A ball also hit my Sword not an inch from my hand and tore the scabbard in my hand and bent the Sword to a right angle. The Bullets flew around us like a hail storm, but no thought of anything else but to go forward. — Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman, Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (1862)
A handsome, 5’8″-tall man at the dawn of one of the most divisive periods in his nation’s history, Christian K. Breneman was the kind of individual who attracted attention and inspired others to greatness even though he, like most adults, both young and old, had periodic moments of weakness.
George W. Zinn (1834-1900), another mid-19th-century man who also inspired those around him, was a teacher in the local schools of Perry County, Pennsylvania who became Christian Breneman’s brother-in-law before becoming his brother-in-arms during the American Civil War.
Born on 2 July 1835 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Christian K. Breneman was a son of Jacob Breneman (1808-1852) and Magdalena (Kendig) Breneman (1814-1856). On 1 September 1837, he greeted the arrival with his parents of younger brother Henry K. Breneman (1837-1860), and sister Barbara Kendig Breneman (1838-1924), who opened her eyes for the first time at the family’s Manor Township home on 8 August 1838. By August of 1850, he was a 14-year-old residing with his parents and siblings, Henry and Barbara, in West Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Also residing with the family at this time was 14-year-old Catherine Keler [sp?], according to the 1850 federal census. Christian’s father, a successful farmer, owned real estate valued at $11,500 (roughly the equivalent $426,250.45 in 2022).
Before that decade was out, however, his ordered world would be dramatically altered—beginning with the death of his father, who was buried at the Landisville Mennonite Cemetery after passing away in Lancaster County on 4 February 1852. Slightly less than four years later, his mother was then also laid to rest at that same cemetery, having passed away on 28 January 1856.
Following these twin tragedies, Christian Breneman struck out on his own, marrying Margaret Jane Zinn (1838-1930) sometime around 1858. A daughter of Eliza (Hartzell) Zinn and the late farmer and grist mill operator George Zinn, she had been born in the Borough of Newport in Perry County, Pennsylvania on 10 January 1838. In fairly short order, they greeted the arrival of daughter Ida. Born in 1859, she would later become a somewhat murky figure in history thanks to federal census takers who hurriedly entered her name on their rolls as “Addie” and “Leida.” Federal recordkeepers also periodically mangled the family’s surname, spelling it as “Brennan” or “Brenneman.”
In 1860, the census taker confirmed that Christian Breneman was employed as an innkeeper who resided with his wife, Margaret Jane, and their daughter, Ida, at the Newport, Perry County home of his 47-year-old mother-in-law, Eliza Zinn, who had been widowed in 1842 and whose occupation was “Lady.” Also residing at the home at this time was Margaret’s brother, George W. Zinn (1834-1900), a teacher whose estate holdings were valued at $1,500, which was roughly the equivalent of $55,600 in 2022. (Christian Breneman’s real and personal estate holdings were similarly valued that year at $1,200, which would be roughly $44,780 in 2022 dollars.)
Tragically, in the midst of these successes, the family also experienced the loss of yet another member of the family. On 26 October 1860, Christian Breneman’s 23-year-old brother, Henry K. Breneman, passed away in Lancaster County, and was laid to rest at the same cemetery where their parents were interred—the Landisville Mennonite Cemetery.
But joy quickly reappeared with the arrival of a new Breneman family member—Christian and Margaret Breneman’s daughter, Flora A. Breneman (1860-1934)—who opened her eyes for the first time at their Newport home on 20 November 1860.
Civil War Military Service — Three Months’ Service
At the age of 26, Christian K. Breneman became one of the earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call in mid-April 1861 for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital following the fall of Fort Sumter to forces of the Confederate States of America. After enrolling for military service in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 20 April 1861, he mustered in there the same day as a Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and was assigned to Company D, which was commanded by Captain Henry Durant Woodruff, a 36-year-old Connecticut native who was also employed as an innkeeper in Perry County.
Shipped to Cockeysville, Maryland with his regiment the next day and then to York, Pennsylvania, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman and his fellow 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers remained in York until 1 June 1861 when they headed for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Once there, they were attached to the 2nd Brigade (under Wyncoop), 2nd Division (under Keim) in General Robert Patterson’s Army. Next ordered to Hagerstown, Maryland on 16 June and then to Funkstown, the regiment remained in that vicinity until 23 June.
On 2 July, the regiment served in a support role during the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia—an encounter that would also see the participation of soldiers from other regiments who would later join the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
* Note: The Battle of Falling Waters, fought on 2 July 1861, was the first Civil War battle in the Shenandoah Valley. [This is not to be confused with the second battle which occurred there in 1863, but involved a different military configuration. Known as the Battle of Hainesville or Hoke’s Run, this first Battle of Falling Waters paved the way for a Confederate Army victory at Manassas (Bull Run) on 21 July, according to several historians, and is also believed to have tempered Union General Robert Patterson’s later combat assertiveness due to the resistance displayed by the Confederate Army.]
The next day (3 July 1861), Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman and the 2nd Pennsylvania occupied Martinsburg, Virginia. On 15 July, they advanced on Bunker Hill, and then moved on to Charlestown on 17 July before reaching Harper’s Ferry on 23 July. Three days later, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman honorably mustered out with his regiment on 26 July 1861, and returned home to Newport in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
According to historian Lewis Schmidt, although recruiters were already hard at work trying to persuade the newly mustered out to muster back in before they could fully resume their lives, “many of the men were sick and would need time to recover,” including Christian Breneman, who “was prostrated with fever.”
Civil War Military Service — Three Years’ Service
Realizing that the threat to America’s Union was still far from over, and finally recovered from his service-related illness, Christian K. Breneman re-upped for a second tour of duty, re-enrolling for a three-year term of service in Newport, Perry County on 7 August 1861. He then officially re-mustered as a Second Lieutenant with Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in Washington, D.C. on 24 September 1861.
* Note: Company H was led by Captain James Kacy, a 44-year-old merchant and resident of Elliottsburg, Pennsylvania who had served as a railroad postal clerk for the United States government in the mid-1850s during the administration of President Franklin Pierce. Also joining the 47th Pennsylvania’s H Company (just weeks before Christian Breneman’s enrollment) was George W. Zinn, his brother-in-law, who had enlisted in Newport at the age of 26 before mustering in with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 19 September 1861.
Transported by train from Harrisburg to the nation’s capital, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman and Private George Zinn joined their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians in making their new home a more habitable one. Situated about two miles from the White House, they were stationed with their regiment at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown—part of the throng of Union soldiers reviewed by Major-General George McClellan on 21 September—an experience recapped by C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton in a letter penned to the Sunbury American the next day:
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.
On 24 September, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman, Private George Zinn and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then became part of the federal service when the regiment officially mustered into the U.S. Army. Military records at the time described Breneman as being a 5’8”-tall former laborer with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion and Zinn as a 5’7½”-tall school teacher and resident of Newport who had brown hair, blue eyes and a light complexion.
