Sorrowing parents, his comrades have laid him in the damp, cold grave, on the sacred soil of Virginia. Think you he is there? No, fond parents, he is not there. Look not in so dismal a place for the loved one of your hearts, for he is now in heaven. — Obituary of Alfred Eisenbraun, Lehigh Register, 30 October 1861
Born in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania in June 1846, Alfred Eisenbraun was a son of Johann Daniel Eisenbraun (1795-1874), a Frakturist and tombstone carver who emigrated in 1820 from Württemberg, Germany to the United States, and Margaret (Troxell) Eisenbraun (1812-1879), a native of Egypt in Lehigh County.
The family’s surname was spelled variously in records and on several headstones as “Eisenbraum” and “Eisenbrown,” but is clearly shown as “Eisenbraun” on the record of Johann Daniel’s late-in-life baptism on 16 March 1874 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Allentown. As for the Eisenbraun patriarch’s actual beginnings, some sources list Johann Daniel’s place of birth as “Adelberg” (formerly Hundsholz) in what is today a community in the border zone of Stuttgart in the German state of Baden-Württemberg – a fact which appears to be supported by his baptismal ledger entry at St. Paul’s:
In 1850, four-year-old Alfred Eisenbraun resided in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his parents and siblings: Theresa (1836-1855), Christianna (1839-1859), Emma (1845-1923), and Paulina/Pauline (1848-1909). In 1860, Alfred and his sisters, Emma and Pauline, were still living at home with their parents, along with brother Otto (1853-1890).
As he matured, Allen Eisenbraun attended Sunday School at Allentown’s St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (a German Lutheran house of worship), and became a member of the Cadets of Temperance. By 1861, he was employed as a “tobacco stripper,” a job which required him to separate tobacco leaves from their stems before stacking those leaves in piles in preparation for their later use as filler or wrapping for cigars or repurposing as chewable tobacco. An article penned by Clare de Graffenried more than three decades later for the American Economic Association described how difficult lives were for 19th century American children employed in this profession:
Some girls and boys are glad to leave dull homes for the excitement of a crowd; others seek work for sadder reasons – mother is ill and cannot wash or lame Johnny needs a new crutch….
Dismal fun, to creep in the black night or gray dawn from the wretched pallet, donning the old outer garments while half asleep, gulping down the meagre breakfast, tramping in snow or slush or icy wind under the winter stars…. Fun, to sit or stand, breathing foul air, in rooms bare and cold or suffocatingly hot…. Fun, to count and plan how the week’s dole shall be spent, and then to be told that the work is all wrong and will not be paid for….
The healthiest adult continuously employed at tobacco suffers from its poison. In time every fibre of the frame becomes affected; extreme nervousness is induced and lasting maladies like St. Vitus Dance supervene. Physical weaknesses are increased, incipient ailments develop…. The quarters where tobacco is stripped from the stem are sometimes located in a damp basement, musty with mould [sic] or lurking miasma; sometimes in lofts on which the sunshine beats unsparingly, sometimes in spacious, tightly closed rooms furnished either with benches along the walls or ‘pens’ thickly placed about the floor. These pens are just what the name imports – spaces from four to six feet square boarded off by partitions varying in height. Within each pen are a low bench, a pile of tobacco leaves, and from one to three workers.
While many tobacco processing establishments were “handsome structures built expressly for the manufacture, fitted with c0nveniences and mitigating the inevitable drawbacks to the trade,” observed de Graffenried, others were not pleasant places to work for children or adults (even by 1890 when she wrote her scathing indictment of child labor practices):
Sallow faces, skin begrimed with tobacco dust, hair matted, garments stained – these [are the look of] the average tobacco stripper…. The little ones carry all the filth of the day’s occupation into their home, into their bed even, for they generally sleep in the clothes worn at work. By night as by day the same fumes are breathed….
In textile mills and tobacco shops the temperature is very high, and the children employed there work in many States eleven and twelve hours a day with the mercury ranging 100° all the year round.
It comes as no surprise then that, even if working conditions were substantially less abysmal for Alfred Eisenbraun, he and many of his fellow Allentonians would choose to enlist in the army while still only just teenagers. That opportunity presented itself as the drumbeats of war grew louder over the Spring and Summer of 1861.
Civil War Military Service
Just barely 15 when he enrolled for Civil War military service in Allentown, Lehigh County on 20 August 1861, Alfred Eisenbraun officially mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County 0n 30 August. Military records at the time described him as being 5’5″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion.
Entering at the rank of Musician with the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Alfred Eisenbraun was assigned to serve as the drummer boy for Company B. One of the first two of the four companies from the city of Allentown to muster in for duty with the newly formed 47th Pennsylvania, B Company was raised and then commanded by Emanuel P. Rhoads. A grandson of Peter Rhoads, Jr., former president of the Northampton Bank, Captain E. P. Rhoads had performed his Three Months’ Service as a First Lieutenant with the Allen Rifles when President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to defend the nation’s capital following Fort Sumter’s fall in mid-April 1861.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics, the 47th Pennsylvanians headed for Washington, D.C. Stationed about two miles from the White House beginning 21 September, they made their new home at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown. Henry D. Wharton, a Musician with the regiment’s C Company, penned the following update for the Sunbury American newspaper on 22 September:
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.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. 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.
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 they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.
Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment….
On 24 September, Alfred Eisenbraun and the men of Company B became part of the federal military service, mustering in with great pomp to the U.S. Army with their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Three days later, on 27 September, they were assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, they were on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvanians marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 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 arrived at 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, were situated close to Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”). 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 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….
During this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. Also around this time, companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
But Alfred Eisenbraun would not get to experience much, if any, of this military life and the occasional fun had by his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians. Diagnosed with typhoid fever, he initially received care at Camp Griffin, but was sent back to Georgetown with other ailing members of the regiment to receive more advanced care and prevent the further spread of disease to healthy 47th Pennsylvanians.
According to Schmidt, Eisenbraun “had been sick almost from the time the regiment left Camp Curtin” (in mid-September):
A few others were sick, including Alfred Eisenbraun, the 15 year old drummer of Company B. Pvts. Mennig and Weiss had visited Alfred at the fort on the 21st, passing several flocks of snow birds on the way, and found him getting better, pleased to see them, and happy to engage in some conversation.
….On Thursday morning [24 October] Capt. Rhoads and Pvt. Mennig had started out for a visit with Musician Eisenbraun at the fort’s hospital, when they learned that he and all the other sick men had been moved to the General Hospital in Georgetown. They speculated and hoped that Eisenbraun had gotten better or he would not have been moved….
Sadly, this hope proved unfounded. Alfred Eisenbraun, succumbed to the ravages of typhoid fever in Georgetown on Saturday, 26 October 1861. The Evening Star in Washington, D.C. reported in its 28 October 1861 edition that he died at a Union hospital operating out of the Union Hotel.
Laid to rest in Section F, Grave No. 553 at the Military Asylum Cemetery (now known as the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery), Alfred Eisenbraun was the second member of the regiment to die. The first was fellow drummer boy, John Boulton Young, a 13-year-old who was felled by smallpox while serving with the 47th’s Company C.
A Young Drummer Boy Remembered
On 30 October 1861, the Lehigh Register honored Alfred Eisenbraun with the following tribute:
Sorrowing parents, his comrades have laid him in the damp, cold grave, on the sacred soil of Virginia. Think you he is there? No, fond parents, he is not there. Look not in so dismal a place for the loved one of your hearts, for he is now in heaven.
Allentown’s German language newspaper, Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, then also reported Alfred Eisenbraun’s death, as well as the death of another member of the regiment (David Losch), in its 6 November 1861 edition. Roughly translated, the sad news delivered that day read as follows:
Deceased: Last Saturday, at the military hospital in Georgetown in the District of Columbia, Alfred E., a son of Mr. John D. Eisenbraun of this city, in his 16th year;– And at the same place last Wednesday, David, a son of Mr. John Losch, also of this city, at the approximate age of 22 years. The former was the drummer in Captain Rhoads’ company and the latter was a regular soldier in Captain Keck’s company [both of which are part of] the 47th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. The former [Eisenbraun] was buried in Georgetown, and the remains of the latter [Losch] have been returned to this city [Allentown] for burial.– Gently rest their ashes!
1. Alfred Eisenbraun (obituary). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh Register, 30 October 1861.
2. Alfred Eisenbraun (obituary), in “Gestörben.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, 6 November 1861.
3. Allen Esenbraun (death notice), in “Deaths of Soldiers.” Washington, D.C.: The Evening Star, 28 October 1861.
4. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
5. Burial Ledgers, The National Cemetery Administration and U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1861-1865.
6. 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.
7. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11), 1861-1865. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
8. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
9. de Graffenried, Clare. Child Labor, in Publications of the American Economic Association, vol. 5, no. 2: New York, March 1890 (accessed 22 March 2016). New York: American Economic Association.
10. Fabian, Monroe H. John Daniel Eisenbrown, in Pennsylvania Folklife Book 62, in Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine, vol. 24, no. 2. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, 1975.
11. Irish, Donna R. Eisenbrown, John Daniel and Charlotte Wolf (1820 immigration), in Pennsylvania German Marriages: Marriages and Marriage Evidence in Pennsylvania German Churches. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982. (Reprinted for Clearfield Co., by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1998, 1999.)
12. John Daniel Eisenbraun (attendance and baptismal records), in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania: 1845-1874.
13. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
14. U.S. Census (1840, 1850, 1860). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
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