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



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *

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."


DONATE TODAY


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. 


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Story of the Allison Brothers Told In July 2020 Issue of "America's Civil War."

Thank you to America's Civil War for featuring the story of Agnes Allison and her sons in the July 2020 issue. 

Please read about this story of service and sacrifice: A Mother's Sacrifice




Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A "Brave and Most Gallant Soldier:" Lewis Martin--First Defender and Major, 96th Pennsylvania Infantry, Killed in Action at Crampton's Gap


Lewis Martin was among the first volunteers for the Union. A civil engineer, he was elected surveyor of Schuylkill County just a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War in the spring of 1861. Highly esteemed by the people of Pottsville, Martin was thirty years old. In 1859, he married Minerva Smith of Hamburg, PA, and the young couple was soon blessed with two baby boys. Minerva was pregnant with their third child when her husband marched off to war in April 1861. Martin was a member of the National Light Infantry, a Pottsville militia company formed in 1831. On April 11, 1861, one day before the war's opening salvos rang out over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, the National Light Infantry wired Secretary of War Simon Cameron to offer the services of the company should they be needed. Cameron responded by ordering them to Washington. In 1868, Cameron acknowledged that the National Light Infantry was the very first company of northern volunteers to offer its services to the Union. When on April 18, the National Light Infantry, along with the Washington Artillerists (also of Pottsville), the Ringgold Light Artillery of Reading, the Allen Infantry of Allentown, and the Logan Guards of Lewistown, arrived in Washington, they were the first northern volunteers to reach the capital, and thus went down in history as the First Defenders.

Lewis Martin wrote frequently to his family in Pottsville, especially to his mother. On April 28, just ten days after arriving in Washington, Martin wrote: "It is possible as I have before acknowledged that I did very wrong in leaving home under existing circumstances. I can hardly convince myself that I did not then. . . . True it may be said I owe a duty to my family which is paramount to that of any other worldly one, but what if all would make use of the same argument[?], who would there be to rescue the honor of Our Country and its flag, which when dishonored, dishonors its People." Hoping to assuage any anxieties that he might be killed, Martin concluded that when he left home, he did so "with the firm conviction that I will see you all again, and I still hold on to it, and every day almost adds to my belief that it is not intended that we are going to engage in shedding the blood of our own countrymen." "I may be mistaken in the South," wrote Martin, "but I believe they are not going to rush much farther in their suicidal course, for they certainly did not bargain for the Union of sentiment they now find in the North, and with which they are bringing themselves in contact."

When the three month terms of service of the National Light Infantry expired in late July 1861, Martin and most of the members of the company reenlisted to serve a three-year term. This time they were mustered in as Company A, 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Lewis Martin was their captain. Promoted a short time later to major, Martin survived the deadly battles of the Peninsula and Seven Days' campaigns. Martin continued to send a steady stream of letters home (which are currently in the collections of the United States Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania). With the regiment encamped near Washington in early September 1862, Martin's mother decided to pay her son a surprise visit. Sadly, what she did not know was that the 96th was, by the time she arrived, already on the move. . .marching westward through Maryland in pursuit of Robert E. Lee's invading Army of Northern Virginia. She traveled as far as Rockville, hoping to see her son, before making the long journey back home to Pottsville. Learning of his mother's attempt to see him, Martin wrote on September 11, "I could scarsely realize it when first told to me and have not yet fairly gotten over it. I did not have the remotest idea that [she] would come on or I would have telegraphed on Saturday that we had received marching orders. . . .I am really too sorry but I do not want to discourage you from making another attempt." Sadly, Mrs. Martin would never have an opportunity to make "another attempt." This was Martin's last letter home. Three days later, he was killed while leading a charge against the Confederate defenses of Crampton's Gap during the battle of South Mountain.

His loss saddened the regiment, particularly his commanding officer, and good friend, Colonel Henry L. Cake. On September 15, Cake sat down to write a heartfelt letter to Lewis's mother:

Colonel Henry Cake, 96th PA
[Library of Congress] 

My Dear Mrs. Martin~
How shall I fulfill the harrowing duty that is mine? At the 'storming of Blue Ridge,' seven miles from Harper's Ferry, I lost my brother, friend, constant companion--the bravest and most gallant soldier of the regiment--my Major. The country has lost a soldier, I a friend, but oh, who can describe your loss? He spoke of his mother continually--and of his little son, who must now be your consolation and your care. His disappointment at not meeting you was extreme.

