Alexander Brady Sharpe, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves

COLONEL ALEXANDER BRADY SHARPE, who passed away at his home in Carlisle, Cumberland county, Dec. 25, 1891, was throughout his active years one of the most prominent lawyers of that place.

     The Sharpes were among the early settlers of Newton township, Cumberland county, and are still numerously represented in that section. Our subject was a great-grandson of Thomas and Margaret (Elder) Sharp (as the name was originally spelled), Covenanters, the latter the daughter of a Scottish laird, who, because of their religious faith, were driven from Scotland and took refuge in the Province of Ulster, in the North of Ireland, living near Belfast, in County Antrim, until their emigration to the New World. Their son, Robert, had crossed the Atlantic at a very early age, and soon returned to Ireland to persuade his father to bring the rest of the family over. This could not have been later than 1746, as two tracts of land, one of 2,000 acres and one of twenty, are recorded in the list of land warrants as having been taken up by Thomas Sharp in May, 1746. The family settled in Newton township, Cumberland county, Pa. Thomas and Margaret (Elder) Sharp had five sons and four daughters, namely: Robert, Alexander, Andrew (who was killed by Indians at what is now Sharpsburg, which was named in his honor), John, James, Mary (Mrs. John McCune), Agnes (Mrs. Moses Hemphill), Martha (Mrs. Huston) and Mrs. Patton. All of this family but Andrew owned land in Cumberland county, and lived and died in the neighborhood of Big Spring, and there in the old graveyard of the United Presbyterian Church, at Newville, rest their remains, as well as those of their children, and many of their grandchildren. All of the sons of Thomas Sharp except Alexander were commissioned officers in the Indian or Revolutionary wars, and he served as a private.

     Alexander Sharpe, son of Thomas, became the largest land owner in Newton township, his holdings extending from near Newville, to the turnpike above Stoughstown, a tract about four miles long and several miles wide, nearly all of which, though divided, is still in the possession of his descendants. Its northern boundary was the headwaters of the Green Spring. Besides his extensive realty holdings Alexander Sharpe had a tannery, distillery, mills, etc. One of his apprentices in the tanning business, which he conducted on quite an extensive scale, was Robert Garrett, whom he sent to Baltimore after he had finished his apprenticeship, and before he was twenty years of age, to get a start in life. He had never been to that city, but Mr. Sharpe secured a warehouse for him, and turned much of the trade of the valley, then carried to Baltimore in wagons, in his direction, thus laying the foundation for the fortune he accumulated. He became the father of John W. Garrett, and grandfather of Robert M. Garrett, both presidents of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company.

     Alexander Sharpe married (first) Margaret McDowell, and they had children as follows: Andrew, Rev. Alexander, William M., John (father of Alexander B. Sharpe), Col. Thomas, Elder (who died unmarried, aged nineteen), and Eleanor (wife of Samuel McCune). Of these, Rev. Alexander Sharpe lived at the Green Spring, and was pastor of the Church at Newville (Big Spring) from 1824 until his death, which occurred in January, 1857. He married Elizabeth Bryson, and they had seven sons and two daughters, of whom Dr. Alexander R. married Nellie Dent, a sister of the wife of Gen. Grant.

     Andrew Sharpe, son of Alexander and Margaret (McDowell) Sharpe, was the father of the late Hon. J. McDowell Sharpe, a native of Newton township, Cumberland county, who was one of the ablest lawyers of Pennsylvania, and one of the most prominent members of the Constitutional Convention of 1872-73.

     John Sharpe, son of Alexander and Margaret (McDowell) Sharpe, and father of Col. Alexander B. Sharpe, was known as “John Sharpe of the Barrens.” He married Jane McCune, granddaughter of James and Abigail McCune, of Newton township, and daughter of Samuel and Hannah (Brady) McCune. The latter was a daughter of Hugh Brady (2), whose father, Hugh Brady, came from Enniskillen, Ireland, and was one of the first settlers in what is now Hopewell township, Cumberland county. Thus it will be seen that Col. Sharpe’s ancestors on both sides were among the first settlers in the upper end of the county.

Verso of a Civilian Wartime Carte-de-Visite of A. Brady Sharpe, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

     Alexander Brady Sharpe was born Aug. 12, 1827, in Newton township. In 1839 he began to prepare for college under Joseph Casey, the elder (father of Gen. Joseph Casey), after his death going to Academia, Juniata county, and completing his studies under the direction of Vanleer Davis, at Chambersburg. In 1843 he entered Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, Pa., as a Sophomore, and graduated from that institution with the highest honors of his class, Sept. 23, 1846. Hon. William H. West, of Ohio, and Hon. John M. Kirkpatrick, of Pittsburg, were among his classmates. After the completion of his college course, he commenced the study of law with Robert M. Bard, Esq., of Chambersburg, completing his legal studies under Hon. Frederick Watts, of Carlisle. The committee appointed to examine him consisted of Hugh Caullagher, W. M. Biddle and Hon. J. H. Graham, and on motion of the last named he was admitted to practice Nov. 21, 1848. He continued with his last preceptor, Judge Watts, until the 1st of the following April, when he opened an office and commenced independent practice, in which he continued until his death, with the exception of the time he served in the army.

     On April 21, 1861, Alexander B. Sharpe enlisted for service in the Union army, becoming a private in Company A, 7th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, which was attached to the 2d Brigade, McCall’s Division. He served in the ranks until Sept. 25th, when he was commissioned second lieutenant of Company E, same regiment, and appointed adjutant. On Dec. 4th he was relieved from duty with his regiment and ordered to report to Brig. Gen. Ord, commanding the 3d Brigade, who had appointed him aide-de-camp. He joined Gen. Ord the same day, and served on his personal staff until the General was wounded and temporarily disabled for field service, when he resigned. After the General recovered our subject was at his instance again commissioned captain and assigned to duty with him, serving until his resignation, on Jan. 28, 1865. Thus, with the exception of the period from Dec. 27, 1862, to Aug. 28, 1863, he was in constant service, being on field duty with the armies of the Potomac, Rappahannock, Tennessee, West Virginia, the Army of the Gulf and the Army of the James. He took active part in the battles of Drainesville, Dec. 20, 1861; Iuka, Sept. 18 and 20, 1862; Big Hatchie, Oct. 5, 1862; Burnside’s mine explosion, July 30, 1864; Newmarket Heights (or Chapin’s Farm) and capture of Fort Harrison, Sept. 9 and 10, 1864. He was brevetted and promoted to the rank of captain and aide-de-camp, United States Army, for gallant and meritorious conduct at the battle of Drainesville, and on March 13, 1865, on the recommendation of Gens. Ord, Meade and Grant, received the brevet ranks of major, lieutenant-colonel and colonel, United States Volunteers, for gallant conduct at Petersburg, and the various operations before Richmond, Virginia.

     On Dec. 19, 1854, Alexander B. Sharpe, married Katherine Mears Blaney, daughter of Major George Blaney, of the Engineer Corps, United States Army, now deceased. Gen. Sharpe was a stanch member of the Republican party, from the time of its organization, but he never held an office, or was a candidate for official honors, political, judicial or otherwise. In religion he clung to the faith of his forefathers, holding membership in the Second Presbyterian Church of Carlisle. Socially, he was connected with Capt. Colwell Post, No. 201, G.A.R., and with the Loyal Legion. He was missed in many of the interests of Carlisle outside of professional circles, for he was an influential advocate of any cause he chose to champion, and a leader in many local enterprises.1

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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.

  1. rom Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.