Born in 1840, on 11 September 1842, and sometime around 1843, respectively, Robert Martin Harper, Edward Harper, and William George Harper were sons of Edward and Mary Ann Harper (born in Pennsylvania sometime around 1804). During the outbreak of the Civil War, all three brothers were living with their widowed, 56-year-old mother in Landisburg, Perry County. Their sister, Elizabeth (1824-1865), had married fellow Newport Methodist Parish and Landisburg resident, Henry Durant Woodruff on 9 July 1844.
Listed in Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 as “Harper, Martin,” the U.S. Civil War Pension Index card entry indicated that the name “Martin” was an “alias,” and that this soldier’s full name was “Harper, Robert Martin” – meaning that while his given name was “Robert,” he was known by his middle name of “Martin.” In 1861, he was a 21-year-old farmer.
Edward Harper was also a farmer in 1861, and was 24 years old. He later married; his wife’s name was Barbara.
William George Harper was a 20-year-old blacksmith residing in Landisburg in Perry County when he enlisted for Civil War military service a year after his older brothers had headed off to war. All three would eventually serve under the command of their brother-in-law, Captain H. D. Woodruff.
Civil War Military Service
Edward and Robert Martin Harper both enrolled for military duty at Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania on 20 August 1861. Both also then mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 31 August – Edward as a Corporal under his brother-in-law, Captain Henry D. Woodruff of Company D of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and Robert Martin Harper as a Private with Company H of the same regiment.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics, the Harper brothers were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. where they were stationed roughly two miles from the White House – at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. That same day, Robert Martin Harper was transferred by regimental order to the company of his brother and brother-in-law – Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania.
The next day, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for the Sunbury American newspaper:
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.
As part of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company D became part of the federal service when it officially mustered into the U.S. Army on 24 September. On 27 September, a rainy, drill-free day which permitted many of the men to read or write letters home, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of W.F. Smith’s Army of the Potomac. That afternoon, they marched to the Potomac River’s eastern side and, after arriving at Camp Lyon, Maryland, marched double-quick over a chain bridge before moving on toward Fall’s Church, Virginia.
Arriving at Camp Advance at dusk, they pitched their tents in a deep ravine about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, near a new federal military facility under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, they would join with the 3rd Brigade and Smith’s Army of the Potomac in defending the nation’s capital.
On October 11, 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 letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) 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 that day – and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered his subordinates to ensure that brand new Springfield rifles would be purchased for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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 Fall’s 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.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the enlisted men boarded first, followed by their superior officers. 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, Company D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor and drilled daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies. On 14 February, the regiment made itself known to area residents via a parade through the city’s streets.
From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men made camp before being housed 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 risk from sniper fire and other hazards. According to historian Samuel P. Bates the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”
An Unseen Foe Causes Early Heartache
Two entries on Private Robert Martin Harper’s entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives indicate that he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. One notes that the discharge occurred while he was stationed at Beaufort, South Carolina, but gives the discharge date of 20 September 1861 – which is impossible since the 47th Pennsylvania was still stationed in Washington, D.C. at this time. The second gives the date as 28 July 1862, which would be an accurate date since the 47th was on record as serving in Beaufort, South Carolina at this time. He was sent home to Pennsylvania to recover from the tuberculosis he had contracted.
One day before – on 27 July 1862, Robert Martin Harper’s other brother, William George Harper, enrolled for military service at the age of 20 at Landisburg in Perry County, Pennsylvania. Like his brothers before him, William reported for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. He mustered in on 15 August as a Private, and was also assigned to serve under the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company D command of his brother-in-law, Captain Henry Durant Woodruff.
Less than a month later, on 16 August 1862, William Harper’s brother – Robert Martin Harper – succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis while at home in Landisburg, Perry County. He was interred at the Landisburg Cemetery. (The Harper boys’ mother, Mary Ann Harper, filed for Robert Martin Harper’s U.S. Civil War pension on 4 June 1863.)
First Blood – 1862
Sent on a return expedition to Florida, the surviving Harper boys – Corporal Edward Harper and Private William George Harper, saw their first truly intense military moments when they participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, a 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the 3rd Brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with deadly snakes and alligators. By the time the expedition ended, the brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.
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 the 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 Mackey’s Point.
Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; two officers and another 114 enlisted were wounded. Several resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to sloppy Army and hospital records management, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers forced to hastily bury or leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.
On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
By 1863, Captain H. D. Woodruff, his surviving brothers-in-law and the other men of D Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November, they spent much of 1863 at Fort Jefferson in Florida’s remote Dry Tortugas with their comrades from Companies F, H and K while those from Companies A, B, C, E, G and I remained at Fort Taylor in Key West. Men from the 47th were also sent on skirmishes and to Fort Myers, which had been abandoned in 1858 after the third U.S. war with the Seminole Indians. As before, disease was a constant companion and foe.
During this phase of service, Corporal Edward Harper re-upped for a second three-year term of service on 10 October 1863, earning the coveted designation of “Veteran Volunteer.”
A letter to the New York Times, reprinted in the 30 April 1864 edition of the Semi- Weekly Wisconsin in Milwaukee, provided insight into the mindsets of the men from company D:
Remarkable History of a Military Company
To the Editor of the New York Times:
… Edward Harper, } Brothers [sic] and Brothers-in-law
Marvin [sic] Harper, of the Captain.
The company has been out over two years, most of the time at the extreme southern points. During eighteen months they lost but one man by sickness. They kept up strict salary regulations, commuted their rations of salt meat for fresh meat and vegetables, and saved by the operation from one hundred to one hundred thirty dollars a month, with which they made a company fund, appointing the Captain treasurer, and out of which whatever knick-nacks [sic] were needed could be purchased.
They always ate at a table, which they fixed with cross sticks, and had their food served from large bowls, each man having his place, as at home, which no one else was allowed to occupy. While the men were here, they showed that they were sober, cheerful, intelligent men, who had put their hearts into their work, and did not count any privations or sacrifices too great, if only the life of the country might thereby be maintained.
They are commanded by Captain Henry D. Woodruff, a native of Binghamton, in this State, but long a resident of Pennsylvania….
The Harper brothers described above were actually brothers-in-law of Captain H. D. Woodruff.
On 25 February 1864, the surviving Harpers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.
From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed by both sides during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. 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 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 and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.
Casualties were severe. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the regimental flag from falling into enemy hands. Private Ephraim Clouser of Company D was shot in his right knee, and Corporal Isaac Baldwin was also wounded.
Still others from the 47th were captured and held as prisoners of war until released during a prisoner exchange on 22 July. Sergeant James Crownover was wounded in action before being taken captive. He, Private James Downs, Corporal John Garber Miller and Private William J. Smith were four of the fortunate who survived. Downs, Miller and Smith were released on 22 July, Crownover on 25 November 1864. While held as a POW, Crownover had been commissioned, but not mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant (31 August 1864).
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 fell back to Grand Ecore, where they resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they and their fellow Union soldiers scored a clear victory against the Confederates at Cane Hill.
On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, to enable federal gunboats to easily traverse the Red River’s rapids.
Beginning 16 May, D Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza. On the 4th of July, they learned their fight was not yet over.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the Harper brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers from Companies A, C. D, E, F, H, and I boarded the McClellan and steamed away for the East Coast.
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they then joined Major-General David Hunter’s forces in the fighting at Snicker’s Gap and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, early and mid-September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including 1st Lieutenant Samuel Auchmuty, and Sergeants Henry Heikel and Alex Wilson, and Captain Henry Durant Woodruff, the brother-in-law of Corporal Edward Harper and Private William G. Harper. Captain Woodruff and the others who mustered out 18 September 1864 did so honorably, upon expiration of their three-year service terms.
The Harper brothers and members of the 47th who remained on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest, but most difficult moments of valor.
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864
Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the Harper brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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 inching their way from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps became bogged down for several hours by the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. After finally reaching and fording the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with the Confederate Army commanded by Early. 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.
Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by General William Emory to attack and pursue Major General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice – once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.
The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one.
Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek. Moving forward, 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 expiration of their respective terms. Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience: 2nd Lieutenant George Stroop, who was promoted to lead Company D, and at the regimental level, John Peter Shindel Gobin, Charles W. Abbott and Levi Stuber.
Battle of Cedar Creek, October 1864
It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents – civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles – all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:
When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:
When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.
Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. 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.
Corporal Edward Harper, brother-in-law of of Company D was wounded, but survived, as did Corporal Isaac Baldwin, who had been wounded earlier at Pleasant Hill. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap.
Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. On 14 November, 2nd Lieutenant George Stroop was promoted to the rank of Captain. 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.
Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were ordered to move, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. where, on 19 April, they were 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 their imprisonment or trial. As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May.
On 1 June 1865, Private William George Harper was officially discharged from military service at Washington, D.C. by General Order No. 53, issued by the Headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Middle Military Division.
On their final southern tour, Corporal Edward Harper and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, they quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury in Charleston, South Carolina.
Finally, beginning on Christmas day of 1865, Corporal Edward Harper and the majority of the men of Company D, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers 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 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 – Edward Harper
After honorably mustering out from the military on Christmas day in 1865, Corporal Edward Harper returned home to Perry County. By 1890, he was residing in Marysville, Perry County, Pennsylvania. He passed away in Perry County on 8 January 1896. He was interred at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Marysville. His widow, Barbara Harper, filed for her Civil War Widow’s Pension on 16 February of that same year.
Return to Civilian Life – William George Harper
After honorably mustering out from the military on 1 June 1865 – six months before his brother, Edward, would be honorably discharged – Private William George Harper returned home to his family in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
Note: There is lingering confusion created regarding the death of William George Harper due to mistakes on various Civil War and death records.While understandable because many historians and government officials were working with confusing paper records to document the lives and final resting places of Civil War soldiers from the late 1860s into the mid-1900s, these errors were compounded when they were transcribed onto the records system known as the Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Index Cards. This index card system has, unfortunately, mixed up two different Harpers who served with two different companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, one of whom was William G. Harper.
According to the entry for William G. Harper in a separate catalogue system (the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives), William G. Harper served with Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Although his gravestone indicates that he died in March 1887, his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing indicates that he passed away in Perry County in 1878, just over a decade after his honorable discharge from the military because, according to data from that index, his widow, Mary Harper, filed for her Civil War Widow’s Pension on 24 September 1878:
Widow: Harper, Mary M.
Service: D. 47. Pa. Inf.
Date of Filing: 1878 Sep. 24 Widow, Application No. 239632, Certificate No.278052
Further adding to this confusion, however, there was a George W. Harper buried at Saint Mark’s Cemetery in Lewistown, Mifflin County who was purported to be this same soldier from Company D, according to his Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card. This listing confused the:
- William G. Harper (above), who enrolled for military service on 27 July 1862, mustered in for duty as a Private with Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers on 15 August 1862, and mustered out at Washington, D.C. on 1 June 1865
- George W. Harper interred at Saint Mark’s in Lewistown, who served with Company H of the 47th Pennsylvania, according to his entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Born in Pennsylvania in 31 March 1845, George W. Harper was a 19-year-old residing in Newport, Perry County, Pennsylvania at the time of his enrollment for military service at Newport on 31 August 1862. Also employed as a blacksmith (as was the William George Harper shown above), George W. Harper was also discharged on the same day – 1 June 1865, but had different dates and locations of entry for his military service. He mustered in at Camp Curtin as a Private with Company H of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in September 1862. A son of Pennsylvania natives, William and Adaline (Bower) Harper, he was married to Susan J. Harper, and was a farmer residing in Derry Township, Mifflin County at the time of his death from pneumonia on 11 September 1908 (roughly three decades after William G. Harper of Company D).
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Civil War Veterans’ Card File (Martin Harper and William G Harper). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
3. Marriage Record of Elizabeth Harper to Henry Woodruff, in Cumberland County Historical Society Records; and Sunday School Attendance Records of Elizabeth Harper and Henry Woodruff, in Newport United Methodist Parish records, all in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
4. Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card (“Harper, George W., Co. ‘H’ – 47th Regt., 9/2/1861-6/1/1865, Rank: Corporal; Landisburg Cemetery, Section S1, Grave 34”). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Veterans Affairs.
5. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
6. U.S. Census (1860) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
7. U.S. Civil War Pension Index. Washington, D.C.:
- Harper, Edward (Company D, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, application no.: 104300, certificate no.: 76553, filed by the veteran on 9 March 1866; application no.: 628605, filed from Pennsylvania by the veteran’s widow, “Harper, Barbara”, on 16 February 1896);
- Harper, Martin (alias) and Harper, Robert Martin (Company D, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, application no.: 23326, certificate no.: 84647, filed by the veteran’s mother, “Harper, Mary Ann,” on 4 June 1863);
- Harper, William G. (Company D, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, application no.: 239632, certificate no.278052, filed by the widow, “Harper, Mary M.”, 24 September 1878);
- Pension Record for “The Other William G. Harper”: Harper,George W. (Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, application no.: 293311,certificate no.: 281416, filed by the veteran on 20 June 1879; application no.: 1027797, filed from Pennsylvania by the veteran’s widow, “Harper, Susan J.”, on 14 May 1914).
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