Title: Army Captain, Civil War Medal of Honor; health inspector, city bureau chief, nursing home superintendent
Birthdate: August 9, 1841
Death Date: September 25, 1927
Plot Location: Section 204, Lot 17, Philadelphia, PA. GPS: 39.9329 N, 075.2351 W
Sylvester was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania but grew up in Philadelphia, where patriotism was strong as the Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861.He was 19 when he joined the Army nine days later. Thinking “the rebellion” might be short-lived, enlistments were only for three months, so Private Martin served his term with the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry in Maryland and Virginia before being mustered out on July 31. He reenlisted September 14, this time with Company F of the 88th Pennsylvania Infantry.
A year later Sylvester was wounded at the Battle of Antietam. To replace the positions of others lost in the battle, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on November 11, 1862. Three months later he was made 1st Lieutenant, and was in command of Company K in July when the regiment fought in the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg.
The following year, the 88th was sent south of Petersburg, Virginia to destroy a rail line supplying the Confederate Army from their only remaining major port at Wilmington, North Carolina. Sylvester had just turned 23, and the bravery he displayed at the August 19, 1864 Battle of Weldon Railroad, Virginia would be recognized with the Medal of Honor and these words: “Lieutenant Martin gallantly made a most dangerous reconnaissance, discovering the position of the enemy and enabling the division to repulse an attack made in strong force.” He was given the award 30 years later, on April 5, 1894.
Commissioned Captain on January 30, 1865, he was severely wounded at the February 7, 1865 Battle of Hatcher’s Run. Although never mustered in at his Captains rank, he served through the end of the conflict, and was honorably discharged on June 7, 1865.
After the war he married Sarah Sykes in Philadelphia and had five children before she died in 1877. Two died in infancy and were buried with Sarah at Mount Moriah. Sylvester was a city health inspector until 1873 when he transferred to the Bureau of Street Cleaning. He became chief of the Bureau in 1888.
He married Mary, his second wife, in 1893 but she died three years later. Just after the turn of the century Sylvester moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, to become Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home. There he married his third wife Cecelia, retired in his eighties, died September 25, 1927, and was buried beside his first wife back in Philadelphia.
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