Civil War Survivors
Homer Chatley and Harlow Pike
Old soldiers never die, they just . . . fade away
Perhaps it was that old man who lived next to them as a child or the old men who sat in the warm sun on the benches in the public square. Or perhaps it was their own grandfather, with stories of the "Great Rebellion". All are gone now, but the names of two such veterans are remembered in Bradford-Homer Chatley and Harlow Pike.
It is doubtful that they even knew each other before the Civil War. Chatley was from Milledgeville in Mercer County, and lived there until his enlistment in the Union Army. Pike was a Bradford boy, son of Barnabas Pike, one of the city's earliest settlers, and lived on Sherman Street. Both entered the war young-Chatley was only 17 years old, and Pike enlisted on May 22, 1862, the day before his 18th birthday.
Chatley joined the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1863, and fought in nearly all battles under U.S. Grant. He was wounded twice in the side at the Battle of the Wilderness. He once recalled that Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, spotted him on the street in Washington, DC during a march through the city and commented "Why, that's a very young-looking soldier!" He served with two companies while with the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers - Company E, and then combined Companies B and E. He was on his way with his regiment to Gettysburg as reinforcements when he heard the word that Lee had surrendered, and the war was over.
Pike fought in more than 40 battles and was wounded twice. He enlisted in the Army of the Potomac, and was mustered into Union service at Staten Island, NY as a private to serve three years with Company I, 71st Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry.
His first battle was at the siege of Yorktown, April to May 3, 1862. He recalls the engagement as "most terrifying". Over the next two months, he fought at the battle of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Fall Oaks, Richmond, Oak Grove, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale and Malvern Hill. He was wounded for the first time at the battle of Kettle Run that August, 1862, when he was shot through the right arm and right side. In May of 1863 he fought at the battle of Chancellorsville, VA, and then moved to Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Pike was severely wounded for the second time at Wapping Heights on July 23rd, being shot through the back of the neck. In the spring of 1864, he was in the Battle of the Wilderness.
After the war, both men returned to Pennsylvania. Chatley went to Edinboro Normal School, and became a teacher. He taught in local schools for the next several years, and in 1879, following the successful discovery of oil in the Bradford fields, left for Bradford. He became an oil producer, and owned leases near Sawyer City until 1887 and near Bradford until 1912.
Pike came home to Bradford, married, and had four daughters. He never forgot his Civil War experiences, and was very active in the G.A.R. (The Grand Army of The Republic) Organization, which was comprised of Union Veterans. The organization, formed in Bradford in 1879, once boasted over 500 members. He never failed to participate in the annual Memorial Day observances, and served as the GAR Commander many times.
Chatley also became a member of the John S. Melvin Post 141 of the GAR. He was widely known throughout the city and McKean County, and took part in many civic and patriotic observances. He eventually became the last commander of the post, following Pike's death. In 1938 he attended the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg at the age of 92.
Pike died April 4, 1935 following an illness of several weeks at the age of 91. Homer Chatley, the lone surviving member of the GAR, attended his comrade's last rites.
Chatley lived another five years, finally dying at the age of 94 on March 22, 1940. Four sons, Albert, Rodney, John and Ortho survived him. He is buried in Oak Hill. Upon his death, the John S. Melvin Post 141 of the Grand Army of the Republic ceased to exist. The passage of time had finally claimed all its members.