Frustration and Disappointment

My friends, I find myself in a position today to finally reveal what has to me been a trying ordeal. As you know, I had written a book published in 2015 called Born To Serve, The Major A. G. Happer Story. It was the amazing true story of a Washington County, PA soldier in the Civil War, and his truly remarkable life post war. The book was fairly successful, reaching as high as number four on the Amazon Best Seller list. It remained on that list for over a year. Most of that time, it was in the top ten.


I was contacted by Mr. Jeff Bunner Social Studies Department Leader of Washington High School in Washington PA. He had read the book & thought enough of it that he bought a copy for every student in his AP History class. They decided to use my book as a base for a project to gain recognition for Major Happer that he himself never sought, and had eluded him in his lifetime and for the past one hundred years.


I was asked if I would be willing to help with the effort. Their mission is as follows.


“Major A. G. Happer was not concerned with his own recognition while playing an instrumental part in developing Washington. We learned about him only through Jim Douglas’s book, “Born To Serve,” and felt that it was unjust for such a key figure in our local history to not have any formal recognition in the city. This project allows us to go beyond the classroom to make an impact on our community while learning life skills and applying them to honor an important local historical figure.”


Well, how could I say no to that?

One of their goals was to achieve placement of a State Historical Marker at Major Happer’s former home, which is now owned by Washington & Jefferson College. The marker process is controlled by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. They are supposed to receive the applications, vet them, and decide which are qualified. Then give their approval. Also, they are supposed to make contact with the applicant prior to the actual vote by the Commission, if there are any issues that need to be cleared up.   

These great students did a fabulous job of reaching out to the people who needed to be aware of this effort. They had the support of not only myself, but Mr. Clay Kilgore of the Washington County Historical Society, and State Representative (now Judge) Mr. Brandon Neuman who by the way made a sizable sponsor donation toward the Historical Marker. This guy puts his own money where his mouth is. Be advised, these markers are not free, they are quite expensive and are paid for by those nominating the applicant for the marker.


The application process is a lengthy and complicated process with many rules and regulations that must be adhered to. The actual application itself was done by Mr. Bunner and his students. This is a very long & detailed operation that includes a long, written multi page form. They included other parts as well such as a video, a Power Point presentation, a copy of my book, several written addenda including a written synopsis of my book (so the Commissioners wouldn’t have to read through the four hundred pages), newspaper stories, and other items. You must submit twelve copies of all this to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.


They have a committee that screens the applications before the Commission gets to vote. This all takes the better part of a year. Major Happer’s application was so accomplished and well, pretty amazing that we anticipated no problem having it approved. It should have been a slam dunk. We heard nothing from the Committee requesting more info or documentation etc.  Months passed. We met with the Mayor of Washington & the City Council. They were very happy to support the project and the celebratory plans we had in mind for the entire city & county area. The wheels were in motion. All that was left was the actual vote & final approval. The following is a very brief and condensed outline of some of the accomplishments of Major Happer.


Andrew G. Happer quit school at what is now Washington & Jefferson College when hostilities broke out. He enlisted in the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, seeing action at Dranesville. Served the three month enlistment and mustered out.


He then enlisted in the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the “Bloody Eleventh.” His first combat was at Thoroughfare Gap. Then on the Second Manassas, and Antietam, where he was wounded in Miller’s famous cornfield.


Staying with his Company, he was engaged at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Promoted to Captain of Company I, he again saw action at the Wilderness, where he was seriously wounded near the Tapp farm and left for dead on the battlefield. He lay there unable to move with a broken pelvis for several days. An anonymous slave found him and brought water and eventually was able to move Happer to a Confederate field hospital. Happer’s wound was deemed mortal and he was made as comfortable as possible. Somehow, Happer survived, though unable to sit up or move.


Captain Happer was then moved to Libby Prison where he spent an agonizing six months. Finally released, he was transported to Annapolis Maryland where he finally received medical treatment. Once again, he amazingly survived and returned to light duty in Harrisburg still carrying the Confederate bullet that would be with him for the rest of his days. Happer was again promoted, this time to Brevet Major.


April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated. Pennsylvania Governor Curtin personally invited Major Happer to accompany him on the Lincoln funeral train through Pennsylvania. Happer accepted and was with Lincoln the entire time he was in Pennsylvania. As far as we know, Happer was the only soldier to be personally invited by the Governor other than staff etc. Happer said often that it was the greatest honor of his life. Mustering out, Major Happer finally was able to go home to Washington PA. Major Happer tried for years to find that slave who saved his life, but was unable to ever find him.


Still recovering, he took a job with the Internal Revenue Dept. Following that short stint, he faced his first crisis. The Great Chicago Fire. Happer raised an enormous amount of funds and supplies for the relief of the victims of that tragic fire. He then started his own insurance and real estate office, becoming the largest and most successful in the county bringing much needed homes and industry to Washington.


Happer arraigned for a charter to move the Reform School in Allegheny, PA which was closing, to Washington. He donated some of his own family’s property, the old Revolutionary War Colonel George Morgan’s former estate called Morganza. Happer built a school, housing, a church, a farm and related buildings for what today would be called “disadvantaged children.” Major Happer ran the home for children for many years, without compensation I might add. Following his passing, others ran the home & eventually the state took it over & it was closed. It was later used in the movie, Silence of the Lambs.


There were no hospitals in Washington. Seriously ill or injured people had to travel to Pittsburgh for treatment. Happer took it upon himself to personally raise the funds necessary to purchase a large home, and form a hospital. With a shortfall in the needed funds, Happer put in his own money to purchase the building & fund the hospital. Happer ran the hospital for many years, again without any compensation. Today, Washington Hospital has a national reach with cardiac patients flying in from all over the country. The hospital would not exist without Major Happer.


Happer saw the need for better financial infrastructure for Washington and the entire area. Taking it upon himself, he once again got the job done. He founded the Citizens National Bank. Happer didn’t run the bank but served on the board of directors for the rest of his life. It became the largest and most successful bank in Washington and survived until being acquired by Mellon Bank in 1948.


Not finished yet, Happer also started another bank, The Washington Trust Company. Happer served on the board here as well. It was very successful and survived until the great depression.


The Major was also, a founding member and Treasurer of the Washington Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and Domestic Manufacture in Washington County.


A founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Agricultural Association from 1885 until 1901. They produced the Washington County Fair for many years.


Happer founded the first Telephone exchange in Washington in 1884, the first Water Company 1888, and the Natural Gas Company.


A member of the GAR Post 120 from it’s inception in 1879, until his death in 1915.


Also a member of the PA National Guard, and serving as Adjutant from 1879-1880.


These are only the highlights.


Now, I told you all the above so I could provide context for the following. This week, the Happer nomination for a State Historical Marker was denied by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. No reasons given. Needless to say, we were all shocked. We has no idea there would or even could be any problem. We were never notified of any issues as is required. As you all can plainly see, the Happer résumé is quite impressive. In fact, it’s the equal of almost any application received by the Commission in at least the last four years, and far better than most. This not to say, the other approved applications weren’t worthy, at least some of them certainly were. But few can compare to Happer. Some of these approved markers are surprising. More on that shortly.


Here’s a sampling of approved Historical Markers.


Fairview Park.  First African-American amusement park in PA.

 Get’s a marker.


Lieutenant Happer In combat in Miller’s Cornfield at Antietam, wounded.

Doesn’t deserve a marker.


Huber Coal Breaker.  Coal Company.

Get’s a marker.


Lieutenant Happer assaults Stonewall Jackson’s troops at Fredericksburg.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Inez Mecusker.  Singer.

Get’s a Marker.


Lieutenant Happer sees combat at Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Helps capture Confederate flags on Oak Ridge, withstands Confederate artillery fire on Cemetery Hill.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


John S. Trower.  African-American businessman, becomes one of the wealthiest blacks in America.

Get’s a Marker.


Captain Happer seriously wounded at the Wilderness, saved by a slave, endured months of capture.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Mary Engle Pennington. Invents egg carton.

Get’s a Marker.


Captain Happer miraculously survives massive wound, returns to duty.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Smith Memorial Playground.  Playground.

Get’s a Marker.


Major Happer personally invited by Governor of PA to accompany him on Lincoln Funeral Train through Pennsylvania.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Henry Pollac.    Basketball statistician.

Get’s a Marker.


Happer builds home for disadvantaged children, runs it for free for many years.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Hotel Brotherhood. African-American labor union.

Get’s a marker.


Happer uses own funds to start & build a major hospital.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Jackie Ormes. African-American cartoonist.

Get’s a Marker.


Happer starts two banks, the water company, the gas company, the telephone exchange, develops the region bringing thousands of jobs to the area. Builds beautiful Queen Anne style homes, many are still there today.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker. 


Ruth McGinnis. Billiard player.

Get’s a Marker.


Happer passes away a beloved citizen who is sadly today forgotten by the city and county he helped lead into the 20th century.

Doesn’t deserve a Marker.


Miracles on Maple Hill.     Book about maple syrup. (not kidding)

Get’s a Marker.


Robertson Art Tile Company. Makes tile.

Get’s a Marker.


Sullivan Progress Plaza.  Shopping center owned by African-Americans.

Get's a Marker.


Ethel Waters. African-American singer.

Get’s a Marker.


John McDermott. Golfer.

Get’s a Marker.


Barbara Gittings.  LGBT leader.

Get's a Marker.








And last, but certainly not least.


Muhammed’s Temple of islam. Black Nationalist Movement building.

Get’s a Marker.   


See the problem here? These wonderful Historical Markers are NOT approved on their merits as they should be, politics has entered the picture. This is not about having “our” marker denied, it’s about the process & let’s say “unusual” results. Some of these simply cannot be explained. A book about maple syrup?! Really?!  Hey, I like pancakes as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous. I just cannot get over that one. 


It’s also about the insult to all those men who served our country who are being left out.


