The Life and Death of James Harvey Larrimer, Major, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves

Major J. Harvey Larrimer, 5th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserves,
circa late 1863-early1864. PRVCHS

James Harvey Larrimer, or “Harvey” as he was more commonly referred to, was the oldest of several children born to Robert and Margaret (Lucas) Larimore; his birth occurring sometime in 1828, possibly in the locality known as Pleasant Gap, Centre County, Pennsylvania.  The surname of this family dates as far back as the mid-18th Century and is of Irish descent.  The spelling of the name is shown to change randomly depending on which records you are looking at.  The alteration of the name stretches from Lourimore, Larimore, Larimer, and Larrimer.  The various cousins and even siblings in his line appear to alter the spelling of the last name randomly; perhaps an attempt to Americanize the name, or just spelling it as they thought suitable for themselves.

Little is known about Harvey’s boyhood, but evidence suggests that he spent the early part of his childhood in Centre County, probably in Pleasant Gap – as that is where a number of other family members seem to have resided during that span of time.

In 1850, his parents decided to move the family to Wisconsin, but Harvey – the oldest of his siblings –  appears to have remained behind in Centre County.  He boarded with friends of the family for several years, working hard and studying law in Bellefonte under Judge James Burnside in order that he may build a better life for himself.  Success did not always come easy to Harvey.  In researching Harvey’s background, I discovered specific comments made by his many friends and associates indicating that success did not come easy to him.  His life was full of adverse conditions and great difficulties and he periodically suffered from depression. 

Soon after his admittance to the Bar, he relocated to Clearfield, PA in late 1853 where he knew very few people.  He purchased a house “…situated on the road from Clearfield to Curwensville, near Welch’s saw mill…”  and soon thereafter began his trade as a practicing attorney.  In December of that year, the first notice appeared in the Clearfield Republican introducing himself as an Attorney and Counsellor of Law.  Although serving both Centre and Clearfield Counties, his office was located on Second Street, “…one door north of the residence of John Weaver…” in the borough of Clearfield. 

Harvey worked hard at his profession, making new acquaintances and becoming more familiar with the residents in his adopted community.   Like many aspiring men of the times, Harvey became connected with the Pennsylvania Militia of which several companies local to Clearfield County were in operation during the 1850s and 1860s.  These Clearfield companies composed the 5th Brigade, 14th Division of the state’s militia.  In late August of 1854, Harvey put a notice in the Raftsmans Journal throwing his hat in the ring to be considered for the rank of Major.  It read, “Notice:  I would respectfully offer myself as a Candidate for Major, of the 5th Brigade, 14th Division Penna. Volunteers, at the election on Monday the 4th of September. J. H. Larrimer, Aug. 30, 1854.”  He was elected Major of the 5th Brigade in mid-September 1854 to fill that post which had recently been vacated by another officer. 

Typically one would assume that any person holding such a high, senior role must be indicative of that individual’s knowledge and experience militarily to have earned them that post.  The structure which defined the ranking system in the militia however, although similar to the Army, was altogether a different beast in comparison to how soldiers in the Army were transitioned in rank.  The Army’s protocol for promotion was appointment based, whereas the militia was based on popular election.  In the Army, men were strictly appointed to fill various posts mostly based on years of service, experience and merit; in the militia on the other hand, a person could have earned a higher rank for any number of reasons, particularly that of their social standing in their community.  It does appear, based on the lack of evidence of prior involvement in the militia, that Harvey won the rank of Major in the election largely due to his popular influence socially within the community rather than prior military expertise.  

R. Fenton Ward, Co. I, 1st Pennsylvania Rifles
R. Fenton Ward, former business partner of Harvey’s in the Clearfield Republican. Ward was commissioned a First Lieutenant in Co. I, 1st PA Rifles, better known as the Bucktails or 13th PA Reserves. Courtesy of Ronn Palm’s Museum of Civil War Images.

Harvey played other numerous social roles and positions in the Clearfield community which widened his sphere of influence across several counties in central Pennsylvania at the time.  “Gen. Larrimer” as he was referred to in countless articles.

