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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Monuments at Gettysburg – 121st Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on April 1, 2015

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The 121st Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Gettysburg is located west of the town of Gettysburg on Reynolds Avenue.  It was dedicated in 1888 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is the second monument to this regiment at Gettysburg;  the first monument is located south of the town of Gettysburg and was dedicated in 1886 by the regiment’s survivors.

The drawing of the second monument pictured above is from a Philadelphia Inquirer article of 11 September 1889.

A picture of the monument can be seen on Stephen Recker’s Virtual Gettysburg Web Site which has more information about the monument and the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry.

A full description of the second monument, its GPS Coordinates, additional photographs, and some of the history of the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry, can be found on the Stone Sentinels Web Site.  There is also a picture and information about the first monument.

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The engagement of the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry in the Battle of Gettysburg was briefly described in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 11 September 1889:

The Rainbow in the West.

As the 121st Regiment, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Biddle, approached Gettysburg the shells were seen bursting over the distant woods.  They soon came to where Buford’s cavalry engaged the enemy, and then advanced through the woods west of the seminary to meet the enemy.  A vigorous shelling of their position preceded the grand advance upon the 121st, in which it was subjected to an enfilading fire.  The charge in front was successfully resisted, but the flank fire drove the fragment of the Union command back to a barricade in the woods to the rear of the seminary.  After clinging there a while they retired to Cemetery Hill, with the consciousness of having checked vastly superior numbers.  The night closed with a vision of a beautiful rainbow in the west.  Out of the seven officers and 256 men engaged only two officers and 82 men saw the rainbow.  The others lay upon the field.  The oration at the monument will be delivered by Joseph G. Rosengarten.

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The 121st Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg was commanded by Major Alexander Biddle, but during the battle, his cousin, Colonel Chapman Biddle, who at the beginning of the battle was temporarily commanding the brigade, had to re-assume command of the regiment.  The cousins were members of a prominent Philadelphia family.

Chapman Biddle

Chapman Biddle joined the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry as Colonel on 1 September 1862.  Prior to the war he was involved in a private law practice in Philadelphia.

Biddle’s role at Gettysburg is best briefly explained in his Wikipedia article:

Biddle assumed command of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division before the Battle of Gettysburg began on 1 July 1863. The assignment of Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds as commander of the army’s left wing led to acting promotion of brigade commander Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Rowley to command of the division while Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday led the corps. Colonel Biddle led the four regiments of the brigade in the first day’s fighting on McPherson’s Ridge and the subsequent withdrawal to Cemetery Ridge. His report on the first day’s fighting describes the brigade’s fighting as taking place under heavy artillery fire. When the brigade was flanked by Confederate infantry, Biddle led an unsuccessful counterattack. Later he received a head wound from a spent Minié ball when Col. Abner Perrin‘s brigade attacked the brigade’s fall-back position on Seminary Ridge. Biddle had his head bandaged, and then returned to his troops.

Returning to his regiment on July 2, after Rowley resumed brigade command, Biddle participated in the repulse of Pickett’s Charge. By the end of the battle, only 84 of 263 soldiers were left in the ranks. Biddle played no role in the court-martial of General Rowley for being drunk on the field at Gettysburg. In fact, he never referred to Rowley’s role in the battle in anything he wrote during or after the war.

Biddle led the 121st Pennsylvania though most of the summer and autumn of 1863, including most of the Bristoe Campaign and the Mine Run Campaign, before being discharged on December 10, 1863. His head wound, received at Gettysburg, eventually led to Biddle’s departure from active service. His old regiment remained in service to the end of the war, being mustered out on 2 June 1865.

After the war Chapman Biddle served as a lawyer in Philadelphia government and played an active role in establishing Fairmount Park.  He died on 9 December 1880 in Philadelphia and is buried in the churchyard of St. James the Less Episcopal Church.  Further information, beyond that given in the Wikipedia article, can be found in his Findagrave Memorial.

Alexander Biddle

 

Alexander Biddle was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, 1838, and thereafter joined his father’s company.   In 1855, he married Julia Williams Rush, the granddaughter of Benjamin Rush. On 1 September 1862, he was mustered into the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry at headquarters with the rank of Major.  On 26 July 1863, he was promoted from Major to Colonel, but was never mustered at that rank.  He was discharged from the service on Special Order on 9 January 1864.

