The Civil War Saga of Eleazer Allen and Elizabeth Gillispie of Hebron

by Carl A. Weaver, Jr.

 

Authorís comment:

Although this article contains mostly information about Eleazer Allenís Civil War experiences after leaving Washington County, New York, it does contain several genealogical references of note. Be sure to read my Endnotes for genealogical details and sources.

 

††††††††††† I do not know where or when my great, great grandfather, Eleazer Allen, was born, but I know he was living in Hebron, Washington County, New York when he married 21-year-old Elizabeth Gillispie on the 4th day of November 1846. Elizabeth's sister, Margaret M. Nelson, and James Gourlay, an Allen family friend, witnessed as William A. Miller, a Minister of the Gospel from Granville, performed the ceremony.

 

It was the first marriage for Elizabeth who liked to be called Betsey and the second for marriage for Eleazer. He and his first wife, Lucy, who died in 1846 at the age of 36, had at least two children. Their baby, Lucy Allen, was born about 1834 and her sister, Mary Ann Allen, was born about 1837. Eleazer married Betsey late the same year that his first wife died. It was nearly three years later that he and Betsey had their first child, Charles, who was born in Hebron on the 23rd day of May, 1849.

 

An 1850 government census document shows that Eleazer and Betsey were living next door to his father, Charles Allen, a 76-year-old farmer born in Connecticut. An interesting fact about the 1850 census was that the agent taking the survey listed two Marys as members of Charlesí household even thought there was only one. The first was Eleazerís mother and the second was a 13-year old named Mary Ann. The columns next to Mary Annís name in this line entry were curiously left blank. When the agent went next door to Eleazerís home, Mary Ann arrived there before him and was once again counted. This time, however, the agent filled in all the columns and tallied Eleazer's teenage daughter as having attended school that year. Canít you imagine the excitement the 13-year-old prankster felt as she ran through the back yards to her own house to try to fool the agent? Shortly after the census of 1850, Eleazerís mother died. In January of the next year, Eleazerís daughter Lucy by his first wife, died at the age of 17.

 

Gourlay, Betsey and Eleazerís second child, was born in Hebron on the 1st of February 1852. He was named after James Gourlay who witnessed their wedding. The following year, Eleazerís father, Charles, died. He is buried in the Belcher Methodist Cemetery next to his wife Mary, granddaughter Lucy, and daughter-in-law Lucy.

 

††††††††††† There is a gap in the family history until the government census of 1860. At this time, Eleazer and Betsey were no longer in Hebron. It is unlikely that anyone will ever know why Eleazer Allen left the relative security of the family home in New York, but sometime before 1860, he moved his wife, two sons and daughter, Mary Ann by his previous marriage, to Erie, Pennsylvania. There is some indication that they moved by mule-towed barge on the Erie Canal, which had increased passenger service as railroads took over the movement of freight. A trip overland to Albany could have been made in a day. The canal trip from Albany to Buffalo would have taken about 15 days followed by another two overland or by boat to Erie. No one seems to know why Eleazer was in Erie or how he made his living there.

 

††††††††††† The 1860 government census for Erie recorded Eleazerís age as 50, which was not correct, as other government records will show later. His exact age is not important. What is important is the fact that he is an elderly man for the time and what happened next started a strange series of events for the Allen family. Eleazer and his family lived in Erie less than two years when he answered a call to arms after the start of the Civil War. He voluntarily joined Company K of the 145th Infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. For his three-year enlistment or until the end of the war, Pvt. Allen received a bonus of $25 and an additional $2 for being over the age of 45. There was no way that Private Allen could have known at the time, but the 145th Regiment was destined to face extreme hardship in battle.

 

††††††††††† Hiram L. Brown, an Erie innkeeper, was elected Colonel of the 145th Regiment based on his previous service in the Union Army with the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. Another election resulted in David B. McCreary, an Erie lawyer and educator, becoming the regimentís lieutenant colonel. Eleazerís fate was sealed with this second election.

