Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Tag on Photo to enlarge

The Cannon on the left is the one made by Shalk the Gunsmith of Pottsville. The other is an Ager Gun. The men in the photo are all officers of the 96th. Col. Cake is the officer with the large feather on the Hardie Hat, looking at the Ager gun. There is no record of the 96th actually using this gun, nothing in any diary or letter I have read refers to this gun. This picture was taken at Camp Northumberland, in 1861.

The Ager Gun


Patriotism runs deep in the blood of Schuylkill County and when the southern traitors fired their guns on Ft. Sumter Schuylkill Countians by the hundreds volunteered their service for the defense of the Union. The issue of slavery was hardly thought of by the common man in the county. The men went of to war with a burning feeling of patriotism and a desire to preserve the Republic as their forefathers had. Bands played military marches, citizens made rousing speeches, women and children paraded in the streets waving flags and handerchiefs. What man could resist the call to volunteer and to fight for the Union?
Preserving the Union was one reason to fight but many Schuylkill County boys went for other reasons. Working in the mines, on the canals, or as laborers weren't jobs that many of the boys wanted. The adventure of marching off to war with flags waving, people cheering while wearing fancy uniforms enticed many of the men to join.
Poverty was a major fact of life in rural Schuylkill. Posters showing a fifty dollar bounty, and an advance of thirteen dollars, the monthly pay of a private soldier, and with bonuses of up to one hundred dollars certainly encouraged some of the men to enlist. For whatever reason the men of Schuylkill did enlist and went off to war with pride and a sense of honor. They fought and died on the bloody battlefields of America for the next three years.
Many of these men were local members of volunteer fire companies. One of these companies was "Pottsville's Good Intent". On April 17, 1861 twenty three men from the Good Intent enlisted in volunteer companies from Schuylkill. The majority enlisted in the Washington Artillerists and the National Light Infantry, the famed First Defenders. Subsequently, they marched off to Washington to defend the Capitol.
On September 7, 1861 at a meeting held by the Good Intent a resolution was passed that, due to the large number of men serving in the volunteer regiments from the fire company and the depressed state of finances, each member would be credited with six months dues. A committee, consisting of I.E. Severn, John Lesig, Samuel R. Russel, Wm. Lessig, Wm. B. Severn and Geo. Foltz, was appointed to procure a light rifled cannon for the company. On that day in the Miners Journal a short article appeared.

Good Intent Light Artillery is the name of a new military organization intended to be connected with Col.Cake's Regiment. It was started by members of the Good Intent Fire Company of this borough. Quite a large number of names are involved. A brass field piece intended for use of the company will be cast by G.W. Snyder and rifled by Mr. Shalk. It will have a point blank range of 2 miles.

Mr. Hugh Stevenson of 332 E. Arch St. and a former member of the Good Intent Light Artillery shared an interesting story regarding the service of many of these boys. It appeared in the April 18, 1900 Pottsville Daily Republican.

The members of the battery were mostly firemen of the Good Intent Co. after which the battery was named. The battery which was first commanded by Capt. Wm. Lessig; First Lieut. Isaac Severn; Second Lieut. Samuel Russel and First Sergeant Edward L. Severn, was to be short lived, that is as far as the name was concerned. The members were unable to secure any ordnance to drill with and finally the "boys" decided to swipe brass and make a cannon themselves. Piece by piece they scraped together the brass while some poor, unsuspecting victim scratched his head and wondered at the mysterious disappearance of some article of brass from his shop or household. When enough had been secured the brass was melted and molded into a fine cannon by Geo. W. Snyder. The cannon was the "only one" in the eyes of the boys and carefully guarded. The battery camped on Lawton's hill and awaited a call to the front. The Good Intent Battery would undoubtedly have become famous, as the members did, but for an unlooked for occurrence. The 96th regiment had been recruited and lacked but one company. The Good Intent Battery was mustered into this regiment and the members then became infantrymen and "shouldered the cannon" as they remarked for ever afterward. The precious cannon was taken along with the 96th Regt., but was finally turned over to a New England Battery, and that was the last seen or heard of it, although the members of the old battery after the war made many an attempt to discover its whereabouts, the cannon accomplished valuable service and the men feel confident that they have been forgiven for pilfering the brass with which it was made.

The cannon was a centerpiece of pride for the citizenry of Pottsville. In the Miners Journal for October 5, 1861 it was reported that.

The Good Intent Light Artillery Company, attached to Col. Cake's regiment pitched its tents on the hill this week. A cannon for this company is being cast by Geo. W. Snyder and the gun carriage is also being made here. This company has some thirty men encamped on the hill.

From the Miners Journal of October 19, 1861 this interesting article appeared:

The Good Intent Light Artillery Co. took a brass field piece up to their camp on Saturday last. It was cast by Mr. George W. Snyder and rifled by Mr. Schalk. A trial of the gun was held last week at Tumbling Run and was satisfactory. At 500 yards it planted a ball one pound and a quarter in weight within three inches of the center of the target. With a couple of these guns, and three or four howitzers this company could bring an effective battery into the field. We understand that it is rapidly filling up.

The men of the Good Intent Artillery now attached to the 96th P.V.I. as company C (The Color Company) would make their mark throughout the war with the 96th and famed Sixth Corps. Because they were an infantry regiment, the men would lose their cannon to a Massachusetts Battery while attached to the First Brigade of the Sixth Corps in July of 1862. The only Massachusetts Battery attached to the first Brigade was the 1st Mass. Artillery. The Miners Journal of August 2, 1862 reported the transfer of the cannon to the 1st Mass:

The small rifle cannon cast by Mr. George Shalk, for Company C 96th Regiment is now in a Mass. Battery and the men think so much of it that they would sooner part with any other pieces than it. This speaks so highly for its quality.

Where is the cannon? Did it survive the war? We may never know the answers to these questions. The whereabouts of this cannon still remain a mystery one hundred and thirty seven years after it was turned over to the 1st. Mass. Battery..

96th at Camp Northumberland

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