Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Civil War Voices

On the evenings of Friday, October 6th and Saturday, October 7th the Lehigh County Historical Society presented "Voices of the Civil War" in the Union and West End Cemetery. The program was presented by the Lehigh County Historical Society and cosponsored by the County of Lehigh and the Union and West End Cemetery Association.
Although Friday was a bit breezy and cool, it was still a nice evening to be in the cemetery. Saturday's weather was much more agreeable and a good crowd turned out to enjoy the evening in the cemetery listening to the voices of the Civil War. Over all, the event was quite successful and most enjoyable for all that attended.

Winfield C. M. Steckel was born on January 12, 1847. He was but 16 years of age when he enlisted with his older brother to serve his country in the Union Army. He became a drummer boy and he served his country well and true. While in service, he wrote a poem. Winfield died on August 8, 1881. The poem he wrote appears on his tombstone and is shown below:

"If strike we must,
then let it be a fierce and daring blow,
whose shock shall roust bright liberty,
and set each heart aglow."

The widow of Major Thomas Yeagher laments the loss of her husband who fell mortally wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks on June 1, 1862.

Sentinels assigned to guard the President of the United States, stand their post. President Lincoln was a surprise guest of the evening and expounded on Pennsylvania's support in the national election that allowed him to gain the Presidency in 1860. He also commented on the quick and rapid responses of the Pennsylvania state militia units that answered the call to defend the capital in Washington, D.C. These militia units became known as the "First Defenders".

One of the volunteer guides that led groups through the cemetery and explained the setting for each new event. In this instance, she was explaining that while many men attempted to avoid service in the war, Captain William Hecker of Co. G, 176th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, willingly went to war in the service of his country and homeland.

The above images show a reporter (as portrayed by Tom Ruch) telling the story of John Ritter, a Civil War veteran that became a notorious character on Hamilton Street in downtown Allentown. He was a vagabond, a drifter and was addicted to booze. He was known throughout Allentown as "Schnupty"; few knew his real name. He had a propensity to be annoyed and if no one came forward to do the honors, then he would attempt to annoy anyone within sight.

Walter Fetzer's wife relates a tale of having visited her husband in camp. She became the daughter of the regiment to which her husband was assigned although she did not remain long on the battle field.

After leaving Fetzer's grave site, the group would make a brief stop at the grave of William Sowden. William Sowden was the soldier that was saved on the battle field at Antietam when he had received a leg wound and fell in an open field under fire. Ignatz Gresser carried him from the field. Sowden went on to become a congressman from Pennsylvania and was instrumental in getting the Medal of Honor for Ignatz Gresser for his heroic actions.

The above actor is portraying Charles Issermoyer. Charles and his brother served in Co. D of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Charles, who was a Sergeant and his brother both survived the war. Charles died on 20 April 1911.

The above photograph is the table for the Union and West End Cemetery. Left to right, Charles Canning, President of the cemetery association; his wife, Mary Ann and the cemetery association secretary, Nikki Clark.

Visit the Lehigh County Historical Society web site:
Lehigh County Historical Society

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