Thursday, December 24, 2009

Looking Back. . .Looking Ahead



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2009 will soon be no more. And with yet another year coming to an end, I cannot help but look back on the year that was. . .and look ahead to the year that will be. Both personally and professionally, 2009 was in many ways a memorable year. On a professional level, June 25 of this past year witnessed the start of my fourth season as a ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. Even after all these years, I still find it hard to believe how fortunate I am to work in one of America's best National Parks doing what I truly love to do and to work alongside some of the best rangers the nation has to offer.






In addition to daily interpretative presentations--talks and tours--I also had the great privilege of helping to lead this year's Battle Anniversary Hikes on September 17. The day began with a steady pour, and although the rain did eventually end, the day remained cloudy and overcast. No matter; it was a rewarding and humbling experience, and one I will long remember.

I will also never forget the great honor I had in 2009 working at the January 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama. . .


. . . and the December 3 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House Ellipse. Both of these were memorable events, ones I will surely tell the grandkids about. . .someday.

(Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
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In 2009, my efforts to restore the 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Antietam took gigantic steps forward. Through the generosity of scores of individuals and organizations, I am happy to say that the money for this project has been raised and that artist/sculptor Michael Kraus is, at this moment, working on completing the sword. I am beginning to plan a rededication ceremony, which I hope will take place sometime in early April 2010.

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I kept myself busy while away from the battlefield this year working on a number of projects. In July, my book on Schuylkill County soldiers at the battles of South Mountain and Antietam was published. I must thank everyone for their kind reviews, including Mike Noirot, who was kind enough to conduct a book interview for his website This Mighty Scourge. You can listen to the interview here, and read some of the reviews here and here.



In addition to Our Boys Did Nobly, 2009 also witnessed the publication of They Will Be Remembered By A Grateful People: Civil War Heroes of Schuylkill County, a book designed for a younger audience, and illustrated by Jared Frederick.



(Thanks, Jared, for your great work. I am hoping we can work together again).

Lastly, my book on Antietam Trivia "hit the shelves" back in April of this year.
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Yes, 2009 was, indeed, a memorable year, both on the battlefield and off. And no reflection on the year that was would be complete without mentioning that in early November, the World Series title returned to the Bronx when my Yankees beat the Phillies in six.
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With the year now at an end, I am looking forward to 2010. I am happy to announce that my book Antietam: September 17, 1862, published by the Western Maryland Interpretative Association will be out, hopefully, in the Spring. Also, an article I penned on Nicholas Biddle and the First Defenders will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine. I am currently working on a few other projects, including one with one of my Antietam colleagues and Ten Roads Publishing, but I'll keep the topic a mystery for now.

Finally, I want to thank all my readers out there who take the time out of their busy lives to stop on by this blog. It's been more than three years since I first launched this blog, and I can only hope that you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoy posting.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gettysburg Winter Wonderland



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Growing up in the mountainous coal regions of east-central Pennsylvania, I am accustomed to wintry weather. . .but it has been a long time since I've seen a snowfall such as today's. By the time I awoke at 6:00 a.m., there was already several inches and by noon, well, about a foot of the white stuff has fallen. The older I get, the more I can do without this kind of weather. . .but it sure is pretty. With the snow falling and winds a-blowing, I braved the elements and headed out to get some photos of today's winter wonderland.

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A deserted town square. . .
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Just to give you an idea of its depth, here snow obscures an interpretative wayside panel.
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Entrance to the Gettysburg National Cemetery Annex.
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The 55th Ohio Monument at the intersection of Steinwehr Avenue & Taneytown Road
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Ziegler's Grove and the General Alexander Hays Monument
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Looking south down Hancock Avenue at the Bliss Farm
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The 111th New York Infantry Monument
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General George Meade Equestrian Monument on Cemetery Ridge
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Looking southwesterly toward the Angle
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The 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry monument
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The Copse of Trees
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Snow falling around the statue to Brigadier General Alexander Webb
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The Maryland Monument. . .
With visibility now almost gone and soaked to the bone, I decided to head on home. I'll be thawing out for quite some time to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 48th Pennsylvania at Fredericksburg

