Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

William A. Hershey – Pennsylvania Boatman & His Southern Connections

Posted By on May 17, 2016


On 27 January 1864, William A. Hershey, an 18 year old boatman who claimed he was residing in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, enrolled in the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, as a Private.  He was 5 foot, 4 inches tall, had a light complexion, brown eyes and light colored hair.  The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card (shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives), also notes that he joined from a “Recruiting Depot” on 18 September 1864, and indicates that his name was found on the muster rolls of the company and regiment, therefore not in Bates.  The file card also records his discharge date as 25 December 1865.


The General Index Card (from Fold3) for the military records of William A. Hershey states that his records are filed under the name, “William A. Hearshy.”


Although the military records are under a different spelling of “Hershey,” William applied for a pension on 21 February 1887 under the name of “William A. Hershey.”  The Pension Record Card (shown above from Fold3) shows that he did not receive a pension based on his service in the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry.  However, a widow did apply on 28 May 1898, and she did receive benefits.


The Pension Index Card from Ancestry.com (shown above), gives some additional information.  William’s widow’s name was Martha E. Hershey, and although he applied for a pension from Pennsylvania, she applied for benefits from Virginia.


In 1890, William A. Hershey is found in the Veterans’ Census for Reed Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. However, no information was given as to his military service.

The marriage of William A. Hershey and Martha Ellenora “Ellen” Hammond took place in Washington County, Maryland, on 17 August 1869.  According to genealogical records, she was the daughter of William Hammond and Eliza Reid, also of Washington County, Maryland and was born in 1852.  One of Ellen’s brothers, Clinton Hammond, was possibly born in ante-bellum Virginia, in 1858.  This Southern connection has not been fully explored.

In 1860, William A. Hershey is found in the Reed Township, Dauphin County, census.  He was living in the household of J. J. Raisner, a lock tender on the canal.

1n 1870, William A. Hershey is found in the Washington County, Maryland, census, where he was working as a boatman on the canal.

In 1880, William A. Hershey is also found in the Washington County, Maryland, census, where he was working as a day laborer.

Previously stated, William A. Hershey was in Pennsylvania in 1887 when he applied for a pension and in 1890, in Reed Township, when he was enumerated in the Veterans’ Census.

William A. Hershey probably died in 1898 (based on the date his widow applied for a pension), although no specific record of death has been seen.  If the family was living together in 1898, he probably died in Virginia, or possibly, the widow could have returned to her family after William’s death and applied for a pension from there.

Three children have been identified for William A. Hershey and Ellen [Hammond] Hershey:  (1) Mary E. Hershey, born about 1870; (2) William C. Hershey, born about 1873; and (3) John E. Hershey, born about 1876.

Several questions remain unanswered about this Civil War soldier.  Did he marry into a family that had Confederate or Union sympathies?  What was his connection to Dauphin County, other than the two censuses in which he was enumerated in Reed Township (1860 and 1890)?  What role did he play in the Civil War and why wasn’t he awarded a pension?  Are there any living descendants?

Readers who have some knowledge of this family are invited to contribute information by adding comments to this post or by sending information to the Project via e-mail.





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