June 9, 2016

The Story Behind a Gravestone in Lancaster Cemetery

Location: Lancaster Cemetery, 205 E Lemon St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
Gravestone of Jacob and Elizabeth Gemperling, Lancaster Cemetery
Local artist J. Augustus Beck sculpted the wreath in 1854.
 Gravestones provide one of the most accessible and intimate connections to the nineteenth century.  However, the personal, commercial, and artistic decisions behind them rarely show up in research, so I jumped at the chance when I accidentally ran across an article in the May 16, 1854, Lancaster Intelligencer while pursuing another research tangent. 

In an article that led with "Lovers of Art" that the Intelligencer actually copied from the Inland Daily, a couple items in the marble yard of Lewis Haldy on North Queen Street received attention.  The first was actually a relief sculpture by J. Augustus Beck -- son of the noted artist from Lititz -- on its way to the Washington Monument.  Commissioned by the American Medical Association via Dr. John L. Atlee in 1852, Beck's sculpture depicted Hippocrates refusing the gifts of the Persian King Artaxerxes meant to entice him to provide medical aid to his country's enemies.  The newspaper reported, "The execution of the work is in the highest style or art, and evinces extraordinary talent in the artist."  Some sources indicate that the sculpture is still in the Washington Monument in very damaged form and others say that it is in the Smithsonian Institute. 

Gravestone detail
Jacob and Elizabeth Gemperling
Lancaster Cemetery

The article continued:

We might mention several other fine specimens of art, the productions of this talented young artist, which may be seen at the same place.  Among other things we note a beautiful wreath--the prettiest thing of the kind we have ever seen.  It is engraved on a marble slab, and designed for the grave of the late Mrs. Gemperling, whose remains repose in the Lancaster Cemetery.  

The deceased referred to in the article is Elizabeth Gemperling (1785-1854), and the gravestone still stands in Lancaster Cemetery not far from the entrance.  I have not found anything about Elizabeth, but her husband Jacob and son Daniel received attention in the Biographical Annals of Lancaster County (1903) in an entry on Elizabeth and Jacob's grandson, Henry Clay Gemperling:
Jacob Gemperling, grandfather of Henry Clay, who was a distiller and farmer, was born near Rohrerstown; his son Daniel, who was born in Lancaster, died Nov. 13, 1895 at the age of eighty-seven years.  The latter and his brother John, were the leading tinsmiths of the city for many years, filling many important contracts.  Daniel Gemperling conducted the business on East Orange street alone to within a short time of his death, and became one of the best-known citizens of his time, owning a large amount of real estate, and making his influence felt in business and commercial circles.  Anna Hurst, his wife, was a half-sister of Elam Hurst, a prominent citizen of Lancaster, and also a sister of the mother of H. C. Demuth.  From this union were born three children, two of whom, William and Anna, died in early childhood, and the only survivor is Henry Clay Gemperling. 

Henry Clay Gemperling
Biographical Annals of
Lancaster County (1903)
Henry Clay Gemperling was born in the large brick mansion at the southwest corner of East King and Jefferson streets, then the home of his parents, in February, 1846, and was educated in the city schools and at John Beck's celebrated school in Lititz.  When less than sixteen years old he left school to enlist in the Union army, joining Co. A, 79th P.V.I., Aug. 19, 1861, and served throughout the war, receiving his discharge Aug. 12, 1865.  He took a gallant part in all the battles and skirmishes in which his command participated, and was wounded in the arm at Jonesboro, Ga., under Gen. Sherman, being promoted to the position of corporal.  After the war Mr. Gemperling was captain of "The Boys in Blue," a campaign organization in the first campaign of Gen. Grant for the presidency.  After Gen. Grant's election the boys in blue were organized into two military companies, A and B, and attached to the National Guard of Pennsylvania, Mr. Gemperling being commissioned captain of Co. B, both companies taking part in the inauguration of Gen. Grant as President.  Until 1879 he worked with his father at the tinsmith and plumbing trade, and then removed to Ephrata, where he engaged for himself in the same lines.  There he remained until March 13, 1895, when he returned to Lancaster, to become a tip-staff in the court house, very shortly being made a court crier for court No. 2, and in November, 1899, he was made court crier of the courts of Lancaster county, to fill a vacancy created by the death of Joseph C. Snyder, a position which he still holds.

While living in Ephrata, Mr. Gemperling bought and remodeled a fine property.  For fifteen years he was a deputy coroner of the district, for nine years he was a notary public, and was the first president of the Pioneer Steam Fire Engine and Hose Company, and was acting in that capacity, when he left the borough; he was commander of Post No. 524, G.A.R., of Ephrata, for three years, and was the second man to be elected burgess after Ephrata became a borough.

While a resident of Lancaster he served as a policeman during Mayor Stauffer's first term, and is remembered as one of the best police officers this city ever had.  During his residence in Ephrata he twice arrested Abe Buzzard, the noted outlaw, "putting him behind the bars."  This he did as a private citizen, his fellow townsmen calling on him because of his well-known fearlessness.  When thieves broke into the store of Schaeffer & Reinhold, at Ephrata, Mr. Gemperling discovered one of the thieves, arrested him, and took him to jail.  This same bravery was conspicuous through his army experiences.

Mr. Gemperling was married Aug. 14, 1869, to Miss Susan Jacobs, daughter of William Adam Jacobs, a farmer living near Beartown, Lancaster county.  From this union were born four children: Anna Maria, the wife of E. E. Royer, a farmer of Ephrata township; Martha Alpha, unmarried and at home; Daniel H., a paper hanger; and Henry Clay, Jr., now at school. 
Henry Clay Gemperling Service Record (PA Civil War Card File)
 While on the subject of the Gemperling family, you may note that another soldier with the surname Gemperling served in the 79th Pennsylvania.  William Gemperling also enlisted in Company A with Henry Clay Gemperling.  William Gemperling was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga.  He died a year later in the Andersonville prison, although I'm not sure if he was captured at Chickamauga or elsewhere.  I also cannot establish the relationship between Henry and William Gemperling, which I guess to be first or second cousins.  If anyone knows more about William Gemperling, feel free to leave a comment below. 
William Gemperling Service Record (PA CIvil War Card File)

June 8, 2016

Ebay Find: Two USCTs Send Pay Home to Quaker Farmer in Gap

Location: Limeville, Salisbury Township, PA 17527, USA
Adams Express Company Cash Envelope from Isaac Parker to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)

Reverse of Envelope from Isaac Parker to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)

Adams Express Company Cash Envelope from Henry Harley to Joshua Brinton (Ebay)
Once again, an item being auctioned on Ebay led me on a rather fascinating research trail.  This time it is a pair of envelopes used to forward cash via the Adams Express Company.  In both cases, soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troop, sent money to a Quaker farmer near Gap. 

The 3rd USCT was organized in the summer of 1863 in Philadelphia, and largely recruited from central Pennsylvania.  Among those who enlisted were two African-American men from Lancaster County:
  • Isaac Parker, born c.1836 and mustered in as a corporal in Company B on June 30, 1863.  Parker shows up in the 1860 census as a farm laborer in Salisbury Township.  He is listed with presumably his wife and daughter: Mary Parker, age 20, and Sarah Parker, age 6.  Going back to the 1850 census, it is likely that Isaac Parker matches the sixteen year-old by that name who resided in West Caln Township in Chester County with Loyd Parker (age 63) and Margaret Parker (age 32).  Isaac Parker appears adjacent to the Brinton family in the 1860 census (see below), so it is likely that Parker labored on Brinton's farm.  
  • Henry Harley, born c. 1841 in Lancaster County (according to his USCT service record) and mustered in as a private in Company B on June 30, 1863.  I haven't been able to find anything else about him before the war, but he appears in the 1870 census as living in a black community and working as a laborer in Fernandina, Florida.  This census notes that he could read but not write.  
After training at Camp William Penn, the 3rd USCT moved south and went right into combat as part of the siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island.  The regiment spent most of 1864 in Jacksonville, Florida, manning garrisons and going out on details.

While serving in South Carolina and Florida, both Parker and Harley sent some of the pay back to Lancaster County.  To do so, they paid the Adams Express Company to carry their cash to a Quaker farmer near Gap named Joshua Brinton.  Parker's envelope contained $15 and was sent from Morris Island on October 19, 1863.  Harley's envelope contained $120 and was sent from an unknown location on October 5, 1864.

Gravestone of Isaac Parker
Beaufort National Cemetery
Sadly, Parker died on April 25, 1864, in Beaufort, South Carolina, presumably in a military hospital there.  He was buried in what is now the Beaufort National Cemetery.  I had the opportunity to visit the cemetery a year ago and take the pictures displayed in this post. 

Much more information is known about Joshua Brinton (1811-1892), the recipient of the cash for Parker and Harley.  His farm was approximately one mile northeast of Gap near the small community of Limeville (see map below).  The 1903 Biographical Annals described him as " an excellent farmer but not an excellent manager for the reason that his too generous nature induced him too often to expend his means in aiding his friends when he should have applied them to use nearer at home. Lacking only a wise economy, he was a consistent member of the Society of Friends and an unusually warm upholder of its principles and methods."  He is credited in the March 8, 1861, Liberator with donating five dollars to relief for sufferers in Kansas.  I believe that Brinton is a direct descendant of William Brinton, who built what is now the William Brinton 1704 House museum in West Chester, which would make him a distant cousin of Gen. George Brinton McClellan. 

Gravestone of Horace Passmore
Beaufort National Cemetery

In a sad coincidence, Brinton's brother-in-law also served and died around the same time and place as Parker.  Brinton married Mary E. Passmore on November 23, 1848, in Philadelphia.  Mary's younger brother, Horace Passmore, enlisted in Company A, 97th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, on August 22, 1861.  The 97th Pennsylvania operated in South Carolina in 1862 and 1863, and Passmore would have experienced grueling conditions around Charleston and Fort Wagner in the summer of 1863.  Passmore died of chronic diarrhea on November 18, 1863, a little over a month after the regiment moved to Fernandina, Florida.

PA Service Card for Horace Passmore, 97th Pennsylvania          

Census listing Isaac Parker and Joshua Brinton, Salisbury Township, 1860

Detail of 1864 Salisbury Township Map showing farm of Joshua Brinton near Limeville
Gravestone of Horace Passmore at Beaufort National Cemetery

August 16, 2015

With the Pennsylvania Reserves at Camp Wayne, June 1861

Location: West Chester, PA, USA
Mathew Brady image of camp of 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, June 1863. As seen in the center background of the image, the soldiers' June 1861 fascination with leaning on each other (recorded in the letter) continued two years later.
Although personal and professional priorities have limited my blogging this year, an inquiry about the Pennsylvania Reserves from a soldier's descendant gives me the opportunity to post the transcription of a soldier's letter.  This particular letter appeared in the weekly Lancaster Inquirer, a newspaper with limited surviving copies (which are not on microfilm but in the archives of LancasterHistory.org). 

Before heading south for the seat of war, the newly-formed Union Guards went east for a rendezvous in Chester County. On June 4, 1861, the Union Guards -- which later became Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves -- under command of Captain Thomas Barton boarded a train in Lancaster for Camp Wayne. The following letter gives a picture of the company’s first week away from home and appeared in the June 15, 1861, Lancaster Inquirer:


West Chester, June 11th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: —Since you were kind enough to compliment the Union Guards, at the time of their primary organization, we have been literally overwhelmed by the “sunny smiles of adventitious fortune.” Since our departure, all prior difficulties vanished into “thin air,” and joy and gladness dispelled the vexation and discontent that had prevailed in our ranks. Although not strictly on the tented field, or by the bivouac fire, to recount brave deeds done, or bloody frays made victorious, our camp life furnishes its incidents to weave into an interesting tale. Fun and frolic, duty and labor are agreeably interspersed.

The first Regiment, under the State Reserve was formed last Sunday. The post of honor, through chicanery and favoritism was allotted to the Brandywine Guards: and our Company secured the second post. We do not desire to cavil or object now at this unjust disposition of the two companies, as regret is unavailing; but in all equity and honor, the first position was deservedly ours. This same finesse of management gave to Chester county all the prominent posts. The Lt. Colonel, McIntyre, is of the Brandywine Guards: the acting Adjutant is from the same Company: the Quartermaster is from Chester county. In short, all the loaves and fishes were appropriated by men from this section of the country. Biddle Roberts, the Colonel is a native of Pittsburg; and Samuel, the Major is from Carlisle.

