David Acheson was born in Washington, Pennsylvania on January 10, 1841. He was the third of nine children born to Alexander and Jane Acheson (Wishart). With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Acheson boys began enlisting in the army. John Acheson, the oldest of the Acheson boys, enlisted in the 85th Pennsylvania Infantry regiment on November 14, 1861. John would be promoted to the rank of captain, in Company A, on February 29, 1864. He would serve through the end of the Civil War, reaching the rank of brevet major. David would enlist in the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry, as captain of Company C, on August 22, 1862. Alexander (Sandie), David’s younger brother, would enlist in the 140th Pennsylvania on the same day. Sandie would serve his entire three year enlistment, mustering out on December 9, 1864, with a rank of captain.
Captain Acheson would be well regarded by the soldiers in his company. Through his leadership, drilling and training he would earn their trust.(i) After a brief stint guarding the North Central Railroad the 140th Pennsylvania would be assigned to the V Corps, Middle Department, reporting to Falmouth, Virginia on December 15, 1862. Arriving too late to participate in the debacle at Fredericksburg, the first major action the 140th would participate in would be at Chancellorsville, April 30 – May 6, 1863. Having been transferred to the Third Brigade, First Division of US Major General Darius Couch’s II Corps, Acheson would see hard action at Chancellorsville.(ii) US Major General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac would be brutally repulsed, retreating north across the Rappahannock River.
In June, CS General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would take the war north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Arriving in Pennsylvania, in late June, Lee would be opposed by a new Federal commander, US Major General George Gordon Meade. All roads pointed to Gettysburg, where from July 1–3, 1863, 160,000 men would give battle. On the second day of battle, new II Corps commander, US Major General Winfield S. Hancock would be ordered to support US Major General Daniel E. Sickles’ III Corps which was nearly a mile out of position. US Brigadier General John Caldwell’s First Division would be sent to support the III Corps. Captain David Acheson’s Company C, 140th Pennsylvania would be part of US Brigadier General Samuel Zook’s Third Brigade. They would be sent through the retreating remnants of Sickles’ III Corps, into a rapidly advancing enemy. Acheson, leading from the front, would be shot twice by a soldier in the 3d South Carolina Infantry. Unfortunately, due to the speed of the approaching Confederates, Acheson’s mortally wounded body would be left on the field. When the Confederates retreated, on July 3, Acheson’s body was recovered, and buried on the John T. Weikert Farm. One of his soldiers carved his initials in a small boulder used as a temporary headstone. Acheson would be re-buried near his home, in Washington, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1863. Fortunately the carved boulder allowed his family to find his remains. Five years later, a member of Company C returned to Gettysburg.(iii) Finding the boulder used as Acheson’s temporary headstone, he carved the initials deeper into the rock, allowing future generations to know where Acheson was originally buried.
Captain David Acheson served with distinction at Gettysburg, and is a true American HERO.
(i) Captain David Acheson: 140th Pennsylvania used to research this article.
(ii) The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System was used to research this article.
(iii) U.S. Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles, from Ancestry.com, was used to research this article.