The Lilly Brothers of Northampton County: Joseph, James and Harrison

Shoemaker (1807 book illustration, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Alternate Spellings of Surname: Lilby, Lilley, Lilly


Born respectively on 8 October 1834, 12 April 1836 and circa 1843 in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Joseph M. Lilly (1834-1876), James T. Lilly (1836-1870) and Harrison Lilly (circa 1843-1865) were sons of Pennsylvania natives Elisabeth (Billheimer) Lilly (1809-1867), and Joseph Lilly (1807-1881), a master shoemaker.

In 1840, at the ages of 6 and 4 respectively, Joseph and James Lilly resided in Moore Township, Northampton County with their parents and siblings, including Charles (1828-1914), Hannah (born 1831), and Stephen (born 1840).

Federal census records also show that, by 1850, seven-year-old Harrison Lilly resided in Moore Township, Northampton County with his parents and siblings: Charles (1828-1914), Hannah (born 1831), Stephen (born 1840), Edward (born 1841), and Theodore (born 1848). Family patriarch Joseph Lilly was described on the federal census of this period as a laborer with an estate valued at $1,500 while son Charles was documented as a stone mason; sons Stephen and Edward were shown as having attended school within the past year.

Meanwhile, sons James and Joseph Lilly may have temporarily departed from the Lilly family home to serve as apprentices to tradesmen elsewhere in Northampton County. Federal census records show that a Joseph Lilly worked as a blacksmith in 1850 while residing in East Allen Township with the family of foundry worker Jeremiah Flick while James Lilly may have learned from and worked as a farmer or shoemaker for the Arner family. Federal census records show that a James Lilly resided in Bethlehem, Northampton County with farmer “N. Arner” whose family was listed on the same census sheet as the listing for shoemaker “R. Arner.”

On 12 June 1851, the Lilly brothers greeted the arrival of another sibling—baby brother August, who survived barely a year. Passing away on 22 October 1862, August was laid to rest at what is now the Salem Union Church Cemetery in Moorestown, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

But by 1860, James and Harrison Lilly were back home, residing at the ages of 22 and 16 respectively, in Moore Township, Northampton County with their parents and siblings: Hannah (born 1839), a housemaid, Stephen (born 1841), “HapyAnn” (born 1854), and Ellen (born 1857). Henry Hoch (born 1855) also resided at the Lilly family home at this time. Family patriarch Joseph Lilly was described on the federal census for this period as a master shoemaker with real and personal estate valued at $2,135 while son James was documented to have been employed as a shoemaker.

Meanwhile, older brother Charles Lilly had become a successful carpenter, and resided at his own home in Moore Township with his wife, Lucinda (Shall) Lilly (1831-1914), and their daughter Ellen (1860-1940), who would later go on to take the married surname of “Lapp.”

The relatively untroubled years of the Lilly family, their friends and neighbors would soon end, however, as the United States wrestled with the secession of multiple southern states, and descended rapidly into the twilight of Civil War. The horizon darkened further during the fateful Spring of 1861 as President Abraham Lincoln readied the nation for war with his Proclamation of 3 May 1861:

Whereas existing exigencies demand immediate and adequate measures for the protection of the National Constitution and the preservation of the National Union by the suppression of the insurrectionary combinations now existing in several States for opposing the laws of the Union and obstructing the execution thereof, to which end a military force in addition to that called forth by my proclamation of the 15th day of April in the present year appears to be indispensably necessary:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy thereof and of the militia of the several States when called into actual service, do hereby call into the service of the United States 42,034 volunteers to serve for the period of three years, unless sooner discharged, and to be mustered into service as infantry and cavalry. The proportions of each arm and the details of enrollment and organization will be made known through the Department of War….

Civil War Military Service

Just over a month later, Joseph M. and Harrison Lilly enrolled for Civil War military service, and officially mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 30 August 1861 with Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Note: 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 was conducted in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, where this company’s commanding officer—Captain Henry Samuel Harte—lived and worked as an innkeeper.

Joseph Lilly, aged 27, joined at the rank of Corporal while his 18-year-old brother entered as a Private. Military records described Harrison Lilly as being a 5′ 7″-tall laborer with brown hair, light eyes and a dark complexion.

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

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.

Chain Bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown looking toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).

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, 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….

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 historian Lewis 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….

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 rail 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.

As the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental during the afternoon of 27 January, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. The officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, 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.

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

The Lilly brothers and the other members of Company F arrived in Key West with their fellow members of the regiment in early 1862, 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, soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania also mingled with locals by attending services at churches nearby.

Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation. During this phase of duty, disease was the most fearsome foe, due largely to poor sanitary conditions and water quality. A significant number of 47th Pennsylvanians fell ill; several were ultimately laid to rest at the post cemetery.

But there were also moments of celebration. According to Schmidt, 4 June 1862 was a festive day for the regiment. As the USS Niagara sailed for Boston after transferring its responsibilities to the USS Potomac, the flagship of the Union Navy squadron in that sector, the guns of 15 warships anchored nearby boomed in salute, as did those manned by the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers’ F Company, which “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM.”

From mid-June through July, the 47th was stationed at 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 and Captain Henry S. Harte returned home to the Lehigh Valley to resume their recruiting efforts. Major Gausler was able to persuade an additional 54 men to join the 47th Pennsylvania while Harte rounded up 12 more. Both men would remain in Allentown through early November.

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 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 1862, 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 twelve-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.)

In the wake of this success, 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, a black teen and several young black men left the hardship they had known in Beaufort, South Carolina to become members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, including:

Listed as “Presto Gettes” on his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives, but as “Bristor Gethers” on his U.S. Civil War Pension Index entry, the older man was described as being 5’5″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. In comparison, military records described Abraham Jassum as being 5’6″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, noting that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” All three were enrolled with the title of “Negro UnderCook.”

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

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.

Harried by snipers enroute to the 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 the Pocotaligo Bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackey’s Point.

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant, ranging from front-line privates to company commanders. A fair number died where they were felled by rifle or cannon fire while others were discharged later due to the severity of their battle wounds. The graves of several members of the regiment remain unidentified to this day.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby M. Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. (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’s moat and wall, circa 1934, Dry Tortugas, Florida (C.E. Peterson, 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.

Once again, the regiment was plagued by disease and harsh living conditions. Felled by dysentery, Private Harrison Lilly was confined to the post hospital at Fort Jefferson from 7-15 May 1863.

But despite these harsh conditions, the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to re-enlist when their three-year service terms were up, including Private Harrison Lilly, who re-upped at Fort Jefferson on 22 October 1863. His brother, Corporal Joseph M. Lilly, also re-enlisted.


As the New Year of 1864 dawned, another member of the Lilly family prepared to join his brothers in the fight to save America’s union. On 23 January, shoemaker James T. Lilly enrolled for military service at Easton, Northampton County. Officially mustering in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg as a Private with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers—the same company and regiment in which Joseph M. and Harrison Lilly had been serving for the past three years, James then connected with his regiment from a recruiting depot.

On 25 February 1864, the 47th 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, 60 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 between July and November. Several members of the regiment never made it out alive.

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. Retreating toward Alexandria, Louisiana, they then scored another victory against the Confederates, this time on 23 April at Monett’s Ferry in the Battle of Cane Hill.

Next, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they helped to build a dam near Alexandria from 30 April through 10 May. Christened as “Bailey’s Dam,” this timber structure enabled federal gunboats to successfully traverse the fluctuating waters 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.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

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 bulk of the 47th Pennsylvania joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, where the men from Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I 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 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was then assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia during the early part of that month. Over the next several weeks, the regiment then 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 warbeing waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with 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 Henry S. Harte by September, the opening days of Fall 1864 also saw the promotion of several men from Company F and the departure of a significant number of others who had served honorably but whose terms of service were expiring, including F Company’s Captain Harte, who mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864. For the Lilly brothers and other remaining members of the 47th, the fighting was not yet over—and they were about to engage in the regiment’s greatest moments of valor.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864

Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the 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.

Victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces, Battle of Opequan, 19 September 1864 (Kurz & Allison, c. 1893, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny at Opequan began at 2 a.m. on 19 September 1864 as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. After advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps bogged down for several hours 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.

The 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by General William Emory to attack and pursue Major-General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice—once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.

The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels fled 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 were replaced by 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 Commanding Officer of the regiment).

Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864

Alfred Waud’s 1864 sketch, Surprise at Cedar Creek, which captured the flanking attack on the rear of Union Brigadier-General William Emory’s 19th Corps by Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate army, and the subsequent resistance by Emory’s troops from their Union riflepits, 19 October 1864 (public domain).

It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents—civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally 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!’”

Sheridan Rallying His Troops, Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, 19 October 1864 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:

When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.

Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high with more than 170 members of the regiment killed, wounded, or captured and carted off to Confederate prison camps. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill was cut down in view of his drummer boy son 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 ultimately returned to continued service with the regiment.

Following these engagements, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, where they remained from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, they were then ordered to outpost and railroad guard duty at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia. Five days before Christmas, they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.

