1863: Edward Fisher to “Dear Sir”

The following letter was written by Pvt. Edward Fisher of Co. G, 147th Pennsylvania Infantry. The year of the letter, Edward Fisher’s regiment, and the identify of his correspondent were all missing from this letter but by determining the date of the child abduction and murder described in the letter, we were able in turn to determine Edward’s regiment, then being organized and trained near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I could not find an image of Edward but here is one of Benjamin Lochman of Co. H, 147th Pennsylvania
(Jane Johansson Collection)

The five year-old girl abducted from her home and murdered was Mary Elizabeth German, the daughter of a Harrisburg book merchant named Emanuel Seltzer German (1822-1912) according to an article appearing in the Alexandria Gazette on 7 October 1862 (see footnote).

So who was Edward Fisher? Most likely his residence was in Snyder county as most of the boys in Co. G were recruited there in August and September 1862 and most all were of German descent. He was no doubt with his company when they departed Selinsgrove on the train bound for Harrisburg on 13 September and, once there, marched through the town to the beat of fife and drum to Camp Simmons where they encamped and mustered into the service two days later. In the memoirs kept by Sgt. Michael Simon Schroyer, also a member of Co. G, it was recorded that “while in camp, a little girl was murdered on Allison’s Hill, east of Harrisburg. It was reported that the murderer was a soldier, so orders were issued that no soldier was allowed to leave camp, but that any and all should be admitted. Some five or six citizens, men and women, were brought into camp to search for the supposed murderer. We were drawn up in line, and those people took a front and back view of us. A man was taken from the line near us, and that created quite a commotion for a little while, but he was later released. It is said that the girl was a distant relative of Governor Curtin, and that her slayer was captured two years later.”

Schroyer also stated in his memoirs that while the company was at Camp Simmons in the fall of 1862, itching to meet the enemy, “a number of the boys brought Bowie knives and revolvers. Among them was Ed Fisher who conceived the idea that if he had a self-cocking revolver, he would be able to put down the rebellion himself. One day in camp, Fisher hurriedly ran his hand down into his trousers pocket where he carried his rapid firing piece of ordnance, and to his surprise he struck the trigger and off went the gun. The hot smoke curled down his pantaloons and he, of course, imagined that it was blood. A hasty examination relieved his anxiety but the ball of the cartridge had gone through his pocketbook, which was very light after the purchase of the revolver. The ball struck the ground just in front of his big toe and that settled Ed for carrying such deadly weapons. I don’t think he ever carried one since then.”

Schroyer’s memoirs mention Edward Fisher several more times. He was identified as one of five boys in Co. G who were taken captive during the Battle of Chancellorsville. He was kept on Belle Island in Richmond until exchanged and did not return to the regiment until 31 October 1863 at Chattanooga, just prior to the Battle of Lookout Mountain. He was also mentioned in the following paragraph:

Many darkies had gathered in camp. At night they would sing their old plantation songs, and I am sure every member of Company G enjoyed them. One night they assembled in a large tent and continued their singing and carousing until after midnight. The Colonel being kept from sleep, came out to see what was the trouble. Just at this time the darkies were in the midst of their jollification. A number of Company G boys gathered around the tent and at a given signal cut the ropes and the tent fell upon them. The screaming of the ladies of color and the noise made by the young and old bucks awakened everybody in camp. Of course, all were anxious to know the cause. The Colonel was out of humor and not appreciating the joke, placed a number under guard. I would like to tell of some real funny things that took place that night but there are some things that happened which are company secrets and are only told within the inner circle. However, if you would whisper softly into Ed Fisher’s left ear be might give you a little history of that night’s doings.

and in this paragraph describing the Battle of Lookout Mountain:

“While marching up Lookout and changing positions owing to the nature of the ground we moved along beyond the point with the regiment left in front. The Colonel gave the command to countermarch. We were then on a road leading around the mountain, and as we were executing this command the Regiment was just doubled up as a volley from the Rebels compelled us to drop down over the embankment along the road. The adjutant of the regiment, Samuel Magee, thinking it meant a route, drew his sabre and struck Jere Hathaway across the back-cried “halt!” that he did not want us to run. Ed Fisher, who was close to the adjutant, said: “Who the Devil intends to run? You tell us what to do and we are here to do it.” The order from the Colonel to front face and dress up was speedily done. We advanced to the road. When the command forward was given, the 147th again showed the quality  of the men and officers composing the regiment, for many a regiment would have been unable to rally its men under similar conditions.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 September 1908

and in this paragraph describing the Battle of Ringgold, Georgia, on 27 November 1863:

“We marched in line of battle about half way up in the woods when the command was given by the left flank. Captain Davis, who was beside the writer now, left my side to take his place at the left of the Company. Hardly had he gone, when he was mortally wounded and carried off the field by James P. Ulrich and others, whom I have forgotten. Lieutenant B. T. Parks, who then became commander of the company, was in the act of passing the writer to the left of the company, when a bullet struck him in the back of the neck, going entirely thru. I stopped and looked at him but as he never moved a muscle I thought he was dead and passed on. Later Ed Fisher and William E. Fausnaucht found him alive and kicking and carried him off the field. After arriving at the hospital Parks made the boys prop him up and light his pipe for him. Then he made Fisher go after his sword, which he had lost on the battlefield.”

and in this paragraph describing the Battle of New Hope Church on 25 May 1864:

