For a description of the elements in the above graphic, see the bottom of this post. Some objects are real and some are fabricated.
Because of this past Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, I thought I might feature something related to Civil War research and it struck me to feature several posts regarding government issued tombstones for vets. Since 1993, I’ve had the opportunity to perform some research on the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps also known as the 38th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The 9th Reserve was primarily recruited from Allegheny, Beaver, and Crawford counties in Pennsylvania; however, numerous men also were drawn from Armstrong, Cambria, Fayette, Indiana, and Westmoreland counties as well.
In the next few installments, I’ll provide some photos of various government issued headstones and a brief synopsis of the soldiers buried beneath these markers. The first type of marker we’ll address is the original shield style of headstone. Depending upon the contractor and the nearest quarry, these were made of granite, limestone, marble, or whatever was available.
|William Johnson grave; Dayton (OH) National Cemetery, Montgomery County, OH|
On October 7, 1863 he was transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps where he finished out his term of service on July 2, 1864. With only a month remaining in the war, Johnson reenlisted as a veteran volunteer in March 1865. He was mustered out of service on March 12, 1866. In 1891, he admitted himself as a resident at the National Military Home in Dayton, Ohio in 1891. He died there on May 18, 1915 and he was subsequently interred in the adjacent National Cemetery. He never married and produced no issue – his next of kin was a nephew. His stone of white marble is thinner than earlier shield designed stones. About a dozen other men in the 9th Reserves are buried in this national cemetery. This photo was taken in July 2004.
Wallace J. Seymour
|Wallace Seymour's grave at Greendale Cemetery, Meadville, Crawford County, PA|
Wallace Seymour was the son of Thomas J. Seymour, a wealthy iron master, and his wife Marian Stowe Barton. From all appearances, Wallace was born in Washington, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The family settled in Meadville by 1860. When the call for troops was made for the Civil War, the Meadville Volunteers were raised by the local citizenry and were the last company to be accepted into the Pennsylvania State Militia.
Not yet being uniformed or armed, the company was ordered to Pittsburgh for encampment and further orders. Seymour was one of the first men to enlist in the fledgling company that later became identified as Company F. Like Johnson, he was captured at Second Bull Run. Unlike Johnson, his release was not eminent. He rejoined his company at sometime prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. He finished out his tour of duty and was mustered out in Pittsburgh in May 1864.
When the pension laws changed in the late 1870s, Seymour applied for an invalid pension because of a hemorrhage and disease of the lungs that was related to his wartime service. His pension of $24.00 per month was granted in March 1881. Unfortunately, he received only one or two payments as he died one month later on April 17, 1881. His tombstone, which came from Gross Brothers of Lee, Massachusetts, was erected in 1886.
|David Aston's grave at Old Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, Greetree, Allegheny County, PA|
Among those in the old cemetery is Corporal David Aston. The fair haired, blue eyed 19 year-old coal miner joined his unit that was an extension of an 1860 Wide Awake club from Temperanceville – now Pittsburgh’s West End. The son of John Aston and Mary Davis, he was born in 1841 at Pontypool, Abergavenny (Upper Division), Trevethan, Monmouthshire, Wales.
When the regiment was organized in June 1861, Aston was elected as the company’s eighth corporal. A year later, he was wounded and captured at White Oak Swamp. By December 8, 1862, he had been released and returned to his unit prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg. He additionally advanced to fourth corporal and finally first corporal in April 1863.
David Aston’s remaining term of service was without incident and he returned home in May 1864. Twenty years to the day after his muster out, David Aston breathed his last on 11 MAY 1884. Gross Brothers also provided this stone which was erected in 1888. Although abandoned as a cemetery, local patriots place flags on the graves every spring. The flag holder was from the Grand Army of the Republic – a post war veterans’ organization. The photo was taken in May 2005 at dusk.
William Minor Croft
|William M. Croft's grave at Riverview Cemetery in Parkersburg, Wood County, WV|
At the Battle of Petersburg in June 1864, Croft was shot in the right wrist. His case was worthy of inclusion in the Surgical & Medical History of the War of the Rebellion, Surgical Volume II. He was operated on by Surgeon J.J. Comfort on July 3, 1864. The surgeon’s report listed that Croft’s “hand [was] turned inward; powerless.” He was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 25 February 1865 – it was reported that “his arm is useless” and was considered 2/3 disabled. He was pensioned during the following month.