In a conference call this past Friday with the Executive Director Andrea Lowery and Karen Galle (who both seem like very nice women by the way) I heard someone say “we don’t care about Civil War service.” That’s a shocking admission. I see that as an insult to every man who served during the Civil War. They could not answer any of the obvious discrepancies in the approval criteria. They thought they could just pat us on the head, & say “good try, come back again next year,” (and we still won’t approve Happer’s marker.) Their response was always we want more national stuff. Well, how more national than President Lincoln can you get? I asked, what national impact did the woman who wrote the book on maple syrup have? No answer, crickets. (That happened a lot.) I guess we’re not supposed to notice that. And also, I thought this was a Pennsylvania Historical Marker, not a National Historic Marker. It seems they will use any excuse to deny some types of applications, always moving the goal posts. Oh they approve the occasional Civil War related marker to keep up appearances, but the trend is disturbing. By the way, I doubt those Commissioners even read the applications. I'm told they merely rubber stamp whatever the committee recommends. They brag about how high the bar is for approval. Well, as we see here, that’s total BS. I do know also, that one Commissioner tried to help as much as he could and I thank him. 


All of the above is merely my opinion and observations, and mine alone. Neither Mr. Bunner, or any one else connected with this has any knowledge of this post. I simply could not keep my big mouth shut any longer. It’s not about me, or the book. It’s ALL about Major Happer. The man deserves to be recognized by the state he served so long and so very well.


So, in conclusion. If we accept the twisted pretzel logic of the committee that discounts Happer's connection to the Lincoln funeral train, ignores and mocks his Civil War service and ordeal, and disqualifies his service to the region and local area, then yes maybe Happer wouldn't qualify for a marker...


...and neither would Ulysses S. Grant.


Mic drop. 


A Veterans Day Remembrance

In honor of Veteran's Day this year, I thought it might be nice to pay tribute to a veteran I'm very familiar with. In fact, I wrote a book about him. I can honestly say that I've never heard a more compelling story than the Major A.G. Happer story. There are of course, many great stories about Civil War veterans, but I've never seen one that matches this in either scope or depth. It truly is the quintessential American story. I will share here, a brief outline of some of the more memorable events in the life of Major A.G. Happer. Not meant to be complete, but merely some highlights of a truly remarkable American's life who should be remembered on this day of all days. It's a rather lengthy post, but worth the time. 


The facts and events included in the book have been thoroughly documented during the four years of arduous research performed by the author. 


     A.G. Happer was born into a family with an already remarkable record of service. First arriving in America in 1787, the Happers settled in Union Township, Washington County, PA. Operating a large and thriving farm, they proceeded to go about the business of agriculture. Over time, the family grew into a large and prosperous family, many of whom left the farm and spread across the entire country, to embark upon various ventures. Others traveled to China, Japan, Hawaii and other south Pacific islands as missionaries. Each in his own right became someone of consequence in their chosen area. All of them were heavily involved with service to their community. The Happers who stayed home carried on the family trait as well and were Elders in the Mingo Creek Presbyterian church where the Whiskey Rebellion conspirators met, along with many other community activities.

     A.G. Happer’s father, John Arrell Happer was born on the family farm in 1816. Involved especially in the raising and breeding of livestock, after attending Jefferson College he became a “Gentleman Farmer” and was on the local school board for many years, an Elder in the Mingo Creek church, and a pillar in the community highly respected by all accounts. He also served in the State House of Representatives at the start of the Civil War. He married Violet Gardner and they had eight children, the oldest being Andrew G. Happer. He was born on the family farm on August 15, 1839 and Andrew enjoyed being close to the land as had his father and grandfather, and planned a life in agriculture. An excellent student, he was an active participant in the affairs of his church, another interest that would last all of his days. In 1859 he enrolled in what was then Washington College in Washington, PA. He was well aware of the accomplishments of his ancestors and family members and knew that much was expected of him. His education was to come to a halt however with the firing on Fort Sumter. 


     A.G. Happer enlisted in the 1st Volunteer Cavalry where he served until their enlistment expired. He then enlisted as a First Lieutenant in Company G of what became the famous 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, known as “The Bloody Eleventh.”  Happer arrived on the field near Warrenton, Virginia leading a 50 man detachment of Co. G. and went right into action at the battle of Thoroughfare Gap where they were in front of the Brigade sent to delay General Longstreet’s advance. Happer & the 11th then were positioned on the Federal left at the resulting battle at Second Manassas receiving the massive attack of General Longstreet’s flanking assault. 

   Present again at the battle of South Mountain, Lt. Happer helped lead his company with skill and bravery. Arriving at Keedysville Maryland on September 16th, 1862, the 11th Pennsylvania was poised to participate in the bloodiest day in American history. 


     The following morning, Lt. Happer and the 11th PA charged headlong into the famous Miller’s Cornfield at the Battle of Antietam. One of the most deadly places in the entire Civil War, Lt. Happer fought a 30 minute stand up battle against the famous Louisiana Tigers. Happer was wounded but remained with his men and only retired when their ammunition was exhausted. 


     Lt. Happer was then present and engaged in the Union left at the battle of Fredericksburg, where they attacked the Confederate Second Corps led by Stonewall Jackson. At the battle of Chancellorsville, the 11th with Lt. Happer was positioned on the far right of the Union position. They were ordered to provide security on the far right, beyond the right of General Howard’s troops and did so. They were the last troops to retire in that Union defeat. 


     On July 1st 1863, Lt. Happer was marching northward with his Regiment through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. They were ordered to march with all speed to the Gettysburg area. They were positioned near the Seminary at first to stem the Confederate advance, but were then ordered eastward to Oak Ridge to deal with another Confederate attack. Positioned along the Mummasburg Road, the 11th waited along a stone wall while the Confederate Brigade of General Iverson approached. They sprang up and delivered a devastating volley that decimated that Brigade. Lt. Happer & his men then leaped over the wall and captured several Confederate battleflags and about three hundred prisoners. Further fighting on Oak Ridge until overwhelmed by superior forces, Happer with the 11th were ordered to retire to near the railroad cut in support of Stewart’s Battery which they did until ordered to retire to Cemetery Hill. 

     The following day, Lt. Happer and the 11th were positioned in reserve at various positions along Cemetery Ridge during the Second Day’s fighting. They suffered numerous casualties from Confederate artillery. The third day at Gettysburg, the 11th was positioned just north of the famous Copse of Trees. Although positioned near the rear, they saw action in the horrendous fighting during Pickett’s Charge. Lt. Happer survived the carnage of Gettysburg unscathed, but his luck would not hold for much longer. The good news was that Lt. Happer was promoted to Captain of Company I of the 11th PA.


     On May 5th 1864, at the Battle of The Wilderness, Captain Happer and the 11th Pennsylvania leading General Baxter’s Brigade slammed into Confederate General Dole’s Brigade of Virginians stopping their advance. As night fell, the 11th was ordered to the Federal left in support of General Hancock’s Second Corps. 


     The following morning, the 11th PA advanced forward driving the Confederate infantry of McGowan’s Brigade back through the dense tangle of woods to the Tapp farm. This is a very famous moment in Civil War history. As General Lee’s troops were being driven back, he attempted to gather his fleeing men and rally them. He then tried to actually lead them personally forward into the deadly fire from the Union troops across the open field and into the woods beyond. His men were able to stop him by holding his horse’s bridle. Just then, General Longstreet’s Texas Brigade appeared and advanced forward. In those woods beyond, was Captain Happer. In moments, he was seriously wounded low in the abdomen. As the Confederate advance pushed back the Union troops, Happer was left for dead on the field. Unable to move or stand, he laid there in agony with a broken pelvis for three to four days. He was miraculously rescued by a slave who brought water and washed Happer’s wounds. He was able to get Happer to a Confederate field hospital. Nothing could be done, it being feared the wound was mortal and Captain Happer was made as comfortable as possible and laid on the ground. Surprisingly, Happer didn’t die after all. He was sent to Richmond to Libby prison where he spent an agonizing six months, unable to even sit up to receive proper nourishment.  Finally, Happer was released and taken to the docks in a wooden cart and dumped onto the deck of a steamer bound for Annapolis, Maryland. 


Captain Happer spent the next few months recuperating at Camp Parole. It was a miracle he survived his wound, but survive he did. Still recuperating, he was able to be assigned to light duty in the Mustering Out Office in Harrisburg, PA. He also served on the Court Martial Board as well. 


On April 14th, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated. It was decided that the President would return home to Illinois by a special train, the “Lincoln Special.” The train would travel from Washington to Baltimore to Harrisburg, then on to Philadelphia, New York and so on, all the way home to Springfield. The Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Curtin selected Captain Happer as one of his personal entourage to accompany him on the train. 


They boarded the train at a non-scheduled stop as the train arrived at the Pennsylvania \ Maryland border. The Lincoln Special arrived in Harrisburg about eight p.m. Friday April 21. The coffin was then carried by hearse to the state House of Representatives, and opened for public viewing at 9:30 p.m. The next day, at 11:15 a.m. the train pulled out of the station with Captain Happer on board for the long trip to Philadelphia's Broad Street Station, then on to Independence Hall. The coffin was placed there in the east wing where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Happer remained with Lincoln until the train left Pennsylvania on April 24th then he returned to his duties in Harrisburg. For the rest of his days, Happer said this duty was the greatest honor of his life. Not long after this, on October 20, 1865 Major Happer was finally mustered out of the service. The war, was over.


Major Happer returned home and slowly recovered from his wounds. After a short stint as the Assessor of Internal Revenue, he opened a small insurance office on North Main St. in Washington, PA in 1871. It wasn’t long before Happer made his presence felt. In October of that year, the Great Chicago Fire occurred. Happer led the drive to raise funds, food and clothing for the victims. He sent wagon loads of supplies and several thousand dollars to the affected areas. His business grew and he branched out into real estate as well. 


In 1877, he married a local girl named Matilda Watson. She was the daughter of prominent attorney James Watson. Around this time, Happer who had always been interested in the welfare of children, became aware that the Pennsylvania House of Refuge in Allegheny, PA was closing. Happer saw the opportunity available and moved the reform school to Washington County at the former Revolutionary War Colonel George Morgan’s estate “Morganza.” Instead of being merely a reform school, Happer’s vision included a main building, a girls department, a boys department, a church, and workshops. More focused on education than punishment. Happer served as it’s President until his retirement in 1911. 


Grand Army of the Republic Post 120 was formed in 1879 and Major Happer was a member in good standing for the rest of his days. He also served in Company H of the Pennsylvania National Guard and was it’s Adjutant in 1879 and 1880. 


