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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6 comments:

Mark said...

This Pflum guy sounds interesting! LOL I had a great time and am looking forward to the day I can introduce you to the marvels awaiting you at the Historical Society of Berks County!

Now . . . when do we start planning the First Defenders Sesquicentenial celebrations?

John David Hoptak said...

Mark
I am looking forward to it.

Let's get all the First Defenders' crew work on getting that ball rolling. . .and maybe, just maybe, our Pennsylvanians will finally get their due credit for being the first. After all, they met and shook hands with those fellas from the 6th Massachusetts when they arrived 24 hours later.

Dave Maher said...

The State Museum of Pennsylvania has the battle flag of the Ringgold Artillery. Its an impressive sight. The museum had it properly conserved and framed not to long ago, unfortunately its tucked away in their collections. I'm still waiting to hear back about the Nagle sword (IF they actually have it).

Stephen Recker said...

Thanks for the great image of Frederick Yeager's grave.

Berksgal said...

Marvelous site! I greatly enjoyed it and "book marked" it.
Just to let you know...Matilda Edwards met Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, IL during the winter of 1840-41. She was staying with her cousin, Ninian Edwards and his wife Elizabeth (nee Todd). Also visiting that winter was Elizabeth's sister, Mary. One of Abe's letters from Wash., D.C. to Mary in Kentucky in April 1848 mentions that Matilda and her husband, Newton Strong, would be visiting D.C. to see Newton's brother, William, who was serving in congress with Lincoln.

Berksgal said...

Thanks for a great website. Matilda Edwards (later Strong) met Abraham Lincoln during the winter of 1840-41 when she spent the legislative season in Springfield at the home of her cousin, Ninian Edwards and his wife Elizabeth (nee Todd). Also staying with the Edwards was Elizabeth's sister, Mary.