Sunday, September 24, 2017

Antietam soldier snapshot: 'Matthew Black is dead'

Surgeon's note regarding Matthew Black's death in Frederick, Md. (
 Like this blog on Facebook.

On Sept. 23, 1862, 81st Pennsylvania Private Matthew Black, wounded near the Sunken Road at the Battle of Antietam, was admitted to a hospital in Frederick, Md. Twenty-two days later, the 26-year-old Irish-born soldier died in General Hospital No. 5 there from effects of a gunshot wound to his right thigh. The hospital, one of the larger facilities set up by Union medical staff in Frederick, was in the Roman Catholic Novitate and Visitation Academy.

Matthew Black's gravestone at the national cemetery
at Antietam. (Photo: Laura Van Alstyne Rowland)
In a short note to Black's employer, the surgeon in charge at General Hospital No. 5 reported the private's death. "His effects were nothing," Henry Stewart Hewit wrote to William Johnston, adding Black was buried in Frederick. An unmarried boatman from Philadelphia, Black stood 5-5 1/2 and had gray eyes, sandy hair and a light complexion.

Soon after her son's death, widow Sarah Black began the process of obtaining a dependent's pension from the government. According to a pension affidavit, Sarah claimed she was dependent on her son's earnings, which Johnston had given to Mrs. Black at Matthew's request. As part of her claim, Sarah had to submit proof of her marriage to James Black, who had died in the late 1850s. Because she couldn't provide official evidence of her union in County Donegal in 1822, Sarah submitted a note from the church minister in Ireland, who wrote: "If it is of any value, the old people of the congregation  remember you and your husband and could testify to your being realy [sic] married."

Sarah's claim was approved, and she initially received $8 a month. At an unknown date after the war, the remains of  her son were disinterred and re-buried in Antietam National Cemetery, Grave No. 3937.


-- Matthew Black pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., via

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

1 comment:

  1. As with most of the deaths in the Novitiate Hospital, if the soldier was known or professed to Catholicism, they were buried in the adjoining cemetery, until removed for interment most at Antietam. There remain a number of Civil War interments in the cemetery, now known as Saint John's Cemetery. Research many years ago provided for government markers for all those identified as buried in the novitiate cemetery and not disinterred.