Alternate Presentations of Given Name: Christian, Christ. Alternate Spellings of Middle Name: Seiler, Syler. Alternate Spellings of Surname: Baird, Beard
His name was Christ, and he became one of America’s earliest responders to calls for volunteers to defend the nation’s capital at the dawn of one of the United States’ darkest periods of history—the American Civil War.
Although several professional genealogists and dedicated family history research enthusiasts have come to believe that Christian Seiler Beard may have been born in Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, definitive data about the childhood of this son of the Great Keystone State remains elusive as of the year 2022. The informant for his Pennsylvania state death certificate stated that his parents’ names and birth locations were “Unknown.”
What is known for certain is that Christian Seiler Beard was a native Pennsylvanian, who was born on 15 February 1834, and that, by 1860, he had married Mary Ann Hummel, who had been born sometime around 1837, and was a daughter of Philip and Sophia Hummel. The young couple resided in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, where Christ Beard had found work as a carpenter.
Civil War Military Service
Following the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces in mid-April 1861, Christian Seiler Beard became one of the early Pennsylvanians responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After enrolling for military service at the age of 27 at Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, he then officially mustered in for duty on 23 April 1861 at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County as a Private with Company D, 11th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
* Note: Also serving in the same regiment, but in a different company from Christian Beard, were dozens of men who would later serve under him as he worked his way up the ranks of Company C of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. The majority of these men—in both F Company of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers and C Company of the 47th Pennsylvania—were former members of the local Northumberland County militia unit known as the “Sunbury Guards.”
Following a brief training period, the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers were transported by train on 4 May to Camp Wayne near West Chester, where they were equipped with uniforms, arms and ammunition, and continued to train for another three weeks. On 27 May 1861, the regiment was assigned to guard the Pittsburgh, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. During this time, Private Christian Beard and his fellow Company D men were stationed at Perryville.
Three weeks later, the regiment was ordered to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the men made camp and received additional equipment and other supplies. Ordered back to Pennsylvania in mid-June, they were briefly posted to Chambersburg before returning to Maryland soil for their next duty assignment. On 20 June 1861, the regiment was attached to the 7th U.S. Infantry’s 6th Brigade under the command of Colonel John J. Abercrombie.
Ordered to ford the Potomac River, the men of the 7th Infantry began crossing in the early morning hours of 2 July 1861. As the 11th Pennsylvanians reached Virginia soil near Williamsport (ahead of their fellow 7th Infantrymen from other regiments), they were sent toward Hoke’s Run where Union intelligence officials had reported the massing of Rebel troops. Initially encountering no resistance, Union leaders ordered their men to rest until the remainder of the 7th Infantry reached and rejoined them.
Reunited, they continued on and found the enemy they had been hunting. As the 11th Pennsylvanians advanced under heavy fire from a Confederate States Army force led by Colonel Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson, they moved toward the right of the 1st Wisconsin, and pushed through a wooded area. As they did, the 11th Pennsylvanians were peppered and smacked by rifle and artillery fire launched by enemy soldiers who were hidden safely behind trees, in barns, and anywhere else that would protect them. Under siege, the Union Army infantrymen eventually received help from the artillery, enabling them to slowly force the enemy to back off.
Casualties in the 11th Pennsylvania were light with only one man killed and 10 wounded.
Known as the Battle of Falling Waters, the engagement was the first Civil War battle in the Shenandoah Valley. (A second battle with a different military configuration occurred there in 1863.) Also known as the Battle of Hainesville or Hoke’s Run, this first Battle of Falling Waters helped to pave the way for the Confederate Army victory at Manassas later that month, according to historians who have theorized that the unexpected show of resistance by Confederate troops may have been at the root of the timidity displayed by certain Union Army leaders.
Those speculations aside, the 11th Pennsylvanians performed admirably at Falling Waters on 2 July, and were heralded for their valor by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin, who proudly labeled the regiment “the Bloody Eleventh.”
