John Aquilla Wilson, is believed to be shown to the right of this early Abraham Lincoln impersonator, is believed to be the last surviving Civil War soldier who lived in York County at the time of his enlistment. The resident of the New Park area in the southeastern part of the county died in 1942 at the age of 101. Back in 1863, at the age of 15, he is thought to have fought in the skirmish of Wrightsville. He enlisted in 1864 in the 32nd U.S. Colored Troops.
Wilson, however, does not hold the distinction of being the last Civil War veteran to die in York County.
That belongs to Charles Gibson Yeingst, a resident of Dillsburg for more than half a century, who died in April 1944, just two months before the Allied invasion on D-Day. He had been a resident of Cumberland County when he enrolled in the Union army back in 1865.
In 1943, at the age of 95, he walked in the annual Memorial parade in downtown Dillsburg, the last recorded public march of a Civil War veteran on the streets and roads of York County.
This image of Yeingst’s veteran card is from the Pennsylvania State Archives and is from the fascinating and informative website Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War. His enlistment papers misspell his name as Yingst. He enrolled in the 101st Pennsylvania Infantry in downtown Carlisle late in the war and was shipped down to Fort Monroe near Norfolk,Virginia. However, illness and the end of the war precluded any active field duty.
According to researcher and author Dennis Brandt, Yeingst married Mary Jane Albright in 1870. The couple had six children, all boys: James H. (b. 06/16/69), William (b. @1869), Joseph (b. 01/09/77), Frank B. (b. @1879), Harry F. (b. @1879), and George G. (b. 07/21/82).
In the 1890s he purchased a farm in Carroll Township not far from Dillsburg and lived in York County for more than 50 years. Very late in his life, when he could no longer work the land and living alone, he moved into his granddaughter’s house in the town.
In June 1943 during World War II, the senior citizen made one of the last official public appearances in York County by a Civil War vet.
According to newspaper accounts, “Charles Yeingst, the only surviving Civil War veteran in York County, led the Memorial parade in Dillsburg Monday evening. He will be 96 July 12. His home is near Dillsburg.” The parade also featured six active duty U.S. servicemen, at home on furlough.
This clipping from the East Berlin News Comet on April 21, 1944, mentions Charles Yeingst’s death and funeral. He is buried in Mt. Holly Cemetery in his native Cumberland County.
His quote from May 1943 shows the fighting spirit of a man who typhoid fever denied a chance to fight Robert E. Lee and the Rebels — if he “were only a couple years younger, he’d like to serve his country again in order to get a crack at Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito.”
If you have similar stories of your Civil War ancestors from York County, especially any letters to or from the soldiers, please contact Jim McClure or Scott Mingus. Feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the information. We are collecting these accounts for publication in 2013 in More Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.
The photo of Wilson, Lincoln, and the unidentified veteran (Yeingst???) is from Jim McClure’s York Town Square blog and is from YCHT. The newspaper clipping is from www.newspaperarchive.com.