James C. Moorehead

 

When Capt. Ulric Dahlgren executed his first foray, on July 2, 1863, and captured the mounted Confederate couriers, accompanied by infantrymen, his local scout was James C. Morehead, who he met the day before in Funkstown, MD.  Morehead served with the 126th PA Volunteers in Co. K, from Greencastle.

 

According to the 1860 US Census, Morehead, 27, and his wife Mary A. Unk Morehead, 19, and their one-year old son, George L., were living in Hagerstown, MD.  James was an apprentice blacksmith, learning his trade under David Williamson, 54.  Morehead was born in Pennsylvania, as was his mother; his father was listed as having been born in Scotland.  The 1900 U.S. Census recorded James’ birthday as December 18, 1831 and his wife’s birthday as December 8, 1840; there was a difference of nine years in their ages.

 

Until the first Union draft was enacted during the summer of 1863, volunteers could cross state lines to enlist.  Moorehead was one of those volunteers.  He chose to cross the Mason-Dixon Line and serve with the men, with whom he grew up.  Moorehead and his family were living in Hagerstown, MD during the 1860 census and we know he was still living there during late June and early July of 1863.

 

On August 7, 1862, James C. Morehead was mustered into Co. K, as a private in the126th PA Volunteers.  Company K was comprised mostly of men from Greencastle.  On December 13, 1862, he received a gunshot wound in his left hand during the Battle of Fredericksburg.  For the rest of his nine-month tour of duty, he spent his time in military hospitals.  When his regiment was mustered out on May 20, 1863, he had already been discharged on May 7, directly from a hospital in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia was considered the hub of medicine, medical advances in treating war wounds, and education.  The city had seven hospitals, which included one convalescent hospital, three U.S. Army hospitals, and three general hospitals.  Mower General Hospital, in northwest Philadelphia, admitted 20,590 soldiers, of which 9,799 soldiers returned to duty.  The mortality rate was 257, less than one percent – a remarkable percentage.

 

From When War Passed this Way, page 172, by Ted Alexander and William P. Conrad:  "Morehead told the captain (Dahlgren) his home was in Hagerstown but he originally came from Greencastle and that he was well acquainted with the roads of southern Pennsylvania."  Morehead became Dahlgren's scout for the rest of the time Dahlgren was in Pennsylvania and also helped guide part of Dahlgren's men, with the Confederate prisoners from the July 2 skirmish on the square, to Emmitsburg, MD by way of the back roads.

 

While living in Hagerstown, MD in August 1863, he was required to register for the draft again, this time in Class II.  His name appears on two different pages in the register book. The Provost Marshall for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District was Capt. James Smith.  I have been unable to find Moorehead and his family in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.  This could be due to the spelling of his last name, which I've found spelled several ways.  By 1890, he was living in Greencastle again and is listed on the Borough of Greencastle's Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Widows Special Form.  It states that he was wounded at Fredericksburg.

 

On the June 8, 1900 U.S. Census, James and his wife Ara A. (a nickname) were living on Dahlgren Street!  His occupation at that time was listed as a printer and he owned his home, free of mortgage. James’ and Ara’s 13 year old granddaughter Ara B. Morehead was living with them and going to school.  James was 68 and his wife was 59 and they had been married for 42 years.  She bore six children; five were still living when the census was taken in 1900.  Their son, George L., 41, a moulder, and his wife Julia, 40, and their son George Leroy, 9, were living in the Borough of Carlisle in 1900.

 

In 1910, James was 80 years old and his wife Ara had passed away on November 4, 1908 at the age of 68.  He was still living on Dahlgren Street.  With him were living four grandchildren, Blanch, 23; Mary, 20; Samuel C., 17; and William R., 14.  Their surname was Millhouse so they were most likely the children of James’ daughter.  James was now listed as a painter...in a furniture shop and all the grandchildren worked, except, Blanch who most likely kept house.  Mary was a "looper" in the town's hosiery factory; Samuel was an apprentice in a bakery; and William was a laborer in a butcher shop.

 

The minute book of the Grand Army of the Republic Corp. Rihl Post #438 shows that James was an active member of the GAR.  So far, I’ve been able to find the following elected positions, which he held – Chaplain and Officer of the Guard.

 

At this point in James C. Morehead's life, I was ready to stop searching for more information, after many hours at the computer.  But one more click opened a document for U.S. Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.  The form listed his correct service information and he was from Green Castle, PA.  His disabilities, upon admission, were listed as defective vision, loss of teeth, cardiac hypertrophy (enlarged heart), arteriosclerosis, gunshot wound to left hand with resulting disability (during the Battle of Fredericksburg), debility of age, kyphosis (hunch-backed).  He was 5 feet 4 inches tall with a light complexion and gray eyes and hair.  The admission date was July 12, 1911.  He was discharged on January 12, 1913, a year and a half after admission.  The reason given for the discharge was “dropped from rolls.”  I believe he decided to leave.  His nearest relative was his son George L. Moorehead, Carlisle, PA.

 

An act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln in March 1865, provided for the establishment and building of national homes for disabled volunteer soldiers who fought in the Civil War.  James C. Morehead was admitted to the Central Branch Home in Dayton, Ohio.  In the beginning, there were three homes – Togus, Maine; Dayton, Ohio; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Eventually, there were a total of 11 veterans homes built.  Admission was voluntary and only required the veterans to show their honorable service record and that their disabilities were incurred due to their service during the Civil War.

 

The homes were unusual because they were all run like military regiments; the men were required to wear uniforms, bugles called them to meals and activities, and the veterans were assigned to companies.  Discharge was also on a voluntary basis, if they did not like the living conditions.

 

James C. Morehead is buried with his wife and his father, James V. Morehead.  They are buried in Section K, Lot 43 in Cedar Hill Cemetery.  James’ headstone, which shares his wife Ara’s name and her dates of birth and death, was never completed for James.

 

Since writing the original Soldier’s Story two years ago for Morehead, Pennsylvania released its death certificates from 1905 into the 1960s.  From James’ death certificate it is learned that he died in the original Franklin County Home for the aged, in Guilford Township, at 4 pm on Friday, January 31, 1919.  He was 88 years old, one month, and 13 days old.    James’ attending physician, the doctor for the County Home, was Dr. William Edgar Holland, under whose care he was from January 1, 1919 until his death.  James was buried on Monday, February 3, 1919.  Considering the advancing age of the Greencastle-Antrim Civil War veterans within the Corp Rihl Post, there were few in attendance at the monthly meetings.  In the minute book of the post, the minutes jump from December 6, 1918 to April 4, 1919, with no mention of any particular veteran or Post member, except for the commander of the post and the secretary.  There was no mention of James’ illness, death, or burial.

 

Not one of the following – the County Home, Dr. Holland, nor Greencastle’s undertaker, William L. Detrich, knew many details about James C. Morehead’s life because there are quite a few mistakes on the death certificate.  I believe this is because not one of James’ children or grandchildren was available at the time of his death to give the correct information.  James’ age was listed as 90 therefore Detrich & Holland did not know his date of birth.  James’ father is listed as John and both their places of birth were given as Virginia.  James’ father was James V. Morehead, who, according to naturalization records, was born in County Donegal, Ulster, Northern Ireland in 1811.  He arrived in Belfast, Maine in 1835 and was naturalized in 1860.  Although the US Census records all say James was born in Pennsylvania, there’s a possibility that he may have been born in County Donegal if his date of birth (December 18, 1831) is accurate.

 

Dr. Holland attributed James’ death to “Infirmities of old age.”  What an amazing life story – James C. Morehead was a true patriot, through and through.  He fought to save the Union, suffered a gunshot wound that caused him to change professions, and then James C. Morehead became a scout for the dashing young Capt. Ulric Dahlgren, during the Great Invasion of Pennsylvania.  But how very sad, after a long life, well lived, that Capt. James C. Morehead died alone, in the Franklin County Home for the aged.

 

 

 

 

 

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