Roster: Company F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers
History of Company F
Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was the first company of this Union regiment to muster in for duty. The initial recruitment for members to staff F Company of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was conducted in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Several of this company’s earliest recruits had, following the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After completing their Three Months’ Service with Company D of the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry or other early responding Pennsylvania regiments, a contingent reenlisted from Catasauqua, joining the newly formed 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as members of Company F in August of that same year.
However, a significant portion of service records for the men serving with this company indicate that many of those who enlisted with Company F were soldiers enlisting for military duty for the first time.
Company F officially mustered in for service at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County from 13 to 30 August 1861, and was led by Captain Henry Samuel Harte. Born in 1822 in Darmstadt, capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany), he became a naturalized American citizen in New York on 15 October 1851, settled in Pennsylvania, was appointed Captain of the Lehigh County militia unit known as the Catasauqua Rifles during the late 1850s and, by the dawn of the Civil War, had also become a hotel keeper in Catasauqua.
Officially, Henry S. Harte enrolled for Civil War military service at Catasauqua on 21 August 1861, and was commissioned as a Captain and mustered in on 30 August at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, where he was placed in charge of Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
His obituary in the 10 August 1881 edition of The Allentown Democrat described his opening days as follows:
When the sound of the first gun roused the war spirit of the North to fever heat, he raised a company of volunteers and served as Captain of it with the 47th regiment Penna. Vols. for a full three year term, and it may be said that he along with the regiment saw as much hard service as any man in the army.
On 25 August, Private Emory Lindster, a druggist by trade, was promoted to the rank of Hospital Steward with the regiment’s central command staff.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, the soldiers of Company F and their 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. Henry D. Wharton, a musician from the regiment’s C Company, penned an update the next day to the Sunbury American, his hometown 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.
We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.
Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.
…. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.
While at Camp Kalorama, Captain Harte issued his first directive (Company Order No. 1), that his company drill four times per day, each time for one hour.
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—a rainy day, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, 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 until reaching 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, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents 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 General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. 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.
Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
On 1 October 1861, Sergeant James W. (J. W.) Fuller, Jr. was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant with the regiment’s central command staff, a position he held for just over three months—until 9 January 1862 when he resigned.
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a mid-October letter home, 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. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Less than a month later, in his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….
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 bigger things to come, Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. On 18 January 1862, Private Conrad Warnick was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate.
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 cars 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. The officers boarded last and, 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.
The members of Company F arrived in Key West in early 1862, and were assigned, with their fellow members of the regiment, to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvanians introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania also mingled with locals by attending services at area churches.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at this federal installation. On 1 April 1862, Sergeant Augustus Eagle was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
But while there were pleasant moments, the 47th’s early days here were most definitely not easy. Several members of the regiment fell ill, largely due to poor sanitary conditions and water quality. Privates W. H. Moyer, II and Frederick Engle were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates on 4 March and 14 March 1862, respectively, and 2nd Lieutenant Henry H. Bush and Private Edward Bartholomew died at Fort Taylor, respectively, on 31 March and 3 April. Privates Samuel Smith and John G. Seider were both discharged on Surgeon’s Certificates on 12 April 1862.
According to Schmidt, 4 June 1862 was a festive one 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. Captain Harte and F Company “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM.”
Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, they camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly 35 miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July).
Sometime during July according to Schmidt, Major William H. Gausler and Captain Henry S. Harte returned home to the Lehigh Valley to resume their recruiting efforts. Major Gausler was able to persuade another 54 men to join the 47th Pennsylvania while Harte rounded up an additional 12.
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.
* Note: The capture of Saint John’s Bluff followed a string of U.S. Army and Navy successes which enabled the Union to gain control over key southern towns and transportation hubs. In November 1861, the Union’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron established an operations base at Port Royal, South Carolina, facilitating Union expeditions to Georgia and Florida, during which U.S. troops were able to take possession of Fort Clinch and Fernandina, Florida (3-4 March 1862), secure the surrender of Fort Marion and Saint Augustine (11 March), and establish a Union Navy base at Mayport Mills (mid-March). That summer, Brigadier-General Joseph Finnegan, commanding officer of the Confederate States of America’s Department of Middle and Eastern Florida, ordered the placement of earthen works-fortified gun batteries atop Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River and at Yellow Bluff nearby. Confederate leaders hoped to disable the Union’s naval and ground force operations at and beyond Mayport Mills with as many as 18 cannon, including three eight-inch siege howitzers and eight-inch smoothbores and Columbiads (two of each).
After the U.S. gunboats Uncas and Patroon exchanged shell-fire with the Confederate battery at Saint John’s Bluff on 11 September, Rebel troops were initially driven away, but then returned to their battery on the bluff. When a second, larger Union gunboat flotilla tried and failed again six days later to shake the Confederates loose, Union military leaders ordered an army operation with naval support.
Backed by U.S. gunboats Cimarron, E.B. Hale, Paul Jones, Uncas and Water Witch armed with 12-pound boat howitzers, the 1,500-strong Union Army force commanded by Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan moved up the Saint John’s River and further inland along the Pablo and Mt. Pleasant Creeks on 1 October 1862 before disembarking and marching for the battery atop Saint John’s Bluff. The next day, Union gunboats exchanged shellfire with the Rebel battery while the Union ground force continued its advance. When the 47th Pennsylvanians reached Saint John’s Bluff with their fellow Union brigade members on 3 October 1862, they found the battery abandoned. (Other Union troops discovered that the Yellow Bluff battery was also Rebel free.)
With those successes, Union leaders ordered the gunboats and army troops to extend the expedition, which they did, capturing assorted watercraft as they advanced further up the river. During this phase, Companies E and K of the 47th were led by Captain Charles Yard (E Company’s captain) in capturing Jacksonville, Florida (5 October) and the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer. Docked near Hawkinsville, the Milton had been furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies not only to the Rebel battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, but to other Confederate Army units scattered throughout the region.
That same day and ten days later, on 5 and 15 October 1862 respectively, several formerly enslaved young Black men in Beaufort, South Carolina became members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers:
- 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 5’6″ 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 5’5″ 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 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania on 15 October 1862, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was also assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of UnderCook 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.
From 21-23 October 1862, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel T. H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers next 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. Captain Charles Mickley of G Company was killed in action. Captain George Junker of Company K was mortally wounded, as was Private John O’Brien of Company F, who died on 26 October while being treated for his wounds at the Union Army’s hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Private Thomas A. Smith was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 14 December 1862. Private Peter Moser and Corporal Augustus Eberhart of F Company were wounded in action, and discharged respectively on Surgeons’ Certificates on 24 February and 13 April 1863.
Several graves of men from the 47th 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 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. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another Black man escape slavery by adding 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5’4″ laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, Thomas Haywood enrolled with the 47th Pennsylvania at Beaufort, was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and honorably performed his duties until he was mustered out on 31 October 1865 upon the expiration of his three-year tour of duty.
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 southern coast of Florida.
In addition to the discharge of Corporal Augustus Eberhart on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 13 April 1863 due to the wounds he received at the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina on 22 October 1862, Privates Stephen Beers and John Schreck were also discharged that day on Surgeons’ Certificates. Corporal James Ritter died at Fort Jefferson on 23 October 1863.
As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe. This 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 and eradicate slavery across the United States.
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union Army’s reach 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 conducting raids on area cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence across Florida. 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. According to Schmidt:
Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard. Lt. Harris was directed to tow the Matchless if necessary.
Punta Rassa was probably the location where the troops disembarked, and was located on the tip of the southwest delta of the Caloosahatchee River … near what is now the mainland or eastern end of the Sanibel Causeway… Fort Myers was established further up the Caloosahatchee at a location less vulnerable to storms and hurricanes. In 1864, the Army built a long wharf and a barracks 100 feet long and 50 feet wide at Punta Rassa, and used it as an embarkation point for shipping north as many as 4400 Florida cattle….
Capt. Graeffe and company were disembarked on the evening of January 7, and Gen. Woodbury ordered the company to occupy Fort Myers on the south side of the Caloosahatchee, about 12 miles from its mouth and 150 miles from Key West. Shortly after, [a detachment of men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s A Company stationed on Useppa Island] was also ordered to proceed to Fort Myers and join the main body of Company A, the entire command under direct orders of the General who was in the area…. Gen. Woodbury returned to Key West on the Honduras prior to January 19, and the command was left in charge of Capt. Graeffe who dispatched various patrols in search of refugees for enlistment and for activities involving Confederate cattle shipments.
