Tuesday, January 30, 2007

PROFILES: Sergeant Patrick Monaghan, Co. F, Medal of Honor Recipient

Born in November 1840, in County Mayo, Ireland,
Patrick Monaghan was just ten years old when his family immigrated to the United States sometime between 1849 and 1850. Settling in Minersville, Schuylkill County, young Monaghan became a mine laborer. During the summer of 1861, twenty-one-year-old Monaghan enlisted into Company F, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers and throughout the next four years rose to the rank of sergeant. Monaghan received three wounds throughout the course of the war, at Second Bull Run, the Wilderness, and at Petersburg, where his gallant and meritorious service earned him a Medal of Honor.
Before dawn on June 17, the 48th Pennsylvania attacked a portion of the Confederate lines surrounding Petersburg, catching the southern defenders completely by surprise. Hundreds and prisoners, a few cannon, and hundreds of small arms were captured by the 48th and their supporting regiments. Monaghan, seeing a handful of Confederates in full retreat, caught up with them and demanded their surrender. One of the fleeing Confederates was trying to escape with the flag of the 7th New York Heavy Artillery regiment, which was captured the previous day. Monaghan recaptured the colors, and for this was awarded the Medal of Honor on December 1, 1864. Major General George Meade personally handed the medal to Monaghan on December 16.
During their attack on June 17, the 48th PA lost seventy-five men killed and wounded, and it was also during this same attack that Sergeant Robert A. Reid captured the flag of the 44th Tennessee, which won him a Medal of Honor as well.
Sergeant Monaghan remained with the regiment until being mustered out in July 1865. After the war, he returned to Minersville and became active in the Pennsylvania National Guard, ultimately rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1873, Monaghan began his career in public education, which lasted until his retirement as superintendent of the Girardville Public Schools in 1916. He died the next year at the age of 77.
{Sources: "Patrick H. Monaghan, Medal of Honor Recipient," by Mark Monaghan; www.warscholar.com; photograph from Gould: The Story of the 48th.}

Friday, January 26, 2007

Portrait of a Regiment. . . Ages



In 2003, I earned my master's degree in history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. My master's thesis focused on the socio-economic backgrounds of Union soldiers, as well as an examination of the extent to which such socio-economic factors as age, occupation, income, ethnicity, et cetera, played a role in a soldier's wartime experience. As a case study for my research, I selected the regiment I knew best: the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In order to be entirely accurate, I spent more than a year trying to match the soldiers with their census records from the 8th U.S. Census, conducted in 1860. Of the more than 1,800 soldiers who served for a time in the regiment, I was able to successfully locate, with 100% accuracy, 657 of these soldiers, or more than one-third of the regiment, to the census records, and I thus used this number as my statistical basis, believing it to be a fair sample.

I came across my notebooks from when I was working on my thesis, and figured I would share some of my findings with you. . .


AGES


*The Average Age of the soldier who served in the 48th Pennsylvania throughout the four years of the Civil War was 24.95 years. Of the 657 soldiers I linked to the Census Records, 84 (12.8%) were 17 or younger when the enlisted; 318 (48.4%) were between the ages of 18-24; 107 (16.3%) were between the ages of 25-30; 62 (9.4%) were between 31-35; 76 (11.6%) were between 36-45; and 10 (1.5%)were aged 46 or older.


*The Average Age of the soldiers who volunteered at the war's outset in 1861 was 23.6 years.


*The Average Age of the soldiers who were mustered into service in 1864-1865 was 26.3 years.


*The Average Age of the regiment's Commissioned Officers in 1861 was 29.2 years, nearly six years older than the average age of the volunteers of 1861. The Average Age of those who advanced to the ranks of Commissioned Officer throughout the war (i.e. those who were promoted from the ranks) was 25.95 years.


*The Average Age of those soldiers of the regiment who died of disease was 24.7 years.


*The Average Age of soldiers from the regiment who deserted was 28.2 years.


*The Average Age of soldiers who served as Substitutes (1864-1865) in the place of drafted civilians was 29.6 years.


