Friday, May 24, 2019

A Few Remaining Threads: Photographing the 119th Pennsylvania, Part 4.

In the last few posts, I’ve examined a photograph depicting the field and staff of the 119th Pennsylvania at their winter encampment at Wellford’s Ford. I’ve tried my best to identify as many of them as possible. So far, I’ve offered tales for Major Henry P. Truefitt, Jr., Lt. Col. Gideon Clark, and CaptainWilliam Gray

Happily, I was able to attach names to two other faces.

The young man standing third from the left is Quartermaster Sergeant William Ellis Tucker. 

Here is QM Sgt. William Ellis Tucker.

Here is another photograph of him so you can match him up.

QM Sgt Tucker.

I don’t know much about Q.M. Sergeant Tucker, other than that he enlisted in September 1862 (when the 119th Pennsylvania first formed) and that he mustered out with the rest of his regiment in June 1865. 

Also, I’m guessing he was a Republican. I discovered this letter written on October 12, 1864, from Sheridan Hospital, a 200-tent facility in Winchester. It appeared in the Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin. Evidently, it was written by him. In it, Tucker shares his opinion concering the upcoming election:

We are in fine spirits, and confident of a speedy ending of the war, together with the re-election of Mr. Lincoln, for whom there will be an almost unanimous vote polled here, as, at an election held yesterday in our regiment, for the State officers, the result was as follows—Union ticket, 115; Democratic, 18. Our term of service will expire on Sept. 1st, 1865, and we hope ere that to see our present distracted country restored to its former happy state, and that the (would-be) missing stars may be shining forth radiantly upon the National flag in every Southern State of this model of all countries.

Another identifiable character in the line-up is the officer seated second from the right, the one with the pipe. He is Adjutant John D. Mercer. 

Adjt. John D. Mercer

Like Tucker, Adjutant Mercer enlisted when the 119th Pennsylvania first formed, but he died during the war’s last week. He was mortally wounded on April 2, 1865, during the 6th Corps attack on the Petersburg entrenchments—the so-called Petersburg Breakthrough. In that battle, the 119th Pennsylvania lost one officer (Mercer) and four men killed. It is quite sad to think that Mercer survived the engagements at Second Fredericksburg, the Overland Campaign, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and the Siege of Petersburg, only to die during the last grand offensive in the East. 

According to Bates’s History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, the soldiers of the 119th buried Mercer in an open field, 200 yards southeast of Poplar Grove National Cemetery.

Is this where Adjt. John D. Mercer is buried? The field south of Poplar Grove National Cemetery?


  1. Timothy,
    I am William Elis Tucker's great grandson Andy Nelson and I've been doing similar research on these pictures (I was the one who posted the original picture of Tucker in his full uniform. I also have a tin plate photo of him probably taken at camp). I do not believe the person in the picture is Tucker... the face is not a match, especially the eyes. I believe that it was the Commissary Sergeant Charles Seiser.

  2. Gotcha. I think I might have seen an earlier post of yours somewhere online which attributed that full length view as Tucker. I wasn't sure of it myself as the copy I found online wasn't high res., so I just took it at face value. The letter written to the Philly Evening Bulletin is genuine.