Throughout his life, The Major was interested in all things agriculture. He was a member of the “Washington Society for the Promotion of Agricultural and Domestic Manufacture in Washington County.” Happer was their Treasurer for many years. The Western Pennsylvania Agricultural Association was formed in 1885, and the Major was instrumental in getting that one started, and was a member for the entire length of it's existence. They purchased grounds for their fair, and by all accounts were the best in the state. The fair was successful for years but became more of an annual horse racing event. As the founders aged, the fair went into decline and the last one was held in 1901.


By this time the Major’s real estate business was the largest in the county. He had already developed several large parcels including Kalorama, and Woodland. He needed other sources for funding. In the summer of 1885, Happer brought in a few of his real estate associates along with their family and friends to start the Citizen's National Bank of Washington, Pennsylvania. Their opening capital was $100,000.00. The Major wasn’t interested in the day to day operations of the bank, so he turned that over to his friend John Donnan. Happer served on the Board of Directors. The bank was very successful and was the largest bank in Washington and was in operation until being bought by Mellon Bank in 1948. Happer was also a founding member in The Washington Trust Company where he also served on it’s Board of Directors. 


With all the development happening around Washington, the Major was well aware of the need for an increased water supply. The larger cities in the east were moving to a centralized water supply system. Happer figured that his town had to change with the times, and now was the time to get started. In December of 1885, Happer, along with T. F. Birch, B. M. Clark, John R. Kuntz, and Harry Chambers applied to the Governor for a charter for The Citizen's Water Company. The charted was granted in January 1886. After building a reservoir, pumping station and a main line, pipe was laid in the city, and on December 1, 1888, the lines were filled with water for the first time. Customers were signed up at a rate of $4.00 per year.


While it lasted, Washington County was the epicenter of oil and natural gas exploration in the world, and produced more oil and gas than anywhere else. Oil was shipped all over the east, most of it was bought by the Standard Oil Company, owned by John D. Rockefeller. The boom lasted about twenty years, and when the famous Lucas gusher at the Spindletop strike happened in Texas on January 10, 1901, and the oil boom moved west. In 1884, the Wheeling Oil Company was formed and Major Happer was one of it's directors. Already being in the real estate business made it a natural add on for his company. He had the expertise and contacts to acquire oil leases throughout the area. There were oil wells on the Happer farm, and on other family members' properties.


By 1888, Happer was ready for much larger real estate projects. He purchased the Wearer farm, which he eventually renamed West End. This development went so well, that he continued on with several others. Eventually, he was able to purchase some more Morgan property. This was “family business,” since Happer's wife was a great granddaughter of Revolutionary war Colonel George Morgan. In any event, the sale went through and they platted the land with the temporary name of Morgan Addition to East Washington. The land was subdivided and sold, on the lots were built stately Queen Ann style Victorian homes, many of which still stand today. The area then became it's own Borough known as East Washington. It eventually had it's own elementary and high schools, and it's own police department. This new borough owes it entire existence to the forward thinking of A. G. Happer.


The Major was far from done. The Washington area was also sorely in need of commercial development. With new partner John K. Donnan, along with James Kuntz Jr. and several others, they were able to buy the 220 acre Gordon farm. The divided it into 1,500 lots which quickly filled with some of the top manufacturing companies in the area.


The country was changing, modern times were here. It seemed that new inventions were popping up every day. One new idea that interested the Major was Alexander Bell's new toy, the telephone. It was going great guns in most major cities, and by 1883 Happer thought that Washington should have it too. Along with H. U. Seaman and Robert Wolfe, Happer pushed for an exchange to be opened in town. Finally on October 1884, the first Central office was opened in the Briceland building on West Wheeling Street, and Jennie Rogers was the first operator. The Major of course was one of the first customers and his phone number was 26.


Major Happer continued to sell insurance and real estate, develop land, drill for oil and gas and be involved more and more in public projects that were of benefit to the whole community. There was indeed, one huge piece missing. Those in need of serious medical treatment were required to travel to Pittsburgh, or somewhere else. There was no hospital in Washington.


In the late 1870's Doctors Harry and Thomas McKennan along with Dr. Grayson led the charge to start a hospital. They succeeded at least for a short time. They were able to open a hospital in a house on North College Street, but due to lack of funding and interest, it soon closed. Miss Nellie Reed, tried to drum up interest a few years later by putting on shows at the town hall. A “series of entertainments” they were called. She was able to raise only a few hundred dollars however, and soon gave up. She left the money raised in the able hands of her relative, Major Happer, to hold until such time as interest could be revived.


In early 1897, three physicians renewed the call for a hospital. This time however, the Major jumped on board with several others and wouldn't let the idea die. A charter was granted to Washington Hospital. There was to be a board of directors to run the hospital. The first order of business was to secure a building. The board had no money to either build or purchase one. It was decided to purchase the A. W. Acheson homestead on Acheson Avenue for $10,000. The Major used the money left in his care as seed money and with several other men, advanced their own personal funds to purchase the building, Happer advancing the majority of the funds. 


The Washington Hospital opened in May of 1898. It was very small, only twenty beds in all, with no real operating room. Surgery was performed in a spare room. Individuals and institutions were allowed to establish rooms for public use that they were responsible for maintenance and upkeep. They had their names painted on the door. There was a door with the name Watson-Happer. Major Happer served on the Board of directors and was active in the management of the Hospital for many years.


As we've seen, the Major was very active in community affairs for all his adult life. There is one that hasn't been mentioned, his church. When Happer moved to Washington, Pennsylvania for good in 1871, it was no accident that when he had achieved sufficient success, he built his “magnificent house of Cleveland stone” right next door to the First Presbyterian Church. The Happers had been for generations heavily involved with the Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church. In fact, most of them are buried in the cemetery there, near Finleyville. The Major, however, threw in with the church next door. For over forty-five years he was a member there, forty years the leader of the choir, and a trustee for over twenty-five years. He would be absent from church services or choir practice only due to illness.


The new century brought little change for the Major. He continued on with his real estate and insurance business. He continued to be involved with the improvements to the city and county. The only thing lacking in his life were the blessings of children. He and Tilly never had any children of their own.


The Washington centennial celebration in 1910 was a grand affair. The Major was getting a little older now, but he was still a vigorous man, and kept busy everyday. In 1911, at age 72, he retired as President of the board of directors of the Morganza Training School. He still served on the board of the Washington Hospital and was actively managing its affairs. He was still involved with the agricultural community as well. He still served on the boards of the Citizen's Bank and the Washington Trust Co. The GAR still counted him as a member in good standing. It must be remembered that Happer accomplished all he did, still carrying the Confederate bullet from the wound he received at The Wilderness.


The Major passed away on April 27, 1915 at the age of 75. 


This story doesn't begin or end with the major. His family members and descendants proved to be as civic minded as he was. Many were heavily involved with the major players in the industrial development of America, such as Andrew Carnegie. The story spans the time frame from the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, the Great War, WWII, and Viet Nam. Happer descendants were instrumental in many of the major events in modern American history from the purchase of Alaska, Dr. Salk's Polio vaccine, the D-Day invasion, football coach Knute Rockne, the Kennedys, LBJ and much more. 


At no time did the Major ever seek credit or glory for either his Civil War service or his service to his community. Nor did he never stamp his name on any of the improvements to the city as he could easily have done. His only interest was in getting the job done. During four years of rigorous research, I never once found any inkling of so much as an unkind word about the Major. He was universally loved and respected by all who knew him. He was a man of character who did the right thing, even when no one was looking. As a consequence of that, he never received the credit he so richly deserves and sadly has been forgotten, while his employees and associates did in fact receive much credit. There is no doubt in this author’s mind that Major A.G. Happer would be perfectly fine with that. However, the time has come at long last for Major Happer to receive the recognition of the State he sacrificed for, and the community he served so well, and for so long. Major events are currently taking place in Washington, PA to finally recognize the service of one of their own. I'm proud to have been the one who brought all this to light so that justice could finally be done. Please checkout my Facebook Author page for more details. 


James A. Douglas


Born To Serve, The Major A.G. Happer Story




A.G. Happer

To commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Antietam, I thought I'd post a few excerpts from the Antietam chapter in my book Born To Serve, The Major A.G. Happer Story. The then Lt. Happer of Company G, 11th Pennsylvania Vols. was present in the fight at Miller's cornfield, and was wounded there.


It is appropriate to take a moment to remember this day and those incredible men on both sides who struggled so fiercely there. So very many men and boys would never return to their homes and families after that day. There should never come a time when their sacrifice is not remembered and acknowledged by our entire country. I know I, will never forget.


J. D.


…Dawn the next morning, September 17, 1862, was gray and a light mist was in the air. The sun wasn't completely above the horizon just yet and the sounds of thousands of men and animals stirring was in the air. The morning routine of the citizens was disrupted, for they knew what was coming. In town, the people stayed in their homes, on the farms, families went to their cellars. Yes, they thought they knew what was on the way. In a sense, the whole country thought they knew. They were all wrong. What was coming on this day, was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, or have ever seen since.


...General Fighting Joe Hooker started it all off by marching his three divisions down the road driving the rebel pickets into the West Wood. He had his eye on the white building about 800 yards away. The firing was already hot, and he was taking some heavy losses. He noticed the smoke coming from the cornfield and he directed his batteries, 36 cannon in all to fire on Mr. Miller's cornfield. The ensuing carnage was revolting to behold. Parts of rifles, belts, hats and other equipment, along with dismembered human limbs and body parts were clearly seen thrown up in the air above the field. Hooker's men entering the woods on either side of the cornfield were greeted with withering sheets of flame and torrents of lead that filled the air. The Federals came on still, pushing back the Confederates who gave ground grudgingly, making the blue army pay dearly for every inch. Back through the cornfield they went, where finally the gray fighters were too few to resist and they angrily fled.


With the whitewashed Dunker church within reach, Hooker's men surged forward. Out of the woods in their front, a gray column exploded at them screaming the rebel yell. The Confederates halted and fired a volley at point blank range, decimating the Federal line. Then, they came on again, bayonets leveled. It was General Hood's Division. Stonewall had called and they came running. They had no help either. The rest of Jackson's troops were decimated, and in no condition to attack again. General Hood's men didn't care, they struck Union troops head on, just north of the church, and drove them back clear through the cornfield, yelling like demons all the way. The Federals stopped and formed behind their guns and the two lines stood and banged away at each other in a stand up fight to the finish...


