Aaron Ziegler, Co. I, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves

Historical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, by Morton Luther Montgomery, 1909, pg. 417.

Capt. Aaron Ziegler, proprietor of one of the largest retail wall-paper establishments in the city of Reading, with business rooms at No. 355 Penn street, is one of the leading citizens of the city, and a man whose services to his country in the dark hour of her need were of such value that he merits highly the title by which he is always known. Captain Ziegler is an honored member of the old guard whose fast depleting ranks is a reminder that Time’s ceaseless march is removing us farther and farther from one of the greatest wars of history-a war fought on both sides with a courage and tenacity of purpose unequaled, and befitting the Anglo-Saxon blood which, commingling in fratricidal strife, cemented the nation’s disjointed parts into a splendid and magnificent compact structure, alike worshipped by her loyal people, and revered by the whole world. The story of Captain Ziegler’s movements during the Civil war would, if told in all its lights and shadows, be worthy the pen of a novelist of the realistic school. The necessary brevity of this review precludes relating much of interest, but if the reader will “read between the lines,” he will be ready to give credit where credit is due.

Aaron Ziegler
Postwar Photograph of Aaron Ziegler, from the Reading Eagle April 20, 1931.

Of German ancestry, Captain Ziegler comes of a line of agriculturists who settled in Bunker Hill, Lebanon county, Pa., in pioneer times, and who in their different generations were distinguished by loyal service to the commonwealth. In this county Daniel Ziegler, grandfather of Captain Aaron, passed his life as a farmer. The father of the Captain, also named Daniel, was in his turn a contractor and builder, with residence at Myerstown, Pa. He lived to the advanced age of eighty-four, dying in 1883. His wife was Martha Shepler, daughter of Henry Shepler, a farmer of Lebanon county. The family of which the Captain was the youngest member consisted of nine children.

Captain Ziegler was born at Myerstown, Lebanon county, Feb. 20, 1841. His boyhood, passed in humble but honest toil, laid the foundation of a splendid physical constitution, without which he would no doubt have succumbed to the rigors of the war in which he was called to engage ere he had reached maturity. He became quite an expert at the trade of his father, while being helpful to him at odd times, giving his attention more to the artistic feature of decorating, in painting and paperhanging. It was while engaged at this occupation that the Captain heard the tocsin of war resounding through the country, and responded to the call of the President for the defense of “Old Glory.”

Aaron Ziegler had as a boy and youth watched with keen interest the oncoming storm, and while the Presidential campaign was on, which precipitated it, his blood warmed for the inevitable struggle. During that winter he participated in the feverish anxiety of the people, and was ready when the call was made to offer his services to his country. It is true that like all the others of the first enlistment, the boy was mightily afraid the strife would be over before he could get to the front, but that does not detract from the bravery of the act. Suffice it that “he got to the front” in splendid style, and with such vigor as to carry him even beyond the lines for a period, during which he was an unwilling boarder at some of the famous, or rather infamous, Confederate “hotels.” The first enlistment of the Captain was in the Myerstown Rifles, Captain Jerome Myers, for the three months service. This company was not attached to any regiment, and when they reached Harrisburg, the quota for the three months’ service being filled, the company was ordered to Camp Curtin, where it remained until the passing of the Act organizing the Pennsylvania Reserves. He then re-enlisted in Company I, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves, the company being commanded by Captain Jerome Myers and the regiment by Colonel Elisha B. Harvey. To follow this company through the vicissitudes of the war which drew out its cruel length through the ensuing four years would be but the relation of battles fought and hardships endured. It is enough to say that it was with the Army of the Potomac in all of its struggles again Lee, acquitting itself nobly in the field and camp. This is vividly attested by the fact that of the ninety-five who marched out of Myerstown on that July day of 1861, but sixteen answered to roll-call as they stood again in their home town after the conflict. These ninety-five had been cut to thirty-three by the time of the Battle of the Wilderness, where the company together with the entire regiment was captured by the Confederates on May 5, 1864. Then ensued the horrors of Southern prison life, the rigors of which carried away seventeen of the company, the rest to be paroled in an emaciated and most pitiful condition. The Captain’s personal experiences during these harrowing months were such as came to all, with the exception of those which occurred during an attempted escape from the prison at Columbia, S. C. Getting well away from his captors, he spent three weeks in the swamps and lowlands, pursued by fierce blood hounds and fiercer men.

Weak and almost exhausted from hunger and exposure, he one day became aware that they were close on his trail. With the blood hounds baying closely behind him, he attempted to vault a rail fence, and in his weakness fell in such a manner as to injure his right leg-and the game was up. He was recaptured and thenceforth treated with greater severity than ever. The injury was so severe that it will continue to cause the Captain trouble through all his life. During his prison experience the Captain was confined in the following places: Danville, Va.; Macon, Ga.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S. C. (where 500 officers were confined and lay under fire of their own guns on Morris Island for three weeks, being in constant danger of exploding shells); and Goldsboro, N. C.; the time of imprisonment covering eleven weary months. Carrying 180 pounds not one of which was superfluous, strong and healthy at the time of his capture, Captain Ziegler returned after his parole broken in health and weighing but 120 pounds. The Captain’s title came to him by brevet for gallant conduct at the battle of the Wilderness. He had risen by successive promotions from the ranks to second sergeant, to first sergeant, second lieutenant, and first lieutenant. He was in command of the company while first sergeant for five months, and for over a year while first lieutenant, and led it in many of its fiercest engagements.

All honor to the Old Guard, They did their best; They have laid aside the old sword, Shall it not rest?” The war over, Captain Ziegler and his compatriots surprised many European critics by returning quietly to the avocations of peace. He took up the tangled threads where he had cast them aside four years before, and continued that line of work until 1871 in his home town, when he moved to Reading, where he has since resided. His business location was for a time at Seventh and Court streets, and later at No. 425 Penn street, where he operated successfully for eleven years, from which place he removed to his present location, N. 355 Penn street, where he conducts one of the largest wall paper and paint houses in the city.

A splendid solider, Captain Ziegler has been equally faithful as a citizen, ever true to his ideals of good government. A Republican in politics he has never sought office, though in 1890 he was prominently mentioned for appointment to the postmastership of the city. He hold membership in many of the best fraternities, notably the Odd Fellows, the Red Men, and the Knights of the Golden Eagle; and he of course is a popular member of the different soldier organizations,-the Grand Army of the Republic, the Veteran Legion, and the Ex-Prisoners of the War Association. His church affiliation is with the First Reformed Church of Reading.

On Nov. 25, 1866, Captain Ziegler married Miss Clara Bennethum, daughter of John L. Bennethum, who for many years conducted a hotel at Myerstown, and later was in the clothing business in Reading. To the Captain’s marriage one son was born, named Aaron D., now in attendance in the public high school. Full of years, passing into a happy and peaceful old age, with many of the friends of his youth on this side to do him honor, this old soldier looks back on a life well spent, receiving the grateful acknowledgments of a united republic, and meriting the universal esteem which is accorded him.

Aaron Ziegler (1841-1931) – Find a Grave Memorial

City Letter Carrier at USPS | augustmarchetti1980@gmail.com | Website | + posts

Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.