Reichart, Edmund O. (Private)

Alternate Spellings of Given Name: Edmund, Edwin. Alternate Spellings of Surname: Reichard, Reichart, Reichert.

Born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 22 November 1835, Edmund O. Reichart was the son of Pennsylvania native, John George Reichart (1782-1858), and Lydia (Yeager) Reichart (1797-1869), a native of Hanover, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. His siblings included: G. Tilghman Reichart (1830-1911), J. Robert Reichart, Harriet Ann (Reichart) Osenbach (1824-1902), and Lydia Ann (Reichart) Moyer (1832-1912).

He was employed as a bricklayer and residing in Rittersville, Lehigh County at the start of the Civil War.

Civil War Service

Camp Curtin (Harpers Weekly, 1861; public domain).

Camp Curtin (Harper’s Weekly, 1861, public domain).

On 20 August 1861, at the age of 25, Edmund Reichart enrolled for military service at Allentown, Lehigh County. He then mustered in as a Private with Company B of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 30 August 1861. While there, he received training in light infantry tactics.

Military records describe him as being 5’10” tall with brown hair, gray eyes and a dark complexion.

Transported by rail to Washington, D.C. on 20 September, Private Reichart and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were granted a brief respite at the Soldiers’ Retreat in the nation’s capital before being marched off to their new camp—“Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched their tents there beginning 21 September 1861.

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

On 27 September—a rainy day, the 47th Pennsylvania was 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, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen 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 fairly close to the headquarters of Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (also known as “Baldy”), 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 to America’s Deep South.

In October, they were ordered to proceed with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a mid-October letter home, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that 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.

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”

As a reward—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan ordered that new Springfield rifles be obtained and distributed to every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.

1862 – 1863

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

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

According to Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment, those preparations ceased on Monday, 27 January, at 10 a.m. when:

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

Reloading then resumed. By that afternoon, when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. The officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

Alfred Waud’s 1862 sketch of Fort Taylor and Key West, Florida (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West in February, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, they introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at local churches.

While stationed in Key West, the men of the 47th drilled in heavy artillery and other tactics—often as much as eight hours per day. They also felled trees, built roads and strengthened the installation’s fortifications.

Their time was made more difficult by the prevalence of disease. Many of the 47th’s men lost their lives to typhoid and other tropical diseases, or to dysentery and other ailments spread from soldier to soldier by poor sanitary conditions. Private Solomon Diehl of Company B was one of those struck down in this manner.

Fort Walker, Hilton Head, South Carolina, circa 1861 (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, public domain).

Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, they camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly 35 miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.

Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July).

Illustration of the Union Navy's base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

The Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

Beginning 30 September 1862, the 47th made a return expedition to Florida. Company B participated with the 47th and other Union troops in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested, snake and alligator-infested swamps. Ultimately, the brigade forced the Rebels to abandon their artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.

Integration of the Regiment

On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania made history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls a Black teen and several young to middle-aged Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina:

  • Just 16 years old at the time of his enlistment, Abraham Jassum joined the 47th Pennsylvania from a recruiting depot on 5 October 1862. Military records indicate that he mustered in as “negro undercook” with Company F at Beaufort, South Carolina. Military records described him as being 5 feet 6 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and stated that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” Records also indicate that he continued to serve with F Company until he mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 when his three-year term of enlistment expired.
  • Also signing up as an Under Cook that day at the Beaufort recruiting depot was 33-year-old Bristor Gethers. Although his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives listed him as “Presto Gettes,” his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing spelled his name as “Bristor Gethers” and his wife’s name as “Rachel Gethers.” This index also includes the aliases of “Presto Garris” and “Bristor Geddes.” He was described on military records as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. He mustered in as “Negro under cook” with Company F on 5 October 1862, and mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service. Federal records indicate that he and his wife applied for his Civil War Pension from South Carolina.
  • Also attached initially to Company F upon his 15 October 1862 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of Under Cook with the 47th Pennsylvania at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and then transferred to Company H on 11 October 1864. Like Abraham Jassum, Edward Jassum also continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until being honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service.

More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.

Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina

Union Army map, Pocotaligo-Coosawhatchie Expedition, 21-23 October 1862 (public domain).

