Born in June 1835 (alternate birth year 1842), Daniel S. Zook was a farmer residing in Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania during the outbreak of the Civil War. Like many of his fellow soldiers, he fought hard to preserve America’s Union and, after performing his duties to the best of his ability, returned home to the great Keystone State where he resumed life as “a regular guy.”
A leader in his community’s church, he would also work briefly as his town’s postmaster – but only after long and difficult service which repeatedly put his life at risk.
Civil War Military Service
Daniel S. Zook enrolled for military service at the age of 20 on 9 August 1862 at Elliotsburg, Perry County, Pennsylvania, and mustered in for duty as a Private with Company D, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 15 August 1862. The remarks section of his entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives indicates that he connected with his regiment via a recruiting depot on 11 September 1862.
He could not have known it at the time, but he was entering service with the 47th Pennsylvania just in time to participate in his regiment’s first serious combat experience.
Sent from their base camp in South Carolina on an expedition to Florida at the end of September 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers participated with other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General John Milton 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.
In the midst of this expedition, the regiment broke new ground when, from 5-15 October 1862, several of its officers completed the paperwork which enabled a teenager and several young to middle-aged black men to enroll as members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers’ F Company. After being freed by the regiment from plantations near Beaufort, South Carolina, these had volunteered to enlist with the regiment. Initially assigned to kitchen duties, they were officially mustered in for duty with the regiment as Cooks and Under Cooks at Morganza, Louisiana in June 1864. More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.
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 Mackay’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, the 47th Pennsylvanians were forced by depleted ammunition to withdraw to Mackay’s Point. Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; two officers and an additional 114 enlisted were wounded.
On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head where, a week later, several of its members were assigned to duty as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby M. 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 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him.)
By 1863, Private Daniel Zook and his fellow D Company soldiers were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding 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 in Florida’s Dry Tortugas. 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.
On 25 February 1864, the 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, becoming 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 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 once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American 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 prisoner exchanges beginning in July.
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 the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April.
On 23 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians next engaged Confederate troops in the Battle of Cane River near 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, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.
Removed from command amid the controversy over the Union Army’s successes and failures during the Red River Expedition, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. Banks subsequently spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, Private Daniel S. Zook and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I boarded the McClellan and steamed away for the East Coast beginning 7 July 1864. (Due to a lack of suitable transportation, the men from Companies B, G and K remained behind, but eventually caught up with the main group of the 47th in early August.)
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, the bulk of the regiment then joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap in mid-July 1864.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the opening days of September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, 1st Lieutenant Samuel Auchmuty, Sergeants Henry Heikel and Alex Wilson, and Corporals Cornelius Stewart and Samuel A. M. Reed. All mustered out 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their service terms. At least one of those departures – that of Sergeant Henry Heikel – might have been prevented had senior military leaders been more responsive to regimental advancement requests. According to historian Lewis Schmidt:
On Tuesday [9 August 1864], the 47th prepared to resume its march, this time from Halltown back to Middletown where the regiment arrived on Friday. Letters from both Col. Good and Capt. Gobin to the Governor and the Adjutant General of Pa. were written regarding promotions on this date from ‘In the field near Halltown’. In Company D, 54 of the non-commissioned officers and Privates signed a letter to the Governor’s office requesting that Sgt. Henry Heikel be promoted to Captain and Cpl. George W. Clay to Lieutenant. They were unsuccessful and this time, and other more senior men would be promoted to these positions. Sgt. Heikel would muster out the following month at the expiration of his term, and Cpl. Clay would eventually attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant on June 2, 1865.
And experienced, battle-tested leaders would be needed in the days and weeks ahead because those members of the 47th who did opt to remain on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor. The first significant test of this duty phase came during the first week of September as the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers fought in the Battle of Berryville from 3-4 September, and then engaged in related post-battle skirmishes with the enemy over subsequent days.
