Monday, June 4, 2012

Remembering the Civil War Dead: Part 2

As an alternative to the “shield” type Civil War stone discussed in the previous installment, the federal government provided a simpler “slab” type of marker for Civil War vets. Some of the same companies that produced the “shield” marker also produced the “slab” headstone.

The typical marker had the soldier’s name, regiment, and date of death that were carved as a bas relief style within a rectangle. Unfortunately, these stones were particularly vulnerable to the elements in industrial areas. A simpler version of the stone had the information cut into the white marble. 

In the Pittsburgh region, many of these stones are currently illegible due to the sulfur dioxide emissions as a byproduct of steel production. When the sulfur dioxide mixes with precipitation, it creates acid rain. This is disastrous to marble and limestone which causes the inscriptions to become illegible and the stone itself begins to flake. You will notice that several of the stones in this installment have suffered great damage.

As with last time, we will look at several examples of government supplied “slab” type tombstones. All are from one regiment, the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps – also known as the 38th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Except for one, all come from the Greater Pittsburgh area and all were photographed by the author during 2004. The men honored provide a cross section of service in the regiment and a brief description of their lives follows.

Joshua Bain

Joshua Bain at Culpeper National Cemetery, Culpeper, VA

One of the simpler versions of the standard “slab” type of governmental tombstone can be found at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, VA. The grave for Joshua Bain was photographed on June 14, 2004. A resident of the former Penn Township in Allegheny County, the 5 foot, 4 ¼ inch Bain was a coal miner by trade when he joined the McKeesport Union Guards (Company I) on June 18, 1861.

As did many of the men in the Pennsylvania Reserves who had seen battle in the Seven Days and Second Bull Run Campaigns, Bain straggled behind as the regiment was getting in line of battle for the Maryland Campaign. By doing such, these stragglers missed the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. The stragglers in the division were summarily court martialed at the regimental level and were fined for their lack of participation.

Because of the large numbers of stragglers, these men had to be punished, but not put through the process of a general court martial. Typically, these actions were called “drumhead court martials.” Bain was fined $10 for his absence and this was to be deducted from his pay on October 31, 1862. While $10 does not seem like much in today’s economy, the monthly pay of a private in the US Army was $12. Therefore, 83% of a soldier’s pay for one month was significant.

While Bain had not always been a stellar soldier, his place of burial in a national cemetery speaks to the ultimate sacrifice that he paid. While on picket duty along the Orange and Alexandria Rail Road near the Forks of the Rapidan River, Bain was killed by Rebel cavalry. Originally buried near the rail road, his body was reinterred at the national cemetery.

John Vickeroth

John Vickeroth at South Side Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA

Born as Johannes Vickeroth in Hebel, Homburg, Hesse-Kassel, John Vickeroth, as he was to be known in America, was the illegitimate son of Martha Elisa Hausmann and Johannes Vickeroth. As he immigrated in 1848, he was probably among the number of German men who were dissatisfied with the lack of change after the March Revolution in the 39 states that comprised the German Confederation. Desiring additional freedoms, the Forty-Eighters came to America in droves. Like John Vickeroth, many of these men participated in the Civil War.

Vickeroth was among the first enlistees in Conrad Feger Jackson’s company of the City Guards, Company B. Later as the company was incorporated into the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve, it became Company G. A carpenter by trade, the 5 foot 11 inch Vickeroth participated in the early battles of the Army of the Potomac. He was shot in the left thigh and was captured at Charles City Crossroads on June 30, 1862.

He was released on parole on July 22, 1862 and was hospitalized following his return to the Union Army. He wound resulted in a “Limitation of motion of left thigh, leg, and foot” and his “Lameness prevented him from marching.” On December 2, 1862 he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability being one-fourth disabled. Although he immediately filed for a pension, it would not be granted until 1869.

Vickeroth was married to Elizabeth Keil (in 1863) and Eliza Schilling (in 1887) and outlived both wives as well as four of his six children. One of his children, his namesake son, lived only a day and one half dying of a brain compression due to forceps delivery at his birth in 1875.

