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W.J. Bolton

W.J. Bolton

Federal (USV)


William Jordan Bolton

(1833 - 1906)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 51st Pennsylvania Infantry

Before Antietam

He had apprenticed as a machinist and was engineer of the Hooven & Sons Rolling Mills in Norristown before the War, and was First Lieutenant of the Wayne Artillerists - a local militia company - by June 1859. On 20 April 1861 they became Company A, 4th Pennsylvania Infantry, and Bolton was commissioned Captain for 3-month's service. They were at Bull Run on 21 July but reportedly refused to engage because their enlistments had expired. He mustered out with them on 27 July 1861 in Harrisburg.

He recruited another Company and on 31 August 1861 again enrolled at Norristown, and mustered as Captain, Company A, 51st Pennsylvania Infantry on 12 September 1861 in Harrisburg.

On the Campaign

He was wounded in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862 by a gunshot that went through both cheeks, breaking his jaw and carrying away some teeth.

The rest of the War

He was treated at the Locust Spring Hospital at Sharpsburg, MD and was on furlough for about three months before he could return to duty in January 1863. He was promoted to Major to date from 17 September 1862 and was appointed Colonel of the regiment on 26 June 1864. He was wounded by a piece of a canister round in action at the Crater near Petersburg on 30 July 1864 - in the face again - and it lodged in his neck or shoulder. He was honored by brevet to Brigadier General of Volunteers on 13 March 1865 and mustered out with the regiment on 27 July 1865 in Alexandria, VA.

After the War

He had a wallpaper store in Norristown and served in several elected offices, including Burgess (1877), borough councilman, and Sheriff. He also served as Major General in the Pennsylvania National Guard. In Norristown in May 1881:

Since then [his wounding at the Crater] General Bolton has felt pain and oppression in his neck, especially during damp weather. Yesterday he had occasion to stoop while attending to a customer in his store, and was immediately taken with a violent fit of coughing. Placing his hand instinctively over his mouth, something dropped into his hand. On removing the blood and mucous covering of the object he found it to be the painful little ball of Confederate cast-iron. It was covered with rust, weighed 273 grains Troy, and the surface was covered with sharp ridges.


General Bolton of Norristown, carries a novel charm on his watch chain. It is the bullet which he received in the war and which he coughed up a short time ago.
He moved to Philadelphia by November 1881 was an Inspector at the US Customs House until July 1886; he was later Collector of Customs there until his death in 1906.

References & notes

Casualty and hospital information from Nelson.1 His service from the Card File2 and Parker.3 The Bull Run detail from Harry Smeltzer's Order of Battle on Bull Runnings. Personal information from John W. Jordan's Genealogical and Personal History of Beaver County (Vol. II, 1914) and a bio sketch in Moses Auge's Lives of the Eminent Dead: And Biographical Notices of Prominent Living Citizens (1879). The quotes above from the Galveston Daily News of 27 May 1881 and the Chester Daily Times of 20 June 1881; both thanks to a post by the anonymous host of YesterYear Once More. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a CDV now in the Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress.

Richard A. Sauers published The Civil War Journals Of Colonel Bolton: 51st Pennsylvania April 20, 1861- August 2, 1865 (De Capo Press) in 2000.

He married Wilhelmina Hall (1836-1908); they had one child and separated in 1859. He married Emma Rupert (1832-1897) in 1865 and they had a daughter.

More on the Web

See Bolton's 1905 view of his regiment's fight for Burnside's Bridge in an essay in Historical Sketches for the Historical Society of Montgomery County, PA; online from the Internet Archive.


10/22/1833; Norristown, PA


08/02/1906; Philadelphia, PA; burial in Riverside Cemetery, Norristown, PA


1   Nelson, John H., As Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Hagerstown: John H. Nelson, 2004, pg. 136  [AotW citation 16478]

2   Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Adjutant-General, Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866, Published <2005, first accessed 01 July 2005, <>  [AotW citation 23102]

3   Parker, Thomas H., History of the 51st Regiment of P.V. and V.V. ..., Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1869, pg. 624  [AotW citation 23103]