|Capt. Sigmund E. Wisner|
79th Pa Officers Oval, Mathew Brady, 1865
Birthplace: August 31, 1839 (Marietta, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)
Occupation: Teacher, Postmaster, Grocer
Church/Religion: Methodist Episcopal
Political Beliefs: Republican
Term of Service: Private, 4/24-7/31/1861 with Company A, 10th PA Infantry; Sergeant, Sergeant Major, 1st Lieutenant, Captain, 9/23/1861-7/12/1865 with 79th Pennsylvania
Notable Events: Visit to Marietta in January 1864, Wounded in Battle of Atlanta
Post-war: Teacher, Postmaster
Death: (>1910) Exact date and burial location unknown.
One of the soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania to pick up his pen midway through the war and begin sending letters for publication in the hometown newspaper was Sigmund E. Wisner, then a sergeant in Company E. Besides recounting the events around Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the first half of 1863, Wisner also reflected on the war's greater meaning and historical context. The front page of the May 16, 1863, edition of the Weekly Mariettian even featured a lengthy feature article, "The Present War," contributed by Wisner while in camp near Murfreesboro. He began with the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth and traced the nation's history to secession in 1860, and described the war's cause as follows:
This is a useful quote for its articulation of the "median" Republican opinion of the war. Slavery was wrong not so much as a violent system of racial ordering but as a production system that destroyed the dignity of labor and the opportunity of the laborer to claim its reward. The was very much about economics, as slavery was very much a system of production.
At the time of the firing on Fort Sumter, Sigmund Wisner had just begun a twelve-week school session, which was advertised at a rate of $2 for primary students and $3 for second students. He cut the term short to join the "Maytown Infantry" (Co. A, 10th Pa Infantry) on April 24, 1861 [Intel 5/7/1861; Pa Card File]. Upon his return after the regiment's three-months service, Wisner joined many other Lancaster County teachers in the "Normal Rifles" as fifth sergeant. Better known as Company E, 79th Pennsylvania, the company was recruited mostly out of Mountville and Millersville, where a college to train teachers had been established a couple years earlier.
Wisner received regular promotions, reenlisting as a veteran in 1864 and attaining a promotion to captain of Company F by the end of 1864. He was wounded in the attack on Atlanta, but finished the war in the field with the regiment. Wisner continued writing to the Weekly Mariettian, and I count a total of nine letters between January 1863 and June 1864. You can find them online at Pennsylvania Civil War Era Newspaper Collection.
In addition to serving for almost the entire duration of the war, Wisner stands out as one of Lancaster County's most active veterans. He served on the committee in charge of erecting the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Lancaster, which was completed in 1874 and still stands today on Penn Square. When the regiment met for its first reunion on October 8, 1877 (fifteen years after the Battle of Perryville), Wisner gave a history of the regiment. Wisner's handwritten copy is now in the possession of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, Company E was unique in that it hosted its own three-day camping trips led by Thomas Hambleton for survivors in the 1890s and 1900s, and Wisner joined in at these reunions.
Google Books and digitized newspapers provide a good list of Wisner's postwar activities, including: