Simon Firestone was born in 1844 in Lower Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset County, PA, the son of George and Catherine "Katie" (Younkin) Firestone. He never learned to read or write, and was unmarried during his brief adult years. He was a casualty of the Civil War, but fortunately some of his wartime letters survive today.
As with many of his Younkin cousins, at age 18, he joined the Union Army during the Civil War on Sept. 1, 1861. He enlisted at Harnedsville, for a period of three years, and was assigned to the 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company H. Several of his cousins also served in Company H, among them Harrison K. Younkin and John X. Younkin as well as kinsman John A. Firestone and friend Jerome B. Jennings. He did not officially muster into the regiment until Nov. 12, 1861, after having traveled to Uniontown, county seat of nearby Fayette County.
One of his fellow members of the 85th Pennsylvania, James R. Campbell of Connellsville, Fayette County, recalled that Simon was "a strong and able bodied man. I wrote some letters for him. He expressed himself freely to me that it had been hard for him to leave his old Father and Mother when he went into the service as they needed his help but would give all of his wages that he could spare to support his old parents and said he had sent money to them often." Soldier Aaron Nicola, of Ursina, also recalled Simon sending money home for his aged parents.
This is the full text of Simon's letter of May 2, 1862, with some but not all spellings and punctuation corrected:
Dear father and mother, I set down this morning to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present & hope these few lines will find you the same. We are still in old Virginia near York town. We can see the Rebels every day and some times they shoot at us. They rebels try to get out every day but they can't make it for we have them all surrounded. Mc Clellan is a going to starve them there. I don't think the war is a goin to last long anymore. We have the enemy nearly all surrunded and there are a great many of soldiers say that they won't fight any more. That is the rebel soldiers won't fight anymore. And we have them under arrest for days so our redgement got payed off they other day and I got my money and I will send you all the money I got for I promised you when I went to the army that I would send you all of my money that I got to support you and my mother. Take it and make the best that you can of it to pay your debts and like use. Support you and mother with it. I intend to support you and mother as long as I live. May God help me so to do. Now dear father and mother I don't want you to trouble your selves about me for I will take good care of my self as I can. I will stop for this time. Right soon. Direct your letter to Casy Division, Second brigade, Co. H, 85 Regiment, in case of Colonel Howell, Washington City DC. From your son Simon Firestone.
Full text of the first of two of Simon's letters of July 22, 1862, from Camp Wessels, VA (probably a temporary camp established by Brig. Gen. Henry W. Wessels.
Dear father, it is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to inform that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying they same blessing. Dear father enclosed you will find twenty dollars as I have no use for it. I thought I would send part of my money home if I ceep et all here I would spend it and not do me eny good and so I will send this to you. Dear father we are in they same camp that we was when I wrote last and expect to stay here a good while yet. et is a nice healthy camp. It lays on [illegible] ground and we have most excellent watter. It is most as good as mountain water. We have fine time here but thair is no telling how long they may last. They rebels are not very close to us now but they may come back and try us a whil but let them come. We are redy for them any time thay see fit to try us.
Full text of the second of two of Simon's letters of July 22, 1862, from Camp Wessels, VA:
Dear father and Mother, it is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present hoping these few lines will find you the same enjoying the same good health. Dear father enclosed you will find 25 dollars that I will send you in this letter. Take it and try and shift with it til I draw some more money. We are seeing very rough times. The weather is that hot that noone can scarcely stand it. If we stay here long I am afraid that the yellow fever will get a mong us and take us of like flies. Dear father we are in the same place that we was when I wrote you the last letter and we expect to stay a good while yet. It is a nice country here. We are expecting the rebels back shortly a gain for to try us another ... but let them come. We are redy for them. I am willing to dye at my post in defense of my country. If it is the will of the lord dear father I will haft to stop this time. Direct as before from your son Simon Firestone.
Full text of Simon's letter of Oct. 3rd, 1863, from Morris Island, SC:
Dear father, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I seat my self this morning to let you know that I am well at present and hoping that these few lines may find you in the same good health. I received your kind letter on the first of the month and was glad to hear form you. We hold all of morris. The rebels shell us all the time when we are at work in fort wagner and gregg. We will soon have them impregnable against any force that they could bring. I have nothing much to write this time for there is no news of any importance. I enclosed my like ness in this letter so nothing more at present. Simon Fierstone [sic] to George Fierstone.
Full text of Simon's letter of Nov. 4, 1863 from Folly Island, SC:
My dear father and mother I take the present opportunity to inform you that I am reasonable well at present and am hoping theas few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing. I received your kind and welcome letter this evening and was glad to hear from home once more and it made me think of my poor old father and mother once more. When I think of home and no one to support you my hart melts to tears. Now father don't you and mother greave about me. If God spares my Son s to get home once a gain wehe will enjoy each othe. Now dear father you take all of my money that I sent you. I don't nead [?] now we will soon now some the say. Take all of my money and pay your dets. I no you need it all. That is why I went to the army to get some money for you to pay your dets. If it had not been for that I would not of went. As soon as I get some money I will send it to you. Now dear father I intend to support yo and mother as long as Ilive. May God help me so to doo now. Dear father I do not expect to get home any more. I must tell you of some of our hard times and hard ships that whe under go since whe went on morris issland. We dug in to fort wagner all of the enemy's shot and shells. We was some six weeks a doing this work in this time we lost some eighty of our brave men out of our regiment. You may know whe have hard times eighty killed out of our regiment and part of that time whe had nothing to eat but old horse and sour bread only half a [?] of that. You stated in your letter that hen miner was building a fort keep rebbels of of him. I think that he had better come down South and help us to build forts where there is some rebels to contend with. Now father do not right til you get an other letter from me. Good by. Still remain your son. Simon Firestone to his father George Firestone.
In about 1863, Simon returned home on a furlough. His relatives considered him then "stout & harty, good habits, sober, used tobacco."
He observed with horror the death of his relative and fellow soldier John A. Firestone, on Dec. 13, 1863, at the age of 31, due to disease. His term ended in about January 1864 and he re-enlisted on Feb. 2, 1864. War Department records show that he was sick in January-February 1864. Later that year, he was attached to the 199th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. When the second term ended, he then joined the 188th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in July 1865, and was given some sort of special assignment.
Simon suffered "apoplexy" -- possibly a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage -- and died on Nov. 8, 1865 at Patrick Court House, today known as the town of Stuart, about 58 miles west of Danville, and about 100 miles southwest of Lynchburg, VA. Wrote fellow soldier Campbell: "I was present when he died. It was near Danville Virginia. We were detached from the Co. and Regt. some 30 miles on special duty. he had something like apoplexy, red face, hard breathing, choked up, in four hours died. We had no doctor with us." There is no indication that a stone marks Simon's grave in any known federal cemeteries, and his burial site may be lost forever.
On April 26, 1879, Simon's 66-year-old mother submitted a pension application to the federal government seeking compensation for his death as he had been their primary provider of funds during his military service.
In later years, Simon's name was recorded in the annals of the Ross Rush Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Ursina, Somerset County. These papers have been saved and digitized by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mt. Union Church Camp #502 in Somerset County.
When Luther S. Dickey's book History of the Eighty-fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was published in 1915, Simon's name and brief details of his fate were listed in a roster of Company H soldiers.