The Sullivan County Genealogical Project is grateful to Shirley Jacobs of San Diego, California, for resurrecting the letters of
Simpson Simmons from his Civil War Pension file. Shilrey is a descendant of the Simmons, Sones, Hazzen ["Hazen"] and Baker families of Sullivan County. Many of her ancestral family members are buried at the Old Sonestown Cemetery in Sonestown, PA, where you can also find photos of many grave markers. John Fordyce Hazen, born August 31, 1811 in Northumberland County, PA was Shirley's ggg grandfather. He died March 19, 1895 in Hughesville, Lycoming Couunty, PA. His wife, Susannah Baker, was born near Clarkestown, Lycoming County in June 5, 1807 and died at Sonestown Oct. 10, 1885. They married on June 12, 1831. She was the daughter of Jacob and Mary (Gardner) Baker. Sarah (Sally) Hazen was her gg grandmother. She married George Washington Simmons on Dec. 28, 1865. George's parents, Jacob Simmons and Jane Sones were also her ggg grandparents. Sally's sister Elizabeth also married into the same Simmons family, to George's older brother John Simmons. In the pension file application for Jane Sones, from which much of the material below is extracted, there is a deposition from John Fordyce Hazen that is quite interesting, but is mostly about the Simmons family. He signed his name "Hazzen". Evidently his family and the Simmons family were very close through the years in Sonestown. You can learn more about Shirley's Sones and Simmons ancestors at Settlers XVIII: The Sones, Simmons and Stevenson Families.
Now read along with us as Shirley tells us the moving story of the Simmons brothers, sons of Jacob and Jane (Sones) Simmons, who answered
the call of duty after the fall of Fort Sumter in 1861:
Overview of the Pension file of Simpson S. Simmons
Dear Father and Mother (Jacob and Jane (Sones) Simmons)
Jane Sones married Jacob Simmons and they lived in Sonestown. They sent five sons to the Civil War. Two died and three came home.
These are summaries of their service, courtesy of Dave Richards Of Lycoming County:
Simmons Isaac N. Age: 27 Blacksmith (Co "H" 5PA RES) Wounded and taken prisoner at Fredericksburg,VA on Dec 13, 1862. Died Dec 23,
1862 at Libby Prison, Richmond VA Gravesite Unknown.
Simmons George W. Age: 24 Blacksmith (Co "H" 5PA RES) Mustered out June 11, 1864. Stayed in/near Sonestown after the war.
Simmons Thomas S. Age: 20 Blacksmith (Co "B" 84PA) Gunshot wound at Chancellorsville - piece of ear shot off.
Mustered out Dec 11, 1864 Stayed in/near Sonestown after the war after spending a short time in Iowa.
Simmons Simpson Age: 22 Carriage Maker (Co "B" 84PA - Captured at Chancellorsville May 3, 1863. Exchanged.
Wounded Nov 29, 1863 Mine Run, VA. Femur bone shattered. Leg amputated near hip in regimental field hospital
that evening. Evacuated to Wolfe St. General Hospital in Alexandria, VA Died of Wounds there Dec 8, 1863. Buried in Alexandria
National Cemetery. (Dave's note: A truly magnificent corner of the world with towering oak trees. I rather think he'd be happy with it all.)
Simmons Davis Age: 18 Farm Laborer (Co "K" 141PA - Shot at Chancellorsville May 3, 1863 in back of head. Amazingly,
He Survives! "I was left for dead on the battlefield and fell into the hands of the rebels. I was kept in a little shelter tent
on the field of battle until the 17th of May when by an exchange I was sent into our lines..." He would RETURN TO DUTY WITH BULLET
STILL IN HEAD (Honest to God, this is a true story!!) Fought at Battles of Wilderness and Spottsylvania where he was wounded in
leg on May 12, 1864. This ended his soldiering, and he spent the rest of the war in a hospital. Davis was called "Doc" or "Dac" by the
family, according to letters found written by his brother Simpson. Davis eventually moved to Cherokee County, Iowa with his brothers
John and Thomas and other cousins.
I ordered Simpson Simmons' pension record from the National Archives. It is 80 pages of depositions related to Jane Sones Simmons applying
for a pension from Simpson's service. There are several letters from Simpson in there and a lengthy deposition from Jane
and others that describes their life in Sonestown. The three sons who survived the Civil War, George, Thomas and Davis, were all married on
the same day, Dec. 28, 1865.
It is slow going because of some of the handwriting but most of it is very readable and informative. Simpson had beautiful penmanship, using
capital letters with flourishes, and pretty good spelling for that time; he must have been smart and somewhat educated. He wrote a letter home
Dec. 25 1862, one year before he was killed, and wanted news of brother Isaac whom he did not know at the time had been killed just
days earlier. There is also a very nice letter from him to his sister Rosetta.
The family really suffered financially because of all the boys going to war. Jacob, the father, had been hurt earlier when a tree fell
on him and, with the boys gone, there was no one to work the farm and they had to sell it.
Simpson's file had more papers from which I learned that:
He was 6 feet tall with "light" complexion "light" hair and "light" eyes. Don't know if that meant blonde and blue or brown and hazel. Could be
either. He was 22 at enlistment.
Occupation: carriage maker.
Mustered in at Harrisburg on Dec. 11, 1861 for three year service.
After he died on Dec. 8, 1863, it looks like Jacob went to claim his effects on Dec. 16, 1863 at Wolfe St. Hospital in Alexandria VA. Simpson left :
1 great coat
1 uniform coat
1 portable writing desk
Notes on letters: All letters are transcribed by Shirley Simmons Jacobs, San Diego CA (whose ggg grandparents were Jane Sones and Jacob Simmons)
as cleanly as possible with transcriber's notes in parentheses to further identify people, places or other items mentioned.
Letter from Simpson Simmons to parents (transcribed 7-12-08):
Other surnames mentioned: Sones, Speary
Camp near Falmouth, Virginia Dec. 25th /1862
It is with a greatful heart that I improve this Christmas morning by writing to you. I would have written sooner, but I did not want to write
until I found out what had become of Ike (his brother, Isaac). I have not heard anything about him since
the fight, nor have I saw George (his brother) but I cannot delay writing any longer. Dac (his brother
Tommy is well. I suppose George wrote about Isaac's being wounded, it is said he was left on the field and fell into the hands of the Rebs. I do
hope he is not wounded dangerously, but we could not expect all to pass through safely.
We were all in the fight of Fredericksburg. Poor Peter (cousin Peter Sones, son of Jane's oldest brother John) is dead.
He took cold on the on the battlefield and died in a few days. We made every effort to save his life, we had three doctors tending on him, and me
and John Speary who sat night and day the whole time but all was in vain. It was God's will to call him to rest, he died as calmly as if going
to sleep. Blessed is the dead which die in the Lord.
For my own part I am rather under the weather but I am not so but what I can be about. I hope to be well in a few days. I have but
little more to write. I tried to get leave of absence long enough to bring the body of Peter home, but could not get it. I borrowed the
money to send him home, it cost thirty dollars * express and two dollars for a telegram.
I will have today for a Christmas dinner stewed apple snits and peach snits **, fresh beef, potatoes, coffee, sugar, rice and hard tac. We have a log
shanty built and have everything handy for the present. I will close…give my best respects to all inquirers…write soon as convenient and remain as
ever your son- S S Simmons to his parents
P.S. We have not been hard off for six months.
*In 2007, $30.00 from 1900 was worth $2,063 using the consumer goods and services comparison method.
**According to Google, snits are PA Dutch term for dried fruits.