It was just at the moment of the most complete victory. The 96th had again covered itself with what to me is horrid glory when we felt the extreme danger past that he received his death wound. Adjt. Geo. G. Boyer was near him, and reports him hit five minutes before six, and that he ceased to breathe at ten minutes past six. He never spoke, was unconscious, and did not suffer. Mr. Boyer removed him from the field with his own hands. I have had a coffin made, will send him to Washington to be embalmed, and thence to Pottsville, consigned to R.J. Weaver. Break the news to his poor wife. It breaks my heart to be compelled to communicate it to you.

The storming of Blue Ridge will be memorable, and will render memorable Sunday, the 14th Sept. 1862. It is seven miles from Harper's Ferry, near the village of Burkittsville, Md. It was here you laid your sacrifice upon the altar of your country. It was. . .all you had to give--a brave, good soldier.
The 96th suffered severely, losing not less than 150 in killed and wounded.
I need to add how much I sympathize with you and your daughter--my own grief is extreme. Believe me, dear madam
Your most devoted friend,
H.L. Cake


The remains of Lewis Martin arrived home on Wednesday, September 17, 1862. At the same time, one hundred and fifty miles away, Americans were once again killing each other by the thousands along the banks of the Antietam Creek. Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Pottsville, flags flew at half-staff, and business was suspended throughout the city, as Martin's body was carried to its final resting place in the Presbyterian Cemetery.


The Grave of Major Lewis Martin. . .
Today is nearly toppled over.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Biographical Portrait of General James Nagle: Schuylkill County's Foremost Citizen-Soldier

General James Nagle
Pictured Holding the Sword Presented
Upon His Return Home from the Mexican War
in 1848
(Library of Congress)

James Nagle, born on this date in 1822, was the quintessential citizen-turned-soldier of America's past who responded repeatedly to his country’s call. By profession, a house and sign painter and a wallpaper hanger, Nagle was also a family man very involved in his community. He served on both the borough council and on the local school board in his hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In times of war, though, James Nagle demonstrated fine leadership and total fidelity to his country. He never received a formal military education but, from a young age demonstrated interest in the military. Perhaps it was hearing stories of his grandfather, Philip Nagle, who served in the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Line under Washington in America's Revolutionary War that inspired him. But, whatever the cause, in 1840, at just eighteen years of age, he raised and organized a militia company dubbed the Pottsville Blues, which in 1842 became the Washington Artillery, and which, in 1846, marched off to war in Mexico, with a young twenty-four-year-old Captain James Nagle at its helm. During the four years of America’s Civil War, Nagle performed a singular feat. From 1861 to 1864, helped to raise, organize, and recruit no fewer than four regiments of Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, including the famed 48th Pennsylvania which he led from the summer of 1861 until his promotion to brigade command in the spring of 1862. Promoted in rank to Brigadier General, Nagle seemed destined for higher command but worsening health and particularly heart disease necessitated his resignation from the service in May 1863. Nevertheless, upon his return to home and family in Pottsville, Nagle raised and led a regiment of Emergency Militia during Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania, and the following summer recruited yet another unit—the 100-Days’ 194th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Mustered out of service for the final time in November 1864, Nagle looked forward to happy, quiet, and peaceful days with his family, which included his wife, Elizabeth, and their six children. Another child, a daughter named Kate, would arrive in September 1865. 
Sadly, however, he did not have much time remaining. His health continued to deteriorate with heart disease--specifically angina pectoris--becoming increasingly worse as the months passed by. When he at last succumbed to this disease on August 22, 1866, this man—this loving and devoted father, leading and estimable member of the community, wartime hero and dedicated soldier—was just forty-four years of age.

Word of his death spread quickly through Pottsville and a palpable sadness—a pall—fell upon the town. Flags were lowered, businesses closed. Soon official news of the General’s death was reported in the Miners’ Journal: “Sincere sorrow pervaded this community. . .when the fact of Gen. Nagle’s death became known,” recorded the Journal, “The sad event was not unexpected, for he had suffered for years from disease of the heart and liver, and during the past few weeks it was evident to his friends that he was succumbing to the attacks of adversaries too powerful for medicine to combat successfully. He died on Wednesday morning at 4 o’clock at his residence in this Borough. A brave soldier of two wars; a good citizen; an estimable man, has passed away. While the memory of his worth will remain green in the memories of this community in which so many years of his useful life were spent, his name will be inscribed with honor on the pages of his country’s history.”

