Posted By Norman Gasbarro on March 9, 2011
(Part 3 of ongoing series). The National Civil War Museum is located high on a hilltop overlooking Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The museum aims to provide a balanced view and to inspire lifelong learning through preservation and research about the Civil War. It has become a national destination for “families, students, civil war enthusiasts and historians to experience and research the culture and history of the American Civil War.”
On the grounds of the museum is “The Walk of Valor” – a red brick path symbolizing the blood shed and bearing the names of Civil War veterans honored by their surviving descendants. There is a section for each state and all states that fought in the war have a stone marker indicating the number of soldiers that fought and the number of soldiers that died.
One brick honors Peter Erb:
As can be seen by the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Cards, two persons named Peter Erb served in the 79th Pennsylvania Infantry.:
Both enrolled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at about the same time. Both indicated residence in Lancaster County. Peter S. Erb was mustered into Company G, 1 October 1861, at age 18. Peter Erb was mustered into Company E, 6 October 1861, at age 21. Both were initially enrolled as privates. Both re-enlisted at about the same time in February 1864. Both were mustered out on the same date, 12 July 1865.
Peter S. Erb of Company E was younger by 3 years, had light complexion, light hair, grey eyes and was the shorter of the two, being 5 foot four inches tall. He gave his occupation as clerk.
Peter Erb of Company G was the older by 3 years, had a dark complexion, dark hair and brown eyes, and was the taller of the two, being 5 foot 7 and a half inches tall. He gave his occupation as shoemaker. At some point during his service, this Peter Erb was promoted to Sergeant.
Initially, Peter Erb found his way into the list of veterans from the Lykens Valley area via the 1890 Veterans Census for Fisherville, Jackson Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
The Peter Erb in the 1890 Veterans Census for Fisherville is the one who served in the 79th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company G, as a Sergeant. Peter reported “disease of the kidneys” as a disability. Since the Peter Erb in the 1890 Veterans Census is reportedly the same Peter Erb as on the brick at the National Civil War Museum Walk of Valor, we can conclude that the brick honors a person who should be included in the Civil War Research Project. But then, who is the other Peter Erb – from the same place (Lancaster County) and who enrolled in the same regiment, but a different company? In examining other records, the knowledge that there were two Peter Erb‘s in the same regiment, should help us identify which is which.
To begin, the Sgt. Peter Erb of Company G was 21 when he enlisted. He was therefore born about 1840. Pvt. Peter S. Erb of Company E was 18 when he enlisted. He was therefore born about 1843. Of course, this assumes they didn’t lie about their ages.
The next records to examine are the Pension Index Cards. The card for each has been located:
The first card is for Peter S. Erb, who served in Company E, 79th Pennsylvania Infantry. We learn from this card that this Peter applied for an invalid pension in 1890 from Kansas and was awarded a pension. He died around 1900 as that is the date his widow, Amanda Erb applied for a widow’s pension, also from Kansas, which she also received. The trail for this unknown Peter S. Erb will take us to Kansas! We know that the 1890 Veterans Census for Kansas is not available as it was destroyed in a fire that consumed most of the 1890 records, but there are other records for Kansas that could place him there.
The second card is for the Sgt. Peter Erb who resided in Fisherville in 1890 and who served in Company G, 79th Pennsylvania Infantry. The date is not clear when he applied – but appears to be in the 19th Century. He received a pension. There is no widow mentioned, so either he was married and he survived his wife, or he was not married.
Next, we seek burial records. A record entitled “Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans,” the following card was found for Peter S. Erb of Company E:
The above card leads us to the Washington Cemetery, Washington, Washington County, Kansas. The death date on the card is 20 October 1900. A quick search of the Find A Grave database helps us confirm the cemetery and death year – and give us the birth year of 1844. This roughly matches the information on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Card File for Peter S. Erb who was about 18 when he enrolled in Company E.
Further search of veterans records for Kansas produced the following registration page from the Soldiers’ Home in Leavenworth, Kansas:
The above page ties together much of the known information about Peter S. Erb. There is additional information about his military record, his place of death and cause of death, and his wife Amanda is mentioned. But, since we have no evidence that this Peter S. Erb ever had any connection with the Lykens Valley area, we can temporarily abandon any further searching for information on him.
What then happened to the other Peter Erb, the one who was living in Fisherville in 1890, and was a sergeant in Company G of the 79th Pennsylvania Infantry – and the one who is recognized on the brick on the Walk of Valor at the National Civil War Museum?
Our “shoemaker” appears in the 1880 census for Jackson Township, Dauphin County. He is married – wife’s name Julia A. Erb – and he has an 18 year old son George P. Erb who is also working as a shoemaker. He s 39 years old, which would make his birth year consistent with the approximate 1840 date that was assumed from the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card.
Again, the “shoemaker” is found in the 1870 Census for the same township in Dauphin County, as head of household, with wife Julia, two minor children and an apprentice shoemaker by the name of Emanuel Ludwick:
From the records of the 41st National Encampment of the G.A.R., held in 1907, at Saratoga Springs, New York, we learn that Peter Erb attended as the Post Commander of the G.A.R. Post at Fisherville, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
In searching for the grave of Peter Erb on Find A Grave, no results were obtained that could be a good match. However, in referring back to the Halifax Area Bicentennial History Book which was used as a basis for the post on the Halifax Area Civil War Veterans, we find a “Peter Herb” in New Fisherville Cemetery List. Could this be the Sgt. Peter Erb who is the subject of this post? A visit to the New Fisherville Cemetery will have to be made to confirm this.
While several questions have been answered in this on-going research, many questions still remain. Readers are invited to fill in the missing details and supply any information about either Peter Erb (were they related?) – but particularly the Peter Erb, the shoemaker who ended up as the Post Commander of the G.A.R. at Fisherville. This research to date has yielded some interesting results and the records give us a clear basis for separating the two men with the same name, from the same place, who served in the same regiment. Both survived the war and must have had common experiences – but after the war they went different ways.
Many of the records for this post came from Ancestry.com (census, veterans’ home register, pension index cards, card for headstones provided). Some of the information came from the Pennsylvania Archives (Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Cards).