|CDV of Capt E. D. Roath|
(Courtesy of John Mulcahy)
Born in Lancaster in 1820, Roath graduated from the Shippensburg Academy and began work as a teacher. He came to Marietta in 1852 and worked in a lumber yard before being elected justice of the peace in 1854. Following in his father's footsteps as a militia leader, Roath had led the "Maytown Infantry" militia before the war, and began drilling a partially full militia company shortly after the war's outbreak. By November, recruits in the "'Squire's" company began trickling in to Camp Curtin with the plan of joining the 61st Pennsylvania. After some shuffling and reorganization, Roath's command eventually ended up as Company E, 107th Pennsylvania, a regiment organized in March 1862, and gave themselves the nickname of the "Union Fencibles." [WM 5/18, 11/16/1861]
His first letter appearing in the Weekly Mariettian was to thank the ladies of Marietta for their Valentine's Day contribution of fifty-one pairs of mittens and other useful items. The company's resolution made sure to state, "That if the young men (those able to leave their business,) were inspired with half the patriotism of woman, they would cheerfully join the army of the Union, so they would never be placed under the painful blush of cowardice, when in the presence of a patriotic lady."
Roath's letters to the Weekly Mariettian continued through 1862, although as one of the regiment's senior captains he understandably did not find as much time to write as the regiment fought in more and more battles in fall 1862. Although the regiment fought in just about all the battles of the Army of the Potomac, a quick glance at the roster reveals the toughest fights to have been the Battles of Second Bull Run and Gettysburg and the Siege of Petersburg. Controversies occasionally arose, with the regiment's adjutant apparently having run-ins with Roath and other unnamed sources trying (unsuccessfully) to impugn Roath's bravery under fire around the time of the Battles of 2nd Bull Run and Antietam. [WM 10/11/1862]
At Gettysburg, Roath's regiment stood along Oak Ridge with the First Corps as it tried to buy time on the battle's first day. After the regiment's commanding officer was wounded, Roath took command of the regiment's few remaining men for the rest of the battle, most notably leading them while on Cemetery Hill during Pickett's Charge. Roath wrote a long and interesting letter two months after the battle for publication in the Mariettian [10/10/1863]. Its contents include the regiment's actions during and after Gettysburg, the Union party ticket for the 1863 elections, and the joy which the wounded men of the Second Division, First Corps, felt when they learned that the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster would be tending to their hospital at Gettysburg.
Roath continued with the regiment through the Overland Campaign of 1864, but was captured at the Battle of Weldon Railroad (part of the Siege of Petersburg) on August 19, 1864. Roath was confined for nine months in various prisons and was exchanged in February 1865 and mustered out shortly thereafter. His diary entry for the day of his capture as well as a copy of a letter that Roath wrote from a prison in Danville, Virginia, appealing for better food, are presented below: (alternate link)
After the war, Roath continued his life in Marietta, serving as Justice of the Peace and in the State Legislature, leading a militia company, and joining various fraternities. Roath died on September 12, 1907. Now, just over a hundred years later, we are very fortunate to still gain many insights into his life and Civil War experiences through generous descendants and digitized newspapers. To understand how the typical experienced the Civil War, it is necessary to understand how a Civil War company formed and fought, and this information pulled together about Capt. Roath from various sources help us to do just that.
If anyone else is interested in or research Capt. Roath, please feel free to post in the comments here, or send me an email, and I'll happily pass anything on to John Mulcahy. There are many fascinating avenues of investigation about Capt. Roath and his life before, during, and after the Civil War, so any additional information would be eagerly received.
- Roath bio in 1903 Biographical Annals of Lancaster County
- Regimental History from Bates
- Weekly Mariettian in the PA Civil War Newspapers Project
- Roath report from Gettysburg in Official Records (p. 304)
- Company E, 107th Pennsylvania Roster
- Civil War Letters of James B. Thomas, Adjutant of the 107th Pennsylvania
- Hospital Scenes after the Battle of Gettysburg by the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster