History of the Town of Schaghticoke

the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke

“Quite Profane…a Drinking Man”

I am returning to biographies previously researched of about 300 men with connections to Schaghticoke who served in the Civil War, 1861-1865. They had fascinating lives before, during and after the war.

One of the men was Jacob H. Houck. He was born in Schaghticoke about 1830 and by the time of the war he was married to an Irish woman named Margaret and had four young children. They lived in Waterford, where he worked as a boatman. Jacob enlisted in the 125th NY Infantry Regiment, the second Rensselaer County to be formed in the war, in August 1862. Jacob was an older soldier, and married, which would have exempted him from service, but perhaps he was drawn by the generous enlistment bounty he would have received.

jacobhouckcard

NYS Muster Card of Jacob Houck

The 125th NY had a rough start to its Civil War. Just after it arrived in Harpers Ferry, Virginia in September 1862, the whole regiment, along with 10,000 other soldiers, were surrendered to a Confederate Army led by General Stonewall Jackson. They spent the fall and winter in an internment camp in Chicago, Illinois, as the Confederates had no provision for a prison camp of that size. Then they were paroled and rejoined the Union Army. They fought in the battle of Gettysburg in July, and several other battles leading up to the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania in spring 1864.

Jacob did well as a soldier, being promoted to Corporal in June and Sergeant in August 1863. The “Regimental History of the 125th NY Infantry Regiment” by Ezra Simons reveals another side of Jacob. “Survivors of this regiment will remember Jacob Houck as a large, strong man physically; as quite profane; as a drinking man, who, when under the influence of liquor, was given to fighting.” The chaplain of the regiment, author of the history, reported that “on the battlefield of Gettysburg, he had promised his God that if spared he would lead a Christian life. But later on the march southwards and just after rations of whiskey had been served to the troops, (he was) under the influence of liquor and again guilty of profanity.”  But he kept going to prayer meetings at camp and decided he had to give up liquor and turn to prayer.

Houck was wounded in action at Spotsylvania on May 18, 1864. The chaplain “kissed his brow” as he headed off in the ambulance with what proved to be a mortal wound. His Bible was at his head. He died a Christian. He died in a hospital in Washington on June 7.  Jacob is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, his family did not know that.  The 1865 NY Census stated his burial place was unknown.

This is a very dramatic story, but the reality was that wife Margaret was left a widow with four children. I believe I found at least two of the children, Jacob and Andrew, in a long list of young children in the orphan asylum in Troy in the 1865 NY Census. I have not found Margaret in the public record after the war. She may have remarried, which would explain why she didn’t apply for a pension. Perhaps her new husband didn’t want to take on four children.  Son Andrew did apply for a pension based on his father’s service in 1886.

 

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