The Fraleys of East Smithfield, PA

Christopher Fraley

christopherChristopher Fraley, born 1843, was a prosperous farmer and skillful husbandman with a farm in East Smithfield (PA). He gave especial attention to dairying and general farming. On August 16, 1862, Christopher enlisted in the 141st Regiment (Company K) of the Pennsylvania Volunteers to fight in the Civil War. He received a “bounty” of $25.00 and a “premium” of $2.00 for enlisting. He served gallantly with his regiment until the time of the battle of Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863) when he was unfitted for service by a serious would in the left thigh. To avoid being taken prisoner, or burned alive in the woods (many fires started from the intense firing), he hobbled off the battle-field as best he could for the distance of about one mile. After his wound healed, he was placed in the invalid corps (Company B., 22nd Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps.) at Washington where he remained until the close of the war. He then returned to the farm where he lived until his death in 1887, at the relatively young age of only 44, some 22 years after the termination of the war.

Christopher and his wife Eliza Marvin (1851 – 1932) were married on February 22,1871 (almost 7 years after his Civil War service) and it was Christopher who built the farmhouse on Laurel Hill.  Christopher and Eliza were the parents of five children, two sons Carl (1876-1943) and Harry (1881-1958), and three daughters Minnie (1879-1922), Ruth (1884-1931) and Christine (1887-1974).  Eliza carried on the farm following Christopher’s death and at one time had 10 cows. It is believed that the farm was then taken over by son Harry, who was born in 1881 and thus age 51 when his mother died. The following is a photo of his and Eliza’s tombstone in the Union Cemetary of East Smithfield, PA, also the cemetary where Andrew and Robert Fraley are buried, along with some relatives.

 Wife Eliza was 8 years younger than her husband Christopher, and was 81 at the time of her death in 1932.

Christopher (and his family) were obviously proud of his service during the Civil War as evidenced by the additional tombstone located adjacent the larger one shown. This additional tombstone is also shown here. Note his tombstone below erroneously says he was in Company A – in reality, he was in Company K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief summary of Christopher’s participation in the Civil War is considered appropriate here. Christopher joined in August, 1862, following the second call by President Lincoln for more troops to serve his Federal Army. This second call was for 300,000, and the main person in Bradford County making the call for county boys to join was Henry J. Madill, a Towanda lawyer. Lawyers and clergymen were active throughout Pennsylvania in recruiting new members.

After joining (probably in Towanda), the Bradford County recruits traveled to Camp Curtin (south of Harrisburg) for their training. Madill was named colonel and commander of the 141st Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, to which Christopher was assigned (Company K). With only brief training including use of antiquated Austrian percussion rifles which were used in many units due to lack of rifles from U.S. manufacturers (not up to full production at this point), the 141st and other Pennsylvania Regiments traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia where in December, 1862, they were called upon to assist General Meade’s forces in the seige of Fredericksburg. Not being adequately supported once they were in position, and in response to a charge by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and his soldiers, the 141st was forced to retreat from the battlefield. The 141st were responsible for protecting Meade’s retreating forces and in doing so, fought bravely against Jackson’s troops, incurring many dead and wounded. Thanks to their gallant efforts, however, Meade successfully was able to pull back, to fight with a strong force another day. Their commanding general, Burnside, was removed following this and other poorly planned efforts, and replaced by General Hooker at President Lincoln’s order. Hooker brought the morale up and prepared soldiers under his command for an upcoming major battle at Chancellorsville.

The 141st took up positions at Chancellorsville on April 30, 1863, almost 4 months after Fredericksburg. The 141st was part of the III Corps under General Sickles, and ordered to join Hooker’s main body. It was at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 that General Stonewall Jackson was severely wounded (he died 10 days later) from fire from his own troops while he was reviewing his positions at nightime.  Jackson had snuck his forces around the Army of the Potomac to provide a surprise attack from the West, being sent there by General Lee, who maintained positions from the East to support the “surprise.” Unfortunately, Jackson was severely wounded so he was unable to lead the attack, and was replaced by General J.E.B. Stuart, who commenced the attack on May 3, 1863. This was a very intense battle with many killed and wounded on both sides. Due once again to poor leadership (primarily the unfortunate order to vacate Hazel’s Grove, a key elevated location), the Confederates occupied the high ground and rained heavy artillary fire down upon the Federals. Company K of the 141st was on the outer edge of the 141st positions and when the retreat was ordered by Hooker, it was the last to leave the battlefield in order to assure a safe retreat as possible by the others. It was here where, apparently on May 3,1863, that Christopher received his leg wound, from which he could no longer serve as an active fighting participant. The fire was so intense on May 3rd that thousands were struck by fire from rifles and cannon, many soldiers including their leaders, being struck down.  I believe it fair to say that Christopher was very lucky to escape with his non-fatal injury, considering that the 141st had 294 killed or wounded from an original total of 419.  The 141st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers received many accolades for its extremely courageous actions under the worst of battle conditions. We can be proud to say the Christopher Fraley was a member of this outstanding force.

According to a 6-page summary entitled “FRALEY FAMILY HISTORY” obtained from Raymah Fraley (wife of Glenn, son of Harry, son of Christopher), the following is an obituary of Christpher’s death (paraphrasing):

Christopher Fraley departed this life on Sunday last,funeral taking place at his late residence on the third at one o’clock P.M. Mr. Fraley served as a private…………. The deceased was a member of Phelps Post GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization something like our present Veterans of Foreign Wars) of Smithfield and also of the K. of H. (?) of that place, both being present at the funeral. He was an excellent citizen, respected by all who knew him. He leaves a wife and four small children who mourn. {This summary also states that daughter Christine was born after he died. (These four would be Carl (age 11), Minnie (age 8), Harry (age 6), and Ruth (age 4). It must have been very difficult for his wife Eliza, then pregnant with Christine and with 4 small children, to carry on at the farm. One must expect that sons Carl and Harry had to work especially very hard doing chores (especially milking the 10 cows), attending to chickens, etc.)}