Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Faces of the 48th: Clay W. Evans--129th PA; Company G, 48th PA; and 1st Lt. 31st USCT


Clay W. Evans
(Photographed in 1865 as Lieutenant, 31st USCT) 
John D. Hoptak Collection

I always enjoy seeing a "new" face of the 48th, and just a few days ago, my friend Britt alerted me to a "new" image of a soldier who had served in the 48th Pennsylvania. His name was Clay W. Evans and not only did he serve in the 48th, but he had also served in the nine-month 129th Pennsylvania as well as in the 31st United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the final year of the war. He later became a leading citizen of St. Clair, became sheriff of Schuylkill County and even served a term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. . .along with numerous other positions. Quite a busy life he led. 

Born on February 10, 1844, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Clay W. Evans was a son of Eliza and Thomas Evans. His paternal grandfather--Lot Evans--was a prominent early settler of St. Clair, just outside Pottsville, and it was there where Clay grew up. He attended the local public schools for a time and worked as a slate picker at a coal mine for a number of years until 1857 when, at age 13, he went to work in Walter Sedgwick's grocery store. He was still thus employed when, in April 1861, civil war broke out. Although only having turned 17 a few months before, and like many a young man, Clay Evans was determined to enlist. He ran away from home, made his way to Harrisburg, and succeeded in enlisting into the ranks of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, at least according to a newspaper account published in 1898, when Evans assumed stewardship of the Schuylkill County Almshouse. It wasn't long, however, before Evans's mother, Eliza, "induced him to return home." Not to be deterred, Evans, in the summer of 1862 and now 18 years of age, once more entered the ranks, this time in Company B, of the 129th Pennsylvania Infantry, a nine-month regiment that was engaged in heavy combat at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Mustered out as a corporal, Evans returned to his home in St. Clair but in February 1864, now twenty years of age, he once more enlisted, this time into the ranks of Company G, of the veteran 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. Wounded twice at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864, Evans remained with the 48th until the winter of 1864, when he was recommended for and accepted an officer's commission in the 31st United States Colored Infantry. He served with the 31st USCT until being discharged in December 1865. 

Returning to St. Clair, the soon-to-be-twenty-two-year-old Clay Evans went back to work as a clerk. He married two years later, on September 3, 1867, to Emily Allison, also of St. Clair, and the couple had at least three children: Guy Evans (1869-1901); Robert A. Evans (1886-1943); and Cad M. Evans. Setting out on his own in 1872, Clay Evans opened his very own store, dealing in groceries and dry goods. 

Bargains await at Clay Evans' General Store! 
(Pottsville Republican, 9/27/1887)

Evans managed his business for a good number of years and also became very active in the state militia, advancing his way up ultimately to the ranks of major. Civic-minded, Evans also served on the school board, on the St. Clair Borough Council for a number of years, and, finally, as a member of the Pennsylvania State Legislature, representing Schuylkill County and the Fourth District in the PA State House during the session that ran from 1879-1880. 

Clay W. Evans as a member of the PA State Legislature
(Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives)

And as if all this were not enough, Evans, in 1898, was appointed Steward of the Schuylkill County almshouse, and then from 1899-1906, and again from 1911-1915, he worked as a deputy revenue collector for the IRS. In between (1907-1910), he served as sheriff of Schuylkill County.  Evans was also actively involved in the GAR; was a Mason, and a member of the local Odd Fellows' branch. He sought higher officer, but in 1912 was defeated in his bid for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. 

Evans reportedly enjoyed good health until 1917 when he was stricken by a number of illnesses. The end came on a Friday morning--September 20, 1918. Clay W. Evans--slate picker, store worker, clerk, soldier and officer, veteran of many a bloody campaign, business owner, steward, state representative, sheriff, school board member and councilman, husband, and father--passed away at the of 74. His remains were laid to rest in Pottsville's Charles Baber Cemetery. 

It was certainly a full and busy life Clay W. Evans led. 

Ten months of his 74+ years were spent in the ranks of the 48th Pennsylvania. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

A New Headstone for Colonel Gowen

I was only at Saint Luke's Episcopal Graveyard in Germantown, Pennsylvania, once, and this was many, many years ago. 

I was there to locate the grave of George Washington Gowen, the 48th Pennsylvania's fourth commanding officer, following James Nagle, Joshua Sigfried, and Henry Pleasants. 

I thought I located it. . .but wasn't entirely sure. I found a plot for the "Gowen" family, at least, and I thought I saw the headstone for George but, again, I could not be certain. 

Surely, I thought, for someone born into a very prominent family and for a colonel who was killed in action leading his regiment into battle, George Gowen would have a large and easily recognizable headstone. But such was not the case. 

As it turns out, his grave marker had fallen into great disrepair and was hardly recognizable. 

