Civil War Blog

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Michael Polm – Died in Government Hospital in 1917

Posted By on July 14, 2014


Previously on this blog, Michael Polm was featured as part of the post entitled Methodist Cemetery, Williamtown (Part 3 of 3).  The following was then stated:

Michael Polm (1835-1917).  According to pension records, Michael Polm first served in the 10th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F, as a Private, from 26 April 1861 through 31 July 1861.  He later served in the 127th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D, as a Private, from 9 August 1862 through 3 May 1863.  During this second tour of duty, he was wounded at Chancellorsville, 3 May 1863.  Michael lived in the Fisherville area of Dauphin County and the Washington Township area where he worked as a general laborer.  Later, he and his wife, Angeline Schoffstall (also known as Engeline) moved to WilliamstownMichael Polm became ill and was admitted to the Government Hospital for the Insane on 12 July 1916., previously having been admitted to the Veteran’s Home in Dayton, Ohio.  His cause of death was ruled as “senile psychosis.”

Some supporting documentation and additional information can now be presented:


From the pension file (above), Michael Polm‘s physical characteristics are given:  He claimed to be 23 years old at the time of his enrollment, and was 5 foot 9 inches tall, had a fair complexion, black hair and brown eyes.  His place of birth was said to be Messenberg, Ohio, and he was working as a blacksmith.

Two addition items related to his military record are presented below (from the Pennsylvania Archives):


The top card gives Michael Polm‘s enrollment place as Lykens and his residence as the same place.  When he enrolled for his first service, his occupation was laborer and for his second service, his occupation was blacksmith.  On neither card is there a physical description.

PolmMichael-007aPresented as part of his pension application for increased benefits was a statement (above) of marriage to Evangeline Schoffstall, which took place in Fisherville, Dauphin County, and was performed by Rev. N. E. Bressler.  He also named all his living children and the date of their birth:  Emanuel Polm, 7 April 1865;  Mary Ellen Polm, born 14 April 1867; Albert F. Polm, born 13 February 1869; John H. Polm, born 15 February 1871; Wilson O. Polm, born 3 January 1875; and Lottie M. Polm, born 16 February 1881.  The statement was made on 3 November 1898.


Click on document to enlarge.

The Soldiers’ Home record from 1916 (shown above, from Ancestry.com) notes Polm’s illnesses that he believed were incurred as a result of his service and included: defective vision and hearing, gastritis, and rheumatism.  His closest relative was his son Wilson who lived in Lykens at the time.  This record also states that his hair (as well as his eyes) had turned gray, and that he grew two inches in height since his military days.  The date of death of 26 November is given and occurred at “G.H.I.”, an abbreviation for Government Hospital for the Insane.


Click on document to enlarge.

Michael Polm‘s death was also noted in the registers at Dayton, Ohio, where he died (shown above, from Ancestry.com).


The Pension Index Card from Fold3 (shown above), gives the same date of death and the place of death as Washington, D.C.  This card also gives the pension application date as 27 August 1879.  This relatively early pension application date is an indication that the wounds Michael received at Chancellorsville were problematic to him.

In the years after the Civil War, Michael Polm worked as a laborer/day laborer in Washington Township, Dauphin County (as per 1870 census).  By 1900, he moved to Williamstown.


For his service, Michael Polm is recognized on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument.

Additional information is sought about Michael Polm.

Albert P. Schoffstall – 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry

Posted By on July 11, 2014


Albert P. Schoffstall (1830-1902) is buried at the Donaldson Cemetery, Donaldson, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.


He was a Civil War veteran having served in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company G, as a 2nd Lieutenant.  On 22 April 1861 Albert enrolled at Llewellyn, Schuylkill County and then reported to Harrisburg to be mustered into service.  At the time, he indicated that he was working as a miner and that he lived in Donaldson.

SchoffstallAlbertP-003aIn a pension declaration made in 1890 (above), Albert P. Schoffstall gave a physical description of himself – that he was 5 foot 8 inches tall, had a light complexion, and light hair, and black eyes.  In 1890, he was suffering from miner’s asthma and had defective eye sight.  From information on the Pension Index Card from Fold3, (shown below), Albert P. Schoffstall received the pension for which he applied.  His death date of 16 January 1902 is noted on the card as well as the fact that a widow also applied and received a pension based on his service.


Albert P. Schoffstall was born in Gratz Borough, Dauphin County, on 22 December 1830, the son of Ludwig “Lewis” Schoffstall (1780-1861) and his wife Elizabeth.  He had two known brothers: Lewis Henry Schoffstall, born about 1828; and Joseph A. Schoffstall, born about 1833.   Ludwig, the father, died about one month before Albert enrolled in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Some time around 1850, Albert married Elizabeth Minnich.  Children born of this marriage included:  William, born about 1851; and Minnie, born about 1869.


