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The Life & Times of Daniel Shaner, Jr, Part 1

Daniel Shaner, Jr. was born in Eastbrook, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania on 18 May 1845. He was the eldest son of Daniel Shaner, Sr. and Eliza Jane Rutter.

Daniel struck out from home at 10 years of age. A family history relates that he made his way from Pennsylvania to the Washington Territory and back again. Although there exists a hand-written letter to the Commissioner of Pensions in Washington dated 6 March 1922, Daniel claimed to be uneducated, having had "...only nine months training in a log school...". He may have dictated the letter or learned to write on his own, but by prevailing standards, he was literate by 1922.

When he was 16, Daniel evidently lied about his age and enlisted in the military twice. There are conflicting accounts of his first enlistment: one says the 5th PA and the other says he was part of the 58th PA Volunteers. One muster list reports him to have been part of the 58th for a single month from 1 July 1863 to 15 August 1863. There is no account of his dismissal or withdrawal from the first unit he joined. By his eighteenth birthday, however, he had mustered into Company E of the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as "The Roundhead Regiment," on 27 February 1864. It was witnessed and signed by Captain Norman J. Maxwell at North Liberty, PA. His fitness for service was attested to by both Captain Maxwell and a surgeon (the signature is illegible) and he is recorded as being 5 feet, 91/2 inches tall, with black eyes, black hair and of dark complexion. The muster became official on 8 March 1864 in Pittsburgh and was signed by (either Geo or Gen) Williams for the duration of three years.

In March 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of all the Union armies. Grant chose to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, although Major General George G. Meade remained the actual commander of that army.

Daniel's first combat with the "Roundheads" probably came during the Battle of the Wilderness, which was fought on May 5-7 1864. It was the first battle of Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Grant's campaign objective was not the Confederate capital of Richmond, but the destruction of Lee's army. President Lincoln had long advocated this strategy for his generals, recognizing that the city would certainly fall after the loss of its principal defensive army. Success relied on a relentless pursuit of the enemy, so Grant instructed Meade, "Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also."

The two-day Battle of the Wilderness was fought about 20 miles west of Fredericksburg. There, in dense woods that nullified the Union army's advantages in artillery as well as diminishing the impact of its almost two-to-one superiority in numbers, Robert E. Lee surprised Grant and Meade with aggressive assaults. The battle was tactically inconclusive. However, unlike his predecessors, Grant did not retreat; he disengaged and continued his offensive to the southeast.

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes more simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania (or the 19th-century spelling Spottsylvania) was the second engagement of the Overland Campaign. It was fought from May 8 – 21, 1864 as for two weeks Grant threw his men against Lee's lines. Most of the attacks were thrown back with heavy losses. But a temporary Union breakthrough on 10 May led to a massive attack on 12 May on the Confederate position known as the Mule Shoe salient, which included a section that came to be known as the Bloody Angle. The Confederate line was broken and and Lee's army was on the edge of disaster. But counterattacks held back the Union attackers until a new Confederate defensive line could be stabilized. The fighting was possibly the fiercest and most intense of the entire Civil War. The battle was the third bloodiest of the Civil War, ranking behind Gettysburg and Chickamauga, with hand-to-hand combat taking place inside the entrenchments.

For the 100th Pennsylvania as a regiment, the battle at Spottsylvania Courthouse on 12 May 1864 was the most costly with 44 men killed or mortally wounded.  One historian wrote that "The attack by the 100th at Spottsylvania on May 12 was the bloodiest rebuff it ever suffered.  The regiment assaulted a strong enemy position, well entrenched and covered in front with heavy slashing, making the Confederate line nearly impenetrable.  Although halted, it refused to retreat from the position gained just 50 yards in front of the enemy trenches, until ordered to do so.  This isolated attack, made with inadequate force and not properly supported by either flank, was doomed to failure.  Enemy fire was received from right and left as well from directly in front. Nothing was gained in this futile effort.  It was extremely costly in officers and men..."

It was the on 12 May 1864, just six days short of his nineteenth birthday, Daniel was wounded. The event was recorded in the diary of a companion soldier, Bingham Findley Junkin, who had enlisted on 27 February 1864 in Mercer County. The government casualty sheet documented that the wound was a "gunshot wound of left hand."

