840-1912)
Courtesy of Charles Achenbach

Mr. Johannes Fisher, Peter Fisher's Son
(1864-1916)
Courtesy of Charles Achenbach  



Monday, August 22, 2016

Remembering General James Nagle On The 150th Anniversary Of His Death

General James Nagle
Pictured Holding the Sword Presented
Upon His Return Home from the Mexican War
in 1848
(Library of Congress
150 years ago. . .sometime around 4:00 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, August 22, 1866 in his home in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and surrounded by his family. . General James Nagle died.

His name—and, indeed, his story—is not readily recognizable today, even among the more devoted students of the American Civil War.


But it should be.


James Nagle was the quintessential citizen-turned-soldier of America's past who responded repeatedly to his country’s call. He was a house and sign painter and wallpaper hanger by profession, and a family man who served on both the borough council and on the local school board. In times of war, though, James Nagle demonstrated fine leadership and total devotion to the United States and its cause. In 1840, at just eighteen years of age, he raised and organized a militia company dubbed the Pottsville Blues, which in 1842 became the Washington Artillery, and which, in 1846, marched off to war in Mexico, with a young Captain James Nagle at its helm. During the four years of America’s Civil War, Nagle helped to raise, organize, and recruit no fewer than four regiments of Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, including the famed 48th Pennsylvania which he led from the summer of 1861 until his promotion to brigade command in the spring of 1862. Promoted in rank to Brigadier General, Nagle seemed destined for higher and greater command but worsening health and particularly heart disease necessitated his resignation from the service in May 1863. Nevertheless, upon his return to home and family in Pottsville, Nagle raised and led a regiment of Emergency Militia during Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania, and the following summer recruited yet another unit—the 100-Days’ 194th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Mustered out of service for the final time in November 1864, Nagle looked forward to happy, quiet, and peaceful days and to spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, and their six children. Another child, a daughter named Kate, would arrive in September 1865. Sadly, though, he did not have much time remaining. His health continued to deteriorate with his heart disease becoming increasingly worse as the months passed by. When he at last succumbed 150 years ago today, this man—this loving and devoted father, leading and estimable member of the community, wartime hero and dedicated soldier—was just forty-four years of age.

Word of his death spread quickly through Pottsville and a palpable sadness—a pall—fell upon the town. Flags were lowered, businesses closed. Soon official news of the General’s death was reported in the Miners’ Journal: “Sincere sorrow pervaded this community. . .when the fact of Gen. Nagle’s death became known,” recorded the Journal, “The sad event was not unexpected, for he had suffered for years from disease of the heart and liver, and during the past few weeks it was evident to his friends that he was succumbing to the attacks of adversaries too powerful for medicine to combat successfully. He died on Wednesday morning at 4 o’clock at his residence in this Borough. A brave soldier of two wars; a good citizen; an estimable man, has passed away. While the memory of his worth will remain green in the memories of this community in which so many years of his useful life were spent, his name will be inscribed with honor on the pages of his country’s history.”
Inscribed with honor, perhaps, but with the passage of 150 years the story of James Nagle and his service has certainly faded. And though he remains immortalized in bronze atop a monument at Antietam National Battlefield, James Nagle ranks today among the relatively unknown generals of the Civil War.
This is unfortunate. His story needs to be told and his service remembered. And today, 150 years after his death, seems a more than fitting and appropriate day to do so.   

Although he would make his home and find his final resting place in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, James Nagle was actually born in Reading, PA, on April 5, 1822, the first of eventually eight children born to and raised by Daniel and Mary (Rorig) Nagle. His ancestry in the United States can be traced back to the 1730s when his forebears arrived in Pennsylvania from Germany. James’s grandfather, Philip Nagle, had served in the Revolutionary War as a drummer with the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Line. The Nagle family moved around from point to point early in James’s life—to Wommelsdorf and thence to Pine Grove and finally by 1835 to Pottsville, the seat of government for Schuylkill County. As a young man, James learned the trade of his father, a cabinet maker, and also learned the trades of wallpaper hanger and housepainter. Young James Nagle also attended some years in public schools, though as an early biographical portrait described, much of his education was through the “school of experience and through continued self-effort,” going to school at night and working during the day. From an early age, James showed a strong interest in the military and, in 1840 and at just eighteen years of age, he organized a company of young Pottsville boys into a militia unit initially known as the Pottsville Blues, but which, two years later became the Washington Artillery. With the outbreak of war with Mexico, Nagle, now twenty-four, tendered the services of his company and on December 5, 1846, marched off to war. The Washington Artillery became Company B, 1st Regiment of Pennsylvania Infantry and Nagle mustered into service as its captain. Nagle and his company, forming part of General Winfield Scott’s force, took part in the siege of Vera Cruz, and at the battles of Cerro Gordo, Lahoya, Huamantla, Puebla, and Atlixco. Upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Nagle returned with his company to a hero’s ovation to Pottsville in the summer of 1848. In recognition of his service, the people of Pottsville presented Nagle with a beautiful sword, which was one of his most treasured possessions. He carried it even during the Civil War and, today, a bronze copy of that Mexican War presentation sword can be seen attached to the Nagle statue at Antietam.

Captain James Nagle
ca. 1848-1850
(Schuylkill County in the Civil War)

In 1852, James Nagle was elected Sheriff of Schuylkill County. He continued to remain active in the state militia system and soon was appointed Brigade Inspector of Pennsylvania, with the rank of Colonel. By his early thirties, James Nagle had become a leading and very much respected member of his community. He was also a devoted husband and loving father. On December 15, 1842, James married Elizabeth Kaercher and to their union nine children would be born, seven of whom lived to maturity. While in Mexico, James had also adopted an orphaned eight-year-old boy named Emerguildo Marquis, with whom he returned and raised in his household as one of his own. During his younger days, Nagle voted Whig but then became a Republican. He supported Lincoln and was opposed to slavery and its expansion.

With his experience in the state militia and his experience leading soldiers in combat, it was only natural that Governor Andrew Curtin would call upon Nagle soon after the commencement of the Civil War. Nagle traveled to Harrisburg and helped to organize and train the many companies of volunteer soldiers pouring daily into the capital city. Curtin then commissioned Nagle colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month unit that was raised primarily from Schuylkill and Carbon Counties. The 6th formed part of General George Thomas’s Brigade in General Robert Patterson’s Army of the Shenandoah. The regiment saw only limited action and by late July, their three-month term of service having expired, its soldiers were on their way back home. Nagle made a very favorable impression upon this command and particularly its officers. Indeed, in October 1861, the members of the 6th presented their former commander with a specially inscribed field glass, which, when delivered to Nagle was accompanied by a letter that spoke volumes to Nagle’s leadership and character:

Col. James Nagle,
Dear Sir:- A number of your friends, officers, and privates of the late Sixth Regiment, P.V., commanded by you during the time it was in service, desire to present the accompanying field-glass, for your acceptance, in token of our high personal esteem, and the exalted opinion we entertain of your military knowledge and capacity.
Though your characteristic modesty may shrink from any public eulogy of your conduct and services, our gratitude and admiration will not permit us to pass them by, without this tribute of affection and respect.
For many years past the military spirit and organization of Schuylkill County have been chiefly sustained by your exertions. When the Nation’s honor was to be maintained on the plains of Mexico, you with a well disciplined corps under your command, sprang to arms and hastened to the field of conflict; in Cerro Gordo’s terrific fight you stood calm and unmoved amid the leaden storm of death which fell on every side, and by your presence of mind and courage saved many gallant men from the fearful carnage.
During the long season of peace which followed the closing of that war, in your own quiet and happy home, you faithfully discharged the duties of a husband, father, and citizen, endearing yourself both to your family and the community in which you dwelt.
But now the tocsin of war sounds through the land, and her valiant sons are called to defend her against foul rebellion’s deadly blows. Speedily a regiment of your fellow citizens take the field, and confer upon you the command. During the three months we served together, though inflexibly firm and persistently industrious in the performance and requirement of every camp and field duty, yet such was the kindness of your demeanor, and your tender regard for the health, safety, and comfort of your men, that we regarded you rather as a friend and father, than a mere military commander.
And now, that you have, at the head of a Schuylkill County Regiment—Pennsylvania’s 48th—again taken the field at your country’s call and may soon be in the thickest of the most eventful battle the world has ever witnessed, on the issue of which the destiny of human freedom and progress is suspended, we present you with the accompanying glass, as well in token of our esteem and admiration, as that your eye which never dimmed with fear as it gazed upon a foe, may more readily perceive his approach and prepare for victory.
Praying that God of Battles may preserve you in the midst of danger, and return you unharmed to your family and friends, when our glorious Union shall be firmly re-established, and covered with still more illustrious renown,
We remain, yours truly,
Capt. C. Tower,
Lt.Col. Jas. J. Seibert,
Maj. John E. Wynkoop,
Capt.H.J. Hendler,
Lieut. Theo. Miller,
Lieut. D.P. Brown,
And many others. 


Nagle was no doubt touched by this kind and generous tribute and gift, but by the time he received it, he was once more in the field and in command of a new regiment, one he had raised almost entirely from Schuylkill County: the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. After being discharged as commander of the 6th Pennsylvania, Nagle was immediately commissioned by Governor Curtin to raise another regiment of volunteers, this one to serve for three years or the course of the war, whichever would come first. The regiment was raised during the months of August and September 1861 and after being formally mustered into service departed for the seat of war, being assigned first to Fortress Monroe and then to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. While in North Carolina in the spring of 1862, the 48th Pennsylvania was attached to Ambrose Burnside’s Coastal Expedition, which, in time, became the 9th Army Corps. When Burnside organized his forces, he made Major General Jesse Reno a divisional commander and Nagle a brigade commander in Reno’s division. Nagle would subsequently lead this brigade with great bravery and distinction at 2nd Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, taking a prominent part in each of these engagements. At 2nd Manassas, Nagle’s Brigade pierced Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate line along an unfinished railroad cut; at South Mountain his men helped to secure Fox’s Gap; three days later his brigade took a leading part in the attacks upon the Burnside Bridge at Antietam; while at Fredericksburg, Nagle led his brigade in an oftentimes forgotten assault upon Marye’s Heights. All the while Nagle continually showed himself a gifted, capable leader and brave soldier. He had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general in September 1862 upon the recommendation of Reno who, on September 7 and just one week before his death at South Mountain, wrote to Lincoln:

General James Nagle
(National Archives} 
To His Excellency, the President of the United States:
Sir:-I have the honor to recommend Col. James Nagle, 48th Regt. Pa. Vols., for promotion as Brigadier General. Col. Nagle has served with me with fidelity and ability as commander of a Brigade, since the Battle of Newbern, and in recent battles conducted himself with gallantry, and led his command with judgment and discretion.
I have the honor to be
Very Respectfully, Your obd’t servant,
J.L. Reno
Major-General com’dg



Throughout the fall of 1862 and during the early winter of 1863, Nagle several times assumed the temporary command of the division and it seemed as though advancement in rank and in command would have been his had it not been for his poor and failing health. During the winter of 1863, Nagle began to suffer from chest pains. He sought out doctors who informed him he was afflicted with angina pectoris and who urged him to resign and return home for better chances of recovery. Nagle remained in the army for several more months before the pain became too great and he, at last, took the doctors’ advice and reluctantly and tearfully bid farewell to his command and to the army. He resigned in May 1863. Division commander Samuel Sturgis expressed his regret at accepting the resignation of one so capable and responded by penning the following note:

Head-Quarters, 2nd Div., 9th Army Corps
Dear General:
I cannot better express the pain it gave me to forward your resignation, then by giving you a copy of my endorsement upon it, viz: ‘Respectfully forwarded and approved. But I must express my deep regret at the necessity for this forwarding it. By his intelligence, energy, zeal and courage, and quiet, unassuming deportment, withal, Gen. Nagle has endeared himself to this command, and will carry with him the love and respect not only of those gallant troops he had led so often to victory, but of all who have the good fortune to know him.’
S.D. Sturgis
Brig. Gen., com’dg


After what must have been seemed a long journey back home, Nagle was no doubt pleased to be back with his wife and family once more but, shortly after his return to Pottsville, General Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. In response to Curtin’s plea for action, Nagle once more answered the call. For the third time he would take command of a regiment of Pennsylvania Infantry, this time the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, being mustered into service once more as a colonel. Arriving in Harrisburg, Major General Darius Couch placed Nagle in brigade command but by then Lee had been turned back at Gettysburg and the 39th P.V.M. was mustered out and disbanded. Again, Nagle returned home and was encouraged by his doctors’ assessments that his health was improving. He felt well enough that in the summer of 1864 when the call went out seeking soldiers to serve a 100-Day term of service, he once more answered and took command of the 194th Pennsylvania Infantry. For the fourth time in three years, then, Nagle was commissioned colonel by Governor Curtin. Nagle led the 194th to Baltimore where they were assigned to the 8th Army Corps. There, Nagle was given command of the forces then occupying  Mankin’s Woods, and helped to guard the approaches to the city. On November 5, 1864, the 100 days having expired, James Nagle was mustered out of service, this time for the last time.