Company A’s muster roll provides the following account of the expedition under command of Capt. Graeffe: ‘The company left Key West Fla Jany 4. 64 enroute to Fort Meyers Coloosahatche River [sic] Fla. were joined by a detachment of the U.S. 2nd Fla Rangers at Punta Rossa Fla took possession of Fort Myers Jan 10. Captured a Rebel Indian Agent and two other men.’
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:
A small contingent of 20 men and two officers from the Pennsylvania 47th Regiment, led by Captain Henry Crain of the 2nd Regiment of Florida, arrived at the fort on January 7, 1864. A short time later, the party was joined by another small detachment of the 47th under the command of Captain Richard A. Graeffe. Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had 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 (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the now almost fully reunited regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.
Red River Campaign
From 14-26 March, the men from Company F and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers headed for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana, by way of New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington. Sometime during this same month, Private Samuel Dunkle was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”), and Privates Daniel A. Ackroth and George Armsberg transferred into the 47th Pennsylvania from Company C, 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry on 18 March.
* Note: Back home in Pennsylvania, Private Jacob Sholl succumbed to Variola (smallpox) at the Union Army’s Islington Lane General Hospital in Philadelphia on 21 March 1864.
From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment also added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron, James, and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Natchitoches. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty 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 during their long journey, the remaining members of 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 intense volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but 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 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 succeeded in recapturing a Massachusetts artillery battery lost during the earlier Confederate assault. Unfortunately, the regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed during the fight that day, and Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls was shot in the left shoulder while mounting the 47th Pennsylvania’s colors on one of the recaptured caissons. Sergeant William Pyers was then also wounded while grabbing the American flag from Walls as he fell to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
Alexander, Walls and Pyers all survived the day and continued to fight on with the 47th, but many others were killed in action or wounded so severely that they were unable to continue their service with the 47th. Private George Klein from Company F was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 16 April 1864, and Private Griff Reinert, who was initially treated in the field, after having sustained a gunshot wound to his jaw during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, was moved several times through the Union’s network of general hospitals during the various stages of his treatment. Eventually transferred to the army hospital in York Pennsylvania, he was honorably discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 28 December 1864.
Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges in July, September, or November. Private John L. Jones, who was wounded during the Battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April and then taken prisoner, languished in captivity at Camp Ford until he was finally released during an exchange on 24 September 1864. Just 10 days earlier (on 14 September), while still a POW, he had been promoted by his regiment to the rank of Corporal with the hope that Confederate prison officials would treat him less harshly. After recuperating from his ordeal, he returned to the regiment, and went on to receive another promotion before war’s end.
But, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out of Camp Ford alive. Private Samuel Kern of Company D died there on 12 June 1864, and Private John Weiss of F Company, who had been wounded in action at Pleasant Hill, died from those wounds on 15 July.
The 47th Pennsylvanians remained at Grand Ecore for a total of eleven days (through 22 April 1864), where they engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their retreating brigade, but were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on to reach Cloutierville, Louisiana at 10 p.m. that same night after a 45-mile march.
The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”).
Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery.
Meanwhile, other Emory troops attacked Bee’s flank to force a Rebel retreat, and then erected a series of pontoon bridges that enabled 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. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.
While all of this was happening, Private Lawrence Holyhauser (spelled as “Hultzheizer” on the regiment’s muster rolls) was battling disease at the Union Army’s hospital at New Orleans. He died there on 1 May 1864. Private Godfrey Betts, who had been engaged in a similar fight, died a week later.
Continuing their marching onward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers headed toward Avoyelles Parish. According to Wharton:
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.*
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.
Wharton also provided the following update regarding Company C, which had rejoined the bulk of the 47th Pennsylvania on 28 May 1864:
The boys are well. 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.
