Sylvester F Hildebrand


SYLVESTER F. HILDEBRAND, a veteran of the Civil war, residing at Apollo, Armstrong county, was born at that place April 16, 1847, son of George W. and Elizabeth (Ford) Hildebrand. His maternal grandparents, Jacob and Christina (Lynch) Ford were early residents of Armstrong county, and he owned land in Apollo. By trade he was a cooper. They were Methodists in religion.

George W. Hildebrand and his wife were born in Pennsylvania and both are now deceased. For a number of years the father ran a packet boat on the Pennsylvania canal. Two children were born to them, Sylvester F. and George W., the latter also residing in Apollo.

Sylvester F. Hildebrand attended public school until his fifteenth year. When only fifteen years, four months old, he enlisted on Aug. 22, 1862, in Company E, 139th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This company was recruited by a young clergyman, Rev. I. A. Pierce, but as it lacked a full quota it was consolidated with another company, also recruited by a clergyman, Rev. Jeremiah Sample, in Allegheny county. Company E left Apollo by canalboat. John Townsend, who owned and lived on the farm where the city of Vandergrift has since been built, took them on his boat to Freeport, on the Pennsylvania canal, and promised that when the war was over he would invite all the boys on the boat to spend a day with him at his home and give them the best the old farm afforded. Three years later he kept his promise to the survivors. The companies mentioned were consolidated and with others organized into a regiment at Camp Howe which was mustered in as the 139th Pennsylvania Troops, with F.H. Collier, of Pittsburgh, as colonel. Mr. Hildebrand served with this command until his discharge. It was attached to the 3d Brigade, 3d Division, 6th Army Corps (sometime afterward the brigade was changed to 1st Brigade, 2d Division), and was kept continually at the front in that brigade until the close of the war, participating in many hard-fought engagements, and losing 145 killed in battle, besides those wounded and otherwise incapacitated. It was in twenty-four battles, took part in the grand review at Washington after peace was concluded, and was mustered out with an honorable record.

Mr. Hildebrand never missed a day�s duty while in the service, or a roll call, and never reported at a sick call but was always prepared to do his duty, whatever it was, when called upon and took part in every battle and skirmish in which the regiment was engaged, which included many of the most important engagements of the war, viz.: Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Winchester, Cedar Creek, and others. At the battle of Salem Church, near Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863, a soldier of Company K was killed at Mr. Hildebrand�s left side and fell across in front of him, Mr. Hildebrand being obliged to step over him, as they were advancing rapidly in line of battle. On July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, while they were lying down on the battle line, a sharpshooter in "Devil�s den" shot over Mr. Hildebrand�s body and killed Capt. Jeremiah M. Sample of Allegheny City, who was in command of the company, the ball entering his left side and passing through his body. During the battle of the Wilderness, on May 5, 1864, Henderson Cochran, of Springchurch, Armstrong Co., Pa., was killed at Mr. Hildebrand�s right side, and at his left at the same time another comrade was shot down, and a few minutes later C.S. Whitworth, of Apollo ( for whom Whitworth Post, No. 89, was named) was severely wounded. In the battle of Spottsylvania, May 12, 1864, Mr. Hildebrand�s leg was struck by a spent ball, which, however, did no damage. On May 18th, at break of day, while advancing through the woods, he captured a big six-foot North Carolinian of the Thirty-second North Carolina regiment, and turned him over to the provost guard. Another comrade of Mr. Hildebrand, Sergeant Alburger, was killed at his left at the battle of Cold Harbor, June 2, 1864. When Early made his celebrated raid in July, 1864, threatening Washington, in order to make General Grant raise the siege of Petersburg, Grant sent the Sixth Army Corps, to which Mr. Hildebrand�s regiment was attached, to Washington by water. When they arrived General Early was at Fort Stevens, five miles from the capital, and the Sixth Corps prevented him from entering the city. Fort Stevens was occupied by citizens as well as soldiers, and a citizen was wounded just outside the fort. President Lincoln was there, the engagement which took place being the only battle of the war he witnessed. Mr. Hildebrand saw Lincoln at that time. At Fisher�s Hill, Va., Sept. 22, 1864, Mr. Hildebrand had a very narrow escape, when a Minie ball struck the musket barrel directly in front of him, coming with such force that the barrel was bent and the bullet spread around it. On Thanksgiving Day, 1864, while engaged on forage duty near the Shenandoah as one of a small detachment, he was taken prisoner by Mosby�s guerrillas, disguised as Federal soldiers, but the party was rescued by Union cavalry within an hour or so. Mr. Hildebrand had an interesting experience, a detailed account of which, written by him, together with a picture of Mr. Hildebrand taken during his service, appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times of May 27, 1912. He carried a gun for two and a half years, until he was detailed as a mounted orderly on a brigadier general�s staff, serving thus until the end of the war, at which time he was only eighteen years old.

Returning to Apollo at the close of his military service, Mr. Hildebrand found employment for a time in the rolling mills, and afterward bought the farm upon which he lived until 1907, devoting his active years to agriculture, in which he made a substantial success. He has since made his home in Apollo, spending his years in comfortable ease.

Mr. Hildebrand is a Democrat and has always taken an active part in promoting the success of his party. One of the most prominent members of the Grand Army of the Republic in this part of Pennsylvania, he has served a number of years as commander of Whitworth Post, No. 89, and has held all the other offices in the order, for whose welfare he has worked faithfully.

On May 9, 1874, in Pittsburgh, Pa., Mr. Hildebrand married Isabelle Ament, who was born at North Washington, in Westmoreland county, daughter of George and Hannah (Hartman) Ament and granddaughter of George and Elizabeth (Marts) Ament. The grandfather was a blacksmith and farmer, and his son George followed the same trade, at North Washington; he was a native of Westmoreland county. Mr. and Mr. Hildebrand are members of the First Lutheran Church at Apollo. They have six living children: Lizzie B., wife of Chance Welsh; Boyd L., a roller in the Vandergrift mill, who married Stella McClaughlin; Retta F., who is the wife of Bruce Coulter, a roller in the Vandergrift mills; Edward W., business manager of the Apollo Sentinal; Cleason C., editor of the Apollo Sentinal, who married Irene Smith; and Edith E., wife of John Zimmerman, a roll turner at Vandergrift.

Source: Pages 866-867, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed November 1998 by Pam Clark for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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