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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Civil War train wreck recalled at 150

  • SHOHOLA - One hundred fifty years ago, on July 15, 1864, Shohola Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania was the scene of a tragic railroad wreck. An Erie coal train from Hawley collided with a prisoner train, bearing Confederate soldiers who had been captured or surrendered, and were on their way to the Union prison camp at Elmira, NY.
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  • SHOHOLA - One hundred fifty years ago, on July 15, 1864, Shohola Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania was the scene of a tragic railroad wreck. An Erie coal train from Hawley collided with a prisoner train, bearing Confederate soldiers who had been captured or surrendered, and were on their way to the Union prison camp at Elmira, NY.
        This past weekend, July 12-13, the event was commemorated by the Shohola Railroad & Historical Society. Civil war reenactors, complete with a visit by "President Lincoln" and a slide show concerning the disaster were highlights on Saturday at Rohman Park, Shohola.
        On Sunday a memorial service was held at the Congregational Church in nearby Barryville, NY, where two of the prisoners remain buried, to this day honored with a Confederate flag near their graves. A visit was also made to the site of the wreck, a blind curve along the former Erie rail bed between Shohola and Lackawaxen, not normally a publicly accessible site.
        Senator Lisa Baker offered remarks at Saturday's opening ceremony. While honoring an historic event, the observance also recalls the humanity of its local citizens from that era. Despite allegiance to a flag in time of war dividing the country, townspeople and local doctors rushed to the aid and comfort of the survivors, many gravely wounded and dying, both Confederate rebels and Union guards.
       The prisoner train had been carrying approximately 833 prisoners and 125 Union soldiers.
       Along with members of the train crews, the crash claimed the lives of about 48 prisoners and 12 guards.
        Senator Baker stated that remembering our history adds much to our quality of life and reminds us of lessons learned.
        July 12th happened to be the Senator's birthday. The gathering broke out in a spontaneous chorus of "Happy Birthday," and adding a light moment to the solemn observance, the reenactors' cannon happened to fire just as the song was concluded. "I never had a cannon salute before," she said.
       George J. Fluhr, Pike County Historian, has done extensive research on the 1864 train wreck and authored a book on the subject. He presented the slide show.
        A DVD movie is being produced about the history of Shohola Township, funded by a grant awarded by the Upper Delaware Council. Producer Dennis Lee was documenting scenes from the reenactment that day. A preview is planned August 9th outside at 9 p.m., at Rohman Park. Shohola Railroad & Historical Society will be offering copies of the DVD for sale after that.
       The Society, which was founded in 1991, maintains a museum in its red caboose headquarters on Route 434  in Shohola. Next to is a Pennsylvania Historical Marker  commemorating the 1864 train wreck, which the Society arranged after much effort. The sign was erected in 1993.
    Page 2 of 2 -    Also on hand that day was Anna Rohman, who donated the land for the park, dedicated in 1998. The park land is part of the original Shohola Glen Amusement Park (1881-1907), another aspect of Shohola's long history.
        The Civil War reenactors came from several different companies Mostly representing Union soldiers, there were also a few Confederates. A pair, dressed in torn, gray uniforms and marked in imitation blood, posed as runaways from the train wreck. Union soldier reenactors were seen capturing them and bringing them back.
        The cannon was fired intermittently Its barrel is an original, built in 1844 and discovered in Jamesburg, VA.
       An actor playing President Abraham Lincoln arrived, and with a full Union escort competing with a drum beat, the "16th President" stood in the midst of the encampment and delivered an address.  He congratulated the soldiers for standing firm in the cause for the Union. He stated that the Union was worth the fight and bid Godspeed to their safe reunion with their homes.
       He remarked how both sides in that great conflict read the same Bible and prayed to the same God asking for favor. The prayers of both could not be answered. "Lincoln" admonished us not to judge but to remember that God has His own purposes. Noting the high price of war, he commended the local community for their empathy for the injured and care to bury the dead, regardless of the color of the uniform, blue or gray.
        The actor stated that these prisoners laid down their arms, willingly or unwillingly, entrusting themselves to the Union's care. It was now our job to dedicate this place to their passing- "for all time, so that we can carry forth the memory of that day."
        Praying for an end to the war, he concluded with Psalm 19:9 used in the real Lincoln's second inaugural address: "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right..."

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