EDWARD SLOYER'S STORY
1844 - 1919
A Civil War Veteran
by Joyce Godfrey
During the Civil War, I served as a private in Company F of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. My experience was to impact the rest of my life. Like veterans from any war, I spoke little about my service. I felt others might not understand what I had to do or what I saw, and my daughters needed to be protected from the realities of my experience. I, therefore, passed on the following legend to my daughter, Laura:
My father, Edward Sloyer, was a Union soldier during the American Civil War. He served with the 153rd Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry. On July 1, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, he was shot in the hip. Unable to move, Edward layed on the field for six days. A "Johnny," a rebel soldier, gave him water and carried him to an aid station. Since Edward was not badly wounded, they gave him water and whiskey, and then put him on a freight train home to recuperate (Harpster interview).
My family has passed this legend on from generation to generation. My great-grandaughter, Joyce, became fascinated by the legend. She had copies of my military papers which stated I was wounded on July 1, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg and my whereabouts were unknown. She had also been told I had received a veteran's pension for my injuries. She requested my pension file from the National Archives, after two requests she received 159 pages of my file. She has studied histories of my service period to obtain a clearer picture of my service in the Army of the Potomac. She interviewed my only surviving grandchild, Naomi Gerwin Fausey, about me. In the last year, Joyce has connected with a number of other Sloyer descendants to learn more about our family history. Without the early Pennsylvania research of Jay Willis (a Henrich Schleyer descendant), research by Mary Twitchell (a Levine Schloyer descendant) and Shirley Sloyer (married to a Josiah Sloyer descendand) my story could not have evolved to this point. My story is a work in progress, it changes as research continues.
NOTE: The Schloyer/Sloyer name appears under a number of variant spelling in records. This is not uncommon. Surnames were often recorded phonetically.
My life began on January 28, 1844, in Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. (obituary of Edward Sloyer) I was the third child born to Samuel and Catherine Schloyer. Hetty, my only sister, was born on June 17, 1839; but she died young. Josiah was born January 9, 1842. We were all baptized at Old Williams/St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Williams Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Our family was completed with the birth of my younger brother, Levine, in about 1847.
Being fifth generation born Americans, one might think our lives were very different from that of my immigrant great-great-great-grandfather, Michael Schleyer, who settled in Bucks county Pennsylvania around 1752. However, in ninety two years we still lived our lives much the same way he did. Our German heritage was very important to us. We still spoke German fluently, in fact our church services and school lessons were usually conducted in German. Our communities were predominately of German descent, and we usually married spouses with a German background. In fact, many of Michael's descendants still resided in Bucks and Northampton counties.
Farming was our main occupation, but many of us were taught skills to obtain outside manual work. I did not receive a formal education (Harpster interview), but was taught to write and do numbers at home. I was also trained to be a carpenter, like my father. While we were living a peaceful life in Pennsylvania, political tensions were growing in Washington.
Growing political tensions were something I had little time for. Growing up I heard the adults talking about the slavery issue or states versus federal rights, but I felt it was far away and had little to do with my life. Little did I know that shortly after my seventeenth birthday, my life as I knew it was to change dramatically.
Voting took place in the fall of 1860. Abraham Lincoln was declared the new president. Within three months of the election seven southern states had voted to secede from the Union. By February 1861 these states had proposed a constitution for the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis as provisional president. All of this happened before Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861. Talk was still of a political action to end the problem.
Ending the hope of a political solution occurred on April 12, 1861, when Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The Confederates took the fort and war was declared.
Following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the people of Northampton County, Pennsylvania met at the public square in Easton, the county seat. Patriot speeches were made asking for volunteers to help meet the president's call for 75,000 men of the Union to enlist for terms of three months (http://home.ptd.net/~nikki/northamco.htm).
Still, at seventeen, I was not caught up in the immediate appeal for volunteers. The general belief was the war would last a matter of months. The Union would prevail.
As time passed people realized this was not going to be a short war. The Union lost early battles in Virginia, casualties were high, and people began to have doubts. Recruiters continued to canvas the country appealing to men to show their patriotism and do their honor to preserve the Union. For many patriotic men the longer one, two, or three year enlistment requirements kept them from volunteering. Their families could not do without them for that long a time.
