Private Milton Peter Cashner — An Honorable Man Incorrectly Labeled a Deserter

Milton Peter Cashner, 1847-1934 (circa 1911, public domain).

Born in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 22 November 1847, Milton Peter Cashner was a son of John Cashner and Mary Ann (Snyder) Cashner (1827-1902), and the brother of Emaline/Emeline, Sarah, Alice, and Frank Cashner, who were respectively born circa 1842, 1844, 1849, and 1852.

During their early childhood years, Milton Cashner and his siblings resided with their parents in Lehigh County, but the family’s harmony was disrupted sometime during the early to mid-1850s by the sudden death of their patriarch. Their family matriarch, Mary Ann (Snyder) Cashner, who was the oldest child of Peter Snyder and Elizabeth (Haas) Snyder, then wed a second time—to blacksmith Thomas Newhard.

By 1860, the newly reconstituted family was residing in Allentown’s 4th Ward and included: Thomas Newhard and his wife, Mary Ann (Snyder Cashner) Newhard, Emaline/Emeline, Sarah, Alice, Frank, and Milton P. Cashner (who were shown on the federal census that year as having the surname “Newhard”), and their half-siblings Truses C. D. Newhard (1855-1891) and Oscar Newhard (1857-1937). Half-siblings Newton G. Newhard (1863-1916), Martin/Maine Newhard, and Montford/Monte Newhard then soon followed.

As the United States descended into the darkness of secession and disunion, Milton P. Cashner found work in the same trade as that of his stepfather—blacksmithing.

Civil War Military Service

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

On 24 January 1864, 18-year-old Milton P. Cashner enrolled for Civil War military service at the Union Army’s recruiting center in Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He then officially mustered in that same day as a Private with Company B of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He could not have known it at the time, but he was entering service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers just in time to make history with his new comrades in arms.

Connecting with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at their duty station at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida, Private Milton Cashner boarded a steamer with his regiment on 25 February 1864, and headed for Louisiana. Arriving three days later in Algiers (across from New Orleans), the 47th Pennsylvanians were then moved by train to Brashear City before heading to Franklin via steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only regiment from the great Keystone State to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.

From 14-26 March, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana (near the top of the “L” of this L-shaped state). As they progressed, they made their way through New IberiaVermilionvilleOpelousas, and Washington. Often short on food and water during their long, hard trek through enemy territory, they finally arrived at their destination in early April. From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron, James, and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Natchitoches. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty roughly three months later. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield (8 April 1864, public domain).

Moving on within a few days, they made camp briefly at Pleasant Hill during the evening of 7 April. The next day (8 April 1864), they engaged in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, also known as the Battle of Mansfield, losing 60 of their friends to fierce gun and cannon fire. In the confusion, others were reported as killed in action, but survived.

The fighting waned only when darkness fell, and as the uninjured collapsed in exhaustion beside their gravely wounded or dead comrades. After midnight, they and their fellow surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, 9 April 1864 (Harper’s Weekly, 7 May 1864, public domain).

The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

On that day, now known as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, 68-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls of Company C was wounded while attempting to mount the American flag on a Union artillery caisson that had been recaptured by members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Sergeant William Pyers of the same company was then also wounded while retrieving the flag when Walls fell, thereby preventing it from falling into enemy hands. The 47th also nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, who had been severely wounded in both legs.

In B Company, Edward Fink had been killed, and John Fries and Tilghman H. Reinsmith were wounded. Others had been captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war (POWs) by Confederate forces until released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, September, or November. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th died while in captivity there while still others remain missing to this day, possibly having been hastily interred on or between battlefields—or in unmarked prison graves.

Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for a total of eleven days (through 22 April 1864). After engaging in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications, they then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that night after completing a 45-mile march. En route, the Union forces were attacked again—this time in the rear, but they were able to end the encounter fairly quickly and continue on.

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed just to the left of the “Thick Woods” with Emory’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Division as shown on this map of Union troop positions for the Battle of Cane River at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Major-General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign Report, public domain).

The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”).

Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery.

Meanwhile, other Emory troops found and worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, and forced a Rebel retreat. That Union brigade then erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.

In a letter penned from Morganza, Louisiana on 29 May, Henry Wharton described what had happened to the 47th Pennsylvanians during and immediately after making camp at Grand Ecore:

Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.

While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.

The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.

After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.

