Title: Army Colonel, Civil War, Killed in Action
Birthdate: 1836
Death Date: January 15, 1865
Plot Location: Section 36, Lot 68, SW half

Col. John William Moore, Civil War Field Officer

Born in Philadelphia in 1836, John had an older brother and sister who were born before the family came here from Ireland. His father apparently died after John’s younger sister was born in 1841. He saw his brother join the police and the attraction of wearing a uniform may have impressed him to join the army when the Civil War began. He was commissioned as a Captain in the 66th Pennsylvania Infantry in July of 1861, recruiting men to join Company G, which he would lead.

For three months they were stationed in a chain of forts forming the southern defenses of Washington D.C. In March of 1862 the unit became the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteer infantry with the addition of troops from another unit. In August it participated in the battles of Bull Run and Chantilly.

At Fredericksburg on December 13, the 99th crossed the Rappahannock River amid desperate fighting. At Chancellorsville the 99th executed a notable charge by moonlight and later covered the retreat of the army. Captain Moore became Major Moore on February 20, 1863. He got married the following month while on furlough and became a father later that year.


The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1-3, 1863. Under the command of Major Moore, the regiment engaged in skirmishing near the Rogers house and successfully held the Union flank at the Devil’s Den. Major Moore was wounded but returned to the field the next day when they were sent to Cemetery Ridge and fought to repulse Pickett’s Charge.

A monument was erected in 1886 at the position on the Devil’s Den flank that was stoutly held by the 99th. A second memorial was placed, shown here, in 1889.

John was promoted to Colonel on September 16, 1864 and ordered to form a new regiment, the 203rd Infantry. John’s older brother Matthew, became captain of Company D. (His “Notable” life story as a soldier who became a Philadelphia police officer can be found here.)

The regiment departed for the front and arrived at Petersburg on September 27th. Over the next two months they had engagements at Deep Bottom, Chapinus Farm, New Market Road, and Malvern Hill.

As John was promoted to Colonel, so was Edwin Biles who replaced him in command of the 99th. They worked together from their earliest days in the Army. Colonel Biles would also be buried at Mount Moriah, just beyond the graves of John and Matthew Moore. Edwin’s “Notable” life story can be found here.

Biles was ordered by General Grant in December 1864 to march south from Petersburg along the Weldon-Wilmington Railroad and destroy 16 miles of track near Jarrett, Virginia. The 99th cut the supply of materials coming from Wilmington North Carolina. The 203rd routed the Confederates from the fort that protected the port of Wilmington.

Fort Fisher

The fort was constructed with huge mounds of sand and soil covered with grass, because forts built with wood or stone were not strong enough to resist cannon fire. The mounds were 35 feet high, strung together in a row and designed to absorb shelling. Around the mounts were wooden traverses, which protected the gun crews from incoming fire.

Modern day reconstruction of a small portion of Fort FisherThis photo shows a reconstruction of a small portion of Fort Fisher taken from inside the fort. The magazine or passageway entrance is visible in the lower right as well as steps leading up to the guns, the gun mounts, and the traverses built around the gun mounts.


There were two battles that took place within weeks of each other. The first battle occurred on December 24, 1864 but the the troops were repulsed and the  mission was aborted.

The second battle began on January 12.  The forces attacked the fort by tearing down the wooden palisades, climbing the mounds on the western side of the peninsula, and attacking each gun emplacement and traverse, one by one. There were seventeen traverses that had to be conquered.

Colonel Moore led his 203rd regiment up the fourth mound and was rallying his troops by attacking the fourth traverse, charging with his regimental flag in one hand and a sword in the other. He fell with ten bullets in his chest and died immediately.

Fort Fisher fell that night, and by February 22 Wilmington was abandoned to the Union. The Confederacy was now without a reliable source of supply. The Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox on April 9.

The second in command of the forces under General Terry was Brigadier General Adelbert Ames who wrote glowingly of Colonel Moore. “He behaved with the most distinguished gallantry, in advance of his regiment. Few equaled, none surpassed this brave officer.”


John’s body was sent to Philadelphia. His wife Ellen provided this impressive monument to her husband. Her daughter Nellie never knew her father, as he barely knew his, and she died of tuberculosis when she was 18. Ellen would join Nellie next to John when she died in 1926 at age 87.

After his death the young Colonel was not forgotten and was honored as a brave war hero. A crowd of 10,000 gathered at Mount Moriah in 1889 to hear speeches and pay their respects. In 1905, 40 years after his death, another gathering at Mt. Moriah honored his courage and sacrifice, with Ellen in attendance.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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