What a Union veteran was reading, circa 1905

Among the more interesting aspects involved with historical research is coming across a library book that likely hasn’t seen the light of day in decades, or even longer.

Once, it was possible to determine how long a book had sat on the shelves by inspecting its “date due” card.

For you youngsters, date due cards were found in sleeves inside the front or back cover of a book and contained a library book’s title, author and Dewey Decimal information at the top. The rest of the card featured lines with spaces to record the borrower’s name and the date the book was due to be returned.

But with the advent of modern technology, date due cards have gone the way of rotary phones and record players.

Another way to gain insight into whether a book has been sitting for a long, long time is to stumble across bits of yesteryear tucked inside an old volume.

Doing research for Civil War-related project, I recently checked out the Personal Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan, the two-volume autobiography of the famed Civil War Federal Cavalry general, from the local county library.

The set I was working with was a first edition, issued in 1888; and judging from the piece of paper I found inside (see below), it would appear that it’s been nearly that long since anyone has bothered to open the cover of either tome.

It’s a tax bill from the Borough of East Stroudsburg, Pa., for 1905, sent to one George W. Mount.

I found the relic tucked inside Volume II of Sheridan’s Memoirs, located in the middle of Chapter 13, amid a section dealing with the defeat and death of Southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle in late 1868.

According to the document, which can be clicked on to be enlarged, Mr. Mount owned a lot at the corner of Brown Street and Lincoln Avenue, valued at $1,800. In addition, he had some bit of property (something I can’t decipher) valued at $200.

As a result, his total net worth, according to the Borough of East Stroudsburg, was $2,000.

According to the tax bill, “The above are taxable for county purposes at the rate of 3 mills per dollar.”

If my admittedly feeble grasp of how property taxes are assessed is correct, Mr. Mount would have owed East Stroudsburg $6 in taxes for 1905.

At the bottom of the bill is a note that says an appeal will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 25, 1905, at the commissioner’s office.

As far as Sheridan’s book, if Mr. Mount got as far as midway through the second volume, it was a yeoman’s effort. Like many Civil War autobiographies, Sheridan’s Memoirs are self-serving and boastful. He claims victories where none existed and gives himself plaudits where none were deserved.

However, to Sheridan’s credit, his move to the East in 1864 to head Union cavalry in that theatre did mark the beginning of a significant improvement in the quality of Federal mounted efforts.

Perhaps Mr. Mount’s interest in Sheridan came as a result of his own personal experience.

According to information available through the National Park Service’s Solider and Sailor database system, which includes data on the vast majority of men who fought for both the North and the South during the War Between the States, George W. Mount served as first sergeant in Co. E of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, enlisting in 1862 and serving until his unit was mustered out after the war’s end.

The unit was organized in Philadelphia in early 1862 and saw action in several major battles later in the war, including the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, and the Siege of Petersburg.

In addition, and this may be what piqued Mr. Mount’s attention in Sheridan’s Memoirs, the 67th Pennsylvania participated in Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign from August 1864 until December 1864.

The unit was on hand at Appomattox Court House in April 1865 for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and was mustered out of service in July of that year.

In all, the regiment had two officers and 77 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in action, and another three officers and 150 enlisted men die of disease during the war.

As for George W. Mount, he lived until 1911, dying at age 69. He is buried in the Stroudsburg Cemetery in Stroudsburg, Pa.

However, It is not clear whether Mr. Mount attended that late December appeal meeting to seek a reduction in his 1905 county property tax bill of $6.

10 thoughts on “What a Union veteran was reading, circa 1905

  1. What a great find! It looks like that $200 was in the dog section, I can’t imagine what type of dog would be worth $200 back then though.

    It is so (wonderfully) annoying to see those sorts of documents isn’t it. The answer is just there! I could read it if the light went the right way/I held my tongue just right/that one letter changed to an ‘e’ etc….

    I wonder if Mr Mount couldn’t attend the appeal meeting because he couldn’t find his paperwork? 🙂

    • I spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to figure out what that one word was. I know it starts with an ‘M’ but all the different variations from that point forward don’t work. I suppose it is some sort of animal, or a collection of animals; I hadn’t thought of that. Perhaps he bred dogs, Mastiffs or Maltese, maybe?

      And, yes, your suggestion that Mr. Mount never made the appeal meeting because he left his tax bill inside a book – where it sat for the past 107 years – did indeed bring a smile to my face.

      • I sat there changing the brightness on my screen up and down, and turning it all ways and still couldn’t make it out!

        To me it looked a bit like a ‘Ch’ at the start, with the bottom curve of the C being extremely faint. I looked up all the Ch dogs I could though, and not one of the names looked anything like that word. I can’t think of an M that does either.

        Hopefully his dogs made him enough money to pay that tax bill though…

  2. Isn’t it just the most remarkable feeling to lay eyes on something last held in the hand of a person who lived one hundred years ago? You feel this funny sense of connection. Appomattox is just a leisurely 45 minute drive from my house. So much Civil War history around my parts, CBC, have you been to Richmond?
    I would love to share a serendipitous find of my own with you. I think you would enjoy it:
    And through the diligent efforts of one of my readers, I found the family:

    • Wow – what an interesting find and to be able to find out about the owner is even more fascinating. I was taken by Mrs. Diehl’s notation on bedroom slippers. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve never worn bedroom slippers and can’t imagine my wife noting the size of my bedroom slippers in a notebook. Sounds like she was a very organized lady who ran a tight ship.

      I love Richmond – so much history and culture. I took my daughters up there last year and saw many of the sights, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. A beautiful city with much to offer.

      • Next time you come, be sure to visit the Museum of the Confederacy if you haven’t already. It would be just your cup of historical tea. Mrs. Diehl seems to have been a very precise lady, but in my discussions via email with her son, it was clear that she was a wonderful mom too. Thanks so much for reading this – I hoped you might enjoy it.

      • I do plan to visit the Museum of the Confederacy. I try to mix history with culture so my girls don’t get too much of one and too little of the other. I’d be happy sitting in the state archives all day, but that, understandably, isn’t their cup of tea.

        I’m sure Mrs. Diehl’s son appreciated you highlighting her mother after all these years. It must have brought back some nice memories for him.

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