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Yorkers fought (& died) in the Mexican War: Part 2

"Battle of Churubusco--Fought near the city of Mexico 20th of August 1847 / J. Cameron." Hand tinted lithograph. Library of Congress
“Battle of Churubusco–Fought near the city of Mexico 20th of August 1847 / J. Cameron.” Hand tinted lithograph. Library of Congress

The death of Jacob Danner in a field hospital near Puebla, Mexico, on September 10, 1847, reduced the York contingent in Company C of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to seven.

Less than three weeks later, that number soon would be reduced by one.

On September 28, in a firefight with the Mexicans, the name of another York soldier was added to the casualty rolls of the Monroe Guards.

J. Jacob Oswandel, the Mifflin County man who chronicled the story of the York delegation in his 1885 book based upon his war-time diary, outlined the fight which claimed his friend’s life.

“Tuesday, September 28, 1847 – …In the evening the Mexicans (cowardly dogs) attacked our hospital, and succeeded in setting fire to the main gate, and while in the act one of our riflemen, who was stationed near the hospital, was shot dead, at the same time falling into the fire, and he burned to a crisp. The firing became so severe that Gov. Childs detailed a party of soldiers, commanded by our Adjt. Welder, to charge, and take a point near our hospital; but by some misunderstanding our men charged on a strong and well-constructed breastwork, which was constructed across the street about two squares from our quarters.

“When the word ‘Charge’ was given, we started off with a yell and charged on the breastworks, and captured it from the enemy, the Mexicans being over three hundred strong. They fired off the first shot, and then retreated; while our men were rallying and charging on the these works, our old friend William Eurick fell mortally wounded. He being shot through the heart, and while in the act of falling threw up his right hand, at the same time holding his musket, and with his left hand on his breast, he exclaimed in a loud and clear voice, ‘Oh! my God, I am shot!’ These were the last words poor William Eurick, of Little York, Pa., spoke on God’s earth.”

The Mexicans, discovering that the attacking Americans only numbered less than three dozen men, rallied and recaptured the breastworks. The 1st Pennsylvanians retired, leaving Eurick’s body behind, “with feet to the foe and back to the earth, and his smiling countenance toward the dosel (canopy) of heaven.”

That night about 11 p.m. Oswandel and other men crept close to the breastworks but failed to locate Eurick’s body. They sadly returned to the Americnn lines, presuming the Mexicans had removed the corpse.

Morning light proved them mistaken. A sentinel spotted Eurick still lying where he fell. A close friend named Jerry Corson risked his own life by creeping along a stone wall until he was close enough to dash into the street, grab Eurick’s legs, and quickly drag the body back behind the protective wall. He was back within ten minutes, carrying Eurick over his shoulder.

“Mr. William Eurick was a man about thirty years of age and over six feet in his stockings, weighed about one hundred and eighty pounds,” Oswandel penned, “and it is a marvel to wonder how Jerry Corson succeeded in getting him on his back so quickly and bringing him — a heavy man without any assistance; for Jerry Corson has been in delicate health for some time.”

Some time later, after the danger from the Mexicans had abated, Oswandel took the time to honor his fallen friend. “Corporal William Eurick, hailed from Little York, Pa., he came with that little band, already mentioned, where he, with the rest of his comrades, left that little town of his birth, with enthusiasm and patriotic feeling… he met his fate while gallantly and bravely rushing at the Mexican breastworks…” Oswandel went on to add, “He was a genial, a brave soldier, and a beloved companion. Thus another flower is stricken down from our little band. Another one has left our company’s ranks, and a hero, a jewel, stolen from some treasure of love at home, for the dark and silent tomb.”

In October, sharp fighting with the Mexicans further reduced the ranks of the 1st Pennsylvania but luckily none of the York contingent was harmed. The losses, however, created some openings for promotions, and Thomas Zeigle was appointed as orderly sergeant of Company C. His assignment, however, created some dissension from a clique of Philadelphians who believed one of their number should have been named to the post. However, according to Oswandel, “the majority of our company are well pleased with the appointment; and as regards his capacity and ability, there are none better qualified for the position than Thomas Ziegle. He is a gentleman and a scholar, a soldier and precise in manner. He graduated at Gettysburg College.”

Click here for part 3!