...Hood told a staff officer sent by Jackson “Tell General Jackson unless I get reinforcements I must be forced back, but I am going on while I can.” Hood finally got some help. General Early charged in from the west, while two Brigades from General D. H. Hill charged from the east, driving the Federals back clear to their starting point. Hooker had lost some 2,400 men so far. He sent word to General Mansfield to bring up his corps to continue on with the battle...


...For the 11th Pennsylvania, the battle had started in the early morning. They were formed in line of battle on the Joseph Poffenberger farm with the 12th Massachusetts on their right, and the 83rd New York on the left. The 13th Massachusetts was on the far left. At this moment, General Hartsuff, having moved forward observing the ground was severely wounded in the hip by an artillery fragment, and was removed from the field. The command of the brigade went to Colonel Coulter, and the 11th Pennsylvania went to Captain Cook of Company F.


...11th PA Chaplain Locke:

“...Volley after volley of musketry lighted up its dark bosom, as line upon line of Confederates issued from it. The fortune of the day seemed suddenly to change. The rebels were now advancing; and our own gallant lines that but a moment before moved through the cornfield in such overwhelming force, came back broken and depleted...” 


...General Hooker sent a message to General Ricketts. “Send me your best Brigade.” Now commanded by Colonel Coulter, who cried, ”Forward Third Brigade!” Hartsuff’s Brigade stormed down the hill at the double quick. The brigade went straight on through the East Wood in front of them and smashed into the Confederates in Miller’s cornfield, passing through and over the shattered remains of the three union brigades streaming to the rear. General Hooker was heard to say, “I think they will hold it.” For half an hour there was a stand up fight among the head high cornstalks that were cut down as if by a giant reaper, and so were the men of both sides. Lieutenant Happer was slightly wounded about this time, but stayed with his company. The Confederates wavered, then were reinforced by General Hay’s Brigade, the rough men of the famed Louisiana Tigers. They advanced into the cornfield, immediately coming under an enfilading fire from several Federal batteries, and heavy musketry fire from the 11th Pennsylvania. Hay's men were forced to fall back out of the cornfield to the other side of the West Wood, where it was relieved by Wofford's Brigade, of General Hood's Division and then withdrawn to the fields southwest of the Dunker Church. Of the 550 men engaged, they suffered 323 killed or wounded.


The 11th Pennsylvania had advanced to the southern end of the cornfield by about 8:30 or 9 a. m. and was entirely out of ammunition. Coming under fire from the Confederate guns on Nicodemus hill, they were ordered to retire a short distance to the rear and were issued ammunition.


A staff officer of the Stonewall Brigade noting the Federal advance through the cornfield:

“The Federals in apparent double battle line were moving toward us at charge bayonets, common time, and the sunbeams falling from their well-polished guns and bayonets gave a glamour and a show at once fearful and entrancing.”


Benjamin F. Cook, a soldier in the 12th Mass describing the advance the 13th Georgia in the cornfield:

 "….Rifles are shot to pieces in the hands of the soldiers, canteens and haversacks are riddled by bullets, the dead and wounded go down in scores. The smoke and fog lift; and almost at our feet, concealed in a hollow behind a demolished fence, lies a rebel brigade pouring into our ranks the most deadly fire of the war. What there are left of us open on them with a cheer; and the next day, the burial parties put up a board in front of the position held by the Twelfth Massachusetts with the following inscription: 'In this trench lie buried the colonel, the major, six line officers, and one hundred and forty men of the 13th Georgia Regiment..."


One of Hood’s 4th Texans describing their attacks through the Cornfield.

“...the hottest place I ever saw on this earth or want to see hereafter. There were shot, shells, and Minie balls sweeping the face of the earth; legs, arms, and other parts of human bodies were flying in the air like straw in a whirlwind. The dogs of war were loose, and ‘havoc’ was their cry...”


…McLaws had been delayed getting to Sharpsburg, but had finally arrived at just the right time. General Lee had sent him to reinforce Jackson, and General Anderson who had arrived with McLaws, to reinforce D. H. Hill. McLaws' men continued on and pursued the fleeing Federals, driving them out of the cornfield as well. The three union corps had suffered over 7,000 casualties so far, General Hooker being one of them. He rode to the north with a foot wound, back to where he started that morning. His corps, Mansfield's, and the used up division of Sumner, all retired northward out of the fight. They reformed back behind the safety of their cannon...


...The battle on the right was over. Two whole corps and part of a third, about 31,000 troops in all had been shattered and defeated by Jackson's men. Stonewall had lost almost as many, nearly 5,000. As he sat on his horse Little Sorrel, in the churchyard eating a peach, gazing out over Miller's cornfield now trampled and destroyed and completely covered with dead and wounded men, Jackson turned to General Lafayette McLaws and said, “God has been very kind to us this day.”


…At two o'clock in the afternoon, Rickett's Division moved to the right near Sharpsburg pike, to the support of batteries there. It remained there under arms through the following night. Seventy men of the 11th Pennsylvania lay wounded and bleeding in the yard of the Hoffman farm house. Five officers out of the nine they started with were disabled. One of these was Lieutenant Happer. Being slightly wounded, he was able after treatment, to stay with his company. The 11th Pennsylvania had lost about 50 men killed, and 70 wounded out of the nine officers and two hundred and twenty six men engaged. Of the eleven hundred men in Hartsuff’s Brigade that slammed into Miller's cornfield, only five hundred returned.


The 11th's regimental Chaplain Locke wrote after the war:

“...There was one thing belonging to the battlefield not to be seen in our hospital, its foul spirit of hate. The term foe was there forgotten. All were now friends. A soldier from Maine and another from Georgia, the one having lost an arm, and the other a leg occupied the same pallet of straw. A South Carolinian, slightly hurt in the head, was the cook for himself and two severely wounded New Yorkers. A volunteer from Pennsylvania and a conscript from Alabama, sheltered under the same tent, were as fraternal in their acts of kindness as though they had fought side by side, and not in opposing ranks...“


The twilight was punctuated with haystacks set ablaze by exploding shells. Cries of wounded men could be heard coming from the hay. They had crawled in there for shelter, now too weak to escape the flames, they burned alive. General Lee's line had held and was intact all along the ridge. McClellan had failed to dislodge him.

As darkness fell, the haystacks blinked out one by one, leaving the valley between the ridges in gloomy blackness dotted by the lanterns of the medical corps of both armies, searching for wounded men that could be recovered. From a distance, the flickering lights resembled fire flies on a summer night, except for the moans and cries of the wounded. The dead, as always, were silent.



Copyright Plum Run Press

All rights reserved



The Rest of the Story, Part Six

General Absalam Baird
General Absalam Baird

Time now for yet another interesting side story in the Major A.G. Happer saga. Through marriage, Major Happer was related to the Baird family of Washington, PA. Theirs is a long & interesting history of which we'll tell an abbreviated version of the parts that occur in the Happer era.


From this it's easy to see that the Major A.G. Happer story isn't just about the Major, or his amazing war record, or his incredible service to Washington, PA after the war. It's about service to our fellow man, & about something bigger then ourselves. Stay tuned, there's even more to come!  


First and foremost in this tale is Absalam Baird.

He was born in Washington, Pennsylvania on August 20, 1824. He was the great grandson of a Lieutenant in the French and Indian War, and a grandson of a surgeon in the Continental army during the Revolution. He graduated from Washington College and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated ninth in his class of forty three, in 1849. In 1850-51, he served as a Second Lieutenant during the Seminole War. In 1853 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and served until 1859 as assistant professor of mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy.


He spent the next two years serving on the Texas frontier. In March of 1861, he took command of the light battery for the Department of Washington, and on May 11, was brevetted Captain. By July of 1861, he was serving as Adjutant General of the Washington defenses. He was present at the battle of First Manassas. In the spring of 1862, he took part in the Peninsula Campaign and saw action at Yorktown and Williamsburg. In April of 1862, he was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers and was given command of a brigade in the Army of the Ohio, where he was engaged at Cumberland Gap. From October 1862, to June, 1863, he commanded the Third Division in the Army of the Kentucky, and was, for gallant action at Chickamauga, brevetted Lieutenant Colonel of regulars.

General Baird participated in the battles around Chattanooga, the fall of Atlanta, and Sherman's march to the sea. He was with Sherman on the march through the Carolinas, and was present at the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army at Durham Station. For his service during the Atlanta campaign, he received a brevet promotion to Brigadier General in the regular army. General Baird eventually received promotion to brevet Major General of Volunteers, and brevet Major General in the regular army.


It doesn't end there. The General stayed in the army after the war as Inspector General of various departments, until 1885 when he was appointed Inspector General of the U.S. Army. He retired in 1888.

On September 1, 1864, at Jonesboro, Georgia, General Baird had voluntarily led a detached brigade in an assault upon the Confederate works. For this gallant action, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 22, 1896.

The General passed away June 14, 1905 near Relay, Maryland. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife Cornelia. Written on their tombstone is “Whereas I was blind, now I see.”


William Baird

William Baird was born on August 22, 1851. He was the son of Absalom and Cornelia W. Smith Baird. He followed in his father's footsteps and attended West Point where he graduated 28th in his class of 43 on June 16, 1875. He served virtually his entire career on frontier duty during the Indian wars, finally retiring at the rank of Captain due to a disability in December of 1897. On June 18, 1885 he had married Minnie Dawley in San Francisco, California. They had two children, John A. Baird and Cornelia W. Baird. William died on January 3, 1930 in Washington, D.C. He is buried at the family plot at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife.


John Absalom Baird

John A. Baird was the son of Captain William Baird and grandson of General Absalom Baird. Born on June 23, 1890, he followed a little different path. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He switched to the U.S. Army, and from 1912 until 1923 he served with the Coast Artillery Corps. From 1923 through World War II and until he retired in 1947 with the rank of Colonel, he served with the Chemical Warfare Service. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service. He died on September 30, 1951. He and his wife Helen are buried in the Baird plot at Arlington National Cemetery.



