Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baseball Bat Update

Good news!  An update on the World War II baseball bat.....

I was doing a bit of research on airbases in England during the war, and more specifically, airbases used by U.S. bomber squadrons in Lincolnshire, England during 1944.  This is the time frame from which the baseball bat was created and I wanted to neck down the options on what aircrews might have participated in that area during that time.  Well....there are literally dozens of of airbases that could have been the source of the story and many scores of U.S. squadrons.  Therefore, since I knew that the squadrons were part of the Eighth Army Air Corps, I decided to research the history of the U.S. Eighth Air Force.  I was able to find the home of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.  The museum is located in Pooler, Georgia just outside of Savannah.   I contacted their public relations director and offered to donate the bat to the museum in order to...maybe...just maybe...make contact with one of the original users of the bat.  Maybe some GI remembers this story and can have a moment of enjoyment remembering those days with comrades and the American a distant country.  The person I contacted was gracious and excited about receiving the bat.   I decided that I would bring it with me in the near future, on a trip I plan to make to visit this impressive museum.  When I make the trip, I will record my observations and take pictures for you guys!

Jim D.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Writer's Block, the Civil War and WWII Baseball

Wow!  I never realized how difficult it can be finding something worthwhile to write about without a specific narrative available to guide me.  With the resumption of "the letters" being a full 8 months away and my pathetic attempt at keeping this blog alive until then, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find pertinent and unique items to write about.

I guess I could write about the same old, same old, that has been written about by countless writers and Civil War enthusiasts, but most all of those musings are better written, better researched, and more heartfelt, so what's the point?  With the 48th PVI having spent the better part of early 1863 bivouacked in Kentucky on provost duty with little action except for the occasional parade or bar fight, I have little to pontificate about other than that which is written in various accounts already published.  So....what to do....well....I think I'll write about World War II baseball....

What!?  What does that have to do with "the letters" or the Civil War at all?  Well...really nothing...but here's the logic I used....

American soldiers during the Second World War would frequently play the national pastime during down times in the war...between battles, air sorties, etc...  It didn't matter if they were stationed in the European theater or the Pacific theater...American boys loved their baseball.   Likewise, during the Civil War, americans boys had begun their love affair with the game that was relatively new on the  sports scene.  It was an easy game to set up and play, especially in the early days of baseball when there were no gloves or other equipment.  All you needed was a ball, a sturdy stick or bat, a few sacks or pieces of rock or wood to use for bases and a bunch of guys willing to play.  So, throughout american conflict history, our soldiers have loved playing the national sport...providing stress relief from the battlefield.

World War II Airfields in Lincolnshire, England
So, my story starts in England in 1998 when I was assigned to work a program for my company.  My family came with me and we lived in southern England for 3 years.  During that time, my wife made many friends and essentially we all all became part of the local, dining, school life, etc...blending in with our English friends.  In our small village of Stubbington, my wife's regular hairdresser, Kim, loved to talk about her family and particularly her father, who loved Americans based on his interaction with them during World War II.  Her father was a teenage boy who lived in Lincolnshire, a county north of London.  The boy lived in a village close to one of the airfields used by the USAA 8th Air Force, and spent a lot of his time "hanging out" with the GIs.   Kim was kind enough to share her family stories and one of them caught my attention.  I thought it was absolutely touching and something that would wonderful to convey to others.  Fortunately...we have the internet...and it is a effective way to get information out into the public domain.

The story goes like this (from a letter written by Kim to my wife Laura)....

Dear Laura,

At long last, one baseball bat!!!

The story of it is this: -

In 1944 on a Lincolnshire airfield a squadron of American bomber pilots arrived.  They had their baseball, and the English pilots had their cricket.  One day the Americans decided it would fun to make the cricket bat disappear.  The English retaliated likewise, and the Americans baseball bat disappeared as well.
    The local village wainwright's assistant, who was only a young lad, thought the Americans were wonderful.  So he made them a baseball bat.  When the Americans finally when home, they gave the bat back to the young lad who made it.  It's a nice little story.......

The young lad was her father.  Her father always cherished the bat and the memories that it brought back to him of a time when life was uncertain...and a bunch of American pilots entered his world.  he always had an affection for America after the war and his trophy bat reminded him of an exciting earlier time in his life.

