Private Luther Peter Bernheisel: Successful Small Businessman and Father of Civic Leaders

Sun Through the Clouds, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (U.S. National Park Service, public domain, c. 2017).

… ‘Tis the word that is kind that assures all is well,
And gives you that feeling of ease;
‘Tis the word that is kind that makes sunbeams so bright,
And casts all your cares to the breeze;
No harsh-spoken word ever comforted man,
So let us speak kindly as much as we can….

– Jesse L. Bernheisel, son of Luther P. Bernheisel

In its 1896 Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, J. M. Runk & Company presented the following profile of Luther Peter Bernheisel, a tailor who served as a private on the front lines of America’s Civil War:

BERNHEISEL, Luther, merchant tailor, was born in Perry county, Pa., April 1, 1834 [sic]. He is a son of George and Susan (Kepner) Bernheisel. His maternal grandfather, John Kepner, was a farmer, and one of the wealthiest men in Juniata county. George Bernheisel was a native of Perry county and a merchant. He was married to Miss Susan, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Loye) Kepner, who was also born in Perry county. Three of their children are living: John C., Cornelius and Luther. The deceased children are: Catherine, who died at the age of fourteen; Jacob, and Samuel, who died from wounds received at the battle of Lookout Mountain. Mr. George Bernheisel and his wife were members of the Lutheran church.

Luther Bernheisel received a limited education. He attended the public schools at intervals until he was about fourteen, when he began to serve a four years’s [sic] apprenticeship at tailoring with Patterson Alexander, in Juniata county. At the end of this term he was employed for a few months by Mr. Howell. He then worked for a few months for Mr. Stroup, in Mifflintown, Juniata county, then seven months for Christian Metz, of Williamsburg, Blair county, Pa. He attended the first State fair held in Harrisburg and during his stay in the city visited some of his relatives. After this he returned to Blair county and spent eight months working for his former employer, Mr. Metz. In 1856 Mr. Bernheisel went into the tailoring business for himself, purchasing the establishment formerly owned by Squire Howell, at Pleasant Hill, Juniata county, which he conducted for a few years. He was next in business for some time at Green Park, Perry county, Pa., and lived there three years when the war broke out. Mr. Bernheisel enlisted, August 20, 1861, for three years, in company H, Forty-seventh regiment, Pennsylvania volunteers. He again enlisted at Fort Jefferson, in 1863. He was discharged at Camp Cadwallader [sic], January 11, 1866. He was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Shenandoah Valley, under General Sheridan. He took part in the battles of Pocotaligo, S. C., and also Sabina [sic] Cross Roads, Pleasant Hill, and King[sic]  River, in Louisiana; Berryville, Cedar Creek, and Fisher’s Hill, Va. During his service he was in eleven States, took eleven trips on the ocean and was in eleven battles.

After the war he returned to Green Park and was in the tailoring business there for a short period, and then for three years at Andersonburg [sic], Perry county. He then removed to New Bloomfield, where he was engaged for three years, and from there to Newport. Three years later he bought out the business of David Care, at Harrisburg, and established himself at 106 market street. After a few years he sold his business and was for twelve years with Mr. Coover, as manager of his tailoring department. Mr. Bernheisel was again in business on his own account for one year, at 121 Market street, and afterwards removed to the opposite side of the street, at the corner of Market Square. Later he was with Mr. Coover in the Harrisburg Manufacturing Company as cutter. While in this position he removed his family to the corner of Boas and Green streets. Between 1892 and 1893 he resigned his position and established himself in business at his residence, where he has built up and important trade.

Mr. Bernheisel was first married, at Williamsburg, Blair county, Pa., March 4, 1856, to Miss Catherine [sic], daughter of George Winters, born in 1835, in Blair county. They had twelve children. Those now living are: Charles O., Susan, Wife of Charles Snyder; Robert N., Frank W., Bessie M., wife of William Shoemaker, Rachel, Mattie, wife of George Briggles, and Lewis C [sic]. Their deceased children are: Alice E., died February 3, 1859, aged seven months; Edwin M., died October 10, 1862, aged two years; Luther A., died August 24, 1865, aged one year; Frank L., died December 16, 1868, aged six months. Mrs. Bernheisel died, February 1, 1888 [sic], aged fifty-three years.

Mr. Bernheisel was married again, October 1, 1891, to Miss Susan E., daughter of Josiah and Salome (Lenhart) Sheets. They had two [sic] children, Harry S., and Harvey Da Foe, who died June 19, 1894, aged four weeks.