Three days later, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Ingalls Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians were on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th’s 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 close to the headquarters of Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (nicknamed “Baldy”), and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”). 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. Posted not far from their home state, members of the regiment occasionally had the good fortune to receive personal visits from family members.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops:
I was ordered to take my company to Stewart’s [sic] house, drive the Rebels from it, and hold it at all hazards. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, so waiting until it was just getting day, I marched 80 men up; but the Rebels had left after driving Capt. Kacy’s company [H] into the woods. I took possession of it, and stationed my men, and there we were for 24 hours with our hands on our rifles, and without closing an eye. I took ten men, and went out scouting within half a mile of the Rebels, but could not get a prisoner, and we did not dare fire on them first. Do not think I was rash, I merely obeyed orders, and had ten men with me who could whip a hundred; Brosius, Piers, Harp and McEwen [all of Company C] were among the number. Every man in the company wanted to go. The Rebels did not attack us, and if they had they would have met with a warm reception, as I had my men posted in such a manner that I could have whipped a regiment. My men were all ready and anxious for a ‘fight.’”
Note: The men of Company H had had the least training of all of the 47th Pennsylvania’s units due to two simple facts: 1.) H Company was the last of the 47th’s companies to muster in for service, literally joining the regiment the day before it was sent by train to Washington, D.C.; and 2.) H Company had ten fewer men than each the 47th’s other companies—just ninety compared to the one hundred each of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, and K. So understaffed was H Company that its commanding officers continued their recruiting efforts through October in order to bring the company’s total membership up to ninety-seven.
Captain Gobin had been referring to Brigadier-General James Ewell Brown (“J. E. B.”) Stuart, commanding officer of the Confederate Army of the Potomac (later known as the Army of Northern Virginia), under whose authority the 4th Virginia Cavalry (“Black Horse Cavalry”) fell. Stuart’s Fairfax County, Virginia home had been commandeered by the Union Army and used by the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and other Union regiments as the base of operations for their picket lines in that area. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton revealed still more about their duties and 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, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a morning Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Later that same month, 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.
Around this same time, Captain Kacy divided H Company into four squads, by tent grouping, each under the leadership of a sergeant “whose duty it shall be to see that the arms and accoutrements are kept in good order. That the men keep their tents clean, that they are clean in their person, and that they wash their hands and faces and comb their hair every day. That the men keep order in their quarters and report all damage to arms, want or waste of ammunition, and all disorderly conduct.”
Kacy followed that order with another clarifying meal times (breakfast: 6 a.m., dinner: noon, supper: 6 p.m.) and duty schedules (7 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m.). In early November, Kacy directed that “while in camp, no permits or washing will be given on any other days than Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. All washing must be done in the forenoon. No permits or leaves of absence from company will be given on any days but Monday and Friday. Sutler tickets will be given only in the morning between the hours of 7 and 9.”
In a new letter dated 17 November, Company C’s Henry Wharton described the daily grind of life as a soldier 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 another morning divisional review—this time one that was directly overseen by the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good. Brigade and division drills were then held that 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.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman, Private George Zinn and their fellow 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, they were then transported by rail to Alexandria. Boarding the steamship City of Richmond, they then sailed the Potomac River to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped, and 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.
By the afternoon of the 27th, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had begun their latest adventure. Ferried to the big steamship Oriental by smaller steamers with their officers boarding last, they sailed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. Per a directive from Brigadier-General Brannan, 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.
According to Schmidt, the journey was most definitely not a pleasure cruise. As various members of the 47th battled seasickness, still others tried to alleviate the long hours of boredom in ways that did not always please their superiors. “Lt. Breneman of Company H spent part of the voyage under arrest as his Captain ‘smelt a big mice’, which probably had to do with some card playing or drinking, a pastime frowned upon by Capt. Kacy. The Captain later wrote that Lt. Breneman was charged with ‘neglecting company interests and disobedience to orders.'”
Disembarking at Key West in early February 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were immediately assigned to garrison duty at Fort Taylor. Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation, felled trees and built new roads. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, they introduced their presence to local residents by parading through the streets of Key West. That Sunday, a number of the men mingled with locals while attending services at area churches. In fairly short order, however, disease became the regiment’s new foe. As a result, Captain Kacy of Company H ordered that:
Sgt. R.S. Gardner will have under his command tents #1 and 2 and will be held personally responsible for the clean up of the men in person, clothing, arms, accoutrements, and quarters. Sgt. James Hahn will have under him tents #3 and 4 and be held responsible the same as #1 and 2. Sgt. Lynch will have under his control tents #5 and 6 and will be likewise held responsible. The Sgts. Gardner, Hahn and Lynch will have the men of the company on the parade ground at 5:30 AM and when one of them is on guard, the other two will attend to this drill duty and divide the squad between their respective commands.
From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men made camp before moving on to a new home, which was located roughly thirty-five miles away in the U.S. Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire.
According to historian Samuel P. Bates the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing” during this phase of service.
Around this same time, detachments from the regiment were assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July) while men from Companies B and H “crossed the Coosaw River at the Port Royal Ferry and drove off the Rebel pickets before returning ‘home’ without a loss,” according to Schmidt. The actions were the Union’s response to the burning by Confederate troops of the ferry house at Port Royal. H Company’s Sergeant Reuben Shatto Gardner described their actions later in a letter to family and friends:
So the other day we took a notion to turn the joke on them and we crossed over to this side and drove them off their posts and back several miles, and burnt four houses that were used by them to picket in. Our skirmishers had four shots at the rebels, but with what effect we don’t know as they soon got out of harm’s way. Companies H and B were all that crossed. The boys got so eager to follow up the rebels that they did not want to come back when ordered. Our force was too small to advance far, so we went back after doing all the damage we could to them. They fled in such a hurry as to leave three saddles, one double barrelled shot gun, several overcoats, haversacks, canteens, &c., all of which our boys brought along as relics, that being the first of anything of that kind our regiment had. Now the boys want to cross every day; but the Colonel won’t allow them as it is beyond his orders to cross the river, and probably we would meet with a repulse, as the rebels have been in force on the opposite side since we drove them off. They are like a bee’s nest when stirred up. The day after we were over they fired more than a hundred shots at our boys. They returned some shots and only laughed at them. The distance across the river is from 800 to 1000 yards, and of course there can be but little damage done at that distance.
On Saturday, 12 July, H Company Lieutenant Geety documented the enagement of Union troop with other Confederate soldiers, noting that troops from five Union gunboats had “shelled the shore and crossed over and burned three shanties…. I had command of the right of the skirmish but did not get an opportunity to kill any secessionists. I got a secessionist cap box made in New York and case of a shell.”