Amwell Township Historical Society Talk

Here we are last night at the Amwell Township Historical Society in Washington County, Pennsylvania where we had a great time in a nice informal talk about my books, Born To Serve and The Bloody Eleventh. Lots of interest in the Civil War there in Washington County! Had a very nice chat with some of the folks there and got to see their local artifacts on display.


They are doing a great job there in preserving their local history. They bought, saved and restored the historic Cook-Dodd cabin in Amity, PA that was soon to be demolished. I would like to thank the Society and Wendy for inviting me and my "staff" Linda to share my stories with them. You can visit them on Facebook at 

Donations are appreciated, & it's a good thing to do what we can to save our history. 


The Rest of the Story

cover image


Well guys it's been a while since the last post. I think it will have been worth the wait. This episode delves into the modern era a bit, with some amazing twists & coincidences. You WW II guys will especially like this one. Due to space limitations, this is a "Readers Digest" version. A shortened version leaving out some of the story, but telling the best parts. We begin with a descendant of the Major's, Lydia Gardner Happer.  

     Lydia Happer was the Major's Grand Niece. While living in Washington, DC, she met and married a young Army Second Lieutenant named Maxwell Davenport Taylor in 1925. Max Taylor had a military career that is astounding. Here are a very few of the highlights. He graduated from West Point in 1922. For the next twenty years he worked his way up the ranks. In 1942 he was promoted to Brigadier General, serving with the 82nd Airborne. Promoted to Major General in 1944 and given command of the 101st Airborne. He became the first allied General officer to land in France during the Normandy invasion when the 101st parachuted into France on June 5, 1944. During the Battle of the Bulge, he was called back to Washington for a staff conference and was absent when the 101st was surrounded by the Germans at Bastogne. His second in command, Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, was the man who when asked by the German commander to surrender replied with the famous one word answer, “Nuts.” General Taylor commanded the 101st through the end of the war. 

     From 1945 to 1949 he was superintendent of West Point, afterwards he was the commander of allied troops in Berlin from 1949 to 1951. He was Chief of Staff of the European Command in 1949. He was commander of the Eighth Army in Korea in 1953. He was Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command in 1955. From there he moved to Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1955 to 1959, when he retired for the first time. After the April 1961 failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy recalled Taylor and appointed him to head a task force to investigate the failure of the invasion. He was recalled again by President Kennedy in 1962 to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which he held until 1964.

   Both President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had immense regard for Taylor, whom they saw as a man of unquestionable integrity, sincerity, intelligence and diplomacy. In the course of their work together, Taylor developed a deep regard and a personal affection for Robert F. Kennedy, a friendship which was wholly mutual and which remained firm until Kennedy's assassination in 1968. Robert Kennedy actually named one of his sons after the general. Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy.

    Taylor retired once again, but was appointed the U S Ambassador to South Viet Nam by President Johnson, and served from 1964 to 1965. He then became Special Consultant to the President and Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1965 until 1969, and President of the Institute of Defense Analysis as well. General Taylor during his career was awarded the following decorations for his service: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart.

     General Taylor died in Washington, D. C. on April 19, 1987. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  His wife, Lydia Happer Taylor, passed away on April 22, 1997 at the age of 95, in Washington, D. C. She had accompanied her husband to assignments in Germany, Vietnam and Japan. She was the co-founder of the Army Distaff Foundation, which later became Knowllwood, a military retirement facility in Northwest Washington.

     Lydia and the General had two sons. One of them, Thomas Happer Taylor is a military historian with at least seven books to his credit. He also served our country honorably in the Viet Nam war where he had volunteered for service. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne. Taylor saw plenty of combat and was wounded in action. He was awarded the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for valor, and a Purple heart. 

     After his service, he attended the University of California at Berkley of all places to study Sociology. He also began his writing career. He wasn't finished just yet. He went to law school and was admitted to the California bar in 1978. He worked for a major corporation and applied his trade for a time in Saudi Arabia, where he once negotiated with the large Bin Laden construction company. While writing stories for Triathlete magazine, he decided to train and enter competitions. In 1982 he was the U S National Champion in his age group, in 1985, he did it once again. He was named to be the American flag bearer for Team USA in the World Championships at Gold Coast, Australia, and Budapest where he finished fifth. Tom Taylor wore his Purple Heart on his racing shirt. He said, "I wore mine for soldiers earning Purple Hearts in Iraq and Afghanistan. My wound was minor. Many of theirs are mind numbing." 

     Their other son, John M. Taylor, was born at West Point, New York. He graduated from Williams College and went on the earn his masters from  George Washington University. He worked for the U. S. government at the CIA and State Department for many years. Mr. Taylor is a historian and distinguished author of at least eight books including his latest, Duty Faithfully Performed, Robert E. Lee and his Critics. 


The Rest of the Story

book cover

Time now for part four and another thrilling episode from my book Born To Serve, The Major A.G. Happer Story. This time we delve into high finance, big business, scandal, politics and some military. 


The Reed Family


The Reed family is probably the largest of the families we are concerned with in this book. They were very prominent both in Washington County, and Allegheny County. They seemed to specialize in both the medical field and law. Theirs is a particularly intriguing story that has a few surprising twists. I suppose the best place to begin would be at the beginning, so let's start there.

     Dr. Joseph Allison Reed was born in Washington, Pa; December 31, 1823. He was educated at Washington College, and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1842. He earned his medical degree at Jefferson Medical College in 1847. He settled in Allegheny Pa (now part of Pittsburgh) with his wife Eliza Hay Reed and their four children, and became especially successful in the treatment of mental disorders. Eliza died in 1858, leaving the Doctor with two small children to raise. In 1860, he married Mary F. Fahnstock. They had four children of their own.

     Owing to his professional success, in 1857 the mental health department of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital was separated from the surgical department. He was asked to take charge of the Dixmont State Hospital, which was in need of someone to oversee the department. He accepted the position and soon placed the institution on a sound financial basis. After seven years as physician-in-charge, he became superintendent of the insane department, and held the position for some twenty-seven years, until his death. Dr. Reed was known all over the country as a leading authority on the treatment and care of the mentally ill. Doctor Reed passed away on November 16, 1884. Two of the Doctor's children from his first wife died very young, but two survived. His son James, is our next subject.


James Hay Reed Esquire


The Honorable James Hay Reed Esquire, is a strong name. Quite fitting for the strong man he was to become. The son of Dr. Reed and Eliza in Allegheny, Pa; and born on September 10, 1853, he didn't possess his father's love of medicine. He was much more interested in his uncle's attraction to law. At the proper time, he attended the Western University of Pennsylvania (now University of Pittsburgh), where he graduated in June of 1872. He went on to study the law under his uncle David Reed, a noted Pittsburgh attorney. He was admitted to the bar in 1875, and soon after joined with his friend and fellow lawyer Philander Chase Knox to form the firm of Knox and Reed. The firm was successful right from the start. Today, they would be called corporate lawyers, for their clients were from the business and corporate world.

     Mr. Reed was married on June 6, 1878, to Katherine J. Aiken, daughter of David Aiken, Jr. of Pittsburgh. They had four children, Joseph Hay Reed, David Aiken Reed, James Hay Reed, Jr., and Katherine Reed.

     By the mid 1880's, Reed had become a trusted adviser and council to many of the movers and shakers in the corporate world in the Pittsburgh area. He was on the board of directors at Gulf Oil Corp; the same positions at Farmers Deposit Savings Bank, Farmers Deposit Trust Co, Fidelity Title and Trust Co, Farmers Deposit National Bank, and President and Board member of the Reliance Insurance Co of Pittsburgh. And if this wasn't enough, on January 1, 1887, Reed became General Council to Andrew Carnegie. Along with that he became President of Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, President of the Union Railroad, and board member of Carnegie Steel Co. When the famous Johnstown flood occurred in 1889, it was Reed who represented the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. After all, he was a member there.

     The firm of Knox and Reed continued on until February 1891, when he received an appointment by President Benjamin Harrison to be a United States District Judge for Western Pennsylvania, to replace the Hon. Marcus W. Acheson who had been elevated to the Circuit Bench. He was confirmed by the US Senate, and he accepted the position very reluctantly as he had no desire to take his career in that direction. He resigned in less that a year due to “ill health” and resumed his partnership in the old firm. That didn't last long however. When William McKinley became President of the United States in 1897, he asked his old friend Philander Chase Knox to become the US Attorney General. Knox later became Secretary of State, and US Senator from Pennsylvania.

     The old firm of Knox and Reed became Reed, Smith, Shaw, and Beal. At some point, it became Reed, Smith, Shaw, and McClay. The new firm became a real powerhouse. By this time, Reed was, or became, a director of Allegheny Heating Company; president and director of Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company; director of California Railway and Power Company; treasurer and trustee of Carnegie Hero Commission; trustee and treasurer of Carnegie Institute and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; director of Commerce Housing Commission; chairman of the board of Farmers' Deposit National Bank; director of Farmers' Deposit Trust Company; director of Fidelity Title and Trust Company; director of Gulf Oil Corporation; manager of Kingsley Association; vice-president and director of Philadelphia Company and its associated companies; president and director of Reliance Insurance Company of Pittsburgh; president and director of Union Railroad Company; director of United Railway Investment Company; and director of the Carnegie Pension Fund.

     Reed had become a close friend and attorney for Andrew Carnegie. When Carnegie decided to sell his Carnegie Steel to J. P. Morgan, it was James Hay Reed who handled the transaction that would be known as the largest personal commercial transaction in history, selling Carnegie Steel Company for $480 million (approximately $20 billion in today's dollars) and creating U.S. Steel. Reed had been an original director and investor in Carnegie Steel Company, and owned the second highest majority of shares in the company, about 16%, equal to $76 million (around $2.5 billion today). Reed had a seat, on the board of directors of the new United States Steel Company as well.

Judge Reed was for many years the General Counsel and Vice President of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company. In 1899 he prepared the charter for the Consolidated Gas Company of Pittsburgh of which he became President. He retired from that position in 1919 but continued his connections with the company as Senior Vice President and Director.

     It wasn't all about the money though. He became a manager of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, and of the Pittsburgh Hospital for Children; and a trustee of the Western University of Pennsylvania (Pitt), the Shadyside Academy, and the Shadyside Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. Reed was also one of the founders of the City of Monessen, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. He continued in practice until his death, in Pittsburgh, in 1927. A Pennsylvania state historical marker marks his birthplace near the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh's North Shore.