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This Sunday, December 13, will mark the 147th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. With nearly 18,000 casualties, it was a terribly bloody and savage fight. Although the battle extended well beyond the Federal assaults against Marye's Heights, much popular thought centers solely on these attacks, with the forlorn charges of the Irish Brigade and, to a lesser degree, Humphreys's Fifth Corps Division capturing the lionshare of historical memory. Lost in most traditional interpretations of the battle was the attack made by the Ninth Army Corps, commanded at Fredericksburg by Brigadier General Orlando Willcox. Yet their attack against Marye's Heights was no less valiant. Total Ninth Corps casualties at Fredericksburg exceeded 1,300. The 48th Pennsylvania lost 51 men killed, wounded, and missing.

The following are several accounts written by soldiers of the 48th, describing their experiences at Fredericksburg:



Sergeant Joseph Gould, Co. F:


"On the 11th of December a heavy artillery duel took place, and the troops on our side of the [Rappahannock] river were moving towards the bank ready to cross. Our brigade did not take any part in the movement until the 12th, when we crossed the river on a pontoon bridge opposite the city, and lay in the streets all that day and night. The shells from the enemy were exploding all around us while occupying this position, and quite a number of the regiment were disabled. On the 13th our brigade, now consisting of the 48th Pennsylvania, 2nd Maryland, 6th and 9th New Hampshire and 7th Rhode Island, was ordered to the assault at 2 p.m. Prior to this we had been in an exposed position, the right wing lying up one street northward and the left wing on another street eastward. Directly in front of the right wing was a large brick barn, behind which [division commander] Gen. Sturgis and staff were standing, until a solid shot came flying clean through the walls, scattering the bricks and debris in all directions, and with is scattered the general and his staff."


Sergeant William J. Wells, Co. F:




"Just prior to this incident, while General Sturgis was seated upon a camp stool and leaning against the barn, General Ferrero, commanding the 2nd Brigade of his division, came in from the front, much excited, and told Sturgis that his brigade was all cut up, and demanded to know why in the hell he did not send them reenforcements. Sturgis replied: 'Oh, I guess not, General, keep cool; take a little of this,' lifting the canteen to his lips. While so engaged, the shot came through the barn, just over his head, but he never lowered it until he had finished his drink; then, handing the canteen to Ferrero, he rose, went to the corner of the barn, looked over the field, and then said to Col. [Joshua] Sigfried [commanding the 48th], who was standing near, 'Now is your time, Colonel. Go in.'"


'Attention! Right face! Forward, march!' and the 48th moved quickly to the right, until the barn was uncovered, when the Colonel commanded: 'By the left flank; march,' and the regiment swung into line, rapidly marching to the front, then to the right, then again to the front, when we halted, the right companies finding themselves for a short time lying flat on their faces behind a frame house and a long pale fence, while grape and canister played a tattoo through the same. We had been carried too far to the right and could not advance farther to the front from that position. Up again, then to the left until the house was cleared, then by the front; forward, with a rush, into shelter under the brow of a slight elevation, when our advanced was impeded by a mass of men, many deep, seeking similar shelter. Here we stayed doing sharpshooting, picking off the officers and gunners from the batteries upon the heights until nightfall, when we were withdrawn under the cover of darkness."



Sergeant Gould:
"It has been truly said that only those who participated in the contest know much and how little they heard. We remember how the smoke, the woods, and the inequalities of the ground limited our vision when we had the leisure to look about us, and how every faculty was absorbed in our work; how the deafening noise made it impossible to hear orders; what ghastly sights we saw, as men fell near us, and how peacefully they sank to rest when a bullet reached a vital spot. [Sergeant August] Farrow and [Private David] Griffiths of Company F stood in the ranks to deliver their fire, though repeatedly commanded to lie down, until Griffiths was shot through the left lung and carried to the rear. Wounded men shrieked and others lay quiet; the singing and whistling of the balls from the muskets was incessant; and we knew very little of what was going on a hundred yards to the right or left. Participants in real fighting know how limited and confused are their recollections of the work, after it has become hot. All efforts to dislodge the enemy were unsuccessful, and the losses very heavy. Night put an end to the contest, and, having exhausted our ammunition, we were relieved by the 12th Rhode Island regiment and marched back to town. Cannon and musketry fire ceased their roar, and in a few moments the silence of death succeeded the stormy fury of the ten hours' battle. We were soon fast asleep in the streets of the town, tired out."


