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James Peifer Papers

James Peifer Papers

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James Peifer Papers


Profile Description

Creation: 05.04.2012
Language: English

Title: James Peifer Papers
Dates: 1861-1865
Quantity: 2 boxes
Identification: PP PJ
Location: 156B
Language: English

The collection contains letters and a diary, written by James Peifer, soldier from Bethlehem, during the Civil War, (also transcriptions).

James A. Peifer was born in Bethlehem, PA on September 17th, 1838 to parents Henry and Anna Clewell. James (nicknamed Jim) was the third child of the family proceeded by six year old brother, William C. Peifer and three year old Mary Peifer. When James was five sister Ellen Peifer was born. The Peifer family were members of the Moravian community on the Lehigh River established in 1741. An exclusive community until 1839 when the Elders of the Moravian Church opened the community to the outside world the Peifer siblings grew up in an increasingly diverse environment. In 1844 the Peifer family suffered the loss of father, Henry, to consumption leaving Anna to care for the four children. Anna moved the children into the Moravian Widow's House where James lived until he recieved an apprenticeship in the craft of bookbinding. In 1859 James spent half a year in New York City but failing to find winter employment returned to Bethlehem where he began to drill with the militia compancy the Bethlehem Guard. Under James L. Seldrige the Bethlehem Guard was renamed the Washington Grays and in February 1861 the group marched to Harrisburg to participate in the parade honoring the President-Elect on George Washington's birthday. This marks the beginning of James's military career as well as the beginning of the collection of letters which chronicle this experience.

Following the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 the Washington Grays, including James Peifer, offered their services to the US Government and were renamed Company A of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. James and Company left for Harrisburg on Friday, April 19th, 1861. His enlistment lasted for 90 days which were spent in Camp Lewis and Scott. After his enlistment was complete James returned to Bethlehem promising his military service was complete however after only a few months re-enlisted for a period of three years assigned to Company C of the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. James, at the age of 23, was once again sent to Camp Lewis in Harrisburg in October 1861. The end of 1861 marked a sad moment for James with the death of sister-in-law Elizabeth on New Year's Eve but their was no time to mourn since the Company simultaneously begain marching for Virginia were it would be incorporated into the Union's New Army of Virginia. James and Company were pursued for several months by Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and were finally forced into battle on August 9th, 1862 at the Second Bull Run Campaign. James was on the sick list this day and sat listening to the fight in camp six miles away. In early September James's health continued to deteriorate and he was sent to Mount Pleasant Hospital then the United State General Hospital in Annapolis, MD and, finally, a hospital in Philadelphia where he was diagnosed with scrofula. James was finally returned to his regiment on December 3rd, 1863 in Dechard, TN. Despite being eligible for discharge James commits himself to remain with his regiment until the end of the war. Most of his last year in the service was served under General James Sherman.

On Saturday, July 22, 1865 James Peifer would finally return to Bethlehem and once again take up the occupation of book binding. On May 15th, 1866 James married 19 year old Rosanna Reif of Bethlehem and they has three children together, Emily Jane, John Henry, and William S. Despite these joys James's health continued to deteriorate and he spent some time in the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital in Harrisburg. While he was declared "partially cured" only a few months later James was sent to the insane asylum in Hampton, VA. where he spent the remainder of his life. James A. Peifer would die on Valentine's Day 1877.

Mary Peifer:

Was born in 1835 in Bethlehem and at the age of 15 began an apprenticeship with Amos Bealer the local baker. Eventually Mary moved to Philadelphia to work and this is where she recieved most of Jame's letters. When brother William died leaving daughter Jane an orphan Mary returned to Bethlehem to help sister, Ellen, care for her. While Mary did return to Philadelphia for a time she ultimately returned to Bethlehem and married widower Samuel Yost in 1872. Samuel and Mary would have one child together name Samuel Jr.



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