Elizabeth died in 1885 and is buried in the Donaldson Cemetery, in the family plot where Albert would later be buried when he died on 16 January 1902.

Albert then re-married to Susan [Lehman] Wetzel who had previously been married to John Wetzel about whom not much is known at this time, except that he was from Pine Grove.  While this re-marriage created some confusion when Albert applied for a pension in 1890, it was easily straightened out by providing proof of marriage and death of those concerned – which made it relatively easy for the 2nd wife Susan to apply for widow’s benefits.  Susan did not die until 1918, so as the 2nd wife and survivor, she was able to collect the widow’s pension.   This information is shown on the Pension Index Card (below) from Ancestry.com.


The Pension Index Card (above) from Ancestry.com surprisingly does not mention the pension application of Albert but gives the application date for Susan.

SchoffstallAlbertP-009aFinally, the “Record Proof of Death of Soldier,” (above) reports on when and where Albert P. Schoffstall died and where he was buried.  Click on the document to enlarge it.

This post combines several sources to get a broad picture of the life and military duty of Albert P. Schoffstall who served in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry for three months in Company G as a 2nd Lieutenant.  The grave marker pictures are from Findagrave.  Some of the documents are from the pension application files available at the National Archives.  The Veterans’ Index Card is from the Pennsylvania Archives.  Genealogical information is from A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.  Other documents are from Fold3 and from Ancestry.com.

No veteran’s story is complete until personal information is included that can only be provided by family and those who knew him.  That’s why readers are always encouraged to contribute information to these blog posts.

Jacob Shiro – Some News Stories

Posted By on July 9, 2014

Today’s blog post will feature some interesting news stories about Jacob Shiro.

Jacob Shiro was born in Wittenberg, Germany, on 19 February 1843, the son of Jacob Shiro and Susan [Bellon] Shiro. He arrived in the United States around 185 at the age of eight.  During the Civil War, he served in Company G, 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, as a Private, from 14 March 1865 through discharge on 25 June 1865.

From the Harrisburg Patriot, 15 September 1891:


While Jacob Shiro and wife, of Gratz, were driving to Harrisburg yesterday morning their horse became frightened and threw both out of the buggy.  Mr. Shiro was slightly injured.

From the Harrisburg Patriot, 30 July 1902:




Engine Wrecked and Colliery Buildings Near Gratz Burned as Result

Building Near Gratz Burned as a Result


Mines Had Been Operated During Strike by Individual Owner, Supplying Local Trade Only



Special to The Patriot. 

Elizabethville, 29 July 1902.   The explosion of a gasoline engine at the mines of Jacob Shiro, an individual operator, at Short Mountain, near Gratz, wrecked the power house of the colliery and destroyed by fire the breaker and storage house.  The loss is not estimated but will run into thousands of dollars, a portion of which is covered by insurance.  The cause of the explosion is unknown at this time, but the general belief is that the gasoline tank of the engine leaked and that a spark came into contact with the escaping fluid.  The engineer, whose name could not be learned, and several foreign workmen, were badly injured but will survive.


The flames from the wrecked power house were communicated at once to the adjoining buildings and all destroyed, no fire fighting apparatus adequate to fight the flames being available.  The loss in mined coal will be considerable.  The strike of the hard coal workers has not affected the Shiro workings, which supply only local trade.  There are no union men employed there.  It is said that the mines will be put into operation again as soon as possible.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 September 1902:


Mining Coal in Farming District.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, 11 September 1902 — The anthracite coal mines of Jacob Shiro, near Gratz, this county, are yielding as fine quality of coal as has ever been mine in Lykens Valley, and notwithstanding that prices have abnormally advanced elsewhere, Mr. Shiro continues filling orders at the old rates. Large quantities are being hauled from Gratz to Millersburg by team, a distance of seventeen miles.

From the Harrisburg Patriot, 14 September 1903:


Jacob Shiro, one of our reliable merchants, intends to retire from the mercantile business.


News clippings are from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


June 2014 Posts

Posted By on July 7, 2014

A listing of the June 2014 posts on The Civil War Blog with direct links:

William Gratz and a Mother’s Pension

The Shamokin Soldiers’ Circle – The Cemetery List – Identified Grave Sites

The Shamokin Soldiers’ Circle – The Cemetery List – Unidentified Grave Sites

May 2014 Posts

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Adam Wilkinson, Union Guard Killed

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Lyman Weatherby, Union Guard Killed

William Shartel – Merchant and Hotel Keeper

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The Other Union Guards Who Were Killed

Cyrene T. Bowman – Soldier, Businessman, and Fraternal Leader

Samuel Spotts – Drowned in James River at Harrison’ Landing, Virginia

Jacob & Jonas Walborn – Sons of Christian & Judith Walborn

Who Was Mary A. Bowman-Zerbe?