Christened “Bailey’s Dam” for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt.-Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River near Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 facilitated Union gunboat passage (public domain).

Having finally reached Alexandria on 26 April, they learned they would remain at their latest new camp for at least two weeks. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they were assigned yet again to the hard labor of fortification work, helping to erect “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to more easily make their way back down the Red River. According to Wharton:

We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.

On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee.

“Sleeping on Their Arms” by Winslow Homer (Harper’s Weekly, 21 May 1864).

Having entered Avoyelles Parish, they “rested on their arms” for the night, half-dozing without pitching their tents, but with their rifles right beside them. They were now positioned just outside of Marksville, Louisiana on the eve of the 16 May 1864 Battle of Mansura, which unfolded as follows, according to Wharton:

Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport [sic] on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands. 

It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.*

After the surviving members of the 47th made their way through Simmesport and into the Atchafalaya Basin, they moved on to Morganza, where they made camp again. According to Wharton, the members of Company C were sent on a special mission which took them on an intense 120-mile journey:

Company C, on last Saturday was detailed by the General in command of the Division to take one hundred and eighty-seven prisoners (rebs) to New Orleans. This they done [sic] satisfactorily and returned yesterday to their regiment, ready for duty. While in the City some of the boys made Captain Gobin quite a handsome present, to show their appreciation of him as an officer gentleman.

While encamped at Morganza, the nine formerly enslaved Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania in Beaufort (1862) and Natchitoches, Louisiana (April 1864) were officially mustered into the regiment between 20-24 June 1864. The regiment then moved on once again, and arrived in New Orleans in late June.

During this same period of service, Private Charles Schwenk of Company B died on 20 June at a Union Army hospital in Baton Rouge.

As they did during their tour through the Carolinas and Florida, the men of the 47th had battled the elements and disease, as well as the Confederate Army, in order to survive and continue to defend their nation. But the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, would not. Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures, he was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. He later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.

Snicker’s Gap and the Battle of Cool Spring

Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers continued their fight to preserve the Union during the summer of 1864. After receiving orders on the 4th of July to return to the East Coast, they did so in two stages.

Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed for the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July while the men from Companies B, G and K remained behind on detached duty and to await transportation. Led by F Company Captain Henry S. Harte, they finally sailed away at the end of the month aboard the Blackstone, arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.

Due to the delay, Private Milton Cashner and the other boys from B Company missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, and also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah from August through November of 1864, it was here at this time and this place that the now full-strength 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would engage in their greatest moments of valor.

Records of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers confirm that the regiment was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August 1864, and engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.

From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers fought in the Battle of Berryville, and engaged in related post-battle skirmishes with the enemy over subsequent days.

Battle of Opequan/Third Winchester, Virginia, 19 September 1864 (public domain).

Inflicting heavy casualties during the Battle of Opequan (also known as “Third Winchester”) on 19 September, Sheridan’s gallant men forced a stunning retreat of Jubal Early’s Confederates—first to Fisher’s Hill (21-22 September) and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack. Their victories helped Abraham Lincoln win a second term as President.

From 23-24 September 1864, the regiment’s first and second-in-command, Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, both mustered out honorably upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately for Private Milton Cashner and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, they were replaced by others equally beloved for their temperament and front line experience, including John Peter Shindel Gobin, who would be repeatedly advanced in rank after being transferred from his role as Captain of C Company to the regiment’s central command.

Alfred Waud’s 1864 sketch, “Surprise at Cedar Creek,” captured the flanking attack on the rear of Union Brigadier-General William Emory’s 19th Corps by Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate army, and the subsequent resistance by Emory’s troops from their Union rifle pits, 19 October 1864 (public domain).

Sheridan’s Army also began the first Union “scorched earth” campaign during this period, starving Confederate forces and their supporters into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed by many today as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the turning of the war further in favor of the Union. Early’s men, successful in many prior engagements but now weakened by hunger, strayed from battlefields in increasing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864.

From a military standpoint, it was an impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles—all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:

When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”

Sheridan Rallying His Troops, Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, 19 October 1864 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The Union’s counterattack pounded Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:

When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.

Through it all, the casualty rates for the 47th continued to climb, including with Company B, which saw a number of its members killed, severely wounded in action, felled by disease, or captured and imprisoned as POWs at Confederate prisoner of war camps.