The Bat!

After her father died, Kim wanted the bat to go back to America, and asked if Laura would be willing to accept it.  Of course she said yes.  Now...I need to find a rightful home for the bat and will be working soon to contact the various groups that represent the WWII American pilots who were stationed in England.  Stay tuned for that progress....

Jim D.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Visit to the National Cathedral

Right before the July 4th holiday this year, my wife asked me if I wanted to go to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. to take the Civil War tour that they were hosting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war.  Of course, I jumped at the invitation and the opportunity to learn about the role that the cathedral played in Civil War history.  Interestingly, the National Cathedral was not started until 1907, so I was curious as to how they were going to link the Civil War to this national shrine that wasn't even started until 42 years after the end of the conflict.

The National Cathedral runs a series of tours that you can sign up for and take during your visit to the nation's capital.  Located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington in the 3100 block of Wisconsin Avenue, the cathedral is a nice refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.  There is a large parking deck that provides ample parking for the visitor as well as wonderful walking grounds to sample.  A visitor can spend an afternoon touring both the inside of the cathedral and the outside gardens.  The cathedral provides historical tours for a nominal fee and access to the tower is available via an elevator.  This perch provides a bird's eye view of the city and surrounding suburbs.

The Civil War tour is conducted by a volunteer who is well versed in both Civil War history as well as cathedral history.  She did an excellent job of connecting the cathedral to the events of the war by explaining the connection to Civil War veterans via various reunion ceremonies held there early in the 20th century.   The cathedral is resplendent with stained glass images of the history of the nation and reflects the various conflicts, wars, and struggles faced as the country matured.  Part of this struggle is the Civil War as indicated in the contrasting of the George Washington Bay and the Abraham Lincoln Bay.....

In the Washington Bay, at statute of the first president is on display, along with a beautiful stained glass piece created by the renowned artist Robert Pinart.  This piece depicts the birth of the nation with conflict in the middle, but growth and expansion, much like a plant.

Next to the window on the ground level is a statue of the first president.

On the opposite side of the cathedral front is the Lincoln Bay.  By contrast it shows the fires, pains and destruction of a nation in a second Pinart glass piece.  It too, is flanked by a statue of a great president.  The Lincoln Bay was built in the 1970s using monies donated from the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln.

There is another statute in the stairway leading to the lower level of the cathedral which depicts Lincoln at prayer...ostensibly over some hard thought issue of the day....

Lastly, the cathedral has another bay...the Lee-Jackson Bay....which has been a source of some controversy.  It was donated in the 1930s by the United Daughters of Confederacy and was meant as a healing gesture.  It honors all soldiers who fought for their respective countries and beliefs.  Below is an image of this bay....

I highly recommend taking this tour.  It is interesting, beautiful and surprising.  You will learn something!...

Jim D.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gettysburg and Pennsylvania's Boys are in Kentucky!

1863 for the 48th PVI started off as a great change from the prior difficult year.  Having finished duty in North Carolina as well as seeing action in battles at Mananas, Antietam, South Mountain and Fredericksburg, the men of the 48th welcomed the relative calm of provost duty in Lexington, Kentucky.  As is indicated in the written records of Munsell and Bosbyshell, the 48th PVI enjoyed a welcome stay with the kind and appreciative people of Lexington.  I can only imagine how much fun John must have had reuniting with his comrades after a lengthy four months of hospital care while convalescing from his wounds at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  Now, he had time away from the effects of war to spend time socializing and reacquainting himself with friends and family (cousins) in the 48th PVI.

The movement of the 48th PVI to the western regions in February of 1863 preceded a period of both calm and anxiety for the men.  Though no letters from John remain from this period, subsequent letters in 1864 indicate the disdain that the men had with the Confederate invasion of their Pennsylvania homeland.