Few other soldiers, and certainly few other citizen-soldiers, did more for the United States than did James Nagle during the Civil War. Throughout his time in uniform, he had helped to raise and subsequently commander four regiments of infantry and several times held brigade command. In Mexico, he was a captain; during the Civil War, he was both a colonel and a brigadier general. And though he had no formal military training or education, James Nagle proved himself quite the capable leader and commander. He served his country well. . .and often. He also served his community well, not only as sheriff in the early 1850s but also as head of the Pottsville Borough Council and as a member of the local school board. Sadly, Nagle did not get to enjoy peace for long, once the Civil War was over. Indeed, it was not until August 20, 1866, that President Andrew Johnson declared all hostilities had ceased and the conflict officially concluded. Two days later, on his bed in Pottsville, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth and seven children—the eldest, Emma, aged 23 years and the youngest Kate, aged 11 months—General James Nagle drew his last breath and passed away at the much-too-young age of 44.

It was not a long life that he thus led but it was a full one, a useful one, and important one. Three days after his death, General James Nagle was laid to rest in Pottsville’s Presbyterian Cemetery. Thousands gathered to pay their respects and his funeral was covered in the pages of the Miners’ Journal:

The remains of Gen. Nagle were interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery on Saturday afternoon last [August 25] with military honors.
During the morning the Ringgold Band of Reading, which had volunteered to play on the occasion, the Ashland Veterans, Capt. McLaughlin, and the Cumbola Nagle Guards reached the borough to attend the funeral. At noon Capt. Binder of Philadelphia, a companion-in-arms of Gen. Nagle in the Mexican War, having been in the same Regiment, Gen. Albright of Carbon County, and Major Bertolette of Reading, also arrived to assist in playing the last sad honors to the remains of the dead soldier.
The body was viewed by hundreds before the hour of moving from the late residence of the deceased General. The corpse was attired in citizens’ dress, and rested in a coffin furnished by Mr. John Kalbach, Centre Street opposite the Union Hotel. It was made of walnut covered with black cloth, and the ornamentation was faultless, reflecting great credit on the taste of the maker. A silver plate on the lid bore the General’s name and age. The entire workmanship was the subject of much and just commendation. When the coffin was placed in the hearse it was covered with a silk national flag with a black rosette in each corner. On the top rested the sword which was presented to Gen. Nagle by the citizens of Schuylkill County, after his return from Mexico.
About 3 o’clock the cortege moved from the house in the following order, left in front:


Hydranlian Fire Company
American Hose Company
Humane Hose Company
Good Intent Fire Engine Company
Cumbola Nagle Guards
Washington Artillery Company
Ashland Veterans
Grant Zouaves, Pottsville
Ringgold Band, Reading
Soldiers Central League, Pottsville
Detachment of Soldiers in Mexican War
Who were in Gen. Nagle’s Company, bear-
Ing the old Company flag.
Officiating Clergy
Hearse
Pall Bearers—Gen. Wm. W. Duffield, Gen. Geo. C.
Wynkoop, gen. H. Pleasants, Gen. Albright,
Gen. J.A. Hennessy, Col. J.M. Wetherill
Horse and Groom
Mourners
Mounted Officers in Uniform
Gen. J.K. Sigfried and Staff