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 members of Company D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces during the Battle of 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 bogged down for several hours with the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. As a result, upon reaching 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 then 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, stood its ground and finally began pushing the Confederates back, prompting Early’s “grays” to retreat. Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels fell back to Fisher’s Hill (21-22 September), eight miles south of Winchester, and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s “blue jackets” 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, they and other 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 expiration of their respective terms of service.
Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience, including John Peter Shindel Gobin, Charles W. Abbott and Levi Stuber.
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s crops and 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. Initially, his 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, however, ultimately battered Early’s forces into submission. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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. Corporal Edward Harper 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 guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, Virginia (now West Virginia) five days before Christmas.
Assigned next to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were soon ordered to move back to the Washington, D.C. area, via Winchester and Kernstown. On 19 April, they were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.
Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the regiment 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 key Lincoln assassination conspirators during the early days of their imprisonment and trial.
Less than a month after the assassination rocked the nation, Private Daniel S. Zook received word that his fight was over. Per General Order No. 53, issued by the U.S. Army’s Middle Military Division Headquarters on 3 May 1865, he was honorably mustered out of service on 17 May 1865.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Daniel Zook returned home to Pennsylvania, where he began a new journey as a family man. In 1867, he wed Mary Elizabeth Howe (1844-1926) and, in fairly short order, welcomed the births of children Ida J. (born circa 1869), Milton O. (1873-1901), and Minnie A. Zook (1874-1961), who was born in Lewistown, Mifflin County on 24 November 1874.
By 1870, he was employed as a house carpenter who resided in Derry Township, Mifflin County with his wife and their daughter Ida. U.S. Civil Service records of the period documented that he also served as a postmaster for the community of Maitland in Derry Township in 1877, for which he was paid a salary of $26.36.
In 1880, after a decade or more of carpentry work under his belt, he continued to reside in Derry Township with his wife and their children, Ida, Milton and Minnie. Also living with them was Daniel Zook’s mother-in-law, Margaret Howe. Still residing in Derry Township in 1890, Daniel Zook was documented that year by the special federal census of Union veterans and widows as a resident of the community of Maitland.
According to History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys in Pennsylvania, Maitland was “a station on the Mifflin and Centre Railroad, about five miles from Lewistown and Jack’s Creek. In addition to a post office, the town also had a “store, depot, school-house and a few dwellings” in 1886, as well as a grist mill and sawmill, and was also home to the Brethren Church’s Dry Valley branch with its 105-member congregation. One of its deacons was Daniel Zook.
By 1900, the Zook’s household in Maitland had dwindled to just family patriarch Daniel Zook, his wife, and their daughter, Minnie. Sadly, the journey of his son, Milton, was a short-lived one. Betrothed to Annie Edmiston sometime after the turn of the century, Milton Zook was hit by a train and killed on 3 February 1901. Following funeral services, he was laid to rest at the Maitland Brethren Cemetery in Maitland.
Daniel Zook’s daughter, Minnie, however, had a brighter future ahead of her. Following her post-turn of the century marriage to Jacob D. Ellinger (1875-1931), she welcomed the birth of son Lee O. Ellinger. (1906-1993).
Death and Interment
The old soldier, however, did not live to see the birth of his grandson. Following his death on 8 February 1904, Daniel S. Zook was laid to rest at the Maitland Brethren Cemetery.
Just over two decades later, his widow, Mary E. (Howe) Zook, followed in him in death. After her passing in 1926, she was laid to rest beside him at the Maitland Brethren Cemetery.
Their daughter, Minnie A. (Zook) Ellinger, who had gone on to live a long, full life, ultimately passed away in Lewistown, Mifflin County on 10 August 1961. She, too, was then laid to rest at the same cemetery where her parents had been buried.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Ellis, Franklin. History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys, Embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in Two Volumes, Vol. I. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Everts, Peck & Richards, 1886.
3. Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States on the Thirtieth of September, 1877. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1878, p. 694.
4. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
5. U.S. Census and U.S. Census of Veterans and Widows of the Civil War (1890). Washington, D.C.: 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900.
6. Zook, Daniel S., in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.