Far Western Berks in Civil War

Far Western Berks in Civil War


This account must not be interpreted as a full story of service rendered by men of western Berks during the War Between the States. It does not take into account the scores of patriots who enlisted in Reading or other recruitment centers. Certainly the townships closer to Reading contributed their share of manpower. It is in the outlying areas that recording is most difficult. For this reason Mr. Brossman’s contribution is valuable.-Ed.

The identification of soldiers from the western part of Berks who served in the Civil War may he found chiefly in the record of three companies. Company F, 167th Pennsylvania Regiment topped the list of manpower recruited. The second most heavily manned was Company H, 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers, with Company I of the 48th Emergency Troops ranking third. The Emergency Troops were similar to the Home Guards of World War II and were recruited to protect the home front.

While the above mentioned companies drew most of the men who served from Tulpehocken and Bethel and the neighboring townships, other units were also represented by men from that region including the 17th Cavalry; Company H, 55th Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers and Company E of the 186th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, each having more than one man in the ranks from the two townships. At least eighteen other companies had at least one man from the area in the ranks.

At the time of enlistment, the recruits were not required to give their home mailing address or to fill out forms and questionnaires, such as are required today. Clues from various sources provide evidence, among them being souvenirs, old letters, discharge papers and burial places.

Newspapers on file in the Isaac Hiester Room of the Historical Society of Berks County, contain a wealth of information about the different companies. It appears that, in some of the units, an individual soldier was appointed to write letters to the editors of the local papers, telling about the company and life at camp or in the field. The servicemen must have thought it simpler and more convenient for the folks at home to read about their activities in the newspaper than to write many letters to individuals. Many could not write well.

Company F, 167th Regiment

Company F, 167th Regiment was formed between November 10 and December 2, 1862 for a nine-month period of service. The company was mustered in on a large field in the rear of Charles Evans Cemetery at Reading. The site included an area in which to set up store rooms and an “office” for the medical examiner, who was also the assistant surgeon of the unit being formed. A description of the site states that it was a busy place with 400 tents containing straw as bedding. Camp fires were numerous and burned brightly, being used by the men to keep warm and to cook their daily rations of beef and other food. A spring of good water was nearby which provided that necessity.

A week after being formed, a report showed that the regiment had between 1400 and 1500 men, of which Company F was a part. Some dissension was known in the camp because some 400 men, who had been drafted, had not as yet reported, with the result that morale was lowered in the camp among the men who did report for duty. At this time “substitute brokers” visited the camp to stir up additional trouble. The undesirable traffikers in fate “were provided locomotion by rail” from the camp. The expression indicates that they may have been ridden out on a fence rail.

During the week of November 29th, uniforms were issued to the men and the following week the company was officially designated as Company F, 167th Regiment. Later on, arms, muskets, and cartridge belts were issued to complete the outfitting of the troops.

Company officers were elected by the men of the unit and the company officers in turn elected the field officers. Those who headed Company F were: Captain, Josiah Groh; 1st Lt., Prosper Shubert; 2nd Lt., Reuben Potteiger, and 1st Sgt., Reuben E. Reed.

After the companies were formed and all planning completed, the regiment marched to the Reading Railway station and took the “cars” on their journey to Washington, D.C. The Berks and Schuylkill Journal described them as a “gallant group.” A letter in the Berks and Schuylkiil Journal, written April 11, 1863, carried information of interest stating that payment of the troops was covered, that the men received $54.60 each (these were very likely the privates) for an undetermined period, but probably for the period served since being mustered in, which was nearly four months. The letter goes on to say, that many of the men sent home $50 of this amount for their families and kept the remainder for personal needs. In the same letter the writer states that several “rebel” deserters came into the camp and surrendered, complaining about the hardships of the Confederates, and saying that the rations had been cut to one fourth pound of meat and a pound of corn meal daily. The writer went on to say that one of the men from the Union side had deserted and taken a number of charts and maps with him to the enemy.

The movements of Company F can be followed in Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-65, which shows the long and hard road the soldiers covered, indicating that they were almost constantly on the move. Casualties in the entire regiment were: one officer and one enlisted man killed in action, and 22 enlisted men dying of disease.

On August 3, 1863 a dispatch was received at the Berks and Schuylkill Journal office telling of the 167th Regiment being enroute home, and approaching Harrisburg by train. The Berks County Commissioners appointed a reception committee and authorized them to spend a “reasonable sum” to provide entertainment and refreshments for the returning troops. A battalion of militia was to meet the train and escort them to Camp Muhlenberg where they were to be paid and mustered out.

One should bear in mind that, during the period following the Civil War, those men who served were treated with admiration and respect. The practice of having the company, regiment and rank of a deceased veteran inscribed on the tombstone became popular. This practice makes it easy for us, in our day, to locate the graves of the various veterans. The graves of twenty-three men from Company F have been found in Bethel and Tulpehocken cemeteries. There are probably more whose record is unknown while some undoubtedly lie in unmarked graves and others moved to neighboring counties or distant points.

Company H, 151st Regiment The history of Company H, 15 1st Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, may best be summarized by reading part of the obituary of a sergeant of the company, Franklin R. Boltz, who died sometime in 1911 at the home of his son Nelson J. Boltz. The part regarding this company reads:

“Deceased; when he was 26 years of age, enlisted in Company H, 151st Regiment and was appointed a sergeant. The company was raised in Upper Tulpehocken and Jefferson Townships and was organized at Strausstown, September 13, 1862. The company left Strausstown October 1 for Reading where it remained for seven days and was then ordered to Harrisburg. It left for Arlington Heights, thence to Union Mills where the regiment performed picket duty until February 1863.

