‘The last soldier:’ Descendants and community honor county’s longest surviving Civil War veteran

Great Grandson Daniel G. Null, left of left photo, honors his great grandfather Daniel Null, right photo, with Lee Miller Camp 503 Commander, center, and Greg Kline, fellow 503 member. DON EVERETT SMITH JR./OnthePULSE

WILLIAMSPORT – Lycoming County’s last surviving Civil War veteran, Daniel Null, was honored at a special ceremony on Saturday morning at Wildwood Cemetery.

A crowd of 50 to 75 family members and persons seeking to honor Null, gathered along with Civil War reenactors with 19th century military hardware. While Null’s descendants sat in white folding chairs under the shade of several trees, wreaths and flowers were laid by great grandchildren and members of the community. The ceremony concluded with a small arms salute followed by the firing of a cannon and a bugler playing “Taps.”

Afterward, ceremony attendees were able to see articles and images of Null from the past laid out on a table. A drawing of Null, dressed in a full uniform, was framed in an old brown frame. It had been hanging in the homes of his descendants.

Lee Miller, the commander of the Gen J.P.S. Gobin. Camp 503, from Sunbury, organized the event. The Gobin Camp 503 group is a chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

“This was a pretty large ceremony,” Lee Miller said. “I think there were 25 descendants here.” He said this type of gathering is “what these soldiers deserve.” He explained that his “camp is based out of Sunbury, and it is one of our duties to go around and make sure the last soldier, in every county, is honored properly.”

He explained that the Gobin chapter had recently honored a veteran in Northumberland County and with Miller being from Montoursville, he wanted to make sure Lycoming County’s last veteran had been honored for his service.

“I had known the Null family from way back, so it was quite a pleasant surprise,” Miller said.

Miller credited Lycoming County history author Thad Meckley, who recently passed away, and fellow history writer Joanne Long as being “instrumental in helping us put everything together.” Miller said Meckley “was very excited about the ceremony.”

Called to war at age 16

Long recently wrote a series of articles that appeared in the Lycoming Joy and Memories Facebook group about Null. She detailed his background, his enlistment, the skirmishes and firefights he was engaged in, as well as his post-Civil War career when he retired to Lycoming County and a farm at Cogan Station.

“On a warm summer morning on August 10, 1862, a young man from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, named John R. Null, left his family’s farm, and answered the call from President Abraham Lincoln to enlist as a soldier in the 130th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company D, to fight in the Civil War,” Long began the piece. “Five days later, on August 15, the last possible day available to be mustered into service, John R. Null’s younger brother, just sixteen years old, followed along behind him and enlisted in Company E of the 130th.”

Long said he lied about his age, saying he was 18 years old, so he could fight.

“This sixteen-year-old, standing 5’4″ tall, with brown hair and brown eyes, was Daniel Null,” Long said.

Null fought in the Battle of South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. The battle began on Sept. 7 and continued into the night. The next day “ they found themselves surrounded by ruined houses, a destroyed landscape, dead bodies, and wounded men who still lay waiting for ambulances to remove them from the field. As bad as this was for the men of the 130th, the worst was yet to come.”

On Sept. 16, Null’s group fought in the battle of Antietam. Next came the battle for control of Harper’s Ferry, then the battle of Fredericksburg, followed by the battle of Chancellorsville.

Long added that with the end of the war still nowhere in sight, Null, as did many other soldiers, reenlisted for a third term of service in 1864. In the articles on Null’s life, she detailed how he fought in other battles and after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, Null returned home.

Life after war

“Not long after Daniel Null returned home to his family’s farm in Cumberland County between the years 1865 and 1870, he moved to Williamsport to search for a job as a general laborer,” Long said.

Between 1870 and 1900 he started a family and held several different jobs.

In 1900, he bought a farm in Cogan Station.

“While living in Lycoming County, Daniel Null became active in the Reno Post of the GAR. Although he remained active in this group until the last two years of his life, for many years, Daniel was not much noticed outside of this organization,” Long said. She added that the Gazette and Bulletin, on Sept. 4, 1936, announced “a celebration of his 90th birthday.”

‘Honored for his longevity’

On March 15, 1937,” Daniel got the attention he had somehow avoided up till then. But he made the spotlight for an unusual reason. There were no medals or awards being given. He had surpassed his fellow Lycoming County veterans in one specific way. Daniel Null, the ultimate survivor, had outlived them all, and now he was being honored for his longevity.”

Null’s son, Daniel Stuart Null would enlist in the Army and fight in the Spanish American War and his grandson, Robert, joined the marines and served in World War II.

Null died on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and forced the United States into the Second World War.

“Daniel Null, Lycoming County’s oldest surviving Civil War Veteran at the time of his death, passed down his legacy of service, duty, self-sacrifice, and survival against all odds to the generations that succeeded him,” Long said in the article.

Long called writing this article a “labor of love,” during an interview with On the PULSE over Facebook messenger.

“I did some really deep digging on the internet and used everything I found,” Long said. She mentioned how dear a friend Meckley was and how instrumental he was in getting her involved.

Also in attendance during the ceremony was Lycoming County Commissioner Scott Metzger. He laid a wreath on Null’s tombstone as a representative of the county.

“We need to honor our veterans. The reason why we have freedom today is because of a gentleman like this and what he went through though and how he always volunteered. He falsified his age to get in, that is true dedication,” Metzger said.

Author

  • Writer Don Everett Smith Jr. is a recent transplant to Lycoming County with his wife, Laura, and their cats and tortoise. Don has written professionally for over 25 years with several articles, short stories and books to his credit. He is also a known horror and true-crime writer with a specific interest in history.

Don Everett Smith Jr.

Writer Don Everett Smith Jr. is a recent transplant to Lycoming County with his wife, Laura, and their cats and tortoise. Don has written professionally for over 25 years with several articles, short stories and books to his credit. He is also a known horror and true-crime writer with a specific interest in history.

1 Comment
  1. I attended this beautiful ceremony. It was a wonderful honor for Daniel Null ‘s family.decedents. I was married to David Null. We have a long family history. My grandparents the Daubers on my Mothers side knew the Nulls all their life. Thank all of you for all of the work you put into this marvelous honor for Daniel Nulls decedents. God Bless. Judy Null Gaston