On 3 July 1861, the 11th Pennsylvanians and their fellow 6th Brigaders were ordered to occupy the nearby town of Martinsburg, Virginia, which they did until 15 July when they were ordered on to Bunker Hill and then Charlestown. Moving to Harper’s Ferry on 21 July, the regiment was then sent back across the Potomac River; from there, the regiment marched for Sandy Hook, where the men were then ordered to head for Baltimore and home to Harrisburg for muster out.
Of their service to the nation, F. J. Porter, Assistant Adjutant General wrote that “the conduct of the regiment has merited” the “highest approbation” from their commanding officer, Major-General Patterson:
It had the fortune to be in the advance at the affair at Hoke’s Run, where the steadiness and gallantry of both officers and men, came under his personal observation. They have well merited his thanks.
Upon honorable completion of his Three Months’ Service, Private Christian S. Beard was officially mustered out from the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Camp Curtin on 1 August 1861.
Christian Beard then promptly re-upped for a three-year tour of duty, re-enrolling on 19 August 1861 at Sunbury in Northumberland County, and re-mustering in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 2 September 1861 as a Sergeant with Company C , 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time described him as a being a 27-year-old carpenter from Northumberland County who was 5’10-1/2” tall with black hair gray eyes and a dark complexion. Sergeant Beard’s company was often referred to as the “Sunbury Guards” since it was comprised largely of former members of the Sunbury Guards militia, as well as other men from Sunbury and its surrounding Northumberland County communities.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, Sergeant Christian S. Beard and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania were transported south by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched their tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. The next day, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for the Sunbury American:
After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.
On 24 September, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the U.S. Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service. On 27 September, 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 and headed for 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.
Marching on toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, they made camp 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 south.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. In a mid-October letter home, Company C’s Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin 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.
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis 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 for their performance—and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.
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 railcars 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. Sergeant Christian Beard and his fellow officers were among the last to board. Then, 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.
In early February 1862, Sergeant Christ Beard and his men from Company C arrived in Key West with their fellow members of the regiment, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. On 14 February, they made their presence known to area residents as the regiment paraded through the city’s streets. That weekend, a number of men also mingled with residents during local church services.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation, felled trees and built new roads. A number of men fell ill, largely due to the poor water quality and sanitary conditions, but also due to the harsh climate.
On 1 April 1862, Sergeant Christian S. Beard was promoted from the rank of Sergeant to First Sergeant.
According to Schmidt, 4 June 1862 proved to be a festive day for the regiment. As the USS Niagara sailed for Boston after transferring its responsibilities to the USS Potomac as the flagship of the Union Navy squadron in that sector, the guns of 15 warships anchored nearby fired a salute, as did the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company also “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM.”
From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where the men made camp before being housed roughly 35 miles to the south in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District.
Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, during this phase of their service, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”
Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July).
During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly 25 miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October) that had been abandoned by Confederate forces during the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.
In his report on the matter, filed from Mount Pleasant Landing, Florida on 2 October 1862, Colonel Tilghman H. Good described the Union Army’s assault on Saint John’s Bluff:
In accordance with orders received I landed my regiment on the bank of Buckhorn Creek at 7 o’clock yesterday morning. After landing I moved forward in the direction of Parkers plantation, about 1 mile, being then within about 14 miles of said plantation. Here I halted to await the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. I advanced two companies of skirmishers toward the house, with instructions to halt in case of meeting any of the enemy and report the fact to me. After they had advanced about three-quarters of a mile they halted and reported some of the enemy ahead. I immediately went forward to the line and saw some 5 or 6 mounted men about 700 or 800 yards ahead. I then ascended a tree, so that I might have a distinct view of the house and from this elevated position I distinctly saw one company of infantry of infantry close by the house, which I supposed to number about 30 or 40 men, and also some 60 or 70 mounted men. After waiting for the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers until 10 o’clock, and it not appearing, I dispatched a squad of men back to the landing for a 6-pounder field howitzer which had been kindly offered to my service by Lieutenant Boutelle, of the Paul Jones. This howitzer had been stationed on a flat-boat to protect our landing. The party, however, did not arrive with the piece until 12 o’clock, in consequence of the difficulty of dragging it through the swamp. Being anxious to have as little delay as possible, I did not await the arrival of the howitzer, but at 11 a.m. moved forward, and as I advanced the enemy fled.
