Friday, June 8, 2012

My Family in the Civil War

To the best of our knowledge, we have just one ancestor who fought in the Civil War: my second great grandfather, Jacob Schuler. He joined the "Warren County Rifles" of Pennsylvania on August 22, 1862 and served until August 30, 1865. Remarkably, they remained out of harm's way for most of the war.

This is a great summary of their activities: (source; see Jacob on the muster rolls here)

Independent Company C (Infantry) was recruited in Warren county, in the summer of 1862, for the One Hundred and Forty-fifth regiment, but before reaching the camp of this regiment at Erie, the requisite number of companies had been accepted. It was accordingly mustered into service as an Independent company, under Captain DeWitt C. James, on the 4th of September, and immediately proceeded to Harrisburg. It was promptly armed, and sent forward into the Cumberland Valley with a provisional battalion, the rebel army being at this time in Maryland, and threatening an invasion of the State.

While the battle of Antietam was in progress on the 16th and 17th, the company was posted on picket across the valley near the State line, where it remained some ten days, picking up during that time, one hundred and fifty rebel stragglers. [Antietam was the bloodiest battle of the war; 23,000 died. Company C was incredibly fortunate to be on the outskirts and not in the thick of things.]

Ignore the C and A - Antietam is at letter B;
the PA border is just north of the edge of this map.

Towards the close of the month, it returned to Harrisburg, where Captain James was made provost marshal of the city, and the company was employed in provost duty, under the direction of Captain W. B. Lane, chief mustering and recruiting officer, being chiefly engaged in arresting deserters in the counties of Dauphin (Harrisburg), Lebanon (just east of Dauphin), Lancaster (southeast of Dauphin), Cumberland (west of Dauphin), Franklin (the Cumberland Valley, southwest of Cumberland County), and Fulton (next county west of Franklin).

On the 2d of February, 1863, Lieutenant Eben W. Ford, was killed while arresting parties in Fulton county. On the 20th of March, it was transferred to Washington, where it performed provost duty, until the 13th of May, when it was sent to Alexandria, under command of Lieutenant George W. M'Pherson, and was attached to Independent Battery H, Captain Borrowe, on duty at Alexandria, in the command of General Slough.

When the rebel General Early made his demonstration upon Washington, in July, 1864, this company was ordered to the front, and thrown upon the picket line. In September, 1864, it was relieved from duty with the battery, and was assigned to guard duty at the military prisons in Alexandria. While engaged in this service, about ten thousand persons who had been arrested as deserters, were conducted to the front by this single company.

In March, 1865, Captain James was appointed an additional paymaster, and was confirmed by the Senate on the 6th of April, his commission dating April 14th, being the last signed by President Lincoln, The company was mustered out of service at Harrisburg, on the 20th of July, 1865.

Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.

Provost Duties: (source)
The Provost Marshall’s office was developed under the command of General McClellan during the early part of the war. This development created the Provost Marshall General, and the newly charged special department who’s duties and definition of this office was for the first time under one management department head.

The duties of a Provost Marshall are among the following listed:
  • The suppression of marauding and depredation on private property.
  • The preservation of good order.
  • The prevention of straggling.
  • The suppression of gambling houses or other establishments prejudicial to good order and discipline.
  • Supervision of hotels, saloons and places of resort and amusements generally.
The Provost Marshall partook the character both of a Chief of Police and Magistrate. Among the duties of this officer he was entrusted with the duty of making searches, seizures and arrest. He had the custody of deserters, and of deserters from the opposing forces and of prisoners of war. All prisoners taken in battle were turned over to the Provost Marshall and by him later transferred to special guards, who delivered the prisoners to prison camps farther North.

He also had jurisdiction over the issuance of passes into camps to citizens as well as to hearing complaints lodged by citizens. Among his contact with the citizens was the supervision of the draft. He, also, saw that order was preserved, and that arrest were made against all offenders against military discipline under his authority, in short, preserving Marshall Law among the citizens. All arrest made, the Provost Marshall was responsible for their safe keeping.

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