Brigadier General James Nagle, Commanding 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Corps:
"From 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers was held in reserve. It was the ordered to the front. The men marched under a most galling fire like true veterans. The whole of my brigade remained in the front until after sixty rounds of ammunition had been expended, and until they were relieved by other troops. . . ."


Colonel Joshua K. Sigfried, Commanding the 48th Pennsylvania, to the Miners' Journal, 12/16/1862:
"We bivouacked in the street on the right of the city the preceding night; towards noon on the 13th marched toward the left and to the support of the 2nd Brigade of same Division. At one o'clock P.M., received orders from General Nagle to march to the open field in the rear of the city, when my regiment was kept in reserve (while the rest of our brigade marched forward) until half-past two o'clock, when General Sturgis ordered me to forward my command to assist in repelling a charge the enemy was about making on our line. We started and went at double-quick (a distance of half a mile) under a most terrific fire of shell, grape and cannister from the enemy's batteries. Arriving at the hill (about four hundred yards from the enemy's breastworks), I was requested by Colonel Clark, of the 21st Massachusetts Volunteers, to relieve his regiment; their ammunition was nearly expended; I did so; when we remained on the crest of the hill until our ammunition was exhausted (sixty rounds per man), when Colonel Brown, of the 12th Rhode Island Volunteers, relieved us. At dusk the hill became crowded, and seeing other regiments still coming up, Colonel Clark and myself concluded best to return to the city for ammunition, and give room for fresh troops to get under the shelter of the hill.
"Too much praise cannot be given to all the soldiers (and the following officers who were in the battle, viz: Lieut-Colonel Pleasants, Major J. Wren, Adjutant D.D. McGinnes, Captains U.A. Bast, G.W. Gowen, Winlack, Hoskings, O.C. Bosbyshell, J.A. Gilmour, John R. Porter, Isaac Brennan, and Lieutenants H. Boyer, Eveland, John Wood, Humes, Chas. Loeser, Jr., Bohannan, Fisher, James, Williams, Jackson, Pollock, A. Bowen, Schuck, Douty, and Stitzer), for their gallantry during the entire engagement. Their line was steady and unbroken while advancing under the most murderous shelling of the enemy, and their fire deliberate, well-aimed and effective.
"I deeply sympathize with the families and friends of those who have fallen, but it is a source of great gratification to know that they fell while gallantly defending a just and holy cause."

General Burnside Talking With General W.B. Franklin at Fredericksburg

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48th Pennsylvania Casualties at Fredericksburg


Killed

Private James Williams, Co. A
Corporal Reuben Robinson, Co. B
Private Michael Divine, Co. B
Private John Williams, Co. B
Private William Hill, Co. B
Sergeant Henry Williamson, Co. D
Private Thomas Kinney, Co. D

Wounded

Company A: Joseph B. Carter, William F. Heiser
Company B: Sergeant Nelson W. Major, William Brown, Clement Betzler, Carey Heaton, Philip Carling, Lieutenant John S. Wood
Company C: Corporal Henry Weiser, Samuel Harrison, Charles Walker, Andrew Scott, Michael McLaughlin, John Murray
Company D: Corporal John H. Derr, H.C. Burkholder

H.C. Burkholder, Co. D


Company E: Robert Hughes, Edward Murphy, John Sunderland, Corporal Michael Sandy, Corporal Samuel Clemens

