Throughout the Civil War, in towns both large and small, North and South, people gathered in the town squares or near newspaper or telegraph offices to get the latest news from the front lines. Of particular interest were the reports of battles, especially if hometown units were known to have been involved.
Perhaps nothing brought more anxiety, consternation, and pain than the occasional posting of casualty lists, often in a letter home to the newspaper from the commander of the local boys. Parents, wives, siblings, friends, all read through the lists with an anxious heart.
For some, the news was not good.
In the sultry summer of 1863, the residents of Hanover learned the sad toll from their hometown soldiers, Company D of the 76th Pennsylvania, at the recent battle at Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. On July 11, Captain Cyrus Diller penned the casualty list and mailed it to Maria Leader, the editor/owner of the Hanover Spectator. It was one of the few female-owned newspapers in the country at the time. The Adams Sentinel and General Advertiser reprinted Diller’s list on August 4, 1863.
“The following members of Company D were left on the field: Lieut. C. L. Bittinger, reported to be wounded in the side; Sergeant Jacob Duck; Corporals Abner Aurand and Christopher C. Hynicka; privates James Hughes, Charles Helsby, Thomas Horan, Moses Keeter, Joshua Knedle, John Miller, James Miller, Jacob Morningstar and Wesley Wagner.
“The following wounded men succeeded in getting to the rear, and are doing well: Corporal Henry Miller, wounded in the ankle; privates Franklin Roberts, wounded in the shoulder and thigh; Jacob Lechner, John Nolan, Wm. Reichenbach and Charles Lawson.
“The following officers were wounded and got off the field: Major John W. Hicks and Captains Charles Knerr and John S. Littell.
“The following were left on the field: First Lieut. William Miller, of Company H, acting adjutant, supposedly killed; Captain Hoagland and First Lieut. M. Stombaugh, of Company B, and First Lieut. Charles L. Bittinger, of Company D.”
For the families of those men noted as left behind on the field, those words must have struck terror in their hearts. Were their loved ones dead? Were they alive, but wounded and in Confederate hands? Had they been captured and were being sent to some prisoner of war camp?
The men left behind at Fort Wagner when the 76th withdrew under heavy fire and abandoned their attack, faced various fates. According to researcher Dennis W. Brandt’s voluminous database of local soldiers (available at the York County History Center), Joshua Knittle (spelled Knedle in Diller’s list) died from his severe wounds at Charleston; so did English-born Charles Helsby of Luzerne County. The fate of Irish-born Thomas Charles Horan of Hanover remained uncertain. No discharge date or other information is known.
Lieutenant Charles Lewis Bittinger, mentioned twice in Diller’s casualty list, survived his wounds to his lower left leg and became a prisoner of war. The youthful Adams County native was promoted to captain in 1864 while still a prisoner and was paroled on March 1, 1865. He briefly studied law, but then abandoned that pursuit and moved to Chicago. A newspaperman, he later lived in Nebraska and Florida, where he died on May 31, 1911.
John Miller, wounded and left on the field, also was captured. However, the middle-aged soldier (he was in his mid-40s) did not survive imprisonment, dying in Richmond on November 14, 1863. Corporal Christophe C. Hynicka, a Dauphin County native, also died in captivity. Corporal Abner Aurand was grievously wounded in the left shoulder. He was paroled a few days later and eventually sent to a military hospital at Fort Schuyler in New York City, where he died of gangrene on September 3.
Hanoverian Jacob J. Morningstar, born in 1819 and one of the older men in the regiment, had his leg amputated at the knee, but survived the war and returned to his wife and children. He died in 1901 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. One of his sons, Henry C. Morningstar, also served in the 76th Pennsylvania.
Sergeant Jacob Menges Duck was wounded and taken prisoner, but paroled later that year in Richmond and returned to the regiment. He was shot in the arm during U. S. Grant’s ill-fated attack at Cold Harbor in 1864 and was later honorably discharged. He was a native of Snyder County.