August 5, 1861 — A New Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment Is Born

Colonel Tilghman H. Good, Commanding Officer, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (public domain).

When Lieutenant-Colonel Tilghman H. Good received permission from Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin, on 5 August 1861, to form an entirely new regiment of volunteer soldiers in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s 22 July 1861 call for 500,000 men to preserve America’s Union in the face of the expanding U.S. Civil War, he only knew that his nation was in crisis and needed his help. He could not possibly have foreseen then that most of the men he would recruit for the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry would make genuine history while repeatedly distinguishing themselves in battle during terms of service which would be far longer than the three years Lincoln had envisioned.

Good, himself, had been tested in battle by the time he had received Curtin’s permission to form the 47th Pennsylvania, having mustered out from the 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 23 July 1861 after honorably completing his Three Months’ Service as second-in-command of that regiment during the war’s opening months. His new subordinates, who would later come to be known as the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, would be so well-trained and, ultimately, become so toughened by battle that they would frequently be placed on point when a massive corps of combined Union Army regiments was marched into battle—or assigned to guard the rear, protecting the retreating troops of other regiments from Confederate States Army (C.S.A.) fire and potential capture by the advancing enemy when brigades of that same Union corps were forced into retreat.

And his beloved 47th would also become the only regiment from the great Keystone State to fight in the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign across Louisiana, as well as the only Pennsylvania regiment to have men imprisoned at Camp Ford, the largest POW camp operated by the C.S.A. west of the Mississippi River.

Camp Curtin (Harper’s Weekly, 1861, public domain).

After receiving permission from Governor Curtin to form a new regiment on 5 August 1861, Good was commissioned as a colonel and re-enrolled for a three-year term of military service that same day. He then promptly reached out to recruit William H. Gausler, George Warren Alexander, and other former subordinates from his officer corps with the 1st Pennsylvania, as well as John Peter Shindel Gobin from the 11th Pennsylvania and other respected officers from other three-month Pennsylvania regiments to enlist their service in recruiting men for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In short order, Good ensured that Alexander was commissioned as a lieutenant-colonel and appointed as his second-in-command with Gausler appointed to central command as a commissioned major. Gobin was commissioned as a captain and given the critical role of commanding the regiment’s color-bearer unit.

According to historian Lewis Schmidt, 911 of the men who would initially serve under Good (roughly 90 percent of the total number typically required to form a Union Army regiment) were mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg from mid-August through mid-September by Captain Jonathan R. Snead of the 5th U.S. Artillery. The regiment’s ten companies were processed as follows:

Company F, which was recruited and enrolled in Catasauqua, Lehigh County and mustered in from 13 to 30 August, was led by Captain Henry Samuel Harte;
Regimental Band No. 1, which was recruited from the membership of the Pomp’s Cornet Band in Easton, Northampton County, enrolled in Easton, and mustered in on 14 August, was conducted by Thomas Coates;
Company C (Sunbury Guards), which was recruited primarily from Northumberland and Juniata counties, enrolled at Sunbury, Northumberland County, and mustered in from 19 August to 2 September, was led by Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, who had personally volunteered the services of the Sunbury Guards to Governor Curtin on 18 April 1861, following President Lincoln’s earlier call for 75,000 volunteers after the Fall of Fort Sumter;
Company D, which was recruited primarily from Bloomfield and other Perry County towns, enrolled in Bloomfield, and mustered in from 20 to 31 August, was led by Captain Henry Durant (“H. D.”) Woodruff;
Company I, which was recruited primarily from Lehigh County, enrolled in the city of Allentown in Lehigh County, and mustered in on 30 August as the largest company (with 102 men), was led by Captain Coleman A.G. Keck;
Company B, which was recruited and enrolled in Allentown, mustered in at Camp Curtin from 30 to 31 August, and led by Captain Emmanuel P. Rhoads;
Company A, which was recruited at the saloon operated by Charles Frederick William Glanz in Easton, enrolled in Easton, and mustered in from 15 to 16 September, was led by Captain Richard A. Graeffe;
Company E, which was recruited and enrolled at the Easton-based saloon owned by Charles Hickman Yard, Sr. and mustered in on 16 September as the smallest company with just 83 men and with Yard commissioned as its captain;
Company K, which was formed by George Junker, an Allentown-based tombstone carver, with the intent of being an “all-German company”, recruited from the Lehigh County communities of Allentown, Guthsville, Hazleton, Longswamp, and Saegersville, enrolled in Allentown, and mustered in on 17 September, was led by Junker, who had been commissioned as captain;
Company G, which was recruited and enrolled in Allentown and mustered in on 18 September, was led by Captain Charles Mickley;
Company H, which was recruited and enrolled primarily from Newport and its surrounding Perry County communities and mustered in on 19 September as the 47th Pennsylvania’s final company to form at Camp Curtin, was led by Captain James Kacy, who had personally enrolled in the Perry County community of Elliotsburg.

