Heckman, Joseph (Private)

Born in Allen Township in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 3 April 1840, Joseph Heckman was a son of Charles Heckman (1803-1877) and Susanna (Patterson) Heckman (1812-1880), brother of Charles and David Heckman, and the husband of Henrietta Louisa (Stuber) Heckman (1840-1912).

As he grew to manhood, Joseph Heckman decided upon a future in agriculture and animal husbandry. By the dawn of America’s Civil War, he had become farmer working and residing in Catasauqua, Lehigh County.

Civil War

Camp Curtin (Harper’s Weekly, 1861, public domain).

Joseph Heckman became an early responder to America’s growing Civil War crisis when he enrolled for military service at the age of 22 at Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 21 August 1861. He then officially mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Dauphin County as a Private with Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 30 August 1861.

Note: Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was the first company of this Union regiment to muster in for duty, and was composed largely of men residing in or near Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The company was led by Henry Samuel Harte. Born in 1822 in Darmstadt, capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany), Harte was naturalized as an American citizen in New York on 15 October 1851, settled in Catasauqua in the early 1850s, became an innkeeper there, and then was appointed captain of the Lehigh County militia unit known as the Catasauqua Rifles later that decade.

Military records at the time described Joseph Heckman as being a 5’ 8” farmer with brown hair, gray eyes and a light complexion.

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 (one hundred and sixty-five steps per minute using thirty-three-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, 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….

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 1 October, Private Joseph Heckman and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians 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, 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, 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….

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

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.


U.S. Naval Academy Barracks and temporary hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1861-1865 (public domain).

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped railcars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

By 4 p.m. on 27 January, Private Joseph Heckman and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians had been ferried to the Oriental by smaller steamers and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, were steaming away for the Deep South. 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.

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida (Harper’s Weekly, 1864, public domain).

They arrived in Key West in early February, and were assigned 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, they also mingled with locals by attending services at local churches. Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they then strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation, felled trees, and helped build new roads.

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.”

But while there were pleasant moments, the 47th’s days here were most definitely not easy. A significant number of the regiment fell ill, largely due to poor sanitary conditions and water quality.

From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men made camp before being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, during this phase of their service, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”

Sometime during July according to Schmidt, Major William H. Gausler of the regiment’s central command staff and F Company 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. They would remain in Pennsylvania through early November.

Capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida and the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina

Union Navy base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

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 twenty-five 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.

Companies E and K of the 47th then were sent on detached duty, and participated in the capture of 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.

Meanwhile, from 5 to 15 October 1862, several young Black men who had been enslaved near Beaufort, South Carolina enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Abraham Jassum and Edward Jassum, aged sixteen and twenty-two respectively, and thirty-three-year-old Bristor Gethers. All were initially assigned kitchen duties, and then officially mustered into military service with the 47th Pennsylvania at the rank of Under Cook on 22 June 1864. All served honorably, and completed their respective three-year tours of duty in October 1865.

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper’s Weekly in 1865.

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 enroute 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.

Pocotaligo-Coosawhatchie Expedition, 21-23 October 1862 (Union Army map, public domain).

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. Others were so grievously wounded that they were ultimately deemed unable to return to duty, and were discharged on surgeons’ certificates of disability.

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. (Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, was later named for him.) Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.


Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Florida (interior, circa 1934, C. E. Peterson, photographer, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.

As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe. 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.

1864 – Louisiana and The Red River Campaign

On 25 February 1864, Private Joseph Heckman and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would make history. Steaming first for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride—this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche—the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign spearheaded by Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington while enroute to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, 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.

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield (8 April 1864, public domain).

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, sixty members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the 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.

Casualties were severe. The regiment’s second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.

Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly one hundred and twenty-five 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 on 22 July and in September and November. F Company Private John L. Jones, who was wounded during the Battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April before being taken prisoner, languished in captivity at Camp Ford until he was finally released during a prisoner exchange on 24 September 1864. Just ten days earlier (on 14 September), while still a POW, he had been promoted by his regiment to the rank of Corporal. He survived the experience, went on to receive another promotion, and mustered out with his regiment in 1865.

But, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out alive. Private Samuel Kern of Company D died at Camp Ford on 12 June 1864, and Private John Weiss of F Company, who had been wounded in action at Pleasant Hill, died from his wounds at Camp Ford just over a month later on 15 July.

Following what some historians have called a drubbing by the Confederate Army and others have called a technical Union victory (or at least a draw), the 47th Pennsylvania fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April.

Christened “Bailey’s Dam” for the Union officer ordering its construction, Lt.-Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 facilitated Union gunboat passage (public domain).

On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, which enabled federal gunboats to successfully traverse the rapids of the Red River.

Beginning 16 May, Captain Henry S. Harte and F Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmesport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

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.)

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.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August 1864 and with F Company once again under the command of Captain Harte by September, the opening days of the month saw the regiment engaging once again with Confederate forces—this time in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia on 5 September 1864 and in related skirmishes afterward.

By mid-September, the 47th began a battle of a different sort—one with a thinning of the ranks as members of the regiment began mustering out upon completion of their respective initial three-year terms of service. Among those departing at this time was Private Joseph Heckman, who was officially mustered out at Berryville on 18 September 1864.

Return to Civilian Life

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Joseph Heckman returned to Pennsylvania, where he resumed farming and wed Henrietta Stuber in 1865. Sons James A. (1869-1854), Harvey W. (1871-1949), and Titus C. Heckman (1876-1955) were born respectively in Northampton County on: 1 June 1869, 4 December 1871, and 11 March 1876.

