James Mitchell, Antrim Township, served alongside two of his cousins, George Pawling and Henry Laughlin, in the Civil War. Laughlin was the subject of the March 26, 2014 Soldier’s Story. All three young men, although from Antrim Township, were in Greencastle’s Co. K, 126th PA Regiment. Most of the men from Antrim Township were enrolled in Co. B, 126th PA.
George Mitchell, farmer, was among the “Heads of Household” that were enumerated on the 1840 US Census for Antrim Township. The 1840 census only lists the heads of household by name. Those living in the household were counted by age groups. George fell under the age group 20 – 29. His wife Rachael was about ten years younger than he was and was counted in the “Free White Persons – Females 15 thru 19.” Their eldest child, James, born in 1840, was in the group of males “under 5.” There were two other white females living in the household, one between the age of 20 – 29 and one between 50 – 59 years of age.
The 1840 census also counted “Free Colored Persons – Males and Females” and “Slaves.” All were enumerated by age groups. Counted, in the Mitchel household, was one free African American male, between 24 and 35 years old, one free female under 10, and one free male between the ages of 10 and 23. There were eight people living in the Mitchell household – five Whites and three Blacks.
George Mitchell was counted as a “taxable” on the 1842 Pennsylvania Septennial Census. On the 1850 US Census, George is 38 and was born in 1812 or 1813. He and Rachael had four children: James, 10; Catherine, 6; Elizabeth, 4; and John F was one. Catherine Myers, 60, was living with them, as well as Emanuel Wright, 21, and Nelly Wright, 20.
The Mitchell farm is marked on the 1858 Antrim Township map, adjacent to and west of Muddy Run. The farm, of 170 acres, was located between two grist mills. Kiesecker’s mill was to the north at the intersection of Shinham and Frank Roads. Kiesecker’s was the oldest mill in Antrim Township and the last mill to close, in 1970. South of the Mitchell farm was Rankin’s Mill, where Muddy Run intersects the Williamson Road.
George, 47, and Rachael, 37, had two more children, Robert, 8, and Sarah, 5, by the time the 1860 census was taken on August 25, 1860, in that part of Antrim Township. Catherine Myers, who was living with the Mitchells in 1850, was no longer in the household, but Rebecca Pollen, 70, was living with them. James was 20, Catherine – 16, Elizabeth – 14, and John was 11.
James, along with many young men his age, enlisted as a private, on August 7, 1862, in Co. K, of the 126th PA Volunteers Regiment. Four months later, the men of the 126th, along with the other regiments in the Army of the Potomac, were waiting for the sound of the first report, signaling the first cannon had been fired and the Battle of Fredericksburg had begun. The men waited and waited, unsure of when the battle would begin. Fred Ziegler, 19, was the Sergeant Master of the 126th. He wrote to his father on a frigid Sunday morning, December 7, 1862. At the end of the letter, Fred wrote that they, “will likely move to morrow,” or “Perhaps we will stay still.” Three days later, Samuel North wrote to his father, on December 10. His opening sentence was, “I take this chance of writing to you as we expect to move this evening or tomorrow morning and I may not have another opportunity for a few days.” On December 18, 1862, Sam wrote the following about the Battle of Fredericksburg.