The “Union Guards” are well furnished with musical instruments from the rattle of the “[?]bones” to the soft strains of the flute. – Every night, we have a gratuitous concert. – Since our arrival here, we have improvised and adopted a “cheer,” in honor of the “Union” Fire Company. It is given by spelling the word, “Union” three times, and pronouncing it each time, ending with a hiss, a bomb and a tiger. It is popular and temporarily “lionized” its authors. We have also introduced a new feature of evolution, not laid down in Hardee – called “the Company squat.” – The men are marched, in close order, so as to form a circle, when the command of “Company squat!” is given, when we sit down on each other’s knee. It is quite amusing to see the boys each the sport, which has become contagious, and as we have not secured the services of the Bummers’ Counsel, B.F. Baer, Esq, to get it copy righted (!) it has become adopted by the whole camp. I do not desire to be considered as a boaster, but our company is considered the best in the camp.

The ladies of West Chester are a little charish about visiting the Camp, as but few have as yet honored us with their presence. Our men are all well; but two or three being slightly indisposed since our arrival here. We have an excellent hospital here, fully supplied with all the necessary appurtenances. Dr. F. de W. Breneman of your city, is with us as Assistant Surgeon—a fact which gives our men great satisfaction.

I am quartered with the Captain, first and second Lieutenants, the four Sergeants, Corporal Hoffmeir, privates Rutler, Nauman, Steinhauser and that jolly typo, Nathan Bear. Our quarters are extensive and well arranged, as we have a dining room, bed room, and office parlor. Our bunks are weather tight, and well built, so that none can complain in rainy weather. We have three cooks detailed for the Company, and so far we have had plenty to eat. If short rations should ensue, be assured I will let you printers ventilate the matter! I am a firm believer in the power and efficacy of printers ink, as a curative to all abuses. Two men of Captain Neff’s Company refused to take the oath, and were drummed out of camp, by our drummer, Frank Haines, who, by the bye, is a “brick;” he is the life of the camp, and his presence is always welcomed in a crowd.—Out three cuisines, Geo. M. Bauman, William Dellet, and James Strachan, although not equal to Demonico, or Taylor, or Shultz Reese, deserve praise for their proficiency in providing for the inner man.

Ye Captaine Barton was tendered the post of Lt. Colonel of this Regiment, a position which he would have efficiently filled; but love for and pride in his company to whom he is devotedly attached prevented him accepting the position. They then insisted on him taking the place of Major; but this he also finely declined. Our Captain is by far the best drilled, disciplined and competent man here—a fact generally acknowledged. His men are devoted to him for his innumerable acts of kindness, courtesy, and attention. Our mess sends its respects to you. Sergeants Bauman and McCracken, and private Wm. Cox, and dozens of others desire to be remembered.

Yours truly,
O. S. Union Guards.

May 24, 2015

Interpretation Beyond the Battlefield and the 'Mass Customization' of History

Intersection of Queen St. and King St., Lancaster, Pennsylvania
with Soldiers and Sailors Monument (dedicated in 1874)

Over at the excellent To the Sound of Guns and Civil War Memory blogs, the subject of new trends in battlefield interpretation has received attention lately.  Taking stock of the Sesquicentennial, Craig Swain commends new programming that seeks to interpret soldiers' experiences between battles, but remarks:
On the other hand, we might also point out, for the sake of those bicentennialists to follow, many missed opportunities. For all of the focus in late June and early July upon Adams County, Pennsylvania, the public-facing programming left out exactly how those armies got there. Almost as if the soldiers were suspended in time at Chancellorsville, then magically re-appeared, somewhat worse for the wear, at Gettysburg. That’s just one handy example. I’m sure we could demonstrate a few more worth noting. The point to push home here is, again, that the soldiers were not one-dimensional, and their experience was more than combat actions.

