By Sue Boardman & Elle Lamboy | Photo Courtesy of Adams County Historical Society
This November, we have the great freedom to choose who will be the next American president. Coincidently, in November we also set time aside to honor those who sacrificed so much to ensure we keep this great democracy—our veterans.
The Civil War claimed the lives of nearly 700,000 individuals. While many of them survived the war, their lives were undeniably changed forever. In honor of Veterans Day, “Civil War Journal” is proud to highlight three lesser-known Adams County Civil War veterans.
Pvt. Frederick & Sarah Reitinger
Frederick Reitinger enlisted in the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry in 1861 at the age of 24. While he did not fight in the Battle of Gettysburg, he did serve during the Gettysburg Campaign and was wounded in Winchester, Va. Following that injury, he was hospitalized in York, and never returned to battle.
He settled in Adams County with his wife Sarah until his death in 1890 and was buried in the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Sarah petitioned to be buried along with her husband, and upon her death was the first woman buried in Gettysburg’s Soldiers National Cemetery. However, her name does not appear on the headstone as it simply reads, “Frederick Reitinger Col. I Regt. 87 and Wife.”
Before enlisting in the Union Army in 1861 at the age of 18, William David Holtzworth (W.D.) worked as a stonecutter. However, a wound he suffered during a skirmish at Weldon Railroad located near Petersburg, Va., in 1864 left him partially paralyzed in his arm—ending his stone cutting days for good. According to his pension record, “…he is unable to prosecute his legitimate business that of a stone cutter. His wound is entirely healed, but the left shoulder bone was displaced by the ball and the left arm cannot be raised any considerable distance from the body.”
In lieu of this new reality, Holtzworth pursued a new career as the self-proclaimed “first battlefield guide at Gettysburg.” While he never fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, he made himself a master on the subject and became the “go-to” guide for anyone with any prestige coming to visit the battlefield. His client list included several Civil War generals like Gen. James Longstreet and Gen. George Gordon Meade, several American presidents including Grover Cleveland and well-known 19th-century artist Paul Philippoteaux (famously known for painting the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama.)
Henry Naleigh Minnigh
Henry Minnigh was a teacher in Gettysburg when he enlisted on June 8, 1861 as a sergeant with Co. K, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves and was promoted to lieutenant on June 30, 1862. He fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, which was on his hometown turf. After brutal fighting on July 2, he paid a visit to his parents’ home. He ran into his sister on the stairs, but she didn’t recognize him in the darkness, and demanded to know why he was intruding. Henry, without revealing his true identity, asked her, “Can you supply me with just a bite to eat?”
He followed her into the basement and sat on a lower step. From that viewpoint he saw his parents, four sisters, and his brother all in the basement, likely taking cover from the skirmishes occurring right outside their home. His mother approached him with a huge piece of bread in her hand and studied his face intently. She excitedly yelled, “Oh, you bad fellow, I know you now! Here’s your supper.”
Henry recalled that very soon after that they were all upstairs in the house enjoying “an ample supper and then all retired to comfortable beds, of which they had been deprived for two nights, and I had not enjoyed for two years.” Henry returned to the lines of duty the following day. He survived the war and later wrote a book on his company’s war experience called, “History of Company K 1st (Inf.) Penn’a Reserves: The Boys Who Fought at Home.”
As the American consciousness focuses on who will steer our country’s future, there is no better place to reflect on the soldiers of the past than Gettysburg.
Sue Boardman is a licensed battlefield guide, Cyclorama historian, author, and the leadership program director for Gettysburg Foundation. Elle Lamboy is the director of membership and philanthropic communications for Gettysburg Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization working with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage of Gettysburg and its national parks. Gettysburg Foundation also owns and operates Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Visit www.gettysburgfoundation.org.