He received an honorary Doctorate from Princeton in 1902, and one from the University of Pittsburgh in 1919. Reed's law firm, still exists today, now known as Reed Smith, and is global in scope. With revenues approaching $1 billion, Reed Smith is one of the most powerful firms on the planet.


Major David Aiken Reed


The Hon. David Aiken Reed Esq. was the son of Judge James Hay Reed, born in Pittsburgh on December 21, 1880. He attended Shadyside Academy, a Pittsburgh prep school, where he graduated in 1896. Then it was on to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1900. He went on to earn his law degree at The University of Pittsburgh, graduating and being admitted to the bar in 1903. He practiced law in his father's firm Reed, Smith, Shaw and McClay from 1903 until 1917. He had married Adele Wilcox on November 12, 1907. They had two children, David Aiken Reed Jr. and Rosamond Reed.

When the United States finally entered the Great War, David Reed entered the U S Army as a Major. Major Reed served overseas in World War I with the 311th Field Artillery participating in the Meuse-Argonne and Verdun offensives. He served as Acting Chief of Staff of the United Section of Inter-Allied Armistice Commission and American representative on Allied Economic Commission. He served as Lieutenant Colonel, Field Artillery Reserve, from 1919 to 1922.

     After the war, he returned to his father's firm, at least for a while. Reed, a Republican, was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor William Sproul to the United States Senate on August 8, 1922, to fill a vacancy created by the death of William Crow. He was subsequently elected on November 7, 1922, to serve for the remainder of Crow's term and a six-year term of his own, beginning in March 1923. He ran for, and was re-elected for a second term in 1928. He ran once again in 1934, but was unsuccessful this time, being a victim of the great Republican Purge.

     Major Reed returned to the practice of law once again, remaining with the firm until his death at his home in Sarasota, Florida on February 10, 1953. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery with his first wife Adele, who had passed away in 1948.


     There you have it, another interesting connection to Major Happer. As they say in those late night infomercials, "wait, there's more!"  Next time we'll see even more elements of this amazing story. 



The Rest of the Story

Morganza School
Morganza School

The third episode in this incredible saga is the story of Revolutionary War Colonel George Morgan. A fairly important player in the early history of America. An excerpt from my book, Born To Serve, The Major A. G. Happer Story gives a brief account of some of his adventures. 



The first person we need to know about in this installment is Colonel George Morgan. He was an extremely important person in colonial times and had far reaching influence over how the west was settled. He also was instrumental in what happened to the entire Washington County Pennsylvania area. We must go all the way back to the beginning to really know what this is all about. Major Happer's wife Tilly was a great granddaughter of the Colonel.

Colonel Morgan was born in Philadelphia in 1741. As a young man, he entered the Indian trade and spent a great deal of time in wilderness areas. He formed a partnership with two men named Wharton and Baynton. They operated under the name of Baynton, Wharton and Morgan. He also was a partner in the Indiana Company. They established stores at Fort Pitt, and Morgan went to the Ohio valley to establish trading posts. In 1766, he went all the way to the province of Louisiana where he founded the town of New Madrid.

     Morgan was the man who had the experience to travel in the wilderness, and deal directly with the Indians. He made it a point to always deal fairly with them, not taking advantage of them and this was to have a great effect in the years to come. The Indians came to trust Morgan, and that would save the lives of hundreds of settlers later on.

This gave him great influence on the Indians, and during the time of the Revolution the Colonel used this influence to convince many tribes to support the Americans over the British. For this reason, he was eventually appointed as the first United States Indian Agent of the Western Department with headquarters at Fort Pitt.

     One of the great stories that has been lost today is the one about how Colonel Morgan and his business associates lost title to three million acres of some of the most valuable land in the Ohio valley, by one vote. In 1763, Indians seized property of the Indiana Company. It amounted to about eighty six thousand English Pounds. Afterward, because of the fair treatment by Colonel Morgan, the Indians repented. They compensated Baynton, Wharton and Morgan by signing over a deed to a tract of land totaling three million acres. The land ran from the mouth of the Kanawha River up the Ohio River to where Wheeling West Virginia now lies, then eastward past the Laurel Ridge east of present day Pittsburgh, to the western slope of the Allegheny mountains.

     Not all the tribes wanted to ratify this deal, and there was a grand council held at Fort Stanwix in 1768. In attendance were the chiefs of the Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarawa, Shawnee, and Delaware tribes. They met with Sir William Johnson, the Royal Superintendent of Indian Affairs, the Governor and Chief Justice of New Jersey, and commissioners representing Pennsylvania and Thomas Walker of Virginia.

     At that gathering, the famous treaty of Fort Stanwix was concluded, and the land grant to Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan was ratified by all the tribes. Virginia protested and Mr Wharton went to London to either secure the confirmation of the British government or reimbursement in money for the goods lost. Before the matter was concluded, the Revolutionary war broke out and England refused to rectify the trouble. After the war, the matter was brought before the House of Delegates of Virginia, but that body refused to ratify the grant by the vote of the presiding officer. And so, Colonel Morgan and his partners lost the land.

     When the Revolutionary War broke out, Colonel Morgan raised and commanded the first volunteer company that left Philadelphia. In 1779, he was visited by the chiefs of the Delaware nation. In appreciation of his many services and his friendship to that tribe, they offered to make him a gift of a piece of land which is now the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley. The Colonel would not accept it, even at the urging of the chiefs. About this time, Morgan was educating, at his own expense, the sons of several Delaware chiefs at Princeton College.

George Morgan's brother, Dr. John Morgan, was interested in land in western Pennsylvania. He bought four tracts of about twelve hundred acres in total just south of present day Canonsburg. When the doctor died, he left the property to his brother Colonel George Morgan.

     In 1796, Colonel Morgan left Princeton and headed west to to settle on this new property he named Morganza. He built a larger house and barn there. During the years that followed, Colonel Morgan entertained many famous visitors there. While in the Revolutionary army, Colonel Morgan had met Aaron Burr and they became close friends which continued when Burr became Vice President of the United States. Morgan was on intimate terms with many famous men of his day including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. When Burr made his tour of the west in 1806, he stopped at Morgan's home. While a guest there, he revealed his plans for founding a new empire west of the mountains, with himself as dictator.

     Burr told the Colonel and his son Thomas his plans for raising an army and capturing the vast territory from the mountains to the Mississippi. He urged the Colonel and his son to join the movement and share in the spoils. The Colonel became indignant and would not agree to participate. Burr gave up after trying to convince Morgan for three days, and continued on westward. Morgan sent a letter to President Jefferson to inform him of Burr's plans. Jefferson replied with a letter thanking Morgan and he closed with,”Accept my salutations and assurances of esteem and respect.” Colonel Morgan furnished additional information to the government and he and his son were summoned as witnesses against Burr when he was tried for treason.

     Colonel Morgan was a slave holder. Near the house, was a small graveyard where the deceased slaved were buried. When Colonel Morgan died on March 10, 1810, he was buried in the little graveyard, surrounded by his slaves. His wife, Mary Boynton was buried there as well in 1825. In 1873, there remains were exhumed and removed to Washington Cemetery.

     George Morgan had been married to Mary Boynton in 1764. They had five children: John, George, Ann, Thomas and Maria. John, 1770-1819, was educated at Princeton College. He married Miss Margaret Bunyan and they lived in Washington County and had five sons and three daughters. One son, Thomas, went to New Orleans and became a lawyer. Another son, Philip was Minister to Mexico.

Ann, the Colonel's eldest daughter married Thomas Gibbs of South Carolina. They had three sons and a daughter. When Thomas died in 1793, she married his brother John.

     George Morgan, born in 1780, went to Princeton College like his brother. He returned to Washington County and married. They had nine children, and eventually settled in Allegheny County.

Thomas Morgan, 1784-1855, (while attending the Burr trial) met Catherine Duane of Philadelphia. They married in 1807 and lived in Washington County. He studied law in Pittsburgh and was admitted to practice in Washington county. He became a prominent attorney and was was elected to the state legislature in 1814. After that, he became the Prothonotary in 1821, and Postmaster in 1829. He helped organize the Franklin Bank which became the First National Bank of Washington, and the Female Seminary. His wife's brother, William Duane, was a member of Andrew Jackson's first cabinet.

     Thomas J. Morgan, was born at Morganza in 1815. He studied law, then established a newspaper in Washington. In the summer of 1836, he raised a company of volunteers to aid the Texas revolutionists and was elected their Captain. He reached Texas just in time for the battle at San Jacinto. He remained in Texas for several years. Thomas returned east to Columbus, Ohio, and in the spring of 1847 was appointed secretary of the United States Legation at Brazil. While stationed at Rio de Janeiro, on March 30, 1850, he died of Yellow Fever.

     Little brother, George Washington Morgan, was born in Washington, Pennsylvania September 20, 1820. He entered Washington College, but left when he was sixteen years old to enlist in a company organized for the purpose of assisting Texas to gain her independence, and at the age of eighteen he was made a Captain in the Texas Army by General Sam Huston and given command of Galveston. He entered the United States Military Academy in 1841, but left in 1843, studied law, and practiced at Mt. Vernon, Ohio, until the beginning of the Mexican War. In that conflict he served first as Colonel of the 2nd Ohio volunteers and then of the 15th U.S. infantry, and was engaged at Contreras, and at Churubusco, where he was severely wounded. For his gallantry he was brevetted Brigadier General and was awarded the thanks of the legislature of Ohio, and was presented with a gold sword by the citizens of that state.

     Thomas was appointed United States consul at Marseilles, France from 1856 to 1858, and minister to Portugal from 1858 until 1861. He was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers, November 12, 1861, and assigned to duty under General Buell. In March, 1862, he assumed command of the 7th Division, Army of the Ohio, and was ordered to occupy Cumberland Gap, and, if possible, drive the Confederates out of East Tennessee. He took possession of Cumberland Gap on June 18, 1861, but in September of that year retreated toward the Ohio, as its importance in a general campaign was disproportionate to the force required to maintain it. He commanded a division under General Sherman at the battle of Chickasaw Bluffs and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and under General McClernand at the capture of Fort Hindman, Arkansas, January 11, 1863, and on June 8, 1863, he resigned due to ill health. He was an unsuccessful candidate on the Democratic ticket for governor of Ohio in 1865, and then served as congressman from 1867-1869 and again from 1871-1873. He died at Old Point Comfort, Virginia, on July 26, 1893.