In September 1906, John Vickeroth sought and was granted citizenship by virtue of his Civil War service. He died on June 3, 1911 and was buried in the South Side Cemetery in Pittsburgh. The stone was photographed on October 8, 2004. His marker is one of the better examples of the “slab” type in the Pittsburgh area as it can be easily read. The cemetery's location on the south side of Mt. Washington away from the direct exposure of the mills along the Monongahela River may have protected it.

Edward K. Davis

Edward K. Davis at Grove Cemetery, New Brighton, PA

Edward K. Davis was the son David and Sarah A. Davis of Fallston, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. While records of his age vary with different records, the 1900 census suggests that his birth occurred in July 1841; however, earlier records indicate that he probably was born between 1838 and 1840. A blacksmith by trade, he enlisted in the New Brighton Rifles (Company H) on April 19, 1861; however, his tenure with his unit was slightly over one year in duration.

On December 20, 1861, the 9th Reserve was engaged with the enemy at Dranesville, Virginia in what would become the first victory of the Army of the Potomac. During this battle, Davis received a gunshot wound to the left leg. He was one of several members of the regiment that General E.O.C. Ord recommended as “worthy of a certificate of merit for . . . bravery and gallantry.” Following his injury, he spent most of the time in the division hospital and on furlough back to Beaver County. Upon his return, he was sent to the general hospital on March 6, 1862.

Because his wound hampered his ability to march, he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on April 30, 1862. Davis returned home where he married, fathered seven children, and worked in a variety of jobs. By 1890, the Davis family moved to Allegheny County. He died in Swissvale on January 9, 1913 and was survived by his widow and three children.

His remains were taken home to Beaver County where they now rest in New Brighton’s Grove Cemetery. The above photo was taken on June 29, 2004. The stone shows the flaking of gypsum that occurs when acid rain contacts stone high in calcium carbonate.  In addition to the marker a GAR ceramic flag holder is seen in the photograph. Each of these were numbered and the local post kept a record of the soldier's service and his date of death.

Jacob Coneby 

Jacob Coneby at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Munhall, PA

Born on May 1, 1835 in Baltimore, Maryland, Jacob Coneby was a coal miner residing with James and Hanah [sic] Flinn in Baldwin Township, Pennsylvania in 1860. Because of the location of his home and that he enlisted in Robert Anderson’s Government Guards on May 15, 1861, it is thought that he may have belonged to a segment of men who were an overflow of the McKeesport Union Guards. Many of the men from Company D were from McKeesport’s sphere of influence and could have helped alleviate the deficit of men found in that company.

Private Coneby participated in all of the regiment’s battles through the Maryland campaign where he was wounded at Antietam. For a short period of time, he was detached to the regiment’s ambulance corps, but was reassigned as regimental teamster by Lt. Col. James McKinney Snodgrass on February 15, 1863. He remained in that position until muster out in May 1864 and participated in no further engagements.

He returned to coal mining following the war and was a charter member of Homestead’s General Griffen Post #207 of the Grand Army of the Republic in May 1881. Not remaining current with his membership, he was dropped from the rolls of the post in 1884.

Coneby married his wife Mary Jane in 1864 or 1865 and the couple produced one daughter, Laura. The 1900 census indicates that Mary Jane had another living child as well. By 1910, Jacob was a widower and was living with his daughter and son-in-law William Hickman.

Coneby died at Hays (now Pittsburgh) on November 13, 1913 and was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Munhall, PA. The deterioration of his marker is typical of what is found in the Pittsburgh area. This stone was photographed on October 8, 2004. It is nearly illegible except for the name of "Jacob"; however, this stone shows less of the characteristic gypsum flaking.

Thomas W. Kirkwood

Thomas W. Kirkwood at McKeesport-Versailles, McKeesport, PA

Born circa 1841, Thomas W. Kirkwood was the son of Samuel and Lucinda Kirkwood of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Although throughout his life he worked in a variety of occupations, the younger Kirkwood was a cigar maker at the time of his enlistment in the McKeesport Union Guards in 1861.

