Cool Spring Battlefield, Clarke County, Virginia (2016, North Virginia Regional Park Authority, public domain).
Battered but undeterred following their experience in the Union’s Red River Campaign across Louisiana and still attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers received new orders on the 4th of July 1864. Under the command of brigadier-generals James W. McMillan, William Dwight, Jr. and William Hemsley Emory (with McMillan continuing to report to Dwight and Dwight to Emory, who headed the 19th Corps), the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were directed to return to the East Coast.
They did – but they did so in two stages.
U.S. Steamer McClellan (Alfred Waud, c. 1860-1865, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).
According to 47th Pennsylvania historian Lewis Schmidt, ‘’Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I, composing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and half of the 4th division, sailed from Algiers … at 1 PM on Thursday, July 7. Companies B, G and K of the 4th and 5th divisions remained behind at Morganza, La. under command of Capt. Harte, for want of transportation, and would not arrive in Washington until July 28.”
The men from the 47th’s first detachment could not yet know it, but their transit would lead them into a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln.
As this first grouping readied for departure, Corporal George R. Nichols of E Company penned the following diary entry on 7 July:
Received orders to Pack up at Six O’clock AM and I was detailed on fatigue duty to Load wagons it was for a Mark [demerit]. We Marched to the dock. Embarked on Board of the Steamer McClellan. ar [sic] was packed on Board because about Nine hundred Men was Shoved on her at one O’clock PM. Started down the Mississippi River. Past a New Mail Steamer at five PM Bound for New Orleans Past forts St. Phillip and Jackson at 8 PM. came to anchor at ten Oclock and layed to for the Night’…. [continuing on Friday]: ‘Started this Morning at four Oclock AM. Crost the Bar about Seven. Shaped our course South East. At nine Oclock the orders was torn open, and then we knowed or destination. So we are Bound for Virginia. Well I am Glad. Maby I can See My Brother’ [with the Pennsylvania Bucktail Regiment].
En route, C Company scribe Henry D. Wharton continued chronicling the regiment’s movement:
The passage down the Mississippi was mostly at night, so I am unable to give you a description of it. At Pilottown we exchanged pilots; immediately below was hailed by the S river gunboat 48 with ‘steamer ahoy: what steamer’s that?’ which was answered satisfactorily, when with a wave of the hand we parted, our boat on its way to cross the bar, and then to find out by certain papers our destination. An expedition was on the move but what point no one outside of headquarters was able to tell. It was a secret move. This was right, for the destination of former expeditions was known weeks before embarking, and by the time the troops reached the point to which they were ordered, the rebs were ready to receive them. New Orleans is filled with traitors and spies, ready to do the bidding of Jefferson D., and it is necessary that the greatest precaution be used when anything extraordinary is going on.
As the pilot was leaving, after safely steering ‘Little Mac’ past the Belize, the sealed orders were opened, when we learned our course was toward Fortress Monroe, to join in the good work going on in front of Richmond. Why our destination was kept so secret I cannot conjecture, unless it was a bait to catch spies, inducing them to forward word to Johnston that an advance was being made on Mobile, which might lead him to withdraw a portion of his troops from Sherman’s front an send them to the protection of the latter city.
When out on the gulf sixty miles, Jonas Snyder of Carbon County, Pa., a member of Company I, died. His body was prepared for burial by nicely sewing it up in blankets, with weights attached to make it sink. The funeral was conducted by Chaplain Rodrock, who read the beautiful sea service from the prayer book of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The ‘Flag of our Union’ was at half mast, the boat stopped, and as the sun was hiding in the west, the body was launched into the sea, sinking to rise no more, until the great day comes when the soul must give an account for the ‘deeds’ done in the body.
[Note: Pvt. Jonas Snyder: 45 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, former powder maker, died from chronic diarrhea on Friday, 8 July; however, his death was recorded in regimental books as having occurred on 19 July 1864.
A significant thinning of the ranks occurred during this phase of duty as other ailing members of the 47th Pennsylvania who had been left behind to convalesce in Louisiana and Mississippi lost their battles with disease and war wound recovery, or were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability. Among the deceased were B Company’s Josiah Braden, who died in New Orleans and rests at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish; H Company’s Private George H. Smith, who passed away while receiving medical care at the Union’s general hospital at Natchez, Mississippi and was laid to rest in the city cemetery there before being exhumed and reinterred at the Natchez National Cemetery; and G Company’s Sergeant James Crader, who also died at the Natchez hospital but whose body was ultimately returned to Pennsylvania for burial at Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery. According to Schmidt:
Sgt. Crader, a 48 year old shoemaker, was the father of James W., Thomas K., and Edwin K. Crader who served with the same company. His son James W. Crader would receive a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant in 1865. A news article in the Allentown Morning Call of October 24, 1910, reported in contradiction, that Sgt. Crader was ‘on his way home sick’ when he died.
The deaths continued in mid-July as A Company Privates J. Williamson and Michael Andrew died, respectively, at Baton Rouge and New Orleans on 13 and 14 July; Williamson’s grave remains unidentified to this day, according to Schmidt, but may be located at one of the national cemeteries in Baton Rouge or Port Hudson, Louisiana. Andrew, a widowed father who left behind five children under the age of 16, was ultimately interred at the Chalmette National Cemetery.
“Also returning home on another ship about this same time, after being discharged with a surgeon’s certificate in June, was Pvt. Jacob Rinnick of Company E.” Per Schmidt, he:
died on board ship as a civilian, one day out of New York. The body was temporarily buried on Long Island in the Cypress Hill Cemetery, and later disinterred after a short burial. On Saturday, July 30, the remains were returned to Easton and interred in the City Cemetery after services in his father’s house. Another source reported that the burial took place at the German Reformed Church Burial Ground in Easton.
Privates Thaddeus Heckroth of B Company, Jerome Bryner of H Company and I Company’s William Münch were among those discharged via Surgeons’ Certificates. Heckroth and Bryner were released from duty while still in Louisiana while Münch was discharged while at sea.]
Meanwhile, as Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I were en route to the East Coast via the steamer McClellan, the Confederate threat to the nation’s capital mounted as troops led by Lieutenant General Jubal Early made their way north through the Shenandoah Valley toward Washington. “As a result,” explained Schmidt, “troops were diverted to the defenses of Washington, and as units of the First Division of the 19th Corps began to arrive at Fortress Monroe, their orders were changed and they were sent on to the Capital. This confusion in destinations caused the main detachment of the [47th Pennsylvania] to bypass Bermuda Hundred and proceed directly to Washington.”
Still steaming aboard the McClellan on Sunday, 10 July, the 47th Pennsylvanians purposefully avoided both Forts Taylor and Jefferson due to a raging yellow fever outbreak, according to Wharton, who added:
In one week from the day we started we reached Fortress Monroe [Thursday, July 14]. Gen. [McMillan] went ashore to report, where he received orders to push on to Washington. It was here we received the first intimation of the rebel raid into Maryland and the supposed danger to which Washington was exposed. The boys were anxious to move forward that they might participate in any punishment that would be given the rebels.
Arrival in Virginia
According to C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, “Pleasant weather attended the voyage,” and the McClellan finally steamed into Hampton Roads, Virginia on the afternoon of 11 July. The next morning, he and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians headed for Washington. While disembarked briefly at Fort Stevens, they saw President Lincoln in the flesh, and thrilled to the pomp befitting the arrival of a battle-tested regiment. Their trip down the Potomac while aboard the Creole was described by both Nichols and Wharton in their writings of 15 July as “splendid.”
As they passed Washington’s tomb, wrote Wharton, “the band of the 47th played ‘Hail Columbia’, and several national airs, while the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on the stern of the McClellan was lowered and hoisted in salute.” After disembarking at the wharf on 7th Street, the regiment then marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, “out past the President’s house to Georgetown, and then on to this place where we bivouacked…. The 47th had disembarked and took up its line of march, arriving at Tenleytown, located about two miles north of Georgetown. The weather had been very hot, and the regiment remained in camp at Tenleytown until 3PM on Saturday.”
Nichols confirmed that the regiment started its march toward Washington at daylight, and observed that their new assignment:
Seems More like life hear then down South. We past fort Washington about 12 M. and Sighted the Capitol and Alexandria at the Same time. arrived at Washington at about one oclock PM disembarked about three Got coffee and crackers at the Sanitary Commissions. Started on the March at Six oclock PM. Marched through Washington and Georgetown to Tenlatown [Tenleytown] about Eight Miles and Bivouac for the Night at Nine oclock PM.
In his History of the Nineteenth Army Corps, Richard B. Irwin confirmed that the 47th Pennsylvania’s main detachment had indeed arrived at Tenleytown by mid-July:
About 3,600 men of Emory’s division had landed at Washington during the 12th and 13th of July, increasing the effective force of the Nineteenth Corps to about 4,200, most of whom spent the night in following the windings of the road that marks the long outline of northern fortifications.
This grouping, explained Irwin, arrived as follows:
On the 13th of July the Clinton arrived at Washington with the 29th Maine and part of the 13th Maine, the St. Mary with the 8th Vermont, the Corinthian with the remaining six companies of the 114th New York, the Mississippi with the 90th and 116th New York and the 30th Massachusetts, the Creole with the 47th Pennsylvania. As the detachments landed they were hurried, in most instances by long and needless circuits to Tennallytown, where they found themselves at night without supplies or wagons, without orders, and without much organization.
…. Out of this Grant brought order by assigning Wright to conduct the pursuit of Early. When, therefore, on the morning of the 13th Wright found Early gone from his front, he marched after him with the Sixth Corps, and ordered the detachment of the Nineteenth Corps to follow. Grant wished Wright to push on to Edwards Ferry to cut off Early’s retreat across the Potomac.
On 16 July, the 47th Pennsylvanians joined in crossing the Potomac with their fellow members of the 19th Corps, 1st Division, under Brigadier-General Emory, along with the U.S. 6th Corps at White’s Ford, the spot on the Potomac at which Early’s troops had just managed to evade the Union’s pursuit and escape to Leesburg, Virginia. The 19th Corpsmen then trekked roughly three miles past Leesburg into the Catoctin Mountains, pitched their tents at Clark’s Gap, and provided support to the Union forces led by Major-General David Hunter as Hunter’s group began flanking Early’s Army.
Unfortunately, Early’s men escaped once again, and headed again for the Shenandoah Valley – this time, marching through Snicker’s Gap.
According to the U.S. National Park Service:
A Union column, consisting of the VI Corps and elements of the XIX Corps under Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright, pursued Early’s army as it withdrew from the environs of Washington, D.C. Wright’s force was joined by elements of Crook’s command, which had accompanied Hunter during his retreat through West Virginia. On July 17, the Union cavalry passed through Snickers Gap and attempted to force passage of the Shenandoah River at Snickers Ford (Castleman’s Ferry). On the morning of July 18, the vanguard of the Union infantry moved through Snickers Gap. Col. Joseph Thoburn (of Crook’s command) led his division downstream to cross the river at Judge Richard Parker’s Ford. Early’s three nearby infantry divisions moved to defend the fords. In the afternoon, Rodes’s division attacked and shattered Thoburn’s right flank on the Cool Spring plantation. Thoburn made a stand behind a stone wall at the river’s edge and beat off three attacks until darkness enabled him to withdraw. Union pursuit of Early was delayed several days.
On 18 July 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania became one of those Union regiments tasked with entering the Shenandoah Valley via Snicker’s Gap. While there, the regiment engaged the enemy in the Battle of Cool Spring, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Snicker’s Gap). Converging on Early’s larger Confederate Army of 8,000 from three sides (front, flank and rear) as part of the smaller Union force of 5,000 men, the 47th Pennsylvania helped inspire the Rebel retreat to Strasburg from 19-20 July.
Chain Bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown looking toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).
Returning to Leesburg, the Union troops encamped at Goose Creek before heading back to Washington, D.C. on 22 July. After crossing the Chain Bridge the next day, the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I and their fellow 19th Corpsmen established a new camp “on the high ground overlooking the Potomac near Battery Vermont,” thereby ending “the ‘Snicker’s Gap war,” according to Irwin. (Casualties – Union: 422; Confederate: 397.)
Through the Eyes of a 47th Pennsylvanian
In recounting the Battle of Cool Spring, Wharton delineated the actions of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers as follows:
The 6th Corps crossed the Potomac on Saturday, previous to which they overtook the rear guard of the enemy at Poolesville, a section of artillery with cavalry pressed forward and vigorously shelled the enemy from several positions. The corps overtook them at Snicker’s Gap. Though the gap might have been successfully held, it was evacuated without much delay, and our infantry took possession. The enemy held possession of the other bank of the Shenandoah River, one mile distant.
A part of Hunter’s command, to the number of five thousand, were ordered to the river, which they crossed in face of the enemy’s fire. After the force had crossed, the enemy attempted a flank movement on their right and left, but Adams’ Rhode Island Battery came into position on an eminence overlooking the valley below. They immediately opened upon the enemy with shot and shell from the three inch rifled guns, creating great havoc among them. The range was accurate and each shell burst in their midst. The enemy finding the damage to their infantry so great, attempted to silence the battery by firing upon them with twenty pound parrots, which however, lasted but a moment, as they in turn were fired upon and forced to silence. Night coming on our infantry recrossed the river to come under the batteries. At this point we lost a number in killed and wounded; a few were drowned in getting off the proper ford. Among the wounded I noticed Ed. M. Shindel, son of Rev. Jeremiah Shindel, and nephew of H. B. Masser, Esq. I am happy to state that his wound is so slight that it will scarcely keep him from duty….
Instead of going to Grant in front of Petersburg, as we expected, orders were issued sending the 6th and 19th Corps up through Maryland in quest of rebels. On the route I conversed with many farmers who had been deprived of property by the chivalry in their late raid and all of them agree in the abhorrence with which they hold the raiders, and are no ways particular in their speech concerning them. A gentleman told me they came not as warriors, but as the lower class of robbers, resorting to petty larceny, and were so mean that they even asked ladies for the ear drops worn as ornaments. At a farmer’s where they had stolen eight horses, a young lady sad that the ‘low fellows wanted papa to take the boots off his feet to give them.’
We are to move forward after the enemy, but whether it will be before the arrival of three of our companies, who could not get passage with us, I cannot tell. From what I can learn we will move towards the Point of Rocks. The raiders have, or are attempting to cross the Potomac at Rockville.
The diary of E Company’s George Nichols adds further color to Wharton’s words, indicating that on that Saturday, the 47th:
Received three days Rations. Started on the March at three oclock PM. Plenty of Good cool water along the Road. I Picked Some Green appels and ate them the first I Seen for two years and Six Month on trees Marched the distance of fourteen Miles and Encamped at half past ten oclock PM.
The next Sunday, Nichols reported that he was:
acting left Genl. Guide to the Regtment and I are not compelled to carry a Gun so in the wagon it Goes. it will be easier for Me. we Started on the tramp at Eight AM very hot and dusty at twelve M. half of the Redgt. Was Stragling be hind and when we Got to the Potomac our company Musterd only Nine Men offercers and all. The rest was Played out. We came fourteen Miles to Kelleysford [sic] arrived at three PM. We are Ordered Back to Washington’. On Monday the ‘order [was] contermanded So we Started at four oclock AM croost the River to Virginia Side the Water was three feet deep. But we forderd her all the Same We Struck the leesburg pike whent through leesburg. hamiltonn and Perserville at four PM. We caught the Rear Guard of the army and at twelve oclock Midnight we came to our division after Marching about Twenty Eight Miles. We Passed through Snickers Gap and Encamped in the Vally at Twelve oclock PM.
Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (Edwin Forbes, 10 February 1864, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).
Wharton’s writings back up Nichols’ account of the Kelly’s Ford experience, and also confirm that the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I) did indeed engage in the Battle of Cool Spring/Snicker’s Gap:
The second day’s march brought us to the Potomac at Kelly’s Ford, which we crossed by wading, proceeded on our way to Leesburg, making Snicker’s Gap, where we joined the 6th Army Corps and the balance of our division of the 19th. The 6th boys are some on a march, but were completely taken by surprise when they learned we had crossed the Potomac that morning after sunrise, thinking it was impossible for troops to make what they did not, thirty miles on a hard pike.
On the Move Again
By late July, Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I from the 47th Pennsylvania were on the move again with Emory’s Army. Encamped the night of 26 July in Maryland “on the Frederick road, four miles north of Rockville, after a march of nineteen miles,” according to Irwin, they departed at 3 a.m. the next morning, marching another fifteen miles to a site just beyond Hyattstown. “On the 28th Emory took the road at five, marched to Monocacy Junction, where the Sixth Corps crossed the Monocacy, then filed to the right, and crossed at the upper ford, and passing through Frederick went into bivouac four miles beyond.”
They had trekked another 13 miles.
“On the 29th, an intensely hot day,” wrote Irwin, “Emory marched at eight, following the Sixth Corps, crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, marched nineteen miles, and went into bivouac at Halltown.” Following another 13-mile march on 31 July – back into and across the Catoctin Mountains – Emory ordered his exhausted men to make camp at 1 a.m. near Jefferson.
Just four hours later, they were awakened by bugle call and sent on the march again at 6 a.m. Thirteen miles later, they pitched their tents along the Emmitsburg Road, roughly two miles past Frederick. Their duties involved “holding the line of the Monocacy and observing the passes of the South Mountain,” according to Irwin.
Meanwhile, Captain Henry S. Harte and the men from Companies B, G and K were finally making their own East Coast arrival.
A Regiment Reunited
Having sailed from Louisiana aboard the Blackstone and, according to Schmidt, “after first stopping enroute [sic] at Bermuda Hundred, under temporary assignment to the Army of the James, with the Second Division of the 19th Corps,” Captain Harte and the men of Companies B, G and K arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and finally reconnected with the bulk of their regiment in Maryland at Monocacy on 2 August 1864.
On 6 August, Emory’s men crossed back over the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, preceded and followed, respectively, by the Union forces led by brigadier-generals George R. Crook and John B. Ricketts. “Hunter took up his position covering Halltown and proceeded to strengthen its entrenchments,” according to Irwin, while “Crook’s left rested on the Shenandoah, Emory extended the line to the turnpike road, and Wright carried it to the Potomac.”
But once again, a major shakeup in the top level of Union leadership was underway. Explained Irwin:
Grant had already proposed to unite in a single command the four distinct departments covering the theatre of war on the Shenandoah and on the upper Potomac; as the commander he had first suggested Franklin and afterward Meade. Now, since no action had followed either suggestion, he sent up Sheridan, meaning to place him in command of all the active forces of these four departments, for the purpose of overthrowing Early or expelling him from the Shenandoah. Upon learning this, Hunter, to remove the difficulty, asked to be relieved; and thus, on the 7th of August, Grant gained his wish, and an order was issued by the War Department, creating the Middle Military Division, to include Washington, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and part of Ohio, and Sheridan was assigned to the command.
The stage was now set for Major-General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning, 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Battle of Snicker’s Gap/Battle of Cool Spring, in CWSAC Battle Summaries. Washington, D.C.: Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC), The American Battlefield Protection Program, retrieved online 1 September 2016.
3. Bluhm, Jr., Raymond K. Shenandoah Valley Campaign: March-November 1864. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army.
4. Gobin, Companion J. P. S. Lincoln Under Fire, in records of the Memorial Meeting held on 13 February 1907, in Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1907-1911.
5. Irwin, Richard Bache. History of the Nineteenth Army Corps. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893.
6. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office (Record Group 94). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
7. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
8. The Battle of Cool Spring. Washington, D.C.: Civil War Trust, retrieved online 1 September 2016.
9. U.S. Civil War Veterans’, Widows’ and Orphans’ Pension Files. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
10. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1864.