1865 – 1966

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. Despite the relative strength of the Union Army, this was still a dangerous time for 47th Pennsylvanians. Tragically, Private Harrison Lilly was shot in the abdomen by Confederate guerillas at Summit Point, Virginia on 25 March; Corporal Franklin Arnold was then wounded there three days later. Corporal Arnold would ultimately be discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate less than four months later on 15 July 1865, but Private Lilly was less fortunate. He succumbed to “Vulnus Sclopet” (the Latin term for gunshot wounds) at the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental hospital on 29 March 1864, according to Union Army death records.

Private Harrison Lilly, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (fatal gunshot wound to abdomen documented in Registers of Deaths of U.S. Volunteers, 29 March 1865, U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Initially laid to rest near the hospital, Private Lilly’s remains were later exhumed as part of the federal government’s program to respectfully rebury Union soldiers at national cemeteries. He now rests in Section 26, Grave No. 1043 at the Winchester National Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia.

Spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half-mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Matthew Brady, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were once again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital—this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied. During this time, Corporal Joseph Lilly was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (on 21 April 1865).

Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their imprisonment and trial.

Then, as part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the surviving Lilly brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May. A week later, on 31 May, Private James T. Lilly was honorably discharged, and sent home to Pennsylvania.

On their final southern tour, Sergeant Joseph M. Lilly and his 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 assigned to the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. 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.

Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers—including Sergeant Joseph M. Lilly—began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina, a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.

Return to Civilian Life

James T. Lilly’s Gravestone (Salem Union Church Cemetery, Moorestown, Pennsylvania, public domain).

Following the death of his brother and his own subsequent honorable discharge from the military at the end of May 1865, James T. Lilly returned home to Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where he began to make a life and home with Emma Kelchner. Their daughter, Clara Jane Lilly, was born on 6 March 1867, just a few weeks after the passing of James’ mother, Elisabeth (Billheimer) Lilly (who had died on 16 February, and was laid to rest at the same cemetery where their younger brother August had been interred more than a decade earlier – the Salem Union Church Cemetery in Moorestown, Northampton County, Pennsylvania).

Tragically, the year would bring more darkness to the Lilly family when James and Emma Lilly’s daughter passed away on 23 November. Clara Jane Lilly’s tiny body was then buried in the same graveyard as her paternal grandmother—the Salem Union Church Cemetery.

And then just a few short years later, on Christmas Eve of 1870, James T. Lilly also died. He, too, was laid to rest at the Salem Union Church Cemetery. At the time of his passing, he was described on his gravestone as the “Consort of Emma C. Kelchner.”

That same year (1870), carpenter Charles Lilly, the eldest of the Lilly brothers, resided in Moore Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Lucinda (Shall) Lilly (1831-1914), and their children Ellen (1860-1940) and Thomas (born circa 1865). His real and personal estate holdings were value at $2,400. By 1880, Charles, now a farmer, and his wife, Lucinda, were still residents of Moore Township. Also residing at his home by this time was his father, Joseph, a seventy-three-year-old shoemaker.

Meanwhile, Charles’ younger brother and former 47th Pennsylvanian, Joseph M. Lilly, resided in Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Mary (1836-1897), and their Pennsylvania-born son Charles (aged one). Employed as a brick mason, his real and personal estate holdings were valued by the census taker at $800.

Per late 19th and early 20th century federal census records, it is clear that both James and Harrison Lilly were outlived by their older brothers, Charles Lilly and Joseph M. Lilly, as well as by their father. Joseph M. Lilly, the son of master shoemaker Joseph Lilly, passed away on 16 August 1876, and was laid to rest at Saint Johns Union Cemetery in Mickleys, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Family patriarch Joseph Lilly then died in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 21 November 1881. He was laid to rest at the same cemetery where his wife, Elisabeth (Billheimer) Lilly, and granddaughter, Clara Jane Lilly, were buried in 1867, and where son James was also interred in 1870—the Salem Union Cemetery in Moorestown.

Charles, the oldest of the Lilly brothers, then died in Northampton County on 12 July 1914, and was laid to rest at the Fairview Cemetery in Moorestown, Northampton County.



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

2. Lilly, Harrison and James, in 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.

3. Lilly, Harrison and James, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

4. Lilly, Harrison, in “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, 1865.

5. Peters, Gerhard and John T. Wooley. Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation 83—Increasing the Size of the Army and Navy, May 3, 1861, in The American Presidency Project. Santa Barbara, California: University of California, Santa Barbara, retrieved online 1 October 2017.

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

7. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910.