John Peter Suter was born February 25, 1837, in Hagerstown, Maryland, and died in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1887. His grandfather Peter Suter, was a native of Germany; married Catherine Irwin, and came to America about the time of the Revolutionary war and enlisted in the Continental army.
Peter Suter, the son of the latter, and the father of the former, was born in Hagerstown, July 17, 1806, and died in Cumberland, Maryland, June 8, 1897. He was a tailor by trade, and a member of the German Lutheran church. On May 9, 1833, he married Amelia Renner, a daughter of Jacob and Mary (Creager) Renner, who died in Cumberland, November 7, 1895. Mary Creager Renner’s grandfather was also a soldier in the Continental army, belonging to a German regiment.
The brothers and sisters of John Peter Suter are: Amelia, born March 4, 1834; Mary Anne, born September 3, 1835; Caroline, born September 29, 1838; Maria, born January 5, 1840; Emma, born July 24, 1841, died October 15, 1842; Jacob A., born April 9, 1843; Adeline, born October 10, 1844; Sarah, born April 13, 1846; Emma, born July 17, 1848.
Captain John P. Suter and Emma Augusta Vickroy were married August 30, 1864, at Ferndale near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, by the Rev. B. L. Agnew, while on a few days leave of absence from the Army of the Shenandoah, under Major General P. H. Sheridan. Mrs. Suter was the seventh daughter of Edwin Augustus Vickroy and Cornelia (Harlan) Vickroy, and granddaughter of Thomas Vickroy, who served as an officer under General George Clark in Kentucky and the west during the Revolutionary war. Both were by occupation land surveyors.
Captain Suter was engaged, prior to the Civil war, as a telegraph operator. He was first lieutenant in Captain John M. Power’s company, known as the Johnstown Zouaves, when the war began. His company was tendered to and accepted by Governor A. G. Curtin, and left Johnstown for Harrisburg, April 17, 1861, within forty-eight hours after President Lincoln’s call was made known. His company and that of Captain Lapsley were the first to enter Camp Curtin. April 20, it was mustered in as Company K, Third Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, under the command of Colonel Francis P. Minier, for three months’ service. At that time, Captain Power was elected lieutenant-colonel, and Lieutenant Suter was made captain. His company served in Maryland, Virginia, and on the border of Pennsylvnaia for the term, and was mustered out July 30, 1861.
Suter immediately raised another company in Johnstown, which became Company A, Fifty-fourth Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, under the command of Colonel J. M. Campbell, and was mustered in at Harrisburg, August 6, 1861. His regiment was taken to Washington City for the defense of the capitol, February 27, 1862, and entered camp near Bladensburg. On March 29, it was ordered to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and was located at the South Branch bridge on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad; to guard that great military highway; it continued along this line until January 5, 1864, when it was taken to the defense of Cumberland, Maryland, and remained there until May 2, 1864. On that day, in pursuance of the broad and energetic plan of General Grant for a movement of all the armies all along the line for the campaign of 1864, his regiment being in the Third Brigade, Third Division of the Department of West Virginia, under the command of Major-General Franz Sigel, entered the Shenandoah Valley.
Major-General Sigel was succeeded by Major General David Hunter, who was in turn succeeded by Major-General George Crook, and the regiment was then transferred to the Third Brigade, Second Division. Captain Suter participated in all the engagements of his company and regiment while in the service as follows: Back Creek, Virginia, September 11, 1862; North Mountain, Virginia, September 12, 1862; Back Creek Bridge, September 21, 1862; Purgitsville Virginia, April 4, 1863; New Market, Virginia, May 15, 1864; New Market, Virginia, May 26, 1864; Piedmont, Virginia, June 5, 1864; Lexington, Virginia, June 11, 1864; Lynchburg, Virginia, June 17 and 18, 1864, and the terrible retreat across the mountains to Camp Piatt; Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, July 18, 1864; near Winchester, Virginia, July 19, 1864; Kernstown, or Island Ford, Virginia, July 23, 1864; Winchester, Virginia, July 24, 1864; Martinsburg, Virginia, July 25, 1864; Berryville, Virginia, September 3, 1864; Opequon Creek, Virginia, September 19, 1864; Cedar Creek, or Winchester, Virginia, October 19, 1864; and Fisher’s Hill, Virginia, October 19, 1864, in Sheridan’s brilliant victory. Owing to the casualties at and in the vicinity of Winchester, July 23-25, he was the senior officer and commanded the Third Brigade, Third Division. He also commanded the Fifty-fourth Regiment at the battles of Cedar Creek and Fisher’s Hill, under Major-General Sheridan. Captain Suter was a gallant officer and a superb tactician, and for these and other gentlemanly qualities Major-General George Crook, under whom he served, gave him this document:
Headquarters Department West Virginia,
Cumberland, Md., Feb. 3, 1865.
His Excellency A. G. Curtin,
Governor of Penna.
Governor: I take pleasure in recommending to your consideration John Suter, late Captain Co. A. 54th Penna. Vol., who served under my command through the entire campaign in the Shenandoah–commanding his regiment at the battles of Opequon, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek.
He is worthy and a gallant officer. I commend him to your Excellency. Any position you may see fit to give will be worthily bestowed.
I am, governor, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Captain Suter was honorably discharged on the expiration of his enlistment, December 15, 1864, and at the solicitation of Andrew Carnegie, who was then superintendent of the Pittsburg Division of the Pennsylvania railroad, he entered the trainmaster’s office in February, 1865, and in October following was appointed chief operator of the telegraph department of that division, where he served until his death. He was connected with the New Jerusalem church of Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, and a member of McPherson Post No. 117, Grand Army of the Republic, at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In view of his fidelity to his country and the railroad company, he assumed a prominent part in the suppression of the revolution in Pittsburg, known as the Railroad Riots, in July, 1877, which was the most trying incident of his life. The horrible acts and scenes which he saw and passed through produced a partial collapse of his mind, which caused his death.