David Shaffer is a good example of just how divided and confusing a person’s loyalties could be during the Civil War, for in Mr. Shaffer we have the case of a native born Southerner from the state of Virginia who fought for the Union Army. He was born on October 23rd, 1837 in the Shenandoah Valley, about eighty miles below Harpers Ferry in Page County. One of five children, and the only son, David helped on the family farm and also found work as a teacher in the local schools in the years immediately prior to the war. In 1860, searching for better opportunities, he moved to Missouri and resumed his work as a teacher. Although a Southerner by birth, David was opposed to slavery, and when the war broke out he found himself at odds with his pro-slavery neighbors and was threatened with hanging. He moved to Gallia County, Ohio, shortly thereafter and resumed his teaching vocation in the winter months while working as a carpenter during the summer.
It was in Gallia, in 1862, that he joined a local militia unit, the 16th Battalion of the Ohio National Guard. Thousands of men during the Civil War served the cause of both North and South in this manner. The militia units weren’t federalized, were under the direct control of the states Governor, and for the most part were used only within the boundaries of the state in which they were raised. They were there to deal with any emergency that might arise, much like today’s National Guard units. For David Shaffer and the men of the Ohio militia, that emergency came in July of 1863, when the famous Confederate cavalryman General John Hunt Morgan hatched a daring plan for a raid into Union held Ohio and Indiana from Kentucky, bringing the war directly to a Northern population who up to that point had felt very secure behind the barriers of the Cumberland and Ohio rivers. Morgan’s Raid sent the North into a panic- reports spread through Indianapolis and Cincinnati that he had 10,000 men with him, and was coming to burn their towns and empty their banks. In reality, Morgan had no more than 2,400 troopers, while Union officials mobilized 125,000 men, including David Shaffer, to pursue and capture him. But Morgan evaded capture for 26 days, at one time even skirting the suburbs of Cincinnati with thousands of Federals in hot pursuit. The raid finally came to an end in Salineville, Ohio, with the capture of Morgan and his remaining 700 men. Imprisoned in the State Penitentiary at Columbus, Morgan soon escaped back to Kentucky, only to be killed in 1864.
1864 also saw David Shaffer, now a Sergeant, and his 16th Battalion federalized and made a part of the Union Army as the 141st Ohio National Guard Infantry. They served 100 days in Federal service, guarding the railroad in Charleston, West Virginia until September of 1864, when they were mustered out. David moved to the town of Addison, Ohio on the banks of the Ohio River, and opened his own mercantile store. He married Miss Louisa Roush in 1865 and had three children, 2 boys and a girl. His business flourished until 1884, when the river flooded and he lost most of his earnings and property. That same year he married Alice Hill, Louisa having died in 1881. In 1890 he moved to California, living in Santa Barbara and the Antelope Valley until moving to Orange County and settling on a 20 acre ranch in Westminster in 1899.
Shaffer’s post-war years were guided by two causes he fervently believed in- Prohibition and Socialism. He seems to have had a disdain for both bureaucrats and bureaucracies. As a Civil War veteran, he was entitled to a veterans pension, and this entailed filling out a number of repetitive forms, year after year, and answering over and over questions about ones marriage status, number of children, details of service, and health problems. In a 1899 document, David grew tired of the game and left the questionnaire blank while writing on the back: “Sir- I answered all the questions you ask on the opposite page 6 or 8 months ago, so I consider it useless to repeat. Especially to heads of departments that are so recreant in their treatment of the ones that defended their country in the 60’s. Had it not been for the valor of the men in those days the last two Presidents would not have had the millions to give to the [J.P.] Morgan Syndicate or the Railroad Syndicate as has been done in the last few years and rob the poor soldiers of their just and honest dues. Had we known that we were to be governed by a Monied Aristocracy as is the case today we would have laid down our arms. Signed David Shaffer.”
While a Union veteran and member of the Santa Ana Sedgwick G.A.R. post, Shaffer was still a Virginian, and it interesting to note that one of the witnesses to a pension affidavit he filed was another Virginian, and well known local Confederate veteran, Josiah Clay Joplin. Here we have the case of a former Confederate soldier helping a former Union soldier to receive a Federal pension, based on Shaffer’s service to defeat the Confederate government. Times most certainly had changed.
David Shaffer passed away at his home in Westminster on May 28th, 1925, from heart disease. He was 87 years old. He is buried in Magnolia Memorial Park in Garden Grove.