Civil War Blog

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The Tragic Death of Frank Fenstermacher, 1879

Posted By on November 25, 2015

Frank Fenstermacher is buried at Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading.  According to information available in the Civil War records, he served honorably in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, as a Private, but he was not on the muster out roll of the company in 1865.  However, according to his pension application and soldiers’ home records, he was wounded at Antietam on 19 September 1862 and discharged as a result of those wounds on 26 September 1863.  From 17 May 1875 to 30 Jun 1876, he was at the National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, Ohio.  After his discharge, he seemed to disappear, and his death date was elusive until it was recently confirmed in the cemetery records, that the Frank Festermacher buried in Reading died on 13 June 1879.

In Richards’ book, A History of Company C, 50th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Francis Fenstermacher is found on pages 189-190, with  only minimal information given about him.


The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card at the Pennsylvania Archives (shown above) gives additional information about him:  Franklin Fenstermacher was mustered into service on 9 September 1861 at Harrisburg.  He was about 34 years old at the time.  His residence was Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County.  And, his occupation was boatman.

A newspaper search produced the following from the Reading Times, 14 June 1879:


Died in a Drunken Fit Yesterday


Yesterday afternoon, between four and five o’clock, Franklin Fenstermacher, residing near Bushong’s Furnace in the house of Conrad Keltenbach, while on his way home to supper fell dead.  Coroner Goodhart held and inquest and after the jury heard the evidence rendered a verdict of death from “a fit while under the influence of liquor.”  The jurymen were Gilbert DeHart, Daniel S. Schroeder, J. J. Wisner, Conrad Keltenbach, Christian Rueckert, William Davis, William D. Guinther, Thomas J. Sharp, James P. Kershner, Augustus Reinhart and John C. Strohecker.  He had drawn some $28 pension money the day previous and got on a spree.  He had paid Keltenbach the amount due him, and yesterday, after having drank some beer said to those about him, “I must go home to supper.”  He then walked in the direction of Keltenbach’s when he fell down, was seized with convulsions and died in a few minutes.  He was a middle aged man and unmarried.

The reason Franklin Fenstermacher left the Soldiers’ Home in Dayton in 1876 was “S. O. #40” which is not explained in the records.  While veterans always had the right to check themselves out of one of the National Soldiers’ Homes, the home also had the right to transfer the veteran to another home or to discharge the veteran if they were unmanageable.  There is nothing in the record to indicate that the latter reason applied here except perhaps that “S. O. #40” refers to him being unmanageable.

Not much more is now known about Franklin Fenstermacher.  He was collecting a pension – which was referred to somewhat vaguely in the report of his death.  Strangely, nothing was specifically mentioned in the report of his death that he had been a veteran of the Civil War, that he had served honorably, and that his discharge was a result of wounds received in action.  And, someone made application for a government-provided grave marker for him (shown at top of this post).  Information from that application was used in preparing his Findagrave Memorial.

Additional information is sought about this soldier who was struggling alone in the years after the Civil War and who died about age 52.  Please add comments to this post or send by e-mail.


2 Responses to “The Tragic Death of Frank Fenstermacher, 1879”

  1. kathleen richardson says:

    Does anyone have a photo, or perhaps further family information on this gentleman?

  2. kathleen richardson says:

    I believe that I may have a tin photo of this man in his civil war uniform. He is possibly the great grandfather whom I have been trying to identify for many years. If he is in someone’s family genealogy, please send me a message.

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