The next day (a Sunday), Sergeant Reuben Gardner continued working on his letter, noting:
We have been on picket now ten days [near Port Royal Ferry, along the Broad River] and were due to be relieved tomorrow; but for some cause are now to stay five days longer. The general rule is ten days; but always whip the horse that pulls the hardest. We are ten miles from camp, and are picketing around the west end of the island, for 12 miles along the shore. Five companies of our regiment are out at a time. The rebel pickets are right opposite to us, across the river, and dozens of shots are exchanged every day; but without any effect on our side. The rebel’s [sic] guns fail to reach across. Our files will shoot across with a double charge, but we only fire at each other for fun. The 7th New Hampshire were on here before we came out and the rebels made them leave the line. They took advantage of that and crossed over and burnt a ferry house that stood on the end of the causeway on this side….
We have the greatest picket line here entirely. At low tide down along the beach at night you can’t hear thunder, by times, for the snapping of oysters, croaking of frogs, buzzing of mosquitoes, and the noise of a thousand other reptiles and varmints. It beats all I have heard since the commencement of the war. We have had a pretty good time out here on picket and good weather; but 15 days is a little too long to lie in the woods for my fancy.
On 23 July (a Thursday), the men were reminded, via H Company Order No. 27, that “All members of Company H must while on duty be in proper uniform.” During this time, the weather was hot and humid with temperatures reaching into the mid to upper 90s. By August, it was “98 degrees in the shade,” according to C Company Musician Henry Wharton, forcing Union officers to suspend military drills.
On 7 September, Private Isaac Slochter was released on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.
Five days later (on 12 September), Colonel Tilghman Good and his adjutant, First Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen, issued Regimental Order No. 207 from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:
I. The Colonel commanding desires to call the attention of all officers and men in the regiment to the paramount necessity of observing rules for the preservation of health. There is less to be apprehended from battle than disease. The records of all companies in climate like this show many more casualties by the neglect of sanitary post action then [sic] by the skill, ordnance and courage of the enemy. Anxious that the men in my command may be preserved in the full enjoyment of health to the service of the Union. And that only those who can leave behind the proud epitaph of having fallen on the field of battle in the defense of their country shall fail to return to their families and relations at the termination of this war.
II. All the tents will be struck at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of each week. The signal for this purpose will be given by the drum major by giving three taps on the drum. Every article of clothing and bedding will be taken out and aired; the flooring and bunks will be thoroughly cleaned. By the same signal at 11 a.m. the tents will be re-erected. On the days the tents are not struck the sides will be raised during the day for the purpose of ventilation.
III. The proper cooking of provisions is a matter of great importance more especially in this climate but have not yet received from a majority of officers of the regiment that attention that should be paid to it.
IV. Thereafter an officer of each company will be detailed by the commander of each company and have their names reported to these headquarters to superintend the cooking of provisions taking care that all food prepared for the soldiers is sufficiently cooked and that the meats are all boiled or seared (not fried). He will also have charge of the dress table and he is held responsible for the cleanliness of the kitchen cooking utensils and the preparation of the meals at the time appointed.
V. The following rules for the taking of meals and regulations in regard to the conducting of the company will be strictly followed. Every soldier will turn his plate, cup, knife and fork into the Quarter Master Sgt who will designate a permanent place or spot each member of the company and there leave his plate & cup, knife and fork placed at each meal with the soldier’s rations on it. Nor will any soldier be permitted to go to the company kitchen and take away frood therefrom.
VI. Until further orders the following times for taking meals will be followed Breakfast at six, dinner at twelve, supper at six. The drum major will beat a designated call fifteen minutes before the specified time which will be the signal to prepare the tables, and at the time specified for the taking of meals he will beat the dinner call. The soldier will be permitted to take his spot at the table before the last call.
VII. Commanders of companies will see that this order is entered in their company order book and that it is read forth with each day on the company parade. All commanding officers of companies will regulate daily their time by the time of this headquarters. They will send their 1st Sergeants to this headquarters daily at 8 a.m. for this purpose.
Great punctuality is enjoined in conforming to the stated hours prescribed by the roll calls, parades, drills, and taking of meals; review of army regulations while attending all roll calls to be suspended by a commissioned officer of the companies, and a Captain to report the alternate to the Colonel or the commanding officer.
At 5 a.m., Commanders of companies are imperatively instructed to have the company quarters washed and policed and secured immediately after breakfast.
At 6 a.m., morning reports of companies request [sic] by the Captains and 1st Sgts and all applications for special privileges of soldiers must be handed to the Adjutant before 8 a.m.
By Command of Col. T. H. Good
W. H. R. Hangen Adj
In addition, First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant Hangen clarified the regiment’s schedule as follows:
- Reveille (5:30 a.m.)
- Breakfast (6:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Guard (6:10 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.)
- Surgeon’s Call (6:30 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Company Drill (6:45 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.)
- Recall from Company Drill (8:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drill (9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (10:30 a.m.)
- Dinner (12:00 noon)
- Call for Non-commissioned Officers (1:30 p.m.)
- Recall for Non-commissioned Officers (2:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drills (3:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (4:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Dress Parade (5:10 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.)
- Supper (6:10 p.m.)
- Tattoo (9:00 p.m.)
- Taps (9:15 p.m.)
As the one year anniversary of the 47th Pennsylvania’s departure from the Great Keystone State dawned, thoughts turned to home and Divine Providence as Colonel Tilghman Good issued Special Order No. 60 from the 47th’s Regimental Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:
The Colonel commanding takes great pleasure in complimenting the officers and men of the regiment on the favorable auspices of today.
Just one year ago today, the organization of the regiment was completed to enter into the service of our beloved country, to uphold the same flag under which our forefathers fought, bled, and died, and perpetuate the same free institutions which they handed down to us unimpaired.
It is becoming therefore for us to rejoice on this first anniversary of our regimental history and to show forth devout gratitude to God for this special guardianship over us.
Whilst many other regiments who swelled the ranks of the Union Army even at a later date than the 47th have since been greatly reduced by sickness or almost cut to pieces on the field of battle, we as yet have an entire regiment and have lost but comparatively few out of our ranks.
Certain it is we have never evaded or shrunk from duty or danger, on the contrary, we have been ever anxious and ready to occupy any fort, or assume any position assigned to us in the great battle for the constitution and the Union.
We have braved the danger of land and sea, climate and disease, for our glorious cause, and it is with no ordinary degree of pleasure that the Colonel compliments the officers of the regiment for the faithfulness at their respective posts of duty and their uniform and gentlemanly manner towards one another.
Whilst in numerous other regiments there has been more or less jammings and quarrelling [sic] among the officers who thus have brought reproach upon themselves and their regiments, we have had none of this, and everything has moved along smoothly and harmoniously. We also compliment the men in the ranks for their soldierly bearing, efficiency in drill, and tidy and cleanly appearance, and if at any time it has seemed to be harsh and rigid in discipline, let the men ponder for a moment and they will see for themselves that it has been for their own good.
To the enforcement of law and order and discipline it is due our far fame as a regiment and the reputation we have won throughout the land.
With you he has shared the same trials and encountered the same dangers. We have mutually suffered from the same cold in Virginia and burned by the same southern sun in Florida and South Carolina, and he assures the officers and men of the regiment that as long as the present war continues, and the service of the regiment is required, so long he stands by them through storm and sunshine, sharing the same danger and awaiting the same glory.
Capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida and the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
Sent on a return expedition to Florida as September 1862 waned, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman and Private George Zinn saw their first truly intense moments of service when H Company participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Commanded by Brigadier-General John M. Brannan, the 47th Pennsylvanian Volunteers disembarked with a 1,500-plus Union force at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th Pennsylvanians then 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 Union brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union Army to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida, which was effected by a Union force personally commanded by Brigadier-General Brannan aboard the Paul Jones. That force, which departed from the bluff on Sunday, 5 October, was composed of two companies from each of the regiments Brannan had brought with him to Florida, and included the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies C and H. (Around this same time, two other companies from the 47th Pennsylvania—E and K—were engaged in capturing the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer that had equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.)
In his report on the matter, filed from Mount Pleasant Landing, Florida on 2 October 1862, Colonel Tilghman H. Good described the Union Army’s assault on Saint John’s Bluff:
In accordance with orders received I landed my regiment on the bank of Buckhorn Creek at 7 o’clock yesterday morning. After landing I moved forward in the direction of Parkers plantation, about 1 mile, being then within about 14 miles of said plantation. Here I halted to await the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. I advanced two companies of skirmishers toward the house, with instructions to halt in case of meeting any of the enemy and report the fact to me. After they had advanced about three-quarters of a mile they halted and reported some of the enemy ahead. I immediately went forward to the line and saw some 5 or 6 mounted men about 700 or 800 yards ahead. I then ascended a tree, so that I might have a distinct view of the house and from this elevated position I distinctly saw one company of infantry close by the house, which I supposed to number about 30 or 40 men, and also some 60 or 70 mounted men. After waiting for the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers until 10 o’clock, and it not appearing, I dispatched a squad of men back to the landing for a 6-pounder field howitzer which had been kindly offered to my service by Lieutenant Boutelle, of the Paul Jones. This howitzer had been stationed on a flat-boat to protect our landing. The party, however, did not arrive with the piece until 12 o’clock, in consequence of the difficulty of dragging it through the swamp. Being anxious to have as little delay as possible, I did not await the arrival of the howitzer, but at 11 a.m. moved forward, and as I advanced the enemy fled.
After reaching the house I awaited the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut and the howitzer. After they arrived I moved forward to the head of Mount Pleasant Creek to a bridge, at which place I arrived at 2 p.m. Here I found the bridge destroyed, but which I had repaired in a short time. I then crossed it and moved down on the south bank toward Mount Pleasant Landing. After moving about 1 mile down the bank of the creek my skirmishing companies came upon a camp, which evidently had been very hastily evacuated, from the fact that the occupants had left a table standing with a sumptuous meal already prepared for eating. On the center of the table was placed a fine, large meat pie still warm, from which one of the party had already served his plate. The skirmishers also saw 3 mounted men leave the place in hot haste. I also found a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, with 23 tents, which, for want of transportation, I was obliged to destroy. After moving about a mile farther on I came across another camp, which also indicated the same sudden evacuation. In it I found the following articles … breech-loading carbines, 12 double-barreled shot-guns, 8 breech-loading Maynard rifles, 11 Enfield rifles, and 96 knapsacks. These articles I brought along by having the men carry them. There were, besides, a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, including 16 tents, which, for the same reason as stated, I ordered to be destroyed. I then pushed forward to the landing, where I arrived at 7 p.m.
We drove the enemys [sic] skirmishers in small parties along the entire march. The march was a difficult one, in consequence of meeting so many swamps almost knee-deep.
On 3 October, Good filed this report from Saint John’s Bluff, Florida, now in Union hands:
At 9 o’clock last night Lieutenant Cannon reported to me that his command, consisting of one section of the First Connecticut Battery, was then coming up the creek on flat-boats with a view of landing. At 4 o’clock this morning a safe landing was effected and the command was ready to move. The order to move to Saint John’s Bluff reached me at 4 p.m. yesterday. In accordance with it I put the column in motion immediately and moved cautiously up the bank of the Saint John’s River, the skirmishing companies occasionally seeing small parties of the enemy’s cavalry retiring in our front as we advanced. When about 2 miles from the bluff the left wing of the skirmishing line came upon another camp of the enemy, which, however, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, I did not take time to examine, it being then already dark.
After my arrival at the bluff, it then being 7:30 o’clock, I dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander with two companies back to the last-named camp (which I found, from a number of papers left behind, to have been called Camp Hopkins and occupied by the Milton Artillery, of Florida) to reconnoiter and ascertain its condition. Upon his return he reported that from every appearance the skedaddling of the enemy was as sudden as in the other instances already mentioned, leaving their trunks and all the camp equipage behind; also a small store of commissary supplies, sugar, rice, half barrel of flour, one bag of salt, &c., including 60 tents which I have brought in this morning. The commissary stores were used by the troops of my command.
In his own post-engagement reports, Brigadier-General Brannan described the Union Army’s capture of Jacksonville, Florida as follows:
Jacksonville I found to be nearly deserted, there being but a small portion of its inhabitants left, chiefly old men, women, and children…. Before reaching the city you see the ruins of a large number of steam saw mills, they were burned before our people reached there last season. The work was done by the Rebels to keep them from our possession. I believe they are owned mostly by northern capital. Grass and weeds grow rank and tall in the principal streets. Houses with blinds closed…. Stores with shelves but no goods. Churches deserted and gloomy…. On our first arrival some Rebel cavalry were hovering around the town, but they immediately retired on my establishing a picket line….
Three companies were thrown out as pickets, the negro guide directing. We went about a mile from the wharf, two companies on the left and one on the right…. We had hardly got stationed and were just about to send the negro and a party of men for his family three miles further on when the pickets gave the alarm that the Rebel cavalry was coming. The reserve was very speedily in line to receive them. We were on the railroad, but the cavalry came down the plank road. The outpost men fired and fell back on the reserve.
Approaching from the left, the Confederate cavalry was initially repulsed by troops from Pennsylvania, but then regouped and made second and third charges at the Union’s center and rear—attacks that were also repulsed by Brannan’s men, enabling the Union troops to advance into Jacksonville, which they occupied until 11 p.m. when they returned to the wharf and set up camp. The next morning, Union troops then went back into Jacksonville where, sadly, a number of them engaged in looting local stores—until Brigadier-General Brannan put a stop to their plunder. In a subsequent report, Brannan noted that he brought “several refugees and about 276 contrabands, including men, women, and children” back with him as he returned to his main force at the bluff.
While those adventures were unfolding, Colonel Tilghman Good, who had been placed in command of the remaining troops at the bluff, was directing the removal of all of the Confederate cannon from the area—a process that took several days. On 10 October, the Union troops then set explosive charges and destroyed the fort, which was known as Fort Finnegan.
Shortly thereafter, the combined Union force made its way back to Hilton Head, South Carolina in a staged departure, and the 47th Pennsylvanians then moved from Hilton Head back to Beaufort.
Integration of the Regiment
Meanwhile, as the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers engaged in the Expedition to Saint John’s Bluff, those who remained behind in Beaufort, South Carolina were helping their regiment to make history. On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania became an integrated regiment by adding to its muster rolls several young to middle-aged Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in and around Beaufort and Hilton Head. Among the men freed who subsequently opted to enroll as members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were Abraham and Edward Jassum (aged 16 and 22, respectively), and Bristor Gethers (aged 33), whose name was spelled as “Presto Gettes” on transcriptions of muster rolls made by historian Samuel P. Bates. (Records for Edward Jassum 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. He then 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
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.
Afterward, Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman provided the following details about the encounter in a letter to his wife:
Beaufort Oct. 24th 1862.
No doubt you have heard of Battles we have been into ere this reaches you. If so you must certainly be anxious as to the results, so I concluded as to write to you at once and let you know a few particulars. As I wrote to you on the 21st, we left here at 1 oclock [sic] on that day. We proceeded [sic] to Hilton Head from thence up the Broad River, a distance of about 35 miles, and landed early on the morning of the morning of the 22nd. Our force consisted of the following, 600 men 47th Reg. P.V., 55th P.V. 400 men, and several companys [sic] of the 6th Conn. Vols. and one detachment of Artillery. The above is the force from here. The following accompanied [sic] us from Hilton Head, the 76th Reg. P.V, 3rd Rhode Island Vol., 76th Reg, PV [?] and 7th Conn Vols with 400 men of each Reg – There was also a reg of Cavelry [sic] arrived late in the day, where they were from – I did not hear.
After we were landed we moved forward, our Reg in the advance. After advancing about 4 miles, the enemy’s position was discovered to be on the oposit [sic] side of a woods right in our front. Our artillery opened on them and the reply was instant. The enemy had 8 heavy guns, and a large number of infantry.
The fight soon became general. We rushed into the woods endeavouring [sic] to get through to Story their Battery, but it was very difficult in getting forward, as the ground was covered with under Brush Briers and pines [?]. There was only one narrow road and a distance of 3 company fronts that we could forward on. On either side it was impassable. So there we were in the middle of the woods in Briers and brush, and in a direct line of the enemys [sic] guns which were pouring volley after volley of Grape canister, Shot and Shell right into us.
We however pressed forward and when the enemy saw that we were coming through and before we had [illegible word] efficient men together to charge on their Battery, they fell back so we at least drove them from their position and firing ceased for a while as we also fell back to reform the column, which had become seperated [sic] in going through the woods. Co. H. C. & E. the 3 center Co were the first in advance, and first to get through the woods, and also suffered most Severely. The action lasted about 3 hours, and was then about 4½ Oclock [sic].
After we had again formed, and I having only a portion of the Co. left (as 1st Lieut. W. W. Geety fell early in the action, and the balance [sic] of our co were killed and wounded it was ordered that I should with my men, carry out the wounded and bury the dead. The column again went forward and it was not long untill [sic] they were again in action, and I proceeded with my brave and noble little party to carry out the wounded. The fight was kept up untill [sic] dark. Or in the night before our troops came back, and I with my men continued to hunt up the wounded and carry them back we worked until [sic] day light next morning. It was an awful night. We carried some a distance of 4 to 5 miles. We had much difficulty in finding them in the swamps and brush. I hope never to witness such a Scene again. We were worn out and could do no more. Our co lossed [sic] 4 killed and 13 wounded! in all more than any other co. as near as I know. There are 97 co. wounded, and 29 killed in the Reg. – other Regts did not suffer so much. The following are the killed and wounded of our co. Killed, Henry Stambaugh Perry Co., Peter Detrick Sommerset Co., Jefferson Wagoner Perry Co. J. Robison new recruit/Perry Co.
1st Lieut. W. Geety – Harrisburg. 1st Sergent [sic] Geo Raynolds, Harrisburg. 2nd Sergt. R. S. Gardner, Perry Co., 1st Corp. Reeder, Perry Co. Corp. P. W. Stocksleger, Harrisburg. Corp. D. Smith Dauphin Co.
Jerome Bryner, Perry Co. Comly Idall [sic], Perry Co. Jefferson Keeaney [sp?], Perry. Samuel Huggins, Millerstown, Perry Co. Henry Bollinger Dauphin Co. Patrick Mullen Harrisburg. Augustus Bupp Germany.
There are also some wounded in Capt. Woodruffs [sic] Co from Perry Co. A. Musser is killed. Some of our wounded will never recover. The Captains of Co. G. & K. are killed. The Adjt. wounded. How many of us were escaped is a mirical [sic]. There is hardly a man that has not some bullet holes through his cloths [sic]. I had a button shot off the brest [sic] of my coat. A ball also hit my Sword not an inch from my hand and tore the scabbard in my hand and bent the Sword to a right angle. The Bullets flew around us like a hail storm, but no thought of anything else but to go forward. The men all done nobly. We also brought in a number of the enemys wounded. They say that they Suffered terably [sic]. They left many of them dead on the ground. The 4th New Hampshire Reg. from here also suffered considerably. They lost 2 Capts. and Col. and Lieut. Col. wounded. The Battle was fought in Pocotalico [sic] district on the main land and if you will notice the papers no doubt you will get a direct account. If you get a paper containing an account Send us a copy. We left there yesterday evening, and got here this morning at 8 Oclock [sic]. I must now close. I will write again in a day or so. Geo. is well, and got through safe. Write soon.
Yours as ever
C. K. B.
With that brief mention, Christian Breneman let his wife know that her brother and his subordinate, Private George Zinn, had survived their first true combat experience. As the final casualty numbers were tallied, senior leaders of the regiment realized that two officers and 18 enlisted men from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had been killed with an additional two officers and 114 enlisted men wounded in action.
Battle reports penned by their commanding officer, Colonel Tilghman Good, and his superior officers, et. al. in subsequent days also attested to the 47th Pennsylvanian Volunteers’ heroism during the brutal fighting of the Battle of Pocotaligo. Per the report by Brigadier-General John M. Brannan:
In addition to those officers mentioned in my report of the expedition I have great pleasure, on the recommendation of their respective commanders, in bringing to the favorable consideration of the department the following officers and men, who rendered themselves specially worthy of notice by their bravery and praiseworthy conduct during the entire expedition and the engagements attending it … Lieutenant Col. G. W. Alexander, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers … Capt. J. P. Shindel Gobin, Company C, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; Capt. George Junker, killed, Company K, Forty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain Mickley, killed, Company G, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; First. Lieut. W. H. R. Hangen, adjutant, wounded, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; First Lieutenant Minnich, Company B, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; First Lieut. W. W. Geety, severely wounded, commanding Company H, Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Second Lieutenant Breneman, Company H, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; Private Michael Larkins, wounded, Company C, Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers….