Pre-war downtown Lexington, Kentucky
July of 1863 found John and men of the 48th preparing themselves for the routine of daily life as provost guards in a loyal city of the union.   The kindness shown by the citizens of the city provided less stress and general happiness amongst the men.  The ability of the men to use some of their pay to buy goods to send home, or to go out and have a drink in a bar provided another level of delight for them.  In early July, John was preparing for a fun filled July 4th, with parades, parties and fireworks to celebrate the birthday of his country.  Unbeknown to him, General Lee was planning an unpleasant surprise for the union and the citizen of Pennsylvania.  That surprise would culminate in the battle of Gettysburg in early July of 1863.  I'm not sure if the men of the 48th PVI would have had knowledge of the events of July 1st - 3rd, 1863, but they would have known about it a few days later.  I can only imagine the anxiety and fear that news of the battle instilled in these men while they guarded a city so far away from home.  

In July of 1864 John recounts his July 4th 1863 celebrations in Lexington, Kentucky.

                                                                                                Camp 8 miles from City Point, Va
                                                                                                July 1st, 1864

My Dear Father,
            I take the present opportunity to write this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well and I am glad that I am the same when this letter leaves me.  I always forget to tell you that I got them things what you did send with John Weikle, the sausage and butter, but I did get it safe when he came back.  I will also enclose 50 cents in this letter and will send it to you and I want you to buy me some postage stamps and send them to me in your next letter for I am entirely out of them and I want to write to the girls sometimes.  Then I must have some stamps to put on my letters and also if I want to write to my Dear Wife or somebody else’s wife.  I think that is enough for this time of that subject.  I think you are busy at making hay at home till this letter comes to hand.  Well we are laying out here under the bullets and shells every day and night.  But we are still enjoying ourselves well and are hoping that we may soon be with you at home and enjoy ourselves with the and this cruel war be over.  This fourth of July we will celebrate with the roaring of cannon and muskets along the lines of battle.  While we had fine times of it last year, we was eating and drinking as much as we liked and what we would like.  But that is all over and gone.  But this hand (ain’t) over yet today, but it will till this letter comes to your hands.  I wish you wouldn’t forget to see John Kramer about that money what I wrote to you in my other letter and let me know about it.  I have to bring my letter to a close for this time.  This few lines from your son.
                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct to J.W. Derr, Co. D, 48th Regt Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington, D.C.

Additionally, in John's next letter he references the Gettysburg invasion of 1863.

                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.           
                                                                                                July 13th, 1864

My Dear Father and Mother,
            I take the present opportunity to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter today and I was very glad to hear that you are well all the time and I am happy that I can say the same.  I am also glad to hear that you got my money and I hope you will take good care of it, as you did before.  And if we don’t soon get paid I will be very apt to send for some of it but I hope we will soon get paid off.  We don’t need much money, but I want some once in a while.  I suppose you took good care that you got my pay all in good money for I wouldn’t like to have any bad money for I have to work hard for it.  We hear that the rebels are making a raid into Pennsylvania again but I hope it will be to their sorrow.  I hope they will lose more men then they did last summer at Gettysburg and they didn’t gain much that time by all appearances.  It is for no use to write anything to you about the war for you know more at home then we do out here for we do hear very little but what we see.  But I will let you know that we will have a great explosion here before very long.  We are going to blow up the rebels forts.  They are undermining them now.  They have two or three all ready now and our regiment is working at one and they are near done with it and I hope it will work all right, if they get it going. *
            I have no more to write today so I will bring these few lines to a close for this time with the intention of hearing from you soon again.  So I will remain your affectionate son.
                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct your letter as before.  Give my love to my brothers and sisters and to all inquiring friends.  Tell Josiah Fetterolf if he wouldn’t write a letter to me I would pin his nose up on his forehead.  G.D. the mules they shake too much I can’t write anymore.


Jim D.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013 and Why I am a Damned Fortunate Man

Strange blog title...however, it says what I feel.   I am truly a fortunate man who has a family (past and present) that have woven themselves into the fabric of what we call the American experience.  This blog is dedicated primarily to my great-great grandfather John W. Derr...who fortunately wrote a lot of letters during the Civil War and whose son was wise enough to keep them.  I am the beneficiary of this fore thought and hence I write on this blog.  That said....I have others who have served in our military...fighting for our nation's continuance and for freedom and liberty.  For that...I am eternally grateful and infinitely proud.

