In her biographical profile for Youth Voices in 2013, Esther Lee noted that “when the Civil War erupted,” Elisha Albright Hoffman “served with the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Division.” Unfortunately, she was mistaken and inadvertently created a problem for future historians researching Pennsylvania Civil War regiments, as well as future genealogists who may research Hoffman, and it was an error which could have easily been avoided by simply verifying Hoffman’s Civil War service record, which has been conveniently posted online by the Pennsylvania State Archives via its Civil War Veterans’ Card File system.
Regrettably, his official memorial on Find A Grave also currently presents this same incorrect information about his military record.
Hoffman enrolled for Civil War duty with the “47th Pennsylvania Militia, Emergency of 1863,” but did not ever serve with the “47th Pennsylvania Infantry Division” (correct name: “47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry”, or “47th Pennsylvania Volunteers,” or “47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry”).
This is a vitally important distinction for historians, family history researchers, and news reporters because both of these Pennsylvania military units had vastly different functions and terms of service. The first of the two units – the 47th Pennsylvania Militia (the unit with which Hoffman served), was only a short-term regiment, formed to defend the Keystone State from the threat of invasion by forces of the Confederate States of America during the Summer of 1863. The men who enrolled with his regiment (like Hoffman) were only ever stationed within the borders of Pennsylvania.
The other regiment – the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (the primary subject of this website) – served from 1861-1865, and was sorely tested in battle with tours of duty taking its men from Harrisburg to the Washington, D.C. area and Virginia (1861); Florida and South Carolina (1862); Florida (for the entire year of 1863 when Hoffman was serving with the militia in Pennsylvania); Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia (1864); and Virginia, Washington, D.C., Georgia, and South Carolina (1865).
Brief Overview of the Life of Elisha Albright Hoffman
Born in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania on 7 May 1839, Elisha Albright Hoffman was the son of Franklin A Hoffman (1806-1894), an Evangelical minister, and “grew up singing sacred hymns both in church and in the home with his parents,” according to William Bjornstad, author of a biographical sketch about Hoffman. “He possessed natural musical abilities and never attended a music school.” He was also the younger brother of Hannah Louisa (Hoffman) Clewell (1834-1908).
After completing his studies in the public schools of Philadelphia, he enrolled in the Union Bible Seminary in New Berlin, Pennsylvania – an educational and career path which was temporarily interrupted by the 1863 arrival of America’s Civil War on the doorstep of the great Keystone State of Pennsylvania.
An entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Service Card File, 1861-1866 for “Hoffman, Elijah A.” notes that he was a 24-year-old resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania at the time of his enrollment and muster-in for military service in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on 30 June 1863 as a Private with Company A of the 47th Pennsylvania Militia of 1863, that he was detailed as a clerk to the Provost Marshal in Greencastle, Pennsylvania on 9 July 1863 before rejoining his regiment on 29 July 1863, and that he honorably mustered out from that militia service on 13 August 1863 when senior state and military leaders determined that the danger of the state’s invasion by Confederate troops had passed.
* Note: The data from Hoffman’s index card provides multiple data points which confirm that he was a member of the 47th Pennsylvania Militia, Emergency of 1863 rather than the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry (1861-1865). In addition to noting his specific militia regiment and service dates, it also documents that he was a resident of Lancaster County at the time of his enlistment, and that the served in Greencastle. Although Lancaster county residents were known to have staffed the 47th Pennsylvania Militia, they were not shown on the rosters of the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, which largely drew its members from Lackawanna, Lehigh, Northampton, Northumberland, and Perry counties. Furthermore, the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry never served in Greencastle. With the exception of basic training, its duty stations were all located outside of the state.
Following his marriage to Susan Orwig (1844-1876) sometime around 1865, and his ordination in 1868 as a minister in the Presbyterian Church, he relocated with his wife to Cleveland, Ohio in order to take a position with the Evangelical Association’s publishing offices. He remained in that job from roughly 1868 to 1880, when he embarked on his pastoral career – a 42-year journey which took him to churches in Cleveland and Grafton, Ohio, Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Cabery, Illinois. It was also during this latter phase of his professional life that he became a prolific composer of church music – an accomplishment for which he remains renowned and beloved to this day.
According to Lee, “he became the music editor for Hope Publishing Company,” in 1894, “and remained in that post until 1912.”
Through those years, he published fifty songbooks and hymnals and wrote the words or music to at least one thousand gospel and Sunday school songs. ‘Are You Washed in Blood?’ first appeared in Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and Sunday School in 1879.
Elisha Albright Hoffman continued to pen his inspirational lyrics well into the later years of his life. He closed his eyes for the final time in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois on 25 November 1929, and was laid to rest at the Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Bjornstad, William. Elisha Albright Hoffman, in Find A Grave. Salt Lake City, Utah, retrieved online 19 October 1864.
3. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1863.
4. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives, 1863.
5. Lee, Esther. Hymn Review – Are You Washed in the Blood?, in Youth Voices, Vol. 9, Issue 4. Singapore: Cavalry Bible-Presbyterian Church, July-August 2013.