Monday, August 12, 2019

The Last of the 48th: Private Charles Washington Horn

Seventy-eight years ago this week--on August 4, 1941--Charles Washington Horn, the last surviving soldier of the 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry, passed away.  

Charles Washington Horn
Last Surviving Veteran of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry
[Pottsville Republican, August 5, 1941] 


He had been born some ninety-four years earlier, on March 15, 1847, near Brockton, a small coal town sometimes also called Patterson, midway between Middleport and Tamaqua, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas and Mary Magdalena Myer Horn. Although the regimental records indicate that Horn was 18 when he enlisted as a private on February 27, 1864, he was, in fact, still a few weeks shy of his seventeenth birthday, making him one of the youngest soldiers in the 48th.  One account declares that Horn had run away from home in order to enlist. Perhaps he felt the army a more appealing alternative to his work as a slate picker at a local coal mine, where he worked ten-hour days, earning just sixteen cents a day, with half of that wage being deducted for purchases at the company store. At the time of his enlistment, he stood 5'5" and was described as having a "Light" complexion, hazel eyes, and dark hair. Young Private Horn would be thrice wounded during his time in uniform, being shot through both legs and losing a finger during the regiment's actions during the bloody Overland Campaign. Despite these injuries, Horn served for the duration of the conflict, being honorably discharged when the regiment was disbanded and mustered out of service on July 17, 1865. 

Horn returned home to Schuylkill County though would remain there for just a couple more years.  In 1867, the twenty-year-old, wounded veteran left the coal region behind and moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he would live for the rest of his very long life. He became a carpenter and then found employment with the Lehigh Zinc and Iron Company, working there for some forty-two years before the plant moved from Bethlehem to Patterson, New Jersey. He was then pensioned and, at last, settled down. He married Ms. Aravesta Wohlbach and together, the couple would have six children, though two died in childhood. Aravesta passed away in 1911 at age 63 and Charles Horn would remain a widower for the next thirty years. 

Of course, living such a long life, Horn, known affectionately in his later years as "Uncle Charlie," was an active figure in veterans' affairs. He served for a time as commander of the J.K. Taylor Post of the Grand Army of the Republic and was a regular attendee at many of the 48th Pennsylvania's Veteran Reunions, an event held each year in early September. It would appear, though, that he was the only attendee of the regiment's 73rd Reunion in September 1938 and was once again the only attendee to the regiment's 75th (and final) Reunion held in Bethlehem at the Methodist Church in September 1940. 


[Pottsville Republican obituary of Charles W. Horn, August 5, 1941] 


Charles Washington Horn died on Monday, August 4, 1941, at his daughter Mabel's home at 546 Main Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Three days later, on August 7, 1941--just four months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor--the remains of this Civil War soldier were laid to rest with full military honors at Bethlehem's Nisky Hill Cemetery. 


Of the more than 1,860 men who served in the 48th Pennsylvania during the American Civil War, Charles Washington Horn had the distinction of being the regiment's longest and last surviving veteran. 


The Grave of Charles Washington Horn
Nisky Hill Cemetery, Bethlehem, PA
[findagrave.com] 




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