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.



Monday, February 17, 2020

Are These Photographs Of The Same 48th Pennsylvania Soldier? Help Me Identify An "Unidentified" CDV Image

Regular readers of my blog know that I often ask for your help in identifying "unidentified" images of 48th Pennsylvania soldiers.  Soon, I will be posting an update about one such quest launched nearly two years ago but, today, I am hoping for your thoughts and feedback on the following.

One of the first 48th Pennsylvania images I collected was this one:



This is an image of an "unidentified" officer--a First Lieutenant, as indicated by the shoulder bars. Within the infantry bugle on his hat are the numbers '48,' and the image was taken by photographer A.M. Allen of Pottsville, PA. So, thus, while "unidentified," it is fairly certain this man was a 1st Lt. in the 48th Pennsylvania.  However, I did not know who, exactly, this 1st Lt. was. . .

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

Fast forward several years, and I happened upon this image--a tintype photograph, which was identified as Sgt. Henry E. Stichter, Company D, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry:



It is a clear and striking image of a young man, wearing the stripes of a corporal. And here is what the records state about the man depicted on the image: 

Henry E. Stichter was mustered into service as a Corporal, Company D, 48th Pennsylvania, on September 23, 1861, at age 23. He stood 5'8 1/2" in height, had a "Dark" Complexion, "Dark" Eyes, and "Dark" Hair. He was a painter, originally from Hamburg, Pennsylvania. On September 1, 1863, he was promoted from corporal to 2nd Lieutenant, and to First Lieutenant on September 22, 1864. He was discharged from the service following the expiration of his three-year term of service on October 6, 1864. 

Sadly, Stichter did not have long to live. He died on November 13, 1868, at the very young age of 31 in his Pottsville home of consumption. His remains were laid to rest in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in Pottsville. 

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

So, what do you think? Are the men in these two images one-and-the-same?  




If so, then the tintype image of Stichter as a corporal must have been taken between September 21, 1861, and September 1, 1863. If that is him in the unidentified CDV on the right, then it must have been taken after September 22, 1864, following his promotion to 1st Lieutenant. Perhaps he sat for this image in A.M. Allen's studio upon his return home following his discharge from the army. The man in the CDV looks a bit more gaunt, but that could be the effects of three years in the service. 

One more thing. . .
Henry E. Stichter was a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). Do you see the ring on the right pinky finger of the 1st Lt? Can that be an Odd Fellows's ring?  

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


My thoughts are that these two images are of the same man: first Corporal, then Lieutenant Henry E. Stichter. 

But I want to hear your thoughts? Is there something I am missing here? Can we say definitively or not? 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

"May God Forbid Any Of You Or Yours Should Ever Have To Endure, Or Do As These, My Old Comrades Done:" A Message From a Civil War Veteran






Orlando Baum's Cabinet Card
[Hoptak Collection] 

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


Sometime in the late 1880s, Civil War veteran H. Orlando Baum, still a young man now in his early forties, purchased a large-sized cabinet card featuring a photograph of crossed American flags, torn and tattered.  These were the flags that Baum's regiment--the 48th Pennsylvania--had once carried into battle; the flags under which he and his two older brothers served. And of these flags and of his service, Baum was justly proud. 


Some two-and-a-half decades or so earlier--on February 26, 1864--Orlando Baum had lied about his age.  He told an army recruiter that he was eighteen years old when, in fact, he was still five months shy of his seventeenth birthday. His older brother Charles was there with him that day and had signed up, too.  The two Baums had become soldiers; having taken the Oath they were mustered into service as privates in Company D of the hard-fighting, seasoned 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. They were not the only Baums in the company; a third brother--twenty-one-year-old James Baum had enlisted two days prior to Charles and Orlando. The Baums were native of Berks County, likely growing up and residing near Hamburg, a small town that sits right on the edge of neighboring Schuylkill County, from where most of the soldiers of the 48th hailed. There were several men from Hamburg within the ranks of Company D.  

H. Orlando Baum (the "H" standing for Horatio) was described as having a Light Complexion, Blue Eyes, and Brown Hair. He stood just 5'3" in height. He told the mustering officer that he was a Confectioner by occupation, while brothers Charles and James were both listed as Moulders. Having signed on, the Brothers Baum would have made their way to Pottsville, where they were likely uniformed and equipped. From there, in mid-March 1864, the three Baums set off for war.  

The 48th Pennsylvania was by then a veteran unit, having been originally organized in 1861 and having campaigned throughout the South--from North Carolina to Virginia, into Maryland, back to Virginia, then out West to Kentucky and Tennessee. It experienced combat at 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and at Knoxville. When it was first formed during those heady summer days of 1861, it totaled more than 1,000 men. Now only about 350 remained. In late January 1864, those members of the regiment who decided to re-enlist for another "three-year or the war" term were granted a thirty-day furlough. They returned to their homes in Schuylkill County while the regiment's officers worked hard to gather new recruits. Appeals were printed in newspapers; recruiting offices once again opened. Despite the hell the war had become, there were still many young men eager to serve. Hundreds signed on, many who were much too young to enlist back in '61 but who now were of age--or nearly of age--like Orlando Baum. When the regiment returned once more to the seat of war--rendezvousing with the rest of the Ninth Army Corps in Annapolis, Maryland, it numbered more than 800 men strong, with more recruits arriving daily. 

If the Baum Brothers had set off hoping to see combat, they did not have long to wait. With the onset of Spring and with the arrival of Ulysses Grant as general-in-chief of all Union armies--and with the presidential election just six months away--the Army of the Potomac set off to crush Robert E. Lee and his vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. The blue-clad soldiers crossed the Rapidan in northern Virginia in early May--and what ensued was two months of the most hellish combat. Even the veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania--those who had fought at and survived 2nd Bull Run and Antietam and Fredericksburg--had never experienced anything like it. In the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, at the North Anna, at Cold Harbor, and at Petersburg, the fighting was seemingly endless--day-after-day, week-after-week, every day, it seemed, there was a battle. The 48th suffered heavily. From early May until the end of June--from when the regiment first crossed the Rapidan to when they started mining under the Confederate lines outside of Petersburg--the regiment lost more than 300 men, just to battle alone. Somehow, though, the Baum Boys emerged safely from these brutal and bloody campaigns. 

James (who by war's end has been promoted to corporal), Charles, and Orlando Baum served with the 48th during the war's final fourteen months, and all three were honorably discharged from service when the regiment was formally disbanded on July 17, 1865. Their lives were still just getting started. James by now was twenty-two, Charles, nineteen, and Orlando, well, he was still two months shy of eighteen. 


When the 48th Pennsylvania disbanded, their flags were turned over to state authorities in Harrisburg, including the tatters that once were the regiment's first flags, presented to the regiment when it first marched to war in '61. There was little left of them. And so, when the regiment once again departed, this time with the Baum Brothers in its ranks, it was presented with new flags to be carried  wherever the fates of war may find them.  Now, with the war concluded, those flags, too, were turned over to the State.  In 1887, they were photographed. Cabinet Cards were produced and many of the regiment's veterans purchased them, as a keepsake of their time in the service. 



H. Orlando Baum
Post-War Photograph
[Hoptak Collection]



Charles Baum 
Post-War Photograph
[Hoptak Collection]

Sadly, none of the three Baum Brothers lived long lives.  The oldest brother, James, was the first to answer that final reveille, passing away on May 12, 1901, at age 58. Charles passed next. He was at work in a paint shop in Reading, late in March 1905. He seemed to have been in perfect health until, at 3:00 p.m., he collapsed. Efforts were made to resuscitate but nothing could be done. He died from "paralysis of the heart;" he was fifty-six years old. Horatio Orlando Baum outlived his brothers by more than a decade. His life ended on September 3, 1916, at age 68.  


At some point--whether it was right after he purchased it, or perhaps some time down the road, after the deaths of his brothers, perhaps--Orlando Baum wrote some thoughts down onto that Cabinet Card of the 48th Pennsylvania's flags.  He wrote them not for himself, it would appear, but for posterity; for his family. . .and for us. 

They were words he wanted us to know; and to remember. Thoughts on his wartime service, and the service of all the men in blue. What was gained; what was lost. He asked us also to never forget the sacrifices made in the effort to secure for us the hope and promise of the United States of America. That he was proud of what he did, there can be no doubt. 

His words remain for all of us to read; one Civil War veteran's thoughts on the war--what it meant; what it still means: 

[Front of Cabinet Card] 


Transcription:
Top:
"Under these tattered and shriv. .  .
Battle flags I received my Baptism of first and dared death on many a hard fought field
pitted against the bravest foe mortal man ever met in Battle, "Our Erring Brothers" of the South
H.O. Baum
Co. D 48th PVV

Side:
Under these fought the bravest foe mankind ever beheld or knew. Blood of our own kinship. The Johnies were [illegible] worthy your steel.

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

[Back of Cabinet Card] 



Transcription: 
Flags of the 48th P.V.
. . .in possession of the State Capitol at Harrisburg

Picture taken in 1887 

To My Friends All--
May come what will remember always to our credit we done our duty, defended the Nation's integrity, kept unsullied the banner we swore to uphold, rescued a Race from Bondage, and have given you back the inheritage [inheritance] Our Forefathers left us as a sacret [sacred] trust and under God's will you have a reunited Country, the happiest and best under Heaven's [illegible], and we did not war in vain. Remember the old Veterans kindly for what they have done, not what they may be, if you will, and may God forbid any of you or yours should ever have to endure, or do as these, my old Comrades done, Loyally and Willingly. (Yet some are left to die in Almshouses.)----Shame, but thank God we hope there are few and Americans will not forget us after we are gone. 

H. Orlando Baum
Co. D  48th PVV
+6th P.V.M.
128 "2nd" [illegible]

"One Flag, One County, Three Brothers" 

H.O. Baum
C.W. Baum
Jas. L. Baum




The Grave of H. Orlando Baum
Arlington Cemetery, Drexel Hill, PA
[findagrave.com] 



Saturday, January 18, 2020

Soldier Snapshot: Private Elias Britton, Co. A (1832-1892)


Private Elias Britton
[Hoptak Collection] 


Elias Britton survived two battle wounds as well as a wartime illness, only to die in a work-related accident in 1892. 

* * * * * * * *

Britton served throughout all four years of the Civil War. Mustered into service as a Private in Company A, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, on September 17, 1861, Britton served with the regiment in all its many campaigns and battles, seeing action in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. His age was listed as 25 years old at the time of his enlistment, however, his grave marker states that he was born in October 1832, which would have made him 29 in 1861. He stood 5'6" in height and was described as having dark eyes, dark hair, and a dark complexion. He provided his occupation as miller, and his residence as Auburn, in Schuylkill County, PA. The regimental records list Britton among the wounded at both the Battle of 2nd Bull Run (8/29/1862), and at the Battle of Petersburg (6/17/1864). Surviving these injuries, Britton was sick in the hospital when the regiment was discharged in July 1865. 

Struck presumably by lead or fragments of iron on the field of battle, it was wood that ultimately killed Britton in a freak work-related accident in May 1892. Working as an engineer at the Hope Brush Factory in Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania, Britton was struck in an abdomen by a wooden plank that was launched through the air from a circular saw. Sadly, the injury was fatal. Elias Britton was not yet sixty years old. His remains were laid to rest in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, in Tamaqua, PA. 

[From the Harrisburg Independent Daily, 5/21/1892]
The Grave of Elias Britton
Odd Fellows' Cemetery, Tamaqua, PA
[findagrave.com] 



Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Great Discovery In An Antique Store: John Dechant: Sergeant Major, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry

You just never know what you might find. . .

Recently, a friend of mine named Britt was exploring an antique store in Frederick, Maryland. 

Arriving at a stack of old cabinet cards, he examined each one, looking for any names, photographer's mark, and so on.  On the back of one, he saw the name "John Dechant." On front was an inscription of where the photograph had been taken and by whom, "D.W. Boss, Mechanicsburg, Pa."  And so he did an internet search for a John Dechant from Mechanicsburg and up popped a hit. . .a link to a findagrave.com listing for a John Dechant who is buried in Mechanicsburg. And inscribed upon the tombstone: Co. K 48th Regt. Penna. Vol. GAR 

Britt had discovered a post-war image of John Dechant, the Sergeant Major of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. And the price for this image, well, just one dollar.  You simply can't beat that. 