 

††††††††††† Nine of the regimentís ten companies mustered into service on the 5th of September 1862. Company K, the unit to which Pvt. Allen volunteered, had not yet completed its recruiting when the rest of the regiment was put into service. On September 10th, the Governor of Pennsylvania unexpectedly ordered the 145th Infantry Regiment to the front. Without delay, the regiment departed the next day without the under strength Company K. Since its departure occurred so quickly on the heels of muster, the 145th Regiment left Erie without weapons or equipment. After a circuitous 36-hour train ride to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the infantrymen were issued old 69 caliber muskets and leather gear. Tents and other equipment were unavailable at the time. Company K eventually filled its ranks and mustered into service two days later on the 12th of September. Eleazer was now a bona fide soldier.

 

Captain John W. Walker, the commander of Company K, his new recruits without weapons and gear, and the regimental chaplain departed Erie by train on September 15th. Pvt. Allen was nearly 50 years old when he went off to war with Company K. Two days later on the 17th, the 1st Brigade Commander ordered the regiment, including Company K, to picket duty on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal where they saw no action. Shortly thereafter, the men of the 145th found themselves with the gruesome task of burying the dead from the battle of Antietam, which took several days to accomplish.

 

††††††††††† November arrived with the regiment located at Stafford Heights opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia. Company K formed its winter camp in the vicinity of nearby Falmouth. The individual training of infantrymen and small units continued as it had since leaving Erie. Despite two months of training, very few of the men of the 145th Regiment achieved a state of readiness necessary for the event about to take place.

 

Late on the afternoon of December 12th 1862, Company K and seven other companies of the Regiment crossed the Rappahannock River on the upper pontoon bridge erected by the 7th Michigan Engineers. Once across, they spent the night in line on Front Street (now named Sophia) parallel to the river. In darkness the next morning, they formed a line of battle on B Street (once called Main Street and now named Caroline) with its right resting near the courthouse. Company K formed in front of Lt. Mauryís house near the Catholic Church and with the order to advance promptly led the 1st Division on the attack on Maryeís Heights. Confederate artillery on a nearby ridge placed devastating shell bursts onto their ranks. Sometime after dawn on December 13th, the 145th began its fight up Hanover Street toward the stone wall that lay before them at Sunken Road. Sometime before noon, the 145th broke ranks and withdrew to the second line of attack behind the Pennsylvania 116th.

 

By the end of the day, the regiment recorded 91 killed or died of their wounds, 152 wounded and 43 captured or listed as missing. Despite the 145th Infantry Regimentís losses, Brigadier John C. Caldwell stated: ďThe regiments, however, all behaved with the greatest gallantry and fought with steadiness, except the 145th Pennsylvania, which broke and fell back, its colonel being severely wounded.ĒIt is not known if this statement constituted praise, or was a jab at the regiment's lack of success.

 

On December 15th, two days after the battle, the 145th Regiment withdrew across the river. Three days after that, Company K returned to its winter camp near Falmouth. Because Colonel Hiram Brown received severe wounds and became incapable of continuing his duties, Lieutenant Colonel David B. McCreary became the acting regimental commander.

 

††††††††††† In May of 1863, the 145th Regiment maneuvered from Falmouth toward Chancellorsville, west of Fredericksburg and the men were ready to redeem themselves. Again, the fortunes of war did not favor the men of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. On Sunday morning, May 3rd, LtCol David B. McCreary took a detail of 166 men from the 145th and other nearby regiments to perform picket duty. Pvt. Eleazer Allen and other members of Company K were among those chosen. Unfortunately, while they held their position on the picket line, LtCol McCreary and his detail were unaware that the division had withdrawn around 10:30 in the morning. About 11 oíclock, a Confederate officer stepped from behind a tree and demanded that LtCol McCreary and his men surrender. When McCreary refused, the officer in gray told him of his situation. Resistance was useless and 113 Union soldiers, including seven officers, were taken prisoner. Pvt. Eleazer Allen of Company K and LtCol McCreary were among those captured. Approximately 50 men made it back to friendly positions while three were reported missing.

 

††††††††††† From this moment on, Pvt. Eleazer Allenís story does not parallel that of the 145th Infantry Regiment, although he remained on unit rolls until the regiment mustered out of service in May of 1865. A description of Pvt. Allenís journey from Chancellorsville to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, is relayed by Lieutenant Clay MacCauleyís (126th Pennsylvania Infantry) account of his own capture in the same area on the same day. Most Union prisoners captured on May 3rd were taken to Richmond in a large group.

 

††††††††††† Prisoners marched from various points in the Chancellorsville area to the vicinity of Spotsylvania Courthouse where they were consolidated. After spending the night, they were marched to a low meadow one-mile from Guiney Station south of Fredericksburg. They remained confined with no food or protection from a heavy, three-day storm. The Confederates could not give what they did not have. At Guiney Station, many prisoners were transported to Richmond by rail. On May 7th, a large group, including Pvt. Allen, marched through Bowling Green. They were on the way to Milford Station where they waded across the Mattapony River. The next day, they made it to Hanover Station where they were fed five medium crackers and an ounce of bacon. On the 9th of May, they were escorted through the earthworks protecting Richmond. The closely guarded prisoners were marched as a group through the main part of the city, past the capitol and jeering citizens. Some were led directly to Belle Island Prison Camp on the southeast side of the city. The others, including Pvt. Allen, were marched to Libby Prison, a group of three connected warehouses on the waterfront that had once stored items for a ship chandler and grocer. Pvt. Allen processed into confinement at Libby Prison on Saturday the 9th of May.

 

Pvt. Allen did not spend much time in Libby Prison because at that time, the facility primarily confined officers. Also, captured soldiers routinely accepted parole for future prisoner exchanges, a process being exercised by both the Union and Confederate armies early in the war. On May 15th, only six days after arriving at Libby Prison, Pvt. Allen signed a parole certificate swearing that he would not take up arms against the Confederacy until he became a properly exchanged prisoner. In a matter of hours, Pvt. Allen found himself paroled and on a Union steamer sailing from City Point, Virginia to Fort Monroe (Old Point Comfort), and then on to Annapolis, Maryland.

 

Little is known about Pvt. Eleazer Allenís time at Camp Parole near Annapolis. However, in one letter from his wife, Betsey, to the Hospital Steward, she stated that her husband had been "working 14 days on the barracks and had not been paid for his labor." Since Camp Parole was a relatively new facility, Pvt. Allen probably worked on new buildings to house arriving parolees. On the other hand, a facility at Saint Johnís College (College Green) in Annapolis, also called the Barracks, served to process parolees when they first arrived. One significant milestone in Pvt. Allenís life while at Camp Parole was that his son Frank was born on June 27th.

 

While Pvt. Allen was a paroled prisoner, the 145th Regiment finally had an opportunity to redeem itself in battle. Moving north in June of 1863, the regiment marched last in the 2nd Corpsí line as they arrived at Gettysburg late in the evening of July 1st. The regiment engaged the enemy in the Wheatfield and nearby Rose Woods with the mission to hold the most advanced position of Brookeís brigade. The regiment entered the battle for Gettysburg with a little over 200 men and suffered a casualty rate of 44 percent. This time, no question arose as to the valor of the 145th in battle.

 

The 145th Regiment once again entered Virginia late in the summer of 1863 and engaged the Confederates at Bristoe Station. Around that time in the middle of August, Pvt. Allen became seriously ill and reported to the Camp Parole Hospital on August 20th. †††††††† He died from Typhoid Fever four weeks later on September 14th and was buried in nearby Ashgrove Cemetery on the same day. He knew little of the exploits of his regiment and he never saw his newborn baby, his fifth child and third son of his marriage to Betsey Gillispie.

 

After Pvt. Allen's death, the 145th Regiment engaged the enemy at Mine Run in November and December. It was during this time frame, LtCol David McCreary, earlier captured with Pvt. Allen at Chancellorsville, accepted parole and took part in a prisoner exchange. He returned to duty with the 145th Regiment while they were in their winter camp near Germania Ford, Virginia. One of his first duties upon returning was to send small detachments of the 145th Regiment to Pennsylvania in hopes of recruiting men into their depleted ranks. As a result of this recruiting, the regiment gained in strength to more than 700 by the spring of 1864. Nevertheless, bad luck caught up with the regiment again when it suffered 166 casualties near Spotsylvania Court House in May.

 

While near Petersburg, Virginia a month later, LtCol McCreary suffered capture a second time along with 111 other men of the regiment. The rest of the 145th spent the summer in trench warfare around the besieged city. By the fall of 1864, all of the senior officers of the 145th were either killed or captured. Command of the regiment passed to company grade officers. In January, a few months before the end of the war, a mere 156 officers and men remained in the ranks of the 145th. The regiment saw no further action before the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9th, 1865.

 

One month later in May, the 145th participated in the grand review in Washington DC celebrating the end of the war. They mustered out of service on May 31st near Alexandria, Virginia. On June 5th, the volunteers were welcomed in Erie by local politicians, held its last parade, and heard the sound of dismissal for the last time. In 1889, nearly 25 years after the war, survivors of the regiment dedicated a large stone monument topped with a bronze infantryman to the memory of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. One of the dedication speakers that day was Brevet Brigadier General David. B. McCreary. The monument dedicated more than 110 years ago can be seen today on Brooke Avenue at the Gettysburg National Battlefield.

 

Betsey Allen remained in Erie for 34 years after the war and never returned home to Hebron. Following Eleazerís death, she corresponded with the Army and in 1864, began to receive a $12 government pension that remained in effect until she died in 1905. Betsey is buried in Buffalo, New York, where she moved in 1899. Each of Eleazer Allenís four children lived long lives and died of old age. The three boys had successful careers with the railroad where two were locomotive engineers. Charles, the eldest child of Betsey and Eleazer, is my Grandmother Charlotteís father.

 

Today, the section of Ashgrove Cemetery in which Pvt. Eleazer Allen and other Civil War casualties are buried is known as the Annapolis National Cemetery. It was one of the first to become part of the National Cemetery System following Lincolnís Gettysburg Address. Due to a spelling mistake made by a Company K morning report clerk late in 1864, Pvt. Allenís name is spelled Eleaser on his government issued gravestone. As shown in the Sextonís records, Private Allen of Pennsylvania rests in plot 2002 located near the center, at the back of the grounds.

 

Unfortunately for historians and us descendants, no regimental history of the 145th was ever compiled. None of the regimentís survivors wrote best selling memoirs. The 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment simply fell into obscurity and none of its members attained national prominence nor became national heroes after the war. Nevertheless, my great, great grandfather is a hero in my eyes. Private Eleazer Allen was a brave and dedicated infantryman, who at the age of 48, left the comfort of his home to fight for values in which he believed, became a POW and died without ever seeing his home or family again.

 

Authorís end notes:

1.                  Unfortunately, the Allen line discussed here is not included in the Allen Family Records and Genealogy, compiled by J. Montgomery Seaver and published by the American Historical-Genealogical Society and the Clearfield Company. It is suspected, however, that Charles Allen may be a descendant of James Allen, the progenitor of the Allen Family of Medfield, who came to America with his wife Anna in 1639 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts. This supposition is because Eleazer is a rare name, but shows up at least 4 times in this line. A record of this particular Allen line fades with Eleazer Allen Jr., who by his wife Sibil had Eleazer who married Rebecca Mason about 1763.

2.                  Gillispie is the correct spelling. (Source is a copy of Betseyís Marriage Certificate.) It is often misspelled as Gillespie in Washington County records including the death record of her father, Richard, who is interred in the Old Belcher Yard, Belcher, Washington County, New York.

3.                  Elizabeth Gillispie nicknamed herself after her childhood best friend Betsey Gourlay, the first wife of James, who died at age 26.

4.                  The 1820 government census of Hebron shows Charles Allen with 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys. It shows 8 in the household including parents.

5.                  1830 census of Hebron generally shows the same information as item 3 above.

6.                  1840 census of Hebron shows Charles and Eleazer Allen in separate households, but on consecutive pages, which means that they probably lived nearby.

7.                  1850 census of Hebron shows Charles Allen born in Connecticut and all others in his family born in New York State. Both Charles and Eleazer Allen are listed as farmers. Charles Allen is shown to have owned $3000 worth of real property at the time.

8.                  1850 Hebron census entry for Eleazer Allenís household listed 21-year-old Margaret Gillispie, Betseyís sister (later Margaret M. Nelson). The census also listed a 14-year-old male named Harrison whose last name is not readable. All were recorded as having been born in New York State.

9.                  The Allen family burial plot in Washington County, New York is in the Belcher Methodist Cemetery.

10.              A post Civil War city directory shows that the Allen family friend, James Gourlay, was in Erie at the time. It is interesting to note that James is not buried with his two wives and the rest of his family in the Old Belcher Yard in Hebron.

11.              When the author first moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, he rented a house on Hanover Street, less than 100 yards from the stone wall at Maryeís Heights and on the battle path of the 145th Regiment. The house sits at the approximate point where the 145th Regiment broke ranks and withdrew.

12.              Two members of the 145th Regiment, Robert Morehead and Francis Menold, scrawled their names on a wall of Old Salem Church between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. The signatures still exist.

13.              At Chancellorsville, LtCol McCreary along with men from Companies B (4), E (32), F (2), G (20), H (26), and K (23) were surrounded and taken prisoner when they failed to receive the order to fall back. LtCol Willis Holt, 10th Georgia, McLaw's Division, sent a messenger, Lt Bailey, to inform the Yankees that they were surrounded and inviting them to surrender.

14.              Company K captured soldiers included: Lt Devereaux; Sgts. SV Dean, A Armstrong; Cpl. S. Krollman; Pvts. E Allen, W Constable, J Dulin, F Drescher, AF Ennis, H Halderman, H Hublerm, A Ferry, F Lindon, J Miller, C Mackworth, N Northrop, D Roister, F Rauff, J Smith, JE Statton, ML Stover, J Tucker, and J Young.

15.              The house in which General Stonewall Jackson lay dying is one-quarter mile from Guiney Station where Pvt. Allen and other prisoners were held for two days.

16.              The prisoners at Guiney Station who did not march to Richmond via Bowling Green and Hanover were loaded into small, poorly maintained railroad boxcars. After a night of shunting, which seemed to them like they were on their way, the prisoners discovered that they had not left Guiney. Finally, after more waiting, the train departed about noon on Friday, arriving in Richmond around 5 pm on May 8th.

17.              The Union steamboat that carried Pvt. Allen from City Point to Annapolis stopped at Fort Monroe, where the author once lived as a boy. According to maritime records, the boat was probably named New York.

18.              Eleazer Allenís original military file and medical records (including a death certificate) along with Betsey Allenís original pension file (including her marriage certificate) are stored in the National Archives and are available to researchers for study. Similar records exist for other Union veterans.

19.              Information about the movements of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment is available in the National Archives, as are records for other Civil War units.

20.              Specific movements of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville can be followed on two series of US Park Service Maps available at either park's gift shop.

21.              The movements of Union prisoners from Chancellorsville to Libby Prison in Richmond are detailed in the Diary of Reverend Clay MacCauley, From Chancellorsville to Libby Prison, reprinted in the 126th Pennsylvania Regimental History, pp. 146-154. Both Clay MacCauley and Eleazer Allen were in the same group of Union Prisoners.

22.              No official record of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry exists. D.W. Winchester, the Regimental Quartermaster, began a history of the unit in the early 1900s. He died before it was completed and then his house burned to the ground two weeks later destroying all of the original research, letters and documents that had been sent to him. This event accounts for the current lack of documentation on the Regiment. Nevertheless, quite a bit of information about the Regiment has been uncovered recently and a second attempt at a unit history is in progress by Dr. Verel Salmon whose great-great grandfather was Sergeant George Washington Salmon of the 145th PVI Regiment. Dr Salmon may be contacted at 5515 Perkins Street, Erie, PA 16509-1853.

23.              The Diary of John H. W. Stuckenberg, Chaplain of the regiment, who mustered and departed Erie with Company K, has been thoroughly researched, annotated, and compiled by David T. Hedrick and Gordon Barry Davis, Jr. into the book, Iím Surrounded by Methodists, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1995. This detailed account serves as the only regimental history since none was ever composed. The 140-page paperback with photographs costs $17.00. According to one of the authors, consideration is being given to reissue a revised version of the book as the publisher omitted many important details.

24.              Information about Pvt. Eleazer Allen's interment may be viewed at the Annapolis National Cemetery Site at: http://www.navpooh.com/oldindex.html While at this site, be sure to open the "Please Remember MeÖ" window.

25.              One source of information is the History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, by Samuel P. Bates. This definitive work on the Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiments is comprised of 5 volumes, and was originally published from 1869-1871, by B. Singerly, State Printer, Harrisburg, PA. A reprinted copy including a new index of more than 300,000 entries costs about $ 700.00. Check your local large library for an inter library loan from a Pennsylvania library.

26.              History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, by Samuel P. Bates contains a transcript of Brevet Brigadier General David. B. McCreary's speech, given at the dedication of his regiment's monument at the Gettysburg National Battlefield in 1889.