At Beaver Dam Creek on June 26, 1862, Kirkwood was captured by the Confederate Army. During his incarceration at Belle Island Prison in Richmond, he contracted typhoid fever which significantly weakened his constitution. He was paroled on August 8, 1862 with other sick and wounded Union soldiers and was sent for treatment on a hospital ship anchored at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He returned to Company I in October 1862 and participated in all of the subsequent campaigns of the regiment without incident.

Following the death of his wife Hannah in 1881, he applied for a pension as he found it difficult to work a full time job due to his health. When the pension laws changed in 1890, he was granted his request; however, he only benefited from it for a short while – if he benefited from it at all. McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery records indicate that he died on December 2, 1891; however, since Lee Brothers provided the stone under contract dated September 5, 1891, it is likely that his death actually occurred in 1890. His pension was canceled shortly after it was issued.

His stone is one of the most exposed “slab” type markers that I have seen. The stones were between 30 and 42 inches tall and it was intended that only 12 inches would show above ground. In this instance, it appears that more than half of the stone is exposed. This stone was photographed on July 1, 2004. This stone was only found by comparing cemetery records for the section and determining that it was his grave. The name of "Kirkwood "is barely identifiable.

Felix Machalewski

Felix Machalewski at St. Wendelin Catholic Cemetery, Carrick, PA
The son of Ignatz Machalewski and Catharina Mushinska, Felix Machalewski was born April 25, 1843 in Konitz in the Kingdom of Prussia. His hometown is now known as Chojnice, Poland. While many of the soldiers in the 9th born outside of the United States came from the British Isles and various German states, Machalewski was the unit’s only Polish member. He immigrated to the America in August 1860, and in less than a year, he had tendered his service to the Garibaldi Guards (Company B) of the 9th Reserves.

At Charles City Crossroads on June 30, 1862, he received a gunshot wound in his left hand that required the complete amputation of his middle finger. He was sent to Davis Island, NY for hospital treatment. In April 1863, he was listed as deserting from the hospital. His whereabouts between the spring and fall 1863 are missing from his records.

He rejoined the regiment during fall 1863 and apparently his absence was not charged against him. He finished out his tour of duty and was mustered out with the regiment in May 1864. Additionally, he was granted a pension in 1871 for $3.00 a month for the loss of his finger. Based on his military service, Machalewski was naturalized as an American citizen in November 1864.

Although prior the to war Machalewski was employed as a butcher, he later worked in Pittsburgh’s glass trade. He and his wife, Julia Kempf (a native of Baden), were married at St. Mary’s German Catholic Church at Allegheny City (Pittsburgh’s North Side) on April 25, 1865. The couple had at least five sons; however, since the family cannot be located in the 1900 census, it is difficult to determine how many children they produced in total.

Machelewski died from gastric cancer on August 15, 1906 at 2237 Southern Avenue, Carrick, Allegheny County, PA. He was buried at St. Wendelin Cemetery on August 17. The photo was taken July 3, 2004. Still readable in 2004, the stone shows its age and acid rain exposure.

These six examples provide a look at the “slab” markers that mark the graves of Civil War soldiers. There are other examples that are completely illegible.  While several members of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves are buried in McKeesport's Fairview Cemetery none of the dozen or so "slab" markers for Civil War vets can be identified without a concerted effort by using cemetery records.  I've attempted this; however, determining where one section ends and another begins in this old cemetery appears to be haphazard at best. 


Compiled Military Service Records of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Coneby, Jacob. Pension record #939.529. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Current Record of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903, Rolls M-1845, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Davis, Edward K. Pension record #146.373. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Eighth United States Census (1860); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Eleventh United States Census (1900); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Kirkwood,Thomas W. Pension record #744.968. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Machalewski, Felix. Pension record #620.718. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court, 1820-1930, and Circuit Court, 1820-1911, for the Western District of Pennsylvania; NARA Series: M1537; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington DC.

Ninth United States Census (1880); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Records of the General Griffen Post #207 of the Grand Army of the Republic, Homestead, PA; Pittsburgh, PA: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  

Regimental Records of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, Civil War Loose Record Files; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Seventh United States Census (1850); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M123, 118 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Twelfth United States Census (1910); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Vickeroth, John. Pension record #96,346. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Vickeroth, John.  Death Records of Pittsburgh.  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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