The Seislove Brothers of Company B

Alternate Spellings of Surname: Seislove, Seithloof, Seislaff, Sieslove, Siselof

Moravian Church, Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Moravian Church, Emmaus, Pennsylvania (public domain).

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.)

Early Years

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.

Red River Campaign

The Seisloves were also joining the 47th Pennsylvania at the time the regiment was about to make history. Boarding a steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry 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 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 (see map above), 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.

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.

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

On that day, now known as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the 47th nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexanderwho had been severely wounded in both legs. In addition, 68-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls of Company C was wounded while trying to mount the regimental colors on a caisson that had been recaptured from Confederate troops, as was Sergeant William Pyers of the same company, who had picked up the American flag when Walls fell, preventing it from falling into enemy hands.

In B Company, John Fries and Tilghman H. Reinsmith were wounded; Edward Fink was killed. Others, who had been captured, were marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas (the largest Confederate prison west of the Mississippi), where they would be held as prisoners of war (POWs) 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, the Seislove brothers 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 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 Emanuel 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

Together with other regiments under the command of Union Major-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.

Image of the victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces. Kurz & Allison, circa 1893. Public domain, courtesy of the Library of Congress: LC-DIG-pga-01855 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-1753 (color film copy transparency).

Victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate troops (Kurz & Allison, circa 1893, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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 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 Brigadier-General 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

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).

It was during the fall of 1864 that Major-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 fought so valiantly that they would later be 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. Even 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 guard 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

Matthew Brady’s photograph of spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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 sent home by soldiers during this period 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 the early days of their imprisonment.

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.

Ruins seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, SC, 1865. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (111-B-4667, public domain).

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina as seen from the Circular Church, 1865 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

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

Allentown, Pennsylvania (c. 1865, public domain).

Allentown, Pennsylvania (circa 1865, public domain).

Following his honorable discharge from the military, David A. Seislove returned home to the Lehigh Valley, and reconnected with his family and old friends.

On 25 January 1869, he wed Clara Saul. Sometime around 1871, they welcomed a daughter, Clara, to their Allentown home. Another daughter, Mary, followed sometime around 1873. On 16 July 1875, son Edward made his appearance at the Seislove’s Allentown home. In January of 1877, David and Clara Seislove then greeted the arrival of their youngest son, Frank. 

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.

Sadly, just four years later, David A. Seislove was gone. Following his death 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 also rest.

Return to Civilian Life — John Seislove

Center Square at 7th Street (Allen House Hotel at right; Allentown Bank and Board of Trade, looking north, top), Allentown, Pennsylvania 1876 (public domain).

Center Square at 7th Street, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1876 (Allen House Hotel at right; Allentown Bank and Board of Trade, looking north, top; public domain).

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.

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.

What Happened to the Children of David Seislove?

Born on 16 July 1875, David Seislove’s son Edward went on to marry, and lived 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.

The path of David Seislove’s youngest son, Frank, however, was rockier. Like all too many of the sons of returning Civil War veterans, the formative years for Frank Seislove would prove to be challenging. Just seven when his father suffered an untimely death at the age of 37, Frank “fell in with the wrong crowd” soon afterward. By 1893, The Allentown Leader was reporting that he had become a criminal in the eyes of the law:

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, Frank was in trouble again. According to The Lebanon Semi-Weekly News:

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.

By 1898, however, Frank Seislove had turned his life around. Like his older brother, he had enlisted 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. According to America’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator for members of its armed forces, he was interred at the Philadelphia National Cemetery.

What Happened to the Children of John Seislove?

John Seislove’s son, Harry, went on to marry, 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.

Daughter 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 19-year-old married sister, Emma Baus.

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. She then succumbed to heart failure six days later on 27 September, and was interred at the Highland Memorial Cemetery in Allentown.

Annie Alice Seislove also later wed, taking the married surname “Reinert.”

Sources:

1. Allentown Democrat, The. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Various Editions:

  • “John Seislove” (obituary). Allentown: The Allentown Democrat, 28 December 1908.
  • “Laid to Rest” (John Seislove’s funeral notice). Allentown: The Allentown Democrat, 30 December 1908.

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

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

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

5. “Coal Thieves Pulled In: They Have Been Keeping Themselves and Their Neighbors Well Supplied with Fuel.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 1 November 1893.

6. “Five Bound for Huntingdon.” Lebanon, Pennsylvania: Lebanon Semi-Weekly News, 28 January 1895.

7. Frank Seislove and Kate Butler, in “Philadelphia Marriage License Index.” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, 1904.

8. John and David Seislove, in Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

9. Reuben Zeislof and Hannah Muthard, in Emmaus Moravian Church Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 31 January 1836.

10. Seislove and Zeislof Baptismal, Marriage, Death and Burial Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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

12. Stegall, Joel T. Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.

13. U.S. Census (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

14. U.S. Civil War, Spanish-American War, and other military pension records. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.