After reaching the house I awaited the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut and the howitzer. After they arrived I moved forward to the head of Mount Pleasant Creek to a bridge, at which place I arrived at 2 p.m. Here I found the bridge destroyed, but which I had repaired in a short time. I then crossed it and moved down on the south bank toward Mount Pleasant Landing. After moving about 1 mile down the bank of the creek my skirmishing companies came upon a camp, which evidently had been very hastily evacuated, from the fact that the occupants had left a table standing with a sumptuous meal already prepared for eating. On the center of the table was placed a fine, large meat pie still warm, from which one of the party had already served his plate. The skirmishers also saw 3 mounted men leave the place in hot haste. I also found a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, with 23 tents, which, for want of transportation, I was obliged to destroy. After moving about a mile farther on I came across another camp, which also indicated the same sudden evacuation. In it I found the following articles … breech-loading carbines, 12 double-barreled shot-guns, 8 breech-loading Maynard rifles, 11 Enfield rifles, and 96 knapsacks. These articles I brought along by having the men carry them. There were, besides, a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, including 16 tents, which, for the same reason as stated, I ordered to be destroyed. I then pushed forward to the landing, where I arrived at 7 p.m.
We drove the enemys [sic] skirmishers in small parties along the entire march. The march was a difficult one, in consequence of meeting so many swamps almost knee-deep.
On 3 October, Good filed his report from Saint John’s Bluff, Florida, now in Union hands:
At 9 o’clock last night Lieutenant Cannon reported to me that his command, consisting of one section of the First Connecticut Battery, was then coming up the creek on flat-boats with a view of landing. At 4 o’clock this morning a safe landing was effected and the command was ready to move. The order to move to Saint John’s Bluff reached me at 4 p.m. yesterday. In accordance with it I put the column in motion immediately and moved cautiously up the bank of the Saint John’s River, the skirmishing companies occasionally seeing small parties of the enemy’s cavalry retiring in our front as we advanced. When about 2 miles from the bluff the left wing of the skirmishing line came upon another camp of the enemy, which, however, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, I did not take time to examine, it being then already dark.
After my arrival at the bluff, it then being 7:30 o’clock, I dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander with two companies back to the last-named camp (which I found, from a number of papers left behind, to have been called Camp Hopkins and occupied by the Milton Artillery, of Florida) to reconnoiter and ascertain its condition. Upon his return he reported that from every appearance the skedaddling of the enemy was as sudden as in the other instances already mentioned, leaving their trunks and all the camp equipage behind; also a small store of commissary supplies, sugar, rice, half barrel of flour, one bag of salt, &c., including 60 tents which I have brought in this morning. The commissary stores were used by the troops of my command.
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
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman 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—a key piece of southern railroad infrastructure which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. The Union soldiers grappled with Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant, including two captains from other companies and several men from Company C, including Sergeant Peter Haupt. Some men were killed outright; others died later from wound-related complications at the post hospital at Hilton Head; still others were deemed unable to continue on, and discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.
In his report on the engagement, made from headquarters at Beaufort, South Carolina on 24 October 1862, Colonel Good wrote:
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in the action of October 22:
Eight companies, comprising 480 men, embarked on the steamship Ben De Ford, and two companies, of 120 men, on the Marblehead, at 2 p.m. October 21. With this force I arrived at Mackays Landing before daylight the following morning. At daylight I was ordered to disembark my regiment and move forward across the first causeway and take a position, and there await the arrival of the other forces. The two companies of my regiment on board of the Marblehead had not yet arrived, consequently I had but eight companies of my regiment with me at this juncture.
