Roster: Company G, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers
History of Company G
The initial recruitment for members to fill Company G of the Pennsylvania Volunteers’ 47th Regiment was conducted in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, the hometown of the regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good. Several of this company’s earliest recruits had responded, following the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After honorably completing their Three Months’ Service in July, these dedicated die-hards knew the fight to preserve America’s union was far from over, and re-enrolled for three-year tours of duty. Many others chose the 47th as their first service assignment.
Company G was initially led by Charles Mickley, a native of Mickleys near Whitehall Township in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Born on 27 January 1823, he had become, by 1857, a miller and merchant. After recruiting the men who would form the 47th Pennsylvania’s G Company, Charles Mickley then personally mustered in for duty as a Corporal with the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 18 September 1861. He was then promptly commissioned as a Captain and given command of Company G that same day. Also on that day, Charles A. Henry was made Company G’s 2nd Lieutenant, and John J. Goebel was commissioned as G Company’s 1st Lieutenant.
The remainder of Company G—95 men—also enrolled and mustered in that same day; by the next month, the roster numbered 98—a figure that would hold until 1862. By the time the Civil War ended in 1865, a total of 195 men would ultimately serve with G Company, including Thomas B. Leisenring, one of the “Three Month Men” who enlisted early—and then opted to re-enlist. Entering the 47th Pennsylvania as a Sergeant, he served the regiment so faithfully and so well that he succeeded Captains Mickley and Goebel as the commanding officer of G Company.
Following a brief light infantry training period at Camp Curtin, Captain Mickley and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., where they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, about two miles from the White House, beginning 21 September. Henry Wharton, a Musician with the regiment’s C Company, penned an update the next day to his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:
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.
As a unit of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company G became part of the federal service when the regiment officially mustered into the U.S. Army on 24 September. 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….
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. While en route, according to historian Lewis Schmidt, “Pvt. Reuben Wetzel, a 46 year old cook in Capt. Mickley’s Company G,” climbed up on a horse that was pulling his company’s wagon while his regiment was engaged in a march from Fort Ethan Allen to Camp Griffin (both in Virginia). When the regiment arrived at a deep ditch, “the horses lost their footing and the wagon overturned and plunged into the ditch, with ‘the old man, wagon, and horses, under everything.’”
Based on his review of military records, Schmidt believed that Pvt. Jacob H. Bowman (aged 35), a former Allentown miller who was Company G’s designated wagon master, was likely the driver at the time of Private Wetzel’s accident. Although alive when pulled from the wreckage, Pvt. Wetzel had fractured a tibia, a serious injury even today. He succumbed to complications just five weeks later (on 17 November 1861) while being treated for the fracture and resulting amputation of his leg at the Union Hotel General Hospital in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. He was interred at Military Asylum Cemetery (now known as the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery).
Pageantry and Hard Work
Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were engaged in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads on 11 October 1861. In a letter home around this time, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to head 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.” In late October, according to Schmidt, the men from Companies B, G and H woke at 3 a.m., assembled a day’s worth of rations, marched four miles from camp, and took over picket duties from the 49th New York:
Company B was stationed in the vicinity of a Mrs. Jackson’s house, with Capt. Kacy’s Company H on guard around the house. The men of Company B had erected a hut made of fence rails gathered around an oak tree, in front of which was the house and property, including a persimmon tree whose fruit supplied them with a snack. Behind the house was the woods were the Rebels had been fired on last Wednesday morning while they were chopping wood there.
In his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed still 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—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.
Treated for heart problems by the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Surgeon, Elisha Baily, M.D., G Company’s Private William Young was released from Camp Griffin, Virginia on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 23 November 1861, but died from valvular heart disease in Washington, D.C. the following day (on 24 November 1861) before he could make it back home. Like Private Wetzel, Private Young was also interred at the Military Asylum Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Privates Solomon Becker and Nelson Coffin of Company G were promoted to the rank of Corporal on New Year’s Day 1862; less than two weeks later, on 13 January, 1st Sergeant G. W. Huntzberger was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. On 18 January, Private Hiram Brobst 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.
