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Federal (USV)


Joseph R. Higgins

(c. 1817 - 1882)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 125th Pennsylvania Infantry

Before Antietam

A canal boatman from Williamsburg, PA, he was commissioned First Lieutenant, Company B, 125th Pennsylvania Infantry and mustered on 11 August 1862.

On the Campaign

Brother of Colonel Jacob Higgins, he served as aide and courier to the Colonel at Antietam on 17 September 1862. In his after-action report his brother later noted:

On looking around I discovered myself without support either in my rear or right, and, being the only mounted officer present, I gave my horse to Lieutenant Higgins, and instructed him to ride back to the general, inform him of my situation, and ask him to send me support immediately, or I would be unable to hold my position, and that the enemy would certainly flank me and cut me off, my command being at this time in advance of the whole corps...

The rest of the War

He mustered out on 18 May 1863 in Harrisburg at the end of his term of service.

After the War

After about 1868 he lived in Altoona and worked in the shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In May 1882 he was struck and killed by a train:

On Monday night Joseph R. Higgins and two companions of this city [Altoona], went east on a freight train intending to spend the following day fishing. Manayunk station, between Newton Hamilton and McVeytown, was the destination and they arrived there about 2 o'clock on Tuesday morning. Leaving the train Mr. Higgins lingered on the track for some reason while his friends walked to the edge of the river preparatory to to engaging in fishing. Looking back to see what had become of Mr. Higgins they saw that he was still standing on the track and the western express was rapidly approaching. They called to him to look out for the train, but he seemed to bewildered and utterly unable to get out of the way. As the engine neared him he threw up his hands and a moment after was hurled from the track and thrown a distance of fifty feet down the embankment among the willows that border the stream. When his comrades reached him it was discovered that he had been instantly killed.

References & notes

Basic information from Wallace1 and Bates.2 His gravesite is on Findagrave, source also of the quote above from his obituary in the Altoona Tribune of Thursday, 1 June 1882.


c. 1817; Blair County, PA


05/30/1882; Wayne Township, Mifflin County, PA; burial in Williamsburg Lutheran Cemetery, Williamsburg, PA


1   Wallace, William W. (Chairman), and the Regimental Committee, History of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Philadelphia: J.B,. Lippincott Co., 1906, pp. 22 - 74  [AotW citation 1248]

2   Bates, Samuel Penniman, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg: State of Pennsylvania, 1868-1871, Vol. IV, pg. 113  [AotW citation 21501]