Company F: David Griffiths, Evan Thomas, William Fulton

David Griffiths

Company G: Sergeant James C. Nies, Daniel Donne, John Tobin

Daniel Donne

Company H: Captain Joseph A. Gilmour, Corporal Alba C. Thompson, Valentine Kinswell



Joseph A. Gilmour

Company I: Sergeant Francis D. Koch, Corporal James Miller, Wilson Kerns, Edward F. Shappelle, Jacob Gongloff, Charles E. Weaver, Anthony Beltz, Joseph Gilbert, Elias Faust

Company K: John Currey, Thomas Currey, Frank Simon, Michael Delaney

Missing

George Airgood, Co. A

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brigadier General Edward Harland

At Antietam, Colonel Edward Harland's Ninth Corps Brigade, composed of Connecticut and Rhode Island troops, suffered some of the highest casualties in the entire Army of the Potomac. At the Lower Bridge and on the left of the Ninth Corps line during the afternoon advance against the Confederate right flank, Harland’s four regiments lost more than 600 men killed, wounded, and missing. Bearing the brunt of General A.P. Hill’s devastating flank attack, Harland’s men were forced from the field. While attempting to rally his troops and stay the retreat, Harland had a horse shot from underneath him, and he fell hard to the ground. In the afternoon, only a fraction of his command remained. His men were so used up that in his Official Report Harland stated: “At the bridge I collected the shattered remnants of the brigade, in hopes of making a stand, but owing to the large loss of officers and the failure of ammunition, it was impossible to render the men of any material service.”[1]
Possessing neither a West Point education nor experience in a pre-war militia unit, Edward Harland nonetheless served in high command with quiet competence throughout the four years of the Civil War. Born in 1832 in Norwich, Connecticut, Edward Harland was descended from an English watchmaker who immigrated to the colonies just a few years before the Americans declared their independence. Graduating from Yale University in 1853, Harland next took up the study of law and was admitted to the Connecticut bar two years later. Practicing law in his native town, Harland quickly became a leading citizen of Norwich. Thus, when the war broke out in the spring of 1861, Harland helped recruit and was mustered into service as captain of Company D, 3rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. At the First Battle of Bull Run, Captain Harland, the lawyer-turned-warrior, proved himself an able battlefield leader and when the regiment’s term of service expired later that summer, he was commissioned to lead a new three-year unit. Mustered in as colonel of the 8th Connecticut in October 1861, Harland led his new command to the shores of North Carolina where they formed part of General Ambrose Burnside’s expeditionary force, seeing action at Roanoke Island and New Bern. After Burnside’s command was transferred to Virginia in the summer of 1862, Colonel Harland was assigned brigade command. Leading his brigade throughout the Maryland Campaign, Harland was only lightly engaged at the battle of South Mountain. Three days later, however, he and his men witnessed savage combat and suffered heavy losses at Antietam.