In early February 1862, Company G and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men from the regiment attended to their spiritual needs by participating in area church services. While there, they also had the opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies, they felled trees, built new roads and helped to strengthen the facility’s fortifications.
On 3 March, Sergeant Charles A. Hackman was promoted to the rank of 1st Sergeant. The following day, Privates Daniel Ansbach, Joseph Fisher, John Meisenheimer and John Schimpf, Sr. were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates.
On 1 April 1862, Corporal D. K. Deifenderfer was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. On 18 May 1862, Private Edmund G. Scholl died at Fort Taylor.
Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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).
That summer, Private John A. Ulig received a Surgeon’s Certificate discharge on 12 August 1862. On 10 September 1862, Private Henry Zeppenfeldt died from typhoid fever at the Union Army’s General Hospital No. 2 at Beaufort, South Carolina. According to Schmidt, the remains of the “former baker from Allentown who had been born in Prussia” were “returned home on November 29, 1862, on the transport Delaware by undertaker Paul Balliett of Allentown,” and “were buried in the Union West End Cemetery on Sunday November 30.”
Sent on a return expedition to Florida, Company G saw its first truly intense moments when it participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, a 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the 3rd Brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with deadly snakes and alligators. By the time the expedition ended, the brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.
Integration of the Regiment
On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania made history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls a Black teen and several young to middle-aged Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina:
- 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 feet 6 inches 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 feet 5 inches 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 15 October 1862 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of Under Cook 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.
Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests.
The Union soldiers grappled with the Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including Privates Benjamin Diehl, James Knappenberger, John Kuhns (alternate spelling: Kuntz), and George Reber. Privates Knappenberger and Kuhns were killed in action during the 47th’s early engagement at the Frampton Plantation; Thorntown, Pennsylvania resident George Reber sustained a fatal gunshot wound to his head.
Another two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded in action, including Private Franklin Oland, who died from his wounds at the Union Army’s general hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina on 30 October, and Private John Heil, who sustained a gunshot wound (“Vulnus Sclopet”) and succumbed to his own battle wound-related complications at Hilton Head on 2 November 1862.
Several resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to the sloppy records management of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily buried or were forced to leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.
Jacob Henry Scheetz, M.D., Assistant Regimental Surgeon, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who subsequently cared for the fallen at the U.S. Army’s General Hospital at Hilton Head, documented that one of those cut down that day was G Company’s Captain Charles Mickley. A notation by Dr. Scheetz in the U.S. Army’s Register of Deaths of Volunteers certified that Captain Mickley had been “killed in action” at “Frampton SC” (the Frampton Plantation).
A 1987 article by Frank Whelan for Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper provides more detail what happened that day:
It was a venture designed to cut a railroad linking Charleston and Savannah, Ga. But poor planning by the overall Union commander, a Gen. Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, seemed to doom it to failure from the start. The officers in charge of the brigades expected to meet 10,000 armed Southern troops when they landed.
Yet the men of the 47th knew none of this. Like any men before a battle, they got ready for it in various ways. Young Capt. Charles Mickley of G Company picked up a pen to write a Lehigh Valley friend the night before the assault.
He enclosed a check for $600, the pay he had received that day. He asked his friend to set it aside in a savings bank for his wife.
After taking care of that bit of business, Mickley expressed his apprehension. ‘Today at one o’clock our Reg. will embark on the Steamer Ben Deford to go on an Expedition which our Reg is to take part in. But where we are agoing to, we are as yet kept in the dark about . . . I must beg pardon by putting you to so much trouble to attend to my affairs but as you are well aware when one is absent from home he leaves his matters to men as one has confidence in. If you were a young man I would say go and fight for your country. But as you are past the Meridian of life to do soldiering; there must be Patriots at home as well as in the field. If such were not the case how should we get along in the field. CM.’
The next morning Capt. Mickley and his men in the 47th were no longer in the dark. Outside of a farm called Frampton Plantation, near Pocotaligo, he found himself face to face with hot Rebel fire. As shell and canister and grapeshot raked the line, the bold Mickley charged forward into what commanding officer Tilghman Good called ‘a perfect matting of vines and brush . . . almost impossible to get through.’ Less than 24 hours after he penned his letter home, Charles Mickley was lying dead on the first battlefield of his life. His new home would be Union Cemetery.
Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, an Allentown newspaper published in German, reported that Captain Charles Mickley had suffered a fatal head wound during the Battle of Pocotaligo on 22 October 1862 on “the railway between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.” His “remains were brought immediately after his death to his home in Allentown.” Captain Mickley’s funeral, officiated by Rev. Derr and Rev. Brobst at the local Reformation Church, was widely attended by a “suffering entourage.”
Peter Wolf, sutler for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was the man who arranged to have Captain Mickley’s remains shipped north—through southern lines—in order for a proper funeral to be held by Mickley’s widow, Elizabeth, and their young children. Captain Mickley was then laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown.
In his report on the engagement, made from headquarters at Beaufort, South Carolina on 24 October 1862, Colonel Tilghman H. Good recounted still more details of the 10th Army’s ill-fated engagement:
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in the action of October 22:
Eight companies, comprising 480 men, embarked on the steamship Ben De Ford, and two companies, of 120 men, on the Marblehead, at 2 p.m. October 21. With this force I arrived at Mackays Landing before daylight the following morning. At daylight I was ordered to disembark my regiment and move forward across the first causeway and take a position, and there await the arrival of the other forces. The two companies of my regiment on board of the Marblehead had not yet arrived, consequently I had but eight companies of my regiment with me at this juncture.
At 12 m. I was ordered to take the advance with four companies, one of the Forty-seventh and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and two of the Sixth Connecticut, and to deploy two of them as skirmishers and move forward. After moving forward about 2 miles I discerned some 30 or 40 of the enemys [sic] cavalry ahead, but they fled as we advanced. About 2 miles farther on I discovered two pieces of artillery and some cavalry, occupying a position about three-quarters of a mile ahead in the road. I immediately called for a regiment, but seeing that the position was not a strong one I made a charge with the skirmishing line. The enemy, after firing a few rounds of shell, fled. I followed up as rapidly as possible to within about 1 mile of Frampton Creek. In front of this stream is a strip of woods about 500 yards wide, and in front of the woods a marsh of about 200 yards, with a small stream running through it parallel with the woods. A causeway also extends across the swamp, to the right of which the swamp is impassable. Here the enemy opened a terrible fire of shell from the rear, of the woods. I again called for a regiment, and my regiment came forward very promptly. I immediately deployed in line of battle and charged forward to the woods, three companies on the right and the other five on the left of the road. I moved forward in quick-time, and when within about 500 yards of the woods the enemy opened a galling fire of infantry from it. I ordered double-quick and raised a cheer, and with a grand yell the officers and men moved forward in splendid order and glorious determination, driving the enemy from this position.
On reaching the woods I halted and reorganized my line. The three companies on the right of the road (in consequence of not being able to get through the marsh) did not reach the woods, and were moved by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander by the flank on the causeway. During this time a terrible fire of grape and canister was opened by the enemy through the woods, hence I did not wait for the three companies, but immediately charged with the five at hand directly through the woods; but in consequence of the denseness of the woods, which was a perfect matting of vines and brush, it was almost impossible to get through, but by dint of untiring assiduity the men worked their way through nobly. At this point I was called out of the woods by Lieutenant Bacon, aide-de-camp, who gave the order, ‘The general wants you to charge through the woods.’ I replied that I was then charging, and that the men were working their way through as fast as possible. Just then I saw the two companies of my regiment which embarked on the Marblehead coming up to one of the companies that was unable to get through the swamp on the right. I went out to meet them, hastening them forward, with a view of re-enforcing the five already engaged on the left of the road in the woods; but the latter having worked their way successfully through and driven the enemy from his position, I moved the two companies up the road through the woods until I came up with the advance. The two companies on the right side of the road, under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander had also worked their way up through the woods and opened fire on the retreating enemy. At this point I halted and reorganized my regiment, by forming close column by companies. I then detailed Lieutenant Minnich, of Company B, and Lieutenant Breneman, of Company H, with a squad of men, to collect the killed and wounded. They promptly and faithfully attended to this important duty, deserving much praise for the efficiency and coolness they displayed during the fight and in the discharge of this humane and worthy trust.