A Post War Image of John W. Dechant
Discovered For Just $1 At An Antique Store


Prior to this fortuitous discovery, I had never before seen an image of Dechant, wartime or otherwise and so I was simply thrilled when Britt had sent this along to me.  
Born on February 27, 1841, John Dechant was twenty-years of age when the Civil War broke out. A laborer from the small Schuylkill County town of Cressona, young Dechant decided to volunteer his services and on October 1, 1861, became a member of Company K, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He stood 5'10 1/2" in height, had a dark complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair.  Dechant must have certainly impressed for, as the war progressed, he advanced in rank until, on June 6, 1865, he became third and final Sergeant-Major of the regiment. He was mustered out of service when the regiment disbanded the following month. 

He moved to Mechanicsburg, PA, at some point during the post-war years, though little is known of him from there.  In May 1875 his name appears--alongside a John Sponslor, who also served in the 48th--in the Carlisle Weekly Herald as having attained a licensed to keep and operated a hotel, restaurant, and serve liquor in Mechanicsburg. He lived on Market Street in Mechanicsburg and one day--it appears as though to be in the 1880s-1890s--donned what appears to be his best grey suit and made his way to the photography studio of D.W. Boss to have his picture taken. 

He passed away at the too young age of sixty, on March 23, 1901, and was laid to rest with full military honors in the Mechanicsburg Cemetery. 

Notice of the funeral of John Dechant
Carlisle Weekly Sentinel, March 27, 1901





Fast-forward some 118 years later to the year 2019, and there was Britt, in that antique store shuffling through a stack of old photographs, and discovering this image of John Dechant, Sergeant-Major of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. 

I suppose I, too, will now look more closely at those pictures I sometimes just pass by since as this story illustrates, you never know what you might just find.  .  . 






The Grave of John Dechant
(findagrave.com) 


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Stabbed To Death In Silver Creek: The Murder Of A Civil War Soldier

If not one of the most tragic, then at least it was one of the saddest stories in the history of the 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry. 

One of its soldiers, at home on furlough, murdered in Silver Creek. 
And it all began, apparently, with an argument over who was a better general: George McClellan, or Ambrose Burnside. . . .

It happened late on a Friday night--February 26, 1864. The war-weary, veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry were at home in Schuylkill County, on their month-long regimental furlough. Over the past two-and-a-half years, these tough, seasoned soldiers had campaigned in North Carolina, slugged it out at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and at Fredericksburg—the regiment having suffered heavily during each of these sanguinary engagements—and had just recently endured what may have been their toughest trial yet, shivering in the cold, snowy mountains of East Tennessee.  It was there, one month earlier and while the regiment was encamped in those cold, snowy mountains, when the question was asked of the men: would you enlist, again, for another three-year term of service?
With the war still raging and its end still nowhere in sight, the government desperately needed veteran soldiers like those of the 48th whose original enlistments were due to expire in the late summer of 1864. And so the government offered various incentives if these tried and true soldiers agreed to reenlist for a second term of service: a $300 bounty, the designation of ‘Veteran Volunteer,’ and, if at least three-quarters of the regiment decided to re-enlist, the ability for the regiment to retain its numeric designation, meaning the 48th Pennsylvania would continue to exist as the 48th Pennsylvania. 
But maybe most appealing of all, at least to those who hadn’t seen their families in more than two years . . . a thirty-day furlough home.
For many, it was an easy decision. Having already seen the horrors of war, still, they were committed to the cause, and devoted to one another. For others, their decision was to fulfill their original enlistment and then, hopefully, return home after an honorable discharge. The regiment at this point numbered around 400 men. 316 decided to reenlist.
A heroes’ welcome greeted these weary 316 upon their arrival in Pottsville on February 3, 1864. Patriotic music was played, flags were waved, speeches given, and toasts made, as hundreds turned out to welcome back their sons, their husbands, their brothers, and their fathers from the front. A beautiful new stand of colors was presented to the regiment, to replace their torn and tattered flags of '61. After all the fanfare and celebration, the soldiers made their way to their homes. . .
Three-and-a-half-weeks later—and just one week before the regiment was scheduled to depart, once more, for the seat of war—one of these veteran volunteers would be dead; murdered at the home of his sister-in-law in Silver Creek, Pennsylvania.

