Joseph Frederick was born to German immigrants on January 15, 1837 near Pittsburgh, PA. He worked as a barber in Pittsburgh prior to the war.
Jospeh mustered into Company C, 37th Pennsylvania Volunteers on April 17, 1861. Raised in the Pittsburgh area, the regiment was ordered to Washington, D.C. on July 30th, and initially served near Tennallytown, MD. It moved to Camp Pierpont near Langley, VA in October, where it spent the winter. After service near Fredericksburg in the spring of 1862, the regiment moved to White House in early June. It arrived just in time for the Seven Days’ Battles, where it lost 230 men killed, wounded and missing in the course of little more than a week. In August, it moved north to join General John Pope’s army and fought at Groveton and Second Manassas, it lost another 52 men. The regiment lost another 54 at South Mountain, and over 50 more at Antietam.
Joseph had seen enough, and he was not alone. He was one of over a dozen members of the 37th Pennsylvania who joined the 6th U.S. Cavalry over a two week period from the end of October to mid-November. Joseph enlisted into Company G near Knoxville, MD on October 28th. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’9″ tall, with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion.
After time spent in the regiment’s dismounted camp learning to be a cavalryman, Private Frederick joined the regiment in its winter camp near Belle Plain, VA. He, like the rest of the regiment, spent the winter rootating from the camp to picket duty at various fords along the Rappahannock River.
Jospeh’s first real action as a cavalryman came during Stoneman’s Raid in May 1863, which he weathered without incident. He was not so fortunate the following month during his first cavalry fight at Beverly Ford, becoming a prisoner of war. He was most likely captured during the fighting near the Welford house between his squadron and the 100th Virginia Cavalry of W.H.F. Lee’s brigade on Yew Ridge.
After a relatively short stint in prison on Belle Isle, Frederick was exchanged and returned to his regiment after the Gettysburg campaign. He served with the regiment through the fall and spring campaigns at the headquarters of the Cavalry Corps. Almost a year to the day after being captured, misfortune struck again. The regiment left Private Frederick as a hospital attendant with the wounded following the battle of Trevilian Station. This time he was sent to Andersonville Prison. He was fortunate enough to survive the experience, unlike several of his regimental comrades. To make the experience worse, his enlistment expired on July 29, 1864, but he wasn’t exchanged and released from service until February 13, 1865.
Joseph returned to Pittsburgh after his discharge, where he married Catherine Schneider laterr in the year. They settled in Bridge Street in Etna and he lived there for the rest of his life. In 1905, he returned to Andersonvillle to attend the cermonies at the dedication of a memorial there.
Joseph Frederick died in Etna on August 9, 1915 of arterio sclerosis and hepatic cirrhosis. He is buried nearby in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Sharpsburg, PA.