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John M. Madden, Private, 109th/111 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

Posted 10/16/2022

   John Morrow Madden was a 32 year old clerk from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who’s parents were from Ireland, when he enlisted in the 109th Pennsylvania Infantry on December 3, 1861. Madden was a single man , and a clerk when enlisting, and later married a lady named Mary. After the war, Madden was a janitor at a public school in Philadelphia. One can only imagine what a life change it must have been to have been in the army for almost 4 years walking, riding, and fighting all over the southern part of our nation, then suddenly being back home in Philadelphia sweeping floors and taking out trash in a school in Philadelphia. In February 1891, Madden filed for a disability as an invalid thru his government pension. John Madden died in April 1906 in Philadelphia.

  Madden was mustered out of the service on July 19, 1865 before returning to Pennsylvania to start a new life. During John M. Madden’s war time, Madden wrote several letters home, and to others. Copies of these letters were donated in 1998  to the United States Department of the Interior, Gettysburg National Military Park by Nancy Lathrop, who is the great-great granddaughter of John M. Madden. When furnishing the copies to the National Park Service [NPS],  a note was affixed to the copies from Ms. Lathrop that states, “ Madden was a Private and stayed mainly with the hospital and guarded the supply wagons. He was responsible for the amputation kit. He also cooked meals for some of the officers. He was in his thirties during the war. He was single, but was a guardian for child named Mary. His stepfather Alonzo Dewey was also in the same regiment. John was not a prolific writer and most of what he wrote about deals with personal things as opposed to details about battles. At Gettysburg he was with the Field Hospital and stayed after the battle to assist at Camp Letterman. He finally rejoined his unit, and was with General Sherman and his march to the sea. He mustered out in 1865.” (Lathrop, John M. Madden report, 1998)

  The 109th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was also known as the “Curtin Light Guards.” During the war, the regiment lost 3 officers, and 61 enlisted men killed and wounded with 71 enlisted men who died from disease. The regiment participated in battles at Antietam, Chancellorsville, and several others in the east before being transferred to Tennessee in late September 1863, after the battle that took place at Chickamauga. The regiment stayed with the armies in the west until the end of the war. Battles in the west that the regiment participated in were Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap, the Atlanta campaign, and eventually the so called, march to the sea. In March 1865, the 109th Pennsylvania was consolidated with the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry.

  When reviewing Madden’s letters, Nancy Lathrop was  right in her assessment that Madden was obsessed with his “things” rather than the battles, for the most part ,that he participated in. In one letter, Madden describes a Confederate rifle  marked C-S-A, and sword bayonet he picked up on the battlefield at Gettysburg. In one letter he described a scarf he picked up at an abandoned southern home in Atlanta, and sent home.  On one occasion, Madden describes picking up, and digging bullets from trees and rocks from the battlefield at Gettysburg. On another occasion, Madden takes flower seeds from flowers growing in Atlanta and sending them home. Still, on another occasion, Madden writes his mother with instructions to tell everyone to stay out of his “stuff’ he has sent home.

  Besides the copies of the Madden letters donated to the Gettysburg National Park, Ms. Lathrop also donated an iron eagle that was one of John Madden’s “things” or “stuff.” In the Gettysburg National Military archives and collections, the following pictured eagle is now located. The eagle is described as follows: “Gett 38516-Cast iron finial from the top of a flagstaff; finial is cast in the shape of a spread eagle perched atop a short log with it’s head turned to it’s left [right as your view], eagle measures 6 13/16” long from wing tip to wing tip, 3 ¼” inches high from circular base to the top of head, circular base  measures 13/16” diameter with ½” long threaded post for attaching to the top of a flagstaff, one piece casting, no makers marks; a piece is broken off left side of log, spotty rust;” the remainder of the information is about the piece belonging to John M. Madden. (Park, 1990)

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  Research of the Civil War flags, flagstaff’s, and finials in the collections of the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania reveals that the original flagstaff finials are still on all the flagstaff’s in their collections for the 109th and 111th Pennsylvania. The state historian there has never seen the eagle in the possession of the NPS regarding John M. Madden. It is believed that the eagle is not one of the finials for the two regiments spoken of in this essay. The Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee furnished the images of the finials of these two infantry organizations. (Wilson, 2022)

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  Further research revealed the following image of an Atlanta, Georgia downtown street during the Civil War. As one can see, the eagle atop a gas street light pole box looks to be a very close example of the eagle presented here in the John M. Madden collection.

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  The question becomes, is the iron eagle in the John M. Madden collection in fact a flagstaff finial from the war? Could the eagle have been used by some Confederate regiment, lost, and picked up on a battlefield by Madden? While rifling around some southern city for relics to send home, did Madden pick the eagle up from a heap of junk and send it home, or perhaps taking a real liking to the eagle as was seen on the top of a street gas light post, and he decided to take it, and send it home? All questions are all capable, however, at this point, pending any new information, the piece will remain a flagstaff finial in the records of the Gettysburg National Military Park.


Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Letters and eagle images, John Madden

Nancy Lathrop, Letters, and eagle of John M. Madden

Pennsylvania Preservation Committee, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 109th and 111th Flagstaff Finials


(Lathrop, John M. Madden report, 1998)

(Park, 1990)

(Wilson, 2022)

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