This is why I was so happy, several weeks ago, to see that Frank Jastrzembski, founder of Shrouded Veterans, and working with Saint Luke's Episcopal Church in Germantown, saw to it that Colonel Gowen get a new headstone.

A New Headstone for Colonel Gowen. . .

Stands now in front of his original stone. 

Twenty-five-year-old George Washington Gowen, the son of Irish immigrants, was killed in action on April 2, 1865, during the 48th's final  battle action of the Civil War at Petersburg, Virginia. Sergeant Patrick Monahan, himself an immigrant from Ireland and Medal of Honor recipient for his heroics at Petersburg in June 1864, remembered Gowen's death vividly: "I saw. Col. Gowen step to the side of Sam Beddall, one of the Color Sergeants, lean over, and speak to him. My impression was that Sam was hurt, and I stepped to the side of the Colonel to take the colors, if such was the case. The Colonel straightened up, and I moved a step out of his way, when a shell, hot from the mouth of one of the rebel guns of Fort Mahone, exploded in our midst. The Colonel fell on his face; I turned him over on his back, and saw that half of his face was carried away. He was killed instantly. Myself and two others of the regiment carried him back to the rebel picket line, where we were relieved by others, and returned to the front; joined the colors, and entered Fort Mahone by way of the embrasure from which the shell had been fired that killed Colonel Gowen."

His remains were later returned to his native Germantown for burial. 

In the early 1900s, the veterans of the 48th placed an impressive statue of Gowen near the spot where he was killed. 

Colonel George W. Gowen
(as commander of Company C and as a pre-war civil mining engineer,
Gowen played a leading role in the tunneling of the 48th's mine at Petersburg) 

The 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Petersburg 
features a bronze statue of George W. Gowen. 

Many, many thanks to Frank Jastrzembski and Saint Luke's Episcopal Church for seeing to the placement of a new headstone for Colonel George Gowen! 

Now. . .I will need to make a return trip to Germantown! 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A "New" Face of the Forty-Eighth: Corporal Henry W. Krater, Company I

Although it does not happen all too often, every now and then, I get to see a "new" face of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. A few weeks ago, was one of those "every now and then" moments. Checking my email, I was happy to see an email from a Great-Great-Great Grandson of Henry W. Krater, a corporal who served for the duration of the conflict in Company I. Krater was a lifelong resident of my small hometown of Orwigsburg. Because of this, and in addition to knowing his name from the regimental rosters, I many-a-time visited his gravesite in St. John's Church Cemetery, just a few blocks away from the house where I grew up. And now, after so many years, I got to see photographs of the man taken during and after the Civil War, to finally put a face to the name. 

Corporal Henry W. Krater
Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry
(Courtesy of Mr. Mike Wynosky)

Born on April 9, 1837, in Orwigsburg, Henry Krater was a son of John Krater and Sarah Deibert Krater. He turned 24 just a few days before the Civil War's opening shots at Fort Sumter and in September 1861, he enlisted, along with a brother, Charles, into the ranks of Company I, 48th Pennsylvania. In height, he stood 5'7"; had a "Light" Complexion, Brown Eyes, and Dark Hair. His occupation was identified as cigar maker. He was married--having wed Catherine Slenker--sometime prior to the outbreak of war, and had, at the time of his enlistment, at least one child, a one-year-old son named Clinton Morris Krater. Another son, born in December 1864, would be given the impressive name of Preston Sherman Burnside Krater, his middle two names were presumably in honor of two of Henry's favorite generals. 

Henry Krater returned home to Orwigsburg following his enlistment and remained there for the rest of his very long life. He and his wife had six more children in the years after the war; their final child, a daughter named Bertha Mae was born in 1881 and lived 95 years, passing away in 1977. 

A member of the Gowen G.A.R. Post, Henry Krater was active in veterans' affairs and would be a regular attendee at the annual reunions held by the survivors of the 48th Pennsylvania. He led a long life and was active, according his obituary, up until the date of his death. On April 11, 1926, Henry was visiting his son, John, at John's home on West Market Street, Orwigsburg. Sometime during the visit, while in the backyard, the aged Civil War veteran suffered a sudden stroke, collapsing to the ground. Borne inside, Henry died at 10:30 a.m. the following day, April 12, 1926--the 65th Anniversary of the Civil War's opening shots at Fort Sumter. Henry Krater was 89. 

A large and impressive funeral was held to honor his life; in attendance were seven Civil War veterans--including two of his former comrades from Company I, 48th PA, Jacob Gongloff and Thomas J. Reed. The Civil War veterans were chauffeured in automobiles. Spanish-American War veterans also attended in good number, and present also was Orwigsburg's Liberty Band. A longtime member of Saint John's Church, Henry W. Krater was laid to rest with full military honors in the church's cemetery on Washington Street, the same cemetery where, coincidentally, lay the remains of the very first soldier of the 48th Pennsylvania to die during the Civil War--William Millet--who died at age 20 in September 1861, and who had been buried 65 already years prior to the internment of Krater. Upon his death, Henry W. Krater left behind seven children, forty grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.