The muster rolls for the duration of his enlistment with the 100th account for his movements. The earliest one covering December 1863 to April 1864 counted him as "present." The May/June roll listed him as absent with the remarks: "Wounded May 12 near Spottsylvania; sent to hosp. Wash. D. C. Due the sutler John Frame $1.00." The two muster rolls covering the months of July/August and September/ October remarked that he was in the hospital.

On the November/December roll of 1864, Daniel he had been transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps and provided transportation costs of $2.40. At some point, he was granted a 60 day furlough (undated) approved under the command of Major General Auger and was signed by H. W. Smith at Harwood Hospital. The furlough document left many spaces blank, but it was clear that he was not to be considered a deserter.

His activities during his service with the Veterans Reserve Corps (VRC) are, as yet, undocumented other than by his own accounts. The VRC was comprised of wounded veterans and assigned guard duties away from the front. Daniel would later recount events that he witnessed and participated in while serving with the Veteran Reserve Corps.

"I was on patrol duty in Washington, D.C., the night of April 14th, 1865, and had left Ford's theatre at 10 p.m. with Sergeant Matthews' patrol of 16 men for Lafayette Square barracks when I heard the long drum roll sounded to arms," Daniel later wrote. "Just a short way up Pennsylvania Avenue, the flash light wig-wagged the signals to load and man the guns, double guard all streets as the President had been shot. We returned at once and were back in four minutes."

"He never spoke a word after being shot," Daniel wrote. "He died just across the street from Ford's Theatre where we took him. I have two pictures of the gun which Booth used." He even provided the names of the names of the people allowed into the room where Lincoln lay dying.

Daniel attended the funeral and helped track down the murderer, an actor and Confederate spy from Maryland, John Wilkes Booth, and his co-conspirators. "John Wilkes Booth was one of the actors and brother of Edwin Booth," Daniel said. "We all knew him, and no one suspected him..."

"I was at the U.S. arsenal and identified Booth with others of the guard," Daniel continued. “Three surgeons from the warship lying in the Potomac River came and took his heart and brain back with them for examination. We took a stone pavement up and dug a grave and there we buried John Wilkes Booth inside the walls of the arsenal, but later on he was buried in a cemetery at Baltimore, Maryland."

On 7 July 1865, Daniel witnessed the hanging of the four people convicted in the plot to kill Lincoln: Lewis Powell, Mr. David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt. "I saw the other conspirators hung at the same prison and stood guard over them," he noted. "There was a great excitement in Washington. Martial law was proclaimed, and we had orders to shoot to kill if more than three people were together." Although photos exist, it would probably take a keen eye to pick Daniel out of the crowd shots of the soldiers attending the execution of the conspirators,

Duty rosters are unavailable, but there is no reason to doubt his memory. Indeed, the commander of his unit, Company A, 9th VRC, Captain James M. McCamly was part of the team of soldiers, all VRC, delegated to accompany Lincoln's casket back to Illinois and the only ones allowed to move the coffin.

The final document in Daniel's military file records him as being mustered out from Harrisburg, PA, 24 July 1865.

After his discharge from the Army as a lieutenant, Daniel returned to Pennsylvania where he worked as a coal miner and prospected for oil. He served 14 years in the National Guard, and Pennsylvania Governor Henry M. Hoyt appointed him a second lieutenant in the 15th Regiment.

On 12 March 1872, Daniel married Amanda J. Rodgers, at North Liberty, Pennsylvania. They had a dozen children, six boys and six girls: Frank A., Ida Jane, William A., Fanny Alice, James W., Perry B., Eva M., Clara May, Maude D., Nora Belle, Charles A., and George T.

In July 1877, Pittsburgh railroad workers went on strike after wages were cut during the economic recession following the Panic of 1873. The resulting riots left 61 people dead, 124 injured, and 139 under arrest. On 1 August 1877, armed citizens fired upon strikers and killed four people, injuring as many as 54, including the Scranton mayor. Adjutant General James A. Beaver and Matthew Quay, who later served as a Republican congressman, recommended Daniel for meritorious service during the Scranton and Pittsburgh riots.

Another photograph includes him among other members of the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteers at a reunion in Plain Grove, PA, 15 October 1884.

1884 Reunion photo (Daniel is the one circled)

In 1886, two years after the reunion, Daniel moved his family to the Washington Territory.


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