Inscribed with honor, perhaps, but with the passage time the story of James Nagle and his service has certainly faded. And though he remains immortalized in bronze atop a monument at Antietam National Battlefield, James Nagle ranks today among the relatively unknown generals of the Civil War.

So, just who was James Nagle? 

Although he would make his home and find his final resting place in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, James Nagle was actually born in Reading, PA, on April 5, 1822, the first of eventually eight children born to and raised by Daniel and Mary (Rorig) Nagle. His ancestry in the United States can be traced back to the 1730s when his forebears arrived in Pennsylvania from Germany. James’s grandfather, Philip Nagle, had served in the Revolutionary War as a drummer with the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Line. The Nagle family moved around from point to point early in James’s life—to Wommelsdorf and thence to Pine Grove and finally by 1835 to Pottsville, the seat of government for Schuylkill County. As a young man, James learned the trade of his father, a cabinet maker, and also learned the trades of wallpaper hanger and house painter. Young James Nagle also attended some years in public schools, though as an early biographical portrait described, much of his education was through the “school of experience and through continued self-effort,” going to school at night and working during the day. From an early age, James showed a strong interest in the military and, in 1840 and at just eighteen years of age, he organized a company of young Pottsville boys into a militia unit initially known as the Pottsville Blues, but which, two years later became the Washington Artillery. With the outbreak of war with Mexico, Nagle, now twenty-four, tendered the services of his company and on December 5, 1846, marched off to war. The Washington Artillery became Company B, 1st Regiment of Pennsylvania Infantry and Nagle mustered into service as its captain. Nagle and his company, forming part of General Winfield Scott’s force, took part in the siege of Vera Cruz, and at the battles of Cerro Gordo, Lahoya, Huamantla, Puebla, and Atlixco. Upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Nagle returned with his company to a hero’s ovation to Pottsville in the summer of 1848. In recognition of his service, the people of Pottsville presented Nagle with a beautiful sword, which was one of his most treasured possessions. He carried it even during the Civil War and, today, a bronze copy of that Mexican War presentation sword can be seen attached to the Nagle statue at Antietam.

Captain James Nagle
ca. 1848-1850
(Schuylkill County in the Civil War)

In 1852, James Nagle was elected Sheriff of Schuylkill County. He continued to remain active in the state militia system and soon was appointed Brigade Inspector of Pennsylvania, with the rank of Colonel. By his early thirties, James Nagle had become a leading and respected member of his community. He was also a devoted husband and loving father. On December 15, 1842, James married Elizabeth Kaercher and to their union nine children would be born, seven of whom lived to maturity. While in Mexico, James had also adopted an orphaned eight-year-old boy named Emerguildo Marquis, with whom he returned and raised in his household as one of his own. During his younger days, Nagle voted Whig but then became a Republican. He supported Lincoln and was opposed to slavery and its expansion.

With his experience in the state militia and his experience leading soldiers in combat, it was only natural that Governor Andrew Curtin would call upon Nagle soon after the commencement of the Civil War. Nagle traveled to Harrisburg and helped to organize and train the many companies of volunteer soldiers pouring daily into the capital city. Curtin then commissioned Nagle colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month unit that was raised primarily from Schuylkill and Carbon Counties. The 6th formed part of General George Thomas’s Brigade in General Robert Patterson’s Army of the Shenandoah. The regiment saw only limited action and by late July, their three-month term of service having expired, its soldiers were on their way back home. Nagle made a very favorable impression upon this command and particularly its officers. Indeed, in October 1861, the members of the 6th presented their former commander with a specially inscribed field glass, which, when delivered to Nagle was accompanied by a letter that spoke volumes to Nagle’s leadership and character:

