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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Civil War Officer Commission – Daniel Chester – Discovery and Restoration of a Document

Posted By on December 3, 2013

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In a shoebox filled with old receipts, letters and other ephemera a rather beat-up Civil War commission for the rank of First Lieutenant was found – for none other than Daniel Chester, believed to be the namesake of the G.A.R. Post at Williamstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  The document was discovered in  four large pieces and several smaller pieces (such as broken corners).  The commission bears appropriate signatures – except that the signature of Gov. Andrew Curtin is nearly faded away.  This document represents the promotion to the highest rank achieved by Daniel Chester.

Daniel Chester was born about 1841 and died about 1873.  Research is still on-going on his life and his military career, although it can be said that he served first with the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry from 21 April 1861 through 25 July 1861 and then with the 55th Pennsylvania Infantry through 30 August 1865.  He was married to Esther A. Garland.  In the 1890 Census his widow reported that he was wounded in the leg at Drury’s Bluff.

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No record has been located that indicates Daniel Chester ever applied for a Civil War Pension – but about four years after his death, his widow applied.    She received benefits until her death.  The above Pension Index Card is from Ancestry.com.

The officer’s commission (pictured above at top) is in the process of being restored.  As stated, the pieces have been “rejoined” and the document will next be being mounted and framed with acid-free materials.  At the conclusion of the restoration, it will be formally presented to the Williamstown/Williams Township Historical Society for acquisition and permanent display.  The donor, who discovered the commission, will be formally recognized for her contribution when the museum re-opens in the Spring.  More details will be forthcoming as this event approaches.

In addition to the officer’s commission, the original of the discharge paper of Daniel Chester was also found in the shoebox.  This paper was in much better condition (all in one piece) and will be appropriately preserved – although it is not as decorative as the certificate shown above.  It will also be presented to the Williamstown/Williams Township Historical Society for its collection.

Along with the Officer Commission and discharge, the Williamstown/Williams Township Historical Society will also be featuring the award-winning exhibit, “Women and the Civil War – Portraits and Stories,” which was first presented at the Gratz Fair in September 2013.

Note:  The Chester Post No. 280 of Williamstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, was identified only by the surname “Chester”.  In that the only veteran thus far identified with that surname who was living in Williamstown was Daniel Chester, and he was an officer, it can probably be presumed that the post was named after him.  However, there is a John Chester who was living in Wiconisco in 1890 who served as a Private in the 147th Pennsylvania Infantry from 11 August 1862 through 6 Jun 1865.


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