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Zimmerman, Henry
Military Papers, Photographs and Ephemera of Henry Zimmerman, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a.k.a Sgt. John Fagan, Veteran of the Indian Wars and the Philippine Insurrection, dated 1877-1927.

27 pieces, includes 7 military discharge papers, 5 letters (1 manuscript, 4 typed and signed), 3 printed War Department special and general orders sheets, application for estate papers, 4 photographs, and 7 other military related papers.

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Biography of Henry Zimmerman, a.k.a. Sgt. John Fagan (1851-1927)

Henry Zimmerman was born on 8 March 1851 at Elizabeth, New Jersey, the son of William and Louise Zimmerman, German immigrants, who came to America about the year 1845. Henry settled down in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he worked as a cabinet maker. He and his wife Louise had at least ten children, with Henry being the 4th child.

Henry served in the United States Army for about twenty-five years under the assumed name of John Fagan. According to a statement made by Louis Robert Messing (24 June 1999 and included in this collection), the grandson of Henry Zimmerman’s sister Isabella Zimmerman Messing, Henry used the name ‘John Fagan’ because when he was in military service a few years a doctor treated his best friend in an improper manner. He [Zimmerman] said to the doctor “If my friend dies, I will kill you.” For this action he [Zimmerman] was court marshaled and discharged. He reinstated under the alias of ‘John Fagan’ and used this name until he retired from the military. Papers in this collection prove this use of Fagan by Zimmerman, when in 1913 and 1914, he attempted to correct the record and get his real name of Zimmerman listed on his military records. Discharge papers in this collection show Henry’s military career under the assumed name of Fagan.

Fagan enlisted in the military with Company D, 5th U. S. Cavalry from 11 June 1872 to 11 June 1877, mustering out at Sidney Barracks, Nebraska.  He served under Capt. Samuel S. Sumner, who gave him a glowing review calling him “Excellent! A faithful sober man and a very clean prompt soldier.” A manuscript letter in the collection by Fagan states that he fought against the “Apaches” during this time as well as the Cheyenne and Sioux:

“Elizabeth, April 28th, 1919

To the National Tribune

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to state that I served 25 years on the Plains, 5 years [with] Troop D,  5[th] U.S. Cavalry Regular Army and am now retired after 30 years service. I [participated] in [many] Indian campaigns, 2 years 1872 and 1873 against the Apache Indians of Arizona and the campaign against the Northern Cheyenne and Sioux in 1876 with Troop D. 5[th] U.S. Cav Gen Crook commanding expedition 6 months in the field and [in] 1885 the outbreak of the Cheyennes, Indian Territory with Troop L, 5[th] Cav. Now if I am not entitled to this claim don’t give it. I have fought Indians for 20 years and am one that is left that helped win the West.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

John Fagan, Sergt. U.S.A. Retired

1009 East Grand St.

Elizabeth, New Jersey”

His next tour of duty came with Company L, also of the 5th U. S. Cavalry and lasted from 29 June 1877 to 28 June 1882, when he mustered out at Fort Sidney, Nebraska, only to re-enlist for another five years from 18 July 1882 to 17 July 1887, mustering out at Camp Martin, Indian Territory. During these ten years he served under Capt. W. C. Forbush. Fagan’s occupation was listed at the time of his enlistment as a teamster. During this period it appears that Fagan married, as he was being listed as such. It is stated that he had one son Albert, who was living at Haines City, Florida, in 1927, when Fagan died and his sister Isabella filed an application to settle his estate. It was stated that besides having excellent character, he excelled in carbine and revolver firing and was a sharp shooter for four years. On his third tour he fought in the “Hostile Cheyenne’s” campaign in 1885.

His fourth tour of duty had him enlisting in Troop D, 8th U.S. Cavalry from 22 July 1887 to 21 July 1892, when he mustered out at Ft. Meade, South Dakota. He served under Capt. E. A. Godwin. During this time he fought in the Sioux Campaign of 1890-1891. Up to this time he had been ranked a marksman in 1882-84, 1886-88, and 1890-91. He was a sharpshooter for 1885 and 1892.

His next service came with Troop H, 3d U.S. Cavalry, when he enlisted on 26 July 1892 and was discharged on 27 July 1893, at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma Territory. He had signed up for five years, but “Special Order 170” issued by the Adjutant General’s Office on 27 July 1893, found Fagan being honorably discharged. He served under 2nd Lieut. George P. White, who gave him an excellent character assessment.

Family history (papers in this collection) state that Fagan enlisted yet again on 10 October 1893 in the 6th Cavalry stationed at Fort Omaha, Nebraska, however this sixth discharge is not included in this collection, the above five are, as is the seventh and eighth listed below. Papers in this collection (modern typed papers) state that Fagan was sentenced to 24 months confinement on 12 August 1895 and held at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas until August 1895, and later at Ft. Riley, Kansas, from August 1895 to 6 August 1897.

Fagan again enlisted his services to the military with Company A of the 36th U.S. Volunteer Infantry from 6 October 1899 to 30 June 1901. During this time he served in the Philippine Insurrection, seeing action at various battles, engagements and skirmishes at Porac (17 Oct. 1899), Florida Blance and Porac (2 Nov. 1899), Mabalacat (7 and 8 Nov. 1899), and Bamam (11 Nov. 1899). He also went on several expeditions through the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales 4 February to 9 March 1900 and through the provinces of Illocos Sur and Abra 4 November 1900 to 15 January 1901. His commanding officer 2nd Lieut. John A. Brown called him “excellent,” and “honest and faithful.”