The casualties in this engagement were 96. Captain Junker of Company K; Captain Mickley, of Company [sic] I, and Lieutenant Geety, of Company H, fell mortally wounded while gallantly leading their respective companies on.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men. They all performed deeds of valor, and rushed forward to duty and danger with a spirit and energy worthy of veterans…
As Good continued, he made clear that despite men falling around them, the 47th continued to fight on:
The rear forces coming up passed my regiment and pursued the enemy. When I had my regiment again placed in order, and hearing the boom of cannon, I immediately followed up, and, upon reaching the scene of action, I was ordered to deploy my regiment on the right side of the wood, move forward along the edge of it, and relieve the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. This I promptly obeyed. The position here occupied by the enemy was on the opposite side of the Pocotaligo Creek, with a marsh on either side of it, and about 800 yards distant from the opposite wood, where the enemy had thrown up rifle pits all along its edge.
On my arrival the enemy had ceased firing; but after the lapse of a few minutes they commenced to cheer and hurrah for the Twenty-sixth South Carolina. We distinctly saw this regiment come up in double-quick and the men rapidly jumping into the pits. We immediately opened fire upon them with terrible effect, and saw their men thinning by scores. In return they opened a galling fire upon us. I ordered the men under cover and to keep up the fire. During this time our forces commenced to retire. I kept my position until all our forces were on the march, and then gave one volley and retired by flank in the road at double-quick about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut. This regiment was formed about 1,000 yards in the rear of my former position. We jointly formed the rear guard of our forces and alternately retired in the above manner.
My casualties here amounted to 15 men.
We arrived at Frampton (our first battle ground) at 8 p.m. Here my regiment was relieved from further rear-guard duty by the Fourth New Hampshire Regiment. This gave me the desired opportunity to carry my dead and wounded from the field and convey them back to the landing. I arrived at the above place at 3 o’clock the following morning.
While Good was working on his reports to his superiors, his subordinates in the 47th Pennsylvania were settling back in at Hilton Head, where they had returned on 23 October. There, men from the 47th were given the honor of serving as the funeral guard for General Ormsby 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, and fired the salute over his grave. 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.
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another Black man escape from slavery near Beaufort when they added 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5 feet 4 inch-tall laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, he was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and served until the expiration of his own three-year term of service on 31 October 1865.
Private Edmund Miller was then discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 9 November 1862 and, on 27 December, Private William Hausler was promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Following the death of Captain Mickley, 1st Lieutenant John Goebel stepped in to fill G Company’s leadership void. On 2 January 1863, he re-enlisted at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida, and was promoted to the rank of Captain.
By 1863, the men of G Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote, accessible-only-by-boat installation in Florida’s Dry Tortugas.
On 19 January 1863, Private Reily M. Fornwald was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Private Henry Meyer was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 21 February.
The time spent here by Captain Goebel and the men of Company G and at Fort Jefferson was notable also for the men’s commitment to preserving the Union. Many who could have returned home chose instead to re-enlist in order to finish the fight.
When they re-enlisted on 1 and 2 May 1863, respectively, Sergeant D. K. Deifenderfer became 1st Sergeant Deifenderfer, and 1st Sergeant Charles A. Hackman was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Private Allen Wolf also received a promotion at this time. On 1 May, he became Corporal Wolf. On 9 May 1863, Private William Eberhart died at Fort Jefferson, as did Private Irvin Sheirer, who was described by Assistant Regimental Surgeon Jacob H. Scheetz, M.D. as having succumbed on 18 May to “Phthisis Pulmonalis” (a wasting away commonly associated with pulmonary tuberculosis). Private Sheirer was initially interred on the parade grounds at Fort Jefferson.
A few weeks later on 19 June 1863, 2nd Lieutenant G. W. Huntzberger was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. On 21 October 1863, Sergeant Thomas Leisenring was promoted to the rank of 1st Sergeant when he re-enlisted at Fort Jefferson. A week later, G Company’s Private Max Hallmeyer was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate.