Col. James Nagle,

Dear Sir:- A number of your friends, officers, and privates of the late Sixth Regiment, P.V., commanded by you during the time it was in service, desire to present the accompanying field-glass, for your acceptance, in token of our high personal esteem, and the exalted opinion we entertain of your military knowledge and capacity.
Though your characteristic modesty may shrink from any public eulogy of your conduct and services, our gratitude and admiration will not permit us to pass them by, without this tribute of affection and respect.
For many years past the military spirit and organization of Schuylkill County have been chiefly sustained by your exertions. When the Nation’s honor was to be maintained on the plains of Mexico, you with a well disciplined corps under your command, sprang to arms and hastened to the field of conflict; in Cerro Gordo’s terrific fight you stood calm and unmoved amid the leaden storm of death which fell on every side, and by your presence of mind and courage saved many gallant men from the fearful carnage.
During the long season of peace which followed the closing of that war, in your own quiet and happy home, you faithfully discharged the duties of a husband, father, and citizen, endearing yourself both to your family and the community in which you dwelt.
But now the tocsin of war sounds through the land, and her valiant sons are called to defend her against foul rebellion’s deadly blows. Speedily a regiment of your fellow citizens take the field, and confer upon you the command. During the three months we served together, though inflexibly firm and persistently industrious in the performance and requirement of every camp and field duty, yet such was the kindness of your demeanor, and your tender regard for the health, safety, and comfort of your men, that we regarded you rather as a friend and father, than a mere military commander.
And now, that you have, at the head of a Schuylkill County Regiment—Pennsylvania’s 48th—again taken the field at your country’s call and may soon be in the thickest of the most eventful battle the world has ever witnessed, on the issue of which the destiny of human freedom and progress is suspended, we present you with the accompanying glass, as well in token of our esteem and admiration, as that your eye which never dimmed with fear as it gazed upon a foe, may more readily perceive his approach and prepare for victory.
Praying that God of Battles may preserve you in the midst of danger, and return you unharmed to your family and friends, when our glorious Union shall be firmly re-established, and covered with still more illustrious renown,
We remain, yours truly,
Capt. C. Tower,
Lt.Col. Jas. J. Seibert,
Maj. John E. Wynkoop,
Capt.H.J. Hendler,
Lieut. Theo. Miller,
Lieut. D.P. Brown,
And many others. 


Nagle was no doubt touched by this kind and generous tribute and gift, but by the time he received it, he was once more in the field and in command of a new regiment, one he had raised almost entirely from Schuylkill County: the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. After being discharged as commander of the 6th Pennsylvania, Nagle was immediately commissioned by Governor Curtin to raise another regiment of volunteers, this one to serve for three years or the course of the war, whichever would come first. The regiment was raised during the months of August and September 1861 and after being formally mustered into service departed for the seat of war, being assigned first to Fortress Monroe and then to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. While in North Carolina in the spring of 1862, the 48th Pennsylvania was attached to Ambrose Burnside’s Coastal Expedition, which, in time, became the 9th Army Corps. When Burnside organized his forces, he made Major General Jesse Reno a divisional commander and Nagle a brigade commander in Reno’s division. Nagle would subsequently lead this brigade with great bravery and distinction at 2nd Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, taking a prominent part in each of these engagements. At 2nd Manassas, Nagle’s Brigade pierced Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate line along an unfinished railroad cut; at South Mountain his men helped to secure Fox’s Gap; three days later his brigade took a leading part in the attacks upon the Burnside Bridge at Antietam; while at Fredericksburg, Nagle led his brigade in an oftentimes forgotten assault upon Marye’s Heights. All the while Nagle continually showed himself a gifted, capable leader and brave soldier. He had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general in September 1862 upon the recommendation of Reno who, on September 7 and just one week before his death at South Mountain, wrote to Lincoln:

General James Nagle
(National Archives} 
To His Excellency, the President of the United States:

Sir:-I have the honor to recommend Col. James Nagle, 48th Regt. Pa. Vols., for promotion as Brigadier General. Col. Nagle has served with me with fidelity and ability as commander of a Brigade, since the Battle of Newbern, and in recent battles conducted himself with gallantry, and led his command with judgment and discretion.
I have the honor to be
Very Respectfully, Your obd’t servant,
J.L. Reno
Major-General com’dg



Throughout the fall of 1862 and during the early winter of 1863, Nagle several times assumed the temporary command of the division and it seemed as though advancement in rank and in command would have been his had it not been for his poor and failing health. During the winter of 1863, Nagle began to suffer from chest pains. He sought out doctors who informed him he was afflicted with angina pectoris and who urged him to resign and return home for better chances of recovery. Nagle remained in the army for several more months before the pain became too great and he, at last, took the doctors’ advice and reluctantly and tearfully bid farewell to his command and to the army. He resigned in May 1863. Division commander Samuel Sturgis expressed his regret at accepting the resignation of one so capable and responded by penning the following note:

Head-Quarters, 2nd Div., 9th Army Corps

Dear General:
I cannot better express the pain it gave me to forward your resignation, then by giving you a copy of my endorsement upon it, viz: ‘Respectfully forwarded and approved. But I must express my deep regret at the necessity for this forwarding it. By his intelligence, energy, zeal and courage, and quiet, unassuming deportment, withal, Gen. Nagle has endeared himself to this command, and will carry with him the love and respect not only of those gallant troops he had led so often to victory, but of all who have the good fortune to know him.’
S.D. Sturgis
Brig. Gen., com’dg


After what must have been seemed a long journey back home, Nagle was no doubt pleased to be back with his wife and family once more but, shortly after his return to Pottsville, General Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. In response to Curtin’s plea for action, Nagle once more answered the call. For the third time he would take command of a regiment of Pennsylvania Infantry, this time the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia, being mustered into service once more as a colonel. Arriving in Harrisburg, Major General Darius Couch placed Nagle in brigade command but by then Lee had been turned back at Gettysburg and the 39th P.V.M. was mustered out and disbanded. Again, Nagle returned home and was encouraged by his doctors’ assessments that his health was improving. He felt well enough that in the summer of 1864 when the call went out seeking soldiers to serve a 100-Day term of service, he once more answered and took command of the 194th Pennsylvania Infantry. For the fourth time in three years, then, Nagle was commissioned colonel by Governor Curtin. Nagle led the 194th to Baltimore where they were assigned to the 8th Army Corps. There, Nagle was given command of the forces then occupying  Mankin’s Woods, and helped to guard the approaches to the city. On November 5, 1864, the 100 days having expired, James Nagle was mustered out of service, this time for the last time.


A Statue of General James Nagle Stands Watch Over
Antietam National Battlefield


Few other citizen-turned-soldiers did more for the United States than did James Nagle during the Civil War. Throughout his time in uniform, he had helped to raise and subsequently commander four regiments of infantry and several times held brigade command. In Mexico, he was a captain; during the Civil War, he was both a colonel and a brigadier general. And though he had no formal military training or education, James Nagle proved himself a capable leader and commander. He served his country well. . .and often. He also served his community well, not only as sheriff in the early 1850s but also as head of the Pottsville Borough Council and as a member of the local school board. Sadly, Nagle did not get to enjoy peace for long, once the Civil War was over. Indeed, it was not until August 20, 1866, that President Andrew Johnson declared that all hostilities had ceased and the conflict officially concluded. Two days later, on his bed in Pottsville, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth and seven children—the eldest, Emma, aged 23 years and the youngest Kate, aged 11 months—General James Nagle drew his last breath and passed away at the much-too-young age of 44.

It was not a long life that he thus led but it was a full one, a useful one, and important one. Three days after his death, General James Nagle was laid to rest in Pottsville’s Presbyterian Cemetery. Thousands gathered to pay their respects. His funeral, according to the Miners’ Journal: "was one of the largest and most imposing funerals ever seen here, the entire community evincing sincere sorrow at the loss of an estimable citizen, a brave soldier, a patriot, whose career will ever be referred to with pride by our citizens, and whose memory will be cherished while our hills endure."

The Grave of General James Nagle
Pottsville, Presbyterian Cemetery
(Author Photo)

In histories of Schuylkill County published during the late 19th Century, Nagle also received high praise. “General Nagle was pre-eminently a military man, and a patriot,” said one such account. “His life was permeated with a military spirit, and in this respect broadened him into a loyal and devoted citizen. . . .He is still remembered by a large number of his fellow-townsmen, and occupies a generous place in their hearts.” Another history declared that “General Nagle’s services in the Rebellion will ever be remembered with gratitude by not only the people of Schuylkill County, but by the nation at large, who owe the preservation of their liberties to the self-sacrificing devotion of men like him.’

Certainly those who served in the 48th never forgot the “father” of their regiment. Indeed, forty years later the regimental veteran’s association met to decide upon what kind of monument they would have placed at Antietam National Battlefield. It was decided that a slightly-larger-than-life figure of General James Nagle would stand atop its base. On September 17, 1904, thirty-six surviving veterans of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry gathered at the Antietam Battlefield to attend the dedication and witness the unveiling of this monument. In addition to commemorating their wartime service and cherishing the memory of their fallen comrades, the aged veterans who traveled to Antietam that day were there also to honor the memory of the man who organized and first led the 48th Pennsylvania, Brigadier General James Nagle.