Having returned to Hilton Head, South Carolina on 23 October, several members of the 47th Pennsylvania were assigned to serve as the funeral Honor Guard for Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. (The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him.)
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania then helped another Black man escape slavery near Beaufort by adding 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H.
By 1863, Captain Kacy and his H Company subordinates 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 in Florida’s Dry Tortugas.
In a letter to the Sunbury American on 23 August 1863, Henry Wharton described Thanksgiving celebrations held by the regiment and residents of Key West and a yacht race the following Saturday at which participants had “an opportunity of tripping the ‘light, fantastic toe,’ to the fine music of the 47th Band, led by that excellent musician, Prof. Bush.”
The time spent here by the men of Company H and their fellow Union soldiers was also notable 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.
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be used to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Captain Richard Graeffe and a group of men from Company A were assigned to special duty, 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.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Captain Graeffe’s expedition 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…. 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.
Meanwhile, all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had already begun preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. On 25 February 1864, the first group of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to be transported to Louisiana (Companies B, C, D, I, and K) boarded yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—and headed for Algiers (which was situated across the river from New Orleans and is now a neighborhood in New Orleans). They were followed on 1 March by the members Companies E, F, G, and H who departed from 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 (now Morgan City, Louisiana) 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
The early days on the ground in Louisiana quickly woke the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers up to just how grueling this new phase of duty would be.
From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron Bullard (later known as Aaron French), James and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania 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, hard trek through enemy territory, the men encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill (now the Village of 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 in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell as the exhausted survivors collapsed beside the gravely wounded.
Private William Barry of H Company was just one of multiple 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who were killed in action that day.
After midnight, the Union troops finally were permitted to withdraw to Pleasant Hill. The next day, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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 grievously wounded in both legs, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Privates William F. Dumm and Nicholas Orris of Company H were among those killed in action. Still others from the 47th were captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, the largest Confederate Army prison camp west of the Mississippi River, and held there as prisoners of war (POWs) until released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, September, or November. At least two men from the 47th never made it out of Camp Ford, and another died while being treated at the Confederate Army 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 Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for eleven days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. On the regiment’s last day at Grand Ecore, H Company’s Private Reuben Shaffer became another of the 47th Pennsylvanians to die in service.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then moved back to Natchitoches Parish. Starting out on 22 April, they arrived in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night after marching forty-five miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and move forward.
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 the other two 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.
After Emory’ troops worked their way across the Cane River, they attacked Bee’s flank, and forced a Rebel retreat. That Union brigade then erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.
In a letter penned from Morganza, Louisiana on 29 May, Henry Wharton described what had happened to the 47th Pennsylvanians during and immediately after making camp at Grand Ecore:
Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.
While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.
The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.
After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.
Having finally reached Alexandria on 26 April, they learned they would remain at their latest new camp for at least two weeks. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they were assigned yet again to the hard labor of fortification work, helping to erect “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to more easily make their way back down the Red River. According to Wharton:
We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.
On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee.
Having entered Avoyelles Parish, they “rested on their arms” for the night, half-dozing without pitching their tents, but with their rifles right beside them. They were now positioned just outside of Marksville, Louisiana on the eve of the 16 May 1864 Battle of Mansura, which unfolded as follows, according to Wharton:
Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport [sic] on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.
It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.
Continuing on, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then Morganza, where they made camp again. According to Wharton, the members of Company C were sent on a special mission which took them on an intense 120-mile journey:
Company C, on last Saturday was detailed by the General in command of the Division to take one hundred and eighty-seven prisoners (rebs) to New Orleans. This they done [sic] satisfactorily and returned yesterday to their regiment, ready for duty. While in the City some of the boys made Captain Gobin quite a handsome present, to show their appreciation of him as an officer gentleman.
Private John Evans of H Company died sometime around this period at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans; his date of burial was recorded in military records as having occurred on 11 or June 20 1865.
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. The regiment then moved on once again, and arrived in New Orleans in late June.
As they did during their tour through the Carolinas and Florida, the men of the 47th had battled the elements and disease, as well as the Confederate Army, in order to survive and continue to defend their nation. But the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, would not. Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures, he was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. He later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.
On the 4th of July, the men from H Company learned that their fight was not yet over as they received new orders to return to the East Coast for further duty. As the bulk of the regiment was preparing to depart for the East Coast, Private Augustus Dietz mustered out on 6 July while Private George H. Smith was slipping away at the Union Army’s hospital in Natchez, Mississippi. Smith died there, far from the arms of loved ones, on 9 July. Private Jerome Bryner was then honorably discharged from New Orleans on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 11 July.
* Note: The deaths of H Company men would continue in Louisiana well after the fully reconstituted regiment was marching through Virginia. Private Benjamin Messimer (alternate spellings: Messmer, Messner, Missimer) succumbed to disease-related complications at the Union Army’s St. Louis General Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana on 7 August 1864. Private John Hartshorn died at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans the following day.
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company H and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, and I steamed aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864. Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, they joined Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap in mid-July 1864. There, they fought in the Battle of Cool Spring and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August 1864, and engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early. From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then also fought in the Battle of Berryville.
But the opening days of September were also ones of administrative upheaval as the regiment was dramatically reshaped by the departure of a significant number of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Captain James Kacy of H Company and the captains of D, E and F companies, as well as Private George W. Zinn, the brother-in-law and subordinate of H Company Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman. All mustered out 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service while Second Lieutenant Breneman continued to soldier on.
Battle of Opequan, Virginia (Third Winchester)
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 H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped to inflict heavy casualties on the Confederate forces of Lieutenant-General Jubal Early in the Battle of Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.
The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny at Opequan began at 2 a.m. on 19 September 1864 as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. After advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps became bogged down for several hours by the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. After finally reaching the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with 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 three more respected commanders, who were honorably discharged out upon completion of their respective three-year terms of service: Colonel Tilghman Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George Warren Alexander, who mustered out on 23-24 September, and H Company Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman, who mustered out the same day as Alexander (24 September 1864).
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military and his return home to the great Keystone State, Christian Breneman resumed life with his family in Perry County. In short order, he and his wife were greeting the arrival of more children:
- Jacob Kendig Breneman (1865-1891), who was born on 9 September 1865;
- George Zinn Breneman (1867-1891), who was born on 12 May 1867; and
- Victor L. Breneman (1869-1949), who was born on 28 February 1869.
By the time that a federal census taker arrived at the Breneman family’s doorstep in July 1870, Christian Breneman had become a successful, 36-year-old retail merchant residing in the Borough of Newport, Perry County with his wife, Margaret, and their children: Addie/Leida, Flora, Jacob, George, and Victor, respectively aged 10, 9, 5, 3, and 1. Also residing at the family’s home at this time was Christian’s 67-year-old mother-in-law, Eliza Zinn. His real estate and personal property were valued that year at $5,500. As the years rolled by, five more children followed:
- Harry S. Breneman (1871-1956), who was born on 22 January 1871;
- Margaret A. Breneman, who was born circa 1873 and was known for much of her life as “Maggie”;
- John Breneman, who died in 1878 and was laid to rest at the Old Newport Cemetery in Newport, Perry County, Pennsylvania; and
- Anna B. Breneman, who was born in May 1879.
In June 1880, the federal census taker noted that Christian Breneman was a 46-year-old retail grocer who still resided in the Borough of Newport with his wife, Margaret, and their children: Addie/Leida, a 20-year-old seamstress; Flora, a 19-year-old bonnet maker; and Jacob K., George Z., Victor, Harry S., Maggie A., and Anna B., respectively aged 14, 13, 11, 9, 7, and 5. Also still residing at the family’s home at this time was Christian’s 67-year-old mother-in-law, Eliza Zinn. Just a few short months later, the household expanded again with 1 August 1880 birth of the Breneman’s son, Benjamin Colver Breneman (1880-1959).
But dark clouds were looming on the family’s horizon.
Death and Interment
On 11 April 1884, Christian K. Breneman died in Perry County, Pennsylvania. Laid to rest at the Old Newport Cemetery in Newport before he had had the chance to turn 50, he became another of the tragic statistics of America’s Civil War—one of countless men whose lives were dramatically shortened by the stress of sudden skirmishes and intense combat engagements, as well as long marches and other physically demanding duty assignments in harsh climates which repeatedly exposed soldiers to immune system-sapping diseases. In 1888, his service contributions were honored with the placement of a military headstone on his grave.
What Happened to Christian Breneman’s Family?
Tragically, two of Christian Breneman’s sons, Jacob Kendig Breneman and George Zinn Breneman, also died young—and within months of each other. Jacob was the first to depart from the family fold, passing away on 29 January 1891, followed by George on 28 March of that same year. Both were laid to rest at the Old Newport Cemetery in Newport, Perry County.
Christian Breneman’s brother-in-law then also suffered an untimely death. A graduate of the Cumberland Valley Institute in Mechanicsburg, George W. Zinn had already become a respected Perry County resident prior to his enlistment in the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Post-war, he had wed Anna Mary Hight in 1866, welcomed the birth with her of daughter, Effie Viola Zinn (1883-1943), and become the successful operator of a livery stable in Newport, Perry County. An active member of the Democratic Party and of his local Methodist Church, he had then also gone on to secure appointments as a Deputy Internal Revenue Assessor from 1866-1870, justice of the peace, and notary public. Additional professional experiences included employment as an insurance agent and pension attorney. Following his death on 12 January 1900 from Bright’s Disease, an inflammation of the kidneys linked to heart disease, he was laid to rest at the Newport Cemetery with local newspapers reporting on his passing as follows:
George W. Zinn, a prominent citizen of Newport, died last Saturday morning, after an illness covering two or more years, from Bright’s disease. He was aged about 65 years, and leaves a wife and one daughter, Effie V., now Mrs. John Vaughan [sic], of Harrisburg.
Christian Breneman’s daughter Maggie, however, fared better. Gainfully employed as a dressmaker before the turn of the century, she was united in marriage on 21 December 1897 at the age of 24 in Harrisburg, Dauphin County with William Gardner, a 44-year-old grocer who had been widowed in 1892. By the time of the 1910 federal census, she and her husband were residing in Harrisburg’s 12th Ward with their 10-year-old son William L. Gardner.
Christian Breneman’s sister, Barbara Kendig (Breneman) Risser, also wed, marrying and raising a family with Henry Snyder Risser (1827-1908) before being widowed by him in 1908. Surviving an additional 16 years before joining him in death, she passed away in Lititz, Lancaster County on 26 October 1924. Her obituary in the 30 October 1924 edition of the Lititz Record reported on her passing as follows:
Mrs. Risser Dies in Lititz at Age of 86 Years
Mrs. Barbara Risser, 86 years old, died at her home on Front street, at 9:45 o’clock Sunday evening, after an illness of two weeks of pneumonia. She was a daughter of Jacob and Magdalena Breneman and was born in Manor township. She was the wife of Henry Risser, who died sixteen years ago. They resided at Hammer Creek, one mile below Brunnerville, until they moved to Lititz, seventeen years ago, her husband dying one year later. Mrs. Risser was an active worker and member of the Mennonite Church for more than sixty years. She is survived by the following sons and daughters: C. B. Risser, Lititz; Mrs. Jonas Hernley, Scotdale; Mrs. John Bucher, Ephrata; Mrs. N. B. Leaman, Lititz; Elam Risser, Lititz, and Elizabeth, at home. She is also survived by 39 grandchildren and 54 great grandchildren. Funeral services were held on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 o’clock in the Lititz Mennonite Church with interment in the Hammer Creek Mennonite cemetery.
Meanwhile, Christian Breneman’s widow, Margaret Jane (Zinn) Breneman, was also soldiering on, sustained by funds from her late husband’s U.S. Civil War Pension. After giving birth to a total of ten children, only seven of whom were still alive by the dawn of the new century, she had become the head of her own household in Harrisburg’s 7th Ward, 5th Precinct. Still residing with her were her children: Victor L., a tinner; Harry S., a barber; Benjamin C., a telegraph operator; Flora A., a dressmaker; and Anna B., a candy packer.
As the decade wore on, however, the family began to splinter. After marrying Carrie Landis, a thirty-two-year-old Harrisburg dresmaker and daughter of R. M. Landis on 21 November 1906, tinsmith Victor Breneman established own household elsewhere in Harrisburg, according to the 1910 federal census. Benjamin Breneman, a telegrapher by trade, then also departed the fold, united in marriage by the Rev. A. M. Stamets to Lena M. Rupley, a daughter of Henry and Phoebe Rupley, on 20 June 1911. That wedding was then followed three years later by marriage of Harry S. Breneman, a mill hand, to Anna May Gebhard, a daughter of Henry and Phoebe Gebhard, on 2 October 1914.
Meanwhile, the Harrisburg Telegraph was carrying news of the social and church activities of Christian Breneman’s unmarried daughter, Anna B. Breneman. In its 6 March 1914 edition, the newspaper announced:
Miss Breneman Gives 6 O’clock Chicken Dinner
Guests of Miss Anna Breneman, of 606 Peffer street, had the pleasure of meeting her guest, Mrs. Ferguson. At 6 o’clock a chicken dinner was served, the table appointments being of pink with a centerpiece of roses, and pink-shaded candelabra.
Cards and music followed the feasting. The first prize, a fern dish, was awarded to Mrs. Edward Fry, Mrs. Ferguson receiving the consolation gift, a large box of chocolates.