His named was James Shields and he was about twenty-one, maybe twenty-two-years old. He had enlisted in December 1861 at age nineteen. He was a laborer with blue eyes, auburn-colored hair, and a light complexion. He had survived the worst of the war up to this part, walking away unscathed from the hell of 2nd Bull Run and Antietam, Fredericksburg, and East Tennessee.
But late on that fateful Friday evening, at his sister-in-law's home in Silver Creek, he and a friend—another hard-fighting soldier of Captain William Winlack’s Company E, named David McAllister—found trouble in the form of two men: Patrick Goldey and Peter Curren.
It was about 9:00 p.m. when James Shields and his comrade-in-arms McAllister arrived at Hannah Shields’s home. Once inside, James went into the kitchen while McAllister made his way into the living room. It was there, in the living room, where McAllister “got to arguing politics” with Patrick Goldey. It appears their conversation boiled down to an argument over who was the better general: George B. McClellan or Ambrose Burnside. 
McAllister, Shields, and the rest of the soldiers of the 48th were very much devoted to Burnside, the heavily whiskered, hard luck commander, under whom they had served since their days in North Carolina. It is not known whether Goldey, or Curren had been in the service—though a quick glance through Pennsylvania’s service records does not reveal that they had—but, apparently, Goldey was speaking poorly of Burnside, calling him a “mean man,” and probably some other, worse, things. McAllister would not let the attacks on his corps commander go unanswered. He responded that at least Burnside “did not get on a gunboat like McClellan when fighting was going on,” a reference to the July 1, 1862, Battle of Malvern Hill during which McClellan watched the battle unfold from the decks of a boat in the James River. 1864 was also an election year and McClellan was seen as the likely Democratic Party candidate who would take on Lincoln at the ballot box. Not wanting to argue further with Goldey, McAllister left the living room and went into the kitchen where his comrade James Shields had been. Peter Curren, sometimes known as Hugh Curran, was also there. It is not known what, if anything, was said by or to McAllister when he arrived in the kitchen but, soon after, Patrick Goldey was there, too, in the now cramped kitchen of Hannah Shields's home. 
Seeing Goldey, Curren said, “Paddy, he’s the man that said he’d shoot you,” apparently pointing to, or gesturing at McAllister. McAllister denied the allegation, to which Curren called him a liar. According to McAllister, Curren then reached into the inside pocket of his coat. McAllister put his hand onto the handle of his pistol but decided instead to escape the escalating situation and seek help. He quickly hunched down and made his escape through a window in the kitchen. 
McAllister ran to the nearby home of Henry Donoho’s and returned with him to Hannah Shield’s house, he said, not more than five minutes later. But by then, it was already too late. 
Arriving back at the house, McAllister“found Shields dead in the back kitchen.” He had been stabbed in the heart, repeatedly in the chest, and several times in the abdomen. At the back door of the house lay another man--John Stinson--dead.
McAllister was gone, he said, not more than five minutes. So what happened inside that kitchen after he made his escape?
Hannah Shields later testified that Curren—probably soon after McAllister had escaped through the window and seemingly looking for trouble—told Patrick Goldey that it was instead Shields, and not McAllister, who had said he was going to shoot him. Hannah Shields protested, saying that Curren was lying—that James had said no such thing. Curren and Goldey grabbed a hold of James, holding him down in a stooping position, one of them reaching for Shields’s pistol.  Attempting to defuse the situation, Hannah told James to give her his pistol; he said he would. She reached for it just as Patrick Goldey grabbed it from Shields’s pocket.  Hannah then grabbed Curren, begging the two men--

"for God's sake"--not to kill her brother-in-law. But sadly--tragically--her pleas went unanswered. Curren told her to back off or he would take care of her next. He gave her a shove and, while doing so, hit her on the lip. 


It was in the midst of this melee that James Shields was stabbed to death.
Who stabbed him? Was it Curren? Goldey?

