“New Market… missing in action:” Researching for Wreaths Across America

Sarah Bierle and I have been working on research on Winchester National Cemetery and burials after the battle of New Market in May 1864. While we have upcoming programs, sometimes we can’t fit everything into them! In this post I’m going to share a brief story of a soldier I spent some time looking for this month: Jacob Quear.

In August 1862, 38-year-old Jacob Quear arrived at New Manchester, (then in Virginia) a small town located in the Northern Panhandle of the state due west of Pittsburgh and north of Wheeling. His enlistment papers describe him as a farmer measuring in at 5 feet 10 inches tall, with fair complexion, blue eyes, and light hair when he joined Company I of the 12th Virginia. The regiment’s first major battle was the dramatic defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester, taking heavy casualties. Perhaps the sting of defeat was slightly lessened when mere days later they would hear of West Virginia’s statehood, and their unit was later redesignated to the 12th West Virginia.

Continuing to serve in the Shenandoah Valley area, the 12th West Virginia was involved in the battle of New Market. Initially held in reserve, they assisted in briefly repulsing a Confederate assault. William Hewitt’s regimental history recorded “The Twelfth had a bad position. We were placed where we could do no good and yet where we suffered seriously, a more trying position on a soldier than where he has a chance to return the fire.” One report measured their casualties at one killed, over thirty wounded from lightly to severely, and numerous more missing. Among the wounded was Jacob Quear, who is mentioned in the article as wounded “badly and a prisoner.”

Two clippings showing the regiment’s casualties at New Market. Note the appearance of both Henry and Jacob Quear. The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, May 23 1864.

In this same article is Henry Quear, also of Company I, missing. I’m not completely confident what the relationship between Henry and Jacob was. However, they enlisted in the same company from the same region, were both born in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and had a unique last name, so it’s highly possible they were brothers or cousins. We can only imagine the family’s reaction to seeing both their names appear in the casualty listing. Henry’s roster cards detailed his story. “New Market… missing in action. Absent wounded right thigh badly May 15/64; a prisoner.” Thankfully, Henry returned to his regiment quickly from his stint as a prisoner, since in September of 1864 he reappears as absent sick in Hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, where he stayed until May of 1865. It’s possible his poor health was a result of the wound or treatment as a prisoner.

Jacob’s wound was indeed as bad as the newspaper feared, as his service records indicate his died of his wounds the next day on May 16. He left behind his wife Jane and five children, the youngest of whom was four years old. Jane filed for a Widow’s Pension in September 1864 and eventually received it. However, it was not until June 15, 1866 that the detailed application and affidavits were accepted, though she received backpay to the date of her husband’s death.

A portion of Jane Quear’s Pension Application.

It appears Jacob was later reinterred in Winchester National Cemetery. Oddly enough, I can’t find Quear in the original burial files, though his name graces a headstone there.[1] I am sure the National Cemetery’s administrators (both historically and more recently) did their due diligence when installing the headstone, so it’s possible Quear was reinterred after the creation of the original burial records, or that some rediscovery of files or personal items allowed an earlier unknown burial to be reinterpreted as the final resting place for Jacob Quear, 12th West Virginia Infantry.

To make a donation to Emerging Civil War’s fundraiser for Wreaths Across America and participate on the battlefield or virtually, please visit: https://emergingcivilwar.com/ecw_event/2023-wreaths/

[1] “Record of Deceased United States Soldiers Interred at the National Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia,” 1867. Burial Registers of Military Post and National Cemeteries, compiled ca. 1862–ca. 1960. NAID: 4478151. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives in Washington, D.C.

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