Last County Civil War Soldier Memorialized

Bob Knell, the great-grandson of Absalom Riggle, sits in background during the ceremony memorializing the last Civil War soldier from Armstrong County.

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, the John T. Crawford Camp #43, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, conducted a plaque dedication ceremony at the grave site of Armstrong County’s Last Civil War Soldier.

Absalom B. Riggle was honored and recognized as Armstrong County’s Last Survivor of the American Civil War at the Brick Church Cemetery in Burrell Township.

On Sept. 15, 1864 at the age of 18, recognizing his duty to God and Country, Mr. Riggle traveled to Kittanning where he enlisted as a private in Co. C 14th PA Cavalry. He joined Armstrong County’s estimated 3,652 men serving in the Union Armies.

Private Riggle was wounded in the right shoulder during the Battle of Front Royal. According to records, he laid on the field for many hours before being discovered and taken to a field hospital for treatment.
Private Riggle was discharged from the service on Aug. 26, 1865.

In 1938, at the age of 92, Absalom was one of just five Armstrong Countians remaining from the Civil War. He along with fellow County veteran, Levi Schrecengost, embarked on the journey to the ceremonies in Gettysburg marking the 75th anniversary of that great battle. The medal he received for attending was among his most treasured items. This medal, along with the bullet removed from his shoulder during the war, are still kept by the family and were on display at the ceremony.

Darlene Alcorn, National President of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic and Kathy Rashlich, Director of Armstrong County Veterans Affairs Office place wreaths at the grave during the ceremony.

On July 26, 1940, Private Riggle entered the history books as the last survivor of Armstrong County’s contribution to the Civil War upon the death of his comrade, Levi Schreckengost, of Co. D 103rd PA Volunteer Infantry.

Richard Essenwein, Past Pennsylvania Department Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, officiated and organized the ceremony.

Following the posting of the Colors by the Armstrong County American Legion Honor Guard, a summary of Private Riggle’s service record along with personal facts regarding his later life events was read by Essenwein. Remarks were also given by Private Riggles’s Great Grandson, Robert Knell, and Armstrong County Veteran’s Affairs Director. Kathy Raslich, Prayers and readings were offered by St. Michael’s Church Pastor Barbara Love.

The large crowd participated in singing patriotic songs accompanied by music provided by Eileen Dittmore, who played a portable pump organ used during the Civil War era by the circuit riding ministers.

Robert L. Knell and David Hilty, great-great-grandsons of Absalom Riggle, were asked to unveil the memorial plaque designating their ancestor was this County’s final Civil War Soldier.

A 35-star Civil War Flag was presented to Knell. Great-great-great-grandson Evan Hilty placed the current flag on the grave and Zachary Knell, another great-great-grandson placed the Last Soldier Holder & Flag.

Floral wreaths were placed by great–great-grandaughters Susan Bell and Sharon Hilty and by Darlene Alcorn, National President of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic and Kathy Rashlich, Director of Armstrong County Veterans Affairs Office.

Also placing a floral tribute were the Ladies of the Sarah A. Crawford Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Daughters and Sons of the Cause and the ladies of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Following a roll call of Veterans buried in the cemetery, the 62nd PA Volunteer Infantry along with Brothers of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Camp #43 and Camp #504 provided a 21-gun salute.

Following the playing of TAPS the ceremony was concluded with the Armstrong County American Legion Honor Guard retiring the colors.