Calling for 300,000 volunteers in July 1862 for nine month enlistments made enlisting possible for many men. Two other inducements that encouraged our enlistment, at this time, was the offering of bounties and the fear of being drafted. The bounty money would help out the families, and the men could do honor to their familes by volunteering.
Heeding the call, I was nine months past my eighteenth birthday. On September 22, 1862, in Easton, Pennsylvania I volunteered. I was five feet, eight inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, and listed my occupation as a laborer (Civil War Pension File # 147625). My rank was private in Co. F of the 153rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Every man, it is said, in our regiment was from Northampton County. In fact our companies were formed with men of particular townships. Company F was from Williams Township (Keifer, p. 317). This arrangement meant we served with friends, neighbors, and for some brothers.
Getting under way took several days, but we boarded freight cars for Camp Curtin in Harrisburg. We quickly learned one of the major lessons every soldier learns, that is "the hurry up and wait lesson." Army officials wanted us on the field, but processing and equipping thousands of men took a lot of time. We were mustered into the Army of the Potomac on October 7, 1862 (Military Papers # 405544). The army was under the command of General George McClellan, at this time. On October 12th, we boarded a train destined for camp in Washington.
Defending Washington was our first assignment. In truth, we saw no action here; we were encamped. In camp, we learned to be soldiers. The drum became our clock. We honed our skills at drill, learned the chain of command, and picked up tricks from old soldiers. Free time was spent cleaning up the camp, building roads, digging latrines, repairing equipment, cooking meals, and looking for water supplies.
In November , we received orders assigning us to the First Brigade, First Division, Eleventh Corps, Army of the Potomac, now under the command of General Ambrose Burnside. We boarded the ship, Hero, to Alexandria; and then by rail went to Manassas Junction (Keifer, p. vii). From there we began our march.
On the march, we began to see the realities of soldiering and war. While most of us were used to walking long distances and carrying weight, marching as a soldier was different. Each man carried all his equipment and food. Our uniforms were made of wool. Somedays the march was slow and other days were were ordered to move quickly. Exposure to the elements took their toll. Along with our first look at the aftermath of battles.
Passing earlier battlefields in Virginia, we were shocked by what we saw. Dead, rotting animals; shallow graves for soldiers; damaged buildings; and destroyed farm fields opened our eyes to the reality of war.
Arriving in Gainesville, we finally met up with the 11th Corps. We now knew our time of service had truly begun. Bates descibes our early duty as follows:
On Sunday, the 9th of November, the brigade was ordered to Aldie, where it confronted the enemy, and on the 18th retired to the neighborhood of Chantilly. On the 9th of December, upon the eve of the battle of Fredericksburg, the brigade was ordered forward, and reached Stafford Court House, after a most exhausting march...Soon after its arrival here, the regiment went into camp, south of Accakeek Creek, where it was engaged in picket and guard duty. On the 20th of January, 1863, upon the opening of the Mud March, it moved.. to Brook's Station, where it went into camp, and for three days was engaged in picketing the railroad. Upon the giving up of the campaign, it proceeded to Acquia Landing, where substantial quarters were erected, which were abandoned at the end of three days, the command having been ordered to Potomac Creek Bridge. Here it was soon settled in permanent winter-quarters, and here it remained...until the opening of the spring campaign (Bates).
Being encamped was a trying time. The defeat at Fredericksburg had demoralized many soldiers. Desertations were a problem and the camp was full of discontent. Again, President Lincoln found it necessary to replace the commander of his army. On January 27, 1863, General Joseph Hooker became our new commander.
Raising morale became Hooker's priority. He kept all of us busy, heorganized duty details, he made himself visible to the troops, and he held drills and reviews. Soon the desrtion problem diminished. While morale in general was raised by these actions, the 11th Corps was still discontented. General Sigel, our respected German leader, had left his command, and the unit was experiencing prejudice because of our German heritage.
At this point, general Oliver Oatis Howard was assigned command of our corps. He quickly addresses the morale issue. He drilled and reviewed us for weeks, and we responded. We even had a special review, "On the 10th (April, 1863) Mr. Lincoln came to reviw my corps" (Howard, Vol. 1, p. 349). Such visits raised morale and with the arrival of spring we knew we would return to fighting the war.
Before the end of April, Hooker slowly revealed his plan to his corps commanders. The Army of the Potomac was once again on the march. We were happy to break camp and anxious to end the war. Both armies were readying their positions.
Moving once again, the Eleventh Corps made its way to a position west of Chancellorville. We were in the area by May 1, 1863. Our line was spread out along the Chancellorville Turnpike. Behind our position was a dense forest with much underbrush. This was the far right line of the army, and seemed to be a safe position. We settled in.
By the next day, we made repeated reports of activity in the woods. The information was relayed to headquarters, but the replies amounted to reprimands for being scared. Headquarters did not pass on our reports, because they felt it would be impossible for the Confederates to march through the forest.
Passing time reassured our officers. All seemed quiet, and we were ordered to cook our supper. We stacked our guns, sang songs while we cooked, and relaxed. Suddenly panicking animals ran from the woods. Then shots rang out. "Another round landed in the 153rd Pennsylvania...killing a man (Furguson, p. 173). We ran for cover.
Screaming the now famous rebel cry the Confederate soldiers came out of the woods. They were led by General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. His attack was a total surprise. An officer from the 153rd Pennsylvania described the attack in this way:
The attacker's line, already broken up by the thickets, compacted again and again...by the ceaseless 'Close up' of the officers, swept forward like a cyclone..Obstacles that had harassed our advance, and hampered our retreat, yielded to the fierce momentum of an army in three-fold volume of masses, all saturated with the spirit of their superhuman leader...they did not even reply to the resolute skirmish fire which was vigorously maintained at stand after stand, from tree to tree.. (Furguson, p. 174).
Retreating in what some described as a panic. We were reformed to act as a second defense line. The battle would continue through May 6th. Again the Army of the Potomac was defeated and forced to retreat to the north bank of the Rappanhannock River.
Again, we were encamped. It was a gloomy month. The corps ranks were being depleted by the mustering out of enlistees who had enlisted for three month or two year terms. The Northern newspapers were filled with bad reports about the war. Politicans were voicing concern about the direction of the war, and there was a general lack of confidence in General Hooker. Morale was agin low, especially in the Eleventh Corps. Our performance was being criticized, some were blaming us for the defeat at Chancellorville. We were being called "Skulkers," men who run away in the face of battle.
Slowly reports filtered in that Lee's army was moving westward, but Hooker had no idea where they were headed. Ordered by Lincoln to remain on the north side of the Rappahannock River, and to keep his army between Lee and Washington, D.C.; Hooker acted cautiously.
Marching orders were again issued. Being it was the end of May, the weather had turned hot in Virginia. We were at Brook's Station on May 28th. By June 14th we were at Manassas Junction and Centerville. We were at Gooseneck Creek by the 17th and remained there until the 24th. We received orders to make our way to Middletwn to seize South Mountain, but new orders arrived heading us to Maryland. On June 27th, we were concentrated in Maryland.
As you might note, we had enlisted on September 22, 1862 for nine months. Many men felt our time was served, and it was time to be mustered out. Disagreement over muster out time was a constant problem. Soldiers thought the date was from their enlistment date, but the government counted from your muster-in date into the Army of the Potomac. We did not see this as a problem, our time would soon be up, and we were closer to home.
On June 28th, command of the army was once again changed. The president named General George Meade our new leader. At almost the same time, reports were received that Lee's army seemed to be in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania area. Meade on June 30th, ordered the First Corps to Gettysburg, and the Eleventh Corps to position itself within supporting distance of the town. The Eleventh Corps, especially Pennsylvania units, were ready. The war had become personal, the enemy had invaded our hme state.
Early on the morning of July 1, 1863, the First Corps had an unexpected skirmish with a small force of Confederate troops. We received orders to get to Gettysburg as quickly as possible. When we arrived we could hear the sounds of battle on the other side of the town. General Howard assessed the situation, left reserves on Cemetery Hill, and sent the rest of us north of town. Our position is now called Barlow Knoll. Here is my description of that day:
On or about July 1st 1863 I was with my company about 18 miles from Gettysburg, Penna; about six o'clock in the morning we took up a forced march to Gettysburg arriving at Gettysburg about 10 o'clock in the forenoon and immediately engaged the enemy beyond the town after we had engaged them about half an hour we were ordered to fall back. While crossing a Clover Stubble field I was shot in the thigh (right) and soon fell to the ground helpless, unable to rise to my feet, the blood spurting from my wound in a torrent. My regiment passed on and left me, and the rebel line of battle passed over and while lying on the ground in rear of the rebels I received a shot in the right side. Just below and a little back of the right nipple and following the rib that it struck past out at the breast bone... That I lay in the Clover field aforesaid until the evening of the next day - being wounded between eleven and twelve forenoon and from exposure to the excessive heat of the sun for that time, and being without shelter of any kind I contracted inflammation of both eyes which resulted in great weakness of my eyes and partial loss of the sight of both eyes...All afternoon of the day I was shot I was wholly unconscious, until in the night time, in the Clover field where I fell...(Pension file # 147625)
This is what the area looks like today:
153rd Pennsylvania Monument
Views from our position
Fighting continued for two more days. During this three-day battle 83,289 Union soldiers and 75,054 Confederate soldiers waged war against each other. At the end of the battle 3,155 Union soldiers were dead and 14, 529 were wounded; on the Confederate side 3,903 were killed and 18,735 were wounded (Livermore, p. 102). The Army of the Potomac was victorious but had no time to rest. They left Gettysburg following the retreating Confederate Troops.
Treating the wounded, like me, became a major effort for those left in charge. Fortunately for me, the shot I was hit with, in the thigh and side, passed through my body. This meant I would not need surgery, a major cause of death in the army. I was treated at the Poor House (Almshouse), near our position, for the first several days. I was then transferred to a temporary hospital on the battlefield. On August 1st, I was moved to a hospital in Harrisburg for five months. Finally, I was sent home to finish my recuperation. Officially I was mustered out, although I was not present, with my unit at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg on July 24, 1863 (Military Papers # 405544).
Returning to civilian life was easy, my plan was to finish my recuperation and get on with my life. I was twenty now and still had much to look forward to. I eventually returned to work as a carpenter, however, my leg injury continued to plague me. Along with this change in my life, other changes took place. My brother, Josiah, married and moved to another part of Pennsylvania and to Ohio. Then my parents with my brother, Levine, moved to Ohio. They were settled in Scott Township, Sandusky County, Ohio, in 1870. Levine had even married a local girl, Elizabeth Jane Hutchinson. I remained in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
As each year passed, I found it more and more difficult to work full time. In 1875, I first applied for a Veteran's pension. As any veteran, from any war, will tell you this is not an easy task. While the government may pass legislation to provide relief, the agency left in charge does not willingly grant the benefits. After medical exams and pension bureau scrutiny, I was granted a $4 a month pension for being 1/2 disabled from the gun shot wound in my right thigh on August 1, 1877. A request for a pension increase was filed in April of 1878. Dr. Humphrey, of Bethlehem, Northampton County had examined me. He stated my thigh wound made me 3/4 disabled (Pension file #147625).
On June 21, 1878, Rev. Fatecher married me and Lenora Vogel, daughter of Peter and Lucy, in Easton. Our lives were blessed by the birth of our daughter, Laura, on December 11, 1878. Working continued to be a sometimes thing, but in October of 1879, I received word my 3/4 disabilty had been approved and payments would increase to $6 a month dating from August 1878. Then in October of 1879, a government review board approved arrears to my pension of $4 a month from July 24, 1863 through July 2, 1875. We now could make a new life.
