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Knouff Family in the Civil War – Pennsylvania Records Error

Posted By on February 19, 2011

Tragically, two Pennsylvanians named Knouff did not survive the war.  David Knouff, who died of a condition contracted during the war and John Knouf, who was killed at Dabney’s Mill in Virgina, both served in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, and both were from the area around Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, their records are confused in the Pennsylvania Archives.


David Knouff (1815-1863) was born in the Halifax Township area of Dauphin County, on 9 October 1815.  He died on 3 October 1863 at home as a result of complications from chronic diarrhea and probably typhoid fever which he contracted while in the Civil War.  David Knouff is buried in Long’s Cemetery in Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, his grave marker broken and lying on the ground.  Noted on the marker is his Civil War service in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry.

In 1860, David Knouff was the head of his household which included his wife, Barbara [Sweigart] Knouff.  Their son, Ira Franklin Knouff, 5 years old, was also living in the household as was Barbara’s father David Sweigart, age 63.  who indicated he was a “gentleman” by occupation.  Another member of Barbara’s family, Catherine Sweigart, age 43, was living in the household as a servant.  David and Barbara had been married 26 December 1852 in Jackson Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, by Acting Justice of the Peace, Daniel A. Meunch.  A next door neighbor, Charles W. Ryan, then age 19, would later become well known for being the cashier who was killed in the armed robbery of the Halifax National Bank in 1901.

After the Civil War began, David Knouff enlisted in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D.  Knowing what happened from the point of enlistment and muster to his death becomes a puzzle because David’s records and the records of John Knouff, also of the Halifax area and also a member of the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, somehow became confused.  It is correct that both David Knouff and John Knouff died as a result of their service in the Civil War.  According to records from the Pennsylvania Archives, David Knouff died in 1865 and John Knouff died in 1863.

The portion of the Register of Pennsylvania Volunteers for the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry showing both John Knouff and David Knouff is reproduced below:

From this roll we learn that David Knouff was killed in action at Dabney’s Mills, Virginia, on 7 February 1865 (click on picture to enlarge and note red number “1” on both pages of the register) and John Knouff died of disease in Pennsylvania on 4 October 1863.  Actually, what happened to the two men is reversed in the register!  The Pennsylvania Archives register is in error!  Note that there is also a second John Knouff in the same regiment and company – John W. Knouff (see picture above, two names up from David Knouff). John W. Knouff survived the war, but was discharged in 1862 with a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability and he will be the subject of the final post in the series on the Knouff family in the Civil War.

The first indication that something was wrong came when it was noticed that the grave marker for David Knouff in Long’s Cemetery, Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, noted his death date as 3 October 1863.  If David Knouff died at Dabney’s Mills in 1865, why was his year of death listed as 1863 on the stone?  Gravestones are not always correct, but further checking was needed.  The grave location for John Knouff, who Pennsylvania Archives records say died in 1863, has not yet been located, so consulting other records is necessary.

Fortunately, the Civil War Research Project has copies of records from the pension application files of David Knouff‘s widow, Barbara [Sweigert] Knouff.  Based on those records, the correct story is as follows:

According to a sworn statement made by the widow Barbara A. Knouff, made on 18 November 1864 in Dauphin County, before a Prothonotary, and verified by two witnesses, Jacob D. Hoffman and Daniel A. Meunch, David Knouff enlisted in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, under Captain Norris.  He died at Matamoras, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 3 October 1863 of typhoid fever, which he contracted while in the line of duty.  She also declared that while David Knouff was in the service, he was taken prisoner at Gettysburg, but then paroled.  Afterward he went to his home and died.  He left one child, Ira Franklin Knouff, age 11. without means of support.  Additional papers in support of Barbara’s claim that she was his widow, was a separate statement from Daniel A. Meunch indicating that on 26 December 1852, while he was Acting Justice of the Peace in Jackson Township, he married Barbara and David.