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

From late August through mid-September of that first year of the American Civil War, Good and his second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. Alexander, drilled their Mississippi rifle-armed subordinates in light infantry strategies and procedures, using Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, a training manual penned by William Joseph Hardee, a 1938 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and U.S. Army officer who had been brevetted as a lieutenant-colonel during the Mexican-American War and who had, on 31 January 1861, just resigned his U.S. Army commission in order to accept a commission as a lieutenant-general with the Confederate States Army.

The best known of military training manuals in use during the Civil War, “Hardee’s Tactics,” as it was frequently known, defined not only how the most senior officers should conduct themselves (the “field officers, colonel, lieutenant colonel and major are supposed to be mounted, and [when] on active service shall be on horseback” while the “adjutant, when the battalion is manoeuvring [sic], will be on foot”), it made clear the importance of the regiment’s junior leaders (“the discipline and efficiency of a company materially depend on the conduct and character of its sergeants”), and also spelled out in detail the physical movements which would be made by the rank and file while drilling, at rest, or in combat. Lesson one for each new private was “Position of the Soldier”:

  • “Heels on the same line, as near each other as the conformation of the man will permit;
    The feet turned out equally, and forming with each other something less than a right angle;
    The knees straight without stiffness;
    The body erect on the hips, including a little forward;
    The shoulders square and falling equally;
    The arms hanging naturally;
    The elbows near the body;
    The palm of the hand turned a little to the front, the little finger behind the seam of the pantaloons;
    The head erect and square to the front, without constraint;
    The chin near the stock, without covering it;
    The eyes fixed straight to the front, and striking the ground about the distance of fifteen paces.”

The second lesson was “Eyes”:

  • “At the word right, the recruit will turn the head gently, so as to bring the inner corner of the left eye in a line with the buttons of the coat, the eyes fixed on the line of the eyes of the men in, or supposed to be in, the same rank;
    At the second command, the head will resume the direct or habitual position;
    The movement of Eyes—Left will be executed by inverse means;
    The instructor will take particular care that the movement of the head does not derange the squareness of the shoulders, which will happen if the movement of the former be too sudden.”

Pvt. Abraham N. Wolf, of Co. B, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, standing with his Mississippi rifle, c. 1861 (public domain).

Instructed next in the basics of marching, the privates were subsequently drilled in the Manual of Arms—taught how to support, present, shoulder, and order arms before learning how to load and ready their rifles for firing and also learning to fix their bayonets in preparation for hand-to-hand combat.

In lesson four, they were finally taught how to fire and cease fire, and how to fire obliquely, by file, and by rank.

In lesson five, they learned how to fire and load while kneeling or lying down.

They drilled until their leaders deemed they were ready to meet the enemy—the Confederate States Army—in a war which would ultimately cost America $4.183 million (period value) and kill 623,026 (total killed in battle from both sides, not including disease-related deaths). By late September of 1861, the 47th Pennsylvanian Volunteers were serving in the Eastern Theater of combat, officially enrolled as part of the United States Army, and attached to the massive Army of the Potomac.

To learn more about the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s efforts to preserve America’s Union and end the scourge of slavery, visit our “About” page.

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Prepared in Compliance with Acts of the Legislature, Vol. 1, 1150-1190. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
  2. Casualties and Costs of the Civil War (infographic). New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
  3. Egle, William H. Life and Times of Andrew Gregg Curtin, pp. 127, 250. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Thompson Publishing Co., 1896.
  4. Good, Tilghman H. (F&S – 47 I), in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
  5. Hardee, William Joseph. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics. Memphis, Tennessee: E.C. Kirk & Co., 1861.
  6. Mathews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford. History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Everts & Richards, 1884.
  7. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
  8. Stewart, Richard, ed. American Military History, Vol. I: The United States Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917 (Chapter 9: “The Civil War, 1861). Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2009.
  9. “The New State Regiments.” Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, September 23, 1861, p. 3.
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