After the Civil War, he retired from his father’s company and served as a Director of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Philadelphia Savings Fund Company.

Alexander Biddle died on 2 May 1899 and is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.  More information about him can be obtained from his Wikipedia article and from his Findagrave Memorial.

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Around the base of the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg are a series of plaques which, by regiment and company, note the names of every soldier who was present at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The plaque for the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry is pictured below.  By clicking on the plaque it should enlarge so the names can be more clearly read.  If a name does not appear, it could be that the soldier did serve in the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry, but was not part of the regiment during its days at Gettysburg.  There could also be errors on the plaque.

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Events of March 1865

Posted By on March 31, 2015

March 3. Opening of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation, the founding member of the HSBC Group. This bank was founded by 200px-HSBC_HQ_1901Scottish bankers to help facilitate trade between China and Europe. Hong Kong was a British colony during this period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 13. Jefferson Davis signs a bill authorizing the use of slaves as soldiers in the Confederate Army.

March 17. The Jackson & Woodin shops were destroyed by fire on March 17, 1865; the company rebuilt with a larger facility in the same location, increasing the size of its workforce from 150 to 250. Jackson and Woodin’s management were proponents of the temperance movement in America, and went as far as buying all the saloons and hotels in Berwick, leading to Berwick becoming a dry town by 1881. By the time of the 1899 merger that created American Car and Foundry Company (ACF), Jackson & Woodin was the largest freight car manufacturer in the eastern United States. Berwick is in Columbia County, PA about 22 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre, PA. Berwick would also become home to the Wise Potato Chip company.

March 18. The Congress of the Confederate States adjourns for the last time.

March 25. A meteorite named the Claywater Meteorite explodes just before hitting the ground in Vernon County, Wisconsin. One contemporary account: It fell at 9 A.M. on March 25, 1865. It came in as a rotating fireball and exploded near ground level. Two fragments with a combined mass of 3.3 pounds were recovered. The meteorite was mostly stony, containing olivine and enstatite. It also contained about 17% iron-nickel alloys.

Throughout March. The Central Pacific Railroad sends agent to recruit thousands of Chinese workers from Guangdong Province to work on 375px-Central_Pacific_Railroad_Company_(CPRR)_Logotype_1869construction of the railroad lines. In total, construction crews comprised 12,000 Chinese emigrant workers by 1868, when they constituted eighty percent of the railroad’s entire work force. The Central Pacific ran between California and Utah, and today those lines are part of the Union Pacific Railroad. Chinese workers were frequently used in the Nineteenth Century in this country for major building/engineering projects. The Guangdong Province is on the South China Sea coast, and today is the most populous province of China (with over 106 million residents in 2013).

 

George Small – Railroad Hero

Posted By on March 30, 2015

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GEORGE SMALL HAD CIVIL WAR RECORD

Saved Locomotives and Rolling Stock During Earley’s Raid to the River

York, Pennsylvania, 9 May 1907 — George Small, 224 Walnut Street, a retired engineer on the pension roll of the Northern Central Railroad, and one of the best known residents of the city, died suddenly yesterday morning.  He was seized last night with an attack of acute indigestion and neuralgia of the heart.

Mr. Small became an engineer during the early part of the Civil War. The day previous to the burning of the old bridge across the Susquehanna River at Wrightsville, he was running an engine designated the Susquehanna. He was sent South on the Northern Central Railroad with his engine for some box cars which were lying on a siding near the Maryland State line.  While on the way toward York with them, and when in the vicinity of Hanover Junction, he saw a troop of rebel cavalrymen galloping down the roadbed of the intersecting railway.  The purpose of the rebels was to head off the engine and secure the cars.  Mr. Small appreciated at a glance the situation and opened the throttle of the engine to the limit.  He called to his fireman to follow and left the unprotected cab for the sheltering of the tender. The rebels fired several volleys at the fleeing train but not a bullet struck engine or tender and he and his fireman escaped to the safety of this city. The news of the Confederate invasion into York County had spread like wildfire and by the time Mr. Small reached York orders had been issued by the railway officials to remove all rolling stock across the Susquehanna River.  The morning after his encounter with the rebels at Hanover Junction Mr. Small pulled out of York for Wrightsville with a company of Union soldiers.  The bridge across the river was an overhead affair and until his arrival no engine had ever passed over it; the cars being transported across to Columbia by mule teams.  This was necessary because of the size and shape of the smokestacks with which the locomotives of those days were equipped.  They were funnel shaped, most of which measured at least five feet in diameter and six to eight feet above the boiler proper.