December 1863 then saw an infusion of new blood into Company G with the mustering in of Privates Frederick Wilt (2 December); Wellington Martin (7 December); David Leibensperger, Emanuel Loeffler, Hiram Mertz and Christian Smith (15 December); Jairus Bernhard (shown on the regiment’s rosters as “Jeremiah”), Henry Doll and Constant Losch (17 December); Benjamin Bortz (18 December); Alfred Dech (alternate given name: Alpheus), John Kneller and Moses Peter (19 December); Charles Eckert, Franklin C. Mertz and Jonathan Reber (29 December); and Benjamin F. Swartz (New Year’s Eve).
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach further 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. 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.
Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.
Red River Campaign
From 14-26 March, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry headed for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana, by way of New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington. From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment 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 throughout their long harsh-climate trek through enemy territory, the men encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.
Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.
Still others from the 47th were captured, marched 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas (the largest of the Confederate prisons west of the Mississippi), and held there as prisoners of war until released during prisoner exchanges on 22 July or in later months. At least two men from the 47th Pennsylvania would never make it out of that prison alive while Private Joseph Clewell would succumb to disease-related complications on 18 June 1864 while being held as a POW at the Confederate Army’s hospital at Shreveport, Louisiana. (Clewell had initially been part of the 47th Pennsylvania’s roster of Unassigned Men upon muster in on 4 November 1863.)
On 15 April 1864, Private Henry J. Hornbeck was promoted from service with G Company to service with the 47th Pennsylvania’s central regimental command staff at the rank of Sergeant. The next day, G Company’s Private John Great was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate.
Private Allen P. Kemmerer was discharged by Special Order on 17 April 1864. The next day, Privates Jacob Stangala and Nathan Troxell were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates. On 21 April, Private Phillip Hower died from Variola (smallpox) at the Union Army’s barracks hospital in New Orleans.
Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped. The 47th Pennsylvanians remained there 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, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night, after marching 45 miles. While en route, they had been attacked again—this time in the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on.
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 Monett’s Ferry (also known as 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 two other brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery.
Emory’s troops subsequently worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, forced a Rebel retreat, and then erected a series of pontoon bridges to enable 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. The same day of their arrival, Private Henry T. Dennis was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and Corporal Martin H. Hackman became Sergeant Hackman. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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.
Marching onward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers headed for Avoyelles Parish. On 14 May, Private Constant Losch became Corporal Losch. That same day, Private Jeremiah Strahley was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. Wharton noted in his letter that:
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 far enough into 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.*
* Note: Disease continued to be a truly formidable foe, claiming yet more members of the 47th Pennsylvania. Privates Henry Smith, Christian Schlu (alternate spelling: Schlea) and Alfpheus Dech (alternate spellings: Alfred Dech or Deck) would succumb to disease-related complications, respectively, on 30 May, and 2 and 3 June at the Union’s Marine Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, followed by Private Jonathan Heller, who would die at the Charity General Hospital in New Orleans on 7 June.
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, Private John Eyres Webster was losing his battle with disease-related complications at the Union Army’s general hospital at Baton Rouge. (Although the Union Army’s death ledger indicates that he died on 21 June, his gravestone indicates the death date was 24 June. Sickened by one of the fever variants that plagued the 47th Pennsylvania, Private Webster now rests in peace at the Baton Rouge National Cemetery.)
The regiment then moved on once again, and arrived in New Orleans in late June.
On 3 July 1864, Private Jacob Beidleman died from disease-related complications at the Union Army’s hospital at Natchez, Mississippi. The next day (the 4th of July), the men from G Company learned that their fight was not yet over as they received new orders to return to the East Coast for further duty.
* Note: As the bulk of the regiment was preparing to depart for the East Coast, regimental physicians were making the difficult decision to keep members of the 47th Pennsylvania in Louisiana to continue recuperating from diseases or war wounds—or to die. Private Joseph Barber was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 28 July, but Sergeant John Gross Helfrich was less fortunate. He died at the Union Army’s Hospital in New Orleans on 5 August 1864 (the anniversary of the 47th Pennsylvania’s founding), and now rests at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard’s Parish, Louisiana.
