Civil War Blog

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Pvt. Daniel Carl – Norman R. Rothermel Recalls

Posted By on March 22, 2011

For the 200th Anniversary of Klingerstown, Pennsylvania, a Bicentennial Book Committee was formed and the result was a professionally produced commemoration of its history, Klingerstown Bicentennial Album, 1807-2007.  A large section of that book pertained to the Civil War and the soldiers who served from Klingerstown area.  Several interesting stories were told by Norman R. “Dick” Rothermel and they were reproduced in the Bicentennial Album. Dick is a Civil War historian and has a large library of Civil War books and has read and studied extensively about the war, but more importantly he has collected stories about the men who fought and he willing shares them – also, he is related to many of them!

This post will focus on one story he told about Pvt. Daniel Harrison Carl (1844-1911) of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Dick Rothermel’s grandfather.

Like Gideon Wolf, Daniel Carl also served in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, as did many boys from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.  Daniel’s name is also found as “Danial” in the records.

Daniel Carl had the privilege of seeing Gen. Lee surrender at Appomattox Court House where Gen. Lee and Gen. Grant signed “unconditional surrender,” 9 Apr 1865.  Daniel got to see this great event only after participating in the Battle of Petersburg.  After forcing the rebel army out of Petersburg, the Union soldiers were instructed to stay and occupy the town.  Along with a few of his headstrong buddies, Daniel decided to follow the Confederate army.  After they got out of Petersburg, they lightened their load of everything that slow them down on the journey.  Some days they marched 30 miles on foot.  They threw away most of their army issues keeping only their guns, gunpowder and bullets.  Traveling west from Petersburg a distance of about 100 miles, they were able to see the great Gen. Lee surrender at the McLean Farm House near Appomattox Court House.

How likely is it that several soldiers from the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry were able to leave their units in Petersburg and travel west about 100 miles and witness the surrender?

To begin with, a battle map of Virginia in 1865 is shown below.  The Battle of Petersburg took place on 2 April 1865.

To travel that distance at that time meant that the men would have mad to move through an area where the final battles and skirmishes of the Civil War were taking place:  Note the location of Petersburg, and then follow the route west.  2 April 1865, Sutherland Station;  3 April 1865, Namozine Creek; 5 April 1865, Amelia Springs; 6 April 1865, Sayler’s creek; 6 April 1865, Rice’s Station; 6 – 7 April 1865, High Bridge; 8 April 1865, Appomattox Station; and finally, 9 April 1865, Appomattox Court House.  Click here for source of map.

It is possible that this could have been done, if the battles were not intense.

Next, it will be necessary to see if the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry was stationed in Petersburg after its capture on 2 April 1865.  From the Union Army, Volume I:

At Petersburg it [the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry] was in support of the troops that made the assault after the mine explosion; joined in the engagement at the Weldon railroad, and in the final assault on the city, 2 April 1865. About the middle of April it  proceeded to Washington and remained there until 30 June 1865, when it was ordered to Gettysburg to represent the infantry of the Union army at the corner stone ceremonies of the National Monument, 4 July 1865, and returned to camp at Georgetown, where it was mustered out on 31 July 1865.

According to the history, the regiment did make the final assault on the city and apparently remained there until the middle of April.  Therefore, if the regiment was on guard duty, and men were assigned in shifts, it is possible that some of the men were given rest or even leave until mid-March.

Finally, we can look at the general military information about Daniel Carl to see if he was reported missing during the first part of April.  Daniel’s Pennsylvania Veterans Index Card is reproduced below:

The second item above is from Steve Maczuga’s Pennsylvania Civil War Project.  The muster dates are the same and there is no mention on either item of Daniel Carl missing, deserting, or leaving his regiment.

The most interesting thing though on the Pennsylvania Veterans Index Card is the date and place of enrollment – Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania – 30 January 1865 – the exact same date and place as Gideon Wolf.  In the post yesterday, it was mentioned that Gideon enrolled in Reading in order to avoid the Schuylkill County recruiters.  Was Daniel also avoiding the Schuylkill County recruiter at Pottsville?

In any event, the story of Daniel Carl has an element of truth to it in that the geography and time frame supports it and his regiment had no activity after Petersburg until mid-April.  Many stories like this are passed down in families.  Is the story true?  What do you think?

Below is a picture of Union troops around the McLean Farm House in April 1865.

Some information for this post, including the story about Daniel Carl‘s enlistment, was taken from the Klingerstown Bicentennial Album, 1807-2007.  Military record with regimental flag is a screen capture from Steve Maczuga’s Pennsylvania Civil War Project, which has previously reviewed here.  Pennsylvania Veterans Index Card is from the Pennsylvania Archives. The picture of the McLean Farm House is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.


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