Goldey ran off first, said Hannah, followed closely by Curren.  At this point, another man, John Stinson—an innocent bystander, perhaps, who had heard the commotion in the kitchen and who was on his way to help—was near the back entrance of the house when Goldey and Curren ran off. Hannah Shields saw Curren grab hold of Stinson. He gave him a shove, she said, and told him to get inside. “When I saw him next,” Hannah testified, “Stinson was dead.” He had received a gash to his thigh which severed an artery and the poor man bled to death. The knife used to kill Shields and Stinson was later found; it was “a shoemaker’s knife sharpened down to a keen edge and narrow point.”
Word of the murders spread quickly. Shields was killed at about 10:00 p.m. Within an hour, word of it arrived in Pottsville and Constable Christman immediately obtained a warrant to arrest the men involved.  Christman, with a squad of soldiers belonging to the 1st New York Artillery—who were in Schuylkill County, in part, to suppress striking miners and ensure the coal mines remained in operation, as well as to put down any draft resistance—set off for Silver Creek where they arrested Curren, Goldey, and two other men who were apparently involved, or at least present.
The following afternoon these men appeared before the magistrate who set a trial date for the following week.
At that trial, Curren was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to just five years in prison. Goldey and the other two men were acquitted of all charges.
A few days after the trial, the veteran soldiers of the 48th departed Pottsville, their month-long furlough having come to an end.  Private James Shields, of course, was not with them; his remains had already been laid to rest in Schuylkill County.  
But departing with his company and his regiment once more was the man who was with Shields that tragic night. 
David McAllister would see much action in the months ahead, at places like the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and at Petersburg.  He survived the war and was mustered out of service as a sergeant on July 17, 1865. Returning home to Schuylkill County, I could only wonder if the veteran McAllister paid a visit to the grave of his murdered friend James Shields, who had been stabbed to death in Silver Creek. 

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

In all of my years studying the 48th Pennsylvania I have never come across a photograph of Private James Shields. But late last week, arriving in my inbox from out of the proverbial blue, was an image of the man who was with Shields the night he was murdered:  David McAllister. 
Christopher Jordan, a collector of Civil War images, sent me the image, which is a part of his collection. Of course, seeing a "new" face of the 48th is always a special thing for me, but I was particularly struck by this image.  It is McAllister's expression that is most striking. His eyes are piercing and the look on his face is one of pride, determination, and hard work. The brass on his kepi:

 E 
48
PV 


David McAllister
Company E, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry
(Courtesy of Mr. Christopher Jordan) 


David McAllister was one of those guys who was in the war from start to finish. Along with James Shields, McAllister began his Civil War service as a private in the Wynkoop Artillery, a militia company based out of Silver Creek, and one that was formed and led by Captain William Winlack. The Wynkoop Artillery marched off to war on April 22, 1861, and soon formed part of the 16th Pennsylvania Infantry--a three month regiment.  Upon the expiration of this three-month term of service, most of the Wynkoop Artillery enlisted for a three-year term, and their company became Company E, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. McAllister said he was nineteen years of age when, on August 20, 1861, he signed up to serve under Winlack in the 48th PA. But it would appear that he lied about his age in order to enlist.  According to what is inscribed upon his tombstone, McAllister was born April 4, 1844, making him just seventeen years of age in the summer of 1861. He stood 5'7" in height and was described as having a Light Complexion, Sandy Hair, and Grey Eyes. Like Shields, McAllister was a laborer by profession. He entered the 48th as seventh corporal; by war's end, he was a sergeant.  McAllister's name appears among the "missing" at Second Bull Run but it would seem he soon returned to the regiment following that chaotic fight. David McAllister's life was still just beginning when he was mustered out of service when the regiment was disbanded on July 17, 1865. He died in Coal Township, Northumberland County, on June 25, 1907, at the age of 63, and laid to rest there at Saint Edward's Cemetery. 

It was an amazing thing to see this image of McAllister, a man I had previously 'known' only through the regimental records and as the man who was there the night Shields was killed. For me, his is a "new face" of the 48th. 


I can only hope that perhaps one day an image of James Shields will be discovered. . . 




***Thank you to Mr. Christopher Jordan for sending along his CDV image of McAllister and for letting me use it to tell this story. The details of Shields's murder and the testimonies of David McAllister and Hannah Shields appeared in the March 5, 1864, edition of the Miners' Journal.*** 



David McAllister
(Photograph Courtesy of Mr. Christopher Jordan) 





The Grave of David McAllister
(findagrave.com)