York County Soldiers: Pvt. Samuel Fitz
Mt. Olivet Cemetery sprawls on a hilltop southeast of Hanover, Pennsylvania in extreme southern York County. During the Civil War, it was of course much smaller than today, and the heights became a platform for Confederate horse artillery during the June 30, 1863 Battle of Hanover. Following the war, the graveyard became the final resting place for many of the Civil War veterans of the Hanover region, and a stroll through the cemetery grounds yields dozens of headstones for these veterans.
Among those men buried in Mr. Olivet is Samuel Fitz, whose story can be pieced together from studying the rosters of Pennsylvania Civil War soldiers. The typical image of a Civil War soldier conjures up images of heroic charges across farm fields while bullets whistle past and shells explode overhead. For many soldiers, this indeed was the case. For tens of thousands of others, including Hanover’s Sam Fitz, their military service was much more mundane and tedious.
Samuel Fitz was born in Hanover in 1846 to a large family of German heritage. Like so many of his Aryan ethnicity, he was fair complected with light colored hair and bright blue eyes. The Fitz family was well known in the area, and his namesake Samuel Fitz in 1840 had established a foundry where he manufactured overshot water wheels for the burgeoning milling industry in the region. The Fitz Water Wheel Company operated well into the mid-20th century.
Extremely short at only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, as a teenager Samuel found employment as a laborer in the Dillsburg area. At the age of 18 he enlisted on February 15, 1865, as a private in Company G of the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry, a veteran regiment that had seen action at the Battle of Gettysburg. On February 22, George Washington’s birthday, Sam Fitz was officially mustered into the Union Army at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg.
Fitz reported to his regiment, which was at the time a part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and was stationed in West Virginia until April 1865. By that time, the fighting in the Mountaineer State had all but ceased, and Fitz and the 74th were primarily used to guard the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and nearby bridges in case of attacks by Confederate partisans. The regiment was in the region of Beverly and Clarksburg from April 8 until May 12, and then guarded the Parkersburg branch of the B&O until late August when Sam Fitz and his comrades in arms were mustered out of the Army on the 29th.