Mr. Bernheisel is a member of Post No. 58 G. A. R., and for many years has been a member of the U. V. L., No. 67. He is a Republican and a member of the Messiah Lutheran church.

The parents of the first Mrs. Bernheisel were natives of Blair county. Her father was a farmer, and was also engaged in the mercantile business.

The parents of the second Mrs. Bernheisel were natives of Dauphin county. Her father was a farmer, and still resides in Dauphin county. He has held various township offices and is a director of the Halifax Bank. His politics are Democratic. He is a member of the Lutheran church.

Additional Details Regarding Luther Bernheisel’s Life, Military Service and Family

More than 50 years after Luther Bernheisel worked for master tailor Christian Metz near the bridge and canal works on the Juniata River, the community of Williamsburg still retained its rural character (public domain, c. early 1900s).

Contrary to the biography above, Luther Bernheisel was, in fact, born a decade earlier – in 1824 on 1 April. A son of George and Susan (Kepner) Bernheisel, he grew up with his siblings in Perry County, and attended school there until sometime during the late 1830s. The family’s surname would come to be spelled as “Bernheisel” or “Bernhisel” on various records over the next several decades.

Apprenticed to Patterson Alexander, a respected Lack Township tailor’s shop in Juniata County, Pennsylvania, he refined his skills there until roughly 1842. By the mid to late 1840s, he then worked for another successful tailor – Christian Metz of Woodbury Township, Blair County. It was also during this time that Luther Bernheisel met his future wife – Catharine Winters (1834-1886), a native of Blair County who was a daughter of George Winters. Married in Williamsburg on 4 March 1856, they began to grow their family before the first shots of America’s Civil War were fired. Their first born – Charles Orville Bernheisel – arrived later that year. Daughter Alice E. Bernheisel then opened her eyes for the first time in August 1858. Sadly, she did not survive infancy and, after passing away at the age of seven months on 3 February 1859, was laid to rest in Perry County.

Perry County Courthouse, New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, c. 1860s (Hain’s History of Perry County, 1922, public domain).

By 1860, the U.S. Census documented the trio as residents of the community of Andesville in Tyrone Township, Perry County, Pennsylvania. Also residing at their home at this time was Margaret Winters (aged 10), a niece or younger sister of Luther’s wife, Catharine (Winters) Bernheisel.

* Note: The federal census taker had used the old name for the town (Andesville) when documenting the community that year. According to Hain’s History of Perry County:

The first schoolhouse of which there is record in Tyrone Township was at the Lebanon Church, at Loysville, which was built about 1794. Rev. D. H. Focht, in his historical work, says of it:

‘A short time after the church was built a large schoolhouse was erected on the same lot of ground and near the church. A partition divided the schoolhouse inside and a large chimney occupied the centre [sic]. One end of the house was occupied by the teacher and his family and the other by the school. For many years a sort of congregational school was kept there.’

That old schoolhouse was in use until 1837, when the first public school built there took its place. In 1853 the Loysville Academy was begun in the basement of this church, and later merged into the Tressler Orphans’ Home…. There was a schoolhouse as early as 1815 in the vicinity of Reehm’s foundry, at Green Park….

Tyrone Township has two other towns which are not incorporated, Loysville and Green Park, the largest being Loysville. It was early known as Red Rock.

Loysville is laid out on parts of two original tracts, the east part being on the McClure tract, warranted in 1763, and the west part on the John Sharp tract, warranted the same year. Martin Bernheisel and Michael Loy later came into possession of them, and donated several acres for church and school purposes…. On July 20, 1840, the directors of the poor of Perry County surveyed a block of eight lots … on the County Home tract, on the east side of the road leading to Heim’s mill, and named it Andesville….

Sometime after the census taker documented the family’s residence in Perry County, the Bernheisels greeted the arrival of another son – Edwin M.

By 1861, military recordkeepers were noting that Luther Bernheisel had relocated yet again. Now a 26-year-old tailor residing in Elliottsburg, Perry County, he was reportedly 5’ 7” tall with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion.

Civil War Military Service

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

Appealing to men from the larger communities of Newport and New Bloomfield and their neighboring farming communities to defend the union of their beloved country during the fateful Summer of 1861, Perry County civic leader James Kacy raised an entire company of soldiers for Civil War military duty during August and early September of that year. Kacy, a former Postmaster for Elliottsburg, Perry County, then also personally enrolled for service. Joining him in this early enlistment was Luther Peter Bernheisel, who enrolled for Civil War military service on 20 August at Elliottsburg. He then officially mustered in for duty on 19 September at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County as a Private with Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

* Note: One of two companies composed almost entirely of men from Perry County (the other being Company D), Company H was the last of the 47th Pennsylvania’s companies to muster in for duty. Initial recruitment was conducted in Newport, Perry County, but continued through 30 October 1861 in order to bring the company’s roster county up from 90 to 97 (closer to the 100 men normally required to form a new unit).

Supporting the newly commissioned Captain Kacy was 1st Lieutenant William Wallace Geety, a 29-year-old who had been a practicing dentist in Harrisburg. Following a brief light infantry training period, Captain Kacy and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. where, beginning 21 September, they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown (about two miles from the White House). The next day, C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:

After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.

After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.

We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.

Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.

Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.

Then, on 24 September, the soldiers of Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers became part of the federal service when the regiment officially mustered into the U.S. Army. That same day, C. K. Breneman was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant with Company H.

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

On 27 September – a rainy day which gave many soldiers the opportunity to read or write letters to loved ones, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.

The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.

Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:

On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….

We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….

There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….

Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C. 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.’”

In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton also described their duties and their new home:

The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.

Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….

On Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a morning Divisional Review, described by regimental historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Later that month, per 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 James 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.

Captain 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, he 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.

On 17 November, Company C’s Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:

This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….

The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….

A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….

Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

On 21 November, the 47th participated in another morning divisional review. 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, c. 1861-1865 (public domain).

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvanians left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862. Marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles to reach the railroad station at Falls Church, they were sent by rail to Alexandria, and then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal. Once there, they were reequipped before being marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped rail cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

As the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding of the Oriental during the afternoon of 27 January, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers with the officers boarding last. Per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, they then steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. – 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.

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

In early February 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers disembarked in Key West, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor while also drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics. Realizing that disease might decimate his ranks, 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.

The 47th Pennsylvanians also felled trees, helped to build new roads and strengthened the fortifications at the federal installtion. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the regiment made its presence known to Key West residents via a parade through the city’s streets. That Sunday, members of the regiment also mingled with the locals at area church services.

Meanwhile, as Winter turned to Spring back home in Pennsylvania, Private Luther Bernheisel’s wife was giving birth to their daughter, Susannah. Born in April 1862, she had been conceived just before Private Bernheisel headed off to war.

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 while disease also remained a fearsome adversary. 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.

The Capture of Saint John’s Bluff and Battle of Pocotaligo

J.H. Schell’s 1862 illustration of 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, Private Luther P. Bernheisel saw his 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 Pennsylvanians 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 regiment 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 equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.

The thrill of victory was dampened for Private Luther Bernheisel, however, when he received word that his son Edwin had passed away at home. The toddler was just two years old at the time his tiny body was laid to rest in Perry County, Pennsylvania.

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper’s Weekly in 1865.

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. While Captain James Kacy was recuperating at a Union hospital from an illness, his men were led in this engagement by his second in command, 1st Lieutenant William W. Geety.

Landing at Mackay’s Point, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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.

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

Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including Privates Peter Deitrick, J. T. Robinson, Henry Stambaugh, and Jefferson Waggoner. All four fell during the fighting which raged near Frampton Plantation.

Another two officers and 114 enlisted from the 47th were wounded, including H Company’s 1st and 2nd Lieutenants, William Geety and William Gardner, 1st Sergeant George Reynolds, Corporals Daniel Reeder and P. W. Stockslager, and Privates Samuel Huggins, Comley Idall, Cyrus Johnson, and R. R. Kingsborough.

Geety’s survival was nothing short of miraculous, according to accounts by physicians who provided follow-up treatment for him in Harrisburg in 1863. Reeder, who lost an arm due to his battle wounds, and Stockslager, Johnson and Kingsborough all survived and were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability. But Idall, Reynolds and Huggins were less fortunate. Idall died eight days after the battle from “Vulnus Sclopet” – a gunshot wound – while undergoing care at the Union Army’s post hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Reynolds and Huggins also succumbed to their wounds on 8 November and 16 December 1862, respectively.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby M. Mitchel, 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. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.


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

By 1863, Captain Kacy and the men of H Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortugas.