The cortege which contained about six hundred persons, moved over the following route: From house to Market Street; down market to Centre; down Centre to Mahantango; up Mahantango to Clay; down Clay to Howard Avenue; down Howard Avenue to the Cemetery.
All places of business were closed during the passage of the funeral train, and many houses along the route were clothed in mourning while flags were suspended at half mast and craped. The streets were filled with silent and mournful spectators. Minute guns were fired from Lawton’s Hill until the cortege reached the Cemetery.
The religious services at the grave were conducted by Rev. Mr. McCool, rev. Mr. Cook and Rev. Mr. Billheimer. Mr. McCool delivered an impressive discourse, in which he dwelt at length upon the life, character, and services of Gen. Nagle. It was listened to attentively by the large concourse of persons present, which must have numbered between two and three thousand.
The last military honors were paid by the Grant Zouaves who fired three vollies over the grave.
The military then returned to Centre Street, where the line was dismissed.
It was one of the largest and most imposing funerals ever seen here, the entire community evincing sincere sorrow at the loss of an estimable citizen, a brave soldier, a patriot, whose career will ever be referred to with pride by our citizens, and whose memory will be cherished while our hills endure. 

The Grave of General James Nagle
Pottsville, Presbyterian Cemetery
(Author Photo)

Tributes poured in, including from Governor Curtin and General John Hartranft and no doubt by many others who had served under Nagle’s command. In histories of Schuylkill County published during the late 19th Century, Nagle also received high praise. “General Nagle was pre-eminently a military man, and a patriot,” said one such account. “His life was permeated with a military spirit, and in this respect broadened him into a loyal and devoted citizen. . . .He is still remembered by a large number of his fellow-townsmen, and occupies a generous place in their hearts.” Another history declared that “General Nagle’s services in the Rebellion will ever be remembered with gratitude by not only the people of Schuylkill County, but by the nation at large, who owe the preservation of their liberties to the self-sacrificing devotion of men like him.’

Certainly those who served in the 48th never forgot the “father” of their regiment. Indeed, forty years later the regimental veteran’s association met to decide upon what kind of monument they would have placed at Antietam National Battlefield. It was decided that a slightly-larger-than-life figure of General James Nagle would stand atop its base. On September 17, 1904, thirty-six surviving veterans of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry gathered at the Antietam Battlefield to attend the dedication and witness the unveiling of this monument. In addition to commemorating their wartime service and cherishing the memory of their fallen comrades, the aged veterans who traveled to Antietam that day were there also to honor the memory of the man who organized and first led the 48th Pennsylvania, Brigadier General James Nagle.

Oliver Bosbyshell, a veteran of the 48th, commenced the dedication ceremony at Antietam by delivering a few opening remarks. After expressing his gratitude to the state of Pennsylvania for procuring the funds necessary for the construction of the monument, Bosbyshell spoke of the late General Nagle: “The man the Forty-Eighth honors by placing his statue to mark the spot it maintained in the fight, honors the Forty-Eighth in turn. The organizer and disciplinarian who brought his command to the highest point of efficiency amongst the Ninth Corps organizations, the foremost soldier of old Schuylkill County, Brigadier General James Nagle, well deserves this meed of praise bestowed upon him.” Following Bosbyshell’s brief opening remarks, the regiment’s former surgeon, Dr. William R.D. Blackwood, delivered the dedication address. He spoke of the role the 48th played in the battle of Antietam and the appropriateness of the regimental monument on the battlefield before turning his attention to General Nagle:

At this time the merited and (for ourselves) the coveted promotion of Colonel Nagle eventuated—he won his star as a Brigadier General. Never did a soldier win the distinction through a harder road—for his whole time of service this more than brave gentleman and splendid soldier devoted his every energy to the cause for which he left his home and family, and supported by his gallant men, he won imperishable fame. . . .Today we celebrate the attainment of his glory—a glory to him and to us who can never forget his leadership—may the bronze and granite which we now dedicate to his memory remain till time shall be no more on this historical field where so many of our Pennsylvania heroes gave their all to the defenses of the land they loved, and the Flag they adored.



The monument still does stand—112 years later—as does the bronze statue of James Nagle, standing silently on top. Though with the passage of time, the memory of Nagle has faded. . .but today at least, 150 years after his death, he is being remembered. 


The 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Antietam 
(Author Photo) 






--------------
Bibliography:
-Gould, Joseph. The Story of the Forty-Eighth. Philadelphia: Alfred M. Slocum Printer, 1908.
-Wallace, Francis. Memorial to the Patriotism of Schuylkill County. Pottsville, Pennsylvania: Benjamin Bannan Publisher, 1865.

-Wiley, Samuel T. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Rush, West, and Company, 1893.