I will start therefore, by saying...Thank You.  Thank you to my ancestors who fought in the various conflicts as part of our nation's history.  And...Thank You to all veterans who have served.

Jacob Wagner - Revolutionary War

Let's start with my Great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather...Jacob Wagner (born July 6, 1725).
Jacob, son of Jacob Wagner and anna Maria Jung Wagner was born in Nottingen, Germany.  In 1776, he served in the War of the Revolution as a private in Captain John Arndt's Company of Associators and Militia in Northampton county.  Jacob and Maria had 10 children.  Jacob died in November of 1802 at the age of 77.  Maria died in July of 1827 at the age of 91.

John Z. Wagner - Civil War

Next I will stay in the Wagner family line with the Great-great grandson of Jacob Wagner...John Zartman Wagner.  I have discussed John Z. Wagner in prior posts.  John Z. Wagner was born on September 27, 1841 in the Deep Creek area of Barry Township.
 A farmer and laborer by trade, John Z. enlisted in the United State Army on April 20, 1861 as part of President Lincoln's call for volunteers during what was supposed to be a 90 day suppression of the rebellion.  John Z. was mustered into the 6th regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company E, to serve his 3 months of service to his country.  He was part of the famous First Defenders that came from the great state of Pennsylvania.

As we all know...what was thought to be a 3 month war, ended up being a 4 year struggle that would tear the country apart.
John Z. served his 3 months of duty...mostly on provost and guard duty in the Williamsport, Pa. area of the county and was mustered out of service on July 26, 1861.  He would return home only to re-enlist in the newly formed 55th PVI (Company E) on September 13, 1861...after taking a 1 1/2 month rest from his prior service.

John W. Derr - Civil War

John W. Derr (JWD) was born in Barry Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania on October 7, 1839.  He enlisted in the Union Army in September of 1861 and was mustered into the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company D at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg Pa, in that same month. From Harrisburg, the 48th PVI transitioned through Baltimore, MD and then down the Chesapeake Bay to Fort Monroe in Virginia. From there, the 48th PVI was attached to the larger Burnsides Expedition to North Carolina (Hatteras/New Berne area). After the North Carolina expedition the 48th PVI was moved north and participated in the 2nd battle of Bull Run, where JWD was wounded on August 29th, 1862 and taken prisoner. He was paroled by the Confederates, and was transported to Georgetown College Hospital in Washington, D.C. After staying in Washington and missing the battles of Antietam and South Mountain, he was transferred to the Cherry and Broad Street hospital in Philadelphia, Pa in December of 1863. He was subsequently furloed home for further recuperation.
His unit was then detached for guard duty in Kentucky and Tennessee, where his unit re-enlisted in December 1863 at Blains Crossroads, TN. In 1864, the 48th PVI was involved in Grant’s campaigns of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, etc…and eventually the Petersburg Campaign. JWD, as part of the 48th PVI was integral in the digging of the Mine Crater. Documentation of his participation in the actual mining activities and subsequent illness from the damp/cold conditions are documented in his post mortem pension application by his widow, Magdalena Derr. Pension affidavits by his fellow soldiers indicate that his participation in the mining activities, along with his wounding at 2nd Bull Run were the primary cause of his early death in 1876
In addition to his participation in the Petersburg Siege, JWD participated in the 1863 Army review by President Lincoln in Washington, D.C., the Grand Review of 1865 in Washington, D.C. He was mustered out of the Army in July of 1865 and returned home to live out his remaining short life, dying on January 12, 1876 at age 37.

Robert V. Price - World War I

My mom's dad, Robert V. Price was a very unassuming man and in general did not look the part of the soldier.  Standing barely 5'3" and weighing all of 100 pounds, he was not a person of which action figures are modeled.  However, in 1917 he, along with friends decided that the 'right' thing to do was to join up and fight the 'good fight'.   Though he did not see any combat, he did serve out the balance of the war being honorably discharged in 1918.  Soon after he would meet my grandmother and the rest is history.  To this day, I still have his uniform and his dog tags from that great conflict.

