January-Early February 1862: New Year, New Civil War Mission — A Pennsylvania Regiment Heads for Florida

Unknown regiment, Camp Griffin, Virginia, Fall 1861 (public domain, U.S. Library of Congress).

“He was the light and life of our company, and his death has caused a blight and sadness to prevail, that only the rude wheels of time can efface….” — Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin to the parents of drummer boy John Boulton Young, mid-October, 1861

“I passed the night in ‘watching,’ but somewhat differently from the watch meetings at home. I spent from 8 to 12 at night on the outposts, and we were in expectation of an attack all the time…. At 12, I was relieved and moved with my men back to the main reserve where we built a huge fire, and six to eight officers of us gathered around the fire and spent the time in telling yarns, cracking jokes.” — Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin to his own parents in a letter penned on New Year’s Day, 1862

“Will write again if I am spared to do so.” — C Company Sergeant John Gross Helfrich to his parents in a letter penned on January 12, 1862

 

As America’s Civil War dragged on, the contemplation of life’s biggest questions became an increasing preoccupation for more than a few members of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Initially elated by their August 1861 enrollment for service in the fight to preserve their nation’s Union, many were propelled heart and headlong into a valley of grief just weeks later by the untimely deaths of John Boulton Young and Alfred Eisenbraun, two of the regiment’s beloved drummer boys.

Their equilibrium was gradually restored by their work as Union Army soldiers, however, and their spirits were raised further by the approaching Christmas season—largely thanks to surprise shipments by families and friends of “care packages” stuffed with favored foods and other items of comfort. Naturally, though, many members of the regiment began ruminating again as the New Year’s Eve of 1861 gave way to the New Year’s Day of 1862—as shown by this January 1, 1862 letter written to family by C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin:

“I went on picket yesterday morning, and was relieved this morning. So the entire programme [sic] of the departure of the old and advent of the New Year was open to me. I passed the night in ‘watching,’ but somewhat differently from the watch meetings at home. I spent from 8 to 12 at night on the outposts, and we were in expectation of an attack all the time. This kept me constantly in the line, among the men preparing for an attack. At 12, I was relieved and moved with my men back to the main reserve where we built a huge fire, and six to eight officers of us gathered around the fire and spent the time in telling yarns, cracking jokes. Officers from the 7th Maine, 49th & 53d New York were present. Occasionally a shot or two would bring us all to our feet, but as all would be quiet again down we would go into the fire again. About four oclock [sic] this morning, I spread my blanket on the ground, and with a stone for a pillow, slept peaceably my first sleep for 1862. I got to Camp about 9 a.m. and found your letters awaiting me.

…. I would like to have been at home on Christmas, and had set my heart upon going, but somehow or other Col Good and Gen Brannen [sic] both do not want me to leave at present. The fact is we are daily expecting an engagement and they seem to think my company will not do as well as they expect it to unless I am there. I have the crack company in the Regiment. Yesterday was muster day and Sam Miller received the premium for having the cleanest arms in the Regiment….

…. I will make a desperate effort to spend my birthday at home. Mother if I get there I want you to cook a dish of schnitz und knep [sic]. I have been wishing for them all day. Yesterday I went into a house on the line and bought a mince pie and cup of coffee of a girl there. They were first rate, but Mother could beat them.”

* Note: Schnitz und knepp, which translates from the Pennsylvania German to English as “apples and buttons,” was a traditional fall recipe for Pennsylvania Dutch families during the 1800s, and remains so today. Made in a large kettle with dried apples, ham, and dumplings, and flavored with brown sugar and other seasonings, its aroma, taste, and warmth have long come together to create the very definition of “comfort food” on the chilly fall days of the Great Keystone State.

“I had not intended mentioning the following but for fear some of the boys may and an incorrect story gets out, I will tell you the other night while on picket, Mark Shipman fired upon one man crawling up to him, or he supposed he was. Sergeant Piers [sic] and I went out to the line to see the cause of the report, and someone attempted to shoot at us, but his cap snapped. The fellow made tracks in a hurry before we could catch him, but I think he got badly frightened anyhow. You do not say anything about this and do not be alarmed as he could not hit us. It was too dark. And if he had fired, or his gun gone off, we could have shot him, by the flash. We have not lost a man on picket in our entire division.

…. The wind is blowing a perfect hurricane around the house. I have my house papered all over now, and I tell you it is the best this side of Gen Smiths head quarters [sic]. Jake Keaffer [sic] just came in. He was on picket with me last night and tried for about two hours to catch some guinea hens for a New Year dinner. They were too wild for him and so he filled his haversack with potatoes out of a hole he found. He wont [sic] starve in this country. Remember me to all friends and all write soon.

Then, barely a week into the New Year, the regiment’s most persistent and dangerous foe to date resumed its assault, claiming H Company Private Jacob S. R. Gardner as one of the first of what would be a stunning number of casualties for the 47th Pennsylvania in 1862. Unable to withstand the “one-two punch” he absorbed from contracting measles after having just survived a battle with Variola (smallpox), the former Perry County laborer died on January 8. His brothers, Sergeant Reuben Shatto Gardner and Corporal John A. Gardner, who had both been serving side-by-side with him in H Company, saw to the shipping arrangements which sent Jacob’s body back home for interment at the Newport Cemetery in Newport, Pennsylvania, but they did not accompany the transport. Instead, they tamped down their grief and returned to duty—a difficult act that would continue to be repeated by numerous other heartbroken brothers for years to come across a bitterly divided United States.

Meanwhile, at dawn on the same day of Private Gardner’s passing, the bulk of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had just begun to carry out the latest directive from superior officers. Marching from Camp Griffin toward the Army of the Potomac’s central commandthe headquarters of Brigadier-General William F. (“Baldy”) Smith, the 47th Pennsylvanians met up with six additional Union infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, and a ten-piece artillery unit. Moving on as part of this larger force, they continued on to Lewinsville, where they picked up the support of an additional 233 Union wagons.

Heading out again, they trekked on for eight miles until reaching Peacock Hill, where they chased off a significantly smaller group of Confederate States Army troops from picket duty, and then proceeded to remove 200 bushels of corn and 30 loads of hay.

Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks, central regimental command, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (c. 1863, public domain).

In his subsequent recap of the event, Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks noted, “We just marched up to a corn crib, and off went the roof, and the wagons were backed up and filled.” The 47th Pennsylvanians were back in camp that same day by 4 p.m.

According to Gobin in his own letter home, which was penned on the same day of the expedition:

“Yesterday our division of about ten thousand men went out to Hunters Mill, and got 252 wagon loads of forage. We drove in the Rebel pickets and waited a long time for them to come at us, but they did not show themselves. The march was a hard one. I was very tired, but one nights [sic] sleep, and all as sound as ever.”

On Friday, January 10, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were informed that they had performed their duties so admirably up to this point that they had been chosen by Union Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan to join a new expedition under his leadership. Shortly thereafter, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry began packing up their regiment’s tents, Springfield rifles, ammunition, cooking utensils, and other equipment critical to any Union Army unit on the move.

Excerpt of letter from Sergeant John Helfrich, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, January 12, 1862 (used with permission from Colin Colfield).

In the midst of all of this, C Company Sergeant John Helfrich carved time out to pen the following letter:

“Camp Griffin,
Jan. 12th 1862

Dear Parents,

I will again address you, in order to inform you of my getting along, and at the same time I will remark that this will to all probability be the last letter that I may be able to write, while at this place, as we have orders to leave at almost any moment. The place of our destination I can not [sic] name for certain, however, it is rumored that we would go to Florida.

While I am writing, I am informed that we will first go either to Baltimore or Anapolis [sic], and there join the fleet just about being fitted out for some southern seaport. Our going is a certainty, as Gen. Brannan, has gone to either of the above named places to make the necessary arrangements, preparatory to our going.

Yesterday, (Saturday) our regiment was paid for the preceeding [sic] two month service. The monthly wages of a sergeant is seventeen and those of a private thirteen, dollars.

Our company has first passed through the usual Sunday morning inspection, when each man is [to] have a suit of clean clothes in his knapsack, and must also have his arms, and accoutrements, in perfect good condition. This inspection, greatly promotes the healthy, as well as the good appearances of the soldier, and in fact is indispensable.

Our company is in excellent health not a man is at present in the hospital. The health of the regt. has always been pretty good during the first four month [sic] we are now in service, which is verified by the fact that there occurred but seven cases that proved fatal, out of our nine hundred men, and we can not [sic] find language to express our thanks to the Great giver of this our greatest and blessing, that a mortal being can enjoy, and it is our prayer that He may continue to bless us in the future.

I would very much like to see my friends and relations first before we go, but time, and circumstances, will not permit me to do so. I hope however that the time may soon be at hand, when peace may again be restored to our former blessed land, and when those who are now separated from their Parents and friends, fighting for their country, cause and honor, may again be permitted to return home, and enter the circle of their Parents, families, and friends, left and home in peace and prosperity.

Enclosed find ten dollars of my wages. I would send you more, but perhaps I may need it myself, from this until next payday. I must now close by saying that I am well, hoping that you and all the rest of the family are enjoying the same. Remember me kindly to all my friends at home and abroad.

A friendly goodby [sic] to you all.

Your son,

John G. Helfrich

Will write again soon if I am spared to do so.

J. G. Helfrich”

The City of Richmond, a sidewheel steamer which transported Union troops during the Civil War (Maine, c. late 1860s, public domain).

Lined up and ready to move out early on the morning of Wednesday, January 22, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers “gave three cheers for Camp Griffin” after listening to the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band play “Auld Lang Syne,” according to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt. Marching forth at 8:30 a.m., the men of B Company brought up the rear as the regiment slogged through snow and deep mud for three miles in order to reach the Vienna railroad depot in Falls Church, Virginia. Arriving at 9:30 a.m., they boarded a train and departed at 11 for Alexandria, Virginia where, a half hour later, they marched behind their band to the strains of “Yankee Doodle.”

Arriving at the docks nearby, they quickly began loading their equipment on the City of Richmond, a steamship which ultimately transported them along the Potomac River to the Washington Arsenal, where they disembarked sometime around 4 p.m. Marched from the arsenal area’s docks to the munitions storage area, regimental leaders replenished the ammunition supplies of the regiment, one company at a time—a process which took roughly two hours. They were then marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Naval Academy Barracks and temporary hospital, Annapolis, Maryland (c. 1861-1865, public domain).

The next day (January 23), the 47th Pennsylvanians reloaded their equipment onto and then boarded a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train. Departing for Annapolis, Maryland at 2 p.m., they arrived around 10 p.m., were assigned quarters in barracks at the U.S. Naval Academy, and turned in for the night. They then spent that Friday through Monday (January 24-27) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the 210-foot steamship S.S. Oriental. Those preparations ceased on Monday, January 27, at 10 a.m., however, in order to make time for a very public dismissal of one member of the regiment—Private James C. Robinson—who was dishonorably discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania (effective on that same date). According to regimental historian Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment:

“The regiment was formed and instructed by Lt. Col. Alexander ‘that we were about drumming out a member who had behaved himself unlike a soldier.’ …. The prisoner, Pvt. James C. Robinson of Company I, was a 36 year old miner from Allentown who had been ‘disgracefully discharged’ by order of the War Department. Pvt. Robinson was marched out with martial music playing and a guard of nine men, two men on each side and five behind him at charge bayonets. The music then struck up with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ as the procession was marched up and down in front of the regiment, and Pvt. Robinson was marched out of the yard.”

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were transported to Florida aboard the steamship S.S. Oriental in January 1862 (public domain).

Reloading then resumed and, that same afternoon (January 27), the enlisted members of the 47th Regiment, Volunteer Infantry began to board the Oriental, followed by their superior officers. Ferried to that Philadelphia-built steamship by smaller steamers, they sailed away for America’s Deep South at 4 p.m., per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas. Their ship, which was captained by Benjamin F. Tuzo, was rocked by rough seas for much of their trip; consequently, many members of the regiment suffered from intense seasickness—particularly as the Oriental made its way down the stormy coast of the Carolinas and passed the Bahamas and Great Abaco Island.

On February 2, Regimental Chaplain William DeWitt Clinton Rodrock gathered his flock together for Sunday services, which began with the tolling of the ship’s bell at 11 a.m., a selection of hymns performed by the Regimental Band, and an opening prayer and scripture reading by Rodrock. Following the regiment’s singing of “From All That Dwell Below the Skies” (accompanied by the band to the music of “Old Hundred”), Rodrock presented that week’s sermon, which was based on the Bible’s “Acts of the Apostles,” chapter 17, verse 23. The service then closed with the singing of “Lord Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing” and the Doxology, followed by Rodrock’s benediction.

That day and the next, the men’s spirits were boosted further by the sight of dolphins swimming alongside the Oriental.

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida (Harper’s Weekly, 1864, public domain).

Arriving in the waters off Key West, Florida at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 3, the 47th Pennsylvanians were forced to endure a waiting game aboard ship until a pilot could be brought aboard to bring the ship into a safe place in the harbor—a process the pilot began at 7 a.m. the next morning.

According to Schmidt, “The deck was crowded with the regiment’s men, with the band playing as they passed some of the men-at-war…. Arriving in the harbor at 8 AM, the bands playing ‘national songs’ and numerous onlookers, including many ‘colored women,’ along the shore watching the ship sail into port.”

“After disembarking at 9 AM on the dock about one mile west of Fort Taylor, the regiment marched down the main street of the city in their regular order of column of divisions, and stacked their weapons, waiting until the unit would be notified where to make camp…. At 12 in the afternoon, the men were ordered to fall in and stand to attention, and with their 23 member band playing and the ladies of Key West waving their handkerchiefs, and with quite a crowd of followers, the 1000 men marched to their new camp ‘one fourth mile out of the city, near the beach,’ across from the barracks of the 90th New York Regiment.”

Led to the area of Key West that is now known as Palm and White streets, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were, in fact, initially housed just 350 feet from the ocean—a locale which may sound breathtakingly luxurious to the modern day reader until one realizes that the 47th Pennsylvanians’ first nights were “spent in blankets on the beach, with knapsacks for pillows”—a vexing, sandy state of affairs which persisted until their tents were unloaded and assembled on Thursday, February 6.

Even so, the members of the regiment still managed to make an early, favorable impression on Key West residents, including a New York Herald reporter who “commented on the fact that the 47th was equipped with the best weapons available, and was the best looking Volunteer Regiment he had ever seen.’’

Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen (c. 1862-1864, public domain).

This was in very large part due to the leadership of Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the founder and commanding officer of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, who had been placed in charge not just of the 47th Pennsylvania, but of all of the men who had been assigned to serve under Brannan in Key West, including two volunteer regiments from New York and U.S. Army artillery units. Good would continue to perform this role until Brannan was able to reach Florida and assume command of his brigade. The 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Adjutant Washington H. R. Hangen was then also appointed as Adjutant General for Brannan’s brigade.

And those tents which took so long to be delivered and assembled? They were officially designated as “Camp Brannan” in honor of the brigadier-general who had requested that the 47th Pennsylvania be assigned to his command.

* NOTE: Three months after dropping the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers off in Key West, the steamship Oriental ran aground and sank north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Its boiler may still be seen from shore while walking along the beach at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

2. Faust, Drew G. “The Civil War soldier and the art of dying,” in The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 3-38. Houston, Texas: Southern Historical Association (Rice University), 2001.

3. Gobin, John Peter Shindel. Personal Letters, 1861-1865. Northumberland, Pennsylvania: Personal Collection of John Deppen.

4. Helfrich, John G. Personal Letters, 1862. Mesa, Arizona: Personal Collection of Colin Cofield.

5. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

6. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1868.

 

 

December 1861: A Young Regiment’s First Christmas and New Year’s Day Away from Home

First State Color, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (issued 20 September 1861, retired 11 May 1865).

Barely four months old when December 1861 arrived, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry continued its occupation of Virginia—just one of the many Union regiments attached to the Army of the Potomac charged with defending the nation’s capital from potential invasion by Confederate States Army troops during the first year of America’s Civil War. Encamped at Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen during late September and early October, the 47th Pennsylvania had spent a significant portion of its time reinforcing and expanding upon the basic training in Hardee’s light infantry tactics that it had received upon its muster at Camp Curtin.

On one typical day—Friday, October 4—the regiment drilled from just after reveille until roughly 7 a.m., repeated the drill between 10 and 11 a.m. and then again between 2 and 3 p.m., and then marched in a formal regimental parade from 5 to 6 p.m. Two days later, the regiment demonstrated its readiness yet again when its members were formally inspected by senior officers of its brigade. At midnight the next day—Monday, October 7—the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to engage the enemy.

Following behind the 79th New York Volunteers and trailed by the 33rd and 49th New York, as well as a Union cavalry unit and three Union artillery batteries, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched away from Camp Advance at 3 a.m.—excited to do more than mere drilling. Before they could reach their intended destination, however, the 79th New York Volunteers ran smack into Confederate skirmishers three miles outside of Lewinsville.

As battle lines began to form, the 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to move to the front and both sides of the road to shield the brigade’s other units. Initially stationed at the front, the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company and A Company were shifted to protective positions at the brigade’s left and right, respectively, and Company D and Company I were then shifted to protect the brigade’s front. Advancing in this formation up and down three miles of the undulating, forested Virginia countryside, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers pushed the Confederate troops back toward Prospect Hill, where they stopped and held their brigade’s position for the remainder of the day and night.

Forming a new battle line the next morning at 8 a.m., the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were assigned, again, to guard both sides of their brigade. When neighboring Confederate troops failed to attack by 10 a.m., they were ordered to begin fortifying their brigade’s position, and proceeded to carve out a five-mile road and fell a substantial number of trees in order to construct earthen breastworks in front of the brigade’s artillery batteries. They were also assigned to dig holes to create rifle pits for brigade snipers—work which continued until they were relieved by a regiment from Vermont at sundown. Allowed to sleep until daylight via a procedure known as “laying on their arms,” they essentially held their rifles while napping lightly.

Unknown regiment, Camp Griffin, Virginia, fall 1861 (public domain, U.S. Library of Congress).

Ordered on toward Manassas Gap early that same week, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were next stationed between Lewinsville and Falls Church as part of this mission. Moving back and forth around this area, they reached as far as the Leesburg Turnpike, which was roughly two miles from the Chain Bridge they had first crossed when entering Virginia in September. Moving out again the next day, the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing (Companies A, C, D, F, and I) were ordered to head for a new camp site in Fairfax County, Virginia. Marching to a site two miles outside of Falls Church, they began pitching regimental tents at “Camp Big Chestnut”—so named due to the looming presence of a large chestnut tree located there. This encampment would ultimately come to be known as Camp Griffin.

Meanwhile, the men from H Company and other units of the 47th Pennsylvania’s left wing were ordered out on a new, five-mile expedition. During this time, a six-man detail from H Company, commanded by Lieutenant William W. Geety, was sent out on reconnaissance toward the Richmond Turnpike, but nearly met with disaster when Confederate cavalry approached within 300 feet of that detail’s position around midnight. Fortunately, this detachment was saved by a thick fog which descended and obscured its position from the enemy’s view.

On Thursday, October 10, Geety’s party was joined by the regiment’s third-in-command, Major William H. Gausler, who ordered Geety to perform further reconnaissance. Spotting enemy pickets a quarter mile away from the main encampment of the 47th Pennsylvania’s expedition, Geety promptly returned to Gausler to report his findings. Men from G Company were then placed on picket duty, which they performed until they were relieved at 1 a.m. the next day.

According to regimental historian, Lewis Schmidt, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the 47th Pennsylvania’s founder and commanding officer, reported to his superiors “that the work associated with being out on advanced picket duty was very difficult, and that the enemy pickets at times were too close to his camp, which gave his troops constant unrest.” Further adding to their stress, they were forced to wait so long for their tents to be brought from their former encampment that they ended up having to pitch those tents “during constant alarms from the enemy pickets.”

They’d barely finished when the rains came. Geety later reported that they’d endured such a hard downpour that he’d “slept in a puddle all night”; those of his subordinates who weren’t sent out on picket duty again spent the next two days trying unsuccessfully to dry their clothes.

Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, Co. C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1862 (public domain).

Many hours were, in fact, passed in similarly miserable conditions—so much so that camp life became a test of endurance. According to Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, the commanding officer of the 47th Pennsylvania’s C Company, Friday, November 29 was “the most disagreeable time we have yet experienced.” Assigned to picket duty, he had been ordered to march his subordinates out and position them away from camp some distance in order to head off potential enemy attacks on the Army of the Potomac’s massive encampment by Confederate troops stationed in their vicinity.

“It rained hard all day and night, and was very cold. I had command of the first relief, which went to the special reserve at 12 midnight. By that time most of us were wet through, so I took possession of a minister’s house, near by, where I quartered my men until morning.”

Additional letters written by other 47th Pennsylvanians around this same time evoke similar shivers of empathy, transporting present day readers back in time and into the muddy shoes and heavy, sodden uniforms of the cold, sniffling soldiers who wearily set pen to paper once they were finally permitted to crawl back into their dry tents at camp.