     Some of The Morganza land was eventually used by Major Happer for the Morganza School. Colonel George Morgan's home stood for many years until it fell into disrepair and crumbled away. The Morganza School was eventually demolished, and the land is now an office development along Interstate 79 a few miles south of Pittsburgh.

In the next installment, we'll get an inside view of some big time movers and shakers in the early part of the Industrial Age. Stay tuned. 



Amazon Book Link

The Rest of the Story

Here's the second installment of some of the interesting side stories from my book, Born To Serve, The Major A. G. Happer Story. 

This episode concerns a descendant of the Major's, a man named John Happer. This particular John Happer was a nephew of Major A. G. Happer. He was from the branch of the family that went west early on.

He was born in Scandia, Kansas in 1892, and went on to marry Mary Hannah Martin and they had five children. He later married Miss Anna Casey in 1929. 

They had moved to the Chicago area by 1930 where John worked as the controller for the Wilson Meat Packing Company. 

     Wilson was starting a new venture in the sporting goods business. What was unusual is that John was a friend of famous Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. 

On the morning of March 31, 1931 John Happer and Knute Rockne took off in a small plane, a Fokker F-10-A bound for Los Angles for a business meeting, along with six others. 

The plane lost a wing in mid air and crashed in a pasture near Bazaar, Kansas, killing all aboard. 

     There is a monument standing at the crash site today with the names of all the victims engraved upon it. 

Knute K. Rockne, John Happer, Waldo B. Miller, H. J. Christen, Spencer Goldthwaite, C.A. Robrecht, Robert Fry, Herman J. Mathias. 

On the seventy fifth anniversary of the crash in 2006, the monument was re-dedicated. Among those in attendance was the now eighty-nine year old man who was one of the first to reach the crash in 1931, Easter Heathman, and nine Happer descendants. 

The Wilson company went on to become the famous Wilson Sporting Goods Company we know of today. 

This is just one of the many interesting stories connected to Major A. G. Happer that I came across by accident while researching the book. 

Stay tuned for more, and even more incredible historical stories connected with the A. G. Happer family. You won't believe what comes next.  

The Rest of the Story

     I thought it may be interesting to some to get an idea of what my book Born To Serve is all about. It is really three books in one. 

The first part is the background of what makes the title, Born To Serve relevant. The second part is the meat of the story, the war years of Major Happer.

Finally, there is so much to the story, I felt people would be interested in learning about what happened to the people later. Kind of borrowed from the great Paul Harvey's, The Rest of the Story.

So every so often, I will share a glimpse into this fascinating extended family of Major A. G. Happer. The first one deals with the Major's wife Matilda Morgan Watson Happer. This shows what kind of people the Happers were & also illustrates why they are forgotten in their own town today. So, bear with me as I take you all down this rabbit hole with me.  


     Tilly was devastated with the Major's passing in 1915. Her family was a great help through this depressing time. Her nine brothers and sisters along with the rest of the enormous family, helped her cope with the loss. 

She never remarried, and continued to live in the home the Major built for her for the next twenty years with her cook Mary Washington and her driver Leroy Lewis. She continued to receive half the proceeds from the insurance 

and real estate business, so she had no major financial problems to worry about, even during the great depression. 

     Tilly passed away at her home on February first, 1935 at the ripe old age of 86. She had been ill for two weeks then suffered a heart attack and the following day suffered another one. 

The obituary written in the Washington Observer perhaps says it best:

     “Mrs. Happer's entire life was spent in Washington, where her interest in public and charitable organizations and work remained high throughout her long life. She was known for her many acts of charity and kindness, carried out in such a quiet way that the public never knew of them. Her interest in her church, the First Presbyterian and it's auxiliaries, Washington Hospital, Washington & Jefferson College, Y.W.C.A., and all local benevolent and charitable organizations remained with her up to the very last. Mrs. Happer's interest in music was well known and she had heard all of the noted singers of her day. She was deeply interested in young musicians and artists, and helped many of them.” 

      She was a great granddaughter of Revolutionary war figure Colonel George Morgan, and the daughter of prominent attorney James Watson. Tilly had been very active in church affairs and other civic philanthropies. 

She was laid to rest beside her husband in the family plot in Washington Cemetery. Since the Happers had no children to leave to leave their worldly goods to, Tilly bequeathed the estate out to a number of close family members, with two exceptions. She left her driver Leroy Lewis $200. It doesn't sound like much by today's standards, but in 1935 that was a lot of money. She also set up a trust fund at the Citizens National Bank (which her husband had founded) in the amount of $2000.00 to be invested and the proceeds to be paid in the amount of $10.00 per week to her cook, Mary Washington every week for the rest of her life. Thus providing lifetime income for her longtime friend. Again, $40 a month was nice money back then when many folks were out of work and going hungry. The Happers had always been generous, even when no one was looking.  

     Andrew and Tilly's beautiful Victorian home made of “Cleveland stone,” became a funeral parlor. After that it was a bed and breakfast for a while. The good news is, it survives today as the Admissions Office for Washington and Jefferson College. 

The exterior remains pretty much the same, but the interior has been almost completely changed except for the magnificent winding oak staircase with breathtaking stained glass windows. Even with five years of diligent searching, I have never been able to find a picture of Matilda Happer.   



Speaking Engagement

The Amwell Township Historical Society

I will be speaking and signing my books at the Amwell Twp. Historical Society in Amity, PA on May 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm. Bring your copy to have me sign it, also there will be books available for sale. Stop in and say hello, I'd love to meet you. 




Amwell Township Historical Society

Amity Twp. Municipal Building

885 Amity Ridge Rd.

Amity, PA 15311

Born To Serve Used in History Class

We are pleased to announce that Born To Serve, The Major A. G. Happer Story will be used this fall by Washington High School of Washington, PA in their well regarded AP/College in High School U.S. History class, taught by Mr. Jeff Bunner who is the Social Studies Department Leader. All of the students have been given a copy. "I purchased Born to Serve for all my students because it's a great book with a local connection." Mr Bunner continues. "I will ask my students to help make Major Happer's story more well known to our local people in the hope that some formal recognition and/or monument will be made to cite his contributions to this city. This will be a special project for my students." 


I am honored to have been invited to visit with the class later this fall and cannot wait to see these young people. I will be assisting these folks any way I can, in their efforts to see that Major Happer receives the credit he so richly deserves. It is a humbling experience for me to think that Mr Bunner thinks so highly of my book that he has undertaken this effort. It's things like this that make the four years of work that went into this book, so worthwhile. I thank him and Washington High School for taking an interest in the forgotten Major Happer, and our country's rich Civil War history.  



Speaking Engagement

I had a great time this morning speaking at the Northmont Brotherhood Club, Retired Mens Club meeting. It was well attended by a great bunch of guys. Interest in the Civil War was strong and they listened attentively and afterward asked some very good questions. My hats off to these fine gentlemen and I hope to see them all again. 



Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking and signing books at the Northmont Brotherhood Club's Retired Men's Club at the Northmont Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh's North Hills on February 16, 2016 at 9 am. Looking forward to a great time with some avid Civil War buffs. 


If you are interested in booking me for a speaking engagement, visit my publisher's website at 


Merry Christmas Sale!

A Special Christmas Message

christmas image

A little Christmas message from me to you. 

First of all I want to thank all my readers out there who have taken a chance with a new author. I very much appreciate the support. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to you in a different way this time. At this time of year, most of us are worn to a frazzle by now. 

Your home is decorated nicely, the shopping is finally completed, it is isn't it? You might now have some time off work for a hard earned few days rest to enjoy all the work you have done since Black Friday. What I'd like you to do now is give a little gift to yourself. No, not to buy one of my books. Here's what I mean.


One evening during the holidays, do yourself a favor by turning off the idiot box, extinguishing the not-so-smart phone & hide it in the bottom of your sock drawer. Don't worry, you won't ever miss the stupid tweet from some fool celebrity, and the world won't come to an end if you aren't among the first to know that some "entertainer" & I use that term loosely, did yet another stupid thing. Dim the lights, sit on the floor or your favorite easy chair by the tree & grab yourself a glass of something good. If you have a fireplace, all the better. Sit there either alone or with someone special in your life and just quietly look at the lighted Christmas tree. 


Take a deep breath and a good long sip. Feel the tension ebb away. Start thinking about what Christmas and this time of year is really all about. Think about what's important to you. If you are young, think about what you life is like right now. What would you like for your life to be like. How did your parents live? Were they happy? Was it fun growing up? What was Christmas like back then? Are you married? Do you have small children? What is their Christmas like for them? What do you want for them? What kind of country do you want them to grow up in? 


If, like me you're a little older, not old mind you, it's just that you have a little mileage on you. Maybe you're in your forties or fifties or sixties. Your kids are grown and maybe even have their own lives now. Remember way back when. Remember how Christmas was when they were small. Remember how you tried to make it just like it was when you were little, but never could get it just right somehow. Remember what it was like when you were growing up back in the fifties and sixties like me.  It sure was different then, wasn't it? We were all the same. White, black, red, yellow, didn't matter. Same values, same wants, needs, likes, worries. Same culture. People sure were different back then weren't they? What happened? It's all gone. Why are things the way they are now? Better refill your glass.


 So what's different? Do you even know who your neighbors are?  Do you know the folks up the street or around the corner? Should you be retired but are still working because your retirement savings melted away a few years ago? Or is it, retirement, what's that? Do you find yourself watching what you say in public because you might offend one of the perpetually offended? Does it seem that we are all afraid of each other?  That we are all divided into groups with different interests and priorities, yes even different cultures now. Isn't it time for this PC insanity to just go away?


