Monday, March 26, 2012

"A good and faithful soldier:" Joseph Henry and the West Woods Missing

The May 21, 2009 post titled "West Woods Missing: Some Preliminary Research" listed members of the 72nd Pennsylvania that went missing in the West Woods on September 17. They were:

William H. Butler, sergeant, Company B.
Charles C. Cooper, private, Company E
John Cornwall, private, Company D
Joseph Henry, private, Company F
John J. McCanna, private, Company D
Theodore Pike, private, Company A

Charles C. Cooper and William H. Butler were subjects of subsequent posts. This post provides information on Private Joseph Henry, Company F.

Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia
At the time of his enlistment, Joseph, 32, lived with his wife Elizabeth McGregor, 31, at 1722 Burton Street, Philadelphia. Both were Irish. He was a stable man and she a laundress. Thomas Brainerd, DD, pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church married them on September 17, 1851. Ten years later, the family included four children: Sarah Jane, 9, Mary Ann, 7, Elizabeth, 3, and Joseph, 6 months.[1]

On August 10, 1861, Joseph enrolled for three years service and mustered into Company F led by Captain Isaac McBride. The morning of September 17, 1862 found Joseph and his company crossing the Hagerstown Pike near the Dunkard Church and entering the eastern fringe of the West Woods. 

Captain McBride later stated that "although I did not see him fall, it was proven to my satisfaction that he did fall in that battle with one half half of his head carried away[.] [O]ne of his comrades Private John Cunningham same Company same Regiment took the things from his pockets along with a testament with Henry's name on the fly leaf. That the said soldier was in good health at the time he entered the service and was killed as above described having been a good and faithful soldier, to the date of his death."

Three days after the battle "his body was taken from the field and buried by his Comrades."[2]

Elizabeth Henry's "mark."
On November 24, 1862, Elizabeth applied for and received a widow's pension of $8 per month commencing on September 17, 1862. This was later increased to an additional $2 per month per child (under the age of 16) on July 25, 1866. Elizabeth never remarried and lived until November 21, 1908.

Private Joseph Henry is not listed in the National Cemetery roll. If recovered, he is likely one of the over 1,700 unknowns there. 


Unless otherwise stated, all sources come from Widow's Certificate File Number WC 3807. Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans, Ca. 1861-ca. 1910. NARA, RG 15. 

[1] The 1860 U.S. Census for Philadelphia, shows Joseph, 31, and Elizabeth, 30, living in Philadelphia's Seventh Ward. Their children included Rufus, 10, Sarah, 7, Martha 4, and Joseph 1 month. There is no explanation for the discrepancy between children listed in the Census and children recorded in the Widow's Certificate File documents.

[2] Nevertheless, the company muster roll for the months of September and October reported him "missing since the Battle of Antietam."