Consequently, disease became an even more formidable foe than the Confederate States Army—and a fearsome one at that, scything multiple members of the regiment from its ranks, including two drummer boys, aged thirteen and fifteen, and a seasoned sergeant within days of each of their respective hospitalizations, followed by Daniel Foose, a 19-year-old private from Perry County’s H Company who was felled by typhoid or bilious fever; David Losch, a 22-year-old Allentown native and private from I Company; Daniel Biceline, a 23-year-old H Company private also felled by typhoid; and Private William Young of G Company.

Easing their distress somewhat was the long overdue news that members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry would finally be paid for the first time since enrolling for service. When the money arrived, many members of the regiment began transferring what they could home to parents and wives. C Company men sent $900 to their loved ones in Sunbury while those from Company A and Company D sent a whopping $2,500 and $2,000, respectively, to Northampton and Perry counties.

Additionally, the regiment was still stationed close enough to Pennsylvania that a significant number of 47th Pennsylvanians were able to personally return to their hometowns on brief furloughs while others were buoyed by family members who had the means to travel to their Virginia encampment for short visits.

Christmas

Quartermaster James C. VanDyke procured a holiday surprise for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Sunbury American, 21 December 1861, public domain).

As a result, it was with a mixture of heavy hearts and hope that members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry welcomed the dawn of Christmas Day in 1861.

Among those making the time more bearable for his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians was former Northumberland County sheriff James VanDyke who, according to the December 21 edition of the Sunbury American, “came home on a short visit and returned to Camp Griffin 47th Regiment … taking with him three or four large boxes filled with various articles of comfort, for the inner as well as the outer man….”

The newspaper also included this important detail:

“Among the edibles, was a barrel of ‘sour krout,’ presented by William I. Greenough, Esq.”

In addition to being a beloved taste of home for the often hungry members of the regiment, the sauerkraut likely also served an important cultural function for the numerous German-Americans and German immigrants who had enrolled with the 47th. When paired with pork and eaten on New Year’s Day as part of an annual tradition, sauerkraut has been said to attract prosperity for the remainder of the year because it is made from green cabbage (green being the color of money) while eating pork ensures progress and good luck because pigs “root forward” with their snouts rather than backward with their feet as chickens do, according to a 2015 article by Billy Penn News.

Pvt. Abraham Nicholas Wolf, Company B, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1861 (public domain).

Food and other “articles of comfort” were, in fact, on the minds of pretty much all members of the regiment as they were about to spend their first Christmas and New Year’s holidays away from loved ones. While penning a letter to his family during regimental church services on Sunday, December 29, Private Abraham N. Wolf told his wife, Sarah, that the Regimental Band was playing a hymn as he wrote to her.

Noting that he’d received the gift box she’d sent him, Wolf’s joy was child-like when he added that “everything was in it yet what you said was in it and it came on the second day of Christmas.” Just that morning, he’d fried “fried some of the sausages” that she’d sent him “and took some sausages along for dinner” later because he’d been scheduled for duty—chopping wood for the regiment—“and they tasted pretty good to me for it was something new to me for it was from home.” And then he added that the day before:

“… the chicken cooked for dinner and so we had a good dinner for it was the best dinner that I had since I left home. And this morning I ate the last part of the chickens but I have some of your molasses candy yet which you sent to me. And I have the big cake yet. And that pocket handkerchief which your mother sent to me I got too.”

Their joy and respite were brief, however; by mid-January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were on the move again. When they finally stopped and were able to take in their new surroundings, they would suddenly gain an entirely different perspective on the meaning of “far from the comforts of home.”

 

For more Christmas and New Year’s-related content, please check out this sampling of our prior posts on 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story:

To see an image and read more of Abraham Wolf’s letter, read the article, 1861: Abraham Nicholas Wolf Jr. to Sarah (Trexler) Wolf,” by Spared and Shared.

 

Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

2. Gobin, John Peter Shindel. Personal Letters, 1861-1865. Northumberland, Pennsylvania: Personal Collection of John Deppen.

3. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

4. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1868.

 

 

A Nation Comes Together, Time and Again, to Give Thanks

Samuel Adams (John Singleton Copley, circa 1772, public domain).

Well before the outbreak of America’s devastating Civil War, the concept of Thanksgiving was on the minds of the nation’s founding fathers. Among those who grasped the importance of inspiring shared feelings of unity and gratitude between residents of the United States was Samuel Adams, who drafted the nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, which was then officially issued by the Continental Congress on 1 November 1777:

“FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth ‘in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.’

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

Nearly twelve years later, on 3 October 1789, President George Washington also urged Americans to come together to express their gratitude, and proclaimed that that year’s celebration would be held on 26 November:

“By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Thanksgiving, November 1863 (Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, 5 December 1863, public domain).

Nearly three quarters of a century later, Pennsylvania’s Civil War governor, Andrew Gregg Curtin, urged his fellow Keystone State residents to pray that God would “bestow upon our Civil Rulers, wisdom and earnestness in council and upon our military leaders zeal and vigor in action, that the fires of rebellion may be quenched, that we, being armed with His defense, may be preserved from all perils, and that hereafter our people living in peace and quietness, may, from generation to generation, reap the abundant fruits of His mercy; and with joy and thankfulness praise and magnify His holy name.”

A year later, President Abraham Lincoln penned the following words as part of his own sobering, yet hopeful proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

So, with our common heritage in mind, and as an expression of deep gratitude for the ongoing support of our many wonderful readers and volunteers who have helped us build a loyal following for 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, we present this collection of links to our most popular Thanksgiving-related content. With our best wishes from “our house” to yours, wherever you reside in this our United States of America, may you have a peaceful, bountiful and joyous holiday season. And in the New Year to come, may we all, finally, embrace the belief that one’s ability to show kindness and compassion in the face of adversity is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Thanksgiving Post Collection — 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story

 

Sources:

1. Basler, Roy P., editor, et. al. Collected works, Vol. 6. The Abraham Lincoln Association/Springfield, Illinois. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

2. Curtin, Andrew Gregg. Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving – 1862,” in Pennsylvania Archives: Fourth Series, Vol. VIII: “Papers of the Governors, 1858-1871,” Samuel Hazard, John Blair Lynn, William Henry Egle, et. al., editors. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1902.

3. Snyder Family Recipes: Turkey, Filling and Gravy (Thanksgiving and Christmas),” in 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story. Snyder Family Archives: © 2017-present. All rights reserved.

4. Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863: A primary source by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nast.” New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of History, retrieved online 1 November 2017.

5. Thanksgiving Proclamation 1777 By the Continental Congress: The First National Thanksgiving Proclamation.” Plymouth, Massachusetts: Pilgrim Hall Museum, retrieved online 4 November 2019.

6.Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789,” in “Education — Primary Sources.” Mount Vernon, Virginia: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, retrieved online 4 November 2019.

7. Wharton, Henry D. Letter from the Sunbury Guards: Key West, Fla., 23 August 1863 (Henry Wharton’s Thanksgiving Update, 1863). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 5 September 1863.

 

October 1861: Drummer Boys, Disease, and Death

U.S. Soldiers’ Asylum Home Cemetery, Washington, D.C., circa 1861 (public domain).

“[T]he impact and meaning of the war’s casualties were not simply a consequence of scale, of the sheer numbers of Union and Confederate soldiers who died. Death’s significance for the Civil War generation derived as well from the way it violated prevailing assumptions about life’s proper end — about who should die, when and where, and under what circumstances.”

— Drew Gilpin Faust, Ph.D., President Emeritus and the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor, Harvard University and author, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War

 

Less than a month after leaving the great Keystone State for the Eastern Theater of America’s shattering Civil War, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry encountered their most fearsome foe — the one they would consistently find the most difficult to defeat throughout the long war — disease.

It was an enemy, in fact, that turned out to be the deadliest not just for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but for the entire Union Army as it fought to preserve the nation’s Union while ending the practice of slavery across the United States. Per The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, sixty-two percent of all Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War were felled by disease, rather than by the shrapnel-spewing blasts of Confederate cannon or the accurately targeted minié balls of CSA rifles.

Surprising as this may seem to this century’s students of American History, it shouldn’t be, according to infectious disease specialist Jeffrey S. Sartin, M.D.:

“The American Civil War represents a landmark in military and medical history as the last large-scale conflict fought without knowledge of the germ theory of disease. Unsound hygiene, dietary deficiencies, and battle wounds set the stage for epidemic infection, while inadequate information about disease causation greatly hampered disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Pneumonia, typhoid, diarrhea/dysentery, and malaria were the predominant illnesses. Altogether, two-thirds of the approximately 660,000 deaths of soldiers were caused by uncontrolled infectious diseases, and epidemics played a major role in halting several major campaigns. These delays, coming at a crucial point early in the war, prolonged the fighting by as much as 2 years.”

With respect to the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the two diseases which wreaked such devastating havoc early on were Variola (smallpox) and typhoid fever.

Variola

A transmission electron micrograph of an 1849 strain of Variola shows several smallpox virions. Note the “dumbbell-shaped” structure. Located inside the virion, this is the viral core, and contains the DNA of the virus (Temple University, public domain via Wikipedia).

Variola, more commonly known as “smallpox,” was an acute infectious disease that, even in the mildest of cases in 1861, was highly contagious. Notable for the high fever it caused, it also produced individual, boil-like eruptions across the human body. Known as “pocks,” these eruptions would quickly become fluid-filled pustules — even with the weakest strains of the disease — that would, if sufferers survived, eventually burst, leaving them badly scarred.

If, however, the soldier contracted the most virulent form of the disease — Variola confluens — as happened with at least one member of the 47th Pennsylvania — the suffering and likelihood of death was much, much greater. Far more severe than the strain that would have typically sickened the average child or adult during the mid-1800s, Variola confluens produced patches of pustules, rather than individual pocks. Forming on the face in such large swaths, the skin of the soldier who had been unfortunate to contract this strain of the disease would have appeared to have been burned or blistered. In addition to the horrific facial disfigurement, that soldier would also likely have experienced hair loss, severe pain and damage to his mucous membranes, mouth, throat, and eyes as the fever ravaged his body and continued to climb. If the disease devolved into the hemorrhagic phase prior to his death, the pocks on his face and mucous membranes would then also have begun to bleed.

Most likely exposed to the disease sometime while they were encamped in Virginia with their regiment, the first of the 47th Pennsylvanians to contract Variola would not initially have noticed any symptoms during this disease’s ten to fourteen-day incubation period. The first symptoms they would have experienced would have been due to rigor (sudden chills as the onset of fever began, alternating with shivering and sweating). As this primary fever increased, their temperatures would have risen to 103° or 104° Fahrenheit or higher over a two-day period, quickening the pulse and causing intense thirst, headache, constipation, vomiting, and back pain. As their conditions worsened, they might also have experienced convulsions and/or a redness on their abdomens or inner thighs — markings which might have appeared to be a rash of some sort or the beginnings of scarlet fever, but which were, in fact, a series of small, flat, circular spots on the body caused by bleeding under the skin and known as “petechiae.”

It would only have been on roughly the third day, post-incubation period, that these same men would have noticed that their faces were erupting with boils, but even then, they might have missed this sign because such pocks typically appeared as a single patch of redness on the sufferer’s forehead, near the roots of the hair. Within hours of this first eruption, however, the soldiers would most certainly have realized that something was wrong as they began scratching to relieve the itching on patches that had spread across their faces and bodies — particularly when the pocks began to fill with fluid and swelled to pea-sized bumps.

Likely sent to the regiment’s hospital sometime around this time, these 47th Pennsylvanians would have been transferred to the eruptive fever hospital on the Kalorama Heights in Georgetown before the week was out because, by day eight or nine, their skin would have become inflamed and swollen as the fluid in the pocks changed from clear to yellow, began to smell, and spread to their mouths, throats, noses, and eyes, putting their breathing and vision at risk. Increasingly hoarse, despite the increase in saliva they were experiencing, their bodies would then also have been overtaken by secondary fever, followed possibly by delirium and then coma.

If they somehow managed to survive until the disease’s latter phase, the pustules would have eventually dried up (typically on the twelfth day, post-incubation); if they didn’t, death most likely would have ensued due to myocardial insufficiency caused by the weakening of their heart muscles.

Typhoid Fever

An image of Salmonella typhi, the bacteria which cause typhoid fever (U.S. Armed Forces. Institute of Pathology, public domain).

Often confused with the insect-borne typhus fever, typhoid fever is caused by bacteria. Poorly understood well into and beyond the mid-19th century, despite having sickened countless numbers of individuals since the time of Hippocrates, according to American University historian Thomas V. DiBacco, typhoid fever’s method of transmission remained unidentified until 1856. That year, it finally dawned on scientists that fecal matter contaminated with Salmonella typhosa, one of the strains of bacteria now known to cause food poisoning, was at the root of the “persistently high fever, rash, generalized pains, headache and severe abdominal discomfort,” and intestinal bleeding of the patients physicians were failing to save.

Spread by the unsanitary conditions so common to the close living quarters shared by America’s Civil War-era soldiers, as well as by their respective regimental company cooks who were often forced to prepare meals with unclean hands when their regiments stopped briefly during long marches, the typhoid fever-causing Salmonella typhosa bacterium would typically enter a soldier’s body “through food, milk or water contaminated by a carrier,” but might also have been contracted just as easily via a bite from one of the many flies swarming around a regiment’s latrine facilities or horses.

And, because the “worst manifestations” of the disease did not appear until two or three weeks into an individual’s illness, according to DiBacco, typhoid fever was able to spread like wildfire not just during its incubation period, but even when soldiers were aware that others within their respective companies were ill because “typhoid victims were disposed to think the malady less serious as time went by.”

It is this latter fact alone that, perhaps, explains why outbreaks of typhoid fever continued to plague the 47th Pennsylvania throughout the duration of the war when Variola did not.

The First ”Men” to Die

Court House, Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 1851 (James Fuller Queen, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The first “man” to die from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was John Boulton Young, a 13-year-old drummer boy who was known affectionately as “Boulty” (alternatively, “Boltie”). A member of the regiment’s C Company, he served under Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, but was known to, and beloved by, the majority of the roughly one thousand men who served with the 47th.

Born on 25 September 1848 in Sunbury, Pennsylvania as the second oldest son of Pennsylvania natives, Michael A. and Elizabeth (Boulton) Young, Boulty was still in school at the time of his enlistment for Civil War military service in his hometown on 19 August 1861. He clearly lied about his age on military paperwork that day, indicating that he was 14, rather than 12 — a fiction which was maintained by Gobin and his fellow C Company officers throughout the boy’s tenure of service.

* Note: According to historians at the American Battlefield Trust, “For most of the war, the minimum enlistment age in the North was legally held at 18 for soldiers and 16 for musicians, although younger men could enlist at the permission of their parents until 1862. In the South, the age limit for soldiers stayed at 18 until 1864 when it was legally dropped to 17.”

Just four feet tall at the time of his official muster in at the rank of Musician (drummer boy) at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 2 September, Boulty was so small that his superiors needed to customize both his uniform and his drum to make it easier for him to function as a member of the 47th Pennsylvania.

The Kalorama Eruptive Fever Hospital (also known as the Anthony Holmead House in Georgetown, D.C. after it was destroyed in a Christmas Eve fire in 1865 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

After completing basic training and traveling by train with his regiment to the Washington, D.C. area in mid-September, Boulty subsequently endured several long marches, including at least one undertaken in a driving rain. By late September or early October of 1861, Boulty had contracted such a challenging case of Variola (smallpox) that regimental surgeons ordered his superiors to ship him from Virginia, where the 47th Pennsylvania was encamped as part of the Army of the Potomac, to the eruptive fever hospital on the Kalorama Heights in Georgetown, District of Columbia.

Diagnosed by the physicians there with Variola confluens, the most virulent form of the disease, he died at that hospital on 17 October 1861. His body was then quickly prepared and transported for burial. Initially interred in Washington, D.C. at the Soldiers’ Asylum Cemetery (now known the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery), his remains were disinterred in early 1862, and returned to Pennsylvania for reburial at Penn’s Cemetery in his hometown of Sunbury.

To learn more about Boulty’s life before and during the Civil War, as well as what happened to the surviving members of his family, read his biographical sketch, The First “Man” to Die: Drummer Boy John Boulton Young.

Alfred Eisenbraun

Allentown, circa 1840 (public domain).

The second “man” from the 47th Pennsylvania to die was also a drummer boy — 15-year-old Alfred Eisenbraun, who served with the regiment’s B Company. A native of Allentown, Pennsylvania who was born in June of 1846, he was a son of Johann Daniel Eisenbraun, a noted Frakturist and tombstone carver who had emigrated from Württemberg, Germany to the United States in 1820, and Lehigh County, Pennsylvania native Margaret (Troxell) Eisenbraun.

Unlike “Boulty,” however, Alfred Eisenbraun had already left his studies behind, and had joined his community’s local workforce in order to help support his family. Employed as a “tobacco stripper,” he separated tobacco leaves from their stems before stacking those leaves in piles for the creation of cigars or chewable tobacco. As he did this, he likely would have been “breathing foul air, in rooms bare and cold or suffocatingly hot”, possibly “in a damp basement, musty with mould [sic] or lurking miasma,” according to Clare de Graffenried, a 19th-century U.S. Bureau of Labor employee who researched and wrote extensively about child labor.

So, it comes as no surprise that a boy in Eisenbraun’s situation would have viewed service with the military as a vast improvement over his existing job — especially if the pay was higher — which it most certainly was. Just barely 15 when he enrolled for Civil War service in his hometown on 20 August 1861, Eisenbraun officially mustered in at the rank of Musician (drummer boy) with the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company B at Camp Curtin on 30 August. Military records at the time described him as being 5’5″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion. His commanding officer was Captain Emmanuel P. Rhoads.

Like Boulty, Eisenbraun completed basic training, traveled by train with his regiment to the Washington, D.C. area in mid-September, and then endured several long marches, including the same one that was undertaken in a driving rain. And, like Boulty, Eisenbraun also fell ill in late September or early October.

The Union Hotel in Georgetown, District of Columbia became one of the U.S. Army’s general hospitals during the American Civil War (image circa 1861-1865, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

But unlike Boulty, Eisenbraun was felled by typhoid fever. According to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt, the teen “had been sick almost from the time the regiment left Camp Curtin” in mid-September. After initially receiving treatment from regimental physicians through at least mid-October, he was sent back to the Washington, D.C. area to receive more advanced care. Per Schmidt, two of Eisenbraun’s fellow B Company members “visited Alfred at the fort on the 21st … and found him getting better, pleased to see them, and happy to engage in some conversation.”

But on Thursday morning, 24 October, after Captain Rhoads headed over to the fort’s hospital nearby, he was informed that Eisenbraun “and all the other sick men had been moved to the General Hospital in Georgetown.” Assuming that Eisenbraun’s condition had improved, since he’d apparently been deemed well enough to travel, Rhoads returned to his camp site, confident that he’d see the boy again — but he was wrong.

Eisenbraun, it turned out, had been transported to the former Union Hotel in Georgetown, which had been converted into one of the U.S. Army’s general hospitals. He died there from typhoid fever on 26 October 1861. Like Boulty, he was laid to rest at the Soldiers’ Asylum Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; unlike Boulty, however, his remains were never brought home.

To learn more about Alfred’s life before and during the Civil War, read his biographical sketch, Alfred Eisenbraun, Drummer Boy – The Regiment’s Second “Man” to Die.

The Third to Die: Sergeant Franklin M. Holt

Court House, Amherst, New Hampshire, circa 1858 (public domain).

Franklin M. Holt had already distinguished himself before becoming the first “true man” from the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters to die. The regiment’s third fatality, he was also one of a handful of non-Pennsylvanians serving with this all-volunteer Pennsylvania regiment.

Born in New Hampshire in 1838, Frank Holt was a son of Cambridge, Massachusetts native, Edwin Holt, and Mont Vernon, New Hampshire native, Susan (Marden) Holt. A farmer like his father, he left his home state sometime around the summer of 1860, and took a job as a “map agent” in Monmouth County, New Jersey. But by the spring of 1861, he had relocated again, and had adopted the Perry County, Pennsylvania community of New Bloomfield as his new hometown.

That same spring, when President Abraham Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital following the fall of Fort Sumter to troops of the Confederate States Army, Holt enrolled with Company D of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, completing his Three Months’ Service from 20 April to 26 July 1861 under the leadership of Henry D. Woodruff.

Realizing that the fight to preserve America’s Union was far from over, Holt re-enlisted in the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s D Company, which was also commanded by Captain Woodruff. Following his re-enrollment on 20 August in Bloomfield, he then re-mustered at Camp Curtin on 31 August at the rank of sergeant and, like drummer boys John Boulton Young and Alfred Eisenbraun, completed basic training before traveling with the regiment to the Washington, D.C. area for service with the Army of the Potomac.

Enduring a climate of torrential rain and pervasive, persistent dampness during his early days of service, Holt ultimately also fell ill with Variola (smallpox) and, like drummer boy Young who had also contracted the disease, he was transported to the eruptive fever hospital on the Kalorama Heights in Georgetown, District of Columbia, where he was treated by at least one of the same physicians who treated Boulty. Despite having apparently been diagnosed with a less severe form of the disease (according to military records which noted that Holt was sickened by Variola rather than the Variola confluens that felled Boulty), Sergeant Holt died at Kalorama on 28 October 1861.