Mr. Boltz, after the war, often related many hardships he and his comrades endured during the long winter months. The regiment was joined to the Army of The Potomac and placed in the First Brigade, First Army Corps. Deceased participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1, 2 and 3 of that year. He accompanied his regiment on the march from White Oak to Gettysburg, a distance of 300 miles, which was covered in 19 days. The regiment went immediately into battle upon reaching Gettysburg. During the three days fight, the regiment lost from Company H, six killed and twenty wounded. Boltz was one of those wounded. He rejoined his regiment on July 6 to follow the rebel army to the Potomac. Sergeant Boltz left the army July 27th at Harrisburg in 1863.”

The above account covers most of the highlights of the company’s record. It may be of interest to note that men from the Tulpehocken area were also among those on the roster; in fact, an old German tombstone in a remote family cemetery at Wintersville, carries a very interesting inscription recording the date of enlistment of Georg Levengood, his being wounded at the battle of Gettysburg and his death a few days thereafter. Georg’s brother, John Levengood, is buried on the same family cemetery. John served in Company F, 167th Regiment and apparently came through the war safely. He lived until January 12, 1887.

An interesting coincidence is that two young men who were carried on the company roster next to one another, are buried side by side at Host Church Gemetery in Tulpehocken Township. Both (lied of disease; Manden Leiss dying April 18, 1863 at Belle Plain, Virginia, and his comrade, William B. Loeb, dying June 22, 1863 at Fairfax Seminary, Virginia. a comradeship of life extending to a comradeship in their final resting place.

There are seven listed as having died at the Battle of Gettysburg, who were either killed or died of wounds, instead of the six mentioned in the obituary. Those whose names appear in the record, from the roster who died, were Corporal John H. Shaeffer and Privates John Bender, Georg Levengood, William T. Strause (who was buried at the National Cemetery on Section C grave 37) Adam Siegfried, Henry M. Weaber and William H. Wentz.

According to Bates’ History, the regiment received high praise in a letter of commendation from General Abner Doubleday to the commander of the unit stating: “The heroism displayed by the 151st in this battle is uusurpassed, I can never forget the service rendered me by this regiment, directed by the gallantry and genius of General McFarland. I believe they saved the First Corps and were among the chief instruments to save the Army of The Potomac and the country from unimaginable disaster.”

Company I, 48th Emergency Troops Company I of the 60-day Emergency Militia Troops was formed during the period just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Confederate armies were approaching the borders of Pennsylvania. The Company was enlisted at Bernville and was to guard the local area from attack. These men never saw active service and never left the limits of Berks County, although they did serve for a short period in Reading.

Company H of the 55th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, part of which was enlisted at Womelsdorf, also drew men from western Berks. These soldiers actually entered enemy territory. They sailed to Port Royal and participated in the southern campaigns. They were aboard ship three days and four nights and, upon landing in South Carolina, found that neither food nor shelter had been provided for them. They sent out foraging parties to find food from the countryside.

Among those serving in the company were John Z. Deck and Henry S. Deck, two of the well-known seven Deck Brothers of the Host region of Tulpehocken Township. Henry Z. Deck died of disease in the 18th A. C. Hospital October 19, 1864, at Point of Rocks, Virginia, and is buried at Christ Lutheran Church near Stouchsburg. John Z. Deck, a memher of the same company was discharged on a Certificate of Disability, listing chronic illness as the cause of discharge, on 25th of April, 1863. The illness must not have been of a serious nature for he lived to be over 79 years of age. He was well known throughout the western part of Berks and Lebanon Counties.

Space does not permit listing the entire roster of all the men who served in these companies. In order that a sample may be given to the reader, of the families represented, the following list of men who are buried in either Tulpehocken or Bethel Townships is given:

Company F, 167th Drafted Militia: Israel Fogleman, John P. Miller, Prosper Shubert, Daniel Batdorf, John Levengood, Isaac Sheets, Benjamin V. Behney, Benjamin Heffelfinger, William Anspach, Jesse Daniel, Edward S. Kautner, Jacob Manbeck, Jonathan Ranch, Jacob Troutman, Samuel Hicks, Adam W. Moyer, John Batz, Joseph Clemence, John Fidler, Daniel S. Klahr, Josiah Leightner, William McAllister, and John Neischwendler.

Company H, 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers: Georg Levengood, David Bechtel, Isaac Long, Benjamin F. Mogel, Mandan Leiss, William B. Loeb, Samuel B. Loeb, John S. Miller and Ezra E. Stupp. Those who served in Company I of the Emergency Troops were: John B. Barnet, Adam Daniel, Percival Klapp, Adam J. Schoener and Cyrus L. Aulenbach. Company H, 55th Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteer Regiment had in its ranks: John Lesher, John Z. Deck and John D. Miller.

Those from western Berks who served in other Military groupings included the following who arc buried in either of the two townships of Berks County: Ezra E. Troutman, Isaac Batz, John Frybergeir, Henry Long, John D. Moyer, Adam W. Gassert, John Schlaseman, Levi G. Batdorf, Jonathan Leightner, William Maurer, John Henry Moyer, George Reedy, Josephus Ruth, John Woomer, Isaac M. Becky, Franklin Lindenmuth, John Lindenmuth, Richard Moll, Johannes Moyer, Andrew B. Wagner, John W. Weidel, Harry Burns, Joseph Klahr, Wilham Kreitz, Daniel Mock, John Noll and John Weidel.