Fagan’s last enlistment, his eighth, was with Troop B, 6th U.S. Cavalry from 25 March 1901 to 24 March 1904, when he was discharged honorably at Fort Meade, South Dakota. His Capt., George H. Sands, appraised him as “excellent” for his character. He was promoted Corporal in 1901 and was listed as a marksman in 1903. That same year he was promoted Sergeant. He was at Samar, PI in action with insurgents on six different occasions in 1901-1902. He served in the Philippine Islands from 13 May 1901 to 4 April 1903, being wounded with a rifle ball to the head on 24 January 1902, fired by insurgents during an ambush.

This final eighth discharge paper states he was now single, not married. Remarks in his favor state that he was “honest and faithful” and that he was recommended for special mention in orders for his service in the Philippines for distinguished service in the field 24 January 1902 (the day he was shot) and recommended for “Certificate of Merit” 12 February 1902. He was also commended with another solider, for saving the life of his company commander at the risk of losing his own life on 3 December 1901 and for coolness under fire of the enemy on 2 December 1901.

According to a statement included in this collection (modern typed paper), Fagan appears on the roll of servicemen located at Camp Dewey, Manila in October 1908. He is at the Camili Hospital Corps, having arrived on 8 October 1908 from Camp Jourman, PI and was awaiting transportation home via USAT Buford on 14 October 1908.

After retiring from the military, Fagan went back to Elizabeth, New Jersey, and assumed his real identity. In 1910 and 1912, we find him living with, then next to, George and Fred Messing, presumed relatives of his sister Isabelle’s husband Louis Messing.

In 1913 and 1914, according to papers in this collection, Zimmerman was trying to get his military records straightened out, seeking to claim his pension, admitting that he had served under a false name and had lied about his age. During this time, 1910-1920, Zimmerman worked first as a driver, for the street department in the town of Elizabeth, then as a laborer for the city. The 1910 Census states he married about the year 1877. Fagan died on 9 June 1927, at Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Description of Collection:

7 military discharge papers for John Fagan, dated 1877-1904.

-Six different military discharge papers, covering the period of 1877 to 1904 of John Fagan’s various assignments in the military. Includes personal data, times of service, military unit he served with, the campaigns, battles, skirmishes, or actions that he was involved in, officers he served under, etc.

1 page manuscript, mentioning Fagan saving the life of his commanding officer in 1901, dated 1901.

1 printed “General Orders No. 10,” 1 page, dated Headquarters 36th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers, San Francisco, California, 15 March 1901, and signed by Col. Wm. R. Grove. – Offers thanks to the soldiers for their service.

1 printed “Special Orders No. 89,” from War Department, 1 pp., dated 1904.  -  States that Fagan was being put on the retired list.

1 printed “General Orders, No. 186,” from War Department, 2 pp., dated 1910. – Concerns soldiers who had served under an assumed name.

1 typed letter, 1 pp., signed by a Major General of the Office of the Chief of Staff, War Department, dated 1913. – A letter responding to a letter written by General Dennis F. Collins, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, concerning the case of Henry Zimmerman, who served in the military under the assumed name of John Fagan.

1 typed letter, 2 pp., signed by Adjutant General McRae, dated 1914. – A letter continuing the correspondence with General Dennis F. Collins, of the above mentioned letter wherein Zimmerman is trying to get his name corrected to reflect his true identity.

1 typed letter, 1 pp., ink stamp signature of Adjutant General March, dated 1914. – A response to Zimmerman letting him know the military received his inquiry concerning the availability of his services, should America go to war with Mexico.

1 letter, 1 pp., written in pencil by Henry Zimmerman, dated 28 April 1919. – A letter by Zimmerman to the National Tribune, telling of his days fighting in the Indian Wars. (Quoted above).

1 transcription of a newspaper article “Hoping Against Hope,” 3 pp., signed “H.Z.”  - According to a piece of paper with it “This account of “Custer’s Last Stand,” was copied from a newspaper by Henry Zimmerman (John Fagan) who was an eye witness of the event. He was with Buffalo Bill at the time. (This per Grandma Messing (Isabelle Zimmerman) Henry’s sister. Louis Robert Messing, June 24, 1999.”).

5 pages, circa 1916 – Various military memorandums concerning pay, discharge certificates, and communication Zimmerman had with the military, etc.

1 typed letter, 1 pp., signed by Capt. Jones, Ordinance, War Department, dated 1918. – Concerns Zimmerman’s correspondence with the military, offering his services for the war effort, which the military declined.

1 Application of Administrator or Executor for Arrears of Pay, Etc., dated 1927. – Appears to be an application filed by Zimmerman’s sister Isabella, being the administrator of his estate when he died in 1927.

4 photographs, measuring approximately 2 ½” x 3 ¾” each.  One is a CDV, the other three are tintypes, dated 1870s-1890s.

The photographs are primarily portraits of Zimmerman, posed either alone or with a comrade, beginning with his earliest years of service in the 1870s through his service in the Philippine Insurrection, taken in Manila the photographer was:  “J. M. Pinon, Fotographia Artistica, Plaza del Conde, No. 2.” Circa 1890s.  One photograph is an outdoor tintype, taken circa 1870s depicting a group of soldiers, presumably in Zimmerman’s unit, taken at a military fort or barracks in the west.