The life story of William F. Reiber, M.D. is a classic American success story. Born in Pennsylvania on 8 July 1835, he was a son of German immigrant Jacob Reiber (1789-1857) and Mary (Fleisher) Reiber (1791-1861), a native of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
His father, who was born in Baden-Württemberg, had left Germany in search of a better life. Both parents, as all parents the world over do, hoped their children would prosper even more so than they had.
William Reiber’s elder brother, George, who was born on 15 February 1830 in Sinking Spring, Berks County, was “prominently identified with the agricultural interests of Potter township, Centre county” in Pennsylvania by the time that J. H. Beers & Co. of Chicago had published its Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania. According to Beers, George Reiber had, by 1898, “achieved success by his own unaided exertions,” and was “a self-made man.”
William F. Reiber, the subject of this biographical sketch, also became a self-made man, electing to pursue a career in medicine during the early 1850s.
After their Berks County beginnings, Jacob Reiber and his family spent a brief period in Butler, Pennsylvania before making their way to the Keystone State’s Centre County in 1836, where they resided near Tusseyville. Roughly a year old at the time, son William F. Reiber was the younger brother to siblings Elizabeth (1826-1903), George (1830-1900) and John (1832-1909).
The Reiber clan lived on rented land, supported by the wages earned by their blacksmith father, who soon built a tidy enough nest egg to purchase area farm land from the Potter brothers.
* Note: Reiber family patriarch and matriarch, Jacob and Mary, would remain in possession of that land for the remainder of their days, and were ultimately laid to rest at what is now the Emanuel Union Church Cemetery in Tusseyville, Centre County, Pennsylvania. While their aforementioned son George remained in Centre County, their daughter and other son John made their way west to Michigan. Elizabeth, who went on to wed Adam Stemm, settled in Berrien County while John became a tinsmith in St. Joseph.
Education and Spirituality
As practicing Lutherans, Reiber family members took their cue from their patriarch, attending church faithfully, and rising to positions as deacons or other similar positions of authority within their respective congregations.
According to Beers, “the educational privileges” of William Reiber’s elder brother, George, “were limited, but in the common schools he obtained a fair literary training, his first teacher being James Powley. At the age of thirteen, however, he laid aside his text books and learned the blacksmith’s trade in his father’s shop, where he continued to work until the age of twenty-four years.” After marrying Potter Township native Esther Mayer, he then found work in the Colyer, Pennsylvania tannery of his father-in-law, which helped him amass enough funding to purchase real estate and become a leader in the region’s agriculture industry.
Educated similarly (but perhaps slightly better than) his older brother, since the local schools had likely improved over the intervening years, young William Reiber did well enough academically in his common school work that he was accepted into a medical program at the university level. A student at the same higher education institution where several of his future fellow surgical colleagues had also received their healthcare training—the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—he was afforded the advanced training necessary to succeed not only as a general physician, but as a surgeon during America’s mass casualty-producing Civil War of the 1860s. (Jefferson was as renowned for its focus on clinical practice as for its accomplished faculty of highly experienced physicians.)
Following graduation, William F. Reiber, M.D., entered private practice and became a family man, choosing Amelia Runkle (1838-1934), a daughter of Jacob and Susannah Runkle of Centre County, Pennsylvania, as his bride. Together, they became the parents of four children, the first three of whom were born in Pine Grove Mills, Centre County before the Civil War:
- Mary C. (born 7 January 1855);
- Clara E. (born 10 December 1857, married John Wilkinson, died 13 June 1920 in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan); and
- Sarah Alice (born January 1860).
Their son, John Alden Reiber, was born in Centre County, Pennsylvania sometime around 1862, went on to marry Pearl Ewalt, and made a life with her before he passed away on 18 October 1922 in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan.
Civil War Military Service
A resident of Centre County in 1862, William F. Reiber, M.D. enrolled and mustered in for Civil War military service as a Surgeon and member of the Field and Staff (officers) command with the 13th Pennsylvania Militia at Harrisburg, Dauphin County, but was discharged just a week later on 25 September. The Civil War Veterans’ Card File entry for him at the Pennsylvania State Archives documents this service, but gives no explanation for its short duration.
