Finding Lieutenant Metz…

Posted on January 5, 2011 by


Some folks might not have an appreciation for it, but… while researching, writing, and battlefield walking is a lot of fun, grave-hunting can also be a rewarding way to enjoy the history of the Civil War. Sure, you hear about people going to major cemeteries like Hollywood, Arlington, etc., etc., but how many are willing to hunt down a single grave in a remote cemetery? To me, doing that is touching a piece of history that isn’t appreciated as much. Now, those who do the genealogy thing… they can relate. A number of people who do those types of grave hunts are familiar with the fact that there are some things that can be learned from a gravesite… stuff you won’t find in books.  Anyway…

Just last week, as part of my mad dash into western Maryland, I took time to make a detour to find… one single grave… and, no, he isn’t an ancestor or even a distant cousin (well… he might be)… and he’s not some big name from the Civil War either.

Jacob Albert Metz was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania on April 23, 1828. By the 1850s, Metz, a merchant, made his home in Washington County (in the Conococheague District, probably not too far from his church, near Cearfoss), Maryland, marrying Elizabeth “Bettie” Good (born ca. 1830) on March 18, 1852. By 1860, the Metz family included four children… Virginia (1853), Ida May (1855), Ruth O. (1857), and Cadnus (1860).

It’s not clear what drew the 33-year-old to service (his “motivations” for service), but, with the coming of the war, Metz signed-up with William F. Firey’s company of cavalry from Clear Spring… the unit that later became Co. B in Henry Cole’s 1st Potomac Home Brigade… and, that’s one of the two things that drew my interest in finding the grave.

Metz joined in August 1861, and was officially enrolled with the rest of the company when it was mustered-in at Frederick, Maryland on August 24, 1861. I’m not sure what merited the rank he received (popularity within the community, education, ???), but he received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant, and held that rank for the balance of his service.

Notations in his service record are really unremarkable. He was on detached service (doing… who knows what) during much of the first year (and then some), first in December 1861, and then, later at Romney in April 1862, and lastly as Winchester in February 1863.  I’m really uncertain about just how much service in the field that he may have seen, but in June 1863, the home turf of the Potomac Home Brigade was being threatened… and he found himself in the path of the Confederate push toward Pennsylvania.

While Confederate forces maneuvered around Winchester to cut-off the retreat of Union forces under Gen. Robert H. Milroy, Confederate Gen. Albert G. Jenkins‘ brigade of cavalry, led by the 14th and 16th Virginia Cavalry, dashed toward the Potomac, crossing into Maryland at Williamsport. 2nd Lt. Metz was among the small force that resisted the Confederate entrance into Maryland. I haven’t seen a great deal about the little affair, but Metz was not among those “driven off”, having been killed in the fight .

Sure, it’s relatively uncommon when considering Union troops, but Metz had been killed not terribly far from his home and family… not more than 7 or 8 miles at most… at least that’s about the distance between Williamsport and Cearfoss, near where Metz was buried, in the cemetery at the Mount Tabor Lutheran Church.

The barely legible headstone of Lt. Metz

So, that’s why I wanted to “find Lieutenant Metz”… he was a lieutenant from the unit of my closest Union relatives… and one who was killed at the beginning of the Confederate surge into Pennsylvania. Of course, he left a wife and four children, and that’s sad enough, but… the lieutenant’s grave looks about as lonely as any grave can be. Granted, he’s in a small church cemetery among other graves, but there isn’t one family member in the place. Looks like the wife may have remarried and moved on with the kids, after the war. On top of that, his headstone is about kaput. In fact, if I didn’t catch the stone at just the right angle, I don’t think I would have seen the “Co. B”… and that was the only thing that drew my attention to it. So, let me chalk that up as a matter (new V.A. headstone) that I hope to have resolved by the end of the year.

Oh, and, by the way… the second item of interest in relation to this lieutenant in the unit of my closest Union relatives was that… well… in the 14th Virginia Cavalry… one of the two regiments leading the Confederate advance… there was one Pvt. John Roudabush… one of my distant uncles in gray. I wonder if he fired a shot in that scrap at Williamsport… and if it found its mark in a lieutenant in blue.