Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jacob Immell

Jacob Immell
Pvt., Co. L, 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry

I have not been able to find out much about the life of Jacob Immell. No descendents chronicled his life and career. No pension records exist, nor do any census reports trace the growth of his family in the postwar years. Unlike Fred Bentley and James Farris, Immell did not survive to return to his home in Greene Township, Pennsylvania. A farm boy, he may have aspired to one day own land of his own, work out in the sun, and nurture his crops to grow tall year after year. He never had that opportunity or the chance to love, marry, and have children. If he planned on going to college, traveling the country or even the world, or simply watching the sunset from his own front porch, it was never to be. Whoever Immell would have been and whatever contributions he would have made died with him on June 15, 1865, over two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, from a leg wound suffered in the Battle of Amelia Springs on April 5. He was about twenty years old. Enlisting at the age of eighteen in August, 1863, Immell had already survived numerous engagements from Cold Harbor through the Petersburg Campaign.

Uncovering the descendents of Bentley and Farris really brought home for me the enduring tragedy of those who did not survive the war. There is not only the immeasurable loss of a man taken before his time, but each death in a sense reverberates through the generations, as it represents the possibility of countless others who will never be at all. His children, grandchildren, and so forth may have included great teachers, scientists, and civil rights pioneers, but whether great or small they would undoubtedly have been friends, cousins, lovers, spouses, and parents. Though no one who loved Jacob Immell is alive today to suffer his absence, his death is, like those of all our war dead, an abiding scar upon the heart of his nation.

A description of Immell's wound and death from gangrene by Surgeon Reed B. Bontecou. This and the above photograph of Immell are from the National Museum of Health and Medicine's gallery on Flickr.

One thing I did discover about Immell is he was buried on the estate of General Robert E. Lee’s wife’s family, on land which the U.S. government confiscated in 1864 for the establishment of a burial ground for fallen Union soldiers. His tombstone can still be viewed there at his final resting place, Arlington National Cemetery.

Immell's headstone from

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