*The Average Age of soldiers who were Drafted (1864-1865)was 30 years.


So. . .what does all of this mean?


Commissioned officers at the outset of the war averaged six years older than the volunteer/non-commissioned officer, but as the war dragged on, this average greatly decreased to the point where commissioned officers averaged just one year older than the soldiers they commanded.


The soldiers who volunteered in 1861 averaged 2.7 years younger than those who were mustered in during the years of 1864-1865. This is partly attributable to the higher ages of those who entered the regiment as either conscripts or substitutes. It is in these two categories that we see the greatest difference in average ages. The drafted soldier averaged 5 years older than the volunteer, and the substitute averaged 4.65 years older than the volunteer.


Finally, soldiers who deserted averaged 3.25 years older than the regimental average.



These numbers get more interesting when cross-categorized with a soldier's marital status, income level, and ethnicity. . . In the weeks to come, I'll update this blog with more socio-economic information on the soldiers who served in the 48th.

Samuel Beddall was just 17 years old when he enlisted as a private in Company E, 48th PA Vols. By the end of the war, Beddall was a sergeant and from October 1864-July 1865, he was the regimental color bearer.

Theodore Pletz, a tailor from Middleport, was 22 years old when he enlisted as a corporal in Company I, 48th PA Vols. Wounded and listed as Missing in Action at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Pletz returned to the regiment and was mustered out as a "veteran" on July 17, 1865.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The 48th Pennsylvania Day-By-Day: Life at Hatteras: November 1861-March 1862: Part One

Union Soldiers Arrive at Hatteras Island, NC
{Library of Congress}

In mid-November, 1861, after spending the past several weeks at Fortress Monroe, the 48th Pennsylvania arrived on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, where they remained for the next four months. “Our first impressions of Hatteras were not favorable,” wrote regimental historian Joseph Gould. After marching through ankle-deep sand and wading several bodies of water, the regiment arrived at their quarters in either Fort Clarke or Fort Hatteras. “Here the regiment settled, literally away from the rest of the world; left exposed to all the ills incident to such an inhospitable coast. . .” remembered Oliver Bosbyshell of Company G.

Life at Hatteras would not be easy, as many of the soldiers realized the very first night on Hatteras while trying to settle into camp. Captain Bosbyshell told of his struggle to put up his tent:

“Generally it was not a difficult matter for a soldier to pitch a tent. It would not have been difficult at Hatteras if the wind could have been subdued. Wind! Speaking of wind, do you remember how the wind blew at Hatteras? What a dreadful draft it was! Hark! its snapping the tent-fly now. It is a mighty, rushing torrent of air, sweeping continuously in furious blasts, with irresistible force—keen, sharp, penetrating, unrelenting in its terrific power, unabating in its fury—driving the sand into mouth, nose, eyes, ears and hair. ‘Twas such a wind greeted the pitching of the tents around Fort Clarke. The more the boys tugged and pulled to keep the tents upright, the more the wind seemed to howl, ‘You can’t! you shan’t!’ then it would come along with such a whack that every muscle had to be strained to keep the tent in place. Under these circumstances the ordinary Yankee got his blood up, and wind or no wind the tents had to go up, and at last, at last, they were secured. . . .To the sound of the flip, flap, flopping of the tent-flies, and ever roaring of the breakers, forgetfulness crept over the camp as each tent lodger snoozed calmly as a summer morn, when flop-whizz the corner of the tent blew up!. . . . Oh! to have a tent prove false upon a lone, barren isle, and, in the midst of a terrific rain storm, be obliged to face a Hatteras wind, with scant protection against its fury, frantically holding fast to the frail canvas house, waiting for a lull in the blast (vain hope) to afford an opportunity to repeg, is so overpoweringly harrowing to the feelings, and so indescribably uncomfortable, that it is only those who actually experienced it who fully understand its supreme misery.”

