The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.
First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.
This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.
It was raining when we left the house that morning, headed towards Chester County to visit family.
“It’s going to be a long trip,” mom said as she took her position in the passenger’s seat. “Are you still planning on stopping anywhere?” She knew I had a list of places to visit along the way.
“It depends on how hard it is raining,” I answered. I didn’t mind getting wet while exploring, but the hard rain as we left the house would be enough to make me cut the list short and remain in the warm, dry vehicle.
By the time we reached Lewistown we had a temporary pause in the rain as the line of heavy downpours had passed over. Getting off Route 322, I took the Route 22 bypass around Lewistown before returning to the community via Route 22 Business, which is also known as West 4th Street.
As we approached downtown Lewistown, the large, peaceful cemetery appeared on the right side of the road. In my numerous trips past the cemetery, I had always believed it to be one large cemetery. To my surprise, the garden of stone located at the intersection of West 4th and North Juniata Streets is two cemeteries – First Methodist and St. John’s Lutheran. No physical barrier exists to separate the two cemeteries, which was part of the reason I believed this was one large cemetery.
I drove through the gate for St. John’s Lutheran made my way to the back and parked. Pulling out a cemetery map and directions I opened the door and stepped into the cold morning air.
“Want to come along?” I asked as I scanned the hillside.
“Nope,” mom answered. “Might get my feet wet,” she laughed.
With those words, I headed up the hillside, crossing the invisible barrier and into the First Methodist Cemetery in search of the two Medal of Honor recipients who received the honor for actions during the U. S. Civil War.
Arriving at the top of the hill, I saw a large cedar and headed towards it. Resting on the eastern side of the tree was the first of the two men I had come to honor and pay respect. After cleaning off the metal plaque which recognized him as a recipient of the Medal of Honor, I stood silently at the grave of John A. Davidsizer.
John Andrew Davidsizer, whose family name was originally Davidsiser, was born April 26, 1834 in Lewistown. As a young man, he found employment as a boatsman on the Pennsylvania Canal and later at the old Lewistown blast furnace. Note: Davidsizer’s death notice in the October 21, 1913 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph creates some confusion in researching his personal life – it clearly states he was born in Lewistown. However, many places state he was born in Milford, Pike County. In my attempt to determine where the Milford birthplace came from, I believe I have an explanation. Just over the border in Juniata County is Milford Township. It appears the family may have had connections to this township, which was abbreviated to Milford and caused the confusion.
On May 19, 1861, Davidsizer enlisted as a member of Company C, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers Cavalry. Companies A through G would be mustered into state service at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg and the unit was immediately sent southward. Davidsizer would be wounded during a skirmish at Milford Station, Virginia on May 21, 1864. The June 1, 1864 edition of the Lewistown Gazette (Lewistown, Pa) states he was wounded in the leg during “a battle in Virginia.” Note: For reasons unknown, it has been reported in a handful of articles Davidsizer was wounded on June 21, 1864 at Milford Station. This was most likely due to a transcribing error.
Milford Station was a small train depot surrounded by a handful of houses that went ignored until the war entered Spotsylvania County, when it became a stop for the Confederacy moving soldiers and supplies through Eastern Virginia. On May 21, Confederate General James L. Kemper heard rumors of an approaching Union force. With a brigade of 400 men, Kemper decided he would attempt to defend the depot and bridge over the Mattaponi River. What Kemper did not know was the Union army – close to 20,000 men – was bearing down on them. Kemper’s men soon ran low on ammunition and fled across the Mattaponi River, burning the bridge behind them. The 68 Confederate soldiers who remained behind to guard the retreating force surrendered.
At the frontline of the conflict was the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, which included Davidsizer. During the fighting, Davidsizer would be wounded in the leg.
During the final days of the war Davidsizer would capture a Confederate flag. On April 5, 1865, during the Battle of Paine’s Crossroads – also known as the Battle of Sailor’s, or Sayler’s, Creek – Davidsizer would capture an enemy battle flag.
The Battle of Paine’s Crossroads saw the Union army, which included the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, attack the Confederate supply line and preventing the Confederate army to escape the Union advance. The Union victory saw the capture of supply wagons, artillery, approximately 7,700 soldiers and teamsters, eleven battle flags, and eight Confederate generals. Three days after the major defeat, General Robert E. Lee would surrender at Appomattox Court House.
For the capture of a Confederate battle flag, Davidsizer was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 3, 1865. The citation for his medal reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant John A. Davidsizer, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 5 April 1865, while serving with Company A, 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, in action at Paines Crossroads, Virginia, for capture of flag.”
Davidsizer was honorably discharged on June 16, 1865 at Clouds Mills, Virginia. After the war, he would return to Lewistown and settle down, marrying Juniata Kulp and raising a family. Little is known about his life after he returned home to Lewistown. According to the August 5, 1919 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pa), in 1889 John Davidsizer made his living by going house to house selling coal oil (kerosene).
Davidsizer died October 19, 1913 and was buried in the First Methodist Cemetery in his hometown. Note: Davidsizer’s death notice in the October 21, 1913 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph creates more confusion in researching his personal life. The notice states Davidsizer had been a widower as his wife, Juniata, had died several years before. However, according to everything else I’ve read and the dates on the stone she shares with her husband, Juniata also died in 1913.
A cold breeze told me more rain was on its way, so I finished paying my respects to the Medal of Honor recipient and left him resting beneath the cedar tree as I went in search of another recipient who rested a short distance away.
Note: John A Davidsizer was not the only person from Mifflin County and a member of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry whose actions were acknowledged with the Medal of Honor. James Landis, who rests in nearby Yeagertown, would also capture a Confederate flag during the Battle of Paines Crossroads. More about James Landis can be found here: James Landis.
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