The time spent here by the men of Company H and their fellow Union soldiers was notable for the men’s commitment to preserving the Union. Many who could have returned home chose instead to re-enlist, including Private Luther P. Bernheisel who re-upped at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida on 19 October 1863.


On 25 February 1864, H Company men and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th Pennsylvanians arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.

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

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell as those who were uninjured collapsed from exhaustion beside the gravely wounded. Finally, after midnight, the surviving Union troops were ordered to withdraw to Pleasant Hill.

The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Privates William F. Dumm and Nicholas Orris of Company H were also killed in action.

Still others from the 47th were captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war (POWs) until released during prisoner exchanges beginning 22 July 1864. At least two men from the 47th never made it out of that camp alive.

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 Pennsylvanians and their fellow Union soldiers then scored a clear victory against the Confederates at Cane Hill near Monett’s Ferry on 23 April 1864.

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

From 30 April through 10 May, the 47th Pennsylvanians next helped to build a dam across the Red River while serving under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey.

Beginning 16 May, Private Luther Bernheisel and his fellow H Company soldiers moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June. On the 4th of July, they learned their fight was not yet over as the regiment received new orders to return to the East Coast for further duty.

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

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company H and other men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, and I steamed for the East Coast of America 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 up with 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.

* Note: Sometime following his return to the East Coast with his regiment, Private Luther P. Bernheisel received word that his wife had given birth to another son – Luther A. Bernheisel. The latest edition to the family had most likely been conceived while his father was home on a furlough – a benefit awarded to members of the 47th Pennsylvania who opted to re-enlist for additional tours of duty upon expiration of their initial service terms.

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 fought in the Battle of Berryville.

The opening days of September also saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Captain James Kacy of H Company and his fellow captains from D, E and F companies, who each departed upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864

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

Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the members of Company H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces during the Battle of Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.

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

Battle of Winchester, 19 September 1864 (Harper’s Weekly, 8 October 1864, public domain). Also known as the Battle of Opequan or Third Winchester.

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

The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill (21-22 September), eight miles south of Winchester, and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one.

Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek. Moving forward, they and other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience, including John Peter Shindel Gobin, a man who would later go on to become Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864

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

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

From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles – all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:

When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”

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

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

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

Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield. His drummer boy son, who was serving in the same company, witnessed his death.

Within the contingent from Perry County, Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. Corporal Jonathan McIntire and Privates Valentine Andrews, Michael Heenan and Joseph Shelley were killed in action while Private Jonathan Lick sustained a severe gunshot wound to the left side of his head and Private John Liddick was also severely wounded. Lick died 11 days later at the Union Army’s Patterson P. K. General Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Liddick died at a Union Army hospital in Baltimore on 8 November.

Others who were wounded that terrible day included Corporal John P. Rupley and Privates Daniel W. Fegley, Elkana Sweger – and Luther P. Bernheisel. Happily for their descendants, all survived and continued to serve with H Company for the remainder of the regiment’s time in service. Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the regiment was then ordered to outpost and railroad guarding duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia five days before Christmas.

1865 – 1866

Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. Joining the regiment at this pivotal moment in American history was Emanuel Guera, one of the many immigrant soldiers who served with the 47th Pennsylvania during the long war. A 26-year-old dentist born in Cuba, Guera mustered in as a Private with Company H at a recruiting depot in Norristown, Pennsylvania on 10 March 1865, and met up with the regiment shortly thereafter.

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

Beginning 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians were again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital – this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they were given new uniforms and were reequipped with ammunition and other supplies. Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during the early days of their imprisonment and trial.

As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvanians also participated in the Union’s Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May, a massive parade designed both as a celebration for the recent surrender by the Confederates States of America and as a display of the federal government’s military might in the wake of the the transfer of power from one American President to the next.

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina as viewed from the Circular Church, 1865 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

On their final southern tour, Private Luther Bernheisel and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in Charleston, South Carolina in July, they quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.

While stationed there, Private Luther P. Bernheisel received more bad news. His one-year-old son Luther A. Bernheisel had passed away at home in Pennsylvania on 24 August 1865; like his older brother Edwin who had also died as a toddler, he too was laid to rest in Perry County.

Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers – including Private Luther Bernheisel – began to honorably muster out at Charleston – a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader from 9-11 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.

Return to Civilian Life

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

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Luther Bernheisel returned home to his family in Perry County, Pennsylvania, and resumed life as a tailor – and dad. Sons Robert N. (1867-1936) and Frank L. Bernheisel (1868-1868), were born in 1867 and June 1868, respectively. Sadly, Frank died just six months later – on 16 December 1868 and, as had other Bernheisel siblings who had died in infancy in previous years, was buried in Perry County.