On 30 October 1862, William Reiber again mustered in for Civil War service at Harrisburg—this time as an Assistant Surgeon and officer (Field and Staff) with the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. From December of 1862 through March 1863, he served under Major William Gausler, Commanding Officer at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida, as the Assistant Surgeon to the companies of the 47th Pennsylvania assigned to duty there. He then continued this service at Fort Taylor from April through December 1863 under Commanding Officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good.
As with their previous assignments, Dr. Reiber and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians came to realize that disease would be their constant companion and foe. Soldiers were felled by typhoid, dysentery and other ailments common to the often unsanitary conditions found in the close quarters of military life.
This made it all the more remarkable that, during this phase of service, the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to reenlist when their three-year service terms were up. Many, who could have returned home with their heads held legitimately high after all they had endured, reenrolled in order to preserve the Union of their beloved nation.
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach further. Captain Graeffe and a group of men from A Company were assigned to special duty which involved raids on area cattle herds in order to provide food for the growing Union troop presence across Florida, taking the 47th’s detachment up north to Fort Myers and beyond. Abandoned in 1858 after the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians, the fort was ordered to be reclaimed and revitalized in 1864 by General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade while also offering shelter for pro-Union supporters and others fleeing Rebel troops, including Confederate Army deserters and escaped slaves. According to historian Lewis Schmidt:
Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard. Lt. Harris was directed to tow the Matchless if necessary.
Punta Rassa was probably the location where the troops disembarked, and was located on the tip of the southwest delta of the Caloosahatchee River … near what is now the mainland or eastern end of the Sanibel Causeway… Fort Myers was established further up the Caloosahatchee at a location less vulnerable to storms and hurricanes. In 1864, the Army built a long wharf and a barracks 100 feet long and 50 feet wide at Punta Rassa, and used it as an embarkation point for shipping north as many as 4400 Florida cattle….
Capt. Graeffe and company were disembarked on the evening of January 7, and Gen. Woodbury ordered the company to occupy Fort Myers on the south side of the Caloosahatchee, about 12 miles from its mouth and 150 miles from Key West. Shortly after, [a detachment of men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s A Company stationed on Useppa Island] was also ordered to proceed to Fort Myers and join the main body of Company A, the entire command under direct orders of the General who was in the area…. Gen. Woodbury returned to Key West on the Honduras prior to January 19, and the command was left in charge of Capt. Graeffe who dispatched various patrols in search of refugees for enlistment and for activities involving Confederate cattle shipments.
Company A’s muster roll provides the following account of the expedition under command of Capt. Graeffe: ‘The company left Key West Fla Jany 4. 64 enroute to Fort Meyers Coloosahatche River [sic] Fla. were joined by a detachment of the U.S. 2nd Fla Rangers at Punta Rossa Fla took possession of Fort Myers Jan 10. Captured a Rebel Indian Agent and two other men.’
Schmidt notes that Graeffe’s hand drawings show there were roughly 12 buildings “primarily situated along the river, with a log palisade protecting those portions not bounded by the Caloosahatchee; the whole in a densely wooded area and entered through an opening on the southeast protected by the river on the west near the area of the wharf, and a log blockhouse on the east.”
An 1856 survey of the fort contained in the Federal Register “suggest that the fort’s wooden stockade ran from just east of Broadway to just east of Royal Palm, and from Main Street on the south to the river bank, which meandered along what is Bay Street today,” according to Tom Hall, creator of a website about the arts in Southwest Florida:
It consisted of as many as three dozen hewn pine buildings which included officers’ quarters … barracks, administration offices, a 2½-story hospital with plastered rooms, warehouses for the storage of munitions and general supplies, a guard house … blacksmith’s and carpenter’s shops, a kitchen, bakery, laundry, a sutler’s store, stables for horses and mules, a gardener’s shack, and even a bowling alley and bathing pier and pavilion.