The soldiers had to get used to much more than just the gusty, coastal wind. Curtis Pollock wrote that the sand on Hatteras was “much like snow at home and you sink quite as deep into either.” The water, too, wrote Pollock was “very bad, some of it so salty that you can hardly drink it.” Perhaps worst of all was that the mail was “very irregular, only coming when a boat happens to come down from Fortress Monroe.”

The 48th Pennsylvania was not alone on Hatteras Island; there were a number of other regiments stationed there as well, including the 9th New York (Hawkins’ Zoauves, whom Joe Gould described as “brave to a fault, and not easily disciplined), the 89th New York, and the 11th Connecticut to name a few. And, of course, there were the local inhabitants. “Hatteras Island was, and possibly still is, inhabited by a hardy, raw-boned, tough-looking people, with rough, weather-beaten countenances, and possessed of a good stock of native shrewdness,” recorded Bosbyshell. “The women,” continued the Pottsville native, “are pale, frail, attenuated creatures, who apparently never grow old. Tradition has it that they gradually shrink up, and at some remote period are blown away. . . .A peculiar characteristic of the ladies of Hatteras is the dreadful habit of snuff-dipping, to which they are all, married or single, addicted. There’s a grace about this habit that almost amounts to an art. The female islander smokes also, and spits just like a man.”

Bosbyshell also took the time to record his thoughts on the local houses: “Every house on the island seems to have been built after the same model, by the same builder, and many hundreds years ago. They are all old, nothing modern at all in their appearance, square in shape, one story high, with a porch sliced into one corner, without cellars; not a house on the island enjoys this luxury, they cannot dig them; there are no foundation walls, because there are no stones to make them.” A fine layer of white sand covered all the floors, wrote Bosbyshell, and there was no wallpaper in the homes. But, interestingly enough, every home it seemed had an old grandfather clock ticking in the corner.

The worst aspect of life on Hatteras, the soldiers agreed, was neither the wind, the water, nor the loneliness. It was, instead, General Thomas Williams, commander of the post. A West Point graduate and career army man, Williams was a rigid and strict disciplinarian, and was thoroughly hated at first by the men of the 48th. Joseph Gould wrote that Williams was there just to “make our lives miserable.” Corporal Pollock wrote that the tough old martinet was “not at all liked, he is very pompous and struts around as if he was a king.” After a particularly rough day of drilling in the sand, Pollock told his mother in a letter he believed “that if some of the men had got a chance they would have murdered him they were so mad at him.” Oliver Bosbyshell was making an understatement when he said Williams “had few friends those early days on Hatteras.”

General Thomas Williams
{Warner, Generals in Blue}

After some time passed, however, and the regiment experienced forced marches and the sheer horror and destruction of combat, the soldiers began viewing Williams in a different light. Joseph Gould wrote: “Later we thought better of him as we grew older, and as we learned that the extra drills and discipline he enforced upon us did us a great amount of good when we were called upon to assume the heavy work attending the life we had chosen. . .” And Bosbyshell recorded that despite the regiment’s initial reaction to Williams, “as the weeks went by each day developed the fact that beneath the rough exterior and austere demeanor, beat a heart of true devotion to the old flag, a heart overflowing with love and regard for his soldiers. His strict discipline made the regiment a body of well-trained soldiers. Revering the flag with the feeling akin to holy awe, he sought to inculcate the same reverential feeling in the men, and whenever the standard was brought out the ceremonies attending its reception were of the most dignified and lofty character.”

Williams was shot and killed instantly at the battle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in August 1862. “[M]any were the expressions of sorrow from the boys of the regiment when news came of his death,” wrote Joe Gould.


By mid-December wooden barracks had been built, and the soldiers were enjoying these new quarters. Slowly, the attitudes of the soldiers about Hatteras would change. . . .

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Walk Through Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery: Part Two

Last week I posted Part One of "A Walk Through Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery." Today's post concludes this two-piece blog. I am hoping that by the time spring arrives, I will have developed a self-guided walking tour of this cemetery. I will keep you updated.