Donald J. Derr - World War II

My father, Don Derr,  passed on a chance to attend the Philadelphia Eagles training camp in 1945 to instead enlist in the Navy.  He wanted to be a fighter pilot.  As an All-State Football running back for Cass Township High School with loads of athletic accolades, Dad was a good picking for pro-ball. many of his peers, he couldn't wait to go and enlist....So...when he turned 18 in 1945, he enlisted...foregoing his High School graduation and all.  He enlisted for the duration of the war plus 6 months...and so that's how it happened.  With the war rapidly coming to a conclusion, Don Derr spent the final months of the war...not as a fighter pilot, but as a shore patrolman helping to repatriate veteran GIs.  Not what he really wanted...but he did his part.

Marian Jane Price Derr - World War II - Victory Farm Volunteer (VFV)

And last but not my mom.  Jane Price Derr.  Mom was too young to serve in World War II in the military...but like so many teenage girls her age, she volunteered to work on a Victory Farm in Connecticut planting and harvesting tobacco.  Though she often in later life thought that producing tobacco probably did more harm than reality...cigarettes were the life blood of the soldier in the field.  Either smoked or traded as currency, tobacco was an important asset to the soldier.  So...there you have it...I feel as though my mom did her part during the war to  help with the victory.

For that...I say Happy Memorial Day...and Thank You!

Jim D.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Book in the Making

Yes, has been awhile since my last post.  Frankly, without the inspiration of the letters during this 15 month hiatus from his writing...I am finding subject matter to cover...hard to come by.  In general, almost all of the standard Civil War historical events have been covered ad nausea by scholars much better equipped to research and postulate about the meanings and historical significance of specific events.  For me...the contribution I can make is adding that little bit of flavor on top of the research as it applies to my ancestor's involvement in certain documented events. So...that's my excuse...and I'm sticking with it.

I have received a number of letters/emails from faithful followers of the blog asking me whether I am still alive.  Yes...I am still alive...however uninspired I might be.  Only 10 months until the next batch of letters come out and they promise to be more exciting that some of the earlier ones. exciting as John W. Derr can make them.   He is still fixated on his financial situation and events at home, but there are more references to battles (The Battle of the Crater) and the longing for the war to end.  

What I am thinking of doing between now and then is to document his post mortem events.   These are the events that show the struggle of a partially disabled war veteran in a post war world.  Events of his prior 4 years over shadowing the mundane life in the farm fields of Pennsylvania in the late 1860s and 1870s.  His life...a short 11 years post war...documents a struggle that many veteran soldiers experience.  Essentially, a life filled with condensed excitement and danger followed by the slower pace of normal life.  A situation experienced not only by the Civil War veteran, but veterans of most wars.  Had there been a "Wounded Warrior" organization back in the second half of the 19th century, John Derr would have been a recipient of their good works.  After his death in 1876, his widow...Magdalena Derr...would struggle with two small sons.  One of which was my great grandfather, George Washington Derr.  The documented in the National Archives under the Civil War Pension a struggle by Magdalena (or Molly as she was known) to find some level of support for her and her two sons.

Back in 1987, I made a trek to the National Archives to do my first second level research on John W. Derr and his life in the Civil War.  Having been exposed to stories...and the letters...and being an adult, I became more and more interested in the more subtle details of his life.  1987 was when I uncovered the "Big Family Secret" which had been buried and lost over the prior decades.  A secret that my grandfather knew, but took with him to his grave.  Not even my father knew the secret.  So...for those who might be interested in researching detailed family history...let this be encouragement...or....discouragement.  For me...more information is better than less.  However, people must recognize that family secrets can really be family skeletons.  Be prepared to have some notions about your family shattered and be prepared to look at life a little differently.

Well...there's the teaser.  I guess this will be my inspiration for the next 10 months to document online these information bits.  Stay tuned....

Oh...another thing....I am very fortunate to have two wonderful daughters.  One of which just had a baby son who can help carry on the tradition.  My daughter is also a gifted writer.  She has been imploring me to co-author a book with her on the total life of John W. Derr and his wife Molly.  The book has begun, so watch for potential chapter portions online here.

Jim D.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Sad Tale of Private William Romberger

Charles Laudenschlager - 1864 (12 years old)
Applications for Civil War pensions by widows and children alike, lead the researcher to interesting facts about family and circumstances.  Such is the sad tale of Private William Romberger, 172nd Pennsylvania Drafted Militia.