Traveling along the east bank of the Antietam on the morning of September 17, Harland’s Brigade was minus one regiment as it searched with the rest of Rodman’s Division for a ford south of the Lower Bridge. Earlier, the 11th Connecticut was detached in order to serve as skirmishers for George Crook’s Brigade as it made the first of what was to be several attacks against the bridge. Charging straight for the bridge, the 11th Connecticut lost more than thirty percent of its number in their vain effort. Among the killed was the regiment’s commander, Colonel Henry Kingsbury, whose brother-in-law, General David R. Jones, commanded the Confederate division south of town, including the Georgia troops posted on the high ground west of the three-arched bridge.
Sometime around 1:00 p.m., and while Edward Ferrero’s men were storming across the bridge, Colonel Harland’s other three regiments finally crossed the Antietam at Snavely’s Ford, and took up a position on the extreme left of the Ninth Corps line, which eventually stretched one mile in length. With the town of Sharpsburg and the possession of the Harper’s Ferry Road their objectives and the thinned ranks of D.J. Jones’s Division their only obstacle, the Ninth Corps moved forward around 3:00 p.m. However, things had gone astray in the ranks of Harland’s Brigade from the start. While the 8th Connecticut moved out as ordered, aligning on the left flank of Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade, Harland’s other two regiments—the4th Rhode Island and 16th Connecticut—remained in their position. Then, off to the west, Colonel Harland and division commander Isaac Rodman noticed an approaching column of Confederate infantry. A.P. Hill’s Confederate Division had arrived from Harper’s Ferry almost entirely undetected and was heading toward Harland’s exposed left flank. Galloping to warn the two lagging regiments of this threat and to reposition them to meet it, Harland fell to the ground after his horse was shot from underneath him. At roughly the same time, Rodman fell with a mortal wound. Command of the division then fell to its senior brigadier, Colonel Edward Harland. As the 4th Rhode Island and 16th Connecticut finally advanced, they were met by the vigorous attack of General Maxcy Gregg’s brigade of South Carolinians. Confusion reigned among the stalks of corn in Mr. Otto’s Forty-Acre Cornfield, especially in the ranks of the Connecticut regiment. These men were fighting in their first battle and had been in the service for less than three weeks. With men falling by the score, Harland’s shattered New Englanders were finally driven from the field, retreating toward the high ground immediately west of the bridge. The number of men lost that day in Harland’s four regiments exceeded six hundred. The 16th Connecticut alone lost 302 men killed, wounded, and missing, the highest number of casualties in the entire Ninth Corps.
Harland reverted back to brigade command following the battle of Antietam. Promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to date from November 29, 1862, Harland led his men at Fredericksburg, which proved to be his last major battle of the war. Transferred to southeast Virginia in March 1863, he commanded a brigade in the Seventh Corps for four months before being transferred, yet again, to General George Getty’s Eighteenth Corps Division in the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. He remained with the Eighteenth Corps throughout the duration of the war, but spent the final year and a half of the conflict in command of various districts and posts. In March 1864, he was given command of the Subdistrict of the Pamlico, a position he held for just two months before sent to command the defenses of New Bern, North Carolina. Remaining here until January 1865, Harland briefly held command of the Department of New Bern before finishing out the war in command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, District of Beaufort. After more than four years of service, General Harland tendered his resignation from the army on June 22, 1865.

Thirty-three-year-old Edward Harland returned to Norwich after the war where he enjoyed great success in a number of endeavors. After first returning to his law practice, Harland next served a number of terms in both houses of the Connecticut legislature, and sat for a time as a probate judge. Continuing a distinguished career as a public servant, Harland also served on the state board of pardons and as the adjutant general of the Connecticut state militia. In 1890 the aging bachelor was named president of the Chelsea Savings Bank. Harland suffered from chronic emphysema during the final ten years of his life; indeed, this affliction was listed as the cause of his death, which came on March 9, 1915, in Norwich, Connecticut. He was eighty-two years of age.



[1] Official Report of Colonel Edward Harland, September 22, 1862, in OR Series I, Vol. 19, Part 51

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Stroll Through Reading's Charles Evans Cemetery & Other Places

Gravesite of Charles Evans,
Reading attorney and philanthropist who established the Charles Evans Cemetery in 1846.
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I had the great privilege yesterday of spending the morning with Mark Pflum, an expert on all things First Defenders and Berks County Civil War; it is remarkable how much this guy knows. We spent the morning hours wandering about Reading's famed Charles Evans Cemetery, which is rich in history. We focused mainly on the gravesites of Reading's First Defenders, members of the Ringgold Light Artillery, which was one of the first five companies of Northern volunteers to reach Washington upon the outbreak of hostilities in April 1861.
The Ringgold Light Artillery, an elite militia unit, was founded by Captain James McKnight. In May 1861 and upon the recommendation of US General William H. Keim, McKnight was elevated to the rank of major and given command of Battery M, 5th US Artillery.
Grave of Captain James McKnight
The McKnight family plot
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Another famous member of the Ringgold Light Artillery was George W. Durell, famed gunner of Durell's Battery, which fought with the Ninth Corps throughout the war.

