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          23rd Pennsylvania



Virtual Cemetery Page 8

The Final Resting Places of 23rd PA Soldiers
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Sylvester Dana Rhodes

December 6, 1842 - August 29, 1904

Sylvester D. Rhodes was born to a middle-class family in the Borough of Parsons (then Plains Township) near Wilkes-Barre. Rhodes attended the common schools of Plains and anticipated an average life in the Wyoming Valley. In 1861 the Civil War would change those expectations. Like many of his friends, Rhodes saw his chance to serve the Union and enlisted at the age of nineteen. He joined the 8th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a ninety-day regiment called up by Governor Curtin to serve the Commonwealth. He served as a private in Company F, which had been a militia company before the war. They were known as the “Wyoming Artillerists,” and were originally located at Wyoming, Pennsylvania.

The regiment had a rather uneventful term of service under the command of General William Patterson, and was mustered out on July 29, 1861. Rhodes almost immediately joined another regiment, the 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as Birney’s Zouaves. Zouaves were troops that were outfitted with intricate and fanciful uniforms patterned after French troops who served in Africa in the years before the American Civil War. Rhodes served in Company L, made up of Luzerne County men, from September 1861, until March 1862, when he was transferred to the 61st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. By July of that year, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant in Company D.

With the rest of the regiment, Rhodes served with the IV, then the VI Corps in the Army of the Potomac. The regiment saw action in all the major engagements of that army. The regiment was engaged at Falling Waters, Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Salem Heights, Williamsport, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Marye’s Heights (1863), Rappahannock Station, and the Wilderness. On May 11, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Rhodes was wounded near the base of the spine and was taken to City Point hospital where he was to recover. He rejoined his regiment on September 15 and led the company at the battles of Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek.

At the Battle of Fisher’s Hill on September 22, 1864, Rhodes served as captain and lead the company in that engagement. It was here that he would distinguish himself as a courageous and daring leader. According to the book, Deeds of Valor, Company D engaged the enemy, sheltered behind breastworks. The Confederates behind the breastworks directed Confederate artillery fire on advancing columns of Federal troops. Stepping in front of his company, Sergeant Rhodes pointed beyond the breastworks at the artillery and exclaimed, “Now boys, let’s go for those guns!” (422) The Company surged forward into enemy fire, inspiring the Color Company of the regiment (Company F) to follow. The rest of the regiment followed, and the result was absolute victory. Company D was the first to overrun the breastworks and take the guns. Sergeant Rhodes and his men immediately loaded a piece and fired into the backs of the fleeing enemy. The company captured seventeen guns and drove the enemy from its formidable position under the inspiring leadership of Sylvester Rhodes. In 1897, Rhodes received the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an American soldier, the Medal of Honor.

After Fisher’s Hill, Rhodes took part in the siege and capture of Petersburg, and the battles of Farmville and Appomattox, eventually attaining the rank of captain of Company D in April of 1865. He returned home briefly in order to marry Susan Huffman of Plains on May 12, 1865. He was mustered out on June 28, 1865 with the rest of the 61st Infantry.

Rhodes returned home to start a family and begin a career in engineering. Together the couple had six children: John S. (1867); Fred C. (1868); Charles S. (1871); Allan O. (1873); Daisy B. (1875); and Paul B. (1878). Along with his career in stationary engineering and as an inspector with the Wilkes-Barre Water Works, Rhodes served with the Coal and Iron Police during the riots of 1869-70. He served as a lieutenant in Company E, 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard between 1883 and 1885 and also remained active in the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Wilkes-Barre.

Sylvester D. Rhodes personified the word “courage” by his actions in the greatest battles of the Civil War. After suffering for many years from “muscular atrophy” as a result of the spinal wound he sustained at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, he died at the family home in Parsons forty years after the battle. He is laid to rest at the Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre, with a simple government stone to serve as his memorial.

