Alternate Spellings of Given Name: Jairus, Jarius, Jeremiah, Jerry. Alternate Spellings of Surname: Barnhard, Bernhard, Bernhardt
Born in Emaus (now spelled “Emmaus”) in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania in December 1845, Jairus Bernhard was a son of Pennsylvania natives Reuben (1810-1857) and Lucy Ann Bernhard (1818-1891). In 1850, he resided in Emaus, with his parents and siblings: Alfred (born circa 1841), Kitty Ann (1843-1823), who had been born in Mertztown and was shown on the federal census of 1850 as “Vetean,” and Alice (1847-1922). His father supported the family on the wages of a tailor. Also residing at the home was 35-year-old Maria Bernhard. The family then greeted the births of children Amelia M. A. (1851-1929) on 27 November 1851 and Edward (born circa 1854).
In 1856, the Bernhards relocated to the Borough of Allentown in Lehigh County, a move which ultimately proved an unhappy one when family patriarch Reuben Bernhard died suddenly at the age of 46. Following his passing on 10 June 1857, he was laid to rest at the Jerusalem Western Salisbury Church Cemetery in Allentown.
In 1860, 14-year-old Jairus Bernhard and his 18-year-old brother Alfred lived and worked on the Salisbury Township, Lehigh County farm of Edwin Klein and his family while their 41-year-old mother Lucy Ann Bernhard and siblings Amelia and Edward resided once again in Emmaus. According to the federal census taker that year, they lived at the home of Lucy Bernhard’s 20-year-old son Reuben Bernhard, a laborer, and his wife, Sarah. Also residing at the home was 53-year-old Esther Balliet.
At the age of 18, Jairus R. Bernhard enrolled for Civil War military service at the recruiting depot in Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on 17 December 1863. He then officially mustered in there the same day as a Private with Company G, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Military records described him as a 5’ 4½” tall laborer from Emaus who had light hair, gray eyes and a fair complexion, and also noted that his name was “Jeremiah.” He was not only joining a regiment which had been sorely tested by disease and combat, but one that was about to make history.
Following his arrival at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida, Private Jairus Bernhard gradually acclimated to garrison duty there in January 1864. That duty would be short-lived, however, because he and his new comrades were soon ordered to head west. By late February, they were boarding the steamship Charles Thomas. Steaming first for New Orleans, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.
From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.
Casualties were severe. Lieutenant Colonel George Warren Alexander, the regiment’s second in command, 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, 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 never made it out of that prison alive; another died months later while being treated at a Confederate prison hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. They then continued their retreat toward Alexandria, Louisiana.
On 23 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians and their fellow brigade members engaged in the Battle of Cane River near Monett’s Ferry and, from 30 April through 10 May under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam to enable federal gunboats to more easily move through the Red River’s fluctuating water levels. Beginning 16 May, Private Jairus Bernhard and the majority of his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians moved from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June. On the 4th of July, they learned that their fight was not over as the regiment was given new orders to return to the East Coast.
Removed from command amid the controversy over the Union Army’s successes and failures during the Red River Expedition, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. Banks subsequently spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
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, Private Jairus Bernhard and the other 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 a number of men from Company G who mustered out on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.
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 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 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 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. The next day, he would answer his last bugle call. Wounded in action during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, he succumbed to battle wound-related complications several weeks later.
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s crops and farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents – civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. 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 historian Samuel P. 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.
Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap, but 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. Privates John Becher and Julius Lasker of Company G were also killed in action.
Captain John Goebel, the commanding officer of G Company 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 Charles Mickley, was brought home to the Lehigh Valley; he was also laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown.
Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to 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. Then, in February 1865, after being assigned to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, he, Private Jairus Bernhard and the other men of the 47th Pennsylvania were ordered to move, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. By 19 April 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital 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 their trial or imprisonment.
As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review of the Armies from 23-24 May.
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.
Beginning on Christmas Day of that year, the majority of the men of Company G, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry – including Private Jairus Bernhard –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 discharge papers.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Jairus Bernhard returned home to the Lehigh Valley where he reconnected with family and friends and worked to begin life anew. Sometime around 1866, his sister Kitty Ann married William Henry H. Minninger (1841-1899), a cigar maker who had recently started his tenure as conductor of the Allentown Band, a position he held from 1861 to 1878 (and possibly as late as 1899, according to his obituary). Before the decade was out, Jairus Bernhard then also wed and began a family. After marrying sometime around 1869, he and his wife, Elizabeth (1847-1927), a fellow Pennsylvania native, welcomed the birth of daughter Ella J.(1870-1947) on 22 February 1870 at their 2nd Ward home in Allentown. Son George then arrived sometime around 1873.
By 1880, Jairus Bernhard was employed as a moulder and residing with his wife and children, Ella and George, on Law Street in Allentown. Meanwhile, his mother was employed as a cook and residing at the hotel operated by Joseph Newhard on Allentown’s Hamilton Street. The following year his mother passed away on 6 November 1881, and was laid to rest at Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery.
By mid-decade, he was employed as a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service. According to records of the U.S. House of Representatives from July 1885, he was paid an annual salary of $600. Five years later, he filed for his U.S. Civil War Pension. After waiting two years, he finally received word on 20 January 1892 that he would be receiving payments of $12 per month, retroactive to 27 August 1890. This timing was important for his survival because, on 20 October 1898, he was seriously injured in a workplace accident. According to the 21 October 1898 edition of The Allentown Leader:
Jarius Bernhard sic], machinist in the Allentown machine works, was painfully injured yesterday while assisting to lift an iron plate weighing nearly 400 pounds, which fell on his left foot.
