Civil War Blog

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William H. H. Sieg – Pennsylvania Wartime Secret Service Agent

Posted By on November 29, 2014


Not all those who served during the Civil War were members of the military.  In an obituary that appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot on 20 December 1916, the wartime record of William H. H. Sieg was given as “in the secret service under Governor Curtin.”

Following a lingering illness, William H. H. Sieg, former postmaster of Steelton, a retired newspaper publisher, and at the time of his death the oldest living president of the Harrisburg City Council, died yesterday morning at the home of his son, William P. Sieg, in Bellefonte.

Mr. Sieg had been active in affairs of this city years.  During his service as councilman, he chose the site for the present reservoir in Reservoir Park and directed the construction of the now dismantled stand pipe at the pumping station, North and Front Streets.  He founded the Steelton Reporter in 1882 and continued actively in the business until his retirement three years ago.

The service of Mr. Sieg as a Harrisburg councilman dated from 1866, continuing to 1876, in the common branch.  As secretary of the Steelton Council, he served from 1883 until 1885, resigning to become postmaser in February of the latter half year term. After a three and a half year term, he was reappointed by President Harrison and served four and a half additional years.

Mr. Sieg was born in Lykens Valley, near Millersburg and was educated in the public schools of Harrisburg at the age of 15 he learned the printing trade and was Superintendent of the Harrisburg Telegraph in the seventies under George Bergner.  During the Civil War he was engaged part of the time as a clerk in the Harrisburg post office and was also in the secret service under Governor Curtin.

He was a member of the Masonic order and of the Odd Fellows.  The following children survive:  Miss Mary Sieg, of Bellefonte; Mrs. Arthur A. Smith, of Washington, D. C.; James Sieg, of this city; and William P. Sieg of Bellefonte.  Funeral services will be held Thursday afternoon at 1 o’clock.  Burial will be made in the Harrisburg Cemetery.  The funeral party will reach Harrisburg at one o’clock tomorrow afternoon.  Masonic services will be held at the family plot in Harrisburg shortly after.

A similar article appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph on 19 December 1916, and a brief summary of the obituary appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 20 December 1916.  In the Inquirer summary, Mr. Sieg’s service was stated as: “he served as a scout and in secret service.”

Little is known about what William H. H. Sieg actually did during the Civil War.

A personal article appeared in the Patriot on 29 November 1883:


Silver Wedding.

There was a large and brilliant gathering at the residence of William H. H. Sieg, esq., at Steelton last evening on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his marriage with his model wife, nee Annie Black.  The visitors included residents of Harrisburg, Highspire, Middleton and Steelton.  The presents were numerous and valuable.  The affair was characterized from commencement to close by that informality and cordiality of greeting and entertainment that cause every one participating to feel that the evening could not have been more enjoyably spent.

Postmasters were presidential appointments at the time William H. H. Sieg served in that capacity. Sieg’s re-appointment as postmaster in 1891 was not without controversy.


Editor William H. H. Sieg, editor of the Steelton Reporter, was appointed postmaster at Steelton yesterday.  Mr. Sieg held the office until three years ago when Christian Hess was appointed by President Cleveland to succeed him.  There was considerable opposition to editor Sieg, James L. Dickinson and Henry M. Newman being applicants for the place.  Mr. Dickinson recently filed a petition with over 1000 signers at the post-office department. [from the Harrisburg Patriot,12 September 1891].

In later life, Sieg’s health was followed by the readers of the Harrisburg Patriot from articles like the following which appeared on 23 April 1914:


William H. H. Sieg has almost completely recovered from an attack of illness which caused his confinement for about four months.  He greeted many friends on his first trip outdoors yesterday.

The Pennsylvania Death Certificate of William H. H. Sieg gives some clues as to his family background:


William H. H. Sieg was born to parents William P. Sieg and Catherine [Young] Sieg on 17 May 1837.  According to information in the obituary, he was born in the Lykens Valley near Millersburg, but attended school in Harrisburg.  However, the family was not found in an 1830 or 1840 Census of Dauphin County.

Sieg has not been located in the military or pension records of the Civil War.

Additional information is sought on William H. H. Sieg, his connection to the area of Dauphin County near Millersburg, and his role in the Civil War.  Readers are invited to submit comments to this post or send the information via e-mail.


The portrait of William H. H. Sieg is from his obituary as it appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph and was found through Chronicling America at the on-line resources of the Library of Congress.  The text of the articles from the Harrisburg Patriot  and Philadelphia Inquirer was transcribed from on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  The Pennsylvania Death Certificate was located at Ancestry.com.


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