This is the Grave of Sergeant William John Wray Company F , 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, also known by their nickname, “Birney’s Zouaves”. He was born in Philadelphia on May 16th 1845. He enlisted into the 23rd Pennsylvania at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia on August 2nd 1861. On September 8th 1861, he moved with the Regiment to Washington D.C, where he was encamped just three miles north of the Capitol on “The Queen’s Farm” at Camp Graham . He was there with the Regiment during the cold winter months and in December of 1861; Typhoid Fever broke out within the Camp which resulted in the Death of Fifty-One men of the 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. It was decided on March 12th 1862 to move the camp to higher ground in Bladensburg, Maryland to rid the epidemic and ready the Soldiers for campaign. The 23rd Pennsylvania moved to Bladensburg and were encamped at Camp Clark . William John Wray was Wounded at The Battle of Fredericksburg Virginia on December 13th 1862. The bullet went through his left eye and shattered his jaw. The same bullet struck his friend and blanket mate , Patrick Hickey. Hickey carried Wray to safety. Wray was taken to General Hospital in York, PA. William was there being nursed back to health foe the next six months and was assigned to the Veterans Reserve Corps. In late June during the Gettysburg Campaign , Confederate General Jubal Early was attempting a run on Harrisburg. Wray volunteered to defend The Bridge at Wrightsville with McGowan's Invalids. During the Overland Campaign, he was at Fort Stevens when Early made his last attack on the Capitol. Wray, in charge of a Battery that was under severe fire, ordered a change of position of the Battery to prevent it from being deystroyed. He was mustered out of Service on November 23rd 1865. After the War, He returned to Philadelphia and became a Laywer fighting for Veteran Pensions. He fathered Nine children with his wife Lucy. On December 15th 1892, William John Wray was awarded the Congressional Medal of Homor for his Actions at Ft. Stevens.During General Early's advance on Washington, D.C., Sergeant William Wray earned the Medal of Honor for his heroic defense of the Capitol City. At a critical moment during a charge at Fort Stevens, amid a hail of fire and the rush of the Confederate soldiers, Sergeant Wray rallied the men of his company. His death occurred on June 1st 1919 at the Home of his brother Albert Wray, 5412 Webster Street . He was 74 Years Old and was buried in American Mechanics Cemetery in Philadelphia. In 1951 the area was developed and the bodies removed. His body was disinterred on September 11, 1951 and re-interred on September 13, 1951, along with several other Wray family members.He is buried at Philadelphia Memorial Park in Frazier, Pennsylvania in Division F Section 1, Lot 31, Grave 1.

William John Wray was a Pennsylvania Freemason,Member of Lodge # 9 . Corinthian Royal Arch Chapter #250. Republican Club of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Fireman (Goodwill Engine Company).

You can view Photos of William John wray on Page 9 of the 23rd Pennsylvania, Original Photos pages.

You can view the Grave of William John wray on Page 8 of the 23rd Pennsylvania, Virtual Cemeteries pages.

You can view Pension Records of William John wray on Page 1 of the 23rd Pennsylvania, Pension Records pages.

You can view Burial Records of William John wray on Page 1 of the 23rd Pennsylvania, Burial Records pages.

Grave of Corporal William Baker of Company E. He died on June 10th 1924 and is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia in Sec. Ro Lot 661 Grave 1, in an unmarked Grave.
The Grave of Pvt. William Graham of Company G. He is buried in a GAR section of Mt Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia in Sec 205.


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Grave of Pvt Washington O Moore of Company D. He died on October 13th 1893 and is buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia in Lot 114 Grave 1. His original stone broke in half and was later replaced by the monument next to it that also has his wife and members of her family.
Grave of Pvt. Richard McDonald of Company C. He was wounded and captured at The Battle of Cold Harbor on June 1st 1864 and sent to Andersonville Prison. He died there on April 28th 1865 from Diarhhea C and is buried there in Grave 773.




Birney's Zouaves

© May 30, 2005 - "Birney's Zouaves" The 23rd PA Infantry Volunteers
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