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George and Sarah (Quick) Pitcher, Sr.

 

To the people of the nineteenth century, several events occurred that were of such monumental proportion that nothing would hinder them from becoming major life events.  One, to be sure, was the immigration to the United States of so many people from both the British Isles and Germany in the mid 1850s because devastating crop failures forced many residents to leave their homelands.  The other was known as the War Between the States or the Civil War; it too would have a huge impact for generations to come.

 

The early part of 1857 found George Pitcher, Sr. one of many immigrants making his way to North America.  His original destination is unknown, but he may have decided to settle in Huron County, Michigan, because of its wonderful farmland.  Perhaps he decided because the siblings of his new bride were themselves headed there.  George had recently married Sarah Quick, formerly of Manaton, Devon County, England on the 19th of July, 1857.  They married in Milton, County of Halton, Ontario Province, Canada.  Whether he met Sarah Quick in England or on the journey to a new continent is unclear.  In any case, George born (with a light complexion, light hair and blue eyes) approximately in 1824 in England and Sarah, born February 23, 1831 made their way to their new home, along with Sarah's brother, Henry.  Sarah's sisters, Elizabeth Helyer (married in England to Thomas Helyer) and Mary Avery (married to Charles Avery), soon followed. 

 

George and Sarah established themselves in Huron County and began a family with his daughter Agnes Jane born on June 1, 1858 and two sons, Charles born on March 23, 1861 and John born on October 12, 1862. 

 

Unfortunately, the other major event of the 19th Century - the Civil War - would intrude dramatically and pointedly on their lives.

 

On 19 July 1864, George was drafted for 3 years and assigned to Company H, Twenty-third Michigan Infantry, as a Private.  He joined his regiment at Johnsonville, Tennessee on 12 November 1864.  Beginning on November 20th, the Twenty-third Michigan entered into the Nashville Campaign.  With their arrival they went into the trenches until December 15th, at which time they went on the offense - driving General Hood's Confederate forces from all their positions in an utter rout.  During the battle, the Twenty-third charged the enemy, securely placed behind a stone wall on the crest of a hill, demoralizing the Confederates and taking more prisoners than there were men in the Twenty-third.  From the 17th of December, the pursuit of the fleeing Southerners continued towards Columbia. During the first three days of the march, the rain fell in torrents, the mud being fully six inches deep, which with the swollen streams rendered the progress extremely difficult and tedious.  From there, they marched to Clifton on the Tennessee River, a distant of 250 miles. They remained at Clifton, Tennessee until January 16, 1865 at which time they were moved by steamer to Cincinnati and by rail to the Washington, D. C. area.

 

George left his unit, which was at rest on February 12, 1865 and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of chronic rheumatism.  Unfortunately, George’s life would end as a result of disease.  Of the total number of men who died in the Twenty-third Michigan Infantry, approximately 77% died from disease.  His death from typhoid malarial fever in Alexandria, Virginia on March 25, 1865 precluded him from ever knowing about the birth of his fourth child, George, Jr. on March 12, 1865 in Huron County, Michigan.  George would be buried on March 27th in Alexandria National Cemetery located at 1450 Wilkes Street, Alexandria, VA.  His death would occur only 15 days before General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy would surrender, marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War.  George Pitcher, Sr. had been in the Union Army for only 9 months and in the United States just 8 years.  Among his possessions listed in the Army inventory of effects at death were: 1 hat, 1 vest, 1 great coat, 1 blouse, 1 pair of trousers, 2 pairs flannel drawers, 3 flannel shirts, 1 pair of shoes, 2 pair of socks, 1 woolen blanket, 1 haversack, 1 knapsack, 1 canteen, 1 musket, 1 bayonet, 1 cartridge box, 1 belt, 1 pocket book, 1 silver watch and $1.17 in coin and currency.

 

Sarah Pitcher was now left to raise 4 children under the age of 8.  Sarah would continue to farm the land with the assistance of her children, her sisters and brother.  Fishing and hunting would complement the family provisions.  As a result of an Act of Congress dated July 14, 1862, Sarah was able to apply for a Widow's pension.  As she began that process, the names of her family, sister Elizabeth Helyer, and neighbors Edward Tarry, Charles Liken and Charles Heisterman would be found on the paperwork assisting her with her pension application.  At this time Sarah did not know how to write and these individuals would often verify her mark or submit testimony on her behalf.  In 1883, Sarah was receiving a pension of $8.00 a month; by 1916 she received a monthly benefit of $20.00, which at the time of her death in September of 1925 had increased to  $30.00 a month.  Her granddaughter, Flores Ellen Pitcher remembered vividly Grandma Pitcher receiving her pension and treating her grandchildren to penny candy.