From 21-23 October, Edmund Reichart participated in his regiment’s first major battle—one in which 18 enlisted men would be killed and another 114 wounded. Under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina—including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge—during the Battle of Pocotaligo.

Landing at Mackay’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again. This time, however, their luck ran out. Their brigade was bedeviled by snipers and faced massive resistance from an entrenched Confederate battery, which opened fire on the Union troops as they headed through an open cotton field. Those trying to reach the higher ground of the Frampton Plantation were pounded by Confederate artillery and infantry hidden in the surrounding forests.

Charging into the fire, Union forces fought the Confederates where they found them, pushing them into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. At this juncture, the 47th then relieved the 7th Connecticut, but after two hours of exchanging fire while attempting, unsuccessfully, to take the ravine and bridge, the men of the 47th were forced by their dwindling ammunition to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania at Pocotaligo were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; another two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded, including Privates Martin W. Leisenring and Obadiah Pfeiffer. Several resting places for 47th soldiers remain unidentified, their locations lost to sloppy Army or hospital records management, or because one comrade was forced to hastily bury or leave behind the body of another while dodging fire or retreating.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania headed back to Hilton Head, where members of the regiment were assigned to serve on the honor guard during the funeral of General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South. Mitchel, who had died of yellow fever at the Union Army’s hospital at Hilton Head on 30 October, had initially gained fame in 1846 as an astronomer at the University of Cincinnati, following his discovery of The Mountains of Mitchel on Mars. The town of Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s self-governed community created after the Civil War, was also named for him.

On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another Black man escape from slavery near Beaufort when they added 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5 feet 4 inch-tall laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, he was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and served until the expiration of his own three-year term of service on 31 October 1865.

1863

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

Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 for the men of the 47th Pennsylvania was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. The members of B Company joined with Companies A, C, E, G, and I in garrisoning Key West’s Fort Taylor while the soldiers from Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.

It was a noteworthy year not just for the casualties incurred on duty or wrought by disease—but for the clear commitment of the men of the 47th to preserving the Union. Many chose to reenlist when their terms of service expired, opting to finish the fight rather than returning home to families and friends.

1864

In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Meanwhile, all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had already begun preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana during the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.

But Private Edmund Reichart would not be joining his comrades for either trip. On 1 March 1864, he was transferred to Company I of the 20th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps. His index card from the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives notes that he was transferred “to invalid Corps 3-1-64,” an indication that he had either been wounded on duty (likely during the Battle of Pocotaligo), or had been felled by one of the tropical diseases that had sickened so many of the 47th Pennsylvania while the regiment was stationed in the Deep South.

The U.S. Veterans Schedule of 1890 indicates that he mustered out of the Veteran Reserve Corps on 6 June 1864.

After the War

Rittersville Pike (Hanover Avenue), looking west toward the Manhattan Hotel (Rittersville, Pennsylvania, circa 1907, public domain).

In 1891, Edmund O. Reichart married. By 1900, he was living in Rittersville with his wife, Mary, and Helen S. Ritter, who was his niece, according to federal census records. Although he continued to work as a bricklayer while his niece was employed with the local silk mill, his health gradually began to fail.

On 4 December 1906, Edmund O. Reichart died of organic heart disease in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Funeral services were held from his home near the Manhattan Hotel in Rittersville with formal services held at St. Peter’s Lutheran and Reformed Church, and officiated by Rev. I. B. Ritter. Edmund O. Reichart was then interred with full military honors at the Rittersville Cemetery in Allentown on 8 December 1906. Attendees included Reichart’s fellow members of the Grand Army of the Republic (Yeager G.A.R. Post 13) and the International Order of Odd Fellows, Keystone Lodge, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Sources:

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

2. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

3. Death Certificates (Reichart family). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Vital Statistics.

4. “Edwin O. Reichard” (funeral notice) and “Will of E. O. Reichard.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 10 December 1906 and 17 January 1907.

5. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.

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

7. U.S. Census (1900) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

8. U.S. Civil War Pension Index (application no.: 209636, certificate no.: 144453, filed by the veteran on 9 November 1875). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.