Given a slight respite after Cedar Creek, the men of the 47th were quartered at the Union’s Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December before receiving orders to assume outpost duty at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, Virginia (in what is now West Virginia) just five days before Christmas.

1865–1866

Right leg gunshot wound sustained by Private Milton P. Cashner in 1865 while serving with the 47th Pennsylvania (U.S. Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890, public domain; double click to enlarge).

While many 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were celebrating the beginning of a New Year and hoping it would be a better one than the four previous they had spent in combat, Private Milton Cashner was having a far less auspicious beginning to the final year of the American Civil War. In January 1865, he was shot in the leg while on duty at Stevenson’s Station in Virginia. As a result, he was awarded a veteran’s furlough in order to receive medical treatment and fully recover from the wound.

In the wake of that “Vulnus Sclopet” (gunshot wound), and as an unfortunate consequence of the confusion regarding the spelling of his surname which had persisted throughout his tenure of service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, he was subsequently charged with desertion—a charge which proved to be incorrect.

Honorable discharge of Private Milton P. Cashner (as “Kashner, Milton,” Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans’ Card File, public domain).

This charge—which was based on information presented on a muster roll which stated that he had, “Deserted While on Furlough in Penna Mar 1/65″—was in reality an error that was, unfortunately, perpetuated with the publication of Samuel P. Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, and was not put to rest until 1933 when that same muster roll was finally updated with the following notation:

War Department furnished information on Apr 5, 1933 that charge of desertion was removed, and was honorably disch Oct 15, 1884 to date Nov 1, 1865, under provisions of Act of Congress approved July 5, 1884. In same [illegible word] as MILTON P. KASHNER and MILTON KARSHNER (see separate papers of Regt).

As further confirmation that the charges against him were incorrect, Private Milton P. Cashner was not among the names of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers listed on the Descriptive List of Deserters. One of a surprising number of Civil War veterans who had been wrongly charged with being AWOL (absent without leave), he simply had been the victim of sloppy Union Army paperwork. At home in Pennsylvania—on an approved military furlough—he had been recovering from a gunshot wound sustained in service to his nation while an overworked, inattentive hospital clerk was inadvertently tarnishing his service record by entering the wrong data about him on a muster roll.

As later records confirm, Private Milton P. Cashner was officially, honorably discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers on 1 November 1865.

Return to Civilian Life

Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, 1877 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Following his return to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and his subsequent recovery from the gunshot wound he had sustained in Virginia, Milton P. Cashner set off down a new road in life. After marrying in 1870, he and his wife, Ellen (1856-1931), began to greet the arrival of children at their home in South Bethlehem. On August 2, 1886, he joined his local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Before the 1880s were over, a son and daughter—William Joseph (1887-1889) and Hattie M. C. Cashner—opened their eyes in Northampton County for the first time. Tragically, both died soon after their respective births. Following her passing on 16 April 1887, two-month-old Hattie was laid to rest at the Fountain Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem, Northampton County. Sixteen-month-old William then succumbed to “breast fever” on 9 January 1889, and was interred beside her at the same cemetery.

Like many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Milton Cashner continued to suffer from health problems long after his American Civil War service was over. On 26 July 1886, he filed for his U.S. Civil War Pension. In June 1890, he and his wife then welcomed the arrival of another child—Charles H. Cashner.

In 1900, Sholes’ Directory of the Bethlehems described Milton Cashner’s occupation as “justice,” and noted that he resided with his wife at 343 Broadway while operating a home office at 344 Broadway. The 1900 federal census taker confirmed that he and his wife had been married for 30 years, that they had had seven children together, only five of whom had survived by this time, and that their young son, Charles, was still in elementary school.

Two years later, his mother was gone. Following her death on 24 March 24 1902, she was laid to rest at the Fountain Hill Cemetery. The Allentown Democrat reported on her passing as follows:

DEATH OF MRS. THOMAS NEWHARD – Mrs. Mary Ann, widow of Thomas Newhard died on the 24th of March, of apoplexy, at her residence in South Bethlehem. Deceased was born in South Whitehall, Lehigh county, on Aug. 24th, 1827, and was a daughter of Peter and Elizabeth Snyder. She was twice married. The surviving children of the first marriage are Justice M. P. Cashner, of South Bethlehem, and Frank J. Cashner, Fountain Hill, and of the second, Oscar, Newton and Monte Newhard.

Pennsylvania’s State Treasurer reported that Milton Cashner was paid $25 for his commissioned work as a Notary Public in 1910; a federal census taker that year also noted that Cashner’s wife had given birth again sometime between 1900 and 1910, but that their child had not survived infancy. This federal census also described his occupation as real estate agent, and documented that son, Charles, had followed his father into the real estate industry, where he was employed as a clerk. During this era, Milton Cashner’s U.S. Civil War Pension increased from $12 per month in 1910 to $50 per month in 1920.

U.S. Passport application of Milton P. and Ellen Cashner, 1914 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

The 9 February 1912 edition of The Allentown Democrat documented that he was a “Justice of the Peace and real estate agent of South Bethlehem while other documents confirmed that he continued to remain active as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving in leadership roles at the state level as well as with his local G.A.R. chapter during the 20th century’s opening decade.

When he and his wife applied for U.S. Passports on 23 May 1914, he described himself as a 66-year-old Alderman who was 5’6” tall with gray hair, hazel eyes, and a round face with a florid complexion, straight nose, medium forehead, and large mouth. Their application was notarized by their son, Charles H. Cashner, a Notary Public. In 1916, he was appointed to another term as Justice of the Peace for South Bethlehem in Northampton County.

By 1920, Milton Cashner was working as an insurance agent, and residing alone with his wife at their home on Carlton in Bethlehem. Still spry well into his 80s, he was recognized for his stamina later that decade by The Nazareth Item. The publication’s 27 June 1929 edition noted his participation Hellertown’s Firemen’s Parade as follows:

Another old time fireman observed in the line of parade was Milton Cashner. In his 82nd year, a member of the Lehigh Hook and Ladder Company of Bethlehem, Milt was nosed out of winning the prize for the oldest fireman in line by one year.

Residing with his wife on Wyandotte Street in Bethlehem in 1930, Milton Cashner had finally retired by the time the federal census taker had arrived on his doorstep that year. Also residing at their home was a boarder, 83-year-old William Rice. The next New Year brought heartache, however; on Christmas Eve, 1931, Milton P. Cashner was widowed by his wife, Ellen. His wife was then laid to rest at the Fountain Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem, Northampton County.

Death and Interment

Three years later, Milton P. Cashner then answered his own final bugle call, passing away at the age of 84 in Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 18 December 1934. Following funeral services, he was interred beside his wife at the Fountain Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem.

Sources:

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

2. Cashner, Milton P., in Records of Burial Places of Veterans. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Military Affairs, 6 October 1931.

3. Cashner, Milton P. and Ellen, in Sholes’ Directories of the Bethlehems, 1900-1901. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Times Publishing Co., 1900.

4. Cashner, Milton P. and Kershner, Milton (alias), in U.S. Civil War Pension General Index Cards (application no.: 581009, certificate no.: 1159171, filed by the veteran on 26 July 1886). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

5. “Death of Mrs. Thomas Newhard.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, April 2, 1902.

6. Elizabeth Haas, Peter Snyder, Mary (Snyder) Cashner, John Cashner, Milton P. Cashner, Frank K. Kashner, Thomas Newhard, et. al., in The Pennsylvania-German: A Popular Magazine of Biography, History, Genealogy, Folklore, Literature, etc., vol. VII, H. A. Schuler, ed. Lebanon, Pennsylvania: Press of Report Publishing Company, 1906.

7. Kashner, Milton, in Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

8. Kashner, Milton P., in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

9. “Kershner, Milton now known as } Milton P. Cashner,” in United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (certificate no.: 1,159,171), 1909-1934.

10. Milton Cashner, in “Firemen’s Parade at Hellertown Sat.” Nazareth, Pennsylvania: The Nazareth Item, 27 June 1929.

11. Milton P. Cashner (re-appointment as Justice of the Peace). South Bethlehem: The Allentown Democrat, August 25, 1916.

12. Milton P. Cashner, in Pennsylvania Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, August 2, 1886.

13. Milton P. Cashner (Justice of the Peace, Northampton County), in Report of the State Treasurer on the Finances of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Year Ending November 30, 1900. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1901.

14. Milton P. Cashner (Notary Public Commissions), in “Receipts for January 1910,” in Report of the State Treasurer on the Finances for the Year Ending November 30, 1910. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Charles F. Wright, State Treasurer, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1911.

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

16. U.S. Census (1860, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930) and U.S. Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.