JOHN A. HOPPER AND THE CIVIL WAR

June 27, 2017

 

 

 

This past Memorial Day, the Glen Rock VFW Post #850 and the Glen Rock American Legion Post #145 placed flags on a gravestone in the Hopper Family Burying Ground behind Coleman School. The stones in the small cemetery are in very poor condition, after over 200 years, and many of the names and details are no longer legible.  I will write a future post about the Burying Ground itself but for now I am concentrating on the one gravesite there which holds the remains of John A. Hopper, who lost his life as an active soldier fighting for the US and New Jersey during the Civil War.

 

You may be surprised to learn that many in New Jersey, and particularly in Bergen County, strenuously supported the secessionist South initially, with some politicians calling for the state to join the Confederate States of America and forsake the Union altogether.  New Jersey Governor Charles Olden, a staunch Unionist, is credited with keeping the state together at the time; once the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, many moderate fence-sitters became fiercely pro-Union and New Jersey's loyalty was no longer in question.

 

New Jersey in the 1850s was an industrial powerhouse.  Trenton had a thriving steel industry; Paterson produced textiles and machinery; Perth Amboy had extensive brick works; Camden had bustling shipyards; and Newark's leather manufacturers produced more than two million shoes annually.  A large portion of this trade was conducted with the agricultural South.  While the cities were buzzing with activity, remote areas such as Bergen County were still very rural with small populations living mostly on farmland.

 

Slaves in New Jersey were not officially freed until the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865 (and even then special conditions were involved).  The majority of New Jersey slaves were farm hands, concentrated in the agricultural northern counties.  In Bergen County, many of the family farms, including those in the area that would become Glen Rock in 1894, had one or two slaves to work the crops or help in the household but the overall numbers were not large by Southern standards.  In 1846, there were about 700 slaves in New Jersey.  New Jersey was the last northern state to retain slaves.

 

Even though Abraham Lincoln lost the NJ popular vote in the 1860 presidential election, New Jersey troops were the first to appear in Washington DC to defend the Capital following President Lincoln's call for volunteer militia men after Fort Sumter was attacked.  The enlistment period was only for three months, in anticipation of a rapid triumph by the Union.

 

By August 1862, the term of service for new enlistments had extended to nine months, and it was at this point that the 22nd Regiment, New Jersey Infantry (volunteers) was formed.  John A. Hopper, son of Abraham Hopper, was one of the many young men from Bergen County who enlisted with Companies D and E of the 22nd.  In 1860, John lived with his widowed mother in his grandfather Henry P. Hopper's house (contemporary photo below) in the rural area known as "Small Lots" in Saddle River Township, Bergen County.  Today, Henry Hopper's house still stands at the corner of Ackerman Avenue and Harristown Road in Glen Rock.  Before leaving to join his regiment, John and the other volunteers who were members of the Paramus Reformed Dutch Church listened to a rousing farewell sermon from the Reverend Mr. Corwin, who presented each man with a copy of the Holy Bible to take on campaign.

 

After minimal training in Trenton, the 22nd Regiment was sent to Washington DC where the men were put to work building fortifications.  In early December 1862, they were placed on provost duty at Aquia Creek (photo below), guarding the railroad line and assisting with transferring the dead and wounded 

streaming in from the battle at Fredericksburg.  1863 brought marching through the muck and rain and cold in General Burnside's "Mud March".  Muster roll sheets show that John A. Hopper, Private, Co. E, 22 Reg't New Jersey Infantry was present for September and October 1862 and January, February, and March 1863; for November and December 1862, his roll sheet is marked "not stated" where it is to be marked either "present" or "absent" but this was a time when his regiment was on the move.  His final muster out sheet in June 1863 has a notation "last paid to Oct. 31, 1862", which illustrates the growing problem of pay arrears that would become an even greater issue as the War dragged on.

 

In late April 1863, the NJ 22nd crossed the Rappahannock River and on May 3rd the regiment was ordered to the relief of the Union forces at Chancellorsville (photo below of the wounded following battle of Chancellorsville).  General Hooker held the New Jersey men in reserve and never committed them to the battlefield before withdrawing.  The 22nd retreated with the Army of the Potomac and, its term of service completed, the men were

released from duty. Returning to Trenton, the 22nd Regiment, New Jersey Infantry was mustered out and officially disbanded on June 22, 1863.

 

Unfortunately for John Hopper, he was not among those soldiers mustered out in Trenton.  Although he was marked "present" for a special muster roll on April 10, 1863, the next month's company muster sheet notes that he was "sent sick to General Hospital April 15". Civil War medicine and sanitation were primitive by today's standards: nutrition was poor, water sources were often unclean, knowledge and resources were lacking for sanitary facilities.  Private Hopper, age 22, of "Small Lots", Bergen County "died at Henderson Hosp., Wash. D. C. of typhoid fever contracted in the service May 24, 1863".  His body was returned to his family and he was buried near his father Abraham Hopper and his grandfather Henry P. Hopper in the tiny family burying ground, now located on Spottswood Road.  John's tombstone is no longer legible, but several years ago the Glen Rock Historical and Preservation Society made a careful record of identifiable headstones with their inscriptions.  His stone, engraved with date of death May 25, 1863, included this quote from the Bible: "A little while and you shall not see me/ And again a little while and ye shall see me."

 

As an epilogue: Treasury vouchers from the New Jersey State Archives show that payments in the amounts of $29.40 (for 4 months, 28 days of service) and $6.00 (1 month service) were eventually made to John's mother by August 1863.

 

For additional general photos regarding NJ and the Civil War, check out the GRHPS Pinterest Board https://www.pinterest.com/glenrockhistory/nj-in-the-civil-war/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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