Major Lewis Martin: 96th Pennsylvania
When Lewis Martin marched off to war in the spring of 1861, he left behind two young children and his wife, who was pregnant with the couple's third child. Martin was a member of the National Light Infantry, one of Pottsville's two First Defender units. When he arrived in Washington, he wrote a letter to his family in which he expressed his motivation for enlistment and the difficult decision he had to make: "It is possible as I have before acknowledged that I did very wrong in leaving home under existing circumstances. I could hardly convince myself that I did not....True it may be said that I owe a duty to my family which is paramount to any other earthly one, but what if all would make use of the same argument, who would be there to rescue the honor of Our Country and It's Flag, which, when dishonored, dishonors it's people?" Martin went on to assure his family that he "left home with the firm convinction that I would see you all again, and still hold on it, and every day almost adds to my belief that it is not intended that we are to engage in shedding the blood of our own countrymen."
When Martin's 90 Day enlistment expired in late July, he once again reentered the service, organizing Company A, 96th PA Vols. Rising to the rank of major, Martin was killed instantly on September 14, 1862, while leading his regiment against Confederate troops defending Crampton's Gap during the battle of South Mountain. His body was brought home to Pottsville for burial. In remembering the life of Lewis Martin, the Miner's Journal recorded that he was "very quiet, of studious habits, attentive to business, and a hard worker at whatever he undertook." His manner were "remarkably modest and unobstrusive," and "In point of morals, not better young man could anywhere be found." "Major Martin was a gallant officer, and strictly conscientious in the discharge of his duties. With a cultivated mind he possessed amiable qualities that rendered him a great favorite in the 96th Regiment. . . . His death cut short a most promising career."

Major Joseph Gilmour: 48th Pennsylvania
Joseph Gilmour organized Company H, 48th PA Vols. during the summer of 1861, and rose to the rank of major in the regiment. He was struck by a sharpshooter's bullet in the knee outside of Petersburg in 1864, and succumbed to his wounds. More information on the life and death of Gilmour can be found in a "Profiles" Blog I posted last week.

Lieutenant Nicholas Wynkoop: 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Nicholas Wynkoop was the eldest son of Colonel George Wynkoop, and was described as "one of the bravest men who left Schuylkill County" to fight in the war. As a member of the 7th PA Cav, Wynkoop was killed instantly at the battle of Gallatin, Tennessee, on August 21, 1862. He left behind a wife, and three young children.

Colonel George Wynkoop: 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry

George Wynkoop was active in the Pennsylvania State Militia in the antebellum years, and upon the outbreak of civil war raised and organized the 7th PA Cav. He led his regiment in the war's Western Theatre and had a number of encounters with famed Confederate horseman Nathan Bedford Forrest. Poor health compelled his resignation from the service on July 26, 1863, "having served over two years with fidelity and honor."

Captain Philip Nagle: 48th Pennsylvania

One of the five Nagle brothers to fight in the Civil War, Philip Nagle organized and commanded Company G, 48th PA from the summer of 1861 until his resignation in June 1862. He died in March 1891, one month shy of his 59th birthday.

Levi Nagle: 48th Pennsylvania

Levi Nagle was a musician. Born September 5, 1835, Levi was a printer before enlisting as a musician in his brother's regiment: the 48th PA. He was discharged from the army in August 1862, when regimental bands were deemed unneccesary. He returned to Pottsville, opened a toy store, and died at the age of 73 in 1908.



Private Job Hirst: Company G 48th Pennsylvania

In March 1864, eighteen-year-old Job Hirst, a laborer from Pottsville, enlisted as a private in Company H, 48th PA. Less than three months later, he was wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor. He died of his wounds on July 3, 1864.

Sergeant Thomas Houck: 96th Pennsylvania


Thomas Houck was a sergeant in Company A, 96th PA Vols. He was wounded on May 3, 1863, at the battle of Chancellorsville, and sent home to recuperate. But young Houck did not recover. On June 8, Thomas Houck died. He was just twenty-two years old.