Oliver Bosbyshell, a veteran of the 48th, commenced the dedication ceremony at Antietam by delivering a few opening remarks. After expressing his gratitude to the state of Pennsylvania for procuring the funds necessary for the construction of the monument, Bosbyshell spoke of the late General Nagle: “The man the Forty-Eighth honors by placing his statue to mark the spot it maintained in the fight, honors the Forty-Eighth in turn. The organizer and disciplinarian who brought his command to the highest point of efficiency amongst the Ninth Corps organizations, the foremost soldier of old Schuylkill County, Brigadier General James Nagle, well deserves this meed of praise bestowed upon him.” Following Bosbyshell’s brief opening remarks, the regiment’s former surgeon, Dr. William R.D. Blackwood, delivered the dedication address. He spoke of the role the 48th played in the battle of Antietam and the appropriateness of the regimental monument on the battlefield before turning his attention to General Nagle:

At this time the merited and (for ourselves) the coveted promotion of Colonel Nagle eventuated—he won his star as a Brigadier General. Never did a soldier win the distinction through a harder road—for his whole time of service this more than brave gentleman and splendid soldier devoted his every energy to the cause for which he left his home and family, and supported by his gallant men, he won imperishable fame. . . .Today we celebrate the attainment of his glory—a glory to him and to us who can never forget his leadership—may the bronze and granite which we now dedicate to his memory remain till time shall be no more on this historical field where so many of our Pennsylvania heroes gave their all to the defenses of the land they loved, and the Flag they adored.



The 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Antietam 
(Author Photo) 


--------------
Bibliography:
-Gould, Joseph. The Story of the Forty-Eighth. Philadelphia: Alfred M. Slocum Printer, 1908.
-Wallace, Francis. Memorial to the Patriotism of Schuylkill County. Pottsville, Pennsylvania: Benjamin Bannan Publisher, 1865.


-Wiley, Samuel T. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Rush, West, and Company, 1893.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

"Youths In Our Great Civil War:" Regimental Historian Joe Gould Remembers Some of the 48th's Youngest Soldiers


Having studied the 48th Pennsylvania for well more than two decades, just yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting account about some of the youngest soldiers in the regiment, one that I had never before seen. It's an article that appeared in the Mount Carmel Item on May 21, 1918, entitled "Youths In Our Great Civil War," and written by Joseph Gould, designated historian of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Gould was born in April 1840 and served in the 48th Pennsylvania throughout the duration of the war--from 1861-1865--first as a sergeant in Company F, and later as the regiment's Quartermaster Sergeant. Active in Veterans' affairs, Gould was tasked with compiling the regimental history of the 48th, which he published in 1908. Ten years later, with the world in the throes of the Great War, Gould, now age 78, was still active in preserving the memory of the 48th. He was one of only 65 veterans of the regiment to attend the annual reunion held in September that year; sadly, just one month later, on October 8, 1918, he died at his home in Mount Carmel. 

In May 1918 Gould authored the following account, written, it would appear, in response to the backlash he saw printed in newspapers regarding Germany's recent decision to call upon young men to fill its depleted ranks during that final year of the Great War. Gould cautioned readers not to underestimate the fighting grit of young men and used the occasion to remember, fondly, some of the youngest soldiers who had served alongside him in the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry in this heartfelt and touching piece written some 57 years after the start of America's Civil War.  


Youths In Our Great Civil War
(by Joe Gould)
Mount Carmel Item, May 21, 1918, page 4. 



