Alternate Spelling of Surname: Sourwine
Born in Pennsylvania on 20 June 1837, Thomas Franklin Sauerwein was described on his Civil War enlistment records as a carpenter from Allentown, Lehigh County, and on his Pennsylvania death certificate as a tannery foreman.
Civil War Military Service
Thomas Franklin Sauerwein enrolled for military duty at the age of 23 on 20 August 1861 at Allentown, Lehigh County, and 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.
Military records describe him as being 5 feet, 6 inches tall with brown hair, gray eyes and a dark complexion.
After receiving training in light infantry tactics, Private Thomas F. Sauerwein and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent by train to Washington, D.C., where they were stationed roughly two miles from the White House at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The men of the 47th were officially mustered into federal service on 24 September 1861.
On 27 September, the 47th was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade and, by the afternoon, were on the move again, under marching orders to head for Camp Lyon, Maryland on the eastern side of the Potomac River.
Arriving late that afternoon, they were joined by the men of the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick across a chain bridge, and then continued their march into Rebel territory and on toward Fall’s Church, Virginia. By dusk, after covering roughly eight miles that day, they pitched their tents in a deep ravine at Camp Advance near the Union’s new Fort Ethan Allen and the headquarters of W.F. Smith, commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac. They were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital, and they would do so with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State.
In October, Private Sauerwein and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to proceed with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads.
Their next important assignment saw them quartered briefly in barracks at Annapolis, Maryland before being ordered by 3rd Brigade commander, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan, to head for Key West, Florida.
Departing on 27 January 1862 with their new Springfield rifles on the steamer Oriental, they arrived in February and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor, a federal installation deemed strategically important by Union leaders. Although Florida had seceded from the Union in 1861, the state remained home to a number of Union supporters, including slaves fleeing captivity. On 14 February, the regiment made its presence known to area residents via a parade through the streets of Key West.
While here, Private Sauerwein and the other men of the 47th drilled in heavy artillery and other battle strategies – often for as long as eight hours per day. During this time, many of the 47th’s men lost their lives to typhoid and other tropical diseases, or to dysentery and other ailments that were spread from soldier to soldier by poor sanitary conditions.
Ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvania camped near Fort Walker and then quartered in the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Duties of 3rd Brigade members involved hazardous picket duty to the north of their main camp. According to Pennsylvania military historian, Samuel P. Bates, the 47th’s soldiers were known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan.”
On 30 September, the 47th undertook a return expedition to Florida where B Company participated with its regiment and other Union forces from 1 to 3 October in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked from gunboat-escorted troop carriers at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek. With the 47th Pennsylvania in the lead and braving alligators, Confederates and killer snakes, the brigade negotiated 25 miles of heavily forested swampland, and paved the way for the Union’s occupation of Jacksonville, Florida.
From 21-23 October 1862, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again. This time, however, their luck ran out. Bedeviled by snipers and facing heavily entrenched Confederate resistance, they were forced to weather cannon fire as they headed through an open cotton field. Those trying to reach the Frampton Plantation’s higher ground were savaged by artillery and infantry hidden in the surrounding forests.
Charging into the fire, Union forces pushed the Confederates into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. The 47th then relieved the 7th Connecticut, but after two hours of attempting, unsuccessfully, to take the ravine and bridge, the 47th was forced to withdraw to Mackey’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. On 23 October, Private Thomas Sauerwein and the 47th headed back to Hilton Head, where the regiment was awarded the high honor of firing the salute over the grave of General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South.
By 1863, Captain Rhoads and the men of B Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November, they spent the whole of 1862 at Fort Taylor with their comrades from Companies A, C, E, G, and I while those from Companies D, F, H, and K were sent to garrison the more remotely located Fort Jefferson off the coast of Florida in the Dry Tortugas. While at Fort Taylor, Private Sauerwein re-enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania, thereby earning the coveted designation of “Veteran Volunteer.”
On 25 February 1864, Private Thomas Sauerwein and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers began a phase of service during which their regiment would make history. Boarding another steamer, the Charles Thomas, the 47th traveled from New Orleans to Algiers, Louisiana. Arriving on 28 February, they then moved by rail to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in Union General Nathaniel P. Banks’ Red River Campaign across Louisiana.
From 14-26 March, the 47th trekked to Alexandria, Louisiana. On 8 April, 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.
The next day, 68-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin P. Walls of Company C was wounded during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, as was Sergeant William Pyers of the same company, who had picked up the American flag when Walls fell. The 47th also nearly lost their second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, who had been severely wounded. A number of others from the 47th were also wounded or killed in action; still others were captured and held as prisoners of war by Confederate forces at Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas until released during a prisoner exchange 22 July or in later exchanges in August or November. At least one member of the 47th never met it out alive while still others remain missing to this day.
On 23 April, the 47th made the Cane River Crossing via Monett’s Ferry, and built a dam across the Red River from 30 April through 10 May to make it easier for U.S. gunboats to travel to and from the Mississippi River.
On 13 May, the regiment moved to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June. On the 4th of July, they learned that their fight was still not over.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, Private Thomas Sauerwein and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers continued their fight to preserve the Union during the summer of 1864. After receiving orders 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 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, arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.
Due to the delay, the boys from B Company missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, and also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.
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.
On 19 September 1864, the 47th and the U.S. Army of the Shenandoah engaged the Confederate Army of Lieutenant General Jubal Early during the Battle of Opequan, Virginia. Also known as “Third Winchester,” many historians consider this intense battle with heavy casualties one of the most important of Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley campaigns.
On the same day as the Union’s Opequan victory, Thomas Sauerwein was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
From 21-22 September 1864, Sheridan’s Army met the Confederates again, this time at Fisher’s Hill, and drove Early’s troops further into retreat. On 23-24 September, Colonel Tilghman Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander mustered out upon the expiration of their respective terms of service.
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, West Virginia just five days before Christmas. They trudged through a snowstorm to reach their newest home away from home.
On 1 January 1865, Thomas Sauerwein was promoted again, this time to 1st Sergeant. By February, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah.
On 19 April 1865, 1st Sergeant Thomas Sauerwein and the 47th were ordered back to Washington, D.C. to defend the nation’s capital again – this time following President Lincoln’s assassination. At least one member of the regiment was assigned to guard the late President’s funeral train while others were involved in guarding the prison where the key accused assassination conspirators were held during the early days of their trial
While serving in the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps (Dwight’s Division), the 47th also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May. Captain Levi Stuber of Company I was promoted to the rank of Major.
On their last swing through the South, the 47th served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June as part of the 3rd Brigade, Dwight’s Division, Department of the South, and at Charleston and other parts of South Carolina beginning in June.
Duties for the 47th Pennsylvania during this period were Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related, including removing armaments from southern forts, rebuilding railroads and regional infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the war, and general civil operations in the absence of functioning local governments.
On 25 December 1865, 1st Sergeant Thomas F. Sauerwein mustered out with his regiment at the close of the Civil War at Charleston, South Carolina. While Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 lists him on rosters for both A and B companies, his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listings shows his membership with the 47th Pennsylvania as B Company only.
Return to Civilian Life
On 29 July 1912, Thomas Franklin Sauerwein died in Williamsport, Lycoming County. Both his death certificate and his Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card indicate that he was interred at the East Wildwood Cemetery in Loyalsock.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
3. Death Certificate (Thomas F. Sauerwein). Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Vital Statistics.
4. Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Card (Sauerwein, Thomas F.). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
5. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.