Captain John Boyle: Co. D 96th Pennsylvania

John Boyle commanded Company D, 96th PA for most of his time in service. After the war, he wrote a number of articles about his regiment and a terrific account of the battle of Crampton's Gap. He died on October 11, 1912, at the age of 79.

Lieutenant Colonel David A. Smith: 48th Pennsylvania

D.A. Smith was mustered into service as the lieutenant colonel of the 48th PA but held this position for only one month before poor health forced his resignation from the army. He was 66 when he died on April 3, 1890.


Private Edward Edwards: Company H 48th Pennsylvania

Like Job Hirst, Edward Edwards enlisted as a private in Company H, 48th PA Vols, in early 1864. The young coal miner was in the regiment for a little more than one month before he died of sunstroke at Annapolis, on April 23, 1864.

William Wren: 19th Pennsylvania Cavalry

William Wren, a member of the 19th PA Cav, was captured late in the war and held as a prisoner-of-war. He was finally released after the guns fell silent, but his time in a Confederate prison camp led to his death on April 22, 1865. Wren was not yet twenty years of age.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Walk Through Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery: Part One


On a day off from work last week, I paid a visit to my parents in Orwigsburg and then spent the afternoon in Pottsville, walking through the Presbyterian Cemetery. Located at Twelfth and Howard Streets, the Presbyterian Cemetery is one of my favorite places to go whenever I have the chance to be in Schuylkill County. The cemetery has been closed to burials for quite some time it seems, and it is clear that not many people visit the graveyard on a regular basis. A good number of tombstones have shifted, fell over, or simply crumbled due to a combination of weather, erosion, and vandalism. This is a real shame, for within the gates of the cemetery lie buried scores of Civil War soldiers, many of whom gave their last full measure of devotion to the United States. A brigadier general, a few colonels, a Medal of Honor recipient, and an officer on General George H. Thomas's staff are all also buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. I hope to someday develop a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery, which would be both educational and recreational, and which would hopefully attract more interest in and attention to this largely forgotten and overlooked graveyard. In the meantime, I decided, in a two-part blog piece, to post photos and stories of some of the Civil War soldiers buried in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery.

JAMES NAGLE

James Nagle, though born in Reading is arguably Schuylkill County's foremost citizen-soldier. At the age of 18, he organized the Pottsville Blues, a militia company that became the Washington Artillerists. Nagle led this company throughout the Mexican-American War, as Co. B 1st PA Volunteers. At the outbreak of civil war, Nagle was commissioned colonel of the 6th PA (three-months), and throughout the summer of 1861 organized the 48th PA. In April 1862, he took command of a brigade in General Reno's Division, 9th Corps, which he led at 2nd Bull Run, Chantilly, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. He resigned due to poor health in the spring of 1863, only to once again raise another regiment of volunteers, the 39th PA Militia, which he commanded during the Gettysburg campaign. In the summer of 1864, and in response to Confederate general Jubal Early's raid toward Washington, Nagle recruited and subsequently led the 194th PA Volunteers, a 100-Day unit. Mustered out for the final time in November 1864, Nagle died of heart disease on August 22, 1866, at the age of 44. More than 3,000 people mourned as Nagle was laid to rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery.

DANIEL NAGLE

Buried next to his older brother James, Dan Nagle was born in 1828. He served with his brother in Mexico, and formed the Nagle Guards at the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861. When the 48th PA was organized, Dan recruited Company G, and was mustered in as its captain. In November 1861, Dan Nagle was elevated to the rank of regimental major, a rank he held before resigning in July 1862 to take command of the 173rd PA. After brief service in the 11th Corps, the 173rd was mustered out of service in August 1863. Daniel Nagle lived the longest of the five fighting Nagle brothers. He died in January 1918 at the age of 89.