The ongoing research into my Civil War past where I live vicariously through my ancestors, has taken me from one great great grandfather to another.  This blog has acquainted the readers with my most documented ancestor, John W. Derr (48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry) as well as my less documented ancestor, John Z. Wagner (6th & 55th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantries).  Further research lead me to another....William Romberger.

William Romberger was married to Sarah Klock on July 24, 1859.  They had one child together, Franklin Lewis Romberger, who was born on October 18, 1860.  Prior to his marriage to Sarah Klock, William was married to another woman, who's name and circumstances are lost to time.  However, he had four children by that woman, one of which was Catherine Amanda great great grandmother.  Catherine would eventually marry Charles Laudenschlager...a banker in the Klingerstown area of Pennsylvania.  Catherine Amanda Romberger was born on July 17, 1854.  So...this would make William Romberger my great great great grandfather.

Charles Laudenschlager - 1864 (12 years old)

William, having been widowed from his first wife, was raising his children on his own prior to meeting and marrying Sarah.  This part of the history line comes from oral history from my father, passed down from his mother...and so on.  It is known that William, a common laborer, was very poor and had few resources from which to live and raise a family.  After his marriage to Sarah, this situation did not improve.  As a result William elected to become a "substitute" for another local man who was drafted into the 172nd Pennsylvania Drafted Militia.  So in November of 1862, William signed the paperwork as a substitute for Isaac Albert, having more than likely received a bounty for his act.  The 172nd Pennsylvania Drafted Militia., organized and moved to Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pa. to begin the normal training and outfitting done by Pennsylvania regiments during the war.  It was on November 21, 1862, that William...having received a leave/pass, decided to travel the 65 miles northwest to Jackson township in Northumberland to visit relatives over a long weekend.    On the morning of November 22, 1862, William's carpet bag (suit case of the day) was found floating in the Susquehanna River between Harrisburg and Dauphin township.  A search for William was conducted by the army, but to no avail.  On November 25, 1862, Captain James Roney filed a missing persons notice with the City of Harrisburg on behalf of William Romberger.  

Affidavit from Captain James Roney - 172nd Pennsylvania Drafted Militia

History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5; prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature, by Samuel P. Bates.

In January of 1863, the body of William Romberger was found, positively identified, and returned to his home.  Later in 1863, William's wife, Sarah, applied for a pension for her dead husband.  This request was denied by the War Department for the following reason: "Rejected.  Soldier not in line of duty when drowned".

The result was that Sarah, being destitute, parceled out her children to friends and family who could better care for them.  

Later, in 1882, after Sarah's death, the adult children filed a petition with the Pension Office, for a "Pension of Minor Children", to help recover monies lost during their childhood.  This too was denied on the same grounds as the prior submission.   The family never recovered the monies from the federal government.

Eventually Catherine Amanda Romberger would marry Charles Laudenschlager.  They would have a number of children, one of which was a little girl named Minnie...Minnie Laudenschlager.  Minnie would one day marry a George Young.  In 1910 they would have a daughter, Catherine...named for her grandmother Catherine Amanda.  That little girl would eventually grow up to become my grandmother, Catherine Derr when she married my grandfather James Monroe Derr...the grandson of John W. Derr.   Hence the tapestry woven for my family in the sad tale of William Romberger.

Jim D.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

John W. Derr..."When ya' comin' back?"

As previously mentioned in prior posts, there is a 15 month gap in the letters of John W. Derr spanning January 1863 and March of 1864.  During this period of time, there was a bit of a lull in the action for the 48th PVI after the tragic battle of Fredericksburg.  Fortunately for John...and myself by extension...he was still convalescing in the hospital in Philadelphia from his wounding at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  The battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 was where John H. Derr...mentioned previously in other posts...was wounded.  John H. Derr would die a month later in January of 1863 of these wounds and was buried at the  National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Subsequent counter offensives were ordered by General Burnsides in early January, which were later rebuffed by President Lincoln, after significant protests from subordinate officers.  Later in January, General Burnsides would be replace by General Joseph Hooker via General Order 20, after Burnsides request to the president to relieve Hooker and other generals, was rejected.