It also boasted a pier nearly 700 feet long that had wide dock and rails that enabled the soldiers to bring in supplies by tram without having to lighter them ashore. The buildings were sided and topped by cedar shingles shipped in from Pensacola and Apalachicola, together with doors, windows and flooring. The interior featured parade grounds, a carefully-tended velvety lawn, two immense vegetable gardens, rock-rimmed river banks, shell walks, lush palms and even citrus trees.
Also according to Hall:
By the time Captain Richard A. Graeffe and his soldiers arrived at the fort, most of the wood stockade had disappeared, so he ordered his men to construct an earthen wall 15 feet wide by 7 feet tall. Three guard towers were also constructed: one where the hospital had been; a second by the garden and bowling alley; and the third between the stables and riverside warehouse. Then Captain Graeffe sent his troops across the river to begin rounding up the herds of scrub cows being raised by ranchers between Punta Gorda and Tampa. As they did, resistance began to grow. Captain Graeffe realized he needed reinforcements and Companies D and I of the [U.S. Colored Troop’s] 2nd Regiment were brought up from Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:
A small contingent of 20 men and two officers from the Pennsylvania 47th Regiment, led by Captain Henry Crain of the 2nd Regiment of Florida, arrived at the fort on January 7, 1864. A short time later, the party was joined by another small detachment of the 47th under the command of Captain Richard A. Graeffe. Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.
Early on, according to Schmidt, Captain Graeffe sent the following report to Woodbury:
“At my arrival hier [sic] I divided my forces in three detachment, viz one at the Hospital one into the old guardhouse and one into the Comissary [sic] building, the Florida Rangers I quartered into one of the old Company quarters, I set all parties to work after placing the proper pickets and guards at the Hospital i have build [sic] and now nearly finished a two story loghouse of hewn and square logs 12 inches through seventeen by twenty-two fifteen feet high with a cupola onto the roof of six feet high and at right angle with two lines of picket fences seven feet high. i shall throw up a half a bastion around it as soon as completed. around the old guardhouse i have thrown up a bastion seven feet through at the foot and three feet on the top nine feet high from the bottom of the ditch and five on the inside. I also build [sic] a loghouse sixteen by eighteen of two storys [sic] Southeast of the Commissary building with a bastion around it at right angles with a picket fence each bastion has the distance you recomandet [sic] from the loghouses 20 feet on the sides and 20 to the salient angle, i caused to be dug a well close to bl. houses and inside of the bastions at each Station inside they are all comfortable fitted up with stationary bunks for the men without interfering with the defence [sic] of the work outside of the Bastions and inside the picket fense i have erected small kitchens and messrooms for each station, i am building now a guardhouse build [sic] of square hewn logs sixteen by sixteen two storys high the lower room to be used for the guard and the upper one as a prison, the building to be used for defence [sic] (in case of attack) by the Rangers each work is within view and supporting distance from the other; Capt. Crane with a detachment of his men repaired the wharf, which is in good condition now and fit for use, the bakehouse i got repaired, and the fourth day hier [sic] we had already very good fresh bread; the parade ground is in a good condition had all the weeds mowed off being to [sic] green to burn. i intend to fit up a schoolroom and church as soon as possible.”
Muster rolls for Company A from this period noted that “a detachment of 25 men crossed over to the north west side of the river” on 16 January and “scoured the country till up to Fort Thompson a distance of 50 miles,” where they “encountered a Rebel Picket who retreated after exchanging shots.” Making their way back, they swam across the river, and reached the fort on 23 January. Meanwhile, while that group was still away, Captain Graeffe ordered a smaller detachment of eight men to head out on 17 January in search of cattle. Finding only a few, they instead took possession of four barrels of Confederate turpentine, which were later disposed of by other Union troops.
