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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

More on Fort Jackson

Posted By on November 28, 2014

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Fort Jackson was on land of forty-one acres, fifty-five perches, in Gratz Borough, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and was part of 350 acres of land owned by Solomon Laudenslager, who inherited it from his father Jacob Laudenslager who had received the original patent in 1807.  In 1862, a sheriff’s sale transferred ownership from Solomon Laudenslager to Jonathan Holtzman and Dr. Isaiah Schminky.  Holtzman sold his undivided share to Dr. Schminky who owned it until his death.  This was a very early Laudenslager home, but later tenants lived in the old log house.  There has been some difficulty in identifying the tenants who lived here.  Most of the time, the Fort Jackson parcel was part of a vast acreage either owned by member(s) of the Laudenslager family or Dr. Isaiah Schminky.

One of the earliest possible tenants was Conrad Swenk, who may have lived at Fort Jackson in the late 1850s and early 1860s at a time when Solomon Laudenslager owned it.  In the 1860 Census, Swenk appears in a house on lands adjoining those of David Clark and Frederick Coleman, both of whom lived on properties that bordered on the Fort Jackson property.

Conrad Swenk (or Schwank or Shwenk), was born 12 April 1801, and died 27 March 1877.  He is buried in St. Matthew’s (Coleman’s) Cemetery in Lykens Township.  Conrad married Elizabeth [maiden name unknown], who was born 20 August 1807 and died 2 September 1870.  Their children included John Schwenk (19 September 1836 – 3 April 1895) who served in the Civil War in the 201st Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, as a Private.  He was mustered into service on 23 August 1864 and was mustered out with his company on 21 June 1865.  Unfortunately, John received a severe head wound during the war which made him mentally impaired for the remainder of his life.  He never married and was taken care of by his brother Jacob Schwenk and sister Mary Schwenk.

An interesting document was found in the pension application file of John Schwenk.  A portion of this document is shown below.

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The document consisted of a poorly reproduced photographed taken by Joseph Eby, photographer at Gratz, and a certification of what the photograph represented.  The text stated:  “The photograph [from 1895] is a true likeness of the home of Jacob Schwenk, Mary Schwenk, and John Schwenk….”  The home in the photograph bears a remarkable resemblance to the only previously-known photograph of Fort Jackson (top of post) that was taken about 1910, at which point the roof had collapsed.

Ralph Witmer (1894-1985) was a Gratz resident who provided information on Fort Jackson.  He had seen the structure as a youth and said that it was a one room log house with a ladder leading to a loft.  Ralph claimed that Peter Kembel (1819-1891) and his family were living at Fort Jackson in its earliest period of existence before moving to a house he [Kembel] purchased on Market Street in 1872.  The second known resident, according to Ralph Witmer, was Benjamin Crabb (1824-aft 1900), the son of Peter Crabb, one of the earliest settlers of GratzBenjamin Crabb was a blacksmith, an African American and the brother of John Peter Crabb, the Civil War veteran who later became a G.A.R. Post Commander in Harrisburg.  While the exact dates of Benjamin Crabb‘s residence at Fort Jackson are not known, he is mentioned as a “tenant” in Gratz in 1876 and he was known to be at Fort Jackson until around the mid-1880s.  Also known to have lived for a time at Fort Jackson was Jacob Hinkle who had a small sawmill across the Cold Stream that was in front of the property at a time when about four acres of wood were cleared around the house.  Hinkle was also known to have farmed the land on the north side of the house.

Harry Shiro (1905-1989) was another Gratz resident who recalled what old timers said about Fort Jackson.  Shiro’s recollections included that the house was of log construction and the foundation was of cut stone.  An outside door opened from the cellar on the north-west side of the house.  The house itself measured about 12 by 20 feet.  Shiro speculated that the name “Fort Jackson” could have been attributed to a man who lived with the Hinkle family.  Eventually, the house became dilapidated and eventually caved in around the foundation.

Isaiah Schminky‘s heirs sold the forty-one plus acres to Newton Schminky in 1901 and the land remained in the Schminky family for over a hundred years.

The most intriguing and mysterious thing about this property is the reason it was called Fort Jackson.  Perhaps it is because it was the area where the Gratztown Militia gathered before the Civil War.

For prior posts on Fort Jackson, see:

African Americans in Pennsylvania

Death and Funeral of Dr. Isaiah S. Schminky

Gratz During the Civil War – Fort Jackson

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Some of the information for the above post was taken from A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.

Monuments at Gettysburg – 69th Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on November 27, 2014

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The 69th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Gettysburg is located south of the town of Gettysburg, close to the Copse of Trees.  It was dedicated in 1887 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The drawing of the monument (above) is from the Philadelphia Inquirer article describing the regimental histories and ceremonies that took place in 1889.  For a picture of the monument, see Steven Recker’s Virtual Gettysburg Web Site which has more information about the monument and the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry.

