“Oh, God, I’m too close to my home to die.”
Those words are assumed to be the spoken words said by John Hoffacker after being wounded on the first day of the Battle of Hanover on June 30, 1863.
The life story of John Hoffacker and his family varies from writer to writer, according to John T. Krepps in his book, A Strong and Sudden Onslaught, The Cavalry Action at Hanover, Pennsylvania. In Appendix H for John Hoffacker (pages 111 – 114) Krepps tells the story of the hardships, heroism, perseverance, loyalty, and tragedy that the family endured.
Prior to 1850, the family had Pennsylvania ties. It is shown that his parents, Henry Martin and Elizabeth (Hoffman) Hoffacker, owned farmland in Carroll County, and shortly after the 1850 Census was taken, sold the farm due to Henry’s bad health. The family moved to Baltimore County, Maryland and purchased the Gunpowder Falls Paper Mill. Several of his children farmed nearby land while it is said that John and William helped out at the mill.
By 1859, severe financial hardship fell on the family. Henry lent a large sum of money to another man, who defaulted on his debt. Because of this, the Hoffacker family could not pay their creditors. The mill was sold at a sheriff’s sale, but that did not cover their debt. Several family members continued to work at the mill under new ownership.
In 1862, Krepps wrote that more hardship to the family hit when son, William, enlisted in the 3rd Maryland Infantry, maybe to help earn money for his family. Brothers John and George began working at a mill on Deer Creek in York County, Pennsylvania, while another brother stayed on working at the farm.
John enlisted in September 1862 in the 18th Pennsylvania Calvary. Letters home to their parents often included money. 3
In 1863, the parents and several of their children moved to Parkton, Maryland where they operated a hotel, and life began to look up financially.
On June 30, 1863, John was shot and killed at Hanover during the Battle of Hanover. About this same time, his brother William was serving with the Union 12th Infantry Corps. After the Gettysburg campaign, the Union 12th Infantry Corps. was transferred to the Western Theater. On November 18, 1863, William was charged with stealing money from another soldier in his regiment. Later, the 3rd Maryland transferred to the Eastern Theater, and William was shot in the knee on May 12, 1864. He died on February 3, 1865 at his parents’ home in Parkton during his recuperation.
John was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery and it was written that due to his parents’ hardships, his body remained in Hanover. The parents scraped together enough money to have William buried beside his brother at Mount Olivet Cemetery. In 1867, the family sold the hotel, and moved to Railroad, York County, Pennsylvania. It is here at Mount Olivet Cemetery that Henry and Elizabeth are also buried beside their faithful sons
Born: December 29, 1838 (Note: the PA Veterans Burial Card notes 1841 for his birth, but all other records are 1838.) Possibly in Manchester, Carroll County, Maryland. There is some discrepancy to the location of his birth.
Died: June 30, 1863
Military: Civil War, Battle of Hanover, Company E, 18th Regiment, Pennsylvania Calvary, 163rd Volunteers, Rank in-Private and Rank out-Corporal. 3
Buried: Mount Olivet Cemetery, Hanover, Heidelberg Township, York County, Pennsylvania, Section G, Lot 19. 2 (John is on the left of the photograph with William to the right. The Forney-Bittinger Chapel is shown in the background.)
Sources and Further Reading
- Amy Lynn Warner, et.al. Hanover Area Pictorial History, A Publication of The Evening Sun 1995 Edition, (Missouri: D-Books Publishing Company, 1995), p. 20.
- “Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990,” Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, accessed March 10, 2015, http://search.ancestry.com//cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=VeterBurialC&h=436491&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt&ssrc=pt_t47816768_p13253789511_kpidz0q3d13253789511z0q26pgz0q3d32768z0q26pgplz0q3dpid.
- “National Park Service, The Civil War,” http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=E0621BA9-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A, accessed March 12, 2015.