At 12 m. I was ordered to take the advance with four companies, one of the Forty-seventh and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and two of the Sixth Connecticut, and to deploy two of them as skirmishers and move forward. After moving forward about 2 miles I discerned some 30 or 40 of the enemys [sic] cavalry ahead, but they fled as we advanced. About 2 miles farther on I discovered two pieces of artillery and some cavalry, occupying a position about three-quarters of a mile ahead in the road. I immediately called for a regiment, but seeing that the position was not a strong one I made a charge with the skirmishing line. The enemy, after firing a few rounds of shell, fled. I followed up as rapidly as possible to within about 1 mile of Frampton Creek. In front of this stream is a strip of woods about 500 yards wide, and in front of the woods a marsh of about 200 yards, with a small stream running through it parallel with the woods. A causeway also extends across the swamp, to the right of which the swamp is impassable. Here the enemy opened a terrible fire of shell from the rear, of the woods. I again called for a regiment, and my regiment came forward very promptly. I immediately deployed in line of battle and charged forward to the woods, three companies on the right and the other five on the left of the road. I moved forward in quick-time, and when within about 500 yards of the woods the enemy opened a galling fire of infantry from it. I ordered double-quick and raised a cheer, and with a grand yell the officers and men moved forward in splendid order and glorious determination, driving the enemy from this position.
On reaching the woods I halted and reorganized my line. The three companies on the right of the road (in consequence of not being able to get through the marsh) did not reach the woods, and were moved by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander by the flank on the causeway. During this time a terrible fire of grape and canister was opened by the enemy through the woods, hence I did not wait for the three companies, but immediately charged with the five at hand directly through the woods; but in consequence of the denseness of the woods, which was a perfect matting of vines and brush, it was almost impossible to get through, but by dint of untiring assiduity the men worked their way through nobly. At this point I was called out of the woods by Lieutenant Bacon, aide-de-camp, who gave the order, ‘The general wants you to charge through the woods.’ I replied that I was then charging, and that the men were working their way through as fast as possible. Just then I saw the two companies of my regiment which embarked on the Marblehead coming up to one of the companies that was unable to get through the swamp on the right. I went out to meet them, hastening them forward, with a view of re-enforcing the five already engaged on the left of the road in the woods; but the latter having worked their way successfully through and driven the enemy from his position, I moved the two companies up the road through the woods until I came up with the advance. The two companies on the right side of the road, under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander had also worked their way up through the woods and opened fire on the retreating enemy. At this point I halted and reorganized my regiment, by forming close column by companies. I then detailed Lieutenant Minnich, of Company B, and Lieutenant Breneman, of Company H, with a squad of men, to collect the killed and wounded. They promptly and faithfully attended to this important duty, deserving much praise for the efficiency and coolness they displayed during the fight and in the discharge of this humane and worthy trust.
The casualties in this engagement were 96. Captain Junker of Company K; Captain Mickley, of Company I [sic], and Lieutenant Geety, of Company H, fell mortally wounded while gallantly leading their respective companies on.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men. They all performed deeds of valor, and rushed forward to duty and danger with a spirit and energy worthy of veterans.
The rear forces coming up passed my regiment and pursued the enemy. When I had my regiment again placed in order, and hearing the boom of cannon, I immediately followed up, and, upon reaching the scene of action, I was ordered to deploy my regiment on the right side of the wood, move forward along the edge of it, and relieve the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. This I promptly obeyed. The position here occupied by the enemy was on the opposite side of the Pocotaligo Creek, with a marsh on either side of it, and about 800 yards distant from the opposite wood, where the enemy had thrown up rifle pits all along its edge.
On my arrival the enemy had ceased firing; but after the lapse of a few minutes they commenced to cheer and hurrah for the Twenty-sixth South Carolina. We distinctly saw this regiment come up in double-quick and the men rapidly jumping into the pits. We immediately opened fire upon them with terrible effect, and saw their men thinning by scores. In return they opened a galling fire upon us. I ordered the men under cover and to keep up the fire. During this time our forces commenced to retire. I kept my position until all our forces were on the march, and then gave one volley and retired by flank in the road at double-quick about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut. This regiment was formed about 1,000 yards in the rear of my former position. We jointly formed the rear guard of our forces and alternately retired in the above manner.