“Kind, gentlemanly courteous, and honest in all his transactions,” according to the New Bloomfield Democrat, Holt had also “won for himself the esteem of all who knew him” prior to his untimely death. Like the two young drummer boys before him, he too was buried quickly at the Soldiers’ Asylum Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Although his remains were also never returned home, Holt was ultimately honored by members of his family, who erected a cenotaph in his honor at the Meadow View Cemetery in Amherst, New Hampshire.

To learn more about Frank’s life before and during the Civil War, read his biographical sketch, Holt, Franklin M. (Sergeant).

To learn more about Civil War Medicine, in general, as well as the battle wounds and illnesses most commonly experienced by members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, please visit the Medical section of this website.

 

Sources:

1. Affleck, M.D., J. O. Smallpox,” in “1902 Encyclopedia.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th and 10th editions (online), 2005-2019.

2. Alfred Eisenbraun (obituary). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh Register, 30 October 1861.

3. Alfred Eisenbraun (obituary), in “Gestörben.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, 6 November 1861.

4. Allen Eisenbraun (death notice), in “Deaths of Soldiers.” Washington, D.C.: The Evening Star, 28 October 1861.

5. Barker, M.D., Lewellys Franklin. Monographic Medicine, Vol. II: The Clinical Diagnosis of Internal Diseases,” p. 431 (“Variola confluens”). New York, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1916.

6. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

7. Burial Ledgers (Eisenbraun, Alfred; Holt, Franklin M.; Young, J. Bolton), in Records of The National Cemetery Administration and U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General), 1861. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

8. Casualties and Costs of the Civil War.” New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

9. Civil War General Index Cards (Eisenbraun, Alfred and Eisenbrown, Allen), in Records of the U.S. Department of the Army. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and Fold3: 1861.

10. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865 (Eisenbraun, Alfred; Holt, Franklin M.; Young, J. Bolton). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

11. “Death of a Young Soldier” (obituary of John Boulton Young). Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania: Star of the North, Wednesday, 30 October 1861 (reprinted from the Sunbury Gazette).

12. “Deaths of Soldiers” (death notice for John Boulton Young). Washington, D.C.: The National Republican, 18 October 1861.

13. de Graffenried, Clare. “Child Labor,” in Publications of the American Economic Association, Vol. 5, No. 2. New York, New York: March 1890 (accessed 22 March 2016).

14. DiBacco, Thomas V. When Typhoid Was Dreaded.” Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post, 25 January 1994.

15. “The Drummer Boy’s Monument” (monument erected to John Boulton Young). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 6 February 1864.

16. Fabian, Monroe H. John Daniel Eisenbrown, in “Pennsylvania Folklife Book 62,” in Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 2. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: 1975.

17. Faust, Drew G. The Civil War soldier and the art of dying,” in The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 3-38. Houston, Texas: Southern Historical Association (Rice University), 2001.

18. Holt Eulogy. New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: New Bloomfield Democrat, 1861.

19. Inkrote, Cindy. “Civil War drummer boy was different kind of hero.” Sunbury, Pennsylvania: The Daily Item, 4 October 2009.

20. Letters of John Peter Shindel Gobin, 1861-1900. Various Collections (descendants of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, et. al.).

21. “Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865: 47th Regiment” (Companies B, C, and D) in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

22. Sartin, M.D., Jeffrey S. Infectious diseases during the Civil War: The triumph of the ‘Third Army,’ in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 580-584. Cary, North Carolina: Oxford University Press, April 1993.

23. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

24. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania (Allentown and Sunbury, Pennsylvania; Amherst, New Hampshire; Monmouth, New Jersey): 1840-1930.

25. U.S. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, 1861 (Eisenbraun/Eisenbraum, Alfred; Holt, Franklin/Frank M; Young, J. Bolton/Jno. B.). Washington, D.C.: United States Army and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

 

September 1861: A New Pennsylvania Regiment Heads for Washington, D.C. and War

First State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Presented to the Regiment by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin on 20 September 1861. Retired 11 May 1865. Source: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (1985.057, State Color, Evans and Hassall, v1p126).

As the days of September 1861 rolled away and summer turned to fall, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which had been founded by Colonel Tilghman H. Good on 5 August 1861, and had been trained in Hardee’s Light Infantry Tactics as its men mustered in by company at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg from mid-August through mid-September, was finally given its first official assignment — to defend its nation’s capital, which had been threatened with invasion by troops of the Confederate States Army.

Roughly 70 percent of the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry hailed from the Keystone State’s Lehigh Valley, including the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton and surrounding communities in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Company C, which had been formed primarily from the men of Northumberland County and was led by Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, was more commonly known as the “Sunbury Guards.” Companies D and H were staffed largely by men from Perry County. Company K was formed with the intent of creating an “all German” company comprised of German-Americans and German immigrants. In actuality, the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were men of German descent — a noteworthy fact when considering the significant role played by German immigrants and German-Americans prior to, during, and after the American Civil War. Curriculum developers at Boston’s WGBH Educational Foundation, which produced the 1998 PBS television series, Africans in America, note that:

“As early as 1688, four German Quakers in Germantown near Philadelphia protested slavery in a resolution that condemned the “traffic of Men-body.” By the 1770s, abolitionism was a full-scale movement in Pennsylvania. Led by such Quaker activists as Anthony Benezet and John Woolman, many Philadelphia slaveholders of all denominations had begun bowing to pressure to emancipate their slaves on religious, moral, and economic grounds.

In April 1775, Benezet called the first meeting of the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully held in Bondage at the Rising Sun Tavern. Thomas Paine was among the ten white Philadelphians who attended; seven of the group were Quakers. Often referred to as the Abolition Society, the group focused on intervention in the cases of blacks and Indians who claimed to have been illegally enslaved. Of the twenty-four men who attended the four meetings held before the Society disbanded, seventeen were Quakers.

Six of these original members were among the largely Quaker group of eighteen Philadelphians that reorganized in February 1784 as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage (commonly referred to as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, or PAS). Although still occupied with litigation on behalf of blacks who were illegally enslaved under existing laws, the new name reflected the Society’s growing emphasis on abolition as a goal. Within two years, the group had grown to 82 members and inspired the establishment of anti-slavery organizations in other cities.

PAS reorganized once again in 1787. While previously, artisans and shopkeepers had been the core of the organization, PAS broadened its membership to include such prominent figures as Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, who helped write the Society’s new constitution. PAS became much more aggressive in its strategy of litigation on behalf of free blacks, and attempted to work more closely with the Free African Society in a wide range of social, political and educational activity.

In 1787, PAS organized local efforts to support the crusade to ban the international slave trade and petitioned the Constitutional Convention to institute a ban. The following year, in collaboration with the Society of Friends, PAS successfully petitioned the Pennsylvania legislature to amend the gradual abolition act of 1780. As a result of the 2000-signature petition and other lobbying efforts, the legislature prohibited the transportation of slave children or pregnant women out of Pennsylvania, as well as the building, outfitting or sending of slave ships from Philadelphia. The amended act imposed heavier fines for slave kidnapping, and made it illegal to separate slave families by more than ten miles.”

Although the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s influence had begun to wane by the early 1800s, men and women of German descent helped to reinvigorate support for the abolition of slavery in the lead-up to and during the Civil War. According to Kenneth Barkin, professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside, “it is increasingly evident that German immigrant opposition to slavery was so pervasive that it may have been a crucial, albeit, ignored factor in the victory of Union forces.”

“Of the 1.3 million German immigrants in the United States before 1860, approximately 200,000 either volunteered for or were drafted into the Union Army. They produced a considerably higher percentage of Union soldiers per hundred thousand immigrants in the U.S. population than either the British or the Irish. About 24 percent of Union troops were born outside of the United States, and 10 percent of all Union soldiers were of German origin. There were several battalions with German soldiers and officers in which the German language was used for communication.”

In the case of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, many of the men who were of German heritage and their families still spoke German or “Pennsylvania Dutch” at their homes and churches more than a century after their ancestors emigrated from Germany in search of religious or political freedom.

The 47th Pennsylvania was also noteworthy because it attracted males of diverse ages. Its youngest member was John Boulton Young, a 13-year-old drummer boy from Sunbury, Pennsylvania; its oldest was Benjamin Walls, a 65-year-old, financially successful farmer from Juniata County who would, at the age of 68, attempt to re-enlist after being seriously wounded while protecting the American flag in combat. They and their comrades were initially led by Colonel Tilghman Good, Lieutenant-Colonel George Warren Alexander, and Major William H. Gausler.

Thomas Coates, “Father of Band Music in America,” led the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band from August 1861 to September 1862 (public domain).

On Friday the 13th, there were frequent bouts of inspiration among Harrisburg residents, rather than of superstitious worry, as 3,000 men from the 47th Pennsylvania and other volunteer regiments from the Keystone State marched in an impromptu parade from Camp Curtin through the city’s main streets.

The next day, members of the 47th Pennsylvania marched forth again — this time to welcome the arrival of their Regimental Band, which was led by the “Father of Band Music in America,” Professor Thomas Coates, and was comprised primarily of musicians from the Easton-based ensemble known as Pomp’s Cornet Band, as well as members of the Allentown Band. Later that evening, the band performed for Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin.

With the majority of the regiment’s officers and enlisted men mustered in by 19 September 1861, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to head south for Washington, D.C.

A Journey of Heroes Begins

President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train passes through the train station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 22 April 1865 (public domain).

Their epic journey began on 20 September 1861. Directed to begin packing at 5:00 a.m. so that they would be ready for a 7:00 a.m. departure by train, the men of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry pulled their gear together and assembled in formation at Camp Curtin. They were then presented with the Pennsylvania State Battle Flag (shown at the top of this article). Also known as the First State Color, it had “a field of 34 white stars, one for each state both north and south, on a blue background in the upper left corner in the shape of a rectangle covering approximately 19% of the flag’s total area, with 17 stars above and below the state emblem, which consisted of two white horses, eagle, seal and inscription,” according to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt. “The remainder of the flag was composed of 7 red and 6 white alternating horizontal stripes, and the whole was fringed with gold braid. The unit designation was painted in gold on the center red stripe to the right of the bottom of the blue field. As battle citations were awarded each unit, they would be painted on the red stripes in gold lettering.”

This flag would ultimately be carried by regimental color-bearers between the fall of 1861 and 11 May 1865 into Confederate States of America-held territories of the United States, as well as throughout multiple U.S. territories that were recaptured by Union troops, and would also serve as a rallying point during the intense, smoke-filled battles fought by the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Virginia in 1862 and 1864.

Marched to the train station in Harrisburg, they boarded cattle and hog cars on a Northern Central Railway train, and then did what military men have done throughout the ages. They waited — and waited. By the time of their 1:30 p.m. departure, a crowd “had gathered and lined both sides of the track, all the way from the depot to the other side of the bridge which crosses the Susquehanna River,” according to Schmidt. “Everyone was cheering, flags were flying, and the men were hanging from the cars, all in a great state of excitement. Many railroad friends of the Easton contingent that had been part of the 1st Regiment during earlier service, turned out to see them off with their new unit, having transported them to the seat of war on earlier occasions.”

Traveling by way of York, Pennsylvania, they finally reached the Bolton Depot in Baltimore, Maryland, where they disembarked, refilled their canteens with water, lined up behind their Regimental Band, and marched with their loaded rifles across the city to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station. Once there, they clambered aboard “glorious to tell, real genuine passenger cars” and departed for Washington, D.C., according to Captain Gobin, who added that the “lateness of the hour did not prevent the appearance, at a great many windows, of white robed fair ones, who had evidently risen from their beds to greet and cheer us as we passed.”

Soldier’s Rest, Washington, D.C., circa 1860s (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Just outside of Baltimore, according to Schmidt, “the troop train had to ‘switch off’ for a short time, as the regular passenger train passed.” Consequently, the 47th Pennsylvanians did not arrive in the nation’s capital until 9:00 a.m. on 21 September. Disembarking after the train came to a stop, they were granted a brief respite at the Soldier’s Rest there, according to C Company Musician Henry Wharton, who later penned a recap of their travels for his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:

“After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.”

Gobin, who was Wharton’s direct superior, added that, when they arrived at the Soldier’s Rest, “we found the Union Relief Association had provided ice water in abundance for us, while hot coffee could be obtained for three cents a cup. I indulged in several of the latter.” Schmidt later uncovered these additional details about their brief period of respite:

“At 9 AM, the regiment arrived in Washington and Col. Good left to find a place for the men to camp and get some rest, while Lt. Col. Alexander busied himself seeing to the problem of procuring some cooked rations for the troops. The first building that they saw when they arrived was a very large structure near the railroad which displayed a sign with prominent letters that read ‘The Soldier’s Rest’, a place they intended to head for at the first opportunity. Lt. Col. Alexander returned shortly thereafter and instructed the Captains to take their companies, two at a time, to another building conveniently in view in the distance, and identified by its large sign with letters in bold relief advertising ‘Soldier’s Retreat’, where the men were served cooked beef, bread and coffee. The soldiers satisfied their hunger with this excellent meal, and ‘partook that which sticks to your ribs’, before settling down and enjoying a few hours rest and free [time], after which they washed up and had their pictures taken.”

Afterward, according to Wharton, they “were ordered into line and marched, about three miles” to “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown — just two miles from the White House.

“So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.”

Union General George B. McClellan on Horseback (Harper’s Weekly, January 1862, public domain).

The length of that march was, in fact, closer to four miles, and was “considerably more difficult,” according to Schmidt, “since the men had not had any sleep the night before and they were marching in the warmest part of the day with a strong, bright sun in their faces the whole way.” That march also turned out to be a noteworthy one for an entirely different reason, according to Wharton:

“We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering [sic] they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.”

The weary 47th Pennsylvanians finally arrived at Camp Kalorama around 5:00 p.m. on 21 September, and immediately began to erect their white soldiers’ tents — an activity they continued to engage in even as the region’s rainy weather began to increase in intensity.

The U.S. Capitol, under construction at the time of President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration (shown here), was still not finished when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Washington, D.C. in September 1861 (public domain).

The next day, as Wharton was penning his 22 September recap to the Sunbury American, he described Colonel Tilghman Good as “an excellent man and a splendid soldier” and “a man of very few words” who continually attend[ed] to his duties and the wants of the Regiment,” and added that C Company’s William Hendricks had been promoted to the rank of regimental sergeant-major. “He made his first appearance at guard mounting this morning; he looked well, done up his duties admirably, and, in time, will make an excellent officer.” Gobin observed that their new home was “a very fine location for a camp…. Good water is handy, while Rock Creek, which skirts one side of us, affords an excellent place for washing and bathing.”

Within short order, several 47th Pennsylvanians were given passes to the city, including members of Company D who “climbed to the top of the unfinished Capitol,” and B Company’s Corporal Henry Storch and Private Luther Mennig, who were sent to the Washington Arsenal on regimental business. On 24 September 1861, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the Union Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service. Members of the regiment dressed in the standard dark blue wool uniforms worn by the regular troops of the U.S. Army.

Three days later, the regiment was attached to the Army of the Potomac, and assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again, ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey.

Chain Bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown looking toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).

Marching behind their Regimental Band, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen reached Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5:00 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.

The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they trudged into Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, and were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January of 1862 when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.

Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:

“On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders)….

We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….

There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment.”

According to G Company Private George Xander, after their initial arrival at Camp Advance/Fort Ethan Allen, the 47th Pennsylvanians immediately began building “defensive works” that “were thrown up with logs, in front of which a ditch eight feet wide and eight feet deep was dug. A powder magazine was also built.” On 28 September, the regiment was ordered to relocate yet again. After marching two more miles, they re-pitched their tents along a hill at the back of the fort, becoming part of the 4th Provisional Brigade, along with the men from Colonel Cosgrove’s 27th Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Leasure’s Roundheads, Colonel McKnight’s Wildcats, and Colonel Robinson’s 1st Michigan Volunteers.

The military action described by Wharton above in which “our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge” actually began at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, 28 September in response to intelligence received by senior Union Army officials that Fort Ethan Allen was likely to be attacked by Confederate forces that night. After making their way inside the fort at 10:30 p.m., the 47th Pennsylvanians formed battle lines “against the breastworks where they remained until 2 AM, when they were relieved by the 33rd New York Regiment and told to rest and sleep on their arms,” according to Schmidt. Around 4:00 a.m., they were then “ordered to march ‘double-quick for about three miles to Vandersburg Farm, where encountering no officers with instructions, Col. Good decided to advance another mile…. Here he found Gen. Smith who ordered the 47th into position in reserve. Many ambulances were coming up the road with the dead and wounded, and there were dead horses and broken gun carriages lying all about. It was reported that there were about 17 killed and 25 wounded.”

Although the 47th Pennsylvania was later reported to have been involved in the fighting, they were not. They had narrowly missed being ensnared in a “friendly fire” incident between the 69th and 71st Pennsylvania Volunteers, and instead had been ordered to return to their campsite on the hill after having completed their guard duties inside the fort. Finally able to enjoy a hearty breakfast that Sunday morning, the regiment then participated in the Sunday religious services which were being presented by Chaplain Rizer of the 79th New York Highlanders. The sermon was delivered by Rizer in German out of respect for the significant number of men in the 47th Pennsylvania who were German immigrants or were German-Americans who spoke “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

Simon Cameron, President Lincoln’s first Secretary of War, shown between 1860 and 1870 (public domain).

That evening of Sunday, 29 September, Simon Cameron, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who was serving as President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, officially welcomed the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry to Washington.

The month then closed with the men of 47th’s B and D Companies marching four miles away from the camp to perform a 48-hour stint of picket duty, beginning on 30 September 1861.

Exactly two months later, the sentiments of Civil War-era soldiers regarding their assignment to picket duty was eloquently evoked by a 30-something, female poet and short story writer in the “The Picket Guard.” Penned by Ethel Lynn Beers, the poem was initially published in the 30 November 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly. It was then later set to music, and became more commonly known as “All Quiet Along the Potomac To-night”:

“ALL quiet along the Potomac to-night!”
Except here and there a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat, to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
‘Tis nothing! a private or two, now and then,
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost, only one of the men,
Moaning out, all alone, the death rattle.

All quiet along the Potomac to-night!
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
And their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
And the light of the camp-fires are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh, as the gentle night-wind
Through the forest leaves softly is creeping;
While stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard o’er the army sleeping.
There’s only the sound of the lone sentry’s tread
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And he thinks of the two in the low trundle-bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.

His musket falls slack; his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep,
For their mother—”may Heaven defend her!”
The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then—
That night when the love, yet unspoken,
Leaped up to his lips, when low, murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.

Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to his breast
As if to keep down the heart’s swelling.
He passes the fountain, the blasted pine-tree,
And his footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Toward the shades of the forest so dreary.

Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle: “Ha! Mary, good-by!”
And the life-blood is ebbing and plashing.
“All quiet along the Potomac to-night!”
No sound save the rush of the river,
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead,
The picket’s off duty forever!

Sources:

1. Barkin, Kenneth. Ordinary Germans, Slavery, and the U.S. Civil War,” in “Essay Reviews,” in The Journal of African American History, Vol. 93, No. 1, Winter 2008, pp. 70-79. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press (published for the Association for the Study of African American and History), 2008.

2. 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.

3. Beers, Ethel Lynn. “The Picket Guard.” New York, New York: Harper’s Weekly, 30 November 1861.

4. Egle, William H. Life and Times of Andrew Gregg Curtin, pp. 127, 250. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Thompson Publishing Co., 1896.

5. “47th Infantry, First State Color,” in “Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags.” Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee.

6. “Founding of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society,” in Africans in America. Boston, Massachusetts: WGBH Educational Foundation, 1998.

7. Hardee, William Joseph. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics. Memphis, Tennessee: E.C. Kirk & Co., 1861.

8. Henry, Matthew Schropp. History of the Lehigh Valley, Containing a Copious Selection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc., etc., Relating to Its History and Antiquities, pp. 141-143. Easton, Pennsylvania: Bixler & Corwin, 1860.

9. Letter from the Secretary of War, Transmitting the report of Major General George B. McClellan upon the organization of the Army of the Potomac, and its campaigns in Virginia and Maryland, from July 26, 1861, to November 7, 1862. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office (Ex. Doc. No. 15 produced for the 38th Congress, 1st Session, U.S. House of Representatives), 1864.

10. Mathews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford. History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Everts & Richards, 1884.

11. Newman, Richard S. The PAS and American Abolitionism: A Century of Activism from the American Revolutionary Era to the Civil War,” in “Pennsylvania Abolition Society Papers,” in “History Online: Digital History Projects.” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, retrieved online 28 August 2019.

12. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

13. Wharton, Henry. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1862.

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

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

Watch the related YouTube video.

 

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.

Watch the related YouTube video, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story: The Birth of a New Regiment.”

Then, to learn even 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.

A Nation’s Slow March Toward Freedom — The Key Steps Taken by America to Abolish Slavery

“An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” was passed by the Pennsylvania Assembly on March 1, 1780 (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, public domain).

The elimination of slavery in the United States of America has been a lengthy and less than perfect process, beginning with early abolition efforts which occurred during the nation’s colonial period, and which were designed to reduce and ultimately end the buying, selling, and exchanging or bartering of human beings. According to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, “the first written protest in England’s American colonies came from Germantown Friends in 1688” in Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends also subsequently “criticized the importation of slaves in 1696, objected to slave trading in 1754, and in 1775 determined to disown members who would not free their slaves.”

That same year, America’s first abolition organization, the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, was also established. Formed in Philadelphia on April 14, 1775, the organization became more commonly known as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. “Throughout the 1700s,” according to PHMC historians, the Pennsylvania Assembly also actively “attempted to discourage the slave trade by taxing it repeatedly,” and then began taking a slightly more intense approach by passing An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slaveryby a vote of 34 to 21 on March 1, 1870. The first legislative action of its kind in America, it decreed, among other things, “that ‘every Negro and Mulatto child born within the State after the passing of the Act (1780) would be free upon reaching age twenty-eight,'” and that after their release from slavery, these freed people “were to receive the same freedom dues and other privileges ‘such as tools of their trade,’ as servants bound by indenture for four years.” Heavily opposed by German Lutherans and the representatives of counties with large populations of residents of German heritage, this new law still allowed residents of the Keystone State to continue to buy slaves who had already been registered, but prohibited Pennsylvanians from importing new slaves into the state.

* Note: Although a significant number of German Lutherans initially opposed the state’s 1870 abolition act, many German Methodists adopted anti-slavery positions, as did many who were considered to be “Forty-Eighters” (Germans who emigrated to America during or after the revolutions of 1848).

Although opponents of Pennsylvania’s new abolition law continued to challenge this legislation for several years after its passage, the legislation ultimately survived, and was subsequently strengthened in 1788 to stop Pennsylvanians residing near the borders of Delaware and Maryland from sneaking slaves into the state in violation of the law. The full wording of Pennsylvania’s initial abolition act read as follows:

When we contemplate our Abhorence of that Condition to which the Arms and Tyranny of Great Britain were exerted to reduce us, when we look back on the Variety of Dangers to which we have been exposed, and how miraculously our Wants in many Instances have been supplied and our Deliverances wrought, when even Hope and human fortitude have become unequal to the Conflict; we are unavoidably led to a serious and grateful Sense of the manifold Blessings which we have undeservedly received from the hand of that Being from whom every good and perfect Gift cometh. Impressed with these Ideas we conceive that it is our duty, and we rejoice that it is in our Power, to extend a Portion of that freedom to others, which hath been extended to us; and a Release from that State of Thraldom, to which we ourselves were tyrannically doomed, and from which we have now every Prospect of being delivered. It is not for us to enquire, why, in the Creation of Mankind, the Inhabitants of the several parts of the Earth, were distinguished by a difference in Feature or Complexion. It is sufficient to know that all are the Work of an Almighty Hand, We find in the distribution of the human Species, that the most fertile, as well as the most barren parts of the Earth are inhabited by Men of Complexions different from ours and from each other, from whence we may reasonably as well as religiously infer, that he, who placed them in their various Situations, hath extended equally his Care and Protection to all, and that it becometh not us to counteract his Mercies.

We esteem a peculiar Blessing granted to us, that we are enabled this Day to add one more Step to universal Civilization by removing as much as possible the Sorrows of those, who have lived in undeserved Bondage, and from which by the assumed Authority of the Kings of Britain, no effectual legal Relief could be obtained. Weaned by a long Course of Experience from those narrow Prejudices and Partialities we had imbibed, we find our Hearts enlarged with Kindness and Benevolence towards Men of all Conditions and Nations; and we conceive ourselves at this particular Period extraordinarily called upon by the Blessings which we have received, to manifest the Sincerity of our Profession and to give a substantial Proof of our Gratitude.

And whereas, the Condition of those Persons who have heretofore been denominated Negroe and Mulatto Slaves, has been attended with Circumstances which not only deprived them of the common Blessings that they were by Nature entitled to, but has cast them into the deepest Afflictions by an unnatural Separation and Sale of Husband and Wife from each other, and from their Children; an Injury the greatness of which can only be conceived, by supposing that we were in the same unhappy Case. In Justice therefore to Persons so unhappily circumstanced and who, having no Prospect before them whereon they may rest their Sorrows and their hopes have no reasonable Inducement to render that Service to Society, which they otherwise might; and also ingrateful Commemoration of our own happy Deliverance, from that State of unconditional Submission, to which we were doomed by the Tyranny of Britain.

Be it enacted and it is hereby enacted by the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met and by the Authority of the same, That all Persons, as well Negroes, and Mulattos, as others, who shall be born within this State, from and after the Passing of this Act, shall not be deemed and considered as Servants for Life or Slaves; and that all Servitude for Life or Slavery of Children in Consequence of the Slavery of their Mothers, in the Case of all Children born within this State from and after the passing of this Act as aforesaid, shall be, an hereby is, utterly taken away, extinguished and for ever abolished.

Provided always and be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Negroe and Mulatto Child born within this State after the passing of this Act as aforesaid, who would in Case this Act had not been made, have been born a Servant for Years or life or a Slave, shall be deemed to be and shall be, by Virtue of this Act the Servant of such person or his or her Assigns, who would in such Case have been entitled to the Service of such Child until such Child shall attain unto the Age of twenty eight Years, in the manner and on the Conditions whereon Servants bound by Indenture for four Years are or may be retained and holden; and shall be liable to like Correction and punishment, and intitled to like Relief in case he or she be evilly treated by his or her master or Mistress; and to like Freedom dues and other Privileges as Servants bound by Indenture for Four Years are or may be intitled unless the Person to whom the Service of any such Child Shall belong, shall abandon his or her Claim to the same, in which Case the Overseers of the Poor of the City Township or District, respectively where such Child shall be so abandoned, shall by Indenture bind out every Child so abandoned as an Apprentice for a Time not exceeding the Age herein before limited for the Service of such Children.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Person who is or shall be the Owner of any Negroe or Mulatto Slave or Servant for life or till the Age of thirty one Years, now within this State, or his lawful Attorney shall on or before the said first day of November next, deliver or cause to be delivered in Writing to the Clerk of the Peace of the County or to the Clerk of the Court of Record of the City of Philadelphia, in which he or she shall respectively inhabit, the Name and Sirname and Occupation or Profession of such Owner, and the Name of the County and Township District or Ward where he or she resideth, and also the Name and Names of any such Slave and Slaves and Servant and Servants for Life or till the Age of thirty one Years together with their Ages and Sexes severally and respectively set forth and annexed, by such Person owned or statedly employed, and then being within this State in order to ascertain and distinguish the Slaves and Servants for Life and Years till the Age of thirty one Years within this State who shall be such on the said first day of November next, from all other persons, which particulars shall by said Clerk of the Sessions and Clerk of said City Court be entered in Books to be provided for that Purpose by the said Clerks; and that no Negroe or Mulatto now within this State shall from and after the said first day of November by deemed a slave or Servant for life or till the Age of thirty one Years unless his or her name shall be entered as aforesaid on such Record except such Negroe and Mulatto Slaves and Servants as are hereinafter excepted; the said Clerk to be entitled to a fee of Two Dollars for each Slave or Servant so entered as aforesaid, from the Treasurer of the County to be allowed to him in his Accounts.

Provided always, That any Person in whom the Ownership or Right to the Service of any Negro or Mulatto shall be vested at the passing of this Act, other than such as are herein before excepted, his or her Heirs, Executors, Administrators and Assigns, and all and every of them severally Shall be liable to the Overseers of the Poor of the City, Township or District to which any such Negroe or Mulatto shall become chargeable, for such necessary Expence, with Costs of Suit thereon, as such Overseers may be put to through the Neglect of the Owner, Master or Mistress of such Negroe or Mulatto, notwithstanding the Name and other descriptions of such Negroe or Mulatto shall not be entered and recorded as aforesaid; unless his or her Master or Owner shall before such Slave or Servant attain his or her twenty eighth Year execute and record in the proper County, a deed or Instrument securing to such Slave or Servant his or her Freedom.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the Offences and Crimes of Negroes and Mulattos as well as Slaves and Servants and Freemen, shall be enquired of, adjudged, corrected and punished in like manner as the Offences and Crimes of the other Inhabitants of this State are and shall be enquired of adjudged, corrected and punished, and not otherwise except that a Slave shall not be admitted to bear Witness agaist [sic] a Freeman.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid That in all Cases wherein Sentence of Death shall be pronounced against a Slave, the Jury before whom he or she shall be tried shall appraise and declare the Value of such Slave, and in Case Such Sentence be executed, the Court shall make an Order on the State Treasurer payable to the Owner for the same and for the Costs of Prosecution, but in Case of a Remission or Mitigation for the Costs only.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid That the Reward for taking up runaway and absconding Negroe and Mulatto Slaves and Servants and the Penalties for enticing away, dealing with, or harbouring, concealing or employing Negroe and Mulatto Slaves and Servants shall be the same, and shall be recovered in like manner, as in Case of Servants bound for Four Years.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Man or Woman of any Nation or Colour, except the Negroes or Mulattoes who shall be registered as aforesaid shall at any time hereafter be deemed, adjudged or holden, within the Territories of this Commonwealth, as Slaves or Servants for Life, but as freemen and Freewomen; and except the domestic Slaves attending upon Delegates in Congress from the other American States, foreign Ministers and Consuls, and persons passing through or sojourning in this State, and not becoming resident therein; and Seamen employed in Ships, not belonging to any Inhabitant of this State nor employed in any Ship owned by any such Inhabitant, Provided such domestic Slaves be not aliened or sold to any Inhabitant, nor (except in the Case of Members of Congress, foreign Ministers and Consuls) retained in this State longer than six Months.

Provided always and be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That this Act nor any thing in it contained shall not give any Relief or Shelter to any absconding or Runaway Negroe or Mulatto Slave or Servant, who has absented himself or shall absent himself from his or her Owner, Master or Mistress, residing in any other State or Country, but such Owner, Master or Mistress, shall have like Right and Aid to demand, claim and take away his Slave or Servant, as he might have had in Case this Act had not been made. And that all Negroe and Mulatto Slaves, now owned, and heretofore resident in this State, who have absented themselves, or been clandestinely carried away, or who may be employed abroad as Seamen, and have not returned or been brought back to their Owners, Masters or Mistresses, before the passing of this Act may within five Years be registered as effectually, as is ordered by this Act concerning those who are now within the State, on producing such Slave, before any two Justices of the Peace, and satisfying the said Justices by due Proof, of the former Residence, absconding, taking away, or Absence of such Slave as aforesaid; who thereupon shall direct and order the said Slave to be entered on the Record as aforesaid.

And Whereas Attempts may be made to evade this Act, by introducing into this State, Negroes and Mulattos, bound by Covenant to serve for long and unreasonable Terms of Years, if the same be not prevented.

Be it therefore enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Covenant of personal Servitude or Apprenticeship whatsoever shall be valid or binding on a Negroe or Mulatto for a longer Time than Seven Years; unless such Servant or Apprentice were at the Commencement of such Servitude or Apprenticeship under the Age of Twenty one Years; in which Case such Negroe or Mulatto may be holden as a Servant or Apprentice respectively, according to the Covenant, as the Case shall be, until he or she shall attain the Age of twenty eight Years but no longer.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That an Act of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania passed in the Year one thousand seven hundred and five, intitled “An Act for the Trial of Negroes;” and another Act of Assembly of the said Province passed in the Year one thousand seven hundred and twenty five intitled “An Act for “the better regulating of Negroes in this Province;” and another Act of Assembly of the said Province passed in the Year one thousand seven hundred and sixty one intitled “An Act for laying a Duty on Negroe and Mulatto Slaves imported into this Province” and also another Act of Assembly of the said Province, passed in the Year one thousand seven hundred and seventy three, intitled “An Act for making perpetual An Act for laying a duty on Negroe and Mulatto “Slaves imported into this Province and for laying an additional “Duty on said Slaves;” shall be and are hereby repealed annulled and made void.

John Bayard, Speaker

Enacted into a Law at Philadelphia on Wednesday the first day of March, Anno Domini One thousand seven hundred Eighty
Thomas Paine, Clerk of the General Assembly

Other states then followed Pennsylvania’s lead, expanding upon it by enacting less conservative measures. During a series of judicial reviews which were conducted in Massachusetts between 1781 and 1783, for example, state leaders there declared that slavery was incompatible with their state’s new constitution.

These various laws, while not perfect, did gradually achieve their aim of reducing slavery in northern states, as did 1807 legislation by the U.S. Congress which made it a crime for Americans to engage in international slave trade (effective January 1, 1808), and which ultimately reduced shipments of slaves from Africa to the United States by ninety percent. With respect to Pennsylvania, specifically, “the number of slaves dropped from 3,737 to 1,706” between 1790 and 1800, according to PHMC historians, “and by 1810 to 795. In 1840, there still were 64 slaves in the state, but by 1850 there were none.”

Meanwhile, Quakers and others active in abolition movements in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia achieved some success by pressuring slaveholders to agree to free slaves via wills and other methods of manumission so that, by 1860, more than ninety percent of black men, women, and children in Delaware and nearly fifty percent in Maryland were free.

Despite these efforts, however, the ugliness of slavery continued to persist — a fact made all too clear in newspapers and other publications of the period, including via William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. But it was, perhaps, the nation’s fugitive slave laws which finally made plain slavery’s seemingly unshakeable grip on the country. Passed by the U.S. Congress, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required that all escaped slaves, regardless of where they were captured, be returned to their masters — even if those escaped slaves had made it to safety via the Underground Railroad or other methods and had been given sanctuary by abolitionists in states where slaves had been permanently freed. In response, two years later, Harriet Beecher Stowe released her landmark, anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

After the U.S. Congress set the stage to reverse decades of anti-slavery progress with its passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, abolitionists and other opponents of slavery banded together to form the Republican Party, which held its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1856. Initially proposing a system which would contain slavery until each individual state where the practice still existed could be forced to eradicate it, the Republican Party adopted a harder, anti-slavery line in 1860 after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States.

Following the secession of multiple states from the Union, beginning with South Carolina on December 20, 1860, and the subsequent fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate States Army troops in mid-April 1861, the United States descended into a state of civil war with its federal government issuing a call for regular and volunteer troops to preserve the Union. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln formally added the abolition of slavery as one of the federal government’s stated war goals with his release of the preliminary version of his Emancipation Proclamation, which decared that, effective January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

But it would take more than two years for that hoped-for dream to truly begin and nearly 150 years for it to be completely embraced by a divided nation.

THE 13TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION (THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY)

“Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

On January 31, 1865, the United States Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. President Abraham Lincoln added his signature on February 1, 1865. (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

1864:

April 8, 1864: The United States Senate passes the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by a vote of 38 to 6.

1865:

January 31, 1865: The U.S. House passes the 13th Amendment by a vote of 119 to 56.

February 1, 1865: President Abraham Lincoln approves the Joint Resolution of Congress. According to historians at The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, even though the U.S. Constitution does not require presidential signatures on amendments, Lincoln chooses to add his signature, making the 13th Amendment “the only constitutional amendment to be later ratified that was signed by a president.” The resolution is also ratified on this day by the Illinois Legislature, making Illinois the first state to ratify the amendment. (According to news reports, the Illinois Legislature actually ratified the amendment in Springfield, Illinois before Lincoln added his signature to the document in Washington, D.C.)

February 2, 1865: Rhode Island becomes the second state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Michigan’s legislature also ratifies the amendment on this day.

February 3, 1865: Maryland, New York, and West Virginia ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 6, 1865: Missouri ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 7, 1865: Maine, Kansas, and Massachusetts ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 8, 1865: Pennsylvania ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution while Delaware initially rejects ratification of the amendment. (Delaware’s legislature will later approve it in 1901. See below for details.)

February 9, 1865: Virginia ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 10, 1865: Ohio ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 15–16, 1865: Louisiana ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on February 15 or 16 while Indiana and Nevada both ratify the amendment on February 16, 1865.

February 23, 1865: Minnesota ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

February 24, 1865: Wisconsin ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution while Kentucky rejects ratification. (Kentucky’s legislature will later approve ratification in 1976. See below for details.)

March 9, 1865: Vermont’s governor approves the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

March 16, 1865: New Jersey initially rejects ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (The state’s legislature will later approve it in 1866. See below for details.)

April 7, 1865: Tennessee ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

April 14, 1865: Arkansas ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

May 4, 1865: Connecticut ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

June 30, 1865: New Hampshire ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

November 13, 1865: South Carolina ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

December 2, 1865: Alabama’s provisional governor approves the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution while Mississippi rejects ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Mississippi’s certified ratification of the amendment will not be achieved until 148 years later. See below for detail.)

December 4, 1865: North Carolina ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

December 6, 1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is officially ratified when Georgia becomes the 27th state to approve the amendment. (America has a total of 36 states at this time in its history.) With this day’s formal abolition of slavery, four million Americans are permanently freed.

December 11, 1865: Oregon ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

December 15, 1865: California ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

December 18, 1865: United States Secretary of State William H. Seward certifies that the 13th Amendment has become a valid part of the U.S. Constitution.

William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States,
To all to whom these presents may come, greeting:

Dec. 18, 1865, Preamble: Know ye, that whereas the congress of the United States on the 1st of February last passed a resolution which is in the words following, namely:

“A resolution submitting to the legislatures of the several states a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Resolved by the Senate and House of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both houses occurring,) That the following article be proposed to the legislatures of the several states as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three fourths of said legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the said constitution, namely:

“ARTICLE XIII.

“Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

“Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

And whereas it appears from official documents on file in this department that the amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed, as aforesaid, has been ratified by the legislatures of the State of Illinois, Rhode Island, Michigan, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, Maine, Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Tennessee, Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia; in all twenty-seven states;

And whereas the whole number of states in the United States is thirty-six; and whereas the before specially-named states, whose legislatures have ratified the said proposed amendment, constitute three fourths of the whole number of states in the United States;

Now, therefore, be it known, that I, WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State of the United States, by virtue and in pursuance of the second section of the act of congress, approved the twentieth of April, eighteen hundred and eighteen, entitled “An act to provide for the publication of the laws of the United States and for other purposes,” do hereby certify that the amendment aforesaid has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the Department of State to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this eighteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninetieth.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
Secretary of State.

December 28, 1865: Florida ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

1866:

January 15, 1866: Iowa becomes the 31st state to approve the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (alternate date January 17, 1866).

January 23, 1866: New Jersey ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

1868:

June 9, 1868: Florida reaffirms its ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of its legislature’s approval of a new state constitution.

1870:

February 17, 1870: Texas ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

1901:

February 12, 1901: Delaware ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

1976:

March 18, 1976: Kentucky ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

2013:

February 7, 2013: Mississippi becomes the final state to achieve certified ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

* Note: According to 2013 news reports by staff at ABC and CBS News, although Mississippi legislators finally voted for ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1995, they never notified the U.S. Archivist. As a result, their effort to formally abolish slavery was still not official – an error which was discovered in 2012 by Ranjan Batra, an immigrant from India and professor of Neurobiology and Anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. After enlisting the help of a medical center colleague (long-time Mississippi resident Ken Sullivan) in uncovering documentation of the oversight, Batra then alerted Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who finally rectified the error by sending the U.S. Office of the Federal Register a copy of Mississippi’s 1995 resolution on January 30, 2013. When that resolution was published in the Federal Register on February 7, 2013, Mississippi’s abolition of slavery finally became official.

 

Sources:

1. An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery — March 1, 1780.” Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

2. 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery,” in “America’s Historical Documents.Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

3. Condon, Stephanie. After 148 Years, Mississippi Finally Ratifies 13th Amendment Which Banned Slavery. New York, New York: CBS News, February 18, 2013.

4. Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Idealogy of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. Cary, North Carolina: Oxford University Press, April 1995.

5. Founding of Pennsylvania Abolition Society,” in “Africans in America.” Boston, Massachusetts: WGBH (PBS), retrieved online January 31, 2019.

6. Head, David. Slave Smuggling by Foreign Privateers: The Illegal Slave Trade and the Geopolitics of the Early Republic“, in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 433-462. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, Fall 2013.

7. Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery, 1619–1877, pp. 78, 81–82. New York, New York: Hill and Wang (Macmillan), 1994.

8. Massachusetts Constitution and the Abolition of Slavery,” in “Massachusetts Court System.” Boston, Massachusetts: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mass.gov, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

9. McClelland, Edward. Illinois: First State to Ratify 13th Amendment. Chicago, Illinois: NBC 5-Chicago, November 16, 2012.

10. No. 5: William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States (certification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution), in “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875: Statutes at Large,” in “American Memory.” Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

11. Oakes, James. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865. New York, New York and London, United Kingdom: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2013.

12. Ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment, 1866: A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Iowa General Assembly,” in “History Now.” New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

13. U.S. Senate Document No. 112-9 (2013), 112th Congress, 2nd Session: The Constitution of the United States Of America Analysis And Interpretation Centennial Edition Interim Edition: Analysis Of Cases Decided By The Supreme Court Of The United States To June 26, 2013s,” p. 30 (of large PDF file). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, retrieved online January 31, 2019.

14. Waldron, Ben. Mississippi Officially Abolishes Slavery, Ratifies 13th Amendment. New York, New York: ABC News, February 18, 2013.