Alternate Spellings of Surname: Seislove, Seithloof, Seislaff, Sieslove, Siselof
Born in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, John and David A. Seislove were sons of Pennsylvania natives, Reuben and Hannah (Muthard) Seislove, who had wed at the Moravian Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania on 31 January 1836. (Reuben, who had been born in 1815, would later die in Allentown 7 February 1876. Hannah, born in 1816, passed away in Allentown two decades later on 8 July 1896.)
John Seislove was born on 15 February 1842; David A. Seislove arrived five years later – on 10 March 1847. In 1850, they lived in Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with their parents and older brother, James (born in Pennsylvania sometime around 1839), and younger sister, Mary (born in Lehigh County sometime around 1848). Their father supported the growing Seislove family on the wages of a laborer.
By 1860, according to the federal census for that year, the Seislove siblings (John, David, Clinton, and Emma Catilia) lived with their parents in Trexlertown in Upper Macungie Township. Reuben and John supported the family as day laborers.
* Note: Clinton Seislove, who was born in Lehigh County on 15 June 1852, later wed Anna Frankenfield (1853-1938), the daughter of Samuel and Marie (Kocher) Frankenfield in 1873. He resided in Allentown with Anna and their children, Raymond, Annie and Claude, and died in Allentown from heart disease on 7 April 1939. (He was interred at Allentown’s Greenwood Cemetery, the same cemetery where his older brother, John, was laid to rest.)
Emma Seislove, who was born in Trexlertown on 15 October 1853, also later married. Widowed by Willoughby N. Schaffer, she died from heart disease on 19 December 1924 in Allentown. (She was interred at the Union-West End Cemetery – the same cemetery there where her parents were later laid to rest — three days before Christmas on 22 December 1924.)
Civil War Military Service
John and David A. Seislove both enrolled and mustered in for military service at the Union Army’s recruiting depot at Norristown, Pennsylvania on 2 February 1864. Both were assigned to Company B of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time indicated John was a 21-year-old farmer residing in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania who was 5’4-1/2” tall with brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion while David was an 18-year-old Lehigh County laborer who was 5’3” tall with light hair, gray eyes and a fair complexion.
At the time of their enlistment, the Seislove brothers were joining a regiment that was already battle hardened and toughened by the adversity of service in America’s Deep South. The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had lost men to disease since the regiment’s earliest days spent defending the nation’s capital, and continued to do so when the regiment was sent to Florida to garrison Fort Taylor in Key West and Fort Jefferson in the remote Dry Tortugas.
The Seisloves were also joining the 47th Pennsylvania at the time the regiment was about to make history. Steaming on 25 February 1864 for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign spearheaded by Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.
From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the back-and-forth volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.
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.
Casualties were severe. Among others, the regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Still others were captured by Confederate troops, marched 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison near Tyler, Texas, and held there until released during prisoner of war exchanges months later. At least two members of the regiment never made it out of that prison alive.
Following what some historians have called a drubbing by the Confederate Army and others have called a technical Union victory (or at least a draw), the 47th Pennsylvania fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they then scored another victory against the Confederates, this time at Cane Hill.
On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, which enabled federal gunboats to successfully traverse the rapids of the Red River.
Beginning 16 May, the Seislove brothers and B Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, the Seislove brothers and their 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, the 47th 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 beginning in August, September saw the promotion of several men from Company B and the departure of others. On 18 September 1864, B Company Captain Emmanuel P. Rhoads mustered out upon expiration of his three-month term of service, and was replaced by Captain Edwin G. Minnich. Minnich’s men and the other remaining members of the 47th did not yet know it, but they were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of individual and collective valor.
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864
Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the Seislove brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces at Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.
The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny at Opequan began at 2 a.m. on 19 September 1864 as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. After advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps became bogged down for several hours by the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. After finally reaching and fording the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Confederate Army. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.
The 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by General William Emory to attack and pursue Major General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice – once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.
The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.
Moving forward, the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they would be replaced with leaders who were equally respected for their front line experience and temperament, including Major John Peter Shindel Gobin, formerly of the 47th’s Company C, who had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and responsibility of regimental commanding officer).
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents – civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day.
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!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched 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.
Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Captain Edwin G. Minnich, the commanding officer of Company B, was killed as was Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. A significant number of enlisted men were also killed or wounded in action and, as with the Battle of Pleasant Hill six months earlier, a number of men from the 47th Pennsylvania were taken captive and held as prisoners of war. At least one ended up at the Confederate Army’s infamous prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia; others were forced to deal with the horrendous conditions at the Confederate prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. Once again, several members of the regiment died while still being held as POWs.
Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to outpost and railroad guarding duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia. Five days before Christmas they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.
1865 – 1866
Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved back to Washington, D.C., via Winchester and Kernstown. By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.
Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their imprisonment and trial.
As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May.
On their final southern tour, the men of Company B and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Attached again to Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania next quartered in Charleston at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.
There, the Seislove brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers performed largely Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related duties, including rebuilding key segments of the region’s infrastructure. As with previous assignments in the Deep South, disease was a constant companion and thinner of ranks.
As summer waned, Private David A. Seislove became the first of the Seislove brothers to end his service to the nation. He was honorably discharged from Charleston, South Carolina on 27 September 1865 while brother John continued to serve as Winter came and took hold.
Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, Private John Seislove joined with the majority of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers in their gradual mustering out at Charleston, South Carolina – a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.
Return to Civilian Life – David A. Seislove
Following his honorable discharge from the military, David A. Seislove returned home to the Lehigh Valley where, on 25 January 1869, he wed Clara Saul. Sometime around 1871, they welcomed a daughter, also named Clara, to their Allentown home. Daughter Mary followed sometime around 1873.
On 16 July 1875, son Edward made his appearance at the Seislove’s Allentown home.
Edward Seislove would later wed, and live with his wife, Anna, in Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey. A Private with Company D of the 4th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Spanish American War, Edward Seislove performed his service at Chickamauga, Virginia from 14 June 1898 to 16 November 1898. In 1920, he operated a cigar store in Philadelphia. By 1930, he was in the retail grocery trade and, according to the 1940 federal census, owned a Trenton grocery store. He passed away in 1964, and was interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Trenton.
In January of 1877, the Seisloves greeted the arrival of their youngest son, Frank.
Like all too many of the sons of returning Civil War veterans, the formative years for Frank Seislove were challenging. Just seven when his father suffered an untimely death at the age of 37, Frank fell in with the wrong crowd before a decade had passed. Viewed as a 16-year-old local entrepreneur by some, The Allentown Leader reported that he had become a criminal in the eyes of the law on 1 November 1893:
Detective Smith and Constable Gallagher this morning arrested Fred. Gallagher, Ed. Rogers and Frank Seislove, of the Sixth Ward, for stealing coal. The fellows were well organized and stole coal by the ton. They then sold it to the people in the Sixth.
They have been causing endless annoyance to the Lehigh Valley Railroad people. John Winch, who hauled the coal for the young vandals has been arrested for receiving stolen goods…..
Two years later, he ended up in trouble again. The Lebanon Semi-Weekly News reported in its 28 January 1895 edition that “Sheriff Frank Bower, of Lehigh county, passed through on the 228 train Friday afternoon for the Huntingdon Reformatory with Wilson Bloss, Frank Seislove, Edward Pritchard, Edward Quier, and Harry Moser, who were sentenced to the institution by the court two weeks ago.”
But by 1898, Frank Seislove had turned his life around. Like his older brother, he was serving in the military as a Private with Company B of the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteers. In June 1900, he was stationed in Cuba – as a Private with the U.S. Army’s 8th Infantry. By 1904, he had begun his own family, marrying Kate Butler in Philadelphia. He apparently also had at least one child. Pension records indicate that Catherine Loper, a guardian of Frank Seislove’s dependent minor, filed an application for benefits for that child from Pennsylvania on 10 August 1921. This pension application date also means that Frank Seislove may have died during or prior to that year. (He was interred at the Philadelphia National Cemetery, according to America’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator for members of its armed forces.)
In 1880, the federal census reported that David A. Seislove was employed at a rolling mill while residing in Allentown with his wife, Clara, and their four children: Clara, Mary, Edward, and Frank.
Just four years later, David A. Seislove joined his son in death, passing away in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 7 April 1884.He was interred at the Union-West End Cemetery, the same Allentown cemetery where his parents are also at rest.
Return to Civilian Life – John Seislove
Following his honorable discharge from the military, John Seislove also returned home to the Lehigh Valley and also wed in 1869. His bride was Catharine (1845-1914). Various sources list her maiden name as “Odenheimer” or “Freese” (alternate spelling: “Frise”). In 1870, John and Catharine made their home in Allentown. He supported his wife on the wages of a laborer.