My casualties here amounted to 15 men.
We arrived at Frampton (our first battle ground) at 8 p.m. Here my regiment was relieved from further rear-guard duty by the Fourth New Hampshire Regiment. This gave me the desired opportunity to carry my dead and wounded from the field and convey them back to the landing. I arrived at the above place at 3 o’clock the following morning.
In a second report made from Beaufort on 25 October 1862, Colonel Good added the following details:
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade in the battles of October 22:
After meeting the enemy in his first position he was driven back by the skirmishing line, consisting of two companies of the Sixth Connecticut, one of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, under my command. Here the enemy only fired a few rounds of shot and shell. He then retreated and assumed another position, and immediately opened fire. Colonel Chatfield, then in command of the brigade, ordered the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania forward to me, with orders to charge. I immediately charged and drove the enemy from the second position. The Sixth Connecticut was deployed in my rear and left; the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania on my right, and the Fourth New Hampshire in the rear of the Fifty-fifth, both in close column by divisions, all under a heavy fire of shell and canister. These regiments then crossed the causeway by the flank and moved close up to the woods. Here they were halted, with orders to support the artillery. After the enemy had ceased firing the Fourth New Hampshire was ordered to move up the road in the rear of the artillery and two companies of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to follow this regiment. The Sixth Connecticut followed up, and the Fifty-fifth moved up through the woods. At this juncture Colonel Chatfield fell, seriously wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel Speidel was also wounded.
The casualties in the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania amounted to 96 men. As yet I am unable to learn the loss of the entire brigade.
The enemy having fled, the Fourth New Hampshire and the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania followed in close pursuit. During this time the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and the Sixth Connecticut halted and again organized, after which they followed. On coming up to the engagement I assumed command of the brigade, and found the forces arranged in the following order: The Fourth New Hampshire was deployed as skirmishers along the entire front, and the Fifty-fifth deployed in line of battle on the left side of the road, immediately in the rear of the Fourth New Hampshire. I then ordered the Sixth Connecticut to deploy in the rear of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to deploy on the right side of the road in line of battle and relieve the Seventh Connecticut. I then ordered the Fourth New Hampshire, which had spent all its ammunition, back under cover on the road in the woods. The enemy meantime kept up a terrific fire of grape and musketry, to which we replied with terrible effect. At this point the orders were given to retire, and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and Seventh Connecticut formed the rear guard. I then ordered the Thirty-seventh Pennsylvania to keep its position and the Sixth Connecticut to march by the flank into the road and to the rear, the Fourth New Hampshire and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania to follow. The troops of the Second Brigade were meanwhile retiring. After the whole column was in motion and a line of battle established by the Seventh Connecticut about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania I ordered the Forty-seventh to retire by the flank and establish a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut; after which the Seventh Connecticut moved by the flank to the rear and established a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty seventh, and thus retiring, alternately establishing lines, until we reached Frampton Creek, where we were relieved from this duty by the Fourth New Hampshire. We arrived at the landing at 3 o’clock on the morning of the 23d instant.
The casualties of the Sixth Connecticut are 34 in killed and wounded and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania 112 in killed and wounded. As to the remaining regiments I have as yet received no report.
Following their return to Hilton Head, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers recuperated from their wounds and resumed their normal duties. In short order, several members of the 47th were called upon to serve as the funeral Honor Guard for Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, and given the high honor of firing the salute over this grave. (Commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South, Mitchel succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October 1862. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered in 1846 by Mitchel as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both named after him.)
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe, which makes it all the more remarkable that, during this phase of service, the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to re-enlist when their three-year service terms were up. Many, who could have returned home with their heads held legitimately high after all they had endured, re-enlisted in order to preserve the Union of their beloved nation.
One of those choosing to re-up was First Sergeant Christian S. Beard. He re-enlisted at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida on 12 October 1863.
