Samuel Clemens survived the very worst of the American Civil War, making it through all the trying campaigns and hellish fights in which the 48th Pennsylvania was engaged, though certainly not unscathed. Records indicate that was wounded no fewer than three times in battle: at Fredericksburg in December 1862, at the Wilderness in May 1864, and at Petersburg on August 16, 1864.
Still, though, in late July 1865, he made it back home.
After serving as a private in the three-month 16th Pennsylvania Infantry (April-July 1861), Clemens, along with three of his brothers, enlisted into the ranks of Company E, 48th PA, in the summer of 1861. At the time of his enlistment, he was 25 years of age, stood 5'6" in height, had a Light Complexion, Grey Eyes, and Sandy Hair. His occupation was given as Laborer, employed, no doubt, at one of Schuylkill County's many coal mines. And it was back to the mines he went following his discharge from the army. Sadly--tragically--it was there--and not on any of the Civil War's many sanguinary fields of battle on which he fought--where he lost his life; on the night of October 31, 1865, just three months after Clemens and the surviving veterans of the 48th Pennsylvania returned home from the conflict. And it was quite sudden, too. An article that appeared in the Miners' Journal a week following his death, reported that Clemens had lost his footing at work and fell down the Windy Harbor coal slope, plummeting some ninety feet to the bottom and was instantly killed. The article, entitled a "Distressing Occurrence," noted that Clemens was an "honorable, patriotic young man," who served his country "from the commencement of the Rebellion to its close," and who "was distinguished for bravery and good conduct." It further noted that Clemens had just recently been married and now left "a young wife and a large circle of friends to deplore their sad bereavement." The remains of Samuel Clemens were laid to rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
|The Grave of Samuel Clemens
Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville, Pa
A sad story, for sure (and one cannot help but feel sorry for Clemens, who made it home from the war only to be killed three months later) though his was certainly not the only occurrence of this. George Beaumont from St. Clair, for example, who served in the 88th Pennsylvania and who lost two brothers in battle--William at Gettysburg and John at Petersburg--made it back home and after the war returned to work in the coal mines. And there he was killed, in November 1868, at age 35.
These and other such tragedies only serve to reinforce Captain John Porter's assertions that, in many ways, army life was much safer than work in the coal mines. A native of Middleport in Schuylkill County, Porter commanded Company I, 48th PA. Many of Porter's volunteers were farmers, students, clerks. . .but there was, of course, a good number of coal miners. During his time in uniform, Porter wrote often to his wife and several times expressed his opinion that soldiering in the Civil War was far easier than laboring in the coal mines. From Pleasant Valley, Maryland, on October 14, 1862, for example, Porter wrote that while he would never "persuade" anyone to enlist, still he was "satisfied that the soldier has an easier life than the man who has to work from early dawn til late at night in the Coal of Schuylkill County."