Chasing Relatives

18 04 2012

8th PA Reserves Monument Antietam NB

A while back I received a book, Your Affectionate Son: Letters from a Civil War Soldier, from its author, Milann Ruff Daugherty. I wrote about it here. As you read (if you followed the hyperlinked “here”), at about the same time I received some news from my friend Mike regarding some relatives about whom I was unaware. That’s the normal relationship between my ancient relatives and me, by the way, unawareness. Of particular interest was Pvt. James Gates, 8th PA Reserves, mortally wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, died a month later at Smoketown Hospital just north of the battlefield, buried in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg. He served in the same company as the letter writer in Ms. Daugherty’s book. As some of you may be aware, I’m a board member and vice-president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, so my interest in the battle and battlefield is more than passing.

Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, MD

Upon learning of this more tangible relationship with the event, I felt compelled to take a drive down to Maryland (by way of Gettysburg, of course) over the President’s Day holiday back in February. I first drove out to the portion of the field where the 8th PA Reserves saw action. Then I met up with friend Craig Swain and his aide-de-camp Cade Swain and visited my great-great-uncle (how come there’s no “grand” for uncles and aunts?) in the cemetery and took in the million-dollar view of the battlefield from the back of that place. After lunch I drove over to chief historian Ted Alexander’s office near the Pry House. Ted graciously came in on his day off and so I could rummage through the park’s file on the 8th PA Reserves. It was pretty thin, but contained a series of newspaper articles from the turn-of-the-20th century, memoirs of a member of the 8th PA Reserves. In several of those articles, my g-g-uncle played a role, and from the perspective of the history of the battle and battlefield, it was a pretty high-profile role. After making copies (though I’m sure I missed some good stuff and will have to go back), Ted drove me out to the site of the Smoketown hospitals where James died. 

The long and short of it is that I took some good photos and got some great info, but I still want to do some more digging before I present my findings to you, dear readers. I hope that when I do post the piece here you all won’t mind the slight diversion from Bull Run.


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4 responses

18 04 2012
Mike Peters

Harry,

I got into the serious side of studying the War of the Rebellion via genealogy. I found information that 2 ancestors had died during the conflict — Private William Peters of the 57th VA Infantry during Pickett’s Charge and Cpl. Sanford Gadd of the 22nd VA at New Market.

Last October, I did a tour of 1864 Shenandoah with Scott Patchan and a few friends. A couple of them you know — Eric Wittenberg and Dave Powell. We found my ancestor’s grave at St. Matthew’s Cemetery. And Scott pointed out the 22nd’s location and role during the struggle. Guess there were more than the VMI cadets at New Market.

I know where you’re coming from man.

Mike

18 04 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Mike!

18 04 2012
Tom Clemens

Very cool story Harry. I think there is some stuff in the Battlefield Board letters from guys in the 8th Res, will check when I get time. I know they have aregimental history,of which I have a very battered copy.

18 04 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Tom!

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