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Death of Captain Samuel Newton McNair

(Originally Published Friday June 11, 1909 Emmitsburg Chronicle)

The soul of Mr. Samuel Newton McNair passed to its rest on Saturday, June 5. Emmitsburg deeply feels the lost of a noble soldier, an exemplary citizen and a true Christian. His illness dates from the time he was wounded during the civil war. For several weeks his condition was considered crucial but his indomitable will gave his friends a hope that he might overcome his illness at least for sometime but his physical condition continued to grow weaker and in spite of his splendid courage under his affliction, all hope was lost by his attentive nurses or Wednesday night. From that time or he gradually sank until the end came The funeral services were held at his late home on Monday, June 7, Rev. Mr. Gluck officiating. The interment was made in Mountain View Cemetery.

He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. William S. Speed, Mrs. E. L. Annan, Miss M. Scott McNair; by one sister, Miss Helen V. McNair; and three brothers, William, Watson, and Robert.

The funeral services on Monday were attended by the members of Arthur Post 41, G. A. R., of which Mr. McNair was a member, by many of his fellow citizens and the following from other places: Mr. William Smith, Shippensburg, Pa.; Mrs. John Sharp, Chambersburg Pa; Mr. Jacob Livingston, Jr., Carlisle; Mrs. Thomas Anders, Mr. and Mrs. William H. H. Zepp, Mrs. Ephraim Bankert and Miss Bankeit, of Westminster; Messrs. Joseph D. and W. Scott Zepp, Baltimore; Mr. Levigne Zepp, Westminster: Miss H. V. McNair, Baltimore and Col. Rouzer, of Thurmont.

Samuel N. McNair was born in Freedom township, Adams county, Pa., or September 4, 1840. At the age of twenty on August 26, 1861 he enlisted, at its organization, in Company C, Cole's Maryland Cavalry. He was constantly with the company until the fight with Stuart's Cavalry at Leesburg, Va., September 2. 1862, in which battle he was severely wounded by a bullet that passed through his left lung. This wound never healed and for these almost forty-seven years he patiently endured the suffering that finally caused his death.

The following is taken from an account written by the late Major 0. A. Horner, officer in Cole's Cavalry.

"At the time he received the wound he was mounted and his horse carried him from the battlefield in the direction of Point of Rocks. Exhausted from the loss of blood and the severity of his wound he fell from his horse and lay prostrate in the road. The enemy found his body there but judging him fatally wounded they passed by. After the Confederate forces fell back his brother, the late H, S. McNair, then a lieutenant, and a few other comrades found him and procured a wagon and conveyed him to Point of Rocks where he was placed or board the cars and taken to the hospital at Frederick.

His wound was considered fatal am his sufferings were intense but the same will that helped him in his last ill ness stood him in better stead at that time and by December of the same year he was able to walk. He left the barracks one day, walked up to the Dill House where he saw the stage starting for Emmitsburg. The driver at his request allowed him to take passage and he rode to Emmitsburg am was taken to his home the same night

The ride was too much for him and he took to his bed to remain there for a long time. The march of the armies Northward roused him and in June 1863, previous to the fight at Gettysburg he felt strong enough to again mount his horse. With three comrade from his old company, Gwinn, Wolf and Crooks, he started for Gettysburg on the 29th of June and was the first Union soldier to enter Gettysburg after Ewell's Division moved North toward York.

He and his companions stopped at the Eagle Hotel and shortly after they arrived citizens told them that a Confederate Cavalryman was coming up the street. Young McNair and his friend captured this fellow who afterward proved to be a carrier of dispatches from Lee to Ewell. He was lodged in the jail.

McNair and his party returned to the hotel. A little while after a stranger in citizens dress passed by. The soldiers remarked a peculiar military bearing about the stranger that indicated he was a soldier. Although the other members of the party opposed, Mr. McNair started in pursuit and being better mounted gained on the man who was making every effort to get away. Shots were exchanged between the two, the stranger shooting rapidly, McNair just frequently enough to draw the other's fire. When the young Union soldier judged that the other had spent his ammunition he spurred his horse and captured him. The man proved to be a "Johnnie" but when he surrendered said he was a chaplain. McNair replied "Yes! a fighting chaplain, evidently from the way in which you are armed and your manner of using your gun." This prisoner was brought back to Gettysburg and also jailed.

Hearing that Lee's army was camping West of Gettysburg, towards Cashtown and Bendersville, McNair and his three friends concluded they would make a reconnaissance of the enemy's position. So off they started and when they reached Bream's Tavern they came upon a Rebel artilleryman, who they captured, he having strolled outside the lines to replenish his canteens with whiskey, two freshly filled ones being found upon his person. Finding the rebels were encamped only a short distance beyond this, they returned to the town with their prisoners. When they reached the top of Seminary Ridge they found a regiment of cavalry in their front, who had come in on the Bedersville Road during their absence.

The "Johnnies" immediately made a dash for our boys, who with their prisoner, beat a hasty retreat across by McMullins to the Emmitsburg Road, which they reached in Safety, the Rebel cavalrymen in hot pursuit, chasing them at a rapid rate towards Emmitsburg. Fortunately for the three intrepid soldiers at about the Peach Orchard, they met the advance of Buford’s Cavalry, the sight which caused a sudden halt and "Right about wheel" of their pursuers. The prisoner was safely turned over to General Buford, to whom McNair and his comrades tendered their services as scouts and were retained by the General during the entire battle of Gettysburg.

It was this little band of Company C, Coles Cavalry, that captured the first Rebels on the famous battlefield of Gettysburg.

After rendering General Burford valuable service during the battle, McNair and some of his companions on Saturday night, July 4th found their way back into Emmitsburg. Stuart’s cavalry dashing into the place on Sunday morning captured them with others at Hoffman’s hotel. McNair and Gwinn were taken over the mountain but during the first night, when about Boonsboro, they made their escape and came back to Emmitsburg finding their horses had been saved to them by Harry Hoffman."

Here the account written by Major Horner ends. Enough, though has been told to gauge the character and fearlessness of this young patriot whose record has just been closed.

In the life of General Philip H. Sheridan by Frank A. Burr and Richard J. Hinton is told the pathetic story of the assistance rendered by Samuel McNair to the young Confederate who had befriended him. It is recounted in this wise:

On that sultry day in September when the gallant McNair was wounded in the fight at Leesburg, his brother, as told above, had found him and four others, and placed them under an apple tree near a house. The 12th Virginia Cavalry was rapidly approaching and Hiram McNair knew that he must get his wounded brother and friends from this place. They were suffering terribly and a wagon must be had. The officer sought the farmer whose name the place bore, Paxton’s Crossroads. He found a young man who refused all offers of money for the service he was about to do them. He said that he was a Confederate but he would do to these men as he would wish them to do for him in similar circumstances. He gave them a wagon and saw them safe to the river.

Almost two years afterwards at the battle of Loudoun Heights, Samuel McNair found a young Confederate wounded in the neck unto death. He was covered with blood and unrecognizable. He asked his name and it was the same Paxton who had so nobly assisted him under like circumstances. It is needless to say everything was done for the poor fellow’s comfort and McNair stayed by him as he died.

There are but a few incidents in Mr. McNair’s army life which was full of the glory that surrounds a true soldier. He stayed with his company until they were mustered out on June 28, 1865.

After this he returned to Emmitsburg. In 1871 he was married to Miss Mary Antoinette Moritz, who died two years ago. For many years he was postmaster at Emmitsburg.

Read other stores of the role of the Emmitsburg Citizens played in the civil war