Alternate Given Names: Frank, Franklin
Frank Holt was a rarity among the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. A non-native of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he chose to serve with this all-volunteer regiment from the great Keystone State rather than with one from his home state of New Hampshire.
He was also the third of the first three members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to die during the American Civil War.
Born in New Hampshire in 1838, Franklin M. Holt was a son of Cambridge, Massachusetts native, Edwin Holt (1807-1893) and Mont Vernon, New Hampshire native, Susan (Marden) Holt (1815-1892). His New Hampshire-born siblings were: Martha Holt (1843-1846; died of scarlet fever) and George Holt (1848-1894).
In the mid-1800s (per 1850 and 1860 federal census records), the Holt family resided in Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, where Frank Holt’s father, Edwin, supported the family as a farmer. Frank Holt, who was also described as a farmer in Amherst prior to the Civil War by Lewis Schmidt in his A Civil War History of the Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, was listed on the July 1860 federal census as a “Pedlar” – possibly indicating that he had been engaged in selling goods produced on the Holt’s farm.
Around this same time, however, Frank Holt was also listed on a New Jersey federal census record as a “Map Agent” who lived at a hotel in Keyport, Holmdell Township, Monmouth, New Jersey. By the Spring of 1861, records confirm that Holt had relocated again – this time to the community of New Bloomfield in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
Civil War Service
During the Summer of 1861, at the age of 23, Frank M. Holt enlisted in Company D of the newly formed 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. His commanding officer was Captain Henry D. Woodruff.
Note: Holt’s obituary indicates that he had also previously performed Three Months’ Service as a Private under Capt. Woodruff. That earlier term, which had been completed by so many of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in response to President Lincoln’s call for help after the fall of Fort Sumter, was served by Holt with Woodruff’s Company D of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry from 20 April 1861 to 26 July 1861. Military records confirm that Holt had enrolled and mustered in at the age of 22 at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, which was one of the Union Army’s major staging areas for troops throughout the duration of the war. Those same records also describe Holt as being a resident of Wilford, New Hampshire.
On 20 August 1861, Frank M. Holt re-enrolled for a three-year term of service at Bloomfield in Perry County, Pennsylvania. He then mustered as a sergeant with the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company D on 31 August 1861 at Camp Curtin. Military records noted that he was a 23-year-old farmer who hailed from Amherst, New Hampshire.
After a brief training period in light infantry tactics, Sergeant Frank Holt and his fellow members of the 47th were sent by train to defend the nation’s capital. Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton described the trip in a letter to his hometown newspaper, 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.
Stationed about two miles from the White House at “Camp Kalorama” in the Kalorama Heights section of Georgetown in the District of Columbia beginning 21 September 1861, Holt and the 47th Pennsylvania were mustered into federal service with the U.S. Army with great pomp on 24 September. On the 27th, they were assigned to General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, becoming part of the larger Army of the Potomac commanded by General W. F. Smith.
The early days of their service were frequently rainy ones, resulting in great hardship and increasingly frequent illness. In this climate of torrential rains and lingering dampness, Frank M. Holt became one of the 47th’s first casualties. Contracting Variola (smallpox), he was initially treated by regimental surgeons before being transported back to the Kalorama Heights in Georgetown. Hospitalized at the eruptive fever hospital located there, he succumbed to complications from the disease on 28 October 1861.
* Note: Frank Holt’s regiment had decamped from Kalorama Heights a month earlier (on 27 September) in order to join the Union Army advance into Confederate territory. Still part of Gen. Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, they established a new camp near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia, and were again plagued by heavy rains. The Georgetown, Washington, D.C. hospital where Frank Holt died operated specifically as an eruptive fever general hospital. Opened 3 May 1861, it was moved in August from its original location to a brick building on the Kalorama Heights.
In describing the circumstances of the first death to strike the 47th Pennsylvania (the loss to smallpox of the regiment’s beloved drummer boy, John Boulton Young), Schmidt also confirms how Frank M. Holt died:
Thursday, October 17 would be a day long remembered in the regiment. The 47th’s first death occurred on this day…. “Boltie” as he was affectionately called by members of his Company C…was 13 years and 22 days old when he died of Small Pox in the Kalorama Hospital…. Capt. Gobin wrote to…Young’s parents… “I am compelled to announce to you the death of…your son, Boulton…. Until a short time before he died the symptoms were very favorable…every hope was entertained of his recovery…. I would have sent the body home but the nature of his disease prevented it.”
In a separate letter, Gobin wrote that the doctor had informed him that Boltie’s smallpox:
was the worst case he ever saw. It was the regular black, confluent small pox…. I had him vaccinated at Harrisburg, but it would not take, and he must have got the disease from some of the old Rebel camps we visited, as their army is full of it. There is only one more case in our regiment, and he is off in the same hospital.
According to Schmidt, Captain Gobin was referring to Sergeant Frank M. Holt of Company D. Sergeant Holt, who succumbed to the same strain of smallpox eleven days later, was subsequently eulogized by The New Bloomfield Democrat, the newspaper of his adopted hometown:
… we publish a tribute of respect to the memory of FRANK M. HOLT, by his companions in arms. Never has the death of a comparative stranger called forth more heart felt sorrow in this borough. Young Holt came to this place last Spring, a short time before Capt. Woodruff’s Company was called into the three months’ service. He had been here long enough however, to make many acquaintances, and many sincere friends. Kind, gentlemanly courteous, and honest in all his transactions, he won for himself the esteem of all who knew him. He was from New-Hampshire, and was worthy a representative of the land of steady habits as we ever knew. He connected himself with Capt. W’s Company as a private, and discharged his duty nobly and faithfully. He returned with it at the expiration of the three months, and although at times he spoke of going home to see his kindred, he concluded to defer his return home till after the Rebellion had been put down, and again went with the company. He was appointed Sergeant, and filled the place with marked ability until disease struck him down. He was conveyed from the Camp to the General Hospital near Georgetown, where he died of small pox, Oct. 28. He was about 23 ys. of age. Peace to the ashes of the stranger soldier, and may his mother console herself with the reflection that he died in service of his Country.
Although Frank Holt was memorialized at the Meadow View Cemetery in Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire (the hometown cemetery where his parents and siblings now rest), the monument present at that cemetery in Amherst is actually a cenotaph at the Meadow View Cemetery.
Multiple federal burial records confirm that Sergeant Frank M. Holt was officially laid to rest in grave 3276 at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and that his remains are actually still located where he was interred soon after succumbing to smallpox in 1861.
Sergeant Frank M. Holt rests in good company. At least one other member of his Civil War regiment is interred there, as are 21 Medal of Honor winners.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Burial Ledgers, The National Cemetery Administration and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15), U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
3. Interment Control Forms, U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General (national cemeteries, Record Group 92). College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives.
4. Holt Eulogy. New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: New Bloomfield Democrat, 1861.
5. Holt, Frank, in Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1965. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
6. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
7. U.S. Census (1850: Amherst, New Hampshire; 1860: Amherst, New Hampshire and Monmouth, New Jersey). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.