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach even further 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. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be used to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Captain Richard Graeffe and a group of men from Company A were charged with expanding the fort and raiding nearby cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence. Graeffe and his men subsequently turned the fort into both their base of operations and a shelter for pro-Union supporters, escaped slaves, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops.
Meanwhile, First Sergeant Christ Beard and his fellow officers from all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had already begun preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. Boarding yet another 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 (which is situated across the river from New Orleans and is now a neighborhood in 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 now almost fully reunited regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City (now Morgan City, Louisiana) 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. (Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.)
Red River Campaign
From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron Bullard (later known as Aaron French), James and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania 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 on 22 June at Morganza. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”
Often short on food and water throughout their long, grueling trek through enemy territory, the 47th Pennsylvanians encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill on 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 volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to the community of Pleasant Hill (now the Village of 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.
During this engagement, the 47th Pennsylvania recaptured a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during the earlier Confederate assault. While he was mounting the 47th Pennsylvania’s colors on one of the recaptured Massachusetts caissons, Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls was shot in the left shoulder. As Walls fell, Sergeant William Pyers was then also shot while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.
Both men survived their wounds and continued to fight on, but others from the 47th were less fortunate, including Private John C. Sterner (killed at Pleasant Hill), and Privates Cornelius Kramer, George Miller, and Thomas Nipple (wounded). In addition, the regiment nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. Alexander.
Others were captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas (the largest Confederate prison camp west of the Mississippi River), and held there as prisoners of war by Confederate forces until released during prisoner exchanges from July through November. The POWs from Company C who were captured during the fighting at Pleasant Hill included Privates Conrad Holman, Edward Matthews, Samuel Miller, and John W. McNew, who was wounded at Pleasant Hill before being taken prisoner. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th died there while in captivity while another died at the Confederate Army hospital in Shreveport. Still others remain missing to this day.
Meanwhile, Private Jeremiah Gardner was slipping away closer to home. He died at a Union Army hospital in Philadelphia on 11 April 1864.
That same day, Major William S. Gausler was discharged, allegedly for cowardice; however, President Abraham Lincoln personally reversed the U.S. Adjutant General’s ruling against Gausler in October, allowing Gausler to resign with rank intact. On 15 April 1864, First Lieutenant William Reese was also similarly charged with cowardice and dismissed for his actions. He was forced to wait nearly a year for those charges to be overturned. His honor was restored on 18 February 1865 when the dismissal was revoked by the U.S. War Department and Office of the Adjutant General.
On 16 April 1864, Second Lieutenant Daniel Oyster was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant.
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 11 days and engaged 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 same night, after marching 45 miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and move forward.
On 23 April, episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight as the 47th Pennsylvanians and other members of their brigade took on the Confederate troops of Brigadier-General Hamilton Bee in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry”). Part of an advance party led by Union Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvania supported Emory’s artillery as it countered a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns. Meanwhile, other troops under Emory 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.
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.
During this phase of service, Private James Kennedy, who had initially survived a gunshot fracture of his arm, died from complications at the Union Army’s St. James General Hospital in New Orleans on 27 April 1864, according to U.S. Army death ledgers. C Company’s Henry Wharton reported the news via a letter home, which ran in the 18 June 1864 edition of the Sunbury American:
James Kennedy who was wounded at Pleasant Hill, died at New Orleans hospital a few days ago. His friends in the company were pleased to learn that Dr. Dodge of Sunbury, now of the U.S. Steamer Octorora, was with him in his last moments, and ministered to his wants. The Doctor was one of the Surgeons from the Navy who volunteered when our wounded was sent to New Orleans.
Private Adam Maul was then captured by Confederate forces on 3 May as Union troops persisted in their efforts to finish Bailey’s Dam. According to Wharton:
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, an 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.