A full description of the monument, its GPS coordinates, a photograph, and some of the history of the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry can be found on the Stone Sentinels Web Site.

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On 11 September 1889, the Philadelphia Inquirer included the following information on the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry in its article on the monument dedications:

“Hold This Road at All Hazards.”

Colonel Joshua T. Owen commanded the 69th both in the three months’ and three years’ service.  It contained mostly Irishmen of Philadelphia, robust, hardy, courageous.  It was this command that successfully carried out Hooker’s orders at White Oak Swamp- “Hold this position at all hazards!” – making “the first successful bayonet charge of the war,” with a loss of seven killed, twenty-two wounded, five taken prisoners.  The regiment, officered by Colonel O’Kane, Lieutenant Colonel Deveraux and Major Martin Tschudy, rose from the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge on the second day at Gettysburg and repulsed the enemy’s attack upon the 63rd Rhode Island Battery with deadly effect.  Every attack for two hours was received with a bloody repulse.  On the 3rd day they received the final desperate attack and threw the enemy’s splendid lines into confusion.  Though the right was finally forced back to the trees and left and centre held the position unflinchingly before the most fearful attack of the war.  Here both Colonel O’Kane and Lieutenant [Colonel] Tschudy were killed.  The Lieutenant had been wounded the day before.  Major Duffy taking command, though wounded, fought on till victory was won.

The comrades and friends will assemble at the Washington House at 10 o’clock A.M., and proceed in a body to Cemetery Ridge, where their monument stands on the field where Pickett’s Charge was repulsed.  Services will commence with prayer by Rev. Joseph A. Boll, orations by Colonel James O’Reilly and captain John E. Reilly.

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Dennis O’Kane (1818-1863)

Dennis O’Kane was the commander of the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg.  He joined the regiment as its Colonel on 19 August 1861.  At the time he was 43 years old and resided in Philadelphia.  No other personal information about him is available on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (below) available from the Pennsylvania Archives.

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On 3 July 1863, Colonel O’Kane was mortally wounded during Pickett’s Charge.  He is buried at Old Cathedral Cemetery, Philadelphia.  For further information about him, see his FindagraveMemorial.

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Martin Tschudy (18xx-xxxx)

 

Martin Tschudy took over command of the regiment after Dennis O’Kane was mortally wounded.  He was a Philadelphian at the time of the Civil War but was born about 1818 in Charleston, South Carolina.  There is no other personal information about him available on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (below) from the Pennsylvania Archives.  His promotion to Major came on 1 January 1863.  On 1 May 1863, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, the rank he held at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.

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The same fate befell Lieutenant Colonel Tschudy as did Colonel O’Kane.  He was mortally wounded on 3 July 1863.  More information about him can be found at his FindagraveMemorial.

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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 69th 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 69th Pennsylvania Infantry, but was not part of the regiment during its days in Gettysburg.  There could also be errors on the plaque.

069PA-Gettysburg-001a

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

 

The Death of Isaac Umholtz at Five Forks, Virginia

Posted By on November 26, 2014

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Isaac Umholtz of Gratz and Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, was only 17 years old when he enrolled in the 127th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, as a Private on 9 August 1862, although he claimed his age was 21.  His older brother Emanuel Umholtz stayed at home on the family farm helping the father, Samuel Umholtz (1814-1883).  By 29 May 1863, Isaac was discharged from the 127th Pennsylvania Infantry and he returned home in time to help on the farm as Lee approached the Pennsylvania border and an emergency was declared.  At the emergency, the older brother Emanuel, who had been part of the Gratztown Militia, went off with his comrades from that group arriving at Gettysburg in time to help with the battlefield clean-up.  Then Emanuel returned to the farm in August 1863.  Living with the family in 1850 was a 16 year old African American, Edward Crabb, who was working as a laborer.  Edward Crabb was also a member of this militia.

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Then both brothers again went off to war.  Isaac joined the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, on 14 September 1864, about seven months after brother Emanuel joined the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Since Isaac had prior service in a regular infantry regiment, he was given the rank of Sergeant.

The 210th Pennsylvania Infantry saw some rough fighting as told by Samuel P. Bates in History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865:

Soon after its organization, [the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry] was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac, before Petersburg, and was assigned to the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Fifth Corps, where it was associated with the Third and Fourth Delaware, and the remnants of the 190th Pennsylvania Infantry and 191st Pennsylvania Infantry, commanded by General Gwyn.