This is somewhat odd, I think, given the current trends with a lot of noise about “new military history.” Shouldn’t historians be seeking out those interpretive opportunities to discuss the life of soldiers beyond the battlefields? But we often see tours, especially those focused more on the “education” function over the general “entertainment” functions, that simply hit a set of battlefield sites….

While I have a tough time -- even as a soon-to-be professor of supply chain management -- envisioning the value of visiting, say, the site of a supply depot or winter camp, I agree with the general sentiment and offer my own tangential opinion: We should start expecting more high-quality interpretation of life beyond the battlefield (and beyond the army).  Although the National Park Service can be the vanguard of these efforts (e.g., talking about civilians at Gettysburg), the interpretation should largely take place far beyond NPS boundaries in communities across the North and South.

The question is, are Civil War historians (academic, public, and amateur) making an impact outside of NPS battlefields?  Are they even imagining the possibilities -- especially the new possibilities enabled by technology -- or are their efforts almost exclusively focused on the NPS?

As we go from the Civil War Sesquicentennial to the Bicentennial, I hope to see the emergence of historical interpretation that is more fully integrated with our modern communities.  In these settings, the history of military organizations and events interacts naturally with social, political, and religious history.  Rather than formal historical sites, we can have a virtual historical layer covering the modern world that is anchored by museums, old houses, cemeteries, churches, etc.  In this virtual layer is content -- facts, anecdotes, photographs, analysis -- that enhances the meaning of what we see. 

At first glance, this isn't necessarily anything new.  Within months of becoming interested in the Civil War at age 10, I went on a fantastic walking tour of Lancaster city in 1996 or 1997 with costumed interpreters acting out diverse scenes or relaying facts related to particular locations.  For many years, a friend had led a full-day bus tour of Lancaster County focusing on the Underground Railroad.

What is new, however, is the potential for increasing interpretive quantity and quality enabled by digitization (already happening) and increasing relevance through algorithmic and crowdsourced content curation (still nascent).  At some point, something analogous to "mass customization" will make an impact on the work of historical interpretation, and people will find new and captivating ways to connect to history.  A simple inquiry based on a person, place, or institution would return abundant information harvested from diverse primary sources set within the appropriate scholarly frameworks.

The volume of raw primary source material that has become available in the last ten years is amazing.  Sources such as Google Books, the PA Civil War Newspapers Project, internet forums, genealogical sites, and even (maybe especially) Ebay make it possible to tell a well-rounded story with nice visual aids about some obscure topic with limited effort.  With some guidance by experts, amateurs, and algorithms, people will be able to look at the world around them -- focusing on their town or religious community or family or school or whatever interests them -- and find dozens of compelling historical threads to explore.

So, what might this look like, or at least what is an example of Civil War history interpreted far beyond the battlefield (or even a historical museum) that primarily utilizes digitized resources?  I've actually had the great pleasure over the past year of participating in such a project investigating how people associated with First Lutheran Church in the city of Pittsburgh experienced the Civil War era.  For those of you familiar with the city, it's the church directly across Grant Street from the U.S. Steel tower.  Needless to say, space is limited and the church's archives isn't too much more than a few records books and stray pamphlets.  However, starting with just a few lists of names, we were able to craft a story of the congregation and the Civil War that we presented in two one-hour Sunday School classes...and still felt like we barely scratched the surface.  Based primarily on what we found in digitized books and newspapers, our presentation touched on slavery and racism, patriotism, mobilization, benevolent efforts, the work of women, the 62nd Pennsylvania and the 101st Pennsylvania, Hampton's Battery, death and mourning, prisons, memory, and the Lutheran confessionalism/pietism controversy.  The presentation was received extremely well by the congregation, and a new website provides ample opportunities for the primary sources corresponding to those topics to be explored in detail.  Also, projects like the Valley of the Shadow seem like a good first-generation effort, but we can continue to think about how to craft narratives and make the primary sources more accessible and relevant to readers. 

Going back to my original point, I really hope to see professional and amateur historians seeking more Civil War interpretive opportunities beyond battlefields.  And I don't mean just giving tours or creating exhibits, but enhancing them with online historical ecosystems that dynamically engage learners to reward curiosity.  I know that I will eagerly consume such efforts.  No matter the location, it's hard to beat the human drama of Civil War history grounded in specific people and places.