Civil War Blog

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William Henry Egle – Army Surgeon, Physician and Historian

Posted By on September 17, 2013


Noted Pennsylvania and Dauphin County historian Dr. William H. Egle died at his home on 19 February 1901.  His many books and other writings include much information on the early development of the Lykens Valley area, including Gratz Borough.  During the Civil War, he served as an army surgeon in both the 96th Pennsylvania Infantry and the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry.  His obituary tributes appeared in Pennsylvania newspapers as well as the New York Times and some are transcribed below.

From the Harrisburg Patriot:


Attack of “Grip” Developed Into Pneumonia and Caused His Sudden Death


Harrisburg, 20 February 1901 — Early last evening occurred the death of Dr. William Henry Egle, at his home in this city after an illness of a week, from an attack of “grip” which developed into pneumonia.  No funeral arrangements have as yet been made.

Dr. Egle was born in this city 17 Sep 1830.  His parents were John Egle and Elizabeth von Treuful, both natives of Pennsylvania.  The father dying when the son was four years old, the latter made his home with his paternal grandfather.  He was educated in the public and private schools of Harrisburg and at the Harrisburg military institute under the former Captain Alden partridge.

In 1843 he was tendered the appointment of midshipman in the United States Navy, but declined the honor.  At the close of his school life he spent three years in the office of the “Pennsylvania Telegraph,” during which time he was foreman of the establishment, subsequently taking charge of the state printing, which was done at that office.  He was afterward editor of the “Literary Companion” and the “Daily Times” of this city.  After serving in the local post office he graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1857.

He practiced medicine in this city and during the war was a surgeon in the Union Army.  He was at one time Chief Medical examiner of General Jackson’s Division.  After the war he was appointed Pension Examiner and for twenty years he was physician at the county prison in this city.

Dr. Egle was appointed Sate Librarian on March 1887, by Governor Beaver and re-appointed by Governor Pattison.  He served also under Governor Hustings.  Dr. Egle was also Surgeon in the National Guard for many years after its organization.

It was as a historian that Dr. Egle was best known.  He was the author of histories of Pennsylvania, Dauphin and Lebanon Counties, “Centennial County of Dauphin and City of Harrisburg,” “Harrisburg of the Susquehanna,” and many other well known works of local and national importance.  The most valuable of his books are those relating to the services of the Pennsylvania line of the Revolution.

In 1878, Lafayette College conferred the degree of A.M. on Dr. Egle and he was an honorary member of a large number of historical societies in this country and England.  He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic [G.A.R.], Loyal Legion, Sons of the American Revolution, and many other patriotic societies.


Also from the Harrisburg Patriot:



The funeral of the late William H. Egle took place yesterday afternoon from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.  The services were conducted by the rector, Rev. Ernest F. Smith, and were attended by a large number of the friends of the deceased.

Delegations from the Dauphin County Historical Society, the Dauphin County Medical Society, and the Academy of Medicine and other historical societies were present.  The funeral procession left the late home of Dr. Egle, No. 305 North Second Street, at a few minutes before 2 o’clock and proceeded to the church.  The pallbearers were:  Lieutenant Governor J. P. S. Gobin, D. C. A. Rahter, James M. Lamberton, Dr. John Vallerchamp, Henry D. Boas and William B. Hammond.  The interment was made in the Harrisburg Cemetery.


From the New York Times, 20 February 1901.

Dr. William H. Egle

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, 10 February 1901 — Dr. William H. Egle, genealogist and historian, died to-night at his home in this city of pneumonia.  He was graduated from the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1850.  In 1863 he was appointed Surgeon of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Regiment [47th Pennsylvania Infantry], and served until December 1865.

In March 1887, he was appointed State Librarian, which position he held for twelve years.  He was the author of a history of Pennsylvania and a large number of other historical publications.


Most of the major writings of Dr. Egle are available at the Schwalm Library of the Gratz Historical Society.  It is from one of those writings that the portrait of Dr. Egle was taken (top of post).

Late in life, Dr. Egle applied for an invalid pension based on his Civil War service.  The Pension Index Card, shown below (from Fold3), indicates that although he applied, he was not awarded a pension.  However, in 1920, his widow applied and was successful in receiving benefits based on his service.


The date of the pension application, 13 February 1901, occurring only 6 days before Dr. Egle’s death, is the reason that no invalid pension was awarded.  It is not known why it took so long for his widow to make an application for benefits – nearly 20 years from the date of his death!



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