Upon Mr. Small’s arrival at Wrightsville many cars had been transferred to Columbia but several locomotives were standing on a siding as though waiting for the rebels to come and destroy them.  Mr. Small, however, to prevent if possible what would have been a great loss to the railroad company.  He and his fireman set to work and removed the nuts and bolts by which the stacks were attached to their engine, and in a short time the big iron funnel was loaded on a gondola car.  Under the ten mule power, the Susquehanna made her trip across the river.  In making the curve onto the bridge the front wheels left the rails.  Once again the York engineer’s ingenuity was called into play and with the aid of jacks and tackle he replaced the engine and the trip to Columbia was made without further mishap.

Mr. Small also assisted the other engineers to take the stacks off their engines and once on the Columbia side of the river the dismounted locomotives were coupled to trains and taken to Philadelphia.  The transportation was effected none too soon for Mr. Small had hardly reached Coatesville before the flames from the burning bridge lit up the darkening skies.

The above article appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot on 10 May 1907.

A map showing the area of concern was previously presented on this blog and is shown above for easy reference.

The George Small who was the railroad engineer from York County had no known Civil War military record.  In a very usual type error, a Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Card confuses him with a man who served in the 165th Pennsylvania Infantry.  But the man who served in that regiment was from Adams County, was only 16 years old when he joined that regiment, and had parents named Joseph Small and Lydia Small – clearly a different person.

George Small, railroad engineer, was born on 5 December 1835 to parents Josiah Small and Louisa [Shank] Small.  He was married twice, first to Mary Tomes, who died in 1874 and second to Frances “Fannie” Seitz who survived him. George Small died on 8 May 1907, as stated in his obituary.

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George Small (1835-1907)

A family picture including George Small and his second wife Fannie is available on Ancestry.com from which the above portrait of George was cropped.

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The death certificate of George Small (above) was obtained through Ancestry.com.

George Small is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery, York, York County, with both of his wives.  Further information about him can be found at his Findagrave Memorial.

For a story about the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, see Flames on the Susquehanna.  For a story about how Confederate General John B. Gordon saved the town of Wrightsville from burning, see Naked Man Visits Rebs on Rapidan.

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News clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Monuments at Gettysburg – 119th Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on March 27, 2015

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The 119th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Gettysburg is located south of the town of Gettysburg on Howe Avenue.  It was dedicated in 1889 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is the second monument to this regiment at Gettysburg;  the first monument is located on Big Round Top and was dedicated in 1885 by the regiment’s survivors.

The drawing of the monument pictured above is from a Philadelphia Inquirer article of 11 September 1889.

A picture of the monument can be seen on Stephen Recker’s Virtual Gettysburg Web Site which has more information about the monument and the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry.

A full description of the second monument, its GPS Coordinates, additional photographs, and some of the history of the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry, can be found on the Stone Sentinels Web Site.  There is also a picture and information about the first monument.

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Only a brief description of the activities of the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry was given in the Philadelphia Inquirer article of 11 September 1889:

How the 119th Was Engaged.

The 119th, under command of Colonel Peter C. Ellemaker, was massed on the second day in the rear of the 5th Corps.  On the extreme left of the line, in the rear of Round Top, it guarded against any flank movement, but did not become engaged.  On the 5th it took the advance in pursuit of the retreating enemy, striking his rear near Fairfield.

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Peter C. Ellmaker

Colonel Peter C. Ellmaker commanded the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg.

Ellmaker, who lived in Philadelphia and was active in civic and governmental affairs, was the chair of the committee that raised funds to form the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry, and upon organization was made its Colonel.  He served in that capacity from 1 September 1862 through his resignation from command on 12 January 1864.

