GLOUCESTER CITY HISTORY: Ferdinand McWilliams, of Gloucester City, Irish Immigrant, Civil War Veteran
(September 2, 1908)-Camden Post Telegram
FERDINAND McWILLIAMS was born in Ireland. In 1870 at the time of the Census he gave his age as 41, this would translate into a birth date in 1828 or 1829. Other sources indicate his birth year as 1820 and 1830. He went to California by way of Cape Horn to seek his fortune in the California gold fields during the 1849 gold rush. He struck it rich and set out for home, only to be robbed, shot, and left for dead while crossing the Isthmus of Panama. He returned to Gloucester City. He married in the 1850s, his son, James Gavan being born around 1860. Wife Mary McWilliams bore him two more sons, Thomas Francis two years later, and George Bruce, born around 1867. Sadly, she passed away sometime in the 1870s.
When the Civil War broke out, Ferdinand McWilliams enlisted, serving with Company D, Fourth New Jersey Volunteers. He enlisted as a Lieutenant 2nd Class, or Ensign, at Trenton, April 27, 1861, with his regiment, to serve for three months. The Fourth New Jersey left the state for Washington, D. C., on May 3, with 37 commissioned officers and 743 non-commissioned officers and privates, a total of 777. On the evening of May 5, it reached the capital, and on the 9th it was ordered to go into camp at Meridian hill, where, within a few days the entire brigade was encamped, and where, on the 12th, it was honored by a visit from the president, who warmly complimented the appearance of the troops.
On the evening of May 23, it joined the 2nd and 3d regiments and about midnight took up the line of march in silence for the bridge that spanned the Potomac. This bridge was crossed at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 24th, the 2nd was posted at Roach's spring, and the 3d and 4th about half a mile beyond on the Alexandria road. On July 16, a guard was detailed from the 4th for a section of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, which it was important to hold; one company from the regiment guarded the Long bridge; still, another was on duty at Arlington mills; and the remainder of the regiment, together with the 2nd, was ordered to proceed to Alexandria. On July 24, the term of service having expired, the 4th returned to New Jersey and was mustered out at Trenton, July 31, 1861.
After his military service, Ferdinand McWilliams lived in Gloucester City, where he made his home on Mercer Street, above Willow Street. He was employed for many years as a box-maker at the Gloucester Print Works and served as a councilman in his town as a Democrat. He applied for his Civil War pension on June 17, 1890.
Ferdinand McWilliams passed away on September 1, 1908, at his home in Gloucester City.
Funeral of Former Councilman Ferdinand McWilliams Awaits Son's Arrival
Former Councilman Ferdinand McWilliams died at his home on Mercer Street, Gloucester City, yesterday afternoon, after a lingering illness. The deceased was one of the oldest residents of Gloucester and during the war of the Rebellion served as a sergeant in Company D, Fourth New Jersey Volunteers, under Captain Stafford. He was about 74 years of age.
The time of the funeral will not be set until the arrival of his son, James McWilliams, who left home in Colorado on Friday night with the expectation of arriving here before the death of his father. He is expected tomorrow night.
McWilliams was one of the California Forty-niners and survived a remarkable experience. He went West in the great rush for gold, going by way of Cape Horn. He had good luck in the mines and started back to New Jersey with considerable wealth. Coming by way of the Isthmus of Panama, he encountered a band of desperate cutthroats who robbed him of his hoard and left him for dead, his frame punctured by many bullet holes.
McWilliams managed to regain sufficient consciousness to crawl to a clump of bushes near a stream of water, and there he lay, he never could tell how long. At dawn, he heard the crowing of a rooster and knew that he was near human habitation. Inch by inch he struggled over the ground until he came to a house, where he fell fainting. He was discovered and tenderly cared for until he was well enough to start on his way home.
McWilliams for years had been employed at the Gloucester Print Works and was chosen a member of the City Council by the Democrats of his ward, a position he filled faithfully and well. He leaves the considerable real estate.
sources: Camden Post Telegraph September 2, 1908/ DVRBS.com