When surveying the burials in cemeteries in small town and rural areas of the deep south, such as the Minden area, one of the more unique things to find is the grave of a veteran of the Union Army during the Civil War. While the stories of carpetbaggers are legendary, most of those people lived in larger cities, not more rural areas. Still at least two Union veterans are buried in the Minden area. There are probably others, but these are the two that I know about and they are the topic of today’s Echo of our Past.
The first veteran is one I know of because of family connections. Charles Schneider was born on June 27, 1841 in Stuttgart, Germany. Based on Census records, he came to the United States in about 1853, apparently settling in Wisconsin. In 1861, he enlisted in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, where he served as a corporal in Company L. The unit saw action in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. It is not clear how long Charles served as for some reason his application for a Civil War pension filed in 1892 was apparently denied. Returning to Wisconsin after the war, he married Rose Fredricka Lieb in 1867. Rosa was also a native of Stuttgart, being born on June 20, 1847. She had arrived in the United States in 1865. The couple would be married for 52 years, until Rosa’s death in 1919, and would have seven children: Annie E. Schneider, 1868-1872; Clara Emmaline Schneider, 1871 – 1928; Henry W. Schneider, 1875 – 1926; Charles E. Schneider, 1877 – 1878; William W. Schneider, 1880 – 1963; Frank W. Schneider, 1880 – 1893; and Ida B.
Schneider, born 1885. According to the 1900 Census, Charles and Rosa Schneider moved to Webster Parish at some point in the 1870s. The younger children were definitely born in the Germantown Community north of Minden. As mentioned before, Rosa died in 1919 and Charles followed her in death on October 3, 1921 at the age of 80. My knowledge of this grave comes, as I mentioned, from a family connection. My great aunt, Garland Longino Solice, married William Schneider – or Uncle Willie as I knew him – in the 1920s and lived for a few years in the Germantown Community before they moved to Shreveport, in fact my mother and grandmother moved to Minden originally to live with Aunt Garland and Uncle Willie. Will Schneider died in 1963, and at age five, I attended his funeral and burial, probably my first time to visit Germantown and the cemetery, a place where I would do much historical work after becoming an adult. Even at my young age, I noticed the indication on the gravestone for Charles Schneider his service in the Union Army. At my young age with Confederate pride instilled in me by my grandmother, I wondered how Aunt Garland ever married into a traitor family. As I grew, I expanded my knowledge on the case of Charles Schneider, although admittedly, unlike the next topic of this article, his documented record is somewhat sketchy.
There are many veterans buried in the Minden Cemetery, but perhaps the most unique is Patrick Claffey (1846 – September 21, 1906), as he is the only Union soldier buried in the cemetery.
Born in Ireland, the details of his early life are unsure, in fact different sources indicate his date of birth as 1844, but we do know that by 1860 he was living in Ward 24 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the household of William G. Wynn, working as a farm hand on Wynn’s farm.
The next year after the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in the Company C of the 4th Pennsylvania Reserves (also known as the 33rd Pennsylvania Volunteers) on June 5, 1861 in Montgomery County, just outside Philadelphia. He would serve with that unit for the next three years, until the unit was deactivated and he was mustered out on June 17, 1864. During his time of service he would fight in several major battles of the Eastern Theater most notably the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg and the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. It is interesting that in all three of those battles his unit was engaged in combat with troops from the Minden Blues, Company G of the 8th Louisiana Infantry, part of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
After discharge he remained in the Philadelphia area, as in the U.S. Census of 1870 he is living in Philadelphia. But at some point in the next few years for unknown reasons he came to Louisiana as by 1874 he was living in Minden and serving as City Marshall, an elected position he held through 1876. The ability to win election in Minden as a former Union soldier tends to indicate he must have come to Louisiana soon after that 1870 Census to allow him enough time to gain the confidence of local voters. By 1874, Minden was largely under the control of the former Confederates in the Democratic Party and it must have been difficult for them to accept a “Yankee” as a local law enforcement official.
One possible clue to his acceptance might come from the next major event in his life, his marriage to Laura Elizabeth Smith (1848 – May 19, 1906) on March 12, 1876 in Minden. Laura was the daughter of Cannon S. Smith a local political leader and veteran of the Mexican War. In fact, at the time of the marriage, C. S. Smith was serving the first of two terms as Mayor of Minden. He served in that role in 1876-77 and again in 1883-84. In earlier years he had also served as a Town Alderman.
In the 1880 Census, Pat Claffey is living in the household of his father in law with his wife. His occupation at that point is listed as house painter, but within a few years he started his own business. We know this because of a promotional book written in 1886 by Frank H. Tompkins in which he described the businesses operating in Minden. He included the following paragraph.
‘Minden, has in addition to the firms enumerated, several smaller stores and two saloons. The most popular one of the latter is kept by Pat Claffey. This establishment has an elaborate lunch counter in connection with the other attractions.’
It seems possible that some sort of physical problem caused Claffey to give up his career as a painter as on March 25, 1887, he filed for a pension as a former Union soldier citing a disability. The pension was granted and in the 1890 enumeration of pension recipients he was one of five individuals in Webster Parish receiving benefits. Three of these were widows and one was a former soldier, all except Claffey were African-American.
Laura Claffey died on May 19, 1906, and the following obituary appeared in the Webster Signal of May 25, 1906:
“Mrs. Pat Claffey, died on Saturday morning. She had been in delicate health for a long time, but was only ill about three days when the final summons came, and the angel of rest closed the patient eyes in their last sleep. She was one of Minden’s pioneer citizens, and held in the highest esteem by a large circle of friends, a loving, gentle mother and wife whose life has been filled with an earnest religious faith that has supported her through the many years of sickness. Rev. A. L. Johnston spoke feelingly of this irreparable loss to husband and only son, and a large concourse of sorrowing friends with bowed heads and sad hearts gathered around the grave and to the bereaved ones offered sincerest sympathy.”
Just over four months later, on September 21, 1906, death claimed Pat Claffey. In the Signal of September 28 his obituary appeared.
“In the death of Mr. Pat Claffey, Minden loses an old and valued citizen. In the early seventies he cast his lot among these people, and amid joys and sorrows has been true and loyal. He leaves behind him many friends who deplore his death. Since the loss of his inestimable wife, he has been gradually declining, although up to a week prior to his demise he was able to attend to his accustomed duties. He was buried Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, Rev. Father Cherry, of Shreveport, performing the burial service. Many friends assisted at the funeral and much sympathy is felt for the only son who has been bereft of both parents in so short a time.”
Patrick and Laura Claffey had two children. One, Claudia S. Claffey (March 15, 1877 – April 21, 1877) died as an infant. The other, William B. Claffey (October 11, 1878 – June 29, 1938) was a veteran of the Spanish-American War.
Both of the children are buried with their parents in the Minden Cemetery.
So, as today’s column indicates, despite the strong pro-Confederate sympathies of area residents it is a positive Echo of our Past that those who fought for the Union were able to be integrated and accepted into our community despite that record of service.
Minden Historian John Agan’s column appears Tuesdays in the Minden Press-Herald.