On 6 December 1871, John and Catherine welcomed son Harry Edwin Seislove (1871-1939) to their Allentown home. Daughter Cora followed on 20 November 1872 while son Charles Frederick arrived in March 1875. Daughter Minerva opened her eyes in Allentown for the first time on 8 February 1877. On 9 September 1879, John and Catharine welcomed daughter Annie Alice Seislove to their Allentown home.
Harry Seislove later wed, and began his own family with wife, Luella, before passing away in Allentown on 4 July 1939. (He was laid to rest at the Greenwood Cemetery in Allentown.)
Cora L. Seislove wed Charles Addis in Allentown on 20 January 1894. After raising their family, she succumbed to uterine cancer there on 8 February 1927. (She was also laid to rest at the Greenwood Cemetery in Allentown.)
C. Frederick (“Fred”) Seislove married in 1899, was employed as a drawer for the local wire mill, and made his home in Allentown in 1900 with his wife, Louise (born in Pennsylvania in April 1874), and her married sister, Emma Baus (age 19).
Minerva (“Minnie”) Seislove wed Jonas Romig in 1895. After raising her family and enjoying a long full life, Minnie suffered a severe fall at her Allentown home, fracturing her hip on 21 September 1956, and passing away there from heart failure six days later on 27 September. (She was interred at the Highland Memorial Cemetery in Allentown.)
Annie Alice Seislove also later wed, taking the married surname “Reinert.”
Still employed as a laborer in 1880, John Seislove and his family continued to reside in Allentown, as they did after the turn of the century. The 1900 federal census described John’s occupation as “Carb Stone Setter.” His household included his wife; daughter Annie, a silk mill winder; son Harry, and Harry’s wife, Ella.
Death and Interment
Sadly, the old soldier slipped away just eight years later on Christmas Eve in 1908. Although The Allentown Democrat incorrectly reported the date of John Seislove’s honorable discharge from the military, the 28 December edition of the newspaper did provide other important details regarding his life and death:
John Seislove, an aged and respected veteran of the Civil War, died on Thursday night at his home, 625 North Lumer [sic] street, aged 66 years, 10 months and 10 days. Deceased was a son of the late Reuben and Hannah Seislove and was born in Lower Saucon township. He enlisted in Co., B 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Captain Kleckner, on February 2, 1864 and was honorably discharged on April 25, 1865, at Charleston, S.C. He was married in 1869 to Miss Catherine Frise in this city. The wife is still living. These children survive: Harry E. Seislove, C. Fred Seislove, Mrs. C. Addis, Mrs. Janos Romig, Mrs. John Reinert, Mrs. Sterner, all of this city. A brother, Clinton Seislove, of this city, and two sisters, Mrs. William Shafer, of this city, and Mrs. Tilghman Ruhe, of Iowa, also survive. A member of E.B. Young Post No. 87, G.A.R. Funeral will be held on Tuesday.
In its 30 December edition, The Allentown Democrat reported on his funeral:
The funeral of John Seislove, the Civil War veteran, who died Thursday, was held yesterday afternoon with services at his late home, No. 625 North Lumber street, Rev. T.F. Herman officiating. Veterans of the G.A.R. attended and acted as pallbearers. Burial was made in Greenwood Cemetery. Among the floral tributes were: “Vacant Chair” children; wreath, neighbors; sheaf of wheat, Miss Anna Nagle.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. 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.
3. Civil War Veterans Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
4. Five Bound for Huntingdon, in Lebanon Semi-Weekly News. Lebanon: 28 January 1895.
5. Frank Seislove and Kate Butler, in Philadelphia Marriage License Index. Philadelphia: Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, 1904.
6. John and David Seislove, in Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
7. Reuben Zeislof and Hannah Muthard, in Emmaus Moravian Church Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 31 January 1836.
8. Seislove and Zeislof Baptismal, Marriage, Death and Burial Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
9. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
10. The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: Various Editions:
- John Seislove (obituary), in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 28 December 1908.
- Laid to Rest (John Seislove’s funeral notice), in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 30 December 1908.
11. The Allentown Leader. Allentown: Various Editions:
- Coal Thieves Pulled In: They Have Been Keeping Themselves and Their Neighbors Well Supplied with Fuel, in The Allentown Leader. Allentown: 1 November 1893.
12. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1890.
13. U.S. Civil War, Spanish American War and other military pension records. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.