Peter Diemer & Curtis Phillips: The Last Civil War Veterans From Cuyahoga County

By Paul Siedel
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2016, All Rights Reserved

Not too long ago while visiting the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in downtown Cleveland, Ohio I overheard a docent telling someone that the last Civil War veteran from Cuyahoga County died in 1943. His name was Peter Diemer.

The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

I also learned that the last cavalry soldier to pass away in Cuyahoga County was Curtis Phillips. Mr. Phillips died in 1942 and was buried in Butternut Ridge Cemetery in North Olmsted. Being from that part of town I decided to visit Mr. Phillips. My visit to Mr. Phillips’s gravesite made me wonder just who, exactly, these last two Cuyahoga County Civil War veterans were, where they lived, what their wartime experiences were, what they did following the war and where they died. I decided to see what I could find out.

I began my detective work with a return visit to the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument. The guys there were more than helpful and we found the service records of both gentlemen. I also went to The Western Reserve Historical Society and was able to go online and get a much more detailed account of their lives and Civil War service. Here’s what I learned.

Peter Diemer

According to the Plain Dealer and sources at the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, the last living Grand Army veteran from Cuyahoga County was Peter Diemer. Mr. Diemer was born in Cleveland in 1844, when the city had a population of 9,000. His father had come here from France six years before. Peter went to work for the E.I. Baldwin Company, an early dry goods firm in Cleveland.

In September 1864 he was drafted into the 150th Ohio Infantry for 100 days and went directly to Washington, D.C. There he did guard duty at Forts Lincoln and Totten, both of which were part of the vast network of defense forts surrounding Washington. He served in and around Washington, D.C. for the duration for the war and was mustered out in July of 1865.

Upon returning to Cleveland Mr. Diemer took up his old position with Baldwin & Company. He lived at 1910 E. 89 Street between Euclid and Chester Avenues. (The house has long since vanished as the property now belongs to the Cleveland Clinic.) After the death of his wife in 1917, he went to live with his daughter in Montreal, Canada. He passed away in February 1943 and is buried there. Mr. Diemer’s name, however, is listed proudly at the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument along with other members of the 150th Ohio.

Curtis Phillips

According to the Plain Dealer and sources at the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, the last cavalry officer and second to last member of The Grand Army Memorial Post 141 in Cuyahoga County was Mr. Curtis Phillips. Mr. Phillips was born in July 1844 in Salem, Ohio. He enlisted from Columbiana County and, therefore, is not listed in the Monument downtown.

He entered the 12th Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Cavalry when the was 18 and served for the duration. The 12th Regiment operated in the West Virginia and North Carolina mountains throughout the war. Interestingly enough, the 12th was part of Stoneman’s Cavalry’s raid through North Carolina in April 1865 and almost captured Jefferson Davis and the remaining members of the Confederate government. They finished the war in Nashville, Tennessee where they were mustered out in November 1865.

Mr. Phillips returned to Salem and was associated with his father in the tanning business. He moved to Cleveland in the 1890s and became a druggist. He lived at 2901 Jay Avenue, and his store was located at 1887 Fulton Road in Ohio City. He retired in 1930 and at that time was living at 1666 Winton Avenue until moving to 1371 Clarence Avenue in Lakewood. He passed away in December 1942. Services were conducted at Daniels Funeral Home in Lakewood by members of Lookout Camp of The Sons of Union Veterans. He was buried at Butternut Ridge Cemetery in North Olmsted, Ohio.

Related links:
Cleveland Fights the Civil War
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Whatever Happened to Camp Cleveland?
The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry