Black History Month: New Details Uncovered Regarding the Formerly Enslaved Black Men Who Enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

Research regarding the lives of the nine formerly enslaved Black men who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in 1862 and 1864 has continued to progress—even in the middle of a pandemic that has forced the closure of numerous local, state, and national archives.*

In addition to uncovering details about the life of the soldier from South Carolina who was mistakenly listed on muster rolls for the 47th Pennsylvania as “Presto Gettes” (learn more about him in this article here), researchers for 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story have been able to determine more about what happened to two of the other men post-war, and have also located records which seem to indicate that there may have been two or three other Black men who enlisted with the regiment (potentially bringing the total number of Black enlistees in the regiment to twelve).

Aaron French (enlisted as Aaron Bullard):

Muster roll entries for Aaron Bullard and Hamilton Blanchard, Company D, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

1864 was a life-changing year for Aaron Bullard and four other young Black men in Louisiana. After enlisting with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on April 5 while the 47th was stationed at Natchitoches, Louisiana, Samuel Jones, Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton), and Aaron, James, and John Bullard traveled with the 47th Pennsylvania as it participated in the multiple battles associated with the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign across Louisiana. On or about June 22, they were formally mustered into the regiment at Morganza, Louisiana.

Sometime later (possibly post-war), Aaron Bullard changed his surname to French. After the American Civil War, he married, became a land-owning farmer—and a dad.

Post-Civil War, Aaron French and his family resided in Issaquena County, Mississippi (U.S. Census, 1870, public domain).

In August of 1870, Aaron French and his wife, Amanda, lived with their eight-month-old daughter, “Simpy” (also known as Cynthia or Cyntha) in Skipworth Precinct, Issaquena County, Mississippi. Still residing in Issaquena County a decade later when the June 1880 federal census was taken, Aaron and Amanda were the proud parents of three daughters: Cynthia (who would go on to marry Samuel L. Dixon on March 20, 1890), Jesanna (also known as Jessie/Jesse), and “Arctavia” (also known as Octavia). Jessie, who later went on to wed John B. Cobb on January 28, 1892, made a life with her husband and son in Mayersville, Mississippi, where she was a teacher in the local schools. Octavia married Frank Childress on March 20, 1894.

U.S. Civil War Pension Index Card for Aaron French, who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in Louisiana in 1864 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Sadly, Aaron French did not live to see his two youngest daughters marry because he died in Mississippi on January 30, 1891. He was just 40-43 years old, according to U.S. Census records and other data, which indicate that he was born in Louisiana sometime between 1848 and 1850.

Hearteningly, though, an even more intriguing piece of data has recently been uncovered about the later life of Aaron French—one that indicates that he had become active in politics prior to his death. According to the Vicksburg Evening Post, Aaron was appointed as a delegate from Issaquena County to the Republican Congressional Convention for the Third District, which was held in Greenville, Mississippi on August 7, 1886. Researchers are continuing to search for further details about his political activities and untimely death, as well as the exact location of his gravesite.

Thomas Haywood (alternate spellings of surname: Hayward, Haywood, Heywood) and Jack Jacobs:

Muster roll entries of Thomas Haywood and Edward Jassum, Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Born into slavery in South Carolina sometime around 1832, Thomas Haywood enlisted for a three-year term of service as an Under Cook with Company H of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Beaufort, South Carolina on November 1, 1862. He and three other formerly enslaved Black men—Abraham and Edward Jassum and Presto Gettes”—who had previously enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania at Beaufort in October of 1862, then traveled with the 47th Pennsylvania as it participated in multiple military engagements, including the 47th’s garrisoning of Fort Taylor and Fort Jefferson in Florida in 1863 and 1864, the battles of the Union’s spring 1864 Red River Campaign across Louisiana, and the battles of Sheridan’s tide-turning Shenandoah Valley Campaign across Virginia in the fall of 1864.

On or about June 22, 1864 all nine of these Black soldiers were formally mustered into the regiment at Morganza, Louisiana; Thomas Haywood and seven of the eight others all successfully completed their tours of duty, and were honorably mustered out upon expiration of their respective terms of enlistment. In Thomas Haywood’s case, that honorable discharge was awarded on October 31, 1865.