ROBERT H. RAMSEY

Robert H. Ramsey was a Philadelphia businessman, but in the summer of 1863, as General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia crossed into Pennsylvania, Ramsey volunteered his services and was mustered in as a lieutenant in the 45th PA Volunteer Militia. After the defeat of Lee's army at Gettysburg, Ramsey's regiment was sent to the coal fields of Schuylkill County to help quell the draft rioting that had broken out. Ramsey remained in Pottsville until early 1864, serving as the acting Adjutant General on the staff of Gen. William Whipple, commander of the Lehigh District. In February 1864, Ramsey was ordered to report to General George H. Thomas who he served as Acting Aide-de-Camp and Assistant Adjutant General throughout the Atlanta Campaign and at the battle of Nashville in December 1864. Thomas recommended Ramsey for promotion to Major, which was made, and before war's end, Ramsey was brevetted a lieutenant-colonel and colonel. Sadly, and quite suddenly, Colonel Ramsey died in 1876 in Nashville, at the age of 38. His body was brought back to his adopted home of Pottsville, where he was buried.



JACOB FRICK
Born on January 25, 1825, in Northumberland County, PA, Jacob Frick served as a lieutenant during the Mexican-American War, and after his service here, spent the next several years training soldiers stationed at Fort McHenry. He resigned from the army and settled in Pottsville where he established a business that manufactured coal screens. When the Civil War broke out, Frick was mustered into service as the lieutenant-colonel of the 96th PA Volunteers, and through his training, helped mould this unit into one of the best that served in the Army of the Potomac. Frick resigned from the 96th in 1862 to become the colonel of the nine-month 129th PA Volunteer Infantry. At Fredericksburg and again at Chancellorsville, Frick distinguished himself in the midst of terrible carnage. When his term of service expired in late May 1863, Frick returned to Pottsville, but was called upon once again a short time later to take command of the 27th PA Volunteer Militia. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Frick was stationed with his unit in Columbia, and on June 28, with Confederate General John Gordon's Brigade advancing toward the Susquehanna River, opposite Columbia, Frick set fire to the Wrightsville Bridge, which prevented the Confederate from getting across the important river. After the war, Frick returned to Pottsville where he died on March 5, 1902. Ten years earlier, on June 7, 1892, Frick received the Medal of Honor for his distiguished gallantry at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Fredericksburg, Frick led his regiment in an attack against Marye's Heights. As he advanced toward the impregnable Confederate position, Frick was thrown when a shell struck and killed his horse. Dusting himself off, Frick saw the color bearer of the 129th get shot down. He rushed for the flag. Moments later, the staff was split in half and the flag fell over Frick's shoulder. He continued to urge his men forward, but the attack was a failure. The regiment lost some 150 men killed and wounded, and Frick was himself wounded with shell in his thigh and right ear. Six months later, Frick's heroism was repeated at Chancellorsville. Here, Frick and his men were cut off and partially surrounded. Many members of the 129th surrendered, and a Confederate soldier captured the regimental flag. Frick would have none of this. Rallying his men, Frick charged toward the captured flag and, in hand-to-hand combat, wrestled it away from the Confederate soldier.



JOHN SHAW
Of course, not all of the Civil War soldiers buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery were officers. Most of them, in fact, were privates and non-commissioned officers, such as private John Shaw. Born in December 1840, Shaw enlisted as a private in Company G when the company was organized in October 1861. Shaw, a "peddler" from nearby Port Carbon, served with the 48th until the late summer of 1862 when he was discharged on account of disability. He was wounded at 2nd Bull Run. Shaw passed away in 1913 at the age of 73. Twelve years before his death, his son, John Shaw, Jr., a private in Company H, 8th PA Volunteers during the Spanish-American War died at the age of 25. John Shaw Sr., was buried next to his son.
HUGH STEVENSON
Hugh Stevenson, a member of the National Light Infantry, was a "First Defender." His company along with five others entered Washington on April 18, 1861, less than one week after the fall of Fort Sumter, and went down in history as the very first organized companies of northern volunteers to arrive in Washington after the start of the American Civil War. Stevenson reenlisted in the 96th PA, and was mustered out as 1st Lt., Company C.
DAVID B. BROWN
In September 1861, twenty-year-old David B. Brown was mustered into Company H 48th PA Volunteers. The Pottsville baker served with distinction throughout the war and rose steadily through the ranks. On August 9, 1864, 2nd Lt. David B. Brown was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter near Petersburg, Virginia.
{Next week, I will post Part Two of "A Walk Through Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery"}.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

