It is all too common that we rarely discover the exact circumstances of a fallen heroes death. Unless a witness thinks to write down the particulars, the sacrifice often becomes merely a footnote in their own history. This is yet another example of such a sacrifice, but worthy of telling nonetheless.
The Stocker family in Tuscarawas County settled from their homes in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Among them was John Adam Stocker (1773-1836) who, with his wife Barbara Stecher (1777-1836) and children, first appear in Ohio on the 1820 census record for Salem Township, Tuscarawas County. The family ultimately included ten children, though four never lived above the age of thirty. John’s branch of the Stocker family eventually settled in both Oxford and Salem Townships.
Among the ten children to live past the age of thirty was Aaron Stocker (1815-1853), though he did not live past forty himself. He married Nancy Amanda Tucker (1822-1845) in 1840 and she gave birth to two children before her death in 1845. After Nancy’s death Aaron married a cousin, Mary Stocker (1824-1899), and she brought two more children into the family before Aaron’s death in 1853. Mary married John Browning (1814-1899) the year of Aaron’s death and the Stocker children were raised in the Browning household.
Among the children from Aaron’s marriage to his first wife was a son, Samuel Stocker (1840-1862). Samuel worked his father’s farm in his youth and later worked on the Oxford Township farm of John Browning’s neighbor, Daniel Anderson (1801-1863). He was working on Anderson’s farm when the American Civil War began with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861. Perhaps swept up by patriotic fervor, or maybe seeking adventure outside of Tuscarawas County, Samuel Stocker enlisted in the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the fall of 1861.
The 51st Ohio Volunteer Regiment was organized under Colonel Stanley Matthews in September and October 1861 at Camp Meigs in Dover, Ohio. The regiment was made up of men from from Tuscarawas, Coshocton, Darke and Madison counties who all enlisted for three years of military service. Enlisting for that period almost guaranteed little opportunity to return home before the war ended. After the regiment filled its companies and was formally organized, it was shipped to the western theater via Cincinnati, Ohio. Private Stocker, during his time with the 51st Ohio, served mostly in Kentucky and Tennessee. The regiment, while it marched and countermarched across Tennessee and Kentucky in late 1861 and into early 1862, saw little to no actual combat.
The 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry marched to Nashville, Tennessee where it arrived in late February 1862 and was assigned to provost duty in the city. The regiment was essentially in Nashville to serve as federal law enforcement, serving the role of military policemen. Men of the unit, when they were not in camp, patrolled the streets of the city and interacted with the local populace. Not surprisingly given the conditions of camp life, men of the 51st became ill with camp diseases like pneumonia, typhoid, and dysentery (diarrhea).
There is no record available that indicates how Samuel Stocker died, but his death is reported as occurring on April 9, 1862 while the 51st was still occupying Nashville, Tennessee. Likely he died from one of the many camp disorders common during the war, though which one is a mystery. Private Stocker, having not heard a shot fired in anger, was returned home for burial in the Beersheba Cemetery in Gnadenhutten.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.