Ferndale's Last Civil War Veteran: Francis M. Sockman, 1844-1938
In 1938, Francis M. Sockman died in his home on 235 W. Cambourne. He was Ferndale's Civil War veteran and lived in the city for 22 years before his death.
Memorial Day celebrations in Ferndale during the late 1920s and '30s paid special homage to Francis M. Sockman, the city's last surviving veteran of the Civil War. At these ceremonies, and at various meetings of the local VFW Paul Hornaday Post, he was often asked to relate his war experiences. His vivid recollections offered Ferndale residents a stark reminder of one of the country's most fateful times.
Born Aug. 11, 1844, in a log cabin in Marshall County, W.Va., Sockman volunteered for the Union Army in 1864. He served first as a member of Company C, 12th Volunteer Infantry of West Virginia. Later, under orders from Major General John Gibbons, he was transferred to Company C, 10th Infantry--a company that was to play a major role in the final battles leading to the end of the war.
He was in three campaigns and fought in five battles in the Shenandoah Valley.
After a battle at Lynchburg, Va., his band crossed the James River in the spring of 1865 and joined General George Meade's army in a campaign that ultimately led to the capture of the city of Petersburg on April 3. This victory was key to the capture of Richmond, Va., which was the capital of the Confederacy, on the same day. It was a defining turn in the war.
Sockman's part in Meade's campaign ended on April 2, one week before General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., on April 9. Sockman had been wounded in the hard-fought battle to take control of Fort Gregg, a Confederate military stronghold that protected Petersburg. While recovering in a military hospital, he heard the news of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 15, 1865.
Ferndale's Memorial Day celebration attendees later were to recall Sockman's vivid descriptions of Lincoln as his ideal president, ''the best ever."
Awarded a Class I medal for his service, Sockman was honorably discharged from the Union Army in Fortress Monroe, Va., on July 22, 1865. He then returned to West Virginia, married Celina Richmond on April 12, 1866, and they moved to a farm at Moundville W.Va. He and Celina had eight children: James, Nathaniel, Margaret, George, Leota, Laura, Frank, and Wylie.
Eventually the Sockmans moved to Washington, Pa., then to Detroit where they lived at 422 Tennessee Ave. In 1916, Celina died: burial was at Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.
Francis M. Sockman, Ferndale's last Civil War veteran, died on January 29, 1938 at 235 W. Cambourne, where he had resided for some 13 years with his son Wylie, an autoworker. The Reverend L.B. Pertner of the local Zion Lutheran Church officiated at the services; burial was at Woodmere Cemetery, Detroit.
Well-known in the city, Ferndale's last participant in the war that changed U.S. history had a long and honored place in the city's local history.
Sources consulted: Obituary provided by Patricia Ryan to either the Daily Tribune or the Ferndale Gazette in 1938, unpaged and exact date not cited, in archives of the Ferndale Historical Museum. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (New York: Charles Webster & Co. 1885): (Vol. 2) 450; 454-461.
Web site: www.lindapages.com/wvcw/12wvi/12-fmsockman.txt. Retrieved 1012012010.
This article was produced for Ferndale Patch by the Ferndale Historical Society.