The final piece of evidence to prove that it was David Knouff who died of disease in 1863 was a statement by Henry Herr of Harrisburg on 6 June 1871:

That on or about the 10th day of July 1864 [sic] he found a certain David Knouff a soldier private of Co. D 107th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in Harrisburg shortly after some battle (he had come there along with a number of Union soldiers who were being transported from Harrisburg to some place of comfort).   They were sick and wounded men… and he was in a very bad condition being afflicted with chronic diarrhea and that he was very thin… and his feet was much swollen… in a sick condition and that when he found him so badly used up and sick that he took him into his house where he remained until the next day and that he found some means of getting home where he heard shortly afterwards he died….

The date of 1864 given in the testimony was obviously incorrect as the statement also includes information about the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place in July 1863.  The important parts of the testimony are that it was David Knouff that he took into his home and it was David Knouff that was suffering from disease – and that this happened before 1865.

But Barbara Knouff was not immediately awarded the pension.  Information was requested from the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania.  Did David serve in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D?  Did he die of a war-related cause?  One document sent by the Adjutant General repeated the same error as in the register reproduced above.  This confusion continued to exist up until 1871, when Barbara pleaded to have the Commissioner of Pensions interfere in her case so that she could receive a pension.  Did Barbara Knouff get a widow’s pension?   The Pension Index Card to the National Archives records is shown below:

A certificate number is a sure indication that Barbara Knouff was finally successful with her application.  She was awarded a widow’s pension.  Unfortunately, at the this time, we don’t know when that occurred.  An examination of the entire pension file at the National Archives in Washington may reveal more information.  Barbara Knouff could not have applied for a pension prior to 1865 if her husband David Knouff did not die until 1865.  Therefore, the record in the Pennsylvania Archives must have been transcribed incorrectly and David Knouff was confused with John Knouff.  That transcription error was was carried into several secondary sources, including Samuel Bates, the Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans Card File, and Steve Maczuga’s Pennsylvania Civil War Project.  To be fair to the secondary sources, their information was most likely based on what appeared to be official rolls or registers of the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry.  A nineteenth century clerk, copying the registers, must have transposed the names.  This example of error is proof that it is always important to cross-check sources and find the most accurate information.


By a process of elimination, John Knouff was killed at Dabney’s Mills, Virginia, on or about 7 February 1865.

John Knouff (1843-1865) was born about 1843, probably in Matamoras, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  His mother’s name was Elizabeth,which was discovered from pension application records.

In 1850, John Knouff was living with his parents in Jackson Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  from the Census of 1850, we learn that his father’s name was Henry Knouff, who was a laborer, and he had an older brother Richard Knouff, who was about 5 years old.

Confirmation that this is the correct John Knouff comes from the indication that he was 19 years old when he enrolled in the 107th Pennsyvlania Infantry, Company D, as a Private.  The Veterans File Card reproduced below shows the age of 19 at enlistment, which would have made him about 3 years old at the time of the Census of 1850 (shown above).  However, the incorrect death information is recorded on the card.

Confirmation that John Knouff‘s mother’s name was Elizabeth was found on the Pension Index Card for the National Archives Records shown below:

The Pension Index Card gives a “Certificate Number” indicating that Elizabeth Knouff, mother of John Knouff actually received a pension based on her son’s war service and death, although to find the date the pension was actually awarded, consultation of the full pension file at the National Archives in Washington would be required.

The purpose of this post was to sort out the available records of David Knouff and John Knouff, both of whom died as a result of their war experience.  The error that was found in the registers at the Pennsylvania Archives has now been noted and, at least for the purposes of this Civil War Research Project, the correct information is given.  The final post on the Knouff family will appear tomorrow and will discuss John W. Knouff of the Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania area.  Further information is needed on all the persons with the Knouff family name who served in the Civil War as well as information on if or how they are connected or related to each other.

Information for this post was obtained from Ancestry.com (census information, Pension Index Cards), the Pennsylvania Archives (register of volunteers, veterans card file), and the Civil War Research Project collection.


One Response to “Knouff Family in the Civil War – Pennsylvania Records Error”

  1. David Knouff says:

    Norman – I really did enjoy your dissertation on my old regiment and us Knouffs. It’s about time someone straightened out the records. Any idea the identity of the Confederate regiment that captured me at Gettysburg? I didn’t pay any attention at the time but now I would really like to know…

    Thank you,
    David Knouff

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