From Brothers-in-Law to Brothers in Arms — Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman and Private George W. Zinn

Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman, Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (circa 1863, public domain).

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 man who attracted attention and inspired others to greatness even though he, like most adults both young and old, had periodic moments of weakness at various times during his lifetime.

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), followed by 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.

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.

Margaret Jane (Zinn) Breneman, wife of Christian K. Breneman, Second Lieutenant, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (circa 1863, public domain).

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. (Christian Breneman’s real and personal estate holdings were similarly valued that year at $1,200.)

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

Excerpt from a larger montage of images from the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia which ran in the 27 edition 1861 of Harper’s Weekly. “Council of War” depicts Generals Williams, Cadwalader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker strategizing on the eve of battle (public domain).

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

Muster roll entry for Second Lieutenant Christian K. Breneman, Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, showing Newport, Pennsylvania enrollment and Washington, D.C. muster-in (1861, public domain).

Realizing that the threat to America’s union was still fall 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 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.

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

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, 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.’”

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….

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

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.


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

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, 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 John M. 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.'”

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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 being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, 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.

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

J.H. Schell’s 1862 illustration showing the earthen works surrounding the Confederate battery atop Saint John’s Bluff along the Saint John’s River in Florida (public domain).

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. Along the way, two companies from the 47th Pennsylvania (E and K) also helped capture the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer that had been actively engaged in supplying Rebel troop placements up and down the Saint Johns River.

This phase of duty was also a noteworthy one for an entirely different reason—the 47th Pennsylvania made history by becoming an integrated regiment. On 5 and 15 October 1862, several young to middle-aged Black men freed from slavery on plantations near Beaufort, South Carolina enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Among the new enrollees were Abraham and Edward Jassum, aged 16 and 22 respectively, and Bristor Gethers, aged 33, who were entered on regimental rosters for Company F at the rank of “Negro under cook.” (The three were then officially mustered into the 47th Pennsylvania  at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, along with other former slaves freed by the regiment during the Union’s Red River Campaign.)

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

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.

Dear Wife,

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 4 ½ Oclock. 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.

Wounded continued

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….

Meanwhile, on 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where several members of the regiment 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.


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

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. Once again, disease was once again a problem with multiple members of the regiment discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability after being deemed too ill to continue their service.


On 25 February 1864, Second Lieutenant Christian Breneman, Private George Zinn and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which their regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City.

Following another steamer ride—to Franklin via the Bayou Teche—the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

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

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. Private William Barry of H Company was just one of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers killed in action that day. The fighting waned only when darkness fell as the exhausted survivors collapsed beside the gravely wounded.

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 severely 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 a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, 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 fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, the 47th Pennsylvanian Volunteers and their fellow Union soldiers then scored a clear victory on 23 April against the Confederates near Monett’s Ferry in the Battle of Cane Hill.

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

From 30 April to 10 May, while under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, the 47th and their fellow brigade members helped to build a dam across the Red River to enable federal gunboats to more easily navigate the Red River’s fluctuating water levels. Beginning 13 May, H Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmesport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

Removed from command amid the controversy over the Union Army’s successes and failures during the Red River Expedition, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. (Banks subsequently spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.)

Meanwhile, on the 4th of July, the men from H Company were learning that their fight was not yet over as they received new orders to return to the East Coast for further duty. While H Company joined the bulk of soldiers from the 47th in their departure three days later, the men from Companies B, G and K were forced to cool their heels in New Orleans until securing spots on the Blackstone later that month.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

U.S. Steamer McClellan (Alfred Waud, circa 1860-1865, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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)

Battle of Opequan/Third Winchester, Virginia, 19 September 1864 (public domain).

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 Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces 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

Unidentified men at the New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania train station (circa late 1800s, public domain).

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 His 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.

Horse Drawn Trolleys, 2nd and Market, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (circa 1890, public domain).

Meanwhile, Christian Breneman’s widow, Margaret Jane (Zinn) Breneman, was also soldiering on, sustained by funds from his U.S. Civil War Pension. After giving birth to a total of 10 children, only 7 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 32-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: 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.