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 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.*
* Note: Disease continued to be a truly formidable foe, claiming yet more members of the 47th Pennsylvania. Sergeant Peter Smelzer, one of the 47th Pennsylvania’s many Veteran Volunteers, was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 17 June, and Sergeant John Gross Helfrich would die later from disease-related complications—in New Orleans on 5 August. He now rests in a marked grave at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish.
Continuing on, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then 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.
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. 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.
On the Fourth of July, Wharton, Gobin, First Sergeant Christ Beard, and their fellow C Company soldiers learned that their fight was still far from over as the regiment received new orders to return to the Eastern Theatre of battle.
An Encounter with Lincoln and Snicker’s Gap
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company C and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, D, E, F, H, and I steamed aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864. Private George Fritz was also discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate that same day.
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, they joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap in mid-July 1864. There, they fought in the Battle of Cool Spring and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Private Adam Maul was being released from captivity as a POW at Camp Ford during a 22 July prisoner exchange.
Two days later, on 24 July 1864, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin was promoted from leadership of the Sunbury Guards/Company C to the 47th Pennsylvania’s central regimental command staff. He now held the rank of Major.
* Note: Casualties from the Red River Campaign continued to rise as Private George W. Bortell (alternate spelling of surname: “Bortle”) died of heart disease-related asphyxia at the Union Army’s Mt. Pleasant General Hospital on 8 August 1864. Private George Kramer then died aboard the Union transport ship, Mississippi, on 27 August 1864. Word was also received in August that Private J. S. Harte had also died from disease-related complications at the Union’s Marine hospital in New Orleans.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, U.S. Army of the Shenandoah from August through November of 1864, it was at this time and place, under the leadership of legendary Union Major-General Philip H. Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, that the members of the 47th Pennsylvania would engage in their greatest moments of valor. Of the experience, Company C’s Samuel Pyers said it was “our hardest engagement.”
The month of September brought with it the promotion of several men, including First Sergeant Christian S. Beard, who was advanced to the rank of Second Lieutenant on 1 September 1864. First Lieutenant Daniel Oyster was also promoted that same day—to the rank of Captain. Made the commanding officer of C Company, Captain Oyster replaced John Peter Shindel Gobin who had been promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central command staff.
Little did he know it, but the newly minted Second Lieutenant Beard would be forced to take on more responsibility sooner than he could have imagined. Just two days after their respective promotions, the regiment was engaged in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia; shortly after that, on 5 September 1864, Captain Daniel Oyster was shot in the left shoulder at Berryville. He survived, but needed several weeks to recuperate before returning to full duty.
Still others departed also departed from their regiment over the next few weeks upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service. For the remaining members of the 47th, the fighting was not yet over, and those still on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of 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 members of Company C 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 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 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 would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and Commanding Officer of the entire regiment.
Battle of Cedar Creek
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 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.
But once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield, as were others from C Company. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. Others were wounded in action, but survived. Still more were captured by the enemy and taken to prison camps at Salisbury and Andersonville, the most infamous hellhole of all. As before, several died while still being held as prisoners of war (POWs); the bodies of some were never recovered.
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.
On 4 April 1865, while they were stationed in the Washington, D.C. area, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers presented a saber to Second Lieutenant Christian S. Beard, which had been made in Philadelphia by W. H. Horstmann & Sons. Engraved on the scabbard were the words, “Presented to Christian Seiler Beard by the members of Company C, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers.” That saber was displayed for many years at the Rose Hill Mansion in South Carolina. According to the prior curators there:
Immediately before and during the Civil War, Rose Hill was owned by secessionists John Kirk, M.D. and his wife, Carolina. Their daughter, Emily, helped to design and make one of the area’s first secession flags. In May 1862 alone, Dr. Kirk’s estimated war-related loss of human “property” (129 slaves) was a staggering $92,900.