New Information on George Samuels

Christian Zimmerman – 210th Pennsylvania Infantry

Jacob Shiro – Farmer, Merchant & Postmaster of Gratz

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Valentine Hipsman, Witness to the Exhumation of Bodies in 1911


Events of the World: June 1864


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The 150th Anniversary Remembrance

Posted By on July 4, 2014

The 15 July 2014, is the 150th Anniversary of the Great Shohola Train Wreck.  A series of posts presented here on this blog over the past several months described some of the known facts and controversies regarding that disaster and also gave some personal information about some of the persons who were involved.  Much new information was also presented.

Direct links (click on title) are presented here to those past blog posts.

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Introduction to a Series of Posts

On 15 July 1864, at about 2 P.M., a train carrying 833 Confederate prisoners of war and a contingent of Union guards, collided head-on with a 50-car coal train on a single-track main line of the New York and Erie Railroad.  The collision occurred about one-and-a-half miles west of the small village of Shohola, Pike County, Pennsylvania.  The train carrying the prisoners was headed west from Jersey City, New Jersey, to the newly-established prison camp at Elmira, Chemung County, New York.  The coal train was headed east from the Hawley branch railroad and was hauling coal from the vast anthracite coal fields of central Pennsylvania to the  New York area.  It was the greatest railroad disaster of the Civil War – and to that point in time, the greatest recorded railroad disaster in U.S. history.  Forty-eight prisoners and seventeen Union guards were killed in the accident and many more were seriously wounded….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – First Newspaper Reports

[This] post is the second installment of a series on The Great Shohola Train Wreck.  Some of the early newspaper accounts from Pennsylvania newspapers are presented….



The Great Shohola Train Wreck – A Local Newspaper’s Early Report

A photocopy of a fourteen-page type-script purporting to be of a newspaper article from the 22 July 1864, Tri-States Union, a Port Jervis, New York newspaper, was found among a personal collection of papers related to the Great Shohola Train Wreck.  Other than the noted source (the Tri-States Union), there is no indication on the typescript as to the name of the person who transcribed it, when it was transcribed, or the purpose for which it was transcribed….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Official Report of Captain Morris H. Church

The official report of the transport of prisoners to Elmira Prison Camp from Point Lookout, Maryland, including the train wreck near Shohola, Pennsylvania, was written by Captain Morris H. Church and submitted to camp commander, Col. S. Eastman on 22 July 1864….


William C. Wey, M.D.

The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Preparations and Receipt of Prisoners at Elmira

In 1912, Clay W. Holmes wrote and published The Elmira Prison Camp:  A History of the Military Prison at Elmira, N.Y., July 6, 1864 to July 10, 1865….  After the Great Shohola Train Wreck occurred on 15 July 1864, plans had to be made at Elmira to receive the Confederate prisoners who had survived….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Fluhr’s Excellent Guide

For anyone researching and studying the Civil War Train Wreck at Shohola, one of the best places to begin is to obtain a copy of George J. Fluhr‘s The Civil War Tragedy at Shohola: A Compilation of Details Regarding the Great Prison Train Wreck at Shohola, Pennsylvania.  This publication, by Pike County’s official historian, has been printed in several forms – as a stand-alone booklet or pamphlet and as part of a larger history of Shohola Township (published in 1992)…. There are later editions of this work including a greatly expanded one published in 2011, by the Shohola Railroad and Historical Society and sold by the Wayne County Historical Society, 120 pages….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The Geographic Context

The question of the importance of the location that Elmira, Chemung County, New York, had to the Union war effort can best be answered by examining a regional map from the time period.  The above map is adapted from an 1868 railroad map and shows the major points of interest to a study of the Great Shohola Train Wreck.  Railroads are shown in black lines of various thicknesses to indicate major traveled routes as well as lesser traveled routes….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – As Told in the History of the Erie

In the official history of the Erie Railroad, Between the Ocean and the Lakes, published in 1903, Edward Harold Mott gave a description of the accident and presented an eyewitness account, that of Frank Evans, who was identified as one of the Union guards on the train….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The Strange Coincidence of the Death of the Erie President

While it may have had nothing to do at all with the Great Shohola Train Wreck, three days after the accident, the President of the Erie Railroad died….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Two Elusive Participants

In researching the participants involved in the Great Shohola Train Wreck, the one individual who supposedly allowed the coal train to enter the main line at Lackawaxen and the other individual who supposedly was a member of the Union guard on the prisoner train, have been very difficult to locate in records not associated with the collision….  Douglas “Duff” Kent has been variously described as the telegraph operator or dispatcher at Lackawaxen….  The second elusive character first appears in the Erie history, Between the Ocean and the Lakes, on page 441, as a “survivor” who gave his recollections of the train wreck… Frank Evans of New York recounted his experiences as follows….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Moving the Remains from Shohola to Elmira in 1911

In 1911, the United States Government approved the removal of the bodies of the soldiers and prisoners from the site where they had been buried near King and Fuller’s Cut in Shohola Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania, to the Woodlawn National Cemetery at Elmira, New York.  A vacant space was located in the cemetery and a contract was issued for a monument to be built at the site.  The monument was to contain the record of the death of the soldiers, Union and Confederate, who were the victims of the train accident.  Tablets would contain the names of the soldiers and the plan was to have the dedication of the monument to occur on Memorial Day 1912….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Was the Coal Train in a Hurry?