On 27-28 of October, it was engaged for the first time, at Hatcher’s Run, but suffered only small loss. On 5 December, it moved with the corps on the Bellefield Raid, which lasted for nearly a week, the column destroying the Weldon Railroad as it went, together with station houses, and the stores of the rebel government. The rails were heated, and bent in many fantastic shapes, some of them being twisted into the form of a Maltese Cross, as a certificate of the fact, that it was done by the Fifth Corps. The weather was intensely cold while upon this march, and the troops suffered much, causing many to fall out of the ranks, some of whom were captured and inhumanly murdered. After the return of the column, much sickness prevailed in the regiment, occasioned by the fatigue and exposure to which the troops were subjected, and many died, among them the Chaplain, Reverend Taylor D. Swartz.

In the action near Dabney’s Mills, on the 5-6 February, 1865, the regiment displayed great gallantry, Colonel Sergeant leading with his characteristic heroism and disregard of danger, sustaining considerable losses in killed, wounded, and missing.

On the 27 March, the movement upon Gravelly Run commenced, the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry taking the advance, and during the fierce actions of the three days which succeeded, it was at the fore front, displaying a stubborn bravery, which was unsurpassed, and sustaining losses which unmistakably show the fiery struggle through which it was called to pass. Colonel Sergeant was mortally wounded while gallantly leading his command. Adjutant Morris Schlesinger, a scarred veteran, and Captain John N. Hughes, were also mortally wounded. Schlesinger, when found upon the battle-field, weakened by his wounds, exclaimed, ” this is the death I have sought.” Captain A. T. Kinney was wounded in the throat, and so mangled that he was never after able to speak in an audible tone. Lieutenants William M. Colwell, and John Harding, were also among the wounded. Captain John Cook, and Lieutenant Hosea Hudson, were wounded and taken prisoners. The entire loss was thirty-five killed, one hundred and fifteen wounded, and one hundred and fifty missing.

The command now devolved upon Lieutenant Colonel Witman, who was subsequently commissioned Colonel, and under him, the regiment participated in the fierce fighting of 1 April, taking flags, small arms, and prisoners. In a charge made upon the enemy’s works, it displayed its wonted courage, sustaining heavy losses in killed and wounded…

It was there on the field at Five Forks, Virginia, on 1 April 1865 that Isaac Umholtz lost his life, one of the many casualties of that day’s fighting.

According to information in some records, Isaac Umholtz is buried at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia (Division A, Section D, Grave 69).  He does not have a Findagrave Memorial and a picture of his grave marker has not been seen.

The surviving brother, Emanuel Umholtz, was notified of his brother’s death while he was serving with the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

No Pension Index Card has been located for Isaac Umholtz indicating that no close relative qualified to receive benefits for his sacrifice.

Additional information is sought on this soldier from the Lykens Valley who died in the Civil War.  Comments can be added to this post or sent by e-mail.

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The screen capture of the regimental flag and military information is from Steve Maczuga’s web site, Pennsylvanian in the Civil War.  The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (top of post) is from the Pennsylvania Archives.

 

 

Monuments at Gettysburg – 68th Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on November 25, 2014

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The 68th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument at Gettysburg is located on Emmitsburg Road near the Peach Orchard.  It is one of two monuments to this regiment and was the first to be erected and dedicated, by members of the regiment in 1886. The second monument, not pictured here, was dedicated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1888.  The drawing of the monument (above) is from the Philadelphia Inquirer article describing the regimental histories and ceremonies.  For a picture of the monument, see Steven Recker’s Virtual Gettysburg Web Site which has more information about the monument and the 68th Pennsylvania Infantry.

A full description of the monument, its GPS coordinates, a photograph, and some of the history of the 68th Pennsylvania Infantry can be found on the Stone Sentinels Web Site.  The second monument is also pictured there with similar information.

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On 11 September 1889, the Philadelphia Inquirer included the following information on the 68th Pennsylvania Infantry in its article on the monument dedications:

A Position Held at All Hazards.

The 68th position, taken on the night of the 1st, was along the slight riedge extending diagonally across the open plain between Seminary and Cemetery Ridges and stretching obliquely back to a wood through a rocky ravine in front of Round Top.  In an angle near the house of John Wentz, in one of the most exposed parts of the field, the 68th was placed, a conspicuous mark for artillery which later carried away its men at every discharge.  This position was the key which had to be held at all hazards and the 68th could not but choose to stand there and be shot away, with no opportunity to reply.  Colonel Tippin was in command of the regiment, but when General Graham was wounded took command of the brigade.  In that orchard the colonel and major were wounded and ten other officers were killed and wounded, leaving but four to bring the regiment out of the field.  On the 3rd the regiment was held in reserve on the left centre and was not engaged, though exposed to the terrible artillery fire.  Colonel Tippin had his horse shot under him on this day and the loss was about 60 percent of the men engaged.  In October of that year, near Centreville, Colonel Tippin was taken prisoner and confined at Libby Prison for nine months.

