Monday, January 28, 2008

48th PA Survivors' Reunion Roster. . .

Over the years, I have managed to gather quite a collection of 48th PA relics, artifacts, CDVs, etc. While some of the items I just happened upon at various relic stores and such, most came via ebay. In fact, one of the very first 48th PA items I ever got was delivered to me after a successful bid on ebay, oh, about ten or so years ago. What I won was this simple notebook with a really bizarre cover. . .

. . .had I not known what it was, I would have assumed just by looking at it that it was a product of the 1960s, not the 1890s. But inside the covers of this far-out notebook were the signatures of 87 men who served in the 48th Pennsylvania and the minutes of a reunion held by the survivors of Companies A & C in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania. This notebook was used twice during the 1890s for reunions; first on August 29, 1891--29 years to the day of the regiment's baptism by fire at 2nd Bull Run--and on October 11, 1895. It was, essentially, a register. Upon arriving at each of these two reunions, the aging veterans signed their names, along with their current address or place of residence. In the back of the book, are six pages listing the names of soldiers from the two companies who were killed or died during the war, and lists of those who passed away in the years between 1865 and 1891. The secretary of these two reunions was John Shenk, who served in Company A, 48th PA, and I can only assume that this book belonged to him and his family since in the back I found clipped obituaries of John's widow following her death in 1916, plus notices of the death of Henry Shenk, John & Malinda's son.

Having no new pictures of Nicodemus Heights this week, I thought I would share the contents of this really cool 48th PA Survivors's Reunion record book. . .

Here is the first page of signatures, regrettably it is starting to really show signs of aging. I have it safely supported under glass, next to other books, and out of direct sunlight. On the bottom left is the signature of Albert C. Huckey, the long-time captain of Company A, 48th PA

A close-up shot of some of the signatures in the book. #72 is the signature of John Shenk, secretary of the reunions, and original owner, presumably, of this record book.

It's incredible how many veterans of the 48th left Schuylkill County after the war to settle in Bethlehem. . .I guess they realized that coal was on its way out, and steel on its way in. . .

Resolutions passed at the August 29, 1891 reunion. . . .

At a meeting held this 29th day of August 1891, the following Preamble and resolutions were passed.

Whereas we have once more had the privilege to meet in reunion as comrades and soldiers who stood shoulder to shoulder during the dark days of the Rebelion of 1861 to 1865, and who through the mercy of our great commander-in-chief still have the privilege of enjoying the blessings of a free and undivided country and to grasp each other by the hand in that fraternal spirit which only exists among those who have passed through the trying ordeal of a soldiers life, And--

Whereas the privilege is granted us to gather at the place where over a quarter of a century ago we left our homes and dear ones, And since the Citizens of Port Clinton in their untiring efforts to make our visit and stay among them a pleasant one have given us such a grand reception which will be looked back to by every member of the organizations here represented as one of the pleasantest days of their lives, therefore be it

Resolved--that a unaminous vote of thanks be tendered the Citizens committee for their kind reception and generous treatment during our stay among them and to the P.O.S. of A. [Patriotic Order Sons of America] for the use of their Hall and to all who by their efforts made this a day of pleasure to us all.

As there was no other means employed to make up the necessary expenses of this days exercises except to selling of badges the expenses exceeded the income by Four Dollars which amount was advanced by Comrades Jno. Shenk and J.W. Sterner the organization therefore stands indebted to the above named comrades for said amount. The following named officers were elected to serve during the ensuing term: Capt. A.C. Huckey, President. John Shenk Secretary and James W. Sterner Treasurer. The following named committee was also elected for the ensuing therm Daniel Leiser New Ringgold, Monroe Heckman, Shoemakersville, Charles W. Hillegas, Tamaqua, William J. Huckey, Pottsville, Henry L. Weikel, Mauch Chunk and John A. Holman, Morea. There being no other business the meeting therefore adjourns to meet again at the call of the officers of the association.

John Shenk, Secretary

I love it. Shenk made sure everyone knew that he and Sterner put up the four bucks to meet expenses. . . .

Monday, January 21, 2008

The View from Nicodemus Heights. . .

