Confederate Soldier Strikes it Rich at the Emanuel Pitzer Residence

Tom Elmore

Sergeant Major
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
A time to live and a time to die. For Emanuel Pitzer, Sr., who lived on a farm just over a mile southwest of the town of Gettysburg, his time came on June 18, 1863, at the age of 77. His son, Emanuel Pitzer, Jr. inherited the farm, in addition to a small fortune that his father had amassed over the years and retained on the premises - $5,000 in gold, silver and bank notes. Consequently Emanuel, Jr., his wife Mary Ann, and their six young children (Elizabeth, Amanda, Ida, Fannie, Martha and Jacob) could look forward to a very comfortable future. They were not expecting a war on their doorstep. Even the swirling rumors of an impending enemy invasion did not seem to overly concern Emanuel, Jr.

A neighbor and apparent confidant of the family, Joseph Sherfy, had warned the younger Emanuel to securely hide the money that he knew existed, but his advice went unheeded. It was not until some Confederate “skirmishers” (more likely scavengers) were approaching the house on the evening of July 1, or early on July 2, that Emanuel realized he must act. He stuffed the valuables into a bag and pushed it under the bake oven.

However, scavengers knew their business, including the fact that residents hid their prized possessions. They would methodically search a dwelling, emptying drawers and looking into every nook and cranny. Occasionally they could be outwitted, as when an owner had a secret storage space located under a section of the flooring. Emanuel, Jr. was not that smart. One can only imagine the reaction of the Confederate soldier, who as a private earned only $11 in a month in a fluctuating paper currency, when he opened the bag that he found under the oven. We don’t know the name of the soldier, whether he had to share the loot with some of his comrades, or whether he (or they) survived the battle or the war.

Lieutenant John B. Linn of the 51st Pennsylvania was at home in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania recuperating from a wound when the battle of Gettysburg took place. Out of curiosity he journeyed there soon after the battle and recorded his observations of the aftermath. On July 8, while out on the Emmitsburg Road, he learned the story about Emanuel, Jr.’s lost inheritance from Joseph Sherfy. Linn returned to the town, where he was staying for a few nights. There he spoke with Rev. T. P. Bucher, who at the time occupied a study in a three-story brick house on the square. Gossip and rumors pervade every small town, and Gettysburg was no exception. Bucher knew the Pitzers well. In fact, he considered the loss of the fortune a “just retribution,” as the surviving family members had “all been very anxious for the old man’s death,” and one of the daughters (?) had purchased mourning clothes six months previous.” (Existing records show only one son, but Bucher indicates the elder Pitzer also had daughters, if Linn accurately recalled their conversation.)

Emanuel Pitzer, Jr. afterwards filed a claim with the state, in which he described the loss of $5,000 in gold, silver and bank notes that had belonged to Emanuel Pitzer, Sr., who had recently died. Although this dollar amount was confirmed by Joseph Sherfy, other accounts report only $2,000 was stolen, which suggests an intent to defraud the government. In the end it made no difference, since there is no record that Emanuel, Jr. ever received a penny in reimbursement.

-John B. Linn, “A Tourist at Gettysburg,” Civil War Times Illustrated, issue 29 (September/October 1990), pp. 26, 57-65.
-State Claims, on file at the Adams County Historical Society, Gettysburg.

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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Missed this last month, no idea how! It's a great story, thank you! I'm sorry but had to laugh at this ghoulish, greedy family anticipating this poor guy's death and losing their hopes. You're a little surprised they didn't push him out into the battle. Hope the Confederate soldier who jingled home with a fortune in his pocket had a long, happy life.

No one received much of anything in compensation, did they? Crops, groves of trees intended for lumber, livestock gone, homes damaged- heck, all the churches together only received 500 bucks and had been ruined inside, caring for wounded from both sides. Pretty abysmal for service to dying and wounded.
Jan 31, 2017
Thanks for sharing this great account depicting some of humanity's worst weaknesses, greed and avarice, which wore both blue and gray, and sometimes neither.

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