My thanks go out to Mr. Mike Wynosky for reaching out to me and for sending along the images of Henry Krater. It is always great to finally put a face to the name.  

Post-War Image of Henry W. Krater
(Courtesy of Mike Wynosky) 


The Grave of Henry W. Krater (left) and his wife, Catherine,
who preceded him in death by eleven years.
St. John's Cemetery, Orwigsburg
(Image from findagrave.com) 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Colorized Photographs of 48th Pennsylvania Soldiers

Colorized Image of Major Joseph Gilmour
48th PA
Last night, a number of my friends in the Civil War world shared on their social media accounts photographs of historical figures from the Civil War Era that were animated, or "brought to life," via technology by My Heritage

Most were of generals; some of civilians. Some of these animated photographs were rather compelling; others were, well. . .

In addition to animating historic photographs, My Heritage also colorizes images from the past. For several years now, adding color to old black-and-white or sepia-toned Civil War CDVs or tintypes has become increasingly ever more popular. While the verdict on this technology seems evenly split between those who like it and those who do not, I thought I would create an account and upload some photographs of 48th Pennsylvania soldiers from my collection to better see what these soldiers may have looked like in person. I also uploaded a photograph of Nicholas "Nick" Biddle of Pottsville, who, when marching off to war with the First Defenders in April 1861, shed some of the first blood of the American Civil War. 

When done well, colorizing historic photographs can be a powerful teaching tool in that it can better humanize, if you will, people from the past. There are many who simply cannot envision past events in anything other than black-and-white or sepia tones. When not done well, however,. . .they are simply not done well. 

I uploaded many images of 48th Pennsylvania soldiers; not all of them "worked" in the colorization process. But some did. The colorized images below I found compelling, especially the ones of Gilmour, Maidenfort, and Biddle. The stories of several of these soldiers can be found by clicking on their names. 

Anyway, here they are for your perusal. . . 

What are your thoughts on these? 

(The historic images are either from the Library of Congress or my personal collection; the colorized images were colorized by www.myheritage.com) 

Brigadier General James Nagle
Organizer and First Commander, 48th PA

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Unidentified Private
Company G 

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Commissioned Officers
Company G 

(Captain Oliver Bosbyshell, seated; Lt. Curtis Pollock, standing left;
Lt. Henry Clay Jackson, standing right)

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Unidentified Corporal
Company G

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Major Joseph Gilmour
48th Pennsylvania 

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Captain Daniel Kauffman
Company A

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Private Henry Maidenfort
Company I

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Private Amos Rumbel
Company I 

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Unidentified Private
Likely Company A

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(Post War Photograph)
First Defender 
One of the First Men to Shed Blood in the Civil War 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Let's Work Together To Help Take Care Of The Presbyterian Cemetery in Pottsville! Donate Today.

The Grave of Joseph Gilmour
Major, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry
Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville

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It is easily one of my favorite places. . . 

A quiet, hillside cemetery in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.I have walked the uneven and ascending ground there among the silent, and in some places broken stones many a time. And to this day, whenever I make a visit to Schuylkill County to spend some time with my family, I try my best to make a stop at this historic graveyard, if only for a few minutes. 

Once inside the Presbyterian Cemetery at Tenth and Howard Streets in Pottsville, one is simply surrounded by history; Civil War history in particular. And once inside, one can imagine this as once a beautiful, Civil War-era graveyard. With a little imagination, one can see the horse-drawn hearses entering the gates, with mourners dressed in black lined along the brick walkways as the community turned out to honor its dead. You might even imagine the military salutes fired over some of the graves. 

Buried within the Presbyterian Cemetery are some of Schuylkill County's most noteworthy Civil War heroes. Brigadier General James Nagle is laid to rest there. In 1842, Nagle organized the Washington Artillerists, a militia company he would captain during the War with Mexico from 1846-1848. During the American Civil War, Nagle raised and commanded no less than four regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteers, including the famed 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. Nagle also commanded a brigade in the thickest of the fights at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.  The strain for this service took a toll and in August 1866, Nagle died at the age of 44. The funeral held for him at the Presbyterian Cemetery was one of the largest ever witnessed in the city of Pottsville. 

The Grave of General James Nagle

All four of James Nagle's brothers fought in the Civil War as well; and three of them lie buried nearby their general-brother: Daniel, Philip, and Levi Nagle.  Buried nearby, too, is Emerguildo Marquiz. In 1847, after American forces entered Mexico City, young, eight-year-old Emerguildo was orphaned. He attached himself to the camp of the Washington Artillerists and when the company returned home to Pottsville in 1848, Emerguildo came along as well. He was adopted by James Nagle and raised as one of his own children. Like his adopted dad, Emerguildo served in the Civil War; first in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, then as a bugler in the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. When Nagle was promoted to brigadier general, Emerguildo joined his staff as the brigade bugler.  

