June 21, 2020

FOUND: A Father-Son Photo with Lt. Col. John H. Duchman

CDV of Lt. Col. John H. Duchman and Lt. Jacob S. Duchman (presumed)
Photo by Harmany & Eberman, Lancaster (vws collection) 
In honor of Father's Day, I'm happy to share a photograph of a father-son pair who served in the same theater of war. It also happens to be the first image -- at least that I can recollect -- showing the officer second-in-command of the 79th Pennsylvania for the first year of the war, Lt. Col. John H. Duchman.

CDV Verso
While the image isn't identified, Lt. Col. Duchman is an obvious conclusion for the older man with oak leaves on his shoulder straps (denoting a lieutenant colonel) is in this early-war photograph taken in the Lancaster studio of Harmany & Eberman. Born in 1796, he also has the distinction of veteran status for the War of 1812(!). He would raise Company B of the 79th Pennsylvania and get elected as lieutenant colonel at the age of 65. The identity of the other soldier is then almost surely his son, Jacob S. Duchman, who served as a second lieutenant in Company K, 77th Pennsylvania.

Lt. Col. Duchman resigned after the arduous race back to Louisville just before the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, where the 79th Pennsylvania fought gallantly and sustained heavy casualties. Rumors in Lancaster disparaging Duchman's character apparently circulated after Perryville, but the newspapers quickly sprung to his defense -- and his advanced age should have been more than enough of an excuse.

The younger Duchman took a more circuitous route with his Civil War service. The Bates PA card file lists him as an early enlistee in his father's original company before promotion, Company B, 79th Pennsylvania. He apparently took an opportunity to jump for a position as an officer in what become a Company K, 77th Pennsylvania (which was originally supposed to be the tenth Lancaster company of the 79th Pennsylvania). His resigned on May 1, 1862, which would have been a few weeks after the 77th Pennsylvania played a supporting role in the Battle of Shiloh. The card file indicates that he then reenlisted as a private in Company K, 77th Pennsylvania, in which he served through the end of the war and beyond as the 77th Pennsylvania served in the Department of Texas. It would be interesting to see if any newspaper records or soldiers' letters provide context to the decision to resign and reenlist.

At least two other father-son combinations exist within the set of Lancaster soldiers serving in the Western Theater: Oscar M. Johnston and Charles M. Johnston of Company F, 9th PA Cavalry, and Henry M. and Joshua W. Geiter of the 79th Pennsylvania. Both are worthy of their own stories. I believe that Oscar M. Johnston got involved with some company controversies in 1862 that resulted in disciplinary action. Joshua Geiter was killed in action at Chickamauga, and his father would write to the Intelligencer under the pen name "Ajax" in 1864 and 1865. These are just pairs that I have run into in research. It's likely that there are several more.

Here's the biography of John H. Duchman from the 1872 collection of Lancaster biographies by Alexander Harris:

DUCHMAN, Col. John H., was a prominent citizen of
Lancaster city for many years. He was, by occupation, in
his younger years, a hatter, and carried on this business for
years. He kept for a number of years the Leopard hotel,
in East King street. Early in life he became captivated
with military glory and volunteered in the war of 1812-14.
He served as first Lieutenant of the old Lancaster Fencibles,
then under command of Capt. John K. Findley, which was
famed for its admirable discipline, and which was disbanded
about the breaking out of the Mexican war. Some years
after this Col. Duchman raised a new company, also named
the Fencibles, of which he was elected Captain. It was this
company which escorted James Buchanan to Washington in
March, 1857, at the time he was inaugurated President of
the United States. This company remained in existence up
to the breaking out of the rebellion in 1861. and became
Company F of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment. Owing to
ill health, Capt. Duchman was unable to march with his
company, and 1st Lieutenant Emlen Franklin succeeded to
the command. For some years he was clerk in the Lancaster
bank. During James Buchanan's administration he held a
position in the custom house in Philadelphia. Shortly after
the breaking out of the rebellion he raised a company for
the 79th Regiment, P. "V. of which he was chosen Lieutenant

On account of advanced age and the rigors of the field, he
was compelled to retire from active service after having
served about one year. He died October 8th, 1866, in the
70th year of his age.

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