(Looking Southeast from Nicodemus Heights. . .The East Woods can be seen in the [far] distance, left of center)
* * * * * * * * * *
When I got into work this morning, the temperature was all of nine--maybe ten--degrees. It was a frigid, raw, bitterly cold morning. . .
So why not explore a seldom-visited portion of the battlefield?
Nicodemus Heights, which anchored the left flank of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the battle of Antietam, remains privately owned but last week Ranger Brian Baracz talked to the landowner and arranged for us to take this morning's hike. And I must tell you, it was simply incredible to be up there. . .It is a vantage I have never before gained, and it helped tremendously in further understanding the battle. . .at least the morning's fight north of Sharpsburg.
I had my camera along and snapped a few photographs. . .
(Looking north from Nicodemus Heights. . .)
(Another shot looking north. . .this one more zoomed in. In the distance, you can see the Pennsylvania Monuments that line Mansfield Road, with the North Woods beyond. The Union 1st Corps went into position in and around this woodlot late on the evening of September 16, the day before the battle).
(Again, looking north. . .even more zoomed in. This is the Joseph Poffenberger Farm. 1st Corps Commander Joseph Hooker used the barn as his headquarters, and before falling asleep on the night of 9/16 declared to his staff: "Tomorrow we fight the battle that will decide the fate of the Republic."
* * * * * * * * * *

(Looking due east. . .The East Woods are directly in front. At least 14, perhaps as many as 18, Confederate cannon lined Nicodemus Heights and wreaked havoc on the 1st Corps during its morning advance from the North Woods [just out of the picture to the left] south toward the Dunker Church plateau. . .The right flank of the 1st Corps extended toward Nicodemus Heights and was completely exposed to the Confederate cannon fire. The Confederate artillery was also able to hit targets in the East Woods from this commanding position).
(Here is another shot looking due east, more zoomed in toward the East Woods. You might be able to make out the D.R. Miller farmhouse and outbuildings above the immediate treeline).
(Zooming in more, you can see the top of the Miller farmhouse).
(Looking southeasterly from Nicodemus Heights. . .the large green field is the infamous Cornfield, scene of most of the morning's most savage fighting. It is interesting to note that although it doesn't seem so from this photograph, the highest point, or knoll, of the cornfield is the same elevation as Nicodemus Heights).
(A close up view toward the Cornfield. . .note the cannon [just to the right and in front of the telephone pole]. This cannon represents the advanced position of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, General John Gibbon's pre-war outfit. Young Johnny Cook earned his Medal of Honor helping to man these guns, taking over for the number of killed and wounded artillerymen of the battery, some of whom were no doubt hit from the fire poured into their rear from Nicodemus Heights).

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ranger Brian and I spent about an hour and half this bitterly cold morning tramping around the high ground. . .learning from the vistas, and listening to the land owner tell his stories. Despite the cold, it was a good morning and a great privilege to be allowed the opportunity to learn more about the battle and the battlefield from this otherwise inaccessible but vastly important piece of the battlefield. . .

Forgive any misspellings. . .I am still thawing out.

(Looking south-southeast. . .South Mountain looms high, about 9 miles in the distance).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Hail to the Chiefs!" Presidents at Antietam

President Lincoln Meets With General McClellan on the Antietam Battlefield

* * * * * * * * * *

There is a strong presidential connection to the Antietam Battlefield. . .In addition to future president William McKinley serving as a commissary sergeant in the 23rd Ohio during the battle itself, no less than eight sitting presidents have visited the Antietam battlefield.

The first, of course, was Abraham Lincoln, who spent four days travelling over the field in early October 1862, just two weeks after the guns fell silent. He met with McClellan, trying to prod his young Napoleon into action, met with other generals, and with thousands of wounded soldiers. . .both Union and Confederate. His trip was well-documented, and the photos of his visit are among the most famous of the entire war. Oh, and who can forget the 26-minute long film, "Antietam Visit," which details Lincoln's famous visit and shows on the half hour at the Antietam National Battlefield's Visitor Center?

Lincoln with McClellan. . . and George Morell, Fitz Porter, Henry Hunt, Jonathan Letterman, Andrew Humphreys, Henry Hunt, and even a young George Armstrong Custer

Lincoln with private eye extraordinaire Allen Pinkerton and Major General John McClernand

* * * * * * * * * * *

Lincoln's successor to the presidency, Andrew Johnson, was the next to pay a visit to the Antietam Battlefield. While the Radical Republicans in Congress were doing everything in their power to impeach him, Johnson journeyed out on September 17, 1867--the five year anniversary of the battle--to deliver an address at the dedication of the National Cemetery.

Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States

Dedication of the National Cemetery at Antietam (NPS)

While certainly not as famous or as eloquent as Lincoln's 1863 cemetery address at Gettysburg, Johnson's was at times stirring. . ."When we look at yon battlefield, I think of the brave men who fell in the fierce struggle of battle, and who sleep silent in their graves. Yes, many of them sleep in silence and peace within this beautiful enclosure after the earnest conflict has ceased."

Accompanying President Johnson that day was the general-in-chief of the United States Army, Ulysses S. Grant. Apparently Grant didn't get to see enough of the battlefield with Johnson, so he returned two years later. . .when he was president.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ulysses Grant, 18th President of the United States, was the third sitting president in a row to visit Antietam

Grant toured the battlefield on October 15, 1869, with his good friend William T. Sherman. I can just imagine the conversation: "Boy, if I were here, Cump, I would have pitched right in!"

* * * * * * * * * *

The trend of presidents visiting Antietam stopped for a while after Grant. . .no Rutherford B. Hayes, no James Garfield nor Chester Arthur, not even Grover Cleveland or Benjamin Harrison. But then, William McKinley made a return visit.

Sergeant William McKinley, Commissary, 23rd Ohio Volunteers

Perhaps no other president--save for Lincoln--is as closely associated with the Antietam battlefield than William McKinley. He served at Antietam as a sergeant in Company E, 23rd Ohio Infantry, the so-called President's Regiment. Just three days before Antietam at the battle of South Mountain, McKinley's regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, had his left arm shattered by a musket ball and was forced to relinquish command. As a 19-year-old commissary, McKinley kept the boys of the regimental well-fed, even while on the firing line. After the war, he served for many years in the U.S. House of Representatives, then as a two-term governor of Ohio before being elected president of the United States in 1896 and 1900.

President McKinley returned to the Antietam battlefield on May 30, 1900--Memorial Day--to deliver an address at the unveiling of the Maryland State Monument. Interestingly, among McKinley's guest of honors were Mr. and Mrs. James Longstreet.

William McKinley, 25th President of the United States

Having survived the Civil War unscathed, McKinley was struck down by an assassin's bullet in September 1901, in Buffalo, New York. He died on September 14, thirty-nine years to the day after his former commander Rutherford Hayes fell wounded at South Mountain. . .(I know, I know, the connection is a stretch, but still interesting).

McKinley Monument (NPS)

In 1904, the McKinley Monument, which stands near the Burnside Bridge, was dedicated in memory of the slain president.

* * * * * * * * * *

The next president to visit Antietam was McKinley's successor, the old Rough Rider himself, Theodore Roosevelt. Born in 1858, Teddy was too young to serve in the Civil War, but he did vividly remember watching the Lincoln Funeral cortege make its way through the streets of New York from his parents' bedroom window in May 1865. He visited the battlefield on September 17, 1903, to deliver a speech at the dedication of New Jersey's state monuments.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States

* * * * * * * * * * *

Once again, following Teddy's visit a number of years passed before another presidential trip to the Antietam battlefield. In fact, it wasn't until 1937. On the 75th Anniversary of the battle, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered an eloquent address to an estimated crowd of some 50,000, and even spent some time shaking hands with a few Civil War veterans.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

Roosevelt paid a second visit to the battlefield on May 28, 1944. . .just a week and a half before D-Day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Only two presidents have visited Antietam since FDR in 1944. . .John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Kennedy toured the battlefield with his wife Jackie and brother Ted on April 3, 1963, just seven months before his fateful ride in Dallas. . .

James Earl Carter, 39th President of the United States

Jimmy Carter was the eighth--and last--sitting president to visit the Antietam battlefield. He did so with his wife Rosalynn and esteemed historian Shelby Foote in July 1978. The story goes that as the presidential motorcade made its way from Harper's Ferry up Maryland Route 230, it was stopped for the more than 20 minutes by a herd of cattle crossing the road. . .

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

Thirty years have past since the last time a president visited the battlefield. Perhaps this is understandable since of the eight presidents who have done so, four of them--Lincoln, McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, and Kennedy, did not survive their term of office!

I would be a bit reluctant myself. . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

Famous Last Words. . .

Here is a quick look at the (supposed) last words uttered by some Civil War personalities. If there are any I missed, please let me know. . .

* * * * * * * * * *
James Buchanan
15th President of the United States
Date of Death: June 1, 1868
Age at Death: 77
Last Words:
"Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness
that at least I meant well for my country."

* * * * * * * * * *
Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States
Date of Death: April 15, 1865
Age at Death: 56
Last Words:
"They won't think anything about it."
Lincoln allegedly said this in response to his wife Mary's question about what everyone would think seeing them holding hands in public moments before he was shot.
* * * * * * * * * *

John Wilkes Booth
Date of Death: April 26, 1865
Age at Death: 26
Last Words:
". . .useless, useless. . ."

* * * * * * * * * *
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
Confederate General
Date of Death: May 10, 1863
Age at Death: 39
Last Words:
"Let us cross over the river, and rest in the shade of the trees."

* * * * * * * * * *
Robert E. Lee
Confederate General
Date of Death: October 12, 1870
Age at Death: 63
Last Words:
"Tell Hill he must come up. Strike the tent."