Are we all pitted against each other, or is it that we have been pushed and herded into these groups? By whom, and for what purpose? Does it seem like we are living in someone else's world and we are merely players being manipulated? By whom and for what reason? Don't you think it's more than a little strange that our government openly spies on our every waking moment? All for our own good of course. It's always for our safety, or for the children. "They" are keeping us safe. From whom? And just who is "They?"  Is this the America that you grew up in? Is this the America that you want to hand down to your children someday? Is this the way it ought to be? An America where our traditions are ridiculed and scorned, and sometimes even criminalized. Back in the day, did you ever envision this America?


And what about what I call "those men." Those men, those farmers and shopkeepers who stood their ground on the green at Lexington so long ago. Those men who took a stand and told King George not just no, but Hell No! at Concord bridge. How was it possible that all those brilliant men were living at the same place on this earth at the same time, with the same ideas and ideals. Did that just happen? A twist of fate? An accident of time? Pure dumb luck?  Or was there a greater hand involved? Isn't there something bigger than kings or presidents or governments? Have you ever even thought about it? Those men. Do we not owe them a debt of honor? To hold on to our freedoms bought with their blood for dear life, and pass on down what they risked it all for. They thought it was worth it. Do we? 


Take a look at the star or angel or whatever you have as your tree topper. What is the meaning there? If you have small children, are they nestled all snug in their beds, dreaming of... what? Sugarplums? iPads, iPhones? or whatever the next computerized crap to come out is. Have they ever been taught the Christmas story? No, not the one about the Red Ryder BB gun. Heavens, now in this strange and upside down "new" America even thinking about a BB gun is reason for the SWAT team to show up, and whisk your children away to some re-education camp. I mean the real Christmas story. And what about Santa Claus? What does he really look like? I think it's the Coca Cola Santa, always a twinkle in his eye, but that's just me. Is there any Santa in you? 


I certainly have asked a lot of questions. I have of course after much consideration come up with the answers, but it's not my place to tell you folks what your answers will be. That is for you alone to decide.


For tonight though, fill your glass once again, and gaze up at that beautiful Christmas tree or Menorah, or pyramid of empty beer cans, whatever. Make believe that for this night, America is right side up and once again that "shining city on the hill." Maybe give a little thanks to whoever you feel put you here in this place, this wonderful country, this America, on this night. 


From me to you,

Merry Christmas Americans


J. D. 

coke santa

Cyber Monday Special!

Don't forget my Cyber Monday Special. Two full length books for your Kindle, PC, or other device in one release! These books were written as companion books so they go well together. The pictures and maps in The Bloody Eleventh help make Born To Serve even  more enjoyable. Also, The Bloody Eleventh is currently sitting at number 4 and climbing on the Amazon Best Seller list in the Regimental History category! Don't miss out on this special, limited time offer.  

A New Ranking!

Just thought I'd pass along the news that The Bloody Eleventh has reached number 4 so far on the Amazon Best Seller list for the Regimental History category! It's also is seen in the Hot New Releases list as well. Thanks to all of you for trusting a fairly new author. Let's see if we can hit #1! 

New Kindle Edition

Thanks go to the guys at Plum Run Press for a new Kindle edition of my two new releases, Born To Serve & The Bloody Eleventh. As a Cyber Monday Special they have combined both full length books into one Kindle version. It includes the Bonus section with additional pictures and battle maps. 

When I was approached with this idea, I wanted to make the price .99 cents. It was explained to me that Amazon Kindle sets the minimum price according to the file size of the book. Since each of my books are full length, it makes a large file download. So, $2.99 is the best we can do. This is for Cyber Monday only, so don't wait. It's available now for pre-order at this price at the link below.

Both of my books are still available separately in both print and Kindle editions. 


Presentation and Book Signing

Born To Serve cover image

I had a great time Wednesday night at the Citizens Library in Washington PA. I spoke for about 90 minutes about my book Born To Serve, and took some interesting questions for about 30 minutes more! There were some hard core Civil War readers there along with some folks interested in Washington PA history. I had something for everyone so they all went home happy. 

The lovely and gracious Kathy Pienkowski made us feel welcome, and did a great job with promotion. It was nice to meet so many folks interested in my books and also in keeping Major Happer's memory alive. I'd love to return sometime to speak about my next book...

J. D. 

Available on Amazon.

Launch Day!

The Bloody Eleventh cover photo

I'm pleased to announce today that my new book, The Bloody Eleventh: A Regimental History has been released by Plum Run Press. It's now available on Amazon.


The Kindle version has also been released. It contains everything in the print version plus a bonus section with additional pictures and color maps, and also a bonus chapter from my first book, Born To Serve: The Major A. G. Happer Story.  


I'm really excited about this new companion book to Born To Serve as it contains the pictures and maps that my editors cut from that book, plus more. There are over 80 Civil War pictures and 30 maps! Now the reader can read the story while viewing a picture of what the area looked like when the men of the Eleventh were there! The maps really help visualize the "big picture." There were a very few places that there simply are no suitable period pictures available, but almost all areas are covered. 


This story goes farther than BTS, because Captain Happer was wounded at the Wilderness and taken prisoner. The regiment continued on. The Bloody Eleventh tells the complete history of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Infantry, as written by the Regimental Chaplain, the Reverend William H. Locke. I've added my two cents worth throughout and all the pictures and maps adding some context and some of the wider view where appropriate, without messing up Locke's excellent narrative. From the beginning of the war, the story continues on with what happened during the rest of the conflict. One of the hardest fighting regiments in the Army of the Potomac, the Eleventh went on to fight in all the battles from Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Hatcher's Run, Weldon Railroad, Petersburg and more, through Five Forks and on to the surrender at Appomattox. This book isn't all battle details either, it is loaded with human interest stories and asides, some amusing, some not so much.


So, once again fall in with The Bloody Eleventh as we take to the campaign trail and find out what it's like to be in an infantry regiment during the Civil War. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing and bringing it all together.

Thanks to all the good folks at Plum Run Press for making this possible. 


J. D. 





New Release

Cover Image

I'm happy to announce today that my latest book, The Bloody Eleventh, is scheduled for release in early November, 2015. It's a companion book to Born To Serve. This book is the regimental history of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as told by the regiment's Chaplain William H. Locke, who wrote the official history in 1867. By the way, they got the nickname "The Bloody Eleventh" for their victory over Stonewall Jackson at Falling Water very early in the war, and were the first regiment to bear that sobriquet as a result of reportedly being the first Pennsylvania infantry regiment to see combat in the war. I took the history several steps further by adding my two cents worth, and over eighty Civil War photos and thirty maps to help the reader follow along with the narrative. The reader can see most of the places where the regiment fought, camped, or marched through, and follow them on the maps to get a feel for the relationship to the other troops. Also included are the many human interest stories that pepper the history. Some of them are humorous, some not so much. You can get a feel for what the soldiers are thinking and care about at a particular time and watch the changes as events occur and time goes by. 

Those of you who read Born To Serve, know that the 11th Pennsylvania was one of the hardest fighting and most famous regiments in the Army of the Potomac, and saw action at just about every battle in the eastern theater throughout the war and remained heavily involved right up through the surrender at Appomattox. Not only that, they seemed to find themselves in the thick of the action at most of those battles.  

The Bloody Eleventh is easy to read thanks to Reverend Locke's no-nonsense writing style. Not as flowery as much of 1860's prose. That, and the short chapters make this one a pleasure to read either on the go, or settled in for a good read in front of the fireplace this winter. It's been a real pleasure marching along with the men of the Eleventh Pennsylvania and Major Happer in particular over the last four plus years. I hope you have taken the journey right along with me. 


J. D. 

The Bloody Eleventh: A Regimental History, will be available in print and Kindle versions at

I have added a bonus picture and map section to the Kindle version, that aren't in the print version. Plus the maps are in full color. Also included is a free, bonus chapter from my first book, Born To Serve: The Major A. G. Happer Story.

The Bradford & Lemoyne Houses

Bradford House photo
photo by Doug Kerr CC 2.0

Had a wonderful time yesterday visiting the historic Bradford House in Washington, PA. Finished in 1788, the house is the oldest in Washington, and one of the oldest in western Pennsylvania, and played a major role in the famous Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The house has been designated a National Historic Landmark. We had a very nice chat and tour with the lovely ladies there, Denise Cummins and Paula Anderson who made us feel right at home. Both of them are extremely knowledgeable about local history and the Whiskey Rebellion in particular, and are experts about the Bradford House.  The house and gardens are jaw dropping beautiful and the period furnishings compliment the home perfectly. Be sure to visit their gift shop. Tell Denise and Paula I said Hi!  

This year they are celebrating their 50 years as a museum!  The road to this point has been long and hard, with many fits and starts along the way. Any support you can give to the Bradford House Historical Association would be very much appreciated by the fine folks there, so give big! It only hurts for a little while. If you're anywhere near Washington PA, do yourself a favor and stop by for a tour. Look for info on their Facebook page or their website, links below.

LeMoyne House photo

When you're finished at the Bradford House, go around the corner and visit the historic LeMoyne House. Built in 1812 by Dr. John LeMoyne. His son, Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne, a noted abolitionist later lived there. The home was a stop on the underground railroad. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997. The house now is home to the Washington County Historical Society, Clay Kilgore is the Executive Director and is operated as a museum by them, but is so much more. They also administer the LeMoyne Crematory, The Frontier History Center, and the Norma K. Grimes research Library. Don't forget to visit their gift shop. 

I toured the house when doing research for Born To Serve, and I can tell you it's well worth your time. It's filled with early American and Civil War artifacts, and the entire interior is amazing. Please visit their website for more information. This place runs on donations, so give big folks, it's easy and, well...almost painless.


cover photo

Pleased to announce tonight that Born To Serve has reached number 5 on the Amazon Best Seller list in the Civil War Campaigns and Battlefields category! Thank You to all of you who have taken a chance on a new author. 

Outstanding Newspaper Article

Today, the Washington Observer-Reporter ran a very nice story about my book, Born To Serve: The Major A.G. Happer Story. They did a great job featuring a blurb on page 1 above the fold, & the main story on page B1, complete with two color photos. One, of the Major's home, & one of his grave site.  My thanks to writer Jon Andreassi, and photographer Celeste Van Kirk. Jon was able to get the jist of the story, & my desire that the Major not be forgotten came across as well. Personally, I'd like to see a street or something named after A.G. Happer. He certainly has earned it, and this year is the 100th anniversary of his passing.