Robert Ramsey, who served on the staff of Major General George Thomas--the "Rock" of Chickamauga--is also interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery. Ramsey served faithfully and well throughout the conflict, but died of laryngeal phthsis at the much-too-young age of 38 in 1876.

Medal of Honor recipient Jacob Frick, Colonel of the 129th Pennsylvania Infantry, who in late June 1863 ordered the burning of the Wrightsville Bridge during the Gettysburg Campaign, is laid to rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery, as are the remains of Major Lewis Martin, of the 96th Pennsylvania, and Joseph Gilmour, of the 48th Pennsylvania, both of whom died in combat during the Civil War; the former during the Battle of Crampton's Gap, and the latter at Armstrong Farm, near Cold Harbor, Virginia. 

There are so many more stories to tell of those interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery, but the pressing story of today is the condition of the cemetery. Sadly, it has fallen into disrepair, despite the best efforts of Presbyterian Church leaders and members.  And now, they are calling for help. Money is needed to help in the maintenance and upkeep of the Cemetery, especially $1,500.00 that is needed to remove a dead tree. 

I think we can easily raise that much. . . In fact, I think we can do so much more! 

Let's show that we still care and that we still remember and honor those who served.  Let us work together to raise the money needed, and then some. As Tom Shay, a friend of mine and fellow Schuylkill County Civil War historian, so eloquently explained: "You can tell a lot about a community by how they treat their dead, how well they upkeep their cemeteries, and respect the ground on which loved ones stood and mourned the deceased. The care and preservation of the Presbyterian Cemetery is an ongoing challenge to ensure its continuous upkeep and protection. We are always seeking help from caring people who realize the wonderful history that is contained in the stories that the stones can tell."


For additional information on the effort to remove this tree and to help maintain the historic Presbyterian Cemetery, watch this news report from WNEP-16, and this one from PA NewsReport. 

The tree that needs to be removed. .  .

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Soldier Story: Corporal Richard C. Ryan, Company C, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry

I usually check my email just once a day, almost always early in the morning. While most days the only messages I receive are from stores or companies offering some kind of special savings deal, every now and then I am pleasantly surprised to discover an email from a descendant of a soldier who served in the 48th Pennsylvania. Even better is when they share an image of their soldier-ancestor. This happened just a few days ago when I received a message from a descendant of Corporal Richard C. Ryan, of Company C, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry.  

This is his story. Sadly, it had a tragic ending. 

Post War Image of Corporal Richard C. Ryan
[Courtesy of Ms. Lori Ryan] 

Richard C. Ryan was born in Ireland on May 10, 1842. Upon immigrating to the United States--and like many others who came from Ireland--young Ryan found work mining coal in Schuylkill County. He was not quite twenty-two years old when, on March 1, 1864, he was mustered into the ranks of Company C, 48th Pennsylvania, taking up arms in defense of his adopted country. In height, he stood 5'6 1/2"; had a "Dark" Complexion, with grey eyes and black hair. Ryan served with the 48th throughout the hard fighting of 1864; from the tangled chaos of the Wilderness to the sun baked trenches of Petersburg. It is likely that because of his background as an experienced miner he took part in the tunneling of the Petersburg Mine, an endeavor performed not by all the soldiers in the 48th, but only by those who were experienced coal miners. Ryan must have impressed his superiors, for on May 21, 1865, he was promoted from private to corporal. Honorably mustered out of service when the regiment disbanded on July 17, 1865, Corporal Richard Ryan returned home. 

During the post-war years, Ryan took up residence in the borough of Mount Carmel in Northumberland County. There, he was actively involved in veterans' affairs and in local politics. He also married and in the early 1880s, his wife Mary gave birth to at least three children: Catherine (b. 1880); Anna May (b. 1882); and Richard (b. 1884). 

Sadly, these children would grow up without their father. 

Not known are the reasons why he did it, but on February 24, 1885, Richard Ryan--this Civil War veteran, active in local affairs, and young father of three--took his own life. He was only 42 years old. 

As reported in the local papers, Ryan drank five drachms of laudanum. He lingered for several hours before finally succumbing to the lethal overdose of this opiate that was widely prescribed, provided, and used by Civil War soldiers and veterans. His remains were laid to rest in Saint Mary's Cemetery, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. 

From the Altoona Times, February 26, 1885

From the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, February 26, 1885

The grave of Richard C. Ryan
Saint Mary's Cemetery, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania
[from findagrave.com]

*Thank you to Lori Ryan for sharing the image of her Civil War ancestor and for allowing me to tell his story.