(A private by the name of “D. Madden,” who may also have served with G Company, was reported by the U.S. Army in its Register of Deaths of U.S. Volunteers to have died from pneumonia at the infamous prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia on 11 July 1864; however, his membership with the 47th remains unclear. There appears to have been no soldier by this name (“D. Madden”) on Company G’s muster rolls. But, according to the Civil War Veterans’ Card file at the Pennsylvania State Archives, there was a soldier by the name of “Daniel Madden” who had enrolled and mustered in at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania as a 29-year-old Private with Company G of the 149th Pennsylvania Infantry. That D. Madden died at Andersonville on 11 July 1864 after having been captured earlier by Confederate forces.)
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.
Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers continued their fight to preserve the Union during the summer of 1864. After receiving orders on the 4th of July to return to the East Coast, they did so in two stages.
Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed for the Washington, D.C. area beginning 7 July while the men from Companies B, G and K remained behind on detached duty and to await transportation. Led by F Company Captain Henry S. Harte, they finally sailed away at the end of the month, arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.
Due to the delay, the boys from G Company missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, and also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.
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 during the opening days of that month, and then engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements over the next several weeks between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.
From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers fought in the Battle of Berryville.
The opening days of September also saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company G’s Private Franklin T. Good on 13 August, discharged by General Order of the U.S. War Department, and 1st Sergeant D. K. Deifenderfer, Musician William Smith, and Corporals Solomon Becker, Nelson Coffin, Lewis Dennis, Timothy Donahue, Ferdinand Fisher, Reily M. Fornwald, William Hausler and Allen Wolf, and Privates Jacob Bowman, Preston B. Good, Cornelius Heist, John T. Henry, Franklin Hoffert, Frederick L. Jacobs, William F. Keck, Lewis Keiper, George Knauss, James H. Knerr, Orlando Miller, Barney Montague, Francis Smetzer, Frederick Weisbach, George Xander and Engelbert Zanger, who all mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-years term of service.
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 G and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces 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 and fording the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with the Confederate Army commanded by Early. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.
Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by 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 (21-22 September), eight miles south of Winchester, 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, they and other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience: John Peter Shindel Gobin, Charles W. Abbott and Levi Stuber.
On 18 October 1864, G Company’s Captain John Goebel was commissioned, but not mustered, as a Major.
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
It was 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 crops and farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents—civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles—all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:
When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:
When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.
Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a frightening near miss as a bullet pierced his cap during the day’s intense fight, but a significant number of men from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were far less fortunate. The casualty rate sustained by the 47th Pennsylvania at Cedar Creek was so high, in fact, that when the final numbers were tallied, regimental leaders realized that the 47th had lost the equivalent of nearly two full companies of men.
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, as were G Company Privates John Becher and Julius Lasker. Captain John Goebel, who had suffered a grievous gunshot wound, died three weeks later, on 5 November 1864, of wound-related complications while receiving care at the Union Army’s post hospital at Winchester, Virginia. (Captain Goebel’s body, like that of his predecessor Captain Mickley, was brought home to the Lehigh Valley; he was also laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown.)
Still others reportedly succumbed to starvation or disease after being captured and transported from the Cedar Creek battlefield area to the Confederate Army’s notorious Salisbury, North Carolina prison camp.
Within weeks of the battle’s end, the surviving 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, where they remained from November through most of December. On 1 November 1864, Corporal Henry T. Dennis and Private William H. Steckel were promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and Privates Daniel V. Mertz and Benjamin F. Swartz both were promoted to the rank of Corporal. Three days later, on 4 November, Private William G. Frame was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”).
On 5 November, 1st Lieutenant Charles A. Hackman mustered out from the 47th Pennsylvania, as did 1st Lieutenant G. W. Huntzberger, on 30 November, upon the expiration of his three-year term of service. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were then ordered to take up outpost and railroad guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia.
Five days before Christmas, they marched through a driving snowstorm to reach their new home.
1865 – 1866
On New Year’s Day 1865 at Stevenson, Virginia, 1st Sergeant Thomas Leisenring, one of the men who had stepped in to fill the void when the second of G Company’s captains was killed in battle, was promoted to the rank of Captain. Sergeant William H. Steckel was also promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, Corporal Jacob Warman became Sergeant Warman, and Private George Hepler became Corporal Hepler. A week later, Sergeant Martin Hackman mustered out.
Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. On 1 February, Corporal Daniel V. Mertz was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and Privates John Kneller and Frederick Wilt were both promoted to the rank of Corporal. Four days later, on 5 February, Corporal John Pratt became Sergeant Pratt.
On 21 February 1865, Private Josiah Hoffman died from scurvy and general debility at the Union’s Division No. 1 General Hospital at Annapolis, Maryland. Private Luther Toomy received a Surgeon’s Certificate discharge on 31 March.
By 19 April 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital—this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they were resupplied and received new uniforms.
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 the early days of their imprisonment.
George W. Lightfoot was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”) on 26 April 1865. On 14 May, Sergeant Henry T. Dennis was promoted to the rank of 1st Sergeant. The next day, Private Henry Henn was discharged by General Order, and Private William H. Guptill was deemed unable to continue his own service due to disability and discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate. Private Joseph Young was discharged via General Order two days later (on 17 May).
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 William Kennedy died while at home in Pennsylvania. Suffering from Phthisis, a wasting away which often accompanied pulmonary tuberculosis, he passed away at the Union Army’s Mower General Hospital, and was interred at the Philadelphia National Cemetery.
Captain Levi Stuber of Company I was promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central staff around this same time.
On 1 June 1865, Sergeant W. John Glick was discharged by General Order from the 47th Pennsylvania; he had been promoted from the rank of Private to Corporal on New Year’s Day 1865, and then again, just one month prior to his discharge, from Corporal to Sergeant on 1 May. Private David Buskirk was also discharged by General Order on 25 May, as were Corporal Solomon Weider and Richard Arnbrunn and Privates Milton A. Engleman, James Gaumer, Levinus and Solomon Hillegass, William H. Kramer, Private William Leiby, Israel Rinehard and Erwin Stahler, who were discharged by General Order on 1 June. Private William Geisinger was mustered out by General Order on 9 June.
On their final southern tour, Company G and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, they next quartered at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury in Charleston, South Carolina.
Duties during this time were largely Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related, including the repair of railroads and other key infrastructure items which had been damaged or destroyed during the long war. Personnel changes also continued to be made to the regiment. Private Benjamin Bortz was discharged by General Order on 6 July 1865, followed by Private Benjamin S. Koons on 19 July 1865. Koons, who had developed congestive liver failure in April 1865 while the regiment was stationed near Summit Point, Virginia, was sent back home to Pennsylvania less than six months after enlisting. Private Jacob Hay then died less than seven months after his own enistment, succumbing to congestive intermittent fever in Charleston on 10 October.
Eighteen days later, Privates Benjamin Lucas and William Sieger mustered out at Charleston upon expiration of their respective terms of service. On 5 November, at Morris Island, South Carolina, 1st Lieutenant William Steckel suffered an injury which caused him to partially lose the sight in his left eye. He continued to serve with the regiment until it mustered out at the close of the war.
Beginning on Christmas Day of that year, the majority of the men of Company G, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers finally began to honorably muster out at Charleston, 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 final discharge papers.
Unlike their former commanding officers, Captains Charles Mickley and John Goebel, many of the men in G Company went on to live long lives. Some contributed greatly to their communities. Far more faded quietly into the background, content to take up farming, carpentry or other trades to support their new and growing families.
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, Burial, Baptismal and Marriage Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
7. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
8. 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.
9. Mickley, Minnie F. The Genealogy of the Mickley Family in America: Together with a Brief Genealogical Record of the Michelet Family of Metz, and Some Interesting and Valuable Correspondence, Biographical Sketches, Obituaries and Historical Memorabilia. Newark, New Jersey: Advertiser Printing House, 1893.
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.
12. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
13. “Starb.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, 5 November 1862.
14. Stegall, Joel T. “Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.
15. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.
16. U.S. Census (1840-1940) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
17. Whelan, Frank. “Monument Rededication Recalls Sacrifice Of Civil War Soldiers.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, 15 November 1987.