Another son named Frank, who arrived in July 1869, would have a different fate. Shown as an 11-month-old child on the 1870 federal census, this little Bernheisel resided with his father Luther – a tailor with a personal estate valued at $200 – and mother “Mary” in Madison Township, Perry County, as well as siblings Susanah (aged 7) and Robert. During the early part of this decade, the Bernheisels continued to welcome more additions to the family, greeting the arrivals of daughters Bessie in February 1873 and Martha F. (1874-1955), who was born in October 1874; son Louis Winters (1876-1927), born 30 October 1876; and daughter Rachel D., born in 1877.

Market Square, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (c. 1860-1875, public domain).

By 1880, Luther Bernheisel and his family had moved onward – and even further upward. A more prosperous tailor, he resided on Broad Street in Harrisburg, Dauphin County Pennsylvania with his wife, Catharine, and their children: Charles Orville (aged 23), a printer; Susie (aged 18), Robert (aged 13), Frank (aged 10), Bessie (aged 8), Rachel (aged 7), Martha (aged 5), and Louis (aged 4). Robert, Frank, Bessie, and Rachel were all still in school.

Sadly, though, the reaper was still not done with his work. On 1 February 1886, family matriarch Catharine (Winters) Bernheisel was scythed from the family at a time when her young children needed her most. Unlike the children who had preceded her in death, however, Catharine Bernheisel was laid to rest at the East Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

Perseverance in the Face of Grief

Horse-drawn trolleys, 2nd and Market, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (c. 1890, public domain).

Despite suddenly being a single parent to a large family of young children, Luther Bernheisel did not immediately remarry as so many men of his era did. Continuing to parent his youngsters while keeping his tailoring shop in business, he soldiered on without a helpmate until 1 October 1891 when he wed Susan Emma Sheetz. Born in May 1862, she was a daughter of Josiah and Salome (Lenhart) Sheetz. The new couple then soon greeted the arrival of their own children – Harry Sheetz (1895-1981) and Jesse Lenker Bernheisel who were born, respectively on 19 November 1895 and on Christmas Eve in December 1896.

That same decade, another of his children from his first marriage also began his own family. On 14 September 1899, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Louis Winters Bernheisel wed Emma Lillian Biester, a daughter of George and Mary Biester.

Continuing to prosper as a tailor following the turn of the century, Luther Bernheisel resided on Green Street with second wife Emma and sons Jesse and Harry. Meanwhile, two of his daughters from his first marriage – Susie and Bessie – were both residing in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania. Susie (Bernheisel) Snyder had made her home there with husband, Charles W. Snyder (born January 1856), a brakeman for a railroad company, following their marriage sometime around 1882. Also living with them were their children: Charles (born July 1883), Mark B. (born August 1885), Pearl P. (born June 1889), Bessie M. (born May 1891), Oscar D. (born August 1893), and Blair H. (born June 1896). And Bessie, who had married innkeeper William Shoemaker sometime around 1894, also lived in that same community with her husband and their son Francis (born January 1895).

Meanwhile Luther Bernheisel’s daughter Martha, who had also married sometime around 1894 – but to laborer George Briggles (born November 1874) – stayed closer to home, residing with her own husband and their 11-month old son Frank (born July 1899) at 1316 Green Street in Harrisburg.

Rachel D. Bernheisel then also left the family fold in 1907 when she married John T. Malligan, a son of James and Elizabeth Malligan, on 24 April in Altoona, Blair County. That same year, Luther Bernheisel also received word that his U.S. Civil War Pension had been reissued on 11 March 1907 at the rate of $15 per month (retroactive to 13 February). Subsequent increases were awarded to $20 per month (15 April 1909), and $30 per month (17 July 1912 retroactive to 17 May.

The departure of the eldest son from Luther Bernheisel’s first marriage was not a joyous one, however; in 1910, Charles Orville Bernheisel (1856-1910) passed away, and was laid to rest at the Bloomfield Cemetery in New Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania.

That same year, Luther Bernheisel was shown on the 1910 federal census as tailor “Peter Bernheisel,” and living at what would be his final address – 227 Reily Street in Harrisburg’s 6th Ward. Also residing with him were his second wife “Emma” (Susan) and sons Harry and Jesse L.