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Andrew Hart Tippin commanded the 68th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg.  He was born Christmas Day 1822 in Philadelphia, where he resided at the time of the Civil War.   He enrolled in the regiment as its Colonel on 1 September 1862, the position he held at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.  As stated above, he was taken prisoner and confined at Libby in Richmond from 14 October 1863 through 25 June 1864.  His Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card from the Pennsylvania Archives, which contains some of the information about him, is pictured below.

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Andrew Hart Tippin died on 6 February 1870 and is buried in Pottstown Cemetery, Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  More information about him can be found at 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 68th 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 68th Pennsylvania Infantry, but was not part of the regiment during its days in Gettysburg.  There could also be errors on the plaque.

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

Jacob Dietz – Draftee in 177th Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on November 24, 2014

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Jacob Dietz (or Jacob Deitz) was born 8 May 1833 in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, the son of Johannes “John” Deitz (1793-1859) and Catharine [Stein] Deitz (1799-1873).  He died on 1 December 1907 at Ralpho Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and is buried at St. Peter’s Church Cemetery, Paxinos, Northumberland County.  He never married.  During the Civil War he was drafted and served as a Private in Company I, 177th Pennsylvania Infantry.

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The Pension Index Card  (above from Fold3) for Jacob Dietz gives the initial date of the application for benefits as 2 February 1895.  The pension was received.  However, the date of death on the card does not match the date of death on the Pennsylvania Death Certificate (above) from Ancestry.com.

The pension application file contains some interesting information, which is summarized below:

1.  Jacob Dietz described himself thus: 5 foot, 11½ inches, sandy hair, blue eyes, and [?] complexion…

2. Jacob Dietz claimed that he contracted rheumatism after he was struck in the ear by a sapling while he was chopping wood:

That while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of duty at Suffolk in the State of Virginia, on or about the [?] day of April 1863, he contracted rheumatism that before he contracted rheumatism that whilst chopping in the woods near Suffolk he was struck by a sapling on the ear which caused him to become entirely deaf in the right ear and had never been able to hear in it since…. That he was [not] treated in hospitals….

3. Jacob Dietz gave his residences and the names of the doctors who treated him:

Before me the subscriber a Justice of the Peace in and for said County [Northumberland] personally appeared Jacob Dietz late of Company I 177 Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry who after first being duly sworn according to law did depose and say that for about one year after his discharge his Post Office was Locust Dale, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, that since about one year after his discharge his Post Office has been Bear Gap, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. That he first suffered from rheumatism at West Suffolk, Virginia while in the service in the month of June 1863 and that from that time, his right ear became entirely deaf that Dr. Herington, Surgeon of the Regiment treated him while in the service. After he came home and lived at Locust Dale, Dr. Herrington treated him for about a year for rheumatism that Dr. Herrington died about 18 or 19 years ago. That since he moved to Bear Gap he was treated by Dr. L. D. Robins at different times until his death about 20 years ago that Dr. Y. F. Bigler next treated him for rheumatism that Y. F. Bigler lives in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, that Dr. Simon Hubler of Elysburg, Pennsylvania next treated him that at present he is unable to work at all that he has been for the last 8 or 9 years unable to follow his usual occupation by reason of the alleged disability and prior to 8 or 9 years ago he was troubled with rheumatism and unable to work at different times, sometimes for a month at a time.

Witness to Mark: Florence R. Vought, Clara Vought. Jacob..X (his mark)… Deitz

…11 August 1897…

4. Captain Benjamin J. Evitts made a statement on behalf of Jacob Dietz, who he claimed was the strongest man in the regiment:

Benjamin J. Evitts [testified]… that he was Captain of Company I, 177th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia in the late war and that sometime during the winter of 1863 there was a call of one man out of each Company of our Regiments to practice heavy artillery in Fort Halluck near Suffold, Virginia. My order was to end the strongest man I had, whereupon I selected and sent Jacob Dietz for said service and he served there until the expiration of our term of service and was legally discharged by me at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania…..   Benjamin J. Evitts (sig), 30 October 1897

5. The signature of Jacob Dietz was proof that he could not read or write:

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One additional document has surfaced for Jacob Dietz – his application for membership in the Gratz I.O.O.F.:

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The I.O.O.F. document dated 21 July 1860, gives Jacob’s residence as Lykens Township, his age as 24 years, his occupation as farmer, and the statement that he believed in the “existence of a Supreme Intelligent Being, the Creator and Preserver of the Universe.”  Jacob managed a crude signature that attested to what he was saying was true.

Jacob Dietz has not yet been located in the 1870 through 1900 censuses.

Any reader with additional information that can be provided can attach a comment to this post or send by e-mail.