Fortunately, he eventually recovered enough to be able to return to work. Employed as a machinist with an iron foundry in 1900, according to the federal census taker who arrived that year at his home at 30 South Fourth Street, he continued to reside in Allentown’s 2nd Ward with his wife Elizabeth. Also living with them was their unmarried, 30-year-old daughter, Ella. Sometime around 1902, Ella then wed Samuel Clemmer (1867-1919); soon after, the young couple welcomed the birth of daughter Helen.
By 1910, machinist Jairus Bernhard and his wife had moved in with their daughter Ella (Bernhard) Clemmer at the home she shared with her husband and daughter on Law Street in Allentown. His son-in-law was employed as a towerman for the railroad. Two years later, Jairus Bernhard’s Civil War Pension rate was increased to $17 per month on 23 September 1912, retroactive to 20 May. That rate was then increased to $23 per month on 10 February 1916, retroactive to 6 December 1915.
During the Summer of 1917, a family reunion ensued when Jairus Bernhard’s son and daughter-in-law returned briefly to Allentown. According to the 21 August 1917 edition of The Allentown Leader:
Rev. George R. Bernhard and wife, formerly of Allentown, now of Harvey’s, Greene County, Pa., are visiting at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jairus Bernhard, and are also being entertained in the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Reinsmith, Hamilton Crest, Hamilton Park. Rev. Mr. Bernhard is pastor of the Presbyterian Churches of Graysville and Deerlick, Pa.
A year later, Jairus Bernhard’s Civil War Pension rate was increased yet again – this time to $40 per month on 10 June 1918 – a clear indication that his health was declining. His son-in-law’s health was also evidently declining because he passed away less than a year later. Following his death on 6 March 1919, Samuel Clemmer was laid to rest at Allentown’s Greenwood Cemetery.
On 1 May 1920, Jairus Bernhard’s Civil War Pension was increased again – to $50 per month. Still employed as a machinist by the time of that year’s federal census, he continued to reside with his wife at the home of their now-widowed daughter Ella (Bernhard) Clemmer and her daughter Helen, who was employed as a stenographer at Allentown’s City Hall. Two years later, his sister Alice L. (Bernhard) Kline died in Emmaus on 29 April 1922, and was laid to rest at the same cemetery where their father had been buried – Jerusalem Western Salisbury Church Cemetery. She had wed and been widowed by Henry F. Kline (1828-1911).
Before the decade was out, Jairus Bernhard was also a widower. After his wife Elizabeth M. Bernhard passed away in Allentown in 1927, she was laid to rest at Allentown’s Greenwood Cemetery.
A year later, his sister Kitty Ann (Bernhard) Minniger also passed away. According to the 28 November 1928 edition of the Allentown Morning Call:
Kitty Ann Minninger, 85 years old, widow of William H. H. Minninger, who was a former conductor of the Allentown band, died of ailments incident to old age at 11 o’clock Monday night at her home, 315 North Fifteenth street, rear. Her husband died in 1899. She was born in Mertztown, a daughter of Reuben and Lucy Ann Bernhard. The family moved to Emaus when she was an infant, and to Allentown when she was thirteen years old. She had lived here ever since, and had been a member of Salem Reformed church since she was a young girl. She is survived by five daughters, Emma, widow of George E. Ruhe, 1135 Walnut street; Gertrude, widow of Harry Williams, 236 North Eleventh street; Elsie, of Pennsburg; Julia, at home, and Annie, wife of Fred Herter, of South Langhorne; by two sons, Edgar N., of 25 North Poplar street, and William A., of 118 North Twelfth street; by a brother, Jarius Bernhard, of 525 North Law street, and by a sister, Amelia, widow of Philip Storch, of Northampton. Seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren also survive. A son, Sylvanus J., died in December, 1926. The funeral will be held on Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock at the home of her daughter, Mrs. George E. Ruhe, 1135 Walnut street. Rev. William F. Kosman, pastor of Salem Reformed church, will officiate. Interment will be made at the convenience of the family in Union cemetery.
Jairus Bernhard’s sister Amelia M. A. (Bernhard) Storch, who had been widowed by her husband Phillip in 1913, then also passed away. Following her death on 6 August 1929, she was laid to rest at what is now the Saint Johns UCC Cemetery in Mickleys, Lehigh County.
Death and Interment
Taps finally also sounded for the old soldier on 9 June 1932. Following his death in Allentown, Jairus R. Bernhard was laid to rest beside his wife at the Greenwood Cemetery in Allentown.
His daughter Ella J. (Bernhard) Clemmer, who had gone on to life a long, full life, passed away on 21 February 1947, and was then also laid to rest at Allentown’s Greenwood Cemetery.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Bernhard, Jairus, in Civil War Graves Registration Collection (Whitehall Township Public Library, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: State Library of Pennsylvania.
3. Bernhard, Jairus/Jarius, in Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (online database). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Park Service.
4. Bernhard, Jairus, in Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
5. Bernhard, Jairus (payment and letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service), in The Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the First Session of the U.S. House of the Forty-ninth Congress, 1885-’86, vol. 6. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1886, p. 82.
6. Bernhard, Jairus/Jarius, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index (Certificate No. 702304, application date: 1890, initial award date 20 January 1890, retroactive to 27 August 1890). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administraton, 1890-1932.
7. Bernhard, Jairus. U.S. Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1890-1932.
8. Bernhard, Jeremiah, 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, 1863-1865.
9. Bernhard, Jeremiah, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
10. Machinist Hurt. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 21 October 1898.
11. Rev. George Bernhard and Jairus Bernhard. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 21 August 1917.
12. Roberts, Charles Rhoads, Rev. John Baer Stoudt, et. al. History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Its Families. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh Valley Publishing Company, Ltd., 1914.
13. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
14. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920.
You must be logged in to post a comment.