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Federal (USV)


William Prior

(1841 - 1909)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry

Before Antietam

Age 20, he enlisted and mustered as a Private in Company H, 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry on 10 August 1861 in Philadelphia.

On the Campaign

He was in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862, and later recalled:

... I was in Company H which ... was within one company at the extreme left of the regiments. I remember distinctly that as we went forward in line of battle that a body of soldiers, (I don't know what regiments) who had been engaged, broke and came through our line, shortly after this I was wounded. My right leg being shattered by a bullet. At the time I was in a field not very far from the Dunkard Church & nearly opposite to it ...

The rest of the War

He was treated at a field hospital on the Hoffman Farm near Sharpsburg then in the Smoketown Hospital, where Surgeon B.A. Vanderkieft amputated his leg just above his knee. He was discharged for disability from wounds on 11 January 1863.

After the War

He was appointed city telegraph operator in 1863 and became House Sergeant of the 17th District, Philadelphia Police about 1872 and served as such to at least 1887. He was a member of General George G. Meade Post No. 1, Grand Army of the Republic, but he died "suddenly" at age 69 while in Pitman Grove, NJ.

References & notes

His service from Bates1 and the Register.2 Wound and hospital details from Nelson3 and the MSHWR.4 Details from a sketch in Howard O. Sprogle's The Philadelphia Police, Past and Present (1887) and his death notice in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 17 August 1909. His gravesite is on Findagrave.

In 1905 he wrote to Ezra Carman of the Antietam Battlefield Board about his experience at the battle. That letter is now in the Carman Papers at the New York Public Library (Box 5, Folder 4). The "broken" body of soldiers he mentioned were probably men of the 34th New York and possibly 125th Pennsylvania Infantry regiments. Thanks very much to Jim Buchanan for the nudge to look into William Prior, and for the full text of that letter, quoted in part above.


04/19/1841 in ENGLAND


08/12/1909; Pitman, NJ; burial in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


1   Bates, Samuel Penniman, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg: State of Pennsylvania, 1868-1871  [AotW citation 24083]

2   Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Adjutant General's Office, Register of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, 16 volumes, Harrisburg  [AotW citation 24084]

3   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. 355  [AotW citation 24085]

4   Barnes, Joseph K., and US Army, Office of the Surgeon General, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 6 books, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1870, Volume 2, Part 3, pg. 253  [AotW citation 24087]