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 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

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