Born for Service to His Country

by Pastor A. Martin Landis – 1999

The following feature written by Rev. Landis, the son of a Civil War soldier,

tells of his father’s Civil War adventures


 career in Central Pennsylvania.


At 1:48 a.m., Sunday, January 19, 1848, on a farm outside of Newville, Cumberland County, a baby son was born to Aaron Martin and Sarah Landis. When the son reached sixteen years of age, he talked his father into taking him in the old one-horse shay to Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, where he enlisted in the Union Army. He saw service in three battles, the last one being Cold Harbor.

After this battle, he was visited at his tent by three escaped slaves who ran away from their master in Richmond, Virginia. The slaves asked the young soldier if he could escort them to the first point of what was known as the “Underground Railroad” (an escape route into Pennsylvania). The young sixteen year old (Aaron Martin Landis by name) asked permission of his Captain to carry out the slaves’ request. It was granted and he led them to the first point of the escapeway.  The year was 1864.

One year later, Aaron Martin was selected as one of the eight guards to stand around the body of the slain President Lincoln as his body lay in state in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. This was a singular honor for my father. He married, joined the police force, and became chief of police in 1885. That year his wife died.  He resigned the force and ran for alderman of the sixth ward of the city. He was elected to his first six year term and was reelected six more times for a total of 36 years ‑‑ a record for continuous service as an alderman surpassing any other alderman’s record in the city of Harrisburg.

Years later, my father had the fortune to re-meet one of those ex-slaves in a store in downtown Harrisburg.

He remarried in 1905 to Susan Gertrude Bender, a widow.  He was 57 years of age and she was 38 years of age. On Monday, February l7th, when the former soldier‑alderman was 59 and his second wife was forty, I, Aaron Martin Landis, was born. This year I will celebrate my ninety‑second birthday. I am possibly the youngest living direct son (NOT grandson) of a Civil War veteran.  I married in 1928 and the same year a daughter was born to me and my wife, Joyce Eileen Landis ‑ there being 80 years between the birth of my daughter and that of my father. I married a second time in 1952 and on October 3, 1954, my second wife presented me with a son, Gregory Paul Landis ‑ there being 106 years between the birth of my father and my son’s birth. 1848 to 1954.

My son and I rode in a Jeep on July 3rd, 1963, during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, with him being the youngest direct living grandson of a Civil War soldier.  My son was then nine years of age.

I am a retired pastor of the Church of God denomination. But at ninety‑two I am still conducting services at homes for the aged and filling in as interim pastor at churches temporarily without a pastor.

January 1999

Martin Landis, Jr.

The only known living son of a Civil War veteran, in Central Pennsylvania