The men, women and children who had been enslaved by the Kirk family included: “Infant” (three), Casey and Harmody (both aged 60); Scrap—a “fine house servant” aged 18; Ben—a “very fine driver” who was 40 years old; little ones Caleb, Chisholm, Daniel, Eve, Jack, Lavinia, Luna, Linda, Richard, and Venus (aged 3, 2, 6, 5, 2, 4, 2, 4, 2 and 6, respectively); and field hands: Adam, Annette, Chloe, Doll, Fortune and Hagar, Hetty and Jackson, Lucretia, Maria, Mingo, Nancy, Nelson, Nora, Sally and Tom (aged 30, 38, 17, 36, both 24, both 40, 32, 35, 40, 41, 15, 14, 21 and 27), among others.
It appears, however, that neither John Kirk nor his wife ever came face to face with Second Lieutenant Christian Beard or anyone from the 47th Pennsylvania during the early years of the war. Although the 47th Pennsylvania was engaged in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina near the Rose Hill Plantation from 21-23 October 1862, Dr. Kirk and his wife had already fled to Grahamville before this battle broke out. Kirk’s wife died there in 1864—well after the 47th Pennsylvania had already been sent back to Fort Taylor in Key West and then on to Louisiana for the Red River Campaign—and well before the 47th Pennsylvania presented the saber to Second Lieutenant Beard in April 1865.
* Note: The 47th Pennsylvania did later return to South Carolina during the summer of 1865, and remained there until late December of that year. It is possible, therefore, that Dr. Kirk may have encountered some members of the regiment during that time. Kirk subsequently died at Rose Hill in 1868.
By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were once again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital—this time 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 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.
On their final southern tour, Second Lieutenant Christian S. Beard and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania 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. Duties during this phase of service were largely Provost (judicial and military police) or Reconstruction-related, involving repair or replacement of key areas of the region’s infrastructure.
On 5 July 1865, Second Lieutenant Christian S. Beard was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant.
Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company C, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers—including First Lieutenant Christian S. Beard—began to honorably muster 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
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Christian S. Beard returned home to his wife in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and resumed work as a carpenter. Sometime around 1867, they welcomed to the world daughter Lucy and then son Frank Rudy Baird, who was born in Harrisburg, Dauphin County 23 December 1873 (and died in Monongahela, Washington County 14 December 1943). Mary’s younger sister, Lizzie, also resided with the Beard family at this time.
Sadly, in 1875, Mary widowed Christian, passing away in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 28 March.
In 1884, Christ Beard found love again and wed a second time, marrying Laura Eberhart (1847-1932). A native of Perryopolis, Pennsylvania born on 11 October 1847, Laura was a daughter of Pennsylvanian Louis A. Eberhart and Lucinda (Banks) Eberhart, a native of Keene, New Hampshire. After their marriage, Christian and Laura resided in Pittsburgh with Frank Beard, Christian’s son from his first marriage.
By 1890, Christ and his family were still residing in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The U.S. 1890 Veterans’ Schedule confirms that he was suffering from chronic rheumatism, an illness common to a number of survivors from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
In 1900, Christ Beard continued to work as a carpenter. He and his wife, Laura, also still resided in Pittsburgh with Frank Beard, Christ’s son from his first marriage. But by 1910, Christ and Laura were residing at the Pittsburgh home of Laura’s brother, James W. Eberhart.
Death and Interment
Having survived one of America’s most difficult eras and witnessed the dawning progress of a new century, Christian Seiler Beard died from acute gastritis and heart, kidney and aging-related dementia complications in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on 16 November 1911. He was interred at the Highwood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on 20 November 1911. His death certificate indicates that his second wife, Laura, was the informant, and that he was retired from his former occupation of “Policeman.”
Christian Beard’s second wife, Laura, was also laid to rest at the Highwood Cemetery when she passed away in 1932. The Allegheny County Home in Woodville, Pennsylvania was the informant on her death certificate.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer 1869.
2. Christian S. Beard, in Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
3. Christian S. Baird, Christian S. Beard (alias) and Laura Baird, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.
4. 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.
5. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
6. Death Certificates (Christian S. Beard and Laura Eberhart Baird). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Health, Department of Vital Statistics.
7. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
8. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
9. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.
10. U.S. Census (1860, 1870) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.