Post-war, it appears from various Freedmen’s Bureau records that he may have entered into yearly contracts with several men who had previously been plantation owners in the Beaufort, South Carolina area. In exchange for agreeing to plant and cultivate cotton for those men on three to five-acre parcels of land that had been leased to him by those white men, he was allowed to keep portions of the cotton sales (the largest portions of which went to the former plantation owners who had also most likely been slave owners prior to and during the Civil War).

U.S. Civil War Index Card for Thomas Haywood, who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in South Carolina in 1862 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

His body warn out from years of slavery prior to the war, difficult military service during the war, and harsh sharecropping experiences post-war, Thomas Hayward applied for, and was awarded a U.S. Civil War Pension on April 30, 1888. That pension was subsequently renewed by the federal government in 1907 at the rate of $15 per month (roughly $415 per month in today’s U.S. dollar equivalency).

By 1890, Thomas Haywood was living in Sheldon Township, Beaufort County, South Carolina. After a long life, he died on January 13, 1911. Unfortunately, his burial location has also not yet been identified by researchers.

In 1890, Thomas Haywood lived near Hanna Jacobs, the widow of Jack Jacobs, who may have been another Black soldier who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (U.S. Census, 1890, Sheldon Township, Beaufort County, South Carolina, public domain).

One other piece of tantalizing data that has recently been discovered is that a woman named “Hanna Jacobs” lived near Thomas Haywood in 1890. This information may be significant because Hanna was described on the 1890 U.S. Census of Union soldiers and widows as the widow of “Jack Jacobs,” who had served in the same company with Thomas Haywood (according to that special census).

Researchers currently believe that Jack Jacobs may, in fact, have been another formerly enslaved Black man who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania when it was stationed near Beaufort in 1862, and are currently conducting a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds to purchase the Civil War military and pension records of Hanna and Jack Jacobs, as well as the nine known formerly enslaved Black men who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in 1862 and 1864.

Jackson Haywood:

General Index Card for Jackson Haywood, who may have been a Black soldier who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

According to the “Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Pennsylvania,” which was created by staff at the U.S. National Archives, a General Index Card was created for yet another mystery man—a soldier named “Jackson Hayward.”

To date, researchers have only been able to determine that he may have enlisted with Company K of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as a cook—a rank similar to that at which the known nine formerly enslaved Black men who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania were entered on the muster rolls of the regiment.

Researchers hope, with time and the continued financial support of the followers of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, to be able to confirm the dates of military service and race of this individual, as well as that of “Jack Jacobs.”

As always, we appreciate everyone’s help in ensuring that the service to the nation of these soldiers will never be forgotten. They helped to preserve our Union and deserve to be recognized more fully for their heroism and dedication.

* Our most important goal continues to be the purchase of the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) and U.S. Civil War Pension records for each of these remarkable men in order to document and freely share their stories with the widest possible audience. We continue to await word from staff at the U.S. National Archives regarding the timeframe for their resumption of digitization and reproduction services that have temporarily been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. As soon as those services have resumed, we will request an update regarding their estimated timeframe for fulfilling our records requests. In the interim, we will seek out further details about each of these soldiers via local and state archival resources across the nation, and will post updates as we confirm more data.

Sources:

  1. Bullard, Aaron, in Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteers. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1861-1865.
  2. Bullard, Aaron and French, Aaron, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index Cards. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1890-1891.
  3. Bullard, Aaron, Presto Garris, Thomas Haywood, et. al. in U.S. Civil War Muster Out Rolls (47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry). Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1865-1866 (available via Ancestry.com).
  4. French, Aaron, in “Proceedings of the Third District Republican Convention.” Vicksburg, Mississippi: Vicksburg Evening Post, August 9, 1886.
  5. French, Aaron and Family, in U.S. Census Records (Issaquena County, Mississippi): Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1870-1910.
  6. Haywood, Jackson, in Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteers. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1861-1865.
  7. Haywood, Thomas, in Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteers. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1861-1865.
  8. Haywood, Thomas, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index Cards. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1888, 1907.
  9. Haywood, Thomas, in U.S. Veterans’ Administration Pension Payment Cards. Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1888, 1907.
  10. Haywood, Thomas, in U.S. Census (Beaufort County, South Carolina): Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1890.
  11. Hanna Jacobs, widow of Jack Jacobs, in U.S. Census (Beaufort County, South Carolina): Washington, DC: U.S. National Archives, 1890.

His First Name was “Presto?” A Black History Month Mystery

Roster entry: Presto Garris,” Company F, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, Vol. 1, 1869 (public domain; double click to enlarge).

“Presto?” The first name stood out like a sore thumb on the roster of my great-grandfather’s Civil War regiment—one with a rank and file populated largely by soldiers with Germanic surnames: “Acher,” “Bachman,” “Bauer,” “Bauman,” “Burger,” “Dachrodt,” “Diehl,” “Eisenbraun,” “Eppler,” “Fritz,” “Grimm,” “Guth,” “Handwerk,” “Hertzog,” “Keiser,” “Knecht,” “Knorr,” “Koenig,” “Laub,” “Metzger,” “Münch,” “Rehrig,” “Reinert,” “Richter,” “Sauerwein,” “Schmidt,” “Schneider,” “Strauss,” “Ulrich,” “Volkenand,” “Wagner,” “Weiss,” and “Zeppenfeld.”

Many of their given or middle names were equally as Germanic—“Adolph,” “Bernhard,” “Gottlieb,” “Friedrich,” “Heinrich,” “Levi,” “Matthias,” “Reinhold,” “Tilghman,” “Tobias,” and “Werner.” In addition, one of the regiment’s component units—Company K—had even been founded by a German immigrant with the intent of creating “a new German company” staffed entirely by German-Americans who had been born in the Lehigh Valley, as well as recent émigrés from Germany.

So, “Presto” as a given name seemed like it warranted further investigation. Did the spelling of this soldier’s given name signal that he had emigrated from a different part of the world—possibly Italy? There was, after all, another member of the 47th Pennsylvania’s ranks with a seemingly Italian surname—Battaglia (later proven to be an immigrant of Switzerland). Plus, there were also multiple men with Irish surnames who had also enlisted with the 47th.

Or, maybe this soldier had been employed as a magician prior to enlisting in the military? (Probably not, but strange discoveries are surprisingly common with genealogical research.)

A more likely scenario? A harried Union Army clerk, in his haste to process new enlistees, simply omitted the “n” at the end of this soldier’s name—making him “Presto” for posterity’s sake rather than “Preston.”

I just had to know. Who was Presto?

Listing for “Presto Garris,” Company F, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866, Pennsylvania State Archives (public domain).

It turned out that this 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer wasn’t a magician, and he wasn’t an immigrant from Italy, but he was someone whose first and last names were badly mangled by multiple “mis-spellers” over decades of data entry.

Upon further investigation, it became clear that he was a formerly enslaved, 33-year-old black man who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on October 5, 1862 while the regiment was stationed near Beaufort, South Carolina—meaning that my great-grandfather’s regiment had become an integrated one at least three months before President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Totally “wowed” by this discovery, I searched for even more information about this very important enlisted man, but my quest wasn’t as easy as I hoped it would be because the regimental clerk who had entered “Presto” on the roster for Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment in the Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers had spelled his name incorrectly—an error that was then perpetuated by historian Samuel P. Bates in his History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5.

Possible name variants for an African American member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, U.S. Civil War General Pension Index Cards (National Archives, public domain).

Fortunately, this soldier’s listing in the U.S. Civil War General Pension Index Card system was slightly more helpful, providing multiple “alias” (alternate) spellings of his name: “Presto Garris,” “Bristor Geddes,” and “Bristor Gethers,” as well as a potential spelling for the name of his wife, “Rachel Gethers,” and a possible place of residency and year of death—1894—because his widow had filed for a U.S. Civil War Widow’s Pension from South Carolina on July 27, 1894.

Despite those hints, it took quite some time to pick up this soldier’s trail again. Eventually, though, that pension index card data helped me to find a Freedmen’s Bureau contract for him which confirmed that he had indeed settled in South Carolina post-war. Dated February 12, 1868, this document also confirmed that he had been signed to a contract with 14 other Freedmen by the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina office of the U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau to provide labor for the Whitehouse Plantation.

List showing “Brister Geddis,” et. al. on an 1868 Freedmen’s Bureau contract with the Whitehouse Plantation in South Carolina (public domain; double click to enlarge).

But, in another seemingly frustrating turn of events, that contract caused further confusion surrounding his name—this time spelling it as “Brister Geddis.” Fortunately, this new variant was repeated in the 1870 federal census—a sign that it was either the correct spelling or at least a closer approximation of how this soldier had pronounced his own name. Describing him as a 42-year-old black male residing in Beaufort, South Carolina, that same census also noted that he lived in Beaufort Township with his wife “Rachel,” a 24-year-old black woman (estimated birth year 1846), and son “Peter,” a 6-year-old black child, and confirmed that all three had been born in South Carolina. And that census record also noted that both “Brister” and “Rachel” were involved in farming land valued at $1,500.

Unfortunately, the 1880 federal census taker created still more confusion by illegibly writing the name as “Geddes, Brista” or “Geddis, Bristor”—and gave rise to two new puzzles by omitting son Peter’s name and also radically altering the estimated birth year of wife “Rachel”—changing it from 1846 to 1820 by stating that she was a 60-year-old who was four years older than her husband (rather than younger as she had reportedly been in 1870).

Even more frustrating? The special veterans’ census of 1890 altered the spelling of his name yet again—this time to “Brister Gedders.”

At that point, I made the decision to do everything humanly possible to right the wrong of this 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer’s forgotten military service by launching a GoFundMe campaign to support the purchase of this his full set of his military and pension records from the National Archives (as well as those of the other eight African American men who enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry).

If just three of you who regularly read the content on this website and follow our Facebook page donate $10 each to this campaign, we will be able to purchase the entire Compiled Military Service File for this forgotten member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and make it publicly available (free of charge) to other family history researchers and historians. If just four of you donate $20 each, we would also be able to purchase the entire Federal Military Pension Application File for that same soldier—a file that may very well contain critical vital statistics about this soldier’s birth, life and death, as well as vital statistics for his widow and son.

We might just even be able to determine when and where Brister/Bristor was buried and whether or not a gravestone marks his final resting place. If we find that no marker exists, or that the existing one has been damaged, or that the gravestone carver spelled his name incorrectly, we can then fix that wrong as well by asking the appropriate county, state and federal authorities to erect a suitable veteran’s headstone for him.

Please help us honor the military service of this unsung hero by making your donation today to our GoFundMe campaign, Honor 9 Black Soldiers of the American Civil War.”

With Sincere Gratitude,

Laurie Snyder, Managing Editor
47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story

 

Sources:

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

2. “Garris, Presto,” in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

3. “Garris, Presto” (alias “Geddes, Bristor”, alias “Gethers, Bristor”), in U.S. Civil War General Pension Index, 1890-1894. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

4. “Roll of Co. F., 47th Regiment, Infantry,” in Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, in “Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs.” Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives, retrieved online February 10, 2020.

 

Snyder Family Recipes: Turkey, Filling and Gravy (Thanksgiving and Christmas)

 

Selecting the Thanksgiving Turkey, cover, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (4 December 1860, public domain).

Ingredients – Filling:

  •  4½ pounds of sliced onions
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet marjoram*
    (also called leaf marjoram)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of butter-flavored Crisco (original recipe used lard)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of margarine
  • 20 slices of dried bread
    (cut into cubes, excluding crusts)
  • 3 pounds of quartered potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • margarine and milk
    (the amounts typically used in mashed potatoes)
  • 3 raw eggs
    (leave unbroken until you reach the appropriate step in the filling recipe)

Ingredients and Cooking Implements – Turkey and Gravy:

  • 1 turkey (or chicken)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter-flavored PAM cooking spray
  • 1 Reynolds Kitchen oven bag
    (add 2 tablespoons of flour and shake to coat bag)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1½ to 3 cups of water

 

Making the Filling:

1. Use 2 frying pans. Place 2 tablespoons of Crisco and 1 tablespoon of margarine in each pan.

 2. Melt the Crisco-margarine mix, and then add 2¼ pounds of onions to each pan. Sauté the onions for roughly 1½ to 2 hours (over low heat so they won’t burn) until they’re translucent and golden.

3a. Lower the burner heat to simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1½ tablespoons of sweet marjoram to each pan; mix well. (*Note: By using sweet marjoram also called leaf marjoram rather than regular marjoram, you will preserve the taste of the original recipe, which is believed to have originated in Germany and to have been passed down through generations of the Snyder and Strohecker families prior to and following their pre-Revolutionary War arrival in America.)

3b. While the onions are cooking, boil 3 pounds of quartered potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain. Whip with hand mixer until well broken up. Add margarine and milk (in the same proportions as used for mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm until the onions have finished cooking.

4. Then add half of the dried bread cubes to each pan, and mix until evenly coated. DO NOT BURN.

5. After the onions have finished cooking and the seasonings and bread cubes have been added and browned, turn off the burner’s heat. Then add half of the mashed potatoes to each pan and mix well.

6. Combine the potato-onion-bread filling mixture from both pans in one large bowl; refrigerate until cold. [Reminder: ALWAYS fill a COLD BIRD with COLD FILLING to reduce the potential for salmonella.]

6a. Before stuffing the turkey with the filling, break 3 raw eggs over the filling and mix well.

6b. Put the remaining filling (which was not used to stuff the bird) into a buttered casserole dish, and cover with aluminum foil. Then, 20 minutes before the bird is done, place the casserole dish into the oven beside the bird so that the “non-bird version” of the filling mix will also heat through in time to be served.

 

Preparing and Roasting the Turkey:

1. Unwrap the bird, remove the turkey neck and giblet packages from the bird’s cavities, and soak the turkey in ice-cold salt water for 10 minutes. Then, drain the water, rinse the bird in cold water, and soak the turkey in fresh ice water for an additional 10 minutes to remove the salt. (Use a bowl which is large enough to cover the bird, or keep the water running, and turn the turkey over frequently.) Once the bird is thoroughly cleaned, remove and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

3. Salt and pepper the bird’s cavities to taste. Then stuff the cavities of the turkey loosely with the filling mix created from the recipe above. (Note: Stuffing the bird too tightly with filling may cause the turkey to explode.)

4. Spray the bird all over (including the bottom) with butter-flavored PAM cooking spray. Then, shield the bird’s legs and wings with aluminum foil so they won’t burn, and place the bird in a Reynolds Kitchens oven bag (to which 2 tablespoons of flour have been added and shaken around to coat the bag). Cut 4 one-inch slits in the bag, and roast. (Make sure the roasting pan is large enough so the bird doesn’t hang over the sides, and follow the roasting time instructions on the package of bags. Or see the roasting times posted on the Reynolds Kitchens’ website.)

5. Check on the progress of the bird every 30 minutes, rotating the turkey in the oven so that it browns evenly; spray with more PAM if the bird looks dry. As the end of the roasting time approaches for the bird, stick a meat thermometer into the thigh and, without touching any bone, verify whether or not the turkey is fully cooked. (When the temperature reaches 190 degrees, the bird is done.)

6a. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully take the turkey out of the bag, and set it to the side of your workspace (covered with aluminum foil). Begin preparing the gravy while the turkey is cooling.

6b. After 20 minutes, remove the filling from the cavities and carve the bird.

 

Making the Perfect Gravy:  

1. Carefully empty the turkey’s juices from the roasting bag into a pot. Place the pot on a stove burner and, on low heat, bring the juices to a slow boil, stirring to keep from burning.

2. When the juices reach a slow boil, turn off the heat, strain the contents through a sieve to remove the accumulated grease, and return the contents to the pan.

3a. Stirring constantly, bring the juices to a slow boil once again. During this process, add 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 1 beef bouillon cube (for color), and extra water (½ cup at a time, stirring until cubes are dissolved and your desired taste is achieved).

3b. In a container with a tight fitting lid, create a thickening mixture for the turkey juices by combining 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 cup of cold water; shake until smooth. Then, while constantly stirring, add the flour-water mixture to turkey juices a little at a time until the gravy reaches your desired consistency (while also being careful not to burn the gravy). Keep the gravy warm while carving the bird; then transfer to a gravy boat and serve with the roast turkey, Snyder Family Filling, and vegetables of your choice.

 

To learn more about the Snyder family’s history during the U.S. Civil War, see Corporal Timothy Matthias Snyder – A Patriot’s Great-Grandson and Telephone Pioneer’s Father.

 

 

Copyright: Snyder Family Archives, © 2017-present. All rights reserved.

Recipe Disclaimer: 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story and its creators assume no obligation or liability for any accidents, fires, food poisoning/food borne disease, or other problems that may result from preparing or eating these recipes, and make no warranties or guarantees of favorable results from this recipe’s use. Results may differ due to variations in the quality of ingredients used, omissions from the recipes posted, cooking temperatures, and/or individual cooking abilities. Caution is advised when working with eggs and other raw ingredients. Please see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website for these important food safety tips.

 

 

 

 

 

Faces of the 47th Project Honors History-Making Civil War Soldiers from Pennsylvania

First Lieutenant William Wallace Geety, Co. H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1864-1865.

A tantalizing new video released by 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story just opened an important new portal to the 19th century for Civil War enthusiasts, teachers, students, and genealogists.

Faces of the 47th is part of a larger, ongoing initiative to document and raise public awareness about the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry – the only regiment from the Keystone State to fight in the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign  across Louisiana. The video presents the photographic and illustrated images of more than two dozen men who fought with the all-volunteer unit between 1861 and 1865.

“Each one of these images holds the potential to help family history researchers feel closer to their Civil War-era ancestors while also enabling teachers, students and Civil War enthusiasts to deepen their connections to one of the most painful chapters in the American narrative,” explains Laurie Snyder, managing editor for the project. “By ‘putting faces to the names’ on military muster rolls, we’re bringing history to life while also paying tribute to those who fought to eradicate slavery and preserve our nation’s union.”

The photo digitization project received early support from Thomas MacEntee, founder of High-Definition Genealogy, via The Genealogy Fairy™ program, which enabled Snyder to locate and digitize photographs of key members of the regiment. Among the images preserved in this initial collection are the faces of a regimental chaplain, musicians, prisoners of war (POWs), military surgeons, and officers and enlisted men who were grievously wounded or killed in combat, as well as several men who became inventors, leading business executives and elected officials in and beyond Pennsylvania after the war.

George Dillwyn John (third from left; formerly, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers), Grand Army of the Republic gathering, Will Robinson Post, Illinois, c. 1926.

“At the time I applied for the grant, there were hundreds of photographs tucked away in public libraries, historical societies, universities, and private family history collections from Maine to California and Michigan to Louisiana. Most had not yet been digitized and might have been lost for all time had Thomas MacEntee not provided the support he did when he did,” said Snyder. “More work still needs to be done, of course, because there are photos still not yet scanned, but the project took more than two dozen giant steps forward with just that one grant from Thomas. He’s a hero in my book.”

Other significant support for the project has been provided by the Burrowes and Wasserman families.

About the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers

Joseph Eugene Walter, Regimental Band, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1861.

Recruited primarily at community gathering places in their respective home towns, the soldiers who served with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were primarily men of German heritage whose families still spoke German or “Pennsylvania Dutch” more than a century after their ancestors emigrated from Germany in search of religious and political freedom. Still others were recent immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Cuba. Formerly enslaved black men who had been freed by the regiment from plantations in South Carolina and Louisiana were added to regimental rosters in 1862 and 1864.

In addition to fighting in the battles of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield, Pleasant Hill and Monett’s Ferry/Cane River during the Red River Campaign, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also engaged in the defense of Washington, D.C. in 1861 and again in 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln; the capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida and Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (1862); the garrisoning of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas, Florida (1863); Union Major-General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning Shenandoah Valley Campaign (1864), including the battles of Berryville, Opequon, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek; and provost (military police) and Reconstruction duties in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina (1865). Most were finally released from duty when the regiment formally mustered out on Christmas Day in 1865.

Learn More and Support

To learn more about the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and lend your support to this historic initiative, visit the website of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, and follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.