Lt Heber Wells (c. 1863)

11 December 2019

Before the war, Heber Wells was a type-maker and a newspaper compositor for the Paterson (NJ) Guardian, which was established in 1856 by Orrin Van Derhoven and Hugh Crowell Irish. In August 1861 he enlisted in Company K, 13th New Jersey Infantry and mustered as First Sergeant. His Captain was Hugh Irish.

Sergeant Heber was with Captain Irish when he was shot and killed at Antietam on 17 September 1862.

Wells made up his mind to rescue the body. The bullets were still whistling about his ears in a dangerous fashion, but he seemed to care naught for that. Picking up the things he had removed from the captain’s pockets, and his sword, he took them over to the road and called for volunteers to rescue the captain’s body. There were plenty of responses to this noble, yet sad duty, dangerous though it was. Of the volunteers, Wells selected Jacob Engle [Engel], Lewellen T. Probert [Probst] and Jacob Berdan, and the four carried the captain’s body over the fence and laid it in the road …

Wells was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in November, but lost a finger at Chancellorsville in May 1863 and resigned his commission in August 1863. He began manufacturing large wooden type – used to print posters and other large scale works – in 1864, and was in that business with various partners or as sole proprietor until 1899.

Behind his photograph above, from the MOLLUS Massachusetts Commandery, are examples of his trade mark. Below are pages from his sample book Specimens of Wood Type Manufactured by Heber Wells, New York (1891), now in the Newberry Library, Chicago, online in company with a profile of Wells from Professor David Shields.

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