In the party were Mr. and Mrs. John Vaughn [Anna’s first cousin and her husband], Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Saltsman, Mrs. Edward Fry, Mrs. Margaret Gardner [Anna’s sister], Miss Mattie Fry, George Fry, Earl Snyder and William Gardner.
Its 5 May 1917 edition then reported:
Miss Breneman Class Hostess
Guests Enjoy Readings and Music With Supper in a Japanese Garden
Music readings and a late supper were features of pleasure for members of class 17 of the Augsburg Lutheran Sunday school, guests last evening of Miss Anna B. Breneman of 606 Peffer street.
The dining room represented a Japanese garden with a table centerpiece of roses and silver candelabra capped with pink, and tiny candlesticks holding lighted tapers at each cover.
In attendance were W. L. Gardner, teacher [Anna’s brother-in-law]; Mrs. Gardner [Anna’s sister], the Rev. and Mrs. Stamets, Miss Alfretta Stamets, Mrs. Swab, Mrs. Frock, Mrs. Landis, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. O’Hail, Mrs. Nestor, Mrs. Kreig, Mrs. Glace, Mrs. Hackenberger, Mary Hackenberger, Mrs. Rafter, Mrs. Tarmon, Mrs. Holohan, Mrs. Wertz, Mrs. Hartzell, Mrs. Ritter, Mrs. King, Mrs. Manning, Mrs. McFadden, Mrs.McDonald, Frances McDonald, Mrs. Shanaman, Beatrice Shanaman, Mrs. Shapley, Miss Eva Angerry, Miss Jennie Weaver, Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. Dysard, Mr. and Mrs. John Vaughn [Anna’s first cousin and her husband], Mrs. George Bankus, Mrs. Kauffman, Mrs. Einsig, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. V. L. Breneman, Mrs. M.J. Breneman [Anna’s sisters-in-law], Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Breneman [Anna’s brother and sister-in-law], Kenneth Hoffman, William Gardner, and Daniel Kreig.
The 15 December 1917 edition of the publication added:
Entertains at Cards
Anna B. Breneman, of 606 Peffer street, entertained a number of friends at cards last evening. Covers were laid for twelve guests. Assisting Miss Breneman were Mrs. Gardner [Anna’s sister-in-law] and Mrs. John Vaughn [Anna’s first cousin]. Prizes were won by Miss Vivian Martin and Mrs. Fergerson. After cards the guests enjoyed themselves with music and dancing.
By 1920, Christian and Margaret Breneman’s daughter, Maggie (Breneman) Gardner, was still residing in Harrisburg’s 12th Ward with her husband W. L. Gardner and their son William L. Gardner, an electrician.
But sadly, by the time 1930 federal census takers arrived, the health of family matriarch Margaret J. Breneman had declined to such an extent that she was no longer permitted to reside at home. Following her admission to the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Asylum in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County, she was described on federal census rolls as an “inmate” and in newspaper notices regarding the guardianship of her estate as being of “weak mind,” signaling the likelihood that she had developed some type of dementia. Rather than being buried next to her husband in Perry County following her death on 18 March 1930, she was instead laid to rest at the East Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. Her obituary in the 20 March edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph then reported on her passing as follows:
Mrs. Margaret J. Breneman, 92, widow of Captain C. K. Breneman, 606 Peffer street, died today at the Polyclinic Hospital. She is survived by three daughters, Mrs. G. D. Singer, Miss Flora Breneman, Miss Anna Breneman, three sons, V. L. Breneman, H. S. Breneman, and B. C. Breneman. Three grandchildren and one great-grandchild also survive. Funeral services will be held Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock it the home of the son, B. C. Breneman. 2220 Green street. The Rev. A. M. Stamets, pastor of Augsburg Lutheran Church, will officiate. Burial will be in the East Harrisburg Cemetery. The body may be viewed Saturday evening after 7 o’clock.
Flora Breneman, another unmarried daughter of Christian and Margaret Breneman, then died nearly four years to the day later, passing away in Harrisburg on 14 March 1934. She was then laid to rest at the same cemetery where her mother had been buried.
Brothers Victor and Harry survived her, however, passing away respectively in Harrisburg on 5 November 1949 and on 4 December 1956. Both were also then laid to rest at the same cemetery where their mother and sister were interred. (Victor’s widow, Carrie, followed him in death in 1954.)
Benjamin Colver Breneman, Christian and Margaret Breneman’s youngest son, then also passed away. Following his death on 13 February 1959, he too was interred at Harrisburg’s East Harrisburg Cemetery. During his marriage, he and his wife, Lena, had greeted the arrival of two sons, both of whom followed their grandfather’s tradition of serving their nation in times of trouble.
Christian K. Breneman’s grandson, Richard R. Breneman (1914-2003), went on to a long career with the U.S. Army, ultimately retiring at the rank of colonel; tragically, though, Christian Breneman’s youngest grandson was less fortunate. After becoming a Staff Sergeant and Radio Operator with the 514th Bomber Squadron, 376th Bomber Group, Heavy in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Colver Benjamin Breneman (1920-1944), was declared Missing in Action during World War II after his B-24 collided with another over the ocean while on a bombing raid to Marsdorf, Germany on 8 July 1944.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Breneman, C. K.; Brenneman, Christian; and Zinn, George W. in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
3. Breneman, Christian and Zinn, George, in Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
4. Breneman, Christian K. and Margaret J., in U.S. Civil War Pension Index (application no.: 432815, certificate no.: 307318, filed by the widow from Pennsylvania on 7 July 1891). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
5. Breneman, Margaret A., Wm. L. Gardner, and Margaret J. Breneman; Victor L., Carrie I. Landis, Christian and Margaret J. Breneman, and R. M. Landis; Benj. C Breneman, Lena M. Rupley, Christian K. and Margaret J. Breneman, and Henry M. and Phoebe Rupley; Harry S. Breneman, Anna May Gebhard, C. K. and M. J. Breneman, and Jacob and Anna Gebhard, in Applications for Marriage Licenses. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans’ Court of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 21 December 1897; 21 November 1906; 17 June 1911; and 3 October 1914.
6. Brenneman, C. K., in Card Records of Headstones of Deceased Union Veterans. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1888.
7. George W. Zinn (obituary). New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: People’s Advocate and Press, 17 January 1900.
8. “Miss Breneman Gives 6 O’clock Chicken Dinner”, “Miss Breneman Class Hostess: Guests Enjoy Music and Readings with Supper in a Japanese Garden” and “Entertains at Cards” (articles about or mentions of Anna B. Breneman). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 March 1914; 5 May 1917; and 15 December 1917.
9. “Mrs. Margaret J. Breneman” (obituary). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, 20 March 1930.
10. “Mrs. Risser Dies in Lititz at Age of 86 Years” (obituary of Barbara Kendig (Breneman) Risser, sister of C. K. Breneman). Lititz, Pennsylvania: Lititz Record, 30 October 1924.
11. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
12. U.S. Census (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.