"I notice in the dispatches said to originate in Germany that the Kaiser has called to the colors the Hun boys from 16 to 18 years of age, to proceed to the front, at once, to reinforce the shattered ranks of their army.
The American newspapers, many of them, speak very sneeringly of this addition to the reserve of the German Army, and say that the extreme youthfulness and stature of these children will be of very little actual help in opposition to the Allied armies.
Well, perhaps this will prove to be the case, and I am sure, I give a hearty amen to the prophesy, but if these Hun children make as good all around soldiers in their cause, as the American children, of the same age and stature did in the Civil War, you may depend on it, that there will be trouble for the Allies.
My observation and experience during four years of hard campaigning in a fighting regiment whose record is unsurpassed, from Bull Run to Appomattox, leads me to say that the boys from 16 to 18, short of stature and light weight, from '61 to '65 carried the heaviest knapsacks, endured the greatest hardships, marched the most miles, did less straggling, had less attention from the surgeons, did less grumbling, and fault-finding than their older and bigger comrades. It was a rare occurrence to see one of these little fellows, classed amongst the 'coffee coolers' along the road side on a long march. They were in the ranks, and perhaps carrying their own gun and the gun of some footsore, overgrown comrade. The little fellow's dog tent was always the first in place, and he would be out prospecting for a top rail, a handy spring, hen coop, smoke house or tobacco barn.
On the march from Falmouth to Washington, D.C., a distance of 200 miles via Culpepper, in 1862, fighting at Whitteyville, Kelly's Ford, Sulphur Springs, Warrenton, Manassas Junction, Bull Run and Chantilly, a period of 25 days through broiling sun, frequent rain storms, accompanied with deafening thunder and vivid lightning, these kids plodded along, in line of battle almost every day, unfaltering, unafraid, enthusiastic and determined.
To the crossing of the Rapidan river on the 5th of May, 1864, through the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna Crossing, Armstrong's Farm, Shady Grove, Cold Harbor to Petersburg on the 16th of June, fighting every foot of the way, under General Grant, whose strategy deceived and defeated the Confederate General Lee, who for 3 days had lost Grant's army and when informed by the Confederate Generals Longstreet and Alexander, that Grant's army had crossed the James River on a pontoon bridge composed of 104 boats at a point where the river was 90 feet in depth and where the rise and fall of the tide was 4 feet with swift currents, he would not believe it. These boys I speak of, were in it all, and gloried in it, and looked for more, cheerful and obedient, brave and unflinching.
I recall many of the dear little fellows, and it makes me happy to recall and record their names and brave deeds.
Cyrus Haines, of Co. F, 17 years, was wounded severely at Shady Grove and if there ever was a better soldier, "Si" Haines, in the language of Mike Kehoe, "he was a tundering good one." At this writing he is alive, and working every day in the Coal and Iron Shops in Pottsville.

Wartime Image of Private Cyrus Haines
Courtesy of Mr. Bert Crouthamel

Horace Straub also of F Co., not more than 16, a beautiful girlfaced chap, killed at Petersburg, Va. He had a presentiment he would not survive the coming engagement, and Captain Hoskings offered him a special detail in order to keep him out of the thick of the fight, but he declined and gave up his young life.

The Grave of Horace Straub
First United Methodist Church Cemetery, Minersville, PA
(findagrave.com) 


Sammy and John Harrison of Co. C, brothers, not much bigger than peanuts. Sammy wounded at Fredericksburg, Va., both splendid soldiers.
Anthony Wade of E Co., 16 years very slight of build, killed at Cold Harbor. Davy Thiel, of F Co., 17 years, killed at the Wilderness. John Morrison, 16 years, killed at Spotsylvania, C.H. Davy Fulton, 15 years, died at Shamokin after the war. His father was taken prisoner at Pegram Farm, and died in Salisbury Prison, North Carolina.
Bill Glen--Dad--very small, 16 years, a grand old soldier and a very interesting chap. Danny Barnett, of E., the littlest fellow of his Co., 16 years, killed at Petersburg.

Young "Danny" Barnett
Killed at Petersburg, April 2, 1865
(Hoptak Collection) 


Mick Wilson, of F. Co., 16 years, died at Annapolis, Md., of nostalgia (home sicknesses), a very sad case.
Harry McCann, 16 years, F. Co., killed at Pamunkey River and Andy Wessner, 16 years, of F Co., killed at Spottsylvania C.H. These little fellows and many more, showed the grit and red blood of the American boy, and don't make a mistake by underestimating the valor and stamina of other boys."

[Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, PA, Tuesday, May 21, 1918, page 4]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There were many others, too, that slipped Gould's mind; others such as

Sixteen-Year-Old Joseph Shoppelle, Company I
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images)




Seventeen-Year-Old Thomas Reed, Company I
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images)

Seventeen-Year-Old Samuel DeFrehn, Company I
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images) 




Sixteen-Year-Old George Hartz, Company D
(Patriotic Order Sons of America) 


Sixteen-Year-Old Albert Novinger, Company D
(Patriotic Order Sons of America) 



Of course, legally one had to be at least eighteen years of age in order to fight in the Civil War but as these, and so many, many other examples make clear, there were many boys ages 15-17 and maybe even younger who also served, those who either lied about their age or got their parents' permission in order to fight for the United States in the moment of its greatest peril.