PROFILES: Major Joseph A. Gilmour

Born on June 30, 1834, in Nova Scotia, Joseph Gilmour was the son of Scottish parents who subsequently settled in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. With the outbreak of civil war in April 1861, Gilmour was quick to volunteer his service, and as a private in the Washington Artillery militia unit, entered the nation's capital less than one week after the firing on Fort Sumter. When Gilmour's three-month term of service expired in July 1861, he was selected by Colonel James Nagle to raise a company of infantry, which would form part of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. On September 19, 1861, Gilmour was once again mustered into service, this time as the captain of Company H, 48th P.V.I. He was 27 years of age, and was among the tallest soldiers in the regiment at 5'11". His complexion was listed as dark; his eye color blue, and his hair gray. By occupation, Gilmour was a hatter. Gilmour served with the regiment, rising to the rank of major before being mortally wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter along the Rapidan River on May 31, 1864. He died on June 9.


The following biographical sketch of Gilmour appeared in Francis Wallace's Memorial to the Patriotism of Schuylkill County, published in Pottsville, in 1865:

"One of the most gallant soldiers from Schuylkill County, beloved by all who knew his manly worth, was Joseph A. Gilmour. He laid his young, bright life on the altar of his country--a martyr to the cause nearest and dearest to his generous heart.

"He entered the service, April 17, 1861, as a private in the Washington Artillery Company of Pottsville, and was mustered in and promoted Sergeant on the 18th. He reached Washington the same evening with his company--the first, with four other Pennsylvania companies, to arrive at the National Capital for its defense.

"At the expiration of the three months' service he recruited a Company (H) for the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment, and was commissioned Captain. He commanded his Company with marked ability until he was promoted Major of the Regiment. He was with his Regiment at Newbern, at the Second Battle of Bull Run, at Chantilly, Battle of South Mountain, Antietam, Siege of Knoxville, and in many other engagements of less importance. At Knoxville he commanded the Regiment with coolness, excellent judgment and consummate ability. In Gen. Grant's great campaign, 1864, Major Gilmour fought bravely with his Regiment from the Rapid Ann {Rapidan}, and was almost in view of the spires of Richmond, when on the 31st of May, a ball from the rifle of a rebel sharpshooter struck his left knee. Amputation on the filed was deemed necessary. The operation was performed, and he was subsequently conveyed in an ambulance to the White House, Va., a distance of over twenty miles. The journey was painful, but he bore it with a heroism which under every circumstance distinguished the man. From the White House he was conveyed to Seminary Hospital, Georgetown, D.C., where he lingered until the 9th of June, when death terminated his sufferings.

"The body of the dead hero was brought to Pottsville, and interred on Sunday afternoon, June 12, 1864, with Masonic ceremonies and military honors. The funeral was one of the largest ever witnessed in Pottsville--a tribute of love for the man.

"The last moments of Major Gilmour were attended by Chaplain W.H. Keith, who ministered to the departing soul with brotherly affection. After death he had the body embalmed and dressed in uniform. The flowers placed on the lamented Major's breast by the kind hand of the Minister of God, were yet fresh when the coffin reached Pottsville, and formed a band of sympathy between the unknown friend who had placed them there and the relatives and friends of the deceased. In other cases of soldiers dying in the hospitals, Mr. Keith acted in a similarly friendly manner, endearing himself to those related to the dead. He may not have his reward here, but he will receive it hereafter."


Joseph Gilmour was laid to rest in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery. An elaborate tombstone, which bears a likeness of Gilmour, was placed above his grave. The tombstone was purchased by Gilmour's uncle: James Wren, who Gilmour succeeded as major of the 48th Pennsylvania.



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}.