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153rd Pennsylvania Infantry: Many brothers fight side by side

It wasn't uncommon for family members to fight side by side in the Civil War, but the number of brothers who served in the 153rd Pennsylvania Infantry shows how deeply the war affected the Lehigh Valley.

The average regiment had about 15 or 20 sets of brothers, said Jeff Stocker, author of the upcoming book "We Fought Desperate." But the 153rd, which Stocker features in his book, had an extraordinary 83 sets of brothers, according to his research.

Two of them, who would fight together at Gettysburg, were Stephen and Edwin Knecht, according to "We Fought Desperate."

Stephen, known as "Feldy," and Edwin, known as "Chunky," were both shot in the legs but survived the war. Feldy died 1911 and Chunky lived until 1929.

Even with two sons in the war, the Knecht family didn't send as many offspring as some other local families. In the Aug. 13, 1862, edition of The Allentown Democrat the paper lists two Lehigh County families that are among the most patriotic.

"Several cases have come under our notice where two or three members of one family are engaged in the service of their country," the paper wrote. "We doubt, however, if many can boast of as many as the Hillegass family, of this borough, out of which five brothers have gone to war."

The Democrat notes that four of the sons were in the same unit and Peter, another son, had left with a different unit days earlier. The father, Nathaniel, had previously enlisted but received discharge because of his age and incapacity.

"A gallant family truly, and one hard to beat in exhibition of patriotism," The Democrat wrote.

The other family mentioned is the Pfeiffer family, also of Allentown. Four sons of Henry Pfeiffer were enlisted, the paper reported.

For other news of the day, read a digital copy of The Allentown Democrat. (You can zoom in and navigate the page.)

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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