Posted By Norman Gasbarro on October 24, 2014
A brief death notice appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot on 5 May 1887:
His Name Only Known.
Benjamin Gratzer, who died at the county almshouse on Monday night, and late a member of Company B, Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry [9th Pennsylvania Cavalry]. will be buried this afternoon from the undertaking establishment of E. F. Neely, under the Indigent Soldiers’ Act. Interment at East Harrisburg Cemetery.
Benjamin Gratzer, or Benjamin Kratzer as he is presently found in records of the Civil War Research Project was a Private in Company B of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He enrolled at Harrisburg on 29 May 1864 as replacement member of a company that had suffered great losses in the war. He was mustered into service on the same day as enrollment claiming his age was 23. There is no other personal information about him on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (shown below) from the Pennsylvania Archives.
Initially, Benjamin Kratzer was added to the Civil War Research Project though information obtained in the 1890 Veterans’ Census for Uniontown (Pillow) and Mifflin Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania:
As noted in the census (reported by his widow “Catharine A.”), Benjamin Krotzer served as a Private in Company B, 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry, from 29 May 1864 through 18 July 1865. Other than the spelling of the surname, the information matches the Veterans’ Card (above). Catharine also did not indicate that her husband had any disability as a result of the war and gave her post office address as Pillow. Because of the number of persons in the same geographical area with the surname “Kratzer,” it was assumed that he was a member of that family. That may not be so.
Subsequent research has shown that Benjamin’s surname also appears as Cratzer and Gratzer and no connection has yet been made to the Kratzer family of the Lykens Valley area.
Of the two Pension Index Cards (top one above from Ancestry.com and bottom one above from Fold3), the record indicates that Benjamin Kratzer never applied for a pension. This was probably due to the fact that he received no injury during the war which would have qualified him, and he died before 1890 when the requirements were relaxed sufficiently to allow for “old age” to be a factor in pension approvals. Also, the widow did not apply until 28 October 1913. From the Ancestry.com card, the widow’s name is given as Catharine A. Garis. The gap between her application and the death of her husband as well as the surname “Garis” suggests that she re-married someone named Garis at some point both after 1887 (death of husband) and 1890 (the census) and that Garis died before her date of application (28 October 1913) leaving her without support. Garis was probably not a veteran of the war, or there would have been an indication on the card that her application was merged with his. Also, “Garis” was most likely not the maiden name of Catherine – unless she was never actually married to Benjamin. If this later speculation is correct, why would she wait so long to make application for benefits? By re-marrying, she had financial support through her new husband and regardless of the fact that was a widow of veteran, she would have been ineligible for a widow’s pension. The answer should be in the pension application file, which is available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. That file has not been consulted for this blog post.
Benjamin Kratzer is not mentioned in Yankee Cavalrymen, a history of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry by John A. Rowell. With Benjamin’s dates of service it could be concluded that he was with the regiment during its final days of service which would have included Sherman’s march to the sea.
For further information on the Dauphin County Almshouse and available records, go to http://www.poorhousestory.com/PA_DAUPHIN_Co.htm.
As previously stated, attempts thus far to connect him to families in the Lykens Valley area have been unsuccessful. Who were his parents? What was his wife’s maiden name? Did he have any children? Are there any surviving pictures of him? Who was Garis? These questions are presented in the hope that a reader of this blog can provide an answer.