Rachael Parker, a direct descendant of Jacob Mayer, eldest brother of John, has graciously allowed me to reproduce two of John’s letters here at the Siege of Petersburg Online. The letters which appear below include information on:
- The Assault at the Chimneys, September 10, 1864, in which a reinforced Union skirmish line of the Third Division, Second Corps under Gershom Mott, including the 99th Pennsylvania, played a “mean Yankee trick” on their Confederate counterparts, changing the relative positions of the picket lines south of Petersburg near Forts Hell and Damnation.
- Warren’s Applejack Raid down the Weldon Railroad in December 1864 as observed by a 2nd Corps Pennsylvania soldier.
These letters are the property of Rachael Parker and may not be reproduced without her express written consent. Rachael writes:
John Adam Mayers was born in Germany on June 4th, 1845 to Johann Jacob and Eva Rosina Maier. Around 1850 Johann and Eva immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their children: Jacob, born in 1841, William, born in 1843, John, born in 1845, and Rosina, born in 1849. While living in America they had three more children: Juliana “Julia” in 1857, George “Georgie” in 1859, and Lillie in 1868. To “Americanize” their last name, John and William chose to use “Mayers” while Jacob and Rosina chose to use “Mayer”. The three younger children kept the original German last name “Maier”. When the Civil War began in 1861, the father, Johann Jacob, aged 44, and the eldest son, Jacob, aged 19, enlisted. William enlisted in 1862 at age 19 and John enlisted in 1863 at age 18.
John’s eldest brother, Jacob Mayer, served in the 23rd Pennsylvania and was wounded in battle on several occasions. When the 23rd Pa mustered out, he re-enlisted into the 82nd Pennsylvania and was promoted to Corporal. In the winter of 1864, he became very sick with severe respiratory symptoms, but continued to serve with the unit until they were mustered out after the war ended. He lived for 6 years after the war ended, long enough to marry and have two children, but ultimately died of lung failure at age 29.
John’s older brother, William Mayers, enlisted in the 150th Pennsylvania which was a “Bucktail” regiment. The unit saw action on all three days at Gettysburg and William’s name is listed on the 150th Pa monument at Gettysburg. He remained with the 150th Pa until his death at age 20, in the Battle of Wilderness.
John was attached to the 26th Pennsylvania until it was mustered out in May 1864. He then was promoted to corporal and transferred to the 99th Pennsylvania. He remained with the 99th Pa until his death at age 19 in the Battle of Sailor’s Creek “Double Bridges”, April 6th, 1865, just three days before Lee’s surrender.
The three brothers wrote home to their sister Rosina “Rose” because their parents could not read English. Jacob sometimes included a few lines of German in his letters saying he was well, for his mother to read. Rose treasured the letters and photos that her older brothers sent her from the front lines and when she had a son, he treasured them too. Her son protected and preserved the collection until it was more than 100 years old. Today, the collection is in the hands of Rachael Parker; a direct descendant of Jacob Mayer, the eldest brother.
Letters of John A. Mayers (99th Pennsylvania)1
- LT: September 14, 1864 John A. Mayers (99th Pennsylvania)
- LT: December 14, 1864 John A. Mayers (99th Pennsylvania)
- LT: December 25, 1864 John A. Mayers (99th Pennsylvania)