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. During this same time, F Company’s 1st Lieutenant George W. Fuller was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 22 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 and continue to defend their nation. But the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, would not. Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures, he was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. He later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan from 5-12 July 1864—but they did so without their commanding officer, Captain Henry S. Harte, who was ordered to serve on detached duty as the leader of the 47th Pennsylvanians serving with Companies B, G and K, who were left behind because the McClellan was unable to transport the entire regiment. (Captain Harte sailed later aboard the Blackstone with Companies B, G and K, and arrived in the Washington, D.C. area on 28 July.)
Also during this time, Privates Frederick Fisher and Philip McCue were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates on 7 July, and Privates John Worley and William Harman, who had been left behind to convalesce, died at Union Army hospitals in New Orleans, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi on 16 and 23 July, respectively.
After arriving on the East Coast, the 47th Pennsylvanians joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, where they 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, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August 1864. Over the next several weeks, the regiment engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” waged by Sheridan’s Union forces against those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.
From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then fought in the Battle of Berryville.
With F Company once again under the command of Captain Harte by September, the opening days of Fall 1864 saw the promotion of several men from Company F, including 1st Sergeant William H. Bartholomew, who was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on 1 September 1864, Private Benjamin F. Bush, who was promoted twice in quick succession (to Corporal on 11 September and to Sergeant on 18 September), Corporals William H. Fink and James Tait, who were promoted to the rank of Sergeant on 18 September 1864, and Private Richmond H. Schwab, who was promoted to the rank of Corporal that same day. (Private John L. Jones, who was still being held as a POW at Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas after being wounded in action and taken captive during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on 9 April, was also promoted that day—to the rank of Corporal.)
Mid-September also brought the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, however, including 2nd Lieutenant Augustus Eagle, who resigned on 11 September 1864, and Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, E Company’s Captain Charles H. Yard, and F Company’s Captain Henry S. Harte. All three mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.
Others who mustered out with them that day at Berryville (18 September 1864) upon expiration of their own three-year service terms included: Sergeants William H. Glace, John W. Heberling, Albert H. McHose; Corporal James E. Patterson; Musician David Tombler; and Privates David Andrews, Abraham Bander, Faustin Boyer, Augustus Engle, Orlando Fuller, Joseph Geiger, Thomas B. Glick, John F. Haldeman, Joseph Heckman, Osborn Houser, Henry Hummel, William Jordan, Reuben H. Keim, Owen Kern, George King, Nicholas Kuhn, William Kuntz, J. Laudenschlager, Peter S. Levan, John Lucky, Albert Newhard, William Offhouse, Thomas B. Rhoads, Francis Roth, Gottlieb Schram, Robert M. Sheats, Llewellyn J. Sleppy, Nicholas Smith, James A. Trexler, John P. Weaver, and Gilbert Whiteman.
For the remaining members of the 47th, the fighting was not yet over; those still on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864
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 F and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians 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 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.
Before it was all over, Private William H. Jackson was one of the members of the 47th who would give the last full measure of devotion.
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 had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and regimental commanding officer).
On 26 September 1864, Private William H. Fried was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
It was also 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 as follows:
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. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. Privates Addison R. Geho and Rainey Grader of Company F were killed in action while Privates Josiah H. Walk and William H. Moll were wounded in action, but recovered and continued to fight.
Still more were captured and held as prisoners of war, several of whom died. Privates Charles H. Michael and William H. Moyer, I, of Company F were both taken prisoner by Confederate forces. Private Michael died while being held as a POW at the notorious Confederate prison camp in Salisbury, North Carolina on 11 December 1864 while Private Moyer died as a POW at the Confederate camp in Florence, South Carolina on 22 January 1865.
Following these major engagements, Edward Jassum, one of the nine Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania after being freed from slavery, was transferred within the regiment from Company F to Company H on 31 October.
As the fall deepened, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, where it remained from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th Pennsylvanians were then ordered to take on outpost and railroad guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia.
Five days before Christmas they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.
1865 – 1866
On New Year’s Day 1865, 1st Sergeant Edwin Gilbert was promoted to the rank of Captain, and Sergeant Thomas Lambert, who had joined Company F as a Private on 30 August 1861 and had worked his way up in the ranks and re-enlisted while serving at Fort Jefferson in October 1863, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Sergeants James Tait and Richmond H. Schwab were also advanced in rank to 1st Sergeant, Corporal Preston M. Rohn became Sergeant Rohn, and Private Josiah H. Walk, who had been wounded during the Battle of Cedar Creek, was promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Private Joseph Gross died at the Union Army hospital in Winchester, Virginia on 17 January 1865.