Moving to Ohio, around 1880, we first settled in with my parents. It was very nice to once again be surrounded by family. Levine and his family lived nearby, but Josiah and his family had moved on to Michigan. Lenora, Laura, and I bought a house in Bradner, Wood County, Ohio. I even set up a small shop to make stringed instruments, to supplement our income (see photos at end of story). Our family was made complete by the birth of our second daughter, Katie, on August 30, 1885.
As I got older, the problems caused from both my wounds and eyes got worse. I joined the Hamilton Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans group, which pushed for better pension legislation and assisted members in obtaining their pension benefits. One might think, looking at my pension file, that the rest of my life was spent in law offices and at medical exams. In some sense this is true. My file is filed with affidavits from former army comrades, neighbors, local doctors, government appointed medical examiners, lawyers, my state representative, and pension review boards. While local doctors stated both gunshot wounds and sun exposure to my eyes were causing greater disability; government examiners and pension review boards discounted the chest wound and eye problems. However, I did receive pension increases over the years; by 1892 my pension was $12 a month.
While this process was very time consuming, everyday life did go on. Laura attended the local one-room school, which Katie would also attend. My parents were getting older and needed care. My mother, Catherine, passed away in 1896. My father, Samuel, passed in 1899. My wife, Lenora, had been ill for a time; she died of consumption (TB) on August 1, 1900. That left my daughters and myself to carry on, as Levine and his family moved to Michigan.
Supporting each other became our goal. When Katie graduated from the eighth grade, she passed a state test to become a substitute teacher in one-room schools. Laura wanted to teach too, so I scraped together the money to send her to Valparaiso College in Indiana. Unfortunately the money ran out after a year, and she was unable to become a teacher. Then Katie married Charles W. Gerwin on September 28, 1904. They lived on his farm in Sandusky County. They soon had children, making me a grandfather.
Aging, as gracefully as I could, I no longer worked as a carpenter but as a wood worker. The shop I set up at home to make violins and cellos, was now my life's work. When Charles and Katie brought their young children to visit I would occasionally allow them to watch me in the shop. The children had to promise to be very quiet while I worked. They would sit on the floor, with my beloved cat, and watch in fascination (Naomi Fausey, 2000). The profits from my business supplemented my pension, which had increased to $24 a month in 1911; this was possible by the passage of the Private Act of Congress, No. 277.
Another Pension act was passed in 1912. It provided a $30 pension to any Civil War soldier who was honorably discharged and unable to do manual labor due to a war injury. I of course applied. In 1917, my Congressman, A.W. Overmeyer, tried to intervene. I had to reapply in 1918. At this time Congressman Overmeyer personally forwarded the request and a letter to the Pension Bureau. On September 20, 1918, I was granted a $32 a month pension.
Finally, at the age of seventy-four I had a full pension. The aging process and my injuries were taking their toll. On October 10, 1918, I was admitted to the Ohio Veterans Home, in Sandusky, Ohio. My admission was based on my disability from the gunshot wound in the thigh, old age and heart trouble. I was assigned to Cottage F, where I died on October 29, 1919 (file # 9866).
Grieving, Laura and Katie sent the undertaker to bring me home. They laid me to rest beside my wife, Lenora; one row behind my parents, Samuel and Catherine; in Bradner Cemetery, Wood County, Ohio.
Edward Sloyer Made Violins
owned by Joyce Godfrey
made 1900 and still playable
unfinished violins, saved for Edward's eldest granddaughters
Civil War Military Papers of Edward Sloyer, Roll # 40544, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Civil War Pension File of Edward Sloyer, # 147625, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Des Moines, IA; Dyer Publishing Co., 1908, Reprint, Dayton, OH; National Historical Society, 1979.
Furguson, Ernst B. Chancellorville 1863. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
Howard, Oliver O. Autobiography of Oliver Oatis Howard, Vol. 1. New York: The Baker & Taylor Co., 1907
Interview with Laura Harpster by Ruth Oberhommery in the Spring of 1965.
Interviws with Naomi Fausey by Joyce Godfrey in the Fall of 1993 and Summer 2000.
Keifer, W.R. History of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Maltimore: Reprint by Butternut and Blue, 1996.
Livermore, Thomas L. Numbers and Losses in the Civil War. New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1969.