“We have failed to drive the enemy from their entrenchments and have retired acros to this side of the river. on Thursday morning (Dec 11) we were ready to move the bombardment commenced at daylight and we moved about the same time we waited all day about a mile from the river on Friday morning we were moved out to our batteries on this side of the rappahannock but on Sat morning (Dec 13) the troops commenced crossing and soon we heard the musketry mingle with the artillery it was most terrific. we crossed about three ,oclock when we were going down this side the reb,s threw shells at us but no one was hurt we crossed on the pontoon bridge and as soon as we were in town the artillery commenced playing at us but could not do us much damage as we were under the cover of the houses we left our knapsacks in a store and moved out on the battlefield we were moved out and drawn up in position in a meadow when a rebel officer on a white horse rode out in front of the fortifications and soon a cannon was brought to bear on us the first shell killed three men in co A (Chambersburg) of our regt we were ordered to lay down and then we lay close down in mud and water the shells flew in among us and did terrible work one threw the mud all over me. that was the most horrid time the shells hissed and shrieked the noise was enough to scare men if they had done nothing else I don’t mind anything half as much as them but I am afraid of them. we were soon compelled to retire a hundred yards or more but were drawn up behind one of our batteries which was fiting [fighting] a rebel battery (across two fields) off. we were drawn up and ordered to charge Bayonet on the ,reb, Bat. [battery] the bugle sounded our div Gen Humphries moved to the front and away we went at it cheering as we went. we had to tramp over a line of our men lying down and then passed our pickets we passed over the dead and wounded. the enemy reserved their fire then raised and poured into us a murderous volley which checked us we could not advance under that murderous fire we lay down a few minutes and fired and loaded a few rounds and then we had to fall back. we broke and retreated double quick we were formed rallied got into order and moved back into the town. dal(las) mowen was shot through the breast and instantly killed. sergt Brinkley was wounded in the side and arm he died soon after being taken off the field Huston Work was dangerously wounded through the shoulder. Haze wounded in the leg – not dangerously – Brewer Cushwa has an ugly wound in the face several received slight bruises from spent balls.”
James Mitchell was not mentioned in Sam’s letter but he, like Dallas Mowen and Sgt. Brinkley, was among those killed in action on December 13, 1862. Company A, from Chambersburg, had the most killed and wounded and Greencastle’s Company K was second, with seven wounded and seven killed. I’ve found no records or newspaper articles which say when James’ body was retrieved and buried. According to James’ Veteran Burial Card he was buried in the Moss Spring graveyard, which indicates his family was Presbyterian. Charles Hartman, a member of the German Reformed Church (now Grace United Church of Christ), made note in his journal that George Mitchell was a Sunday school teacher.
After making several trips to the Moss Spring graveyard, taking many photographs, and cleaning several of the stones, we believe that the two stones, shown in the photograph, mark the area of the graves for George and Rachael Mitchell, and that of their son, James Mitchell, who predeceased his parents. One can just make out each of the three names on the headstone. Facing the large stone, in the cemetery, is the much smaller footstone, with the initials of all three – G. N. M., R. C. M., and J. M.
George Mitchell’s farm was still shown on the 1868 Antrim Township map, in the same place it was in 1858. Both George and Rachael died, sometime before the August 23, 1870 US Census. I could not find their son, John, on the 1870 census in Franklin County. It was likely Catherine and Elizabeth might have been married and therefore would be very difficult to find. The only way to find any of the Mitchell children required reading each page of the Antrim Township, August 1870 census records. On page 66, of 95 pages, were their children, Elizabeth – 23, Robert – 19, and Sally – 15, all still living on the homestead of their parents George and Rachael Mitchell. Although they were all considered heirs, Elizabeth owned the property, valued at $4,200, because Robert and Sally were minors. Here is where their life path and that of their cousin, Henry Laughlin, cross. Henry and James fought alongside each other in the Battle of Fredericksburg, during which James was killed. Henry and Anna, his wife, and their daughter, Mary Agnes, moved into the Mitchell farmhouse, in 1870, with Elizabeth, Robert, and Sally. Henry, a tenant farmer at the time, farmed the Mitchell farm, for his cousins. Farm sharing was profitable for both the landowner and the tenant farmer, who owned little if any land. This is where Emma, Henry’s and Anna’s second child was born. Their personal estate was valued at $830.
The Laughlin family genealogy book says that Henry and Anna and their family moved out of the Mitchell farmhouse on March 12, 1872. I have been unable to find any other records for Elizabeth, Robert, or Sally Mitchell.
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