* * * * * * * * * *
John Sedgwick
Union General
Date of Death: May 9, 1864
Age at Death: 50
Last Words:
"They couldn't hit an elephant at that distance."
Other than Jackson's, these are probably the most famous last words of the Civil War. While visiting with his troops on the front line at Spotsylvania, Sedgwick noticed a number of his troops dodging the bullets of Confederate sharpshooters. He told his men not to worry since the distance was too great. Moments after uttering his famous phrase, he was struck below the left eye by a sharpshooter's ball and killed instantly.
* * * * * * * * * *
Jesse Reno
Union General
Date of Death: September 14, 1862
Age at Death: 39
Last Words:
"Hallo, Sam, I'm dead. . . .Yes, yes, I'm dead.
Tell the boys if I can't be with them in body I shall be with them in spirit."
Reno was struck down near twilight on September 14, 1862, at the battle of South Mountain. Carried to the rear, he spotted his old friend Samuel Sturgis, and made his final remarks. I have a feeling the whole body/spirit thing was attributed to him after he died.
* * * * * * * * * *
John Reynolds
Date of Death: July 1, 1863
Age at Death: 42
Last Words:
"Forward! For God's sake, Forward!"
Reynolds allegedly said these words to the troops of the Iron Brigade while leading them on horseback during the opening salvos of the battle of Gettysburg.
* * * * * * * * * * Jeb Stuart
Confederate General
Date of Death: May 12, 1864
Age at Death: 31
Last Words:
"I am resigned, if it be God's will. But I would like to see my wife. . .But God's will be done. . .
I am going fast now. . .God's will be done."
Stuart was shot and mortally wounded at the battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864, and died in a Richmond home the following day while waiting for his wife, Flora.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Edward Cross
Colonel Union Army
Date of Death: July 2, 1863
Age at Death: 31
Last Words:
"The boys, I think, will miss me."
Colonel Cross was mortally wounded on July 2, 1863, near the Wheatfield at Gettysburg.
* * * * * * * * * *
Ambrose Powell Hill
Confederate General
Date of Death: April 2, 1865
Age at Death: 39
Last Word:
General Hill and his staff accidentally rode into a Union picket line early on the morning of April 2, 1865, outside of Petersburg, Virginia. He yelled for the Union troops to surrender; they instead opened fire, and Hill was shot right through the heart.
* * * * * * * * * * *
James Longstreet
Confederate General
Date of Death: January 2, 1904
Age at Death: 82
Last Words:
"Helen, we shall be happier in this post."
I could be wrong, but I think James and his wife, Helen, were looking at a new residence or hotel or something. Someone please correct me here.
* * * * * * * * * *
Albert Sidney Johnston
Confederate General
Date of Death: April 6, 1862
Age at Death: 59
Last Words:
"Yes, and I fear seriously."
Johnston said this in response to one of his staff officers who asked him if he had been wounded.
* * * * * * * * * *
George McClellan
Union General
Date of Death: October 29, 1885
Age at Death: 58
Last Words:
"I feel easy now. Thank you."
* * * * * * * * * * *

Winfield Scott Hancock
Union General
Date of Death: February 9, 1886
Age at Death: 61
Last Words:
"Oh, Allie, Allie, Good----"
Hancock was calling out to his beloved wife Almira but died before he could get out the "Goodbye"
* * * * * * * * * * *

Ulysses S. Grant
Union General/18th President of the United States
Date of Death: July 23, 1885
Age at Death: 63
Last Word:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Schuylkill County Backs Lincoln. . .then McClellan

Well, it's an election year. . .and by all accounts it appears as if it will be an exciting one. With primary season upon us, I thought I'd write today about the Civil War presidential elections of 1860 and 1864 in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
In 1860, former Illinois Representative Abraham Lincoln did well in the anthracite rich county, carrying a total of 7,568 votes to Vice President John Breckinridge's 4,968. Stephen Douglas came in a distant third with 422, and old John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party brought up the rear in the four-man race with 159 votes. Interesting enough, Lincoln's votes came largely from the county's large coal-mining towns, such as Pottsville, which voted for Lincoln 1,122 to 471. The smaller towns and the county's agricultural districts backed the Democratic candidates Breckinridge and Douglas.
And then the war came, and Lincoln's support in Schuylkill County plummeted. In 1864, Lincoln chose the Democratic senator from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, as his running mate. (Johnson was the only southerner in Congress to remain loyal to the United States during the war). Up against the Lincoln/Johnson ticket was former general George B. McClellan.
1864 Election Banner. . .
When the votes were counted, Lincoln got 7,166 votes from Schuylkill County while McClellan won with 9,244. For the troops in the field, however, it was a much different story. Schuylkill County's soldiers registered 685 votes for Lincoln, while McClellan garnered 296. Of course, Lincoln won the 1864 election in a landslide victory but as Schuylkill County demonstrated, his popularity was not universal. It's fortunate that the entire country did not follow Schuylkill County's example. . .
Political cartoon from 1864 featuring Lincoln standing for "Union and Liberty," and McClellan for "Union and Slavery."