Graeffe’s men also captured three Confederate sympathizers at the fort, including a blockade runner and spy named Griffin and an Indian interpreter and agent named Lewis. Charged with multiple offenses against the United States, they were transported to Key West, where they were kept under guard by the Provost Marshal—Major William Gausler, third-in-command of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
This phase of duty lasted until sometime in February of 1864. The detachment of the 47th which served under Graeffe at Fort Myers is labeled as the Florida Rangers in several publications, including The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Robert N. Scott, et. al. (1891). Several of Graeffe’s hand drawn sketches of Fort Myers were published in 2000 in Images of America: Fort Myers by Gregg Tuner and Stan Mulford.
Meanwhile, all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had already left on the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the now almost fully reconstituted regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.
Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.
But they had missed the two bloodiest combat engagements that the 47th Pennsylvania would endure during the Red River Campaign—the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield on 8 April and the Battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April. According to Schmidt, Company A was soon ordered to return the Confederate prisoners to New Orleans, and officially ended their detached duty on 27 April when they rejoined the main regiment’s encampment at Alexandria.
This means that Dr. Reiber and the soldiers from Company A were not only spared the early carnage of the Red River Campaign, but that they were also apparently not on hand for a third combat engagement—the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry”), which took place on 23 April.
Back together again in late April, the fully reassembled 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and their fellow brigade members helped to build “Bailey’s Dam” near Alexandria from 30 April through 10 May, enabling federal gunboats to successfully navigate the fluctuating water levels of the Red River. Beginning 13 May, the majority of the 47th then moved from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Still able and willing to fight after their Bayou battles, William F. Reiber, M.D. and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians made the difficult decision to leave several wounded and disease-ridden members of their regiment behind to convalesce at hospitals in New Orleans while the healthier majority sailed for the Washington, D.C. area.
Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed aboard the McClellan, beginning on 7 July 1864. Following a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, they joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia for the Battle of Cool Spring, and assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
The men from Companies B, G and K then arrived later that month via the Blackstone, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the opening days of September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, but whose three-year terms of service were expiring. Those members of the 47th who remained on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.
In early September, the regiment engaged with fellow Union troops in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia, and sustained several casualties. On 15 September 1864, William F. Reiber, M.D. was shown on a Union hospital death ledger as having certified the death of Jacob Apple from apoplexy at the Union’s hospital at Berryville, Virginia. Apple had been serving with the 47th’s Company B (click on death ledger image to enlarge):
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864
On 19 September 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania and other regiments under the command of Union Major-General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, began another intense period of combat activity by inflicting heavy casualties on the Confederate States Army troops led by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early. Engaged in the Battle of Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”), their success that day is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important wins of Sheridan’s 1864 campaign, a key Union victory which helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.
The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny began at 2 a.m. on 19 September as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. Advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps bogged down for several hours with the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. Finally reaching the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Confederate Army. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.
Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by Brigadier-General William Emory to attack and pursue Major-General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice—once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.
The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.
Among the casualties were Private Edward Smith, who was wounded at Opequan on 19 September, and Private J. M. Kerkendall, who was wounded during the fighting at Fisher’s Hill on 22 September.
Moving forward, the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced with leaders who were equally respected for their front line experience and temperament, including Major John Peter Shindel Gobin, formerly of the 47th’s Company C, who had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and regimental commanding officer).
Battle of Cedar Creek, October 1864
During the Fall of 1864, Major-General Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents—civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles—all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:
When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:
When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.
Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, a C Company man who had been wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands during the Battle of Pleasant Hill the previous April, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield, as were Sergeant Francis A. Parks and Private Marcus Berksheimer. Company E’s Corporal Edward W. Menner and Privates Andrew Burk, John Kunker, Owen Moser, Jacob Ochs, and John Peterson were among the many wounded. Kunker, Menner, Moser, Ochs, and Peterson survived but Private Burk, who had sustained gunshot wounds to the head and upper right arm and had initially been declared killed in action by mistake, was shipped from one hospital to another in an attempt to save his life. Treated first at a field hospital following the battle, he was then sent to the Union Army’s post hospital at Winchester where, on 13 December 1864, he underwent surgery to remove bone matter from his brain. He was then shipped to the Union Army’s General Hospital at Frederick, Maryland, where he died two days before Christmas (on 23 December 1864) from phthisis, a chronic wasting away from disease-related complications (often tubercular) commonly suffered by soldiers convalescing in hospitals after being severely wounded in battle.
