Noah Webster Shaffer

December 17, 1841 – December 13, 1862


What follows is courtesy of Brian Shaffer.

Noah Webster Shaffer served in Company D, 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment (PAVI) during the Civil War. The 142nd PAVI was organized in the late-summer of 1862 from companies recruited in Fayette, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Somerset, Union, Venango, and Westmoreland Counties.  Their term of enlistment was for three years. Companies C, D, and F were recruited and organized in Somerset County. Company C was recruited in Boswell, Somerset, and Jenners Township, Company D was recruited in Stoystown, Hooversville, and Quemahoning Township, and Company F was recruited in the southern part of the county (Berlin, Meyersdale, and Salisbury areas).

Noah Shaffer was enlisted in Co. D on August 1, 1862 by Captain Adam Grimm at Stoystown.  He received a $25 bounty for enlisting.  His military papers spell his surname “Shafer”. They also list him as 23 years old.  Due to either an error or misunderstanding, his age is incorrect. He was born in 1841 and was 21 years old at the time of his enlistment. His papers also show that he was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a dark complexion, dark eyes, and dark hair. He is listed by occupation as a farmer.

Upon the completion of the enrollment of the company, Noah, along with the rest of the recruits of Company D, most likely traveled to Johnstown, where he and his comrades were transported by train to Harrisburg. The various companies that composed the 142nd PAVI were assembled at Camp Curtain in Harrisburg during mid-August, 1862. Noah and his comrades in Company D were formally mustered into the service of the United States Army on August 22. Company D remained at Camp Curtain for the duration of August, while the remaining companies that were to compose the 142nd PAVI arrived at Camp Curtain and were mustered into the service. The regiment completed its’ organization by electing non-commissioned officers. On August 27, 1862, Noah was promoted to 3rd Corporal of Co. D. On September 1, 1862, Robert P. Cummins, a resident of Somerset, was commissioned as Colonel of the new regiment.

On September 2, the regiment received orders to move to Washington, DC. While in Washington, the regiment was employed in the construction of Fort Massachusetts, and Fort Stevens. The men of the regiment were also utilized in strengthening the defenses of Washington by digging rifle pits and cutting down trees to open up fields of fire.

On September, 19, the 142nd PAVI received orders to move to Frederick, MD. At Frederick, the men of the 142nd PAVI were utilized to guard the town, as well as to care for the wounded from the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. It is here that Noah likely received his first initiation to the horrors of warfare. The letters of Pvt. Hiram Boyts, Co. C, 142nd PAVI, describes the experience of seeing the wounded. He states, “I saw about eight hundred wounded men it is a very hard thing to be a cripple some were shot through the legs and the head some has no arms and no legs…”. In addition to the emotional and mental stress associated with the duties the regiment was performing, the men arrived in Frederick without knapsacks or tents. Hiram Boyts also describes this experience in his letters, writing “…we have no tents no knapsack and we have to lay out in the rain…”. It appears, according to the diary of 1st Sgt. Jacob Zorn, Co. F, 142nd PAVI, that the regiment’s tents and personal equipment didn’t reached them until October 10th or 11th.

On October 12, the Noah Shaffer and the rest of the 142nd PAVI joined the Army of the Potomac near Sharpsburg, MD. The regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. George G. Meade. The Pennsylvania Reserves Division, at this time, was assigned to the I Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds.

Two other noteworthy events would have been witnessed by Noah Shaffer during mid-October.  On October 16, the 142nd PAVI formally received their State and National colors. These flags were the important and honored possessions for any regiment and were the rallying point for regiments in battle.  On October 17, according to Sgt. Jacob Zorn, the regiment exchanged their .69 caliber Belgian muskets for Harpers Ferry muskets. The Harpers Ferry muskets were refurbished arms that shot, according to Sgt. Zorn, buck and ball cartridges containing 3 buck shot and one ball.

On October 26, Noah Shaffer commenced his first march with the Army of the Potomac.  He crossed the Potomac River into Virginia on October 29. Once into Virginia, he marched to Warrenton, VA, arriving there on November 6. From Warrenton, his march continued, arriving in the vicinity of Falmouth, VA by November 22. According to Sgt. Zorn, the entire 142nd PAVI was engaged in drill, fatigue, and picket duty from November 22 to December 8.

December 12 – regiment crossed Rappahannok River. On December 13, regiment was formed in the rear of the PA Reserves Division.  Colonel Cummins who had been in a hospital in Washington due to an illness, arrived on the field just before the regiment moved out. According to veteran’s accounts of the battle, the men greeted the returning Colonel with cheers. The regiment deployed on the left flank of the division, in support of an artillery battery.

References that I have found through the years are as follows:

A Sergeant’s Story –  Civil War Diary of Jacob J. Zorn 1862-1865, edited by Barbara J. Croner, Closson Press, 1999.  ISBN # 1-55856-293-1  (Sergeant Zorn was from southern Somerset County and served throughout the war in the 142nd PAVI)

“Stonewall” Jackson at Fredericksburg: The Battle of Prospect Hill December 13, 1862, 2nd Edition, Frank A. O’Reilly, H.E. Howard, Inc., 1993.  ISBN # 1-56190-050-8 (This gives a good account of the action in which the 142nd PAVI was involved on the eastern end of the Fredericksburg Battlefield.)

Blood on the Rappahannock: The Battle of Fredericksburg, A Journal of the American Civil War, Volume Four, No. 4, Theodore P. Savas and David A. Woodbury, editors, Regimental Studies, Inc., 1995.  ISBN # 1-882810-11-2.  (Another good account of the charge of the PA Reserves Division, to which the 142nd PAVI was assigned.)

War History: Two Reunions of the 142d Regiment, Pa Volunteers, Col. Horatio N. Warren, The Courier Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1890.  No ISBN #.  (This is an original regimental history.  I found it at a Civil War collector’s show about 15 years ago and is the prize of my modest collection.  It is in pretty good shape for being 115 years old.)

Thank you Brian – JSS


On the day of battle of Prospect Hill in the early morning hours, the PA 142 was on the near right flank with another regiment to their immediate right (Gibbon) representing the far right flank of the line.  The fog was heavy that morning and as that battle started, that far right hand unit got ahead of the rest of the federal line. They were not sure at the time who exactly they were facing in this battle as far as Rebel leadership. In the fog of war, troops started to come into the 142nd and the order was given not to fire for fear of shooting into the retreating regiment that earlier got ahead of  the battle. It was a big mistake as it was actually “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops pouring onto the 142nd.

It is not clear if Noah died in Fredericksburg or if he lingered for months most likely in Falmouth VA (thank you Brian – we continue to research this) where most of the Federal wounded were removed.  The data is conflicting but it is clear that actions on Dec 13th, 1862, 4 days before his 22nd birthday, resulted in his death.

There is a grave site #5162 that is for Noah Shone from the 142nd PA in the Fredericksburg Military Cemetery in Fredericksburg. We made a challenge to to the contents of that grave several years ago but it later was rejected as three families has claimed that grave as their family. The National Park Service officially denied our claim for that grave as being Noah’s. There is a grave marker for Noah in Friedens PA, but it is unknown if there is actually a body buried there or if it is just a memorial marker.

Except from the links:

Four miles to the south, another attack was taking place–an attack which, if properly supported, might have brought the Union army victory. It was there that the outcome of the battle was decided.  Gen. George G. Meade’s Pennsylvania division spearheaded the assault, supported on his right by Gen. John Gibbon.

Meade deployed his 3,800-man division in the fields next to the Richmond Stage Road (modern Routes 2 and 17), near the spot now occupied by General Motors’ Powertrain plant. To reach the heights, his troops would have to cross one-half mile of open ground, cross the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad (now CSX), then charge up the hill and into the woods.

At 1 p.m., following a heavy artillery bombardment, the Union line started forward. Meade directed his attack toward a small ribbon of trees that extended beyond the railroad, toward the river. The ground there was marshy, and the Confederates had left it undefended, thinking it impassible. It was not. As Confederate skirmishers gave way, Meade’s men drove across the railroad embankment, slogged through the muddy ground and charged up the slope beyond.

If Meade was going to maintain his hold on the hill, he needed help and fast. To his astonishment, he discovered that no reinforcements were at hand. Gen. Franklin, interpreting his orders as a reconnaissance in force rather than a general assault, had kept most of his troops back near the pontoon bridges, two miles away. Meade was on his own.

it was one thing to seize a position; it was another thing to hold it. Meade had just 3,800 men; Jackson had nearly 40,000.

Meade’s soldiers focused on a triangular point of woods that jutted toward them across the railroad as the point of reference for their assault. When they reached these trees they learned, to their delight, that no Southerners defended them. In fact, Jackson had allowed a 600-yard gap to exist along his front and Meade’s troops accidentally discovered it.

The Unionists pushed through the boggy forest and hit a brigade of South Carolinians, who at first mistook the attackers for retreating Confederates. Their commander, Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg, paid for this error with a fatal bullet through his spine. Meade’s men rolled forward and gained the crest of the heights deep within Jackson’s defenses.

Jackson, who had learned of the crisis in his front from an officer in Gregg’s brigade, calmly directed his vast reserves to move forward and restore the line. The Southerners raised the “Rebel Yell” and slammed into the exhausted and outnumbered Pennsylvanians. “The action was close-handed and men fell like leaves in autumn,” remembered one Federal. “It seems miraculous that any of us escaped at all.”

Jackson’s counterattack drove Meade out of the forest, across the railroad, and through the fields to the Richmond Stage Road. Union artillery eventually arrested the Confederate momentum. Except for a minor probe by a New Jersey brigade along the Lansdowne Road in the late afternoon and an aborted Confederate offensive at dusk, the fighting on the south end of the field was over.


Dec 11 – 15, 1862

Commanders: Lee Burnside
Strength: 72,000 114,000
Casualties: 5,309 12,653



The Battle of Fredricksburg & Noah’s Service Records


History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5


History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, vol II (1906)