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Civil War Blog

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Disability – 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I – Part 1

Posted By on October 7, 2011

Capt. Benjamin J. Evitts (1822-1909)

As previously reported on this blog, the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, was a drafted militia unit whose Captain was Benjamin J. Evitts of the Lykens Valley.  An examination of the roll of this company reveals an interesting, unexplained phenomenon.  Of the 98 draftees who reported to Camp Curtin near Harrisburg in the early days of November 1862, most were from Dauphin County.  But thirteen of these draftees were from Columbia County.  Most of the draftees from Dauphin County were mustered into the service in Company I and most of these served nine months until their term of service expired on 7 August 1863 when they received honorable discharges.  However, of the thirteen draftees from Columbia County, none served a term in Company I and all thirteen were discharged on Surgeon’s Certificates of Disability.  The rolls of the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, which are available in the Pennsylvania Archives, confirm this.  See Company I, page 1; Company I, page 2; Company I, page 3; and Company I, page 4.  The selection Evitts as Captain took place place on 25 November 1862 and was made by Gov. Andrew Curtin as stated in the rolls, and this occurred many days after most of the men arrived at Camp Curtin and after all the men from Columbia County had been sent home.

So what occurred which caused the discharge of all the Columbia County draftees?  The several proposed explanations include disease and political corruption or influence.

Did these men report sick to Camp Curtin?  An examination of the individual reasons for their discharges might answer this question.   It is possible that this occurred and that they were kept together or isolated upon their arrival in order to prevent the spread of disease to the other draftees.  Getting them out of the camp early would have been a proper response of the surgeons who had neither time nor the facilities to treat the sick and would have done all in their power to prevent the infection of the healthy recruits.

Was there political influence?  If the men did not come to camp sick, then is it possible that someone from Columbia County exerted influence on the surgeons to get these men discharged.  The Pennsylvania draft which required these men to report was new and many politicians disagreed with the idea of drafting men into service.  The influence would have had to have been done through the surgeon and may have come from an elected official from Columbia County.  The rolls available at the Pennsylvania Archives do not reveal the name of the surgeon or surgeons who signed the discharges and this information would only be available through the individual military records of the men who were discharged.  Interestingly, all of the thirteen received credit for military service and are found in the military data bases and  the draft board of Columbia County received credit toward their quota for supplying these men to the militia – although none actually served!  And, no records haveyet  been found for any of the thirteen in any other Civil War regiment!

The thirteen Columbia County men, with some basic information about each, are given below.  The individual index card from the Pennsylvania Archives is also shown and gives the Bates references which essentially has the same details as found in the Pennsylvania Archive roll for Company I, 177th Pennsylvania Infantry.  By clicking on the name of the “veteran,” there is a link to Steve Maczuga’s Pennsylvania Civil War Project entry for each.

JOHN W. GAITON.  Born about 1821.  Also found as Gaitan.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 4 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 4 November 1862.

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THOMAS GINGLES.  Born about 1840.  Also found as Gingle.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 4 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 4 November 1862.

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DANIEL MENCLE.  Born about 1829.  Also found as Mencel and possibly Menkle.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 2 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 2 November 1862.

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JACOB MILLER.  Born about 1839.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 2 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 2 November 1862.

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JOHN R. MILLER.  Born about 1819.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 2 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s certificate of Disability on 2 November 1862.

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ELI K. OHLE.  Born about 1827.  Also found as Ohl and Ohel and “E.K.”  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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JOSEPH C. PARKER.  Born about 1840.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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ELIAS REICHARD.  Born about 1841.  Also found as Richard and possibly Rickert or Rickerd.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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ABRAHAM T. ROBINS.  Born about 1837.  Also found as Robbins.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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CHARLES SHAFFERBorn about 1819.  Also found as Schaeffer.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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PHILIP SHOEMAKER.  Born about 1823.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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JESSE SOMMERS.  Born about 1829.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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MICHAEL WHITMIGHT.  Born about 1831.  Also found as Whitnight and Whitenight.  Draftee from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  Mustered in on 1 November 1862 by Lt. Fetterman.  Discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 1 November 1862.

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To be fair, there were other men who reported at Camp Curtin to this same company who were discharged on Surgeon’s Certificates of Disability.  Also, there were deserters and several men who were discharged because they paid for substitutes.  These will be discussed in the post tomorrow and in subsequent posts.

If anyone knows why all thirteen men from Columbia County who were mustered into Company I of the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry were discharged on Surgeon’s Certificates of Disability on the same day they were mustered in, please enlighten the readers of this blog with the information.  Also, any follow-up on what later happened to any of these individuals is also sought.

The portrait of Capt. Evitts at the top of this post is from a family collection that was donated to the Gratz Historical Society.  It shows Benjamin J. Evitts wearing his G.A.R. uniform on the porch of his Lykens Township residence.  Prior posts on Benjamin J. Evitts can be located by clicking on the tag, “Evitts Family.”  For prior posts on the 177th Pennsylvania Infantry, click here.

 


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