In July of 1857, Harvey embarked on a joint business venture with an associate of his, Robert Fenton Ward, Jr., taking charge of the local newspaper, the Clearfield Republican.  The Republican was previously conducted by Daniel W. Moore, who, although retiring from the position of editor to pursue other vocations, still retained an interest in the paper.  Harvey served as editor of the paper, while Ward served as publisher.  Life of an editor seemed to have suited Harvey. A friend recalled, “…although surrounded with many adverse circumstances…as an editor, his teachings were of the highest and most manly tone, purest patriotism and soundest logic.”  The partnership went on until his business partner left the Republican to pursue other interests, leaving Harvey the sole proprietor of the paper.  Ward would later go on to become a Lieutenant in the 1st Pennsylvania Rifles (13th Pennsylvania Reserves.)

In late 1857, Harvey listed his property for sale and soon after took up residence with his brother Charles K. Larrimer, who was living with his young family on “…Locust Street, between Third and Fourth streets, in the borough of Clearfield.”  Charles, who had initially gone west with the family in 1850, returned to Pennsylvania at some point prior and began working as a carpenter.

Charles Larrimer post war photograph.  Brother of James Harvey Larrimer.
Postwar Photograph of Charles Larrimer,
brother of James Harvey Larrimer.

His overall performance in filing the post of Major between 1855 and 1858 must have impressed both rank and file in the militia, as in 1859 he was elected Brigadier General, commanding the 5th Brigade, 14th Division of the state’s militia.

By July of 1860, Harvey’s share of the Clearfield Republican had been sold to George B. Goodlander, and Harvey pursued other interests while continuing to practice law. He was elected President of an organization known as “The Foster Club of Clearfield,”  this club was purely political in nature, “…the object of the Club [was] to be the dissemination of documents and adoption of such measures as will secure the election of all regular nominees of the National, State, District and County Democratic conventions, and providing that all Democrats favorable to these objects may be elected members of the club…”

At the outbreak of the war, Harvey was still filling the post of Brigadier General of the 5th Brigade.  There is no mention of Harvey’s whereabouts or activity until mid-May when a notice was featured in the Clearfield Republican informing its readers that Harvey had been elected First Lieutenant in the Washington Cadets, a company which became Company C, of the 5th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserves1.  The Washington Cadets had been organized a year prior in 1860.  Its organization when it formed was as follows:  Captain John Oscar Lorraine, First Lieutenant L. R. Merrell and 2nd Lieutenant John W. Bigler.  It’s also interesting to note that Harvey’s brother Charles is also on the roll, listed as Second Sergeant.

The services of this company were tendered to the Governor on April 22, 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers.  Nearly a year after it had been organized, the leadership of the Cadets remained largely the same, with the exception being that 1st Lt. Merrell had been replaced with Zarrah C. McCullough.  In addition, Charles Larrimer, Harvey’s brother, also seems to have disappeared from the roll as well, but a distant cousin of his, Robert Crawford Larrimer appears as a private.

There is no mention of Harvey being involved with the Cadets at all up until mid-May, when  it is presumed that he enrolled as a private just prior to the departure of the company for Camp Curtin.  Perhaps this was a last-ditch effort to get into the game before it was too late.  He may have been waiting to see what role he would play as a general officer in the Pennsylvania Militia, which apparently amounted to little of anything.  I believe by the time he enrolled himself with the Washington Cadets, elections for those officers had already been held and there were no further vacancies for officers.

While at Camp Curtin, First Lieutenant Zarrah C. McCullough resigned his post for the purpose of returning to Clearfield to raise another company.  I suspect there may have been some political differences between McCullough and Capt. Lorraine during this time.  Lorraine had been the center of some controversial remarks that he, the Captain, had made while at Camp Curtin.  I believe these issues may have caused  the resignation of  McCullough and ultimately the Captain’s resignation as well.  McCullough and others, including Harvey’s brother Charles, went on to form Company E, of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers, also known as the Second Bucktail Regiment.

Elections were held to fill the void left by McCullough, and Larrimer was elected to fill the vacancy.  He retained this post only a short while, as he was elected to fill yet another post, this of Captain of Company E, of the 5th Reserves in mid-July.  This vacancy in Co. E was caused by Capt. John Irvin Gregg being elected Colonel of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves.  Harvey must have been glad to be amongst familiar faces, as Company E was from his native Centre County, and who still thought highly enough of him to elect him as their new leader.

Captain James Harvey Larrimer, Co. E, 5th Reserves
A photograph taken of James Harvey Larrimer while Captain of Company E, the “Centre Guards”, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves. This likeness of him was taken in Alexandria, Virginia, probably while the regiment as well as the division were encamped at Camp Pierpont in late 1861 to early 1862.

While Harvey was in the service, associates at home sought him out by way of casting his name forth as the Democratic Party candidate for the Legislature.  This appears to have come as a surprise to Harvey, being done entirely without his knowledge in the matter.  On August 15, at the Ridgeway conference, the committee voted on the candidates, but Harvey failed to secure the ticket.  He was nonetheless, quite thrilled and honored to have even been considered as a candidate.  Harvey’s loss politically was still on the minds of his associates nearly a year after this conference had taken place.  Those who put him forth as a candidate nearly a year later excused his loss as being a farce.  “By what game of ‘hocus-pocus,’ or ‘slight-of-hand’ performance such a result was obtained, we do not pretend to say, but we do not ‘know all the facts in the case.’  But, if we would say that, perhaps, Capt. Larrimer was too much of a war man – too much of a true patriot – too honest to subscribe to the edicts of Hughes and Vallandigham, and, therefore, did not suit the wire-pullers and friends of ‘that small patriot band’ who ‘are entitled to the gratitude of every’ rebel now in arms against the Government.  And hence, Captain Larrimer was not nominated at the Ridgway conference.”

Captain Larrimer went on in service of the country, spending the winter of 1861-1862 in Camp Pierpont with his men.  He participated in the Seven Days Campaign in the summer of 1862, and although having been at the head of his company the entire time, had been spared from injury as a result of the hard fighting that was done there. Special mention was called to Larrimer’s behavior during these battles before Richmond, when the comment was made that he was not “…merely content to command his company, which he did well, he took a wounded man’s musket & fought in the ranks.”

He continued to lead Company E at Second Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam.  At this point, due most likely to exposure from hard campaigning and long marches on foot, he was suffering severely from rheumatism, but he continued to lead his men in the field.  A soldier in the regiment noted, “After the battles in Maryland, [Larrimer] was disabled by rheumatism, but followed slowly and painfully the regiment in its advance.  As he grew worse, he purchased a horse to which he used to keep up with his company. At the assault at Fredericksburg, he, against the surgeon’s remonstrance and his friends’ advice, marched at the head of his company [in] the attack.”

The charge of the Pennsylvania Reserves at Prospect Hill during that battle of Fredericksburg, although successful, was unsupported and the Reserves were forced to withdraw under heavy fire.  The losses in the 5th Regiment were particularly high.  It was remembered by a soldier fighting with the 5th Reserves that, “…[we were entirely] unsupported…[and] charged up through the enemy’s works [but were] driven back by overwhelming masses of the rebels, who concentrated to save their lines…Our gallant Lieut. Col. commanding, George Dare, was wounded, our brave Major, Zentmyer, wounded and a prisoner, when the command devolved upon Capt. Larrimer.  He stepped forward to take charge of the regiment, but it was broken and beaten back.  Slowly and calmly he moved off the field, (he, Capt. Smith and the color bearer between them, the last off the regiment [to leave the field],) escaping by miracle from the tempest of shot that swept the field, killing and wounding more than half the regiment.”

In February 1863, Capt. Larrimer finally was given a furlough, permitting him to return home to recover from the ailment that had plagued him so severely in the later part of the previous year.  His condition was sufficiently bad to be noticed by the editor of a Huntingdon newspaper, who called attention to Capt. Larrimer’s brief presence in Huntingdon on February 12, that “…the former editor of the Clearfield Republican…passed thro’ [here]…on his way home, to recruit his health.- The Captain has seen much hard service in which [he had] participated.  He is now badly crippled with rheumatism.” 

It was about this time that Harvey’s skillful penmanship as a poet was revealed to the many readers of the Democratic Watchman which was published in Bellefonte, Centre County. A poem written by Larrimer, that he had drafted while  in Camp at Belle Plains, January 16, 1863 and addressed to a “S. J. F.”, or “Jean” as she’s referred to in the poem, went as follows:

Though small may seem the boon you ask-
A line to deck your Album’s page,
To me, it were a lighter task
To lead the van where battles rage,
Than, by the campfire’s flick’ring rays,

To wield a soldier’s clumsy pen,
And bind each thought that, listless, plays
Among the chambers of the brain;
Or, be the battle lost or won,
Perform another still more trying,
After the fearful strife is done,
View, unmoved, the dead and dying.

A soldier true–and well ’tis known, 
Whose duty all his thoughts engage,
A brave and loyal heart may own, 
And yet be neither bard nor sage;
But since I feebly thus essay,
And with your slight request comply,
To find a theme to suit my lay, 
I must on days long gone rely:
And there from memory’s gathered stores
Beneath a heap of gloomy scrolls, 
That many a hapless grief deplores,
A sweet domestic scene unroll;
And on tho cheerful faces there,
Where naught but pleasant smiles are soon,
None doth a happier aspect wear
Than lively. romping, bonny Jean.

A few, brief years had thoughtless past, 
And then, alas! that scene–how changed!
Deep sorrow had those smiles o’ercast —
Relentless Death its bliss deranged.
Father, mother, taken away,
Three tender orphans left to mourn,
Who ne’er had known a joyless day,
Nor seen a banished are return.

A few, brief years! Two lives had closed,
To parents’ noblest duties given :
To their dear babes the path disclosed,
Then wing’d their way from Earth to Heaven.
Their offspring they had guarded well
In life, from every care and ill;
And wen the bolt, unlooked fur, fell, 
They bowed submissive to His will;
Committing to his guardian care,
The stricken loved ones left behind,
Trusting the seed I might flourish there, 
Implanted in each infant mind.

Life’s direst ills must all be borne,
The fairest flowers must fade and die,
The loved ones from our side be torn, 
In death the warmest heart must lie;
Yet orphans’ tears may soon be dried, 
The cares of life be boldly met,
The feet tread firm the path untried-
The heart its grief may not forget.

Tis thus, my Jean, with you and I,
Tho’ you have trod a peaceful path.
While I have sought a stormy sky,
Amid contending foemen’s wrath,
As hangs dark melancholy o’er us,
When fed are pleasures, vain and brief,
Still comes ever up before us,
Our early loves, our early grief.

Adieu! Adieu! -My tedious muse,
Who now would fain her lay prolong,
Will a line or couplet oft refuse.
And yet spin out a tuneless song..

These lines, too long for Album’d leaves,
May still a pleasant thought invoke-
’Tis more than every pen achieves, 
And few have tend’rer echoes woke.

BELLE PLAINS. VA
January 16th 1863.2

After returning to the army after his furlough, he resumed command of his company until May of 1863, he was commissioned Major of the regiment.

Larrimer was with the 5th Regiment during the Gettysburg Campaign, being attached to the Third Brigade under Colonel Joseph W. Fisher (former commander of the 5th Reserves), which was part of the 5th Army Corps.  The regiment fought in the area of Little and Big Round Top between July 2 and 3, 1863.  In his after action report of the battle, Col. Fisher of the Third Brigade, called special attention to Major Larrimer, stating “…while all subordinate field officers are deserving of special mention, especially Maj. James H. Larrimer, of the Fifth Regiment, who, suffering from acute rheumatism, refused to remain out of the battle, although, in my judgment, unfit for duty.”

Not long after the fighting in Pennsylvania, Major Larrimer was detached from the regiment and detailed on the staff of Major General Samuel W. Crawford, who commanded the division of Pennsylvania Reserves. On Crawford’s staff he filled the post of  acting Assistant Inspector General, a duty which would be his last.

Major James Harvey Larrimer, 5th Reserves
Two different wartime views of Major James Harvey Larrimer, 5th Reserves
Major James Harvey Larrimer, 5th Reserves

In February 1864, the different brigades composing the Pennsylvania Reserves was spread out between Alexandria and Bristoe Station, the latter being the encampment of Division Headquarters.  While here, on February 14, an order was dispatched from General Crawford, instructing that a scouting party be sent out past the town of Brentsville, to the other side of Cedar Run to investigate reports of confederate forces in the area.  This routine  duty fell upon the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, whose commanding officer instructed Lt. Patrick S. Earley to take twenty-five men (from various companies in the regiment) to accomplish this mission.  

After the detachment was organized, Lt. Earley sent four men to ride in advance which were to be followed up with the remainder of the column.  Prior to Earley’s departure from Bristoe Station, seven officers of General Crawford’s staff attached themselves to the Earley’s party.  They were Major Larrimer, Captains James Carle (Provost Marshal) and E. B. W. Restieaux, and Lieutenants Samuel H. Quail (Assistant Provost Marshal,) Harvey H. Clover, Aaron Scudder and an officer referred to as “Schutt.”

The quiet, dilapidated village of Brentsville was only about three miles distant in a southeasterly direction from Bristoe, therefore it wasn’t very long after the main column started when one of the advanced scouts returned.  He rode up quickly to Lt. Early, snapped a salute and reported three suspected guerrillas were in the proximity of the town, and were seen scurrying from its outskirts toward a thicket of pines in the direction of Cedar Run.  The column hastened its pace, and soon it was passing on the main road through Brentsville where it halted at the bridge on the western side of Cedar Run.

It was here that Lt. Early ordered that his troopers dismount, instructing three of them to remain at the bridge head to hold the horses for the dismounted and guard that quarter while the remainder were to cross. After conferring with the scouts, it appears that Maj. Larrimer and Lieutenants Clover and Earley – all being mounted – accompanied them to the area across the bridge where the rebels were last seen. 

After crossing the bridge, Maj. Larrimer “…discovered three men standing in the road a short distance ahead of him, and still riding on, drew his revolver and fired at them.”  This encouraged those behind him to hasten up in support, when “…almost simultaneously with his own fire, [they] received a volley from [the right and]  rear…[apparently from carbines.]“  At once, five troopers near him instantly fell – and Larrimer himself toppled from his horse to the ground, struck down by multiple bullets.  Both Lt. Earley and Clover and one other trooper, who apparently was still mounted and uninjured, “…had gone so far and were under such headway as to make it prudent to go ahead, which they did, passing the enemy masked close to the road on their right.”

Captain James J. Carle, 6th PA Reserves. In 1864, he was the Provost Marshal on Gen. Crawford’s Staff, and the primary witness in the ambush in which Harvey was killed.

Capt. Carle, remaining on the Brentsville side of the creek with the other officers, observed that the nature of the bridge warranted that the men cross in single file, as that would be the safest course of action.  As Carle and the other officers waited for the column to cross before they made their way over, 

He remembered, from his position on the other side of the run, that “…when the head of the column had reached the opposite side[,] several shots were fired…” which caused the column to be broken into two sections.  Those troops closest to the other side of the creek had no choice but to rush headlong toward the firing in order to seek cover from their exposed position on the bridge, while the remainder who were just starting, were forced back to the other side with Carle and the other officers.

Carle immediately assumed command of the party on his side of the bridge, thus numbering about thirteen troopers with the intention to cross immediately and go on the offensive, but it appears there was much reluctance at doing so by the men in doing so.  After some time had passed, Carle remembered, we “…went back to the terminus of this neck of timber, intending to advance along on its right to endeavor to get a view of the rebels and if possible…attack them, but the men evinced much reluctance and hesitancy in following, and it was only by force that a party would go dismounted through the thicket to where the major was lying…”

As Carle and the other officers approached the scene of the ambush, they found Major Larrimer and two troopers close to him dead, and four wounded, one of which would later succumb to his wounds.3  Aside from his horse which was missing, Larrimer had been stripped of his pistols, boots and “…a seal ring which the Major wore on the third finger of his left hand – a trinket that he valued very highly.”  But his watch and sword were left behind by the scavenging guerrillas who staged the ambuscade.  After investigating the thicket in which the enemy had concealed themselves, one dead guerilla lay where he fell, and “…traces (by pools of blood) of some two others having lain [had been] carried off.”

Bridge Over Cedar Run near Brentsville.
A Modern Day Photograph (2023) of the proximity where the ambush occurred. From this view, we are looking south, the other side of which you can see is where the ambush took place and Larrimer and the cavalrymen were killed.

As the bodies of Larrimer and the others killed were being removed to the other side of the bridge, Carle took note of confederate vedettes on a nearby hill, and was of the mind to attack them with the little force he had left.  This was advised against by the remaining officers who were with Carle.  What was left of the expeditionary force was withdrawn to the town of Brentsville, and Carle rode back to camp at Bristoe Station to report to General Crawford.  Crawford immediately sent two companies of the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves to assist, as well as some more cavalry, but nothing more transpired.

The subject of this biography, James Harvey Larrimer, was between 35 and 36 years of age when he made the ultimate sacrifice for the Union cause in which he so nobly believed.  

Larrimer’s body was brought back to camp at Bristoe Station, and was then forwarded to his regiment, the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves which was camped at Alexandria, Virginia.  

The wagon transporting Larrimer’s body came into camp there the next morning on February 15th.  A comrade and friend of Harvey’s, Lt. Granville P. Swoope, recalled the scene.  “When [Maj. Larrimer’s] body came to the Regt yesterday morning, the men all gathered round the ambulance, with uncovered heads, and in the most perfect silence – while the tears streamed down the cheeks of many war-torn veterans.  I never witnessed such a demonstration of respect and esteem for any fallen officer, except Col. Simmons.”4

Swoope and some others accompanied the body of their fallen Major to Washington, D.C., where it was left with an embalmer at the cost of his fellow officers, to preserve his remains as they desired “…his friends to see him in death as he was in life.”  Harvey had at one time expressed interest in being buried in Clearfield, Pennsylvania should he be killed,  and with this knowledge they intended on sending his body home to satisfy his sentiment.

When it was time for Harvey’s remains to be sent north, it was accompanied by the entire 5th Regiment, along with the 7th and 8th Regiments in a “…last sad offering to him who was loved and respected by all who knew him.”

Captain Thomas H. Caldwell, of Company K of the 5th Regiment boarded the train with Harvey’s coffin, the Captain being permitted to escort the body of Larrimer back home to his home in Clearfield.  

Soon, news of Larrimer’s death was sent back north where it filled the newspapers with sketches of the circumstances surrounding his death.  Upon reaching the eyes and ears of those in Clearfield and Centre Counties, the grim and sad notice of Harvey’s cast the entire community into a state of mourning.  “Our community was thrown into a state of the deepest melancholy on Thursday evening [last] on the announcement in a brief telegraphic despatch in the Harrisburg Patriot Union that Maj. James Harvey Larrimer had fallen on Sunday the 14th inst., at Cedar Run near Brentsville, Va.”

Captain Thomas H. Caldwell, Co. K, 5th Pa Reserves. Caldwell was the officer who accompanied Harvey’s remains back home to Clearfield.

Similar accounts such as the following were widely published throughout the northern towns and cities: “The sad news has just reached this place of the death of this distinguished officer and gallant gentleman, who was killed, on the 14th inst., in a skirmish at Brentsville.  Major Larrimer was for a number of years a citizen of this county, from whence he removed to Clearfield and became connected with the Democratic organ at that place in the capacity of editor.  His death has thrown a gloom over this entire community.  Time and space forbid us to say more at present.”  The editorial went on, “Among the many visitations of this melancholy character with which our community has been afflicted since the commencement of the present unnatural war, the deep gloom, and heartfelt sorrow, was more universal on this than upon any other occasion.”  In recalling his standing in the community, it was recalled that “Major Larrimer was a native of Centre county, and removed to this county in the latter part of 1853, when he commenced the practice of law.  In July 1857, he took charge of the [Clearfield] Republican, and conducted it until July, 1860.  Although surrounded with many adverse circumstances, many of our present patrons will bear testimony to the fact that, as an editor, his teachings were of the highest and most manly tone, purest patriotism and soundest logic.”

Preparations were immediately undertaken in Clearfield to receive the body of Major Larrimer by friends of Harvey, primarily those belonging to the Bar and Editorial community.

On the 18th of February, members of the Bar assembled at the Prothonotary’s office to “…make arrangements to show due honor and respect to the gallant dead.”  A committee was formed, and various officers were appointed to fill different roles.  John W. Bigler, a former Lieutenant of Company C, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves was present, and proceeded immediately to Centre County to “…ascertain and report respecting the destination of the body of Major Larrimer, and to give information to his friends in Centre County.” 

John W. Bigler, Second Lieutenant, Co. C, 5th Reserves
John W. Bigler, son of ex-governor Bigler of Pennsylvania. He was an original member of the Washington Cadets from 1860 until he resigned due to health reasons in 1861. Bigler was also one of the men who formed the committee to receive Harvey’s body when it was sent home to Clearfield. PRVCHS

News arrived on the morning of March 20 in Clearfield that Capt. Caldwell had arrived at the Tyrone & Clearfield Railroad in Phillipsburg, and was en route to Clearfield.  The members of the Clearfield Bar gathered later that evening and rode out to the road where it met Capt. Caldwell along with a few others who were escorting the wagon with the coffin. Together, they took Harvey’s remains to his brother’s house on Locust Street, between Third and Fourth Streets in the borough of Clearfield.  Charles Larrimer, Harvey’s brother, was unable to make it home for the services, as he was still serving with the 149th Pennsylvania at this time.

The funeral was originally planned to take place the following day on Sunday, however, a change was made to the itinerary and the funeral was rescheduled for Monday, the 22nd so that Harvey could lay in state at the courthouse for those of the community to pay their final respects.

A friend of Harvey’s, Joe W. Furey had arrived early Sunday.  Unaware of the change in schedule, remembered that“…[at about] nine o’clock, we proceeded to the house where the body lay to look once more upon the noble features, now so cold and immovable in the still embrace of death.  Poor Harvey! There he lay, his once handsome face pale as a block of marble.  With the exception of being slightly swollen, his appearance was quite natural, and I turned my head away to hide the tears that would come to pay tribute to the memory of my friend.”

At 10 o’clock, the pall-bearers who were appointed by the Committee of Arrangements organized by the Bar, came to remove the body to the Court House where “…they lay in state within the railing of the bar, which was suitably draped in mourning.  The coffin was of rose-wood elegantly finished and mounted.  It was covered with the original flag of the regiment, which had been presented by the ladies of Clearfield to the ‘Washington Cadets’…on the top of the flag and coffin lay the sabre, worn by [Harvey] when he fell.  The whole was surmounted with a beautiful wreath of evergreens.”

It was remembered that “A continual stream of visitors thronged the Court House…” as “…he seemed as if quietly asleep – but it was the sleep that knows no waking.  During the day the court-house was visited by hundreds of men, women and children to obtain a hard look at the form of one who was universally esteemed.”  Harvey was removed once more back to his brother’s house until the following day when  the funeral services were scheduled to take place.  

Partial View of General Crawford's Staff at Bristoe Station, January of February of 1864.
Partial View of General Crawford’s Staff at Bristoe Station, January of February of 1864. Left to right, Unknown, General Crawford, Unknown Bucktail (possibly William Wallace Brewer,) Major J. Harvey Larrimer, Captain Chil Hazzard, Lt. Harvey Clover and Unknown Officer. This is likely the last photograph ever taken of Larrimer, and may have been taken very close to the time he was killed.

On that day at two o’clock, the remains were again taken to the Court House, where the funeral sermon was preached by a Reverend Mr. Baron from Hollidaysburg…  His sermon was from the text,  ‘Prepare to meet thy God,’ And was solemn and impressive, intended more as a warning to the living than as an eulogy upon the dead.

Never before have I seen such demonstrations of respect to any man.  When I tell you that the Clearfield Court House is seated for thirteen hundred persons, and that, during the delivery of the sermon, it was crowded to its utmost capacity, while hundreds were compelled to remain outside, you will have some idea of the love and esteem in which Major Larrimer was held by the people among whom he had spent the greater portion of his manhood.  His death was the all-absorbing topic – nothing else was talked of, and all business was suspended to do him honor.  I was astounded to see the hold he had on their people’s affections, and it touched me to see their tokens of love and regard.  Where he had been a stranger he was now an idol.  But he was such a noble man it was no wonder they esteemed him, and it can be said of no one more worthily than of him – “None knew him but to love him, None named him but to praise.”

The procession was then formed, and proceeded to the Cemetery, in the following order: – 

  1. The clergy.
  2. The Clearfield Brass Band.
  3. The Members of the Bar.
  4. The Hearse, with the corpse, and surrounded by the pall-bearers.
  5. Military Escort of returned and furloughed soldiers, commanded by Lieut. D. McGaugh[e]y, of the 5th Regiment.
  6. The Relatives.
  7. Citizens.

As the procession slowly wended its way, on foot, to the melancholy dirge played by the band – it presented a most imposing and solemn spectacle.  

Captain David McGaughey, Company C, 5th Reserves
Captain David McGaughey, Company C, 5th Reserves. McGaughy was home on furlough when the funeral for Major Larrimer took place. He was in command of the military escort of soldiers which took part in the procession; these men were either recently discharged from service or home on furlough when the funeral occurred. PRVCHS

“Arriving at the grave, the coffin was lowered into the narrow house appointed to receive the remains of the hero, after which three volleys were fired over the tomb by a squad of soldiers who accompanied the remains to the Cemetery.  The grave was then filled up, and as the clods rattled down upon the coffin and the weeping relatives turned away, all that was left of James Harvey Larrimer had passed from the sight of us forever.  Thus had another brave soldier gone to his long home, his noble heart been sacrificed to the dreadful march of war.

The demonstrations of respect to Major Larrimer by the citizens of Clearfield, were very gratifying to his relatives in this county.  The immense outpouring of the people was as unexpected as it was grateful to them, and they were much touched by the universal tenderness which was everywhere manifested for the memory of the departed hero.  To the Committee of Arrangements, the members of the Bar, and to all others who assisted in the kind and delicate management of the reception of the body and the subsequent funeral obsequies, they feel the deepest gratitude and would return their sincere thanks.”

After Major Larrimer had been cast to his grave forever, his friend Joe Furey wrote a bit of a tribute to him.  “Major Larrimer was a poet of no mean ability, and wooed the Muses frequently in his hours of leisure.  I have read a number of his productions, and find them quite beautiful.   But he was always too modest to publish anything he wrote, and when urged to do so, would reply that they were not worth publishing.  The lines he wrote for the Album of a lady of this place, and which were published in the Watchman, without his knowledge, about a year ago, were the only production of his that I have ever seen in print, and they were very beautiful.  I have now in my possession a little poem of his, written nearly ten years ago, which he never intended should meet the public eye.  I append it, however, for the purpose of showing that, although he could fight like a warrior and die like a hero, he could also be tender and gentle as a woman.  It is addressed to a lady and is entitled: 

A VALENTINE.

Another year has flipped by,
Hastening manhood’s sure decline;
Amid its cares, again I try
To greet thee with a valentine.

For, when in times a twelve-month gone,
My heart, whose warmest throb is thine,
Poured out its love for thee alone,
Confessing thee its valentine;

I hoped – and fondly trusted, too,
That ere another year was mine,
Two hearts so faithful, fond and true
As ours, would be our valentine.

Alas! How vain are human hopes!
The year has fled – I still repine!
No road to bliss the future opes 
For thy unhappy valentine.

And I, with grief, lament each hour
The Fates, to cross us, still combine;
Yet we may still defy their power
To change our hearts, my valentine.

Misfortune shall but prove my love;
While thus I fully trust in thine,
I swear by all the Powers above,
Thou e’vr shalt be my valentine.

St. Valentine’s Eve, 1855. – Harvey.

There are a number of other poems of Major L. extant, which, if they could be collected, would make a very pleasant little volume.  I intend to make an effort to collect them, and if successful, may favor you with some more selections.  His life was far from being all sunshine – he had met with many trails and disappointments, and struggled into position only through the force of his own brave genius.  As a consequence, his poems are tinged with a shade of sadness, which, however, rather adds to, than detracts from, their beauty.

Major Larrimer was a perfect gentleman, a chivalric soldier, an able lawyer and a devoted friend.  His death is a public calamity.  Very truly, your friend, JOE W. FUREY.”

Unfortunately, to the best of the author’s knowledge, no collection of his poetic works were ever assembled, and if they were, could find none published.

The Court House at Clearfield, Pa.
The Court House at Clearfield, PA, built in 1861. History of Clearfield County PA.
Hillcrest Cemetery, Clearfield, Pa., Harvey’s final resting place.

A committee was formed again by the Clearfield Bar in which they resolved to open subscriptions to take proper measures to erect a suitable monument over the grave of Major Larrimer.  A letter was received in April of 1864 from Captain Alfred M. Smith, who commanded Company C of Larrimer’s former regiment, stating that he had “…raised $142 for the Larrimer monument, among the men of the regiment to which the gallant Major belonged.”  The monument to Harvey’s memory still stands to this day.

In July of 1880, sixteen years after the death of Harvey, and fifteen since the war had ended, veterans of the Union Army created a Grand Army of the Republic post in Clearfield which was named the “Larrimer Post, No. 179” in honor of Harvey’s sacrifice.  “He was … the bravest Larrimer that ever drew breath.  The Post was appropriately named.”

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.

  1. The elections for these officers is dated May 9, 1861. See regimental papers of the 5th Reserves, Pennsylvania State Archives.
  2. The author of this biography of Larrimerr believes that “Jean” and “S. J. F.” is a reference to Sarah Jane Furey, whose parents were John M. and Marry (Carson) Furey, both of whom died in the 1850s.  This thought is purely speculation due to the relationship between the Larrimer family and that of the Furey family, and in connection with some content written by Harvey’s friend and distant cousin, Joe W. Furey.
  3. The killed were Major Larrimer of Crawford’s Staff, and of the detachment of the 13th Cavalry were Corporal John Ellis of Company A, Private John Heckerman of Company F and Private Thomas Robinson of Company M.  I have been unsuccessful in locating the names of the other casualties.
  4. Colonel Seneca G. Simmons, the second Colonel of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves who was killed at the Battle of New Market Cross Roads in the summer of 1862.