Croft later relocated to Wood County, West Virginia where he began a lumber concern. He died in 1904 and was buried in Cook-Riverview Cemetery in Parkersburg, West Virginia. One other member of the 9th Reserves, regimental musician Henry Stahl, is buried in this cemetery; in addition, an uncle of two other 9th PRVC vets is also buried there. Over time, Croft’s stone has sunk about an inch. The photo was taken in April 2002.
|Remnant of John Chess' marker at Union Dale Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA|
Our final shield stone comes from Union Dale Cemetery on Pittsburgh’s North Side and shows only a “nub” of the original marker for John Chess. At the age of 43, Chess was one of the older members of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. He and his son, John A. Chess, originally enlisted in the Allegheny Rangers which became Company K. The former Allegheny City tax collector was selected to be the regimental commissary sergeant when the regiment was organized.
There are several references in letters and diaries that debated Sergeant Chess’ culinary abilities. It got so bad that the line officers complained and Chess was reduced to a private and returned to Company K in October 1861. By 1862, he was re-attached to the commissary department with a private’s rank, and he remained in that capacity throughout his service with the Ninth Reserve and his subsequent term as a veteran volunteer with the 190th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. John Chess never was placed in the line of battle during his four year stint with the army - his responsibility was seeing that the “army marched on its stomach.”
His son, who is buried next to him, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam. The elder Chess died in Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh’s North Side) on September 29, 1877. Sheldon and Sons, West Butler, Vermont provided the stone in 1888; however, records indicate that both tombstones were inscribed with the wrong regiment and listed another Pittsburgh area unit: Company D, 123rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. John A. Chess’ stone suffered a similar fate as that of his father’s. This photo was taken in August 2007.
These five examples are representative of one of the styles of government supplied headstones for Union Civil War soldiers. I’ll look at further examples in future installments.
Chess, John. Pension record #412.625. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Compiled Military Service Records of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Compiled Military Service Records of the 190th Pennsylvania Infantry; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Croft, William M. Pension record #575.500. 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.
Johnson, William. Pension record #515.087. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Plat Records of Union Dale Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA.
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.
Regimental Records of the 190th Pennsylvania Infantry, Civil War Loose Record Files; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Register for the Central Branch of the National Military Home, Dayton, Ohio; Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Seymour, Wallace. Pension record #184,636. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
Surgical and Medical History of the War of the Rebellion, Surgical Volume II. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1876.
Description of the Masthead Image
The following is a description of the items in the masthead graphic. Caution: Some objects seem more natural than they appear. All relics are related to the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. Starting at the top and working clockwise.
- A poster that in essence helped create the New Brighton Rifles (Company H) – a copy appeared in the History of Beaver County.
- A patriotic cover for the Pennsylvania Volunteers with Colonel Robert Anderson’s signature added to it in Photoshop. Anderson was the original Lt. Colonel and the founding captain of Company D.
- A photo of General Conrad Feger Jackson that was enhanced by encasing it in a patriotic photo frame. Jackson was the original colonel of the regiment and the founding captain of Company G.
- Grand Army of the Republic Funeral Mourning Ribbon – fabricated a la Photoshop to be from the Corporal J.E. Turk post from Dayton, PA. Turk was a member of Company F.
- A real Dranesville Reunion Ribbon for the 9th Reserve and a PA Reserves Ribbon bar. Both from the author’s collection.
- Company I Captain Hartley Howard’s actual Society of the Fifth Army Corps membership medal. Photographed by the author in 2005.
- An except from the page of Company C Captain Robert Taggart’s diary where he recounts the horrors he experienced at Antietam.
- A photo of the Pittsburgh Rifles (Company A) prior to the formation of the regiment. The men are wearing the gray uniforms provided by the citizens of Pittsburgh. Seated (left to right): Hartley Howard, George T. Robinson, and George Dilworth. Standing (left to right): John S. Copley, George J. Hazlett, and Abner U. Howard. The photo is real, but the frame and its glass were created in Crystal Topaz an old DOS based modeling program.