Grave of Captain George W. Durell
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First Defender Howard McIlvain was a private in the Ringgold Light Artillery and then a 1st Lieutenant in Durell's Battery. He died in November 1862 at the age of twenty-three.
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Perhaps the most famous Civil War burial in Charles Evans Cemetery is Major General David McM. Gregg, famed Federal cavalry commander.


Gregg's grave is the far leftUnion Cavalryman David M. Gregg
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Buried near General Gregg is Joseph Hiester, Lieutenant Colonel of the Berks County Militia in the Revolution and Governor of Pennsylvania, 1820-1823.
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Union Brigadier General William H. Keim, who died of typhoid fever in May 1862, also lies buried in the Charles Evans Cemetery.
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Famed Berk County brewermeister Frederick Lauer was interred in Charles Evans. Although too old to serve, Lauer raised, outfitted, and equipped what became Company H, 104th Pennsylvania volunteers.
Freddy Lauer's Grave
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Colonel Charles A. Knederer of the 167th PA Drafted Militia was brave; perhaps too brave for his own good. He was killed in action while battling with Longstreet's Confederate troops in early 1863 near Blackwater River.
Close-up of Knederer's grave.
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Near the grave of Colonel Knederer is that of Union Eleventh Corps Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig, who died in nearby Wernersville in September 1865 from tuberculosis.
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Scores of Union veterans, including many soldiers who fought in various U.S.C.T. and other all-black units, lie buried in the G.A.R. Plot.


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Buried also in Charles Evans is Matilda Edwards Strong, who died at a young age in 1851. The daughter of a US Congressman from Illinois, Matilda was frequently in Washington during the 1840s where she met and befriended another Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. The two began a relationship and it is even suggested that Lincoln proposed to Matilda, which she rejected. It is also suggested that when Lincoln broke off his engagement to Mary Todd in 1841, Todd blamed Matilda for it.
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Frederick Yeager was a proud member of the Ringgold Light Artillery and later a captain in the 128th PA. He, too, met Lincoln, on the night of April 18, 1861, when the appreciative president made his way to the Capitol and shook the hands of each First Defender, thanking them for their timely arrival in Washington.
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After spending several hours in the Charles Evans Cemetery, Mark took me to Penn Commons, a park where stands a monument recognizing the contributions of the Ringgold Light Artillery.



A bronze plaque explains the place of the First Defenders in the annals of Civil War history.
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In this same park, there is also a pretty impressive monument to William McKinley, commissary sergeant of the 23rd Ohio Infantry. . .oh, and twenty-fifth president of the United States.


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48th Pennsylvania Burials
While wandering about the cemeteries, Mark & I discovered the final resting places of several 48th Pennsylvania soldiers. Buried in the GAR Plot (for Posts 16 [McLean] and 76 [Keim]) at Charles Evans are:


Corporal David T. Kreiger, Co. F.
A teamster originally from Girardville, Kreiger served throughout the course of the war.

Private Daniel Weldy, Co. D.
Weldy, a chairmaker from Berks County, enlisted in 1861 at the age of forty, reenlisted in 1864, and was mustered out with the regiment in July 1865.

Private Charles Goodman, Co. A.
Goodman was a native of Berks County who enlisted in Port Clinton in 1861. A twenty-six-year-old boatman, Goodman served through the end of his term, being mustered out in October 1864.

Private Albert Fisher, Co. F.
Fisher, a twenty-five-year-old native of Germany entered the 48th in January 1865 as a substitute. He was discharged on a surgeon's certificate in June.


Private Thomas Elliot, Co. C.
A native of Schuylkill County, Elliot enlisted in Pottsville in January 1865 at the age of twenty. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boatman was discharged with the regiment in July 1865.

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At the Aulenbach Cemetery, Mark and I discovered two more 48th PA burials:

Sergeant Daniel Moser, Co. H.
Moser was a nineteen-year-old blacksmith from Pottsville when he enlisted in the summer of 1861. He served throughout the war, rising to the rank of sergeant, and was mustered out a "veteran" in 1865.


Private Peter Trump, Co. D.
Trump was a native of Reading who enlisted at the age of twenty in March 1865. He served four months, mustered out in July.

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