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 25 February, Private John W. Crotts transferred into the 47th Pennsylvania from Company C of the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry, as did Privates William H. Barnhart and John C. Collins (on 18 March).
Despite this period of relative calm, casualties still occurred. On 25 March, Private Harrison Lilly was killed at Summit Point, Virginia while Corporal Franklin Arnold was wounded there three days later on 28 March. And Private Arnold would ultimately be discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate less than four months later on 15 July 1865.
More roster changes occurred on 2 April 1865 when Privates G. H. Longenhagen, Martin O’Brien and Spencer Tettemer were all promoted to the rank of Corporal, and on 15 April 1865 when Sergeant William H. Fink died at the Union Army hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
That same day (15 April 1865), the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers received confirmation that President Lincoln had died from the gunshot wound he had sustained during an assassination attempt the night before at Ford’s Theatre. Multiple letters and diary entries penned by members of the 47th during this period convey their shock, intense grief, and anger.
By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were responsible, once again, for helping to defend the nation’s capital—this time, to prevent the dying embers of civil war from flaring back up in the wake of Lincoln’s murder. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.
On 21 April, Corporal Joseph Lilly became Sergeant Lilly. Private James M. Bush became Corporal Bush four days later on 25 April when Corporal Joseph H. Schwab was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate that day.
Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer, Samuel Pyers, 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 25 May, Private Joel Michael, who had transferred into the 47th Pennsylvania from the 159th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate, as was Private Michael O’Brien.
Captain Levi Stuber of Company I also advanced to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central staff during this time.
Substitute Privates Alfred Biege, Michael Deibert, John G. Snyder, and Franklin H. Wilson were mustered out by General Order of the U.S. War Department on 1 June 1865, as were Privates Charles King (alternate spelling of surname: Koenig), Charles Rohrbacher and Peter Shireman. Sometime during his term of service, Private Charles King sustained a gunshot wound to his left shoulder.
Private James M. White, who had transferred from the 14 Pennsylvania Cavalry to the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers on 12 March 1865, was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 25 June.
On their final southern tour, the remaining men of Company F and their 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. Corporal John L. Jones, who had been wounded in action during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on 9 April 1864 and promoted from the rank of Private while being held as a POW at Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas, was promoted again—this time as a free man. He became a Sergeant on 2 June 1865. Privates Robert Cunningham and Walter Moyer were also both promoted that day to the rank of Corporal.
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.
Privates Adam Wuchter and Jefferson Kepner were mustered out by General Order of the U.S. War Department on 24 July and 11 August, respectively. Private David A. Fry died at the Union Army hospital in Charleston just five days later—on 16 August.
Private George Armsberg, who had been a Cavalry transfer to the 47th, was then discharged on 6 September, followed by Abraham Jassum, another of the nine Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania after being freed from slavery. Jassum was honorably discharged on 4 October 1865 upon completion of his three-year term of enlistment.
Private Alfred Lynn was then awarded a Surgeon’s Certificate discharge on 14 October.
Those departures were then followed by those of Corporal James M. Bush and Private John Markoffer on 16 and 28 October, upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service, Privates Philip King and Sidney J. Miller, on 14 November and, on 9 December, Private Daniel A. Ackroth, who had transferred into the 47th with Armsberg.
Finally, beginning on Christmas Day of that year, the remaining members of Company F, 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers began to honorably muster out with their regiment in 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, they were given their final discharge papers.
Their war was now officially over.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Burial Ledgers, in Record Group 15, The National Cemetery Administration, and Record Group 92, U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
3. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
4. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
5. Claims for Widow and Minor Pensions, in U.S. Civil War Widows’ Pension Files. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
6. “Death of Capt. Harte, of Catasauqua” (obituary and death notice). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 10 August 1881.
7. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
8. Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records (baptismal, marriage, death and burial records of various churches across Pennsylvania). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
9. Interment Control Forms, in Record Group 92, U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
10. Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
11. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
12. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
13. Stegall, Joel T. “Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.
14. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.