Civil War Blog

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Daniel Binkley – Wounded at Spotsylvania, Died While a Prisoner

Posted By on May 6, 2013

On 9 April 1866, from his home in Llewellen, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Henry Brodt, who had served as Captain of Company A of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, provided a sworn statement in support of the pension application of the widow Harriet Binkley so that she could receive government support for herself and her young daughter:


Llewellen, 9 April 1866

I certify that Daniel Binkley was a Private of my Company A, 50th Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers and that he was taken prisoner while in the line of his duty and actively engaged with the enemy, 12 May 1864 at the Battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia, also that he was not considered a deserter, and that I have never heard anything of him since.

Henry Brodt

Late Captain, Company A, 50th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.

While the information from Capt. Henry Brodt was important to confirm the honorable service of Daniel Binkley, it was not sufficient to prove that Harriet was entitled to a widow’s pension.  Appearing before a prothonotary in Berks County, Harriet had to swear that she was married to David Binkley.  More than one piece of evidence was required.  Fortunately she had a statement from the preacher who had married her and Daniel, the Rev. Charles A. Pauli:


The statement from Rev. Pauli had to be examined by the prothonotary and entered on the official application form – she had married Daniel Binkley on 10 August 1863 at Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

So that she could get supplementary support for her daughter, Harriet also had to prove the date of birth of the daughter.  She supplied a baptismal record:


Mary Elizabeth Binkley had been born on 12 December 1863 and had been baptized at the German Reformed Church in Reading by Rev. B. Bausman.

The pension file indicates that Harriet [Nixen] Binkley was awarded a pension, with benefits starting on 13 May 1864, one day after the supposed date of death of her husband.

But, did Daniel Binkley die on 12 May 1864?  And, what was his cause of death?  Although the Pension Bureau accepted the date of 12 May 1864, other records are not so clear.  For example, the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, available from the Pennsylvania Archives, gives the following information:


Daniel Binkley, who was 22 years old at the time of his enrollment at Pottsville, 26 February 1964, as a Private, was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, was a laborer, had dark hair, a fair complexion, hazel eyes, and stood nearly 5 foot, 5 inches tall.  He was mustered into service at Pottsville the next day. The file card notes that his date of death was unknown and that he died of disease, “while in Rebel hands.”

The database, American Civil War Soldiers, actually gives a date of death – which supposedly references Bates – a date that is different that that accepted by the Pension Bureau:

BinkleyDaniel-ACWS-001In the American Civil War Soldiers database, the date of death is given as 17 June 1864 – at Petersburg, Virginia.

The following dates are given in the chronology of battles fought by the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry:

Fought on 6 May 1864 at Wilderness, VA.
Fought on 9 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 10 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 11 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 12 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 13 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 15 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 25 May 1864 at North Anna River, VA.
Fought on 25 May 1864.
Fought on 30 May 1864 at North Anna River, VA.
Fought on 1 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 2 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 3 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 7 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 15 Jun 1864.
Fought on 17 Jun 1864 at Petersburg, VA.

Fighting at Spotsylvania, which occurred from 9 May to the 15 May 1864, was one month prior to the 50th’s fighting at Petersburg.  If Daniel Binkley was captured at Spotsylvania, and died shortly thereafter, he could not have fought at Petersburg.

One final piece of evidence was found in the Pension Application File:


The above document, from the Adjutant General’s Office, confirms that the date of death of Daniel Binkley was unknown and that the “evidence” that he died was found on the muster rolls, which were dated 30 July 1865:  “Died of disease while in Rebel hands date unknown.  Date, place and cause of death not stated.”  It was this statement, along with the statement of Capt. Henry Brodt, that satisfied the Pension Bureau that Daniel Binkley died  – but it is still unclear as to whether additional corroboration was needed in order to determine that he died on 12 May 1864.

No actual record of his death has been located – other than the date accepted by the Pension Bureau – and no actual Prisoner of War record has been located.  It appears that without the statement of Henry Brodt, a date of death could not have been established.

Following her receipt of the widow’s pension, Harriet [Nixen] Binkley raised her daughter in Reading.  The daughter, Mary Elizabeth Binkley, eventually married George W. Phillips, moulder, around 1881 and continued to live in Reading where she raised a family.  Their known children were:  Charles M. Phillips, corn around 1882; Ellen A. Phillips, born around 1886; Walter D. Phillips, born around 1890; and George W. Phillips Jr., born around 1896.  Harriet lived with her daughter and her daughter’s family until her death, believed to be around 1900.  She never re-married.


Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Cards are from the Pennsylvania Archives.  Twenty-three pages of the Widow’s Pension Application are available at Fold3.  The database, American Civil War Soldiers, is available at Ancestry.com.


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