Civil War Profiles — The Koch brothers during the Civil War

Date Published: 
Aug. 4, 2017

In today’s political environment, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, are well known as the owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-owned companies in the United States, and contributors to conservative candidates for political office. More than 150 years ago, however, another set of Koch brothers, Francis and Allen, from Schuylkill County, Pa., served in the Union army for virtually the entire Civil War, for a cause they held dear.


The Pennsylvania Kochs had a family history of military service. Several generations before Charles and David were born, Henry Koch participated in the French & Indian War in the mid-18th century. Henry married Susanna Bock, the daughter of a Prussian immigrant, and their son Daniel, born in 1816 in the community now known as Kunkle’s Mill in East Brunswick Township, married Mary Ann Beck in 1839, a member of an old Pennsylvania family whose grandfather had been a gunsmith — a vital skill that exempted him from service in the Revolutionary War.

Daniel Koch, an enterprising individual, was a farmer and a miller before moving in 1844 to Middleport and engaging in the mercantile business. By 1857, he decided to resume farming in the community of Auburn, before reinvesting in the flour milling business in Monocacy, in Berks County, and then at Fleetwood.

Daniel Koch turned to politics in the 1850s. Although he lost by a small majority as a Whig candidate for sheriff of Schuylkill County in 1854, he gained election to the state legislature in 1860.

Daniel and Mary Ann (Beck) Koch produced 11 children during their marriage, including Francis and Allen. Francis joined the Union army in 1861 and was a member of the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment for the entire war, while Allen donned the uniform in the same unit for nearly as long — more than three years.

Patriotism was characteristic of the Koch family. When a crisis occurred in 1863, as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia moved north into Maryland and across Pennsylvania, Daniel, the father of the two brothers who were already in the army, along with three more of his sons — as well as three of Daniel’s brothers — reportedly volunteered to serve during the duration of the emergency.

Ray Bock of West Chester, Pa., and Bethany Beach shared the story of his ancestors, the Koch family. Those mentioned were predecessors of Richard Henry Koch who, beginning in 1912, sat on the Schuylkill County bench as “a wise, just, and upright judge.”

Richard Henry married Annie S. Phillips, whose father, Capt. William Phillips, was fatally wounded at Cold Harbor, Va., in 1864. On June 3, the Union army suffered 7,000 casualties at that small crossroads town, in one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles of the Civil War.

Service to the country continued for this family during World War II. A Koch son-in-law served in France with the U.S. Marines and won the Distinguished Service Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Another Koch son-in-law was a member of the 87th Infantry Division. In addition, Marshall McKinley Koch served in the Army Quartermasters’ Department and the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.

Much of this information is contained in “Courts & Lawyers of Pennsylvania: A History, 1623-1923,” published by the American Historical Society Inc. and available online at http://www.berks.pa-roots.com/Biographies/RichardHenryKoch.html.

Ray Bock also shared his collection of Chicle Company stickers that featured photos of prominent Civil War figures in packages of chewing gum. Although not a genuine Civil War artifact, these photos serve as a remembrance of those who fought for four long years a century and a half ago to gain independence or to preserve the Union.

Tom Ryan is the author of the multiple award-winning “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign.” Signed copies are available at Bethany Beach Books. His latest book, “Eleven Fateful Days in July 1863: Meade Tracks Lee’s Escape after Gettysburg,” is due out in 2018. Contact him at pennmardel@mchsi.com or visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.