Albert G. Cummings
(1842 - 1911)
Albert Gallaton Cummings was born on November 8, 1842 at Lebanon, New Hampshire. When the Civil War broke out he was living in Enfield, New Hampshire. Within three weeks of the firing on Fort Sumter, he enlisted for a term of three months in Company F of the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, serving from May 3, 1861 until August 9, 1861.
He only spent a month at home before enlisting again as a first sergeant in Company A of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry on September 14. The regiment would proudly serve in the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac from first to last. Demonstrating natural abilities to lead and also fulfill the roles of a commissioned officer, Cummings was promoted to second lieutenant of the company. Within a month he was wounded at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, which was fought on May 31 and June 1, 1862, he being wounded on the second day of battle. He spent five months convalescing and thus missed the battle of Antietam. He was promoted to first lieutenant of Company F in November and next saw action at Fredericksburg, where he was again wounded.
After recuperating, Cummings joined his company and the regiment fought again at the battle of Chancellorsville, where he was wounded slightly again on May 3, 1863. This did not deter him enough to keep him out of action. He marched northward with the regiment and fought at Gettysburg. Deciding not to re-enlist, Cummings fought at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg before finally mustering out of Federal service at the expiration of his term on October 6, 1864. By the end of the Civil War, his regiment owned the dubious distinction of losing more men killed or mortally wounded than any other that fought for the Union.
After the war Cummings became a machinist and accepted a job in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Steel Company, where he became the master mechanic. In 1870, he was placed in charge of the construction of the North Chicago Rolling Mill, Bessemer Steel Department. He found himself frequently travelling between Pennsylvania and Illinois, having purchased a farm north of the town of Millersburg. The work in Chicago employed Cummings through 1878.
Albert married Nellie T. Currier, a Massachusetts native, in 1871 and the couple had four children between 1873 and 1881, all born in Millersburg. Albert took a job with the Jackson Interlocking and Switch Company and while there invented an interlocking switch, which the Pennsylvania Steel Company began to manufacture.
While employed at Harrisburg he also designed plans for an iron bridge to cross the Susquehanna River at Mulberry Street, a project which eventually came to fruition. He also invented a boat with inflatable wheels for use at lifesaving stations.
Also among his more interesting early inventions, Cummings designed a bi-plane and applied for patent in 1896. As was stated of the aircraft in his obituary, "It had propellers and the model could be operated. He filed half his plans at Washington, but fearful that his secret may be known, declined to file the other half, and was refused patents. It is said that the principle on which he worked was that used by subsequent aeroplane builders." The remnants of this aircraft is one of the proud artifacts on display at the Millersburg and Upper Paxton Township Historical Society Museum.
Cummings retired to his farm in Millersburg in 1903 and lived out the remaining eight years of his life with a view of the Susquehanna River. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Post Number 58 of Harrisburg and very active in local politics and veteran's affairs. To friends and the locals he was given a late-life promotion to captain, a rank he never held during the Civil War.
The captain died at his home on July 31, 1911 and was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery. His obituary writer appropriately wrote of Cummings, "From the start he was a creative mind." Certainly there are few who have contributed as much in a lifetime to the betterment of the world around them.