“There we found General Hooker dismounted and directing us where to go. The Fifth Ohio regiment, following us and forming line of battle on our right, had scarcely gotten into position when a volley was fired into them, killing and wounding 105 men, including Colonel Patrick, their commander. General Hooker placed himself just in rear of Company G and drawing his sword, or cheese knife, as the boys used to call it, said: “This line can’t break unless it goes thru me first.” Ed Fisher said, “That’s so, old Fighting Joe.” ….The fighting was severe and we were repulsed. Eighteen hundred men were killed and wounded in our corps in less than three hours. The loss in Company G was: Ed Fisher, wounded in the foot; Elias Noll, wounded in the foot; William Seesholtz, leg shot off at ankle, died from amputation, and buried in National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tenn., and William E. Fausnaucht, leg shot off just below the knee.

and in this humorous anecdote:

“Colonel Pardee never allowed any shooting in or around camp. Ed Fisher, who, by the way, never fired a gun before he went to the army, asked the writer in a sort of confidential way that if he would pull the ball out of his gun and then fire it off, whether it would crack. The writer said: “Why of course not.” So Ed, forthwith drew the ball, put on a cap and pulled the trigger. Imagine his surprise when the report and the echo of that shot rang out there in the woods. It seemed to him like the firing of a cannon. The Colonel, who unfortunately was not far away, ordered the writer to buck and gag Fisher, which was done according to orders. While the writer was carrying out these orders, Fisher said, “I have a notion to blow on you, for all this was your fault.” I told him if he did I would haul him up tight. He sort of feared I might tighten him up, and said nothing more about it, except that he remarked that he would never believe anything I told him.”

or this one that took place on the day after Lincoln was elected in November 1864:

“The next morning after the election the rebels with a body of cavalry and artillery charged our breastworks. Ed Fisher and the writer were tenting together at this time. For some reason I had gotten up early and was preparing breakfast, when the first thing we knew a shell from a rebel battery came down our company street and exploded just beyond the street, near our suttler’s tent. A darkey, who had been sleeping in the tent, came forth with his clothes in his arms going at full speed for the rear. I began putting away my cooking utensils, when Fisher, who was still in bed, said: “Schroyer what’s that.” I replied, that I thought we had received good news from Richmond and that they were firing a salute. Just then another shell landed in our company street, exploded and striking Isaac Reed’s tent just above us, knocked a piece of board off the corner of it. Then Fisher jumped up with his clothes and his gun in his hand and said: “Like the devil, the Johnnies are coming.” All rushed for our works, shooting and dressing at the same time. This was a laughable sight. Much more could be said.”

The last mention of Edward in Schroyer’s memoirs was in December 1864 when the regiment was in Savannah. It reads:

“During our stay here two of our boys, Edward Fisher and Calvin E. Parks were promoted to orderlies on the staff of General Ario Pardee commanding the first brigade of Geary’s White Star Division. This was quite an honor to Company G and especially so to Parks and Fisher.”

Muster rolls indicate that Edward mustered out with his company on 6 June 1865. To read Sgt. Michael S. Schroyer’s Memoirs, penned five years after the war, go to Civil War Diary: Company G, 147th P. V. I.

It is my conclusion that Edward was relatively young when he enlisted, that he was a good friend of Sgt. Schroyer of Selinsgrove (since they tented together), and that he was most likely the same Edward Fisher (1845-1926) who was the son of Peter Fisher (1803-1850) and Susan Lloyd (1816-1861) of Selinsgrove, Snyder county, Pa. Edward died on 17 May 1926 at the Naval Hospital at League Island in Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, he was a widower; his wife Eliza Jane Williams (b. 1846) having preceded him in death. Edward would have been underage to enlist but was probably allowed to do so by his guardian’s consent (to whom he addressed this letter).

[Note: After spending hours researching this letter, I discovered that I had transcribed and published it previously on 15 January 2014—nine years ago. I’m leaving the prior posting on Spared & Shared 4 because the research includes different and additional information not included here. It’s good to see I came to the same conclusion regarding his identity but disappointing to see that my client purchased the letter recently with an erroneous information attached to it. See 1862: Edward B. Fisher to Guardian]

Transcription

Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]
October the 6th [1862]

Dear Sir,

I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am getting along fine so far—only these crackers we have here are so hard that I can hardly get them fine enough to swallow them without almost choking at them. We have bread twice a day and in the evening we have crackers & coffee.

There has a great many accidents happened here last week. Two cars run over a soldier and cut his legs off and broke his should bone. One of the soldiers was down town and picked up a little girl and took to a swamp and shot her through the neck and then cut her throat. The girl was only 5 years old and now no one dare go out of camp. 1

I am going to send my $20 check with this letter and I thought I would like to get myself a pair of boots if you did not care. Our boys are all getting them. They are made for army use. They are worth $8. If you could send me $6, I would have enough. I have $3.50 yet of that money you sent me. I think if I run the risk of my life, I might as well get the worth of it. Sometimes I buy my meals. The most of the boys buy theirs all the time. We got a pair of shoes but they will hardly do for wet weather and if you think proper, I wish you would send me $6 or 8 and if you think not, the it is all right. And I would like to have some stamps.

It may be you think I ask for a great many things but please over look all. If you think I ought to have them, send them the net chance you get if you please.

Yours forever, — Edward Fisher

1 Speculations were offered that the perpetrator of this heinous crime was a lunatic or a released convict and most likely the same individual who at or about the same time abducted a little negro girl who was found “suspended by her waist on a tree in the extreme outskirts of town, nearly naked, with her arms and legs tightly corded together. She was nearly dead when cut down, but is now recovering.” Despite a $1000 reward offered by Gov. Curtin, the perpetrator was never found though an article published on 29 April 1863 in the True Democrat (Lewistown, PA) claimed that the murderer (unnamed) was discovered in Dayton, Ohio.

Alexandria Gazette, 7 October 1862

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