When President-Elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Philadelphia in February 1861, Peter C. Ellmaker chaired the civic reception given to him, and again in April 1865, he chaired the arrangements for the memorial honors when Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in the city.

In July 1865, Ellmaker was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  On 19 February 1879 he applied for an invalid pension based on his Civil War service.  During the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, he served as Superintendent of Employees. Late in life he participated in the activities of several veterans’ organizations.

Peter C. Ellmaker died on 12 October 1890, leaving a widow.  His is buried in Mount Mariah Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Some additional information about him can be found at his Findagrave Memorial.  His obituary appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 12 October 1890 and the funeral was briefly described in the same newspaper on 15 October 1890.

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Around the base of the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg are a series of plaques which, by regiment and company, note the names of every soldier who was present at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The plaque for the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry is pictured below.  By clicking on the plaque it should enlarge so the names can be more clearly read.  If a name does not appear, it could be that the soldier did serve in the 119th Pennsylvania Infantry, but was not part of the regiment during its days at Gettysburg.  There could also be errors on the plaque.

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Who Was Philip Holler Who Died in Williamstown in 1904?

Posted By on March 26, 2015

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The Harrisburg Patriot of 1 June 1904 reported the death of Phil Haller, at Williamstown.

WILLIAMSTOWN

From the Patriot Correspondent

WILLIAMSTOWN, 31 May 1904 — Phil Haller, a Civil War veteran, died at his home of asthma and dropsy. He was seventy-four years of age. His funeral was held on Saturday at 2 p.m.  The local G.A.R. post attended the services.

A few days prior another announcement appeared in the same newspaper with similar as well as different information:

HallerPhilipS-Patriot-1904-05-28-001Philip Holler

The funeral of Joseph Holler, aged 74 years, a Civil War veteran, will be held from his home in Williamstown at 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon.

Note that in the body of the news brief, he is incorrectly referred to as Joseph Holler.

There is a Findagrave Memorial for a Philip S. Haller, who is buried at Seybert’s Cemetery in Williamstown, Dauphin County.  That Philip Haller, had a death date of 25 May 1904 and would seemingly be the one referenced in the two news clippings shown above.  The birth date of that Phil Haller is given as 2 October 1832, which by calculation would have made him less than 72 years old, close, but not quite a match with the 74 years given in the obituaries.  There is no photograph of Philip S. Haller‘s grave marker on the Findagrave site, but the memorial notes that he was “G.A.R.

A number of other items have been located in the Harrisburg Patriot over the period of 1877-1900, all for a Philip Holler. They include being selected as a member of a Dauphin County jury, and on each occasion noting the residence as Williams Township; and a legal contest over lands owned by Philip Holler and damages sought by him from the Williams Valley Railroad.  Finally, in 1900, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philip Holler of Williamstown was awarded a Civil War pension in the amount of $8.  These items establish the fact that Philip Holler lived in the Williamstown area for most of the time following the Civil War and that there was a Philip Holler who served in the Civil War as evidenced by the pension awarding in 1900.

In the Census of 1870, Philip Holler was a laborer outside of the mine and was living with his wife Mary Ann and six children in Williams Township.

In the Census of 1880, Philip Holler, who was born in Maryland, is living with his wife Mary and working as a farmer in Williams Township.  There are four Holler children living in the household.

In 1890, Philip Holler was living in Williams Township and reported that he had served in the 173rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company B, as a Private.  No other service was reported and he did not indicate any Civil War-related disabilities.

In 1900 in Williams Township, Philip Holler is a widower, working as an outside foreman for a mine.  His married daughter Emma is living in his household.  This census also indicates that he was born in Maryland, as were both of his parents.

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The Pension Index Card for Philip Holler (shown above from Fold3), shows that he applied for a pension on 19 December 1896, but also indicated that he served in the 93rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F.  For that latter service, he was not found in the Pennsylvania Archives card file nor was he found in any of the companies of the 93rd Pennsylvania Infantry in any of the available lists.  Also odd about the above card is the death date of 1905.  It is known from several sources that Philip died in 1904.

The 173rd Pennsylvania Infantry was a drafted regiment, where Philip Holler served from muster in on 1 November 1862 through his honorable discharge on 17 August 1863.

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News clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.