Private Jacob Ochs, who had been shot in the foot at Cedar Creek, recuperated enough to be discharged from the Union Army’s General Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 19 June 1865. Private Reuben Golio, also wounded in action, was absent and sick at muster out.
Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss when a bullet pierced his cap.
Still others were captured and held as prisoners of war, several of whom died. Corporal James Huff,wounded in action and captured by Confederate forces during the Battle of Pleasant Hill just six months earlier, was captured again by Rebels during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Marched to the notorious Confederate Army prison camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, he died there as a POW on 5 March 1865.
Corporal Frederick J. Scott was also captured; he died in captivity at Danville, Virginia on 22 February 1865, and was subsequently promoted to the rank of, but not mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant on 20 March 1865.
Corporal William H. Eichman was one of the “fortunate” ones; wounded in action during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October, he was then captured, and held as a prisoner of war (POW) until he was released on 11 May 1865. He was honorably mustered out less than a month later—on 1 June 1865.
Privates Jacob Haggerty and Henry Beavers were also captured and held as POWs until being released on 1 March and 8 March 1865, respectively. Private Franklin Moser was wounded in action and then also declared as missing in action following the battle.
Following these major engagements, William F. Reiber, M.D. and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. On 23 November 1864, Private Charles Arnold was accidentally wounded. (He was discharged seven months later, on 25 June 1865, on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.)
Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to outpost and railroad guarding duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia. Five days before Christmas they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.
By the dawn of the New Year, William F. Reiber, M.D. had seen enough heartache to last ten lifetimes. So, on 23 January 1865, he ended his service with the 47th Pennsylvania by resigning his commission.
After the War
A physician and surgeon in Berrien Springs, Michigan during the 1870s and 1880s, William F. Reiber, M.D. served as a Trustee of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berrien Springs in 1871, and also became a founding member of the Berrien County Medical Society in 1874. From 1882 to 1889, he served as the Surgeon for his local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (Kilpatrick Post No. 39).
Like many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, William F. Reiber, M.D. suffered from chronic health problems throughout most of his post-Civil War life, a fact documented by notations on his entry on the U.S. Veterans’ Schedule of 1890.
A resident of the Village of Three Oaks, Michigan in 1894, he was one of the old soldiers who did not live to see the arrival of a new century, passing away on 31 December 1899, just hours before its dawn in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Survived by his wife and four children, he was laid to rest in that community’s Rose Hill Cemetery on 2 January 1900.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Berrien Springs Business Directory. Berrien Springs, Michigan: 1887.
3. Census of Michigan Civil War Soldiers (1894). Lansing, Michigan: Archives of Michigan.
4. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
5. Death Certificate (William F. Reiber). Lansing, Michigan: State of Michigan, Department of Vital Statistics, 1899.
6. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
7. George Reiber, in Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania, Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families, vol. 1. Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers & Co, 1898.
8. History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties with Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: D. W. Ensign & Co., 1880.
9. Reiber, William F., in Officers of Kilpatrick Post #39, in Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Michigan. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Sons of Union Veterans, Department of Michigan, 1882-1889.
10. Reiber, William F., in U.S. Civil War Pension Index (application no.: 544265, certificate no.: 337921, dated 2 July 1885; application no.: 711177, certificate no.: 509778, filed by the veteran’s widow from Michigan, 9 January 1900). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.
11. Reiber, William F., in U.S. Returns from Military Posts. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1893.
12. Reiber, William F., in U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Berrien Springs, Michigan: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1890.
13. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
14. Stegall, Joel T. “Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.
15. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.
16. William F. Reiber (as a Union army physician documenting the deaths of soldiers), in Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.