ECW Weekender: Erie History, Lost and Found

I recently made a road trip to Pennsylvania to look in on family and friends, as I needed to check in on a few things in person. Since I was going to be in Erie, I decided to spend part of a couple of days doing some preliminary research for future projects. As part of that I went by the Erie Cemetery to get some pictures. I had previously been there and gotten some pictures of Strong Vincent’s and John McLane’s graves.

Grave site of Colonel John McLane of the PA 83rd

McLane was the founder and colonel of the Wayne Guards, an 1850’s militia and the precursor of the Erie Regiment—a 90-day regiment, which was called up in 1861 and fulfilled it’s service in camp outside of Pittsburgh. After the 90 days were up, most of the regiment reenlisted as the 83rd Pennsylvania volunteer regiment.

McLane was killed at Gaines Mill, early in the action, as the 83rd was fighting off an attempt to flank them and cut them off from the rest of their brigade. He is buried in Section J of the Erie Cemetery.

After McLane’s death, Strong Vincent assumed command of the 83rd, and went on to glory, and fate on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Vincent is also buried in the Erie Cemetery. The Vincent family has a large plot in Section 1, and is buried about 100 yards or so from McLane. Battle of Lake Erie hero, Daniel Dobbins is also in Section 1, about a third of the way from Vincent, in the direction of McLane.

Strong Vincent’s grave site

There were two other graves that I was looking for on this trip. The first was Colonel Hiram Brown of the 145th Pennsylvania. Brown was previously a member of both the Wayne Guards and the Erie Regiment, as well as a member of the 83rd Pennsylvania. While he was home in Erie recovering from his wounds received at Gaines Mill, he was granted a commission to recruit and form the 145th.

Gen. Hiram Brown, 145th PA.

The 145th was rushed from Erie during the Maryland Campaign and arrived near Antietam in time to hear the battle, but not actively participate. After the battle, they were detailed to help bury the dead. Col. Brown was seriously wounded at Fredericksburg. He survived that wound to also be wounded at Gettysburg. He was promoted as a Brevetted Brigadier General of US Volunteers in 1864. He survived the war and died in 1880.

Brown’s grave can be found in Section K of the Erie Cemetery. It’s hard to find, as Section K doesn’t have a marker identifying it. If you veer to the left at the second split once in the cemetery, you’ll find it behind a mausoleum in a small triangular shaped area.

As with the Brown grave, I also had no idea where the fourth and final grave that I was looking for this trip was located, so I had to stop in the office at the Erie Cemetery and ask. They knew by memory the location of the first three, as well as many other final resting places of note. General (then Colonel) Thomas Walker took command of the 111th Pennsylvania after the Battle of Peach Tree Creek, when Colonel George A. Cobham, Jr. was killed in the opening moments (Col. Cobham is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Warren, PA.).

Grave of General Thomas Walker of the 111th PA. Hidden by overgrown shrub

The 111th, under Walker, was one of the first units into Atlanta, and Savannah, upon the surrender of each city. The person working in the cemetery office was not familiar with Walker, and was very glad to know what I had to share about him. She said that she was going to update the database to include the information, especially as he is buried within yards of Strong Vincent in Section 1. When I headed back over there I still couldn’t find his grave, when I noticed the marker for his wife. I was able to push myself into the shrub to confirm that Gen. Walker’s grave was within.

General Thomas Walker, 11th PA.

On my way out of the cemetery I stopped back into the office and let them know about what I found there. I showed the above photo to the gentleman who came to the door. He was fairly chagrined to learn that a shrub had grown to the point of obscuring a grave, and assured me that they would get the landscaping crew over to it at the earliest opportunity.

The folks at the Erie Cemetery have a lot of ground to maintain, and the staff in the office was very helpful to my search for Col. Brown and Gen. Walker’s final resting places. Many other members of all three of the Erie regiments are buried there, and as I dig deeper into all three units, I know that I be back to pay my respects to them, and help tell their stories.

While in town, I also made a quick stop in the Heritage Room at the Erie County Public Library, which has artifacts from both the 83rd, and 145th PA. I look forward to being able to spend some time going through the collection there, as well as at the Erie History Center, on a future visit, in the post-COVID world.

3 Responses to ECW Weekender: Erie History, Lost and Found

  1. Very nice write up. Next time you get to Erie, please drop me a line. I’ll be happy to show you around the Hagen History Center. We have a fantastic Civil War collection of all the units that were recruited in Erie.

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