January and February of 1863 saw little action for the 48th PVI and in fact paved the way for their eventual transition to provost duty in Lexington, Kentucky.  It was around this time that John W. Derr returned to duty with the 48th PVI.   Below are JWD's muster records for the period, which initially proved confusing, but later became clearer.

Muster rolls for November/December 1862, January/February 1863, and March/April show JWD as present for duty.  So, I was a bit confused by this since his letters shows him transferring to the Broad and Cherry Streets Hospital in Philadelphia in mid-December of 1862.   Later I was able to obtain ancillary muster roll cards from the the Broad and Cherry Streets Hospital, which showed him present there.  I suspect that the standard unit muster rolls were augmented after the fact to ensure he was paid out of the appropriate regimental pay bucket.  It would also appear that included in John W. Derr's  muster roll cards was John H. Derr, previously mentioned.  The writing looks similar to a "W." but is actually an "H." and is consistent with the fact that John H. Derr was wounded at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.  One other interesting note on the John W. Derr muster card from November/December of 1862 is that he deserted.  In actuality, he transferred from the Georgetown College Hospital on December 13, 1862 to the Broad and Cherry Street Hospital in Philadelphia.  I guess one part of the army did not coordinate with the other and his record shows him as deserted...when they could not find him in Washington DC during roll call on December 31, 1862.

48th PVI Co. D muster rolls (Nov 1862 - April 1863):

Then I found these which seem to confirm that he was still in the hospital until later January 1863:

I am confident...based on family oral history...that he spent time in Kentucky and Tennessee.  Additionally, his re-enlistment in December 1863 at Blains Crossroads in Tennessee, confirms this.

Additionally, I was able to find an official record of JWD's capture and parole that he describes in his letter in September 1862 after the Second Battle of Bull Run....

Jim D.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

John Z. Wagner: The Other Civil War Ancestor

John Z. Wagner
It's been a few weeks since my last post...and as I mentioned then...2013 will be void of any letters from John W. Derr.  The letters of 1863 are lost to time and therefore there will be a gap between letter #31 and letter #32 of approximately 15 months.

I thought that this might be a good time to reintroduce my other great-great grandfather, John Zartman Wagner...or John Z. for short.  I mention John Z. in a few prior posts but it is probably a good time to reiterate his service in the war.

John Z. Wagner was born on September 27, 1841 in the Deep Creek area of Barry Township.  A farmer and laborer by trade, John Z. enlisted in the United State Army on April 20, 1861 as part of President Lincoln's call for volunteers during what was supposed to be a 90 day suppression of the rebellion.  John Z. was mustered into the 6th regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company E, to serve his 3 months of service to his country.  He was part of the famous First Defenders that came from the great state of Pennsylvania.

As we all know...what was thought to be a 3 month war, ended up being a 4 year struggle that would tear the country apart.

John Z. served his 3 months of duty...mostly on provost and guard duty in the Williamsport, Pa. area of the county and was mustered out of service on July 26, 1861.  He would return home only to re-enlist in the newly formed 55th PVI (Company E) on September 13, 1861...after taking a 1 1/2 month rest from his prior service.

Mary Ellen Wagner Derr (left), John Z. Wagner (right)

As I mentioned in my prior posts, John Z. Wagner knew John W. Derr, owing to the close knit nature of the Deep Creek community.  Eventually, his daughter Mary Ellen Wagner would marry the son of John W. Derr, George Washington Derr, my great grandfather.  My great grandmother, Mary Ellen Wagner Derr...or Mom Derr...would produce 1 daughter and 4 sons, of which one was my grandfather, James Monroe Derr.

My father, Donald James Derr, was born in 1927 and remembers, as a little boy, sitting on the lap of John Z. Wagner, as the old man would sing and talk to him.  His great grandfather would still chew tobacco from a plug... taking the little tin brand markers that were pinned into the plug and pressing them into the window sill.  That is what my father remembers most about John Z. Wagner.

John Z. Wagner would serve all 4 years of the Civil War, surviving to become a hard working old man and living for 88 years.  John Z. worked until he was 80 years of age, attesting to his good health and fortitude.

Jim D.