Friday, January 5, 2007

Incidents & Anecdotes: The Funeral of Thomas J. Reed

This past week, Americans, and folks all over the world, witnessed the elaborate yet solemn funeral services of the late President Gerald Ford. It just so happened that it was also during this past week I came across the obituary of Thomas J. Reed, who served in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers from February 1864 until July 1865. In addition to the obituary, there was also a follow-up story on Reed's funeral, held in Orwigsburg, plus a great photograph of the event. Reed was the last surviving member of the 48th Pennsylvania to still reside in Schuylkill County, and the second-to-last in the country. Reed passed away in 1938. Three years later, Charles Washington Horn, who, like Reed, was not only a member of Company I, but who also was a native of the small farming community of Orwigsburg, died. He was the last of the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment. I thought I would share the following with you.
Thomas J. Reed was born on January 26, 1847, in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Elijah and Anna Linder Reed. When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, Reed was just fourteen years of age. In February 1864, however, just one month after Reed turned eighteen, the young Orwigsburg native volunteered his services and was mustered in as a private in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Reed saw action at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and on June 3, 1864, was wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor. Left on the field, Reed fell into Confederate hands and was taken to Libby Prison in Richmond. After just nine days of captivity, however, Reed was released. He returned to the regiment, and in July 1865 was mustered out of service.
After the war, Reed settled in Chicago and later in Missouri, but returned to his native Orwigsburg where he operated a hardware store. In 1922, at the age of 75, Reed retired, but remained active in community affairs until his death, which came on July 23, 1938. Reed was 92 years old, and was survived by a son, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

On the Tuesday following his death, Reed lay in state in his home on Market Street, Orwigsburg. A guard of honor stood at his casket, which was surrounded by beautiful flowers. From 6:00p.m. until 9:00p.m. hundreds viewed Reed's body and paid their final respects to the old veteran. Funeral services were conducted the following morning, then Reed's casket was draped with an American flag and placed on a horse-drawn carriage, which carried Reed through the streets of Orwigsburg to his final resting place in the Salem Evangelical Cemetery. Business throughout the community was temporarily suspended so those who wished could witness the procession. The Orwigsburg Band played the funeral march, and taps sounded through the air as Reed's body was committed to the earth.

The flag-draped casket of Thomas J. Reed slowly makes it way through center square in Orwigsburg, January 1938.

{Note: I would like to thank Bob Fisher for his generosity in sharing this information}.

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