By 1880, he and his family were residing in Hanover Township, Lehigh County. As his family grew, so did his farm and his respect within and beyond his community. In 1891, he was awarded a $10.00 prize by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society when his horses won best brood mare and cold under two years with her, 1st premium in Department 1, Class One—Division B (Heavy Draught) at the Bethlehem State Fair.

A prominent member of the Schoenersville Church, he was also an active member of his local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R, Fuller, Post No., 378).

But, like many other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the harsh climates and stress to which his body was subject during the long years of America’s Civil War caused health problems. By the mid-1890s, he was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease. Known today as chronic nephritis, it causes a buildup of protein in the body leading to chronic inflammation of the kidneys, edema (fluid retention resulting in the swelling of the face and limbs, high blood pressure, and an enlarged liver.

He appeared to rally in 1893, as evidence by reports in the local newspaper that he traveled west to attend the World’s Fair in Chicago and visit friends in Illinois and Iowa, but his declining health ultimately forced him to retire in 1897. After suffering from the condition for eight years, Joseph Heckman developed a serious complication—cirrhosis of the liver—which became so severe in May of 1905 that he was confined to bed at his home near Schoenersville in Lehigh County. After languishing there for two months, he passed away during the evening of 5 July. His obituary which ran two days later in The Allentown Leader lauded him:

Joseph Heckman, a highly-respected citizen of Hanover Township, died at his home near Shoenersville [sic], aged 65 years and 3 months. Deceased had been suffering for eight years with Bright’s disease and subsequently liver trouble set in. He was unable to do any work for over a year and was bedfast eight weeks. Mr. Heckman was born in Allen Township April 3, 1840, and was a son of the late Charles and Susanna Heckman, nee Patterson.

He was a veteran of the Civil War and a member of Fuller Post No. 378, G.A.R., of Catasauqua. He enlisted in Lehigh County in 1861 and was mustered in the service at Philadelphia as a private in Company F, 47th Regiment, Penn’a Volunteer Infantry. After returning home from the war he was married to Henrietta Stuber in 1865. For many years he conducted a large farm. He retired in 1897 and moved to his present home. Deceased is survived by his wife and the following children: James A. and Harvey W. of near Schoenersville [sic], Titus C. of Bethlehem, and Hattie E. Heckman, at home. Two brothers also remain, David of Rittersville and Charles Heckman of East Catasauqua. He was a prominent member of the Schoenersville [sic] Church.

The funeral will take place Sunday afternoon from his late home. Regular services in the Shoenersville [sic] Church. Interment will be made with military honors in the Shoenersville [sic] Cemetery.

His obituary which ran a week after his death in The Allentown Democrat reported his passing in similar fashion:

Joseph Heckman, a veteran of Co. F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, died on Wednesday evening at his home near Schoenersville, after suffering for eight years with Bright’s disease, which finally developed into cirrhosis of the liver, from which he was bedfast for two months, aged 65 years, 3 months and 2 days. He was unable to work for over a year. He was a son of the late Charles and Susanna Heckman and was born in Allen township, Northampton county, April 3, 1840. He was married to Henrietta Stuber in 1865, and for many years conducted a large farm. He retired in 1897 and moved to his present home. Deceased is survived by his wife and the following children: James A. and Harvey W., of near Schoenersville, Titus C., of Bethlehem, and Hattie E., at home. Two brothers survive, David of Rittersville and Charles Heckman, of East Catasauqua. He served one term as constable of Hanover township, and was a member of Fuller Post, No. 378, G.A.R. of Catasauqua. The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon from his late home with regular services in the Schoenersville church, of which he was a prominent member, and interment was made in the adjoining cemetery.

Following funeral services at his home and at the Schoenersville Church on Sunday, 9 July 1905, he was laid to rest with military honors at the Schoenersville Cemetery in Lehigh County—the same cemetery where his parents were interred. After falling ill with cramps in late November 1912, widow Henrietta L. (Stuber) Heckman followed him in death less than a decade later, passing away on 27 December 1912. In its 27 November edition, The Allentown Leader reported that “Mrs. Henrietta Heckman was seriously sick for the past few days with cramps.”

That same newspaper then reported her passing in its New Year’s Eve edition as follows:

MRS. HENRIETTA HECKMAN DIES AT SHOENERSVILLE. Mrs. Henrietta, widow of Joseph Heckman, died of stomach trouble at the residence of her son, Titus, near Shoenersville [sic], aged 72 years. She had been sick for two months. Mrs. Heckman was a member of the Lutheran congregation at Shoenersville [sic] and of the German Bible Class of the. Sunday School. She is survived by the following children: James S. Heckman, Justice of the Peace, Hanover Township, Northampton County; Harvey W. Heckman, near Shoenersville [sic]; Titus C. Heckman, with whom she resided; and Mrs. Hattie Ott of Ruchsville. Twelve, grandchildren and one brother, Tilghman Stuber of East Allen Township, also survive. The funeral will be held on Wednesday at 10 a. m. at the house. Services and burial at Shoenersville Church, Rev. I. B. Ritter officiating.

Following funeral services on New Year’s Day, she was laid to rest next to her husband at the Schoenersville Cemetery. Their sons Harvey, James and Titus also rest at the same cemetery, having passed away in Allentown on 18 May 1955.



1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

2. “Death from Bright’s Disease.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 12 July 1905.

3. “Death of a Veteran: Joseph Heckman Passes Away after Lingering Illness.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 5 July 1905.

4. Joseph Heckman, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

5. Joseph Heckman, in Official Documents Comprising the Department and Other Reports Made to the Governor, Senate and House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, vol. X. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1892.

6. “Mrs. Henrietta Heckman Dies at Shoenersville.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 31 December 1912.

7. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.