Scholla: Battery M at Cedar Creek 1864

Battery M at Cedar Creek 1864

A few weeks ago we mentioned that the Ringgold Light Artillery of Reading was one of the units which were among the First Defenders of the National Capital when the Civil War began. This military unit, commanded by Capt. James McKnight of Reading, served throughout the war and won high praise from the commanders of the Army of the Potomac.

In 1864, Colonel Buell estimated that of the 107 men in the Ringgold Artillery, then constituted as Battery M of the U.S. Fifth Regiment, “84 were Pennsylvania Dutchmen from Berks, Schuykill and Lehigh –all native Americans- 12 Americans of English descent and 11 Irishmen.” The names of the sergeants of the company read like a Berks County register – Daniel Yoder, Philip Weidner, William Beckhart, John Gerhart, and Frederick Volkman.

Every school child knows the story of Sheridan’s Ride, the sensational rallying of the troops which were suffering defeat at Cedar Creek until Gen. Philip Sheridan rode into the fray on his foaming steed to infuse new spirit into the men.

Bore Brunt of Attack

During the early stages of the battle it was Battery M of the Ringgold Light Artillery that bore the brunt of the Confederate attack. In the first encounter the battery lost ten men and one of its guns. The gun was later retaken by a Vermont Company. After the defeated Federal troops took up new positions all of the guns of the battery were captured by a brigade of South Carolina troops; again it was a Vermont brigade which came to the rescue and recaptured the equipment belonging to the Pennsylvania men. During the fighting in this second position Battery M lost heavily. Only 27 men were fit for duty when the lines were reformed.

This handful of men, now commanded by Daniel Yoder, continued to pour double canister gainst the foe, long after other contingents had retreated. When the fighting was ended Gen. Horatio Wright commended the men for their valor. To Captain McKnight he said “Your Pennsylvania Dutchmen don’t seem to know when they are whipped.” To which McKnight replied: “By God general, most of them don’t know when they are killed.”


Major General Philip Sheridan at Battle of Cedar Creek. Source:

Scholla: The Christiana Riot March 28, 1944


Near the village of Christiana in southeastern Lancaster County lived William Parker, a slave who had escaped detection during the period of underground railroad operations before the fugitive slave law of 1850 was enacted. Parker used his home as an underground station, assisting other Negroes who came to him for help. In September, 1851, Edward Gorusch, of Baltimore, came to Parker’s house demanding two escaped slaves that Parker was harboring. Gorusch brought with him warrants for the arrest of his slaves and a posse of armed men, under the command of a United States deputy marshal.

The armed men surrounded Parker’s house after the deputy marshal’s demand for the release of the slaves was refused. The Negroes of the neighborhood had a prearranged signal with which to summon help if needed. Parker’s wife gave the signal from a bedroom by blowing a horn which could be heard throughout the countryside. The besiegers sensing that the horn was a signal of some sort discharged their rifles, aiming them at the bedroom window, but Mrs. Parker was not injured. The neighbors of Parker, all negroes, rallied promptly bringing with them an odd assortment of weapons, including long blades used in cutting corn.

White Men Arrive

Soon a group of white men came to the scene. They were a band of notorious ruffians, known as the “Gap Gang,” men who lived by thieving and by acting as guides for slave catchers. Some of them had been Negro kidnappers. While these opposing forces were rallying two respectable white men of the neighborhood came to the scene. The deputy marshal read the warrants to them, ordering them to assist in the capture of the slaves. Both men refused to help. Instead they prevailed upon the members of the “Gap Gang” to depart, lest the shedding of blood be added to their other crimes.

Boldly William Parker left his house to hold parley with Gorusch and the deputy marshal. During the argument which followed, Gorusch’s son fired a shot at Parker the bullet passing through the negro’s hat.

This was the beginning of a bloody fight, in which Gorusch was killed and a number of his party severely wounded. When the fighting began the deputy and his posse withdrew from the scene, unwilling to participate in a shooting affair. Deserted by their Pennsylvania reinforcements the Baltimore slave catcher fled, hotly pursued by the victorious Negroes.

Marines Rushed to Scene

A detachment of 45 Marines and almost 100 Philadelphia policemen were rushed to Christiana to restore order. Thrity-five negroes were arrested and taken to Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia. Three white men, the two who had to refused to help the deputy marshal, and Joseph Scarlett, a Quaker, who had come upon the scene while the fighting was in progress, also were taken into custody. All of the prisoners were charged with treason under terms of the fugitive slave law, the indictment charging them with levying war against the United States.

When the treason trial was held in the federal court at Philadelphia it was difficult to select a jury. The citizens called for that service claimed that they were deaf. After wasting one week in finding jurymen who could hear, the trial began. The lawyer for the defense was Thaddeus Stevens, an ardent abolitionist. When the case was submitted to the jury for its decision that body deliberated for only a few minutes and then returned a verdict of not guilty.

The entire nation had watched the proceedings of the trial. The North was satisfied with the results, but the South was angered because the trials showed that the fugitive slave law could not be enforced.

By Arhtur D. Graeff

For more information an excellent source is:


Parker House, where the Christiana Riot occurred.



In 1896, Samuel Hopkins, holding a corn cutter, and Peter Wood, seated, returned to the former residence of William and Eliza Parker 45 years after the Christiana Riot. Both were arrested during the riot. (Photo courtesy of Moores Memorial Library). Source:

Scholla: A Civil War Song 1/21/1944

More than a year ago we published the song entitled “The Blue Juniata,” requesting readers to supply the music. To our delight we received several versions of the musical score which accompanied the poem. Now we publish another song of the same period. Again we have only the words. Because the author was a citizen of Reading for one period of his life and lived in Lancaster and Easton, we are in hopes that someone has preserved the music, just as we have found the words after 79 years.

The author was Rev. Thomas Conrad Porter, one-time pastor of First Reformed Church, Reading and for many years a member of the faculty of Franklin and Marshall College. The song was sung at a soldier’s concert in Lancaster, February 22, 1864, dedicated to the Army of the Potomac. The music was written by J.B. Kevinski.

The Rocky Hills of Gettysburg

Oh dark the day and dark the hour,

When Treason in her height of power,

With all her gathered legions came,

To waste the North with Sword and Flame,

Right onward, swift, exultant,


With burning wrath and curses


Up to yon chain of hills they crowd,

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

In vain their utmost strength is hurled

‘Mid Thunders what might shake

The world;

Back from Adamantime wall

Their broken ranks in terror fall,

And slow retire with sullen mein,

While slaughtered thousands

strew the scene

The vale of death that lies between

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

The Lord hath heard his people’s


And Blessed the starry banner


For Soon as Freedom’s soil was red

With freemen’s blood in battle


By Rebel hands – their doom was


The sacrifice to heaven appealed,

The Altar, that ensanguined field,

The Rocky Hills of Gettysburg.

In nameless grave the traitors


Where non shall ever come to


But for her martyred sons, with


A monument of the nation rears,

And, age to age, shall pass it down,

The story of their bright renown,

And everlasting fame shall crown

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

— Thomas Conrad Porter, 1864


Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA. Taken in July, 1863.


Scholla: Sergt. Henry G. Brehm, Hero

Sergt. Henry G. Brehm, Hero

High in the annals of American heroism stands the name of Sergeant Jasper, who rescued the drooping American flag from the bastions of Fort Moultrie. None the less glorious  and even more spectacular is the record of devotion to the flag established by Sergt. Henry G. Brehm, of Myerstown, PA, on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. With his companions, F.M. Lehman, John Friddel, H.H. Spayd, all of Myerstwon, and Fred Hoffman of Newmanstown, he was the color bearer for the 149th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. Not only did these men risk their lives for the defense of the colors but by their brave deeds saved a regiment from annihilation.

Sergeant Brehm, a lineal descendant of Conrad Weiser, gave his life in the performance of a strategic maneuver by which the color guards of the regiment were deployed in a detached position from the regiment in order to confuse a superior enemy force. Most of the other members of the guard were severely wounded. The flags were finally lost, but the regiment was saved. In performing this service Brehm and his Lebanon County men acted with courage greatly in excess of the line of duty.

Sixty-four guns of the confederate line enfiladed and enveloped both wings of the Federal lines during the first encounter at Gettysburg. Col. Roy Stone, commander of the 149th Regiment of Volunteers from Pennsylvania decided upon a ruse to draw off the enemy fire. Captain Daniel Bassler, also of Myerstown, was instructed to detach the color guard from his company and deploy it in such a manner that it would appear that the regiment had changed its position. Brehm carried the Stars and Stripes and Lebanon held the state flag high as the six men took their hazardous positions drawing the enemy fire upon themselves.

Hoffman was sent back to the headquarters to report the perilous position of the color guard. While he was away the five staunch defenders were startled by the “rebel yell, “Yip-e-e-e.” Rising from hidden positions in a wheat field a body of southerners attacked the five Lebanon soldiers. One Confederate clutched at the national flag but Brehm felled him with one well aimed blow. Another Southerner tried to snatch away the flag while Brehm was off balance after the fisticuff. Friddell aimed and shot this enemy while Hammel accounted for another. When Brehm regained his balance the Union men started to run to return to their regiment. Hoffman had not returned, he had not been able to find the officers. Stone had been seriously wounded in the meantime.

In their haste to return to the regiment the color guard ran right into the enemy ranks. In the smoke of the battle that had mistaken the approaching column. It was too late to turn back and therefore, carrying the two standards high the Lebanon men plunged right through the Confederate line, the startled enemy withholding fire or attack until they realized what had happened. In the pursuit which followed Brehm was shot, the ball entering his shoulder under the blade; Spayd was shot through the thigh and Lehman got a bullet in his leg. The enemy captured the flag and wounded prisoners. Brehm lingered for a few weeks as an exchange prisoner in a Philadelphia Hospital and then succumbed. His body was brought back to Myerstown and buried there with solemn rites. The others recovered.

After the war it was learned from Confederate sources that the ruse had accomplished two purposes instead of one. The appearance of the colors in a detached position had led the enemy to think that another contingent of Federal troops had come upon the scene and fearing that such arrivals gave the Union forces superiority in numbers they decided against a charge on the battered 149th.

Henry G. Brehm. Photo Courtesy of the Myerstown Community Library.
Henry G. Brehm. Photo Courtesy of the Myerstown Community Library.
Members of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Courtesy of the Lebanon County Historical Society.
Members of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Courtesy of the Lebanon County Historical Society.

Scholla: Lincy’s Luck Captain of the Reading Militia published: 1942

Lincy’s Luck Captain of the Reading Militia

At various times in his checkered career Hugh Lindsay made his home in Reading. Certainly the life of an itinerant clown did not permit long residence in any one place but Lindsay honored Reading with his longest tenures. In 1835 he made the acquaintance of Samuel Perry of Bern Township, Berks County. Perry was a violist in the troupe of actors that worked in Miller’s Allentown Circus. (In 1859 Perry was a storekeeper in Bern Township). We cannot say whether it was the close friendship of these two that brought Lindsay to Reading, but in 1835 we find him operating the Eagle Hotel. There his son, Charles Franklin Lindsay, was born and there the clown suspended his antics for a time to settle down as a substantial citizen.

Actively he engaged in Berks politics. He made speeches advocating the establishment of the Common School Law which was then a keen issue. He came out in support for Henry A. Muhlenberg  for governorship in the three cornered race between Muhlenberg, Wolf, and Ritner. He was not opposed to Wolf except insofar as he felt that Wolf had had the office long enough. Ritner won.

It was 1835 while he was a hotelkeeper in Reading that the erstwhile comedian was made a captain of the militia in a regiment commanded by Col. John Frill. Read his description of battalion day. Remember it was in 1836.

“At one of our spring trainings, one of our members without the fear of his officers or shame of devil, allowed himself to be shot in the neck by a bowl of whiskey which caused great confusion among the ranks. Whereupon by my orders he was seized by 16 able-bodied soldier-like men and was placed in a hollow square and four men holding him on his feet; and by the whole command marched through the principal streets and alleys, music and flags flying, up to my headquarters and there by my orders placed in a bed on a bundle of straw in an empty cowstable and a glass of whisky administered to him. Before morning he had evaporated.

After the company being dismissed they gave 13 loud hurrahs for their gallant captain. They then boldly, thirstily, faced my bar, wet their whistles, paid down their clinck, and each man with a cigar in his mouth, retired to their respective homes, safe and sound.”

Such was the character of the young American republic more than a century ago.

Lithograph, "Battalion Day Scene in Reading" Meiser & Meiser The Passing Scene Vol. 4, pg. 15
Lithograph, “Battalion Day Scene in Reading” Meiser & Meiser The Passing Scene Vol. 4, pg. 15
Penn's Common looking southwest into Reading. Meiser & Meiser The Passing Scene Vol. 4, pg. 16
Penn’s Common looking southwest into Reading. Meiser & Meiser The Passing Scene Vol. 4, pg. 16

Scholla: Trade Cards May 11, 1942

5/11/1942 Trade Cards

One of the fads of collectors is the accumulation of old advertising cards known as “old store cards” or trade cards. Shortly after the Civil War merchants developed a form of advertising by presenting customers with colored cards depicting beautiful or humorous scenes. This form of advertising was given impetus by the invention of lithographing and the public delighted in collecting these bright hue pasteboards. Usually the cards formed a set or series of baseball players and the flags of various countries. Many subjects could be used to form sets and customers receiving a few cards belonging to a set were induced to return to the same store in order to obtain more cards and thereby complete their sets.

During the period of the 1880’s many persons formed scrap books of these trade cards and today they are interesting as mementoes of business firms, which have ceased to exist. Into this writer’s hands there have come many such cards from all sections of Berks and nearby counties but the most interesting one comes from the Manatawny district.

Aug. G. Body, proprietor of the Yellow House Hotel, used the dialect to advertise his hostelry. The following “ad” appears on the reverse side of the picture entitled the “Ferryman,” showing a frog carrying a mouse across a stream”

Shtop a Leedle!

If you bin a traveling man und got no place to shtay maybe you petter go oug dot


Near the Manatawny Fishing Creek

Where dare is scheap boarding und fair brices

If you don’t see what you want yust speak out.

Bill von Fare ganz reasonable.

The custom of issuing cards disappeared almost entirely at the turn of the century when merchants found that newspapers furnished a vastly superior advertising medium. The trouble with the trade card idea was that you had to get the customer into the store before you could advertise.

Carpenter Organ's for sale by C.H. Lichty Trade Card. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society
Carpenter Organ’s for sale by C.H. Lichty Trade Card Obverse. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society
Carpenter Organ's for sale by C.H. Lichty Trade Card Reverse. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society
Carpenter Organ’s for sale by C.H. Lichty Trade Card Reverse. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society
Union 10 per cent Clothing House 402-404 Penn Street Reading, PA Obverse. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.
Union 10 per cent Clothing House 402-404 Penn Street Reading, PA Obverse. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.


Scholla: John Fritz and National Defense 1822-1913 September 29, 1941

9/29/1941 John Fritz and National Defense 1822-1913

“To John Fritz on his 80th birthday. The builder of the West greets the genius of the East. The Oregon’s performance glorifies the steel of Fritz.”

This is the inscription which is engraved on a silver cup which was presented to John Fritz, of Bethlehem, at a banquest held in the Waldorf Astoria in 1902. The donor was Irving M. Scott, shipbuilder, of San Francisco, whose firm had built the renowned battleship “Oregon”, the ship that amazed the world by rounding Cape Horn during the Spanish American War. Three of the Battleships that participated in the battle of Santiago Harbor were equipped with armor plate made at Bethlehem under the eye of the great iron master, John Fritz.

John Fritz was a Pennsylvania German born in Londonderry Township in Chester County. At the age of 16 he learned the trade of blacksmithing in Parkersburg, PA…  Six years later he worked in an iron mill at Norristown. In 1849 he resigned his position to manage an iron plant in Safe Harbor, Lancaster County. After spending a number of years in industrial plants near Philadelphia he was made superintendent of Cambria Iron Company’s plant in Johnstown, PA. In 1860 he was brought to Bethlehem Iron Company as its chief engineer.

During the Civil War Fritz went to Chatanooga, TN to build a rolling mill. The federal government needed a mill to reroll the rail of railroads which had been torn up by the Confederate Army. In 1869 Bethlehem Iron Company introduced the Bessemer process for manufacturing steel and John Fritz was placed in general charge.

European war industries had made great steps forward in the processing of armor plate by hydraulic forging presses and furnaces. In company with an ordnance officer of the United States Army, John Fritz visited European plants for the purpose of studying their equipment and obtaining licenses to set up similar mills at Bethlehem. The mission proved to be successful and in 1891 the first armor-plate plant to be established in America was built at Bethlehem. Later other plants were built at Homestead and Midvale.

In 1897 when Fritz was 75 years of age, he resigned from the Bethlehem Company to accept a position as an engineer on the Army Factory Board, an organization set up by congress to build an armor plate plant for the United Sates government. When Fritz was introduced to the congressional committee the Secretary of the Navy introduced him as follows:

“I present to you Mr. John Fritz, the most honest man I have ever met.”

Archival Notes: For more information on John Fritz and excellent source is:

John Fritz, by Paul Hercher, 1898.
John Fritz, by Paul Hercher, 1898.
The Oregon on the day she set sail for Cuba at the onset of the Spanish American War.
The Oregon on the day she set sail for Cuba at the onset of the Spanish American War.

Scholla: Infant of the Regiment June 16, 1941

Scholla: The Infant of The Regiment June 16, 1941

Many residents of Reading will remember the towering figure of the one-time chief of police of this city, Mahlon Shaaber. He stood six feet, seven and one-half inches, a giant stature. Early in the trying days of the Civil War Shaaber joined the company of Zouaves officially known as Company B of the 93rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. This company was recruited in October, 1861, from Reading, Bernville, and Womelsdorf and other sections of Berks County. Mahlon Shaaber was the tallest man in the entire regiment and won for himself the nick name, the “infant of the regiment.”

In January, 1862, the 93rd Pennsylvania Regiment passed in review along Pennsylvania Avenue of the nation’s capitol. Among those who reviewed the troops was Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States. When the Reading Zouaves passed the reviewing stand Lincoln’s attention was attracted by the tall lanky private who towered high above his comrades. A signal from the President to the captain of the Zouaves led to the order to Shaaber to fall out of line and approach Lincoln.

“How tall are you?” asked Lincoln.

“Six feet six and one-half,” replied the Berks volunteer.

“And how old are you?”

“Seventeen and weigh 140 pounds.”

Then, as Shaaber related it years later, Lincoln introduced himself, “I am old Abe,” and then introduced Shaaber to Hannibal Hamlin, the vice president.

The three tall men stood side by side. The unusual picture made an impression upon Lincoln. Two other Pennsylvanians were invited to join the group and then the President made the following notes in a small black notebook:

Mahlon Shaaber, Co.

B, 93rd Rgt. P.V. … 6 ft. 6  ½ inches

Abraham Lincoln

President…… 6 ft. 4 inches

Hannibal Hamlin

Vice President … 6 ft. 0 inches

Andrew Curtin,

Gov. of PA. ….. 6 ft. 2 inches

Simaon Cameron,

General ……. 6 ft. 1 inch

Total heights 31 ft. 1 ½ inches

After the interview Lincoln gave the soldier a pass permitting him to rejoin his regiment and inviting him to visit at the White House.

Several months later Shaaber and Sergeant Fritz of the Zouaves paid a call upon the President in the executive mansion. They were ushered into the Blue Room and there were greeted by the President. Lincoln invited his Berks County guests to dine with him. The young men lost courage and fumbled for excuses. According to Shaaber’s testimony he “preferred bean soup and hard tack better than a reception dinner.” In later years the Reading chief of police expressed regret that he had not accepted the President’s invitation to dine.


Mahlon Shaaber.
Mahlon Shaaber.

Archival Notes: For more information please refer to Norman Gasbarro’s blog,  He does an excellent job of providing a more detailed account of Mahlon Shaaber.