The Civil War

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here.”
-A. Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863

It is difficult to imagine the impact of the Civil War on the families and communities involved. Cambria County sent many of her young men into service, and Behes were among them. The battles they fought in were among the largest and bloodiest of the war: Antietam, Chancellorsville, Lookout Mountain, The Wilderness, and Gettysburg. Three sons of Conrad Behe РNicholas, Henry, and Joseph, served. Luke Behe, son of Mathias, also served. Of the four, three were wounded in action.

Joseph Conrad Behe

Joseph Conrad Behe

Below are excerpts from the book Presidents, Soldiers, Statesmen which give accounts of the Civil War service of both Luke and Nicholas Behe.

Luke Behe Civil War Letter

Nicholas Behe Civil War Letter

The names of Joseph, Nicholas, and Luke Behe are inscribed on the Cambria County Veterans Memorial, located in Ebensburg, Pa.

Cambria Veterans MemorialCambria Veterans Memorial

Jim and Paul Behe, great-great-great nephews of Luke Behe, visit the memorial in 2008.

Below are copies and text of three letters written by Luke Behe during his war service.

Letter of March 3rd, 1862

Luke Behe Civil War Letter 2

(illegible) Brigade 862
White Plains Fauquier County Va
March the 30, 1862

My Ever Dear Friends the privilege is still mine to let you know that I am well and hope this will find you all the same. Well if my last came to hand you will know something of our doings. Since my last we have done some of the tallest marching from Leesburg to Nickersville 15 miles hence to Uppersville 12m thence to Aldie 18 miles thence to back to Nickersville 18 miles back to Beverly 11 miles then to Middleburg 4 miles next to our present headquarters 9 miles all in pursuit of the enemy. Coming up to them only once and only in time to exchange a parting shot. We are within 20 miles of Manassus Gap in possession of the railroad between Manassus and Strasburg both of which places are in our possession. I have only seen one paper since I left Harpers Ferry. Consequently we know nothing certain of the progress of our army. But of camp rumors we have plenty all of them cheering to us the health of our men is good though some of them play sick to get their knapsacks (halled?). Of our strength I do not choose to speak further than that we are prepared for any emergency, but from what I have seen I scarcely think that we will have the chance to measure strength with the enemy anymore. While I write this letter a very heavy storm is passing over us vivid flashes of lightning accompanied by hard thunder and rains. All the mountain boys are well you need not feel uneasy when I do not write. I write as often as the mail goes out. I want some of you to write a letter with all the news of home and country. My kind respects to all of you. Excuse my short letter my (illegible) facilities for writing. I will try to let you hear from me as often as I can. Direct to Headquarters 28 Regt (illegible) Co (illegible) White Plains Fauquier County Va

Ever Truly, Luke Behe

Letter of December 24th, 1864

Luke Behe Civil War Letter 3

Tennessee Lookout Valley Dec 24th, 1863

My Dear Father& Mother,

I am throwing away a chance to pay you a visit. Before this reaches you the 28th Regt will be on its way home where it will remain for 30 days. I must confess that it is a sore temptation for me to resist. I do not know what you will say when you come to learn the conditions. They are nothing more or less than three years in the army. I have no words to express my feelings in (illegible) stepping from amongst a company of men tried by fire and worthy of being comrades of the best soldiers. When we part I shall feel like parting with so many brothers but for your sakes it shall be as you wish. It does not require a very wise prophet to foresee the end of this war to be no great distance from us. I believe this to be a just war and I want to see the naughty South humbled into the dirt and if God spares my life to serve out my term when that term expires and I return home I will stand by the administration in sunshine and shade for it is this and this only that can save our country. My sister Mary wrote me that you do not wish me to reenlist and at that time I had no idea of it (and in fact I had no idea of it at any time) but when I saw nearly all my old comrades putting down their names I felt it hard to conquer my pride. But now I say it and once in for all I will not reenlist but will come home as soon as I am free. In addition to getting home there is a premium of 100 dollars paid each veteran volunteer. I think it likely that I will be transferred to some other Regt and Corps do not write me until I write to you again. I believe there will be an effort to take Lieut Kaylors remains home. I will send one Colts navy revolving pistol and round a cartridge box and cap pouch along with Lieut Kaylors effects. I wish for Elias to go and get these things and keep them for me. We are in winters quarters and am in good health. I went our hunting the other day and I saw two deer and a large turkey gobbler. I am going out tomorrow again I think I will kill one this time. Give my love to sister Mary, brothers Henry, Elias, and James and above all remember I have not forgotten either of you.

Your affectionate son, Luke Behe

NOTE: this letter exhibits how Luke is torn between honoring his parents request to leave the service and come home and leaving the men he has served with. This poignant letter was written on Christmas Eve.

Letter of May 20, 1864

Luke Behe Civil War Letter 4

Near Kingston, Ga
May 25th, 1864

My Dear Friends,

We have gained a glorious victory of Johnson and drove him about 60 miles. On the (writing?) of the 14th the date of my last we moved into line and next day Hooker assaulted the key of the position and after 3 hours of desperate fighting drove the enemy pell mell from all his positions. Our loss was heavy but the position was worth the sacrifice. I am safe and in pretty good health. I have received a letter from James Phalen & Mrs. Kaylor if you see them tell them I will write as soon as I can we are 4 miles past Kingston and near Cassville the probability is that we will drive them to the last ditch and then come home. I have no time to give you any particulars. Give my best wishes to all and if God spares my life I will soon be home. Write soon and give me the news.

Yours affectionately,
Luke Behe

Luke returned home safely from the war. Many of the men from Cambria County did not. He became a farmer, and in 1868 married Jeannie Neason. They had nine children, were active members of the St. Augustine Church, and are buried side by side in the cemetery there.