On the same day that the New York Times reported on the Great Shohola Train Wreck, there appeared in that newspaper on the same page and just under the train wreck report, an article telling of the government seizure of the Reading Railroad and all its branches and of the almost total stoppage of the coal trade from the Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, region – which had taken place for a period two weeks prior. The New York Times article does not go into too much detail as to the reasons for the coal-flow stoppage and railroad seizure – but it is mentioned that one of the issues was the wages paid to the men and another issue was the possible forcing up of the price of coal….



The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Adam Wilkinson, Union Guard Killed

Adam Wilkinson (1836-1864) was one of the Union soldiers who died near Shohola, Pennsylvania, in the train wreck on 15 July 1864.  Prior to serving in Company F of the Veteran Reserve Corps, he had served in the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry, Company H, as a Private….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Lyman Weatherby, Union Guard Killed

One of the great ironies of the Great Shohola Train Wreck is that one of the Union guards who was killed, Lyman Wetherby, was from the same region of Pennsylvania where the coal train originated – the coal train that collided with the prisoner train resulting in Lyman’s death. The northern part of the anthracite mining area included Luzerne County, Pennsylvania….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The Other Union Guards Who Were Killed

After the bodies of the Union guard who died at Shohola were re-interred at Elmira, New York, at the Woodlawn National Cemetery, a monument was erected with a plaque that named the 17 men who are buried there in a common grave.  Previously on this blog, research was presented on two of those men, Adam Wilkinson and Lyman Wetherby, both from Pennsylvania; both served in Pennsylvania regiments prior to being transferred to the 11th Veteran Reserve Corps.  Who were the other 15 men? With only preliminary research begun on them, some clues can now be given to those who wish to do further research – perhaps in their military records or pension files which are increasingly becoming available on-line….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – The Grambling Diary

Wilbur W. Grambling, a member of the 5th Florida Infantry, Company K (Confederate) arrived at Elmira Prison Camp on 24 July 1864, eight days after the arrival of the first survivors from the Great Shohola Train Wreck.  Wilbur had been wounded on 6 May 1864 at the Wilderness, and because he had been sent to a hospital in a Presbyterian church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 9 May 1864 and then later to the Columbian Hospital, Washington, D.C., on 21 May 1864, he did not travel in the usual way to Elmira Prison Camp….


The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Sgt. Barry Benson Escapes Elmira via Millersburg

Confederate Sergeant. Barry Benson, who tunneled out of Elmira Prison. Benson, of Company H., 1st South Carolina Infantry was a prisoner of Elmira from 25 July 1864 to 7 October 1864.  He had arrived at Elmira Prison via the Erie Railroad from Jersey City, ten days after the train wreck at Shohola, and was in one of the early groups of prisoners to arrive at the Union prison….




The Great Shohola Train Wreck – Valentine Hipsman, Witness to the Exhumation of Bodies in 1911

In 1911, the United States Government approved the removal of the bodies of the victims of the Great Shohola Train Wreck, Pike County, Pennsylvania, from the site of the wreck to the Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, New York….  The above cut from an 1872 map of Pike County…  show[s] the location of the wreck and the properties of the two local men who contributed to finding the actual burial site.  In the center of the map (circled in red) is the property of “V. Hipsman” (Valentine Hipsman)….


While no further blog posts are planned in this series, extensive genealogical information is available at the Civil War Research Project on other participants in and witnesses of the Great Shohola Train Wreck.  This includes the engineers and firemen on each of the two trains, those persons in Shohola and Barryville, New York, who assisted with the care and burial of those injured in the train wreck, and on some of the Confederate prisoners who died at the scene.

As always comments are invited (add to this post or any of the posts in the series).  Also, e-mails can be sent to the Civil War Research Project.

One final note.  The representation of this train wreck as the worst in history as of July 1864 is apparently incorrect.

Events of the World: June 1864

The Grand Turk Railway accident known as the  St-Hilaire train disaster was a railroad disaster that occurred on 29 June 1864, near the present day town of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QuebecThough uncertain, the widely accepted death toll is 99 persons.The disaster remains the worst railway accident in Canadian history.


Image sources can be found in the blog posts which can be accessed by clicking on the post titles (above).