Daughter Susie, meanwhile, continued to reside with her railroader husband, Charles W. Snyder, in Blair County, Pennsylvania. Also still living with them at their home in Altoona’s 7th Ward were children Mark, Bessie, Oscar, and Blair.

Death and Interment

After suffering an episode of apoplexy at his home, Civil War veteran Luther Peter Bernheisel passed away there on 29 May 1918. The Harrisburg Telegraph reported on his funeral as follows:

Funeral services for Luther Bernheisel, aged 84, were held to-day [sic] at his late home, 227 Reily street, the Rev. H. W. A. Hanson, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, officiating. Burial was made in the East Harrisburg Cemetery.

Mr. Bernheisel was widely and favorably known throughout the entire city. For many years he was engaged in the tailoring business, and during the latter part of his business career, specialized in the making of ladies coats. He retired from active works several years ago. He was born in Perry county, April 1, 1824. He served in the Civil War from August 20, 1861 to January 11, 1866, in Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. During the period of his service he was south of the Mason and Dixon line.

He is survived by his wife, eight children and twenty-two grandchildren.

His second wife, Susan Emma (Sheets) Bernheisel, followed him in death in the mid-1930s. Per the 23 February 1935 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph:

SONS ARE HEIRS The estate of Mrs. Susan Emma Bernheisel, late of Harrisburg, was estimated as $3000 today when the will was filed in the office of Meade D. Detweiler, Jr. Jesse L. Bernheisel and Harry S. Bernheisel, sons, are named heirs and executors.

What Happened to Luther Bernheisel’s Surviving Children?

Berny’s Poems, Jesse L. Bernheisel (cover, 1927, public domain).

Like his half-siblings, Jesse L. Bernheisel, one of the two sons born to Luther Bernheisel and his second wife, also was twice-wed. Married to Helen A. Markley (1892-1920), a daughter of D. M. Markley of Green Street in Harrisburg, he was widowed by his wife in November 1920. The Harrisburg Telegraph reported on her passing as follows:

Funeral services for Mrs. Jessie [sic] Bernheisel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Markley, 1519 Green Street, who died at the Women’s hospital in Philadelphia, will be held Saturday afternoon [13 November 1920] at 2 o’clock at Messiah Lutheran Church. Private burial will be made in the East Harrisburg Cemetery. Mrs. Bernheisel was formerly Miss Helen A. Markley, of this city. After her marriage, she moved to Wissahickon.  She was well known in this city and an active worker in the Messiah Lutheran Church. She is survived by her husband, Jessie L. Bernheisel, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Markley, and one brother [sic] Wayne Bernheisel. The body may be viewed tomorrow evening from 6 to 9 o’clock at the home of her parents, 1519 Green street.

Remarried in 1924, Jesse Bernheisel resided with his wife, Lillian (Tuckmantel) Bernheisel, in the Philadelphia area. In 1927, he self-published Berny’s Poems; Hints Toward Happiness. Among the verses penned were those of The Friendly Trio, which was published in The Uplift in 1931:


‘Tis a smile that will strengthen when courage is weak,
When something you’ve done has gone wrong;
‘Tis a smile that can chase all the dark clouds away,
And fill you with sunshine and song;
A frown never brightened the soul of a man
So let us keep smiling as much as we can.
‘Tis the word that is kind that assures all is well,
And gives you that feeling of ease;
‘Tis the word that is kind that makes sunbeams so bright,
And casts all your cares to the breeze;
No harsh-spoken word ever comforted man,
So let us speak kindly as much as we can.
‘Tis a clasp of the hand that begins in the heart,
That gives you a soul-stirring thrill;
‘Tis the clasp of the hand that makes day and night shine
With the glory of human good will;
A shrug of the shoulders has ne’er won a man,
So let us clasp truly as much as we can.
A smile on your face will encourage someone,
A kind spoken Word will give peace,
A clasp of the hand will bring joy to a soul,
And time will not cause them to cease;
Let’s demonstrate daily the power of these three,
And try them on all of the people we see.

In 1942, according to his World War II draft registration card and subsequent mentions in 1947 editions of The Pottstown Mercury newspaper, Jesse L. Bernheisel, an employee of the American Bridge Co. of Trenton, New Jersey, and his second wife, Lillian, made their home in the Roxborough section of northwest Philadelphia.

As an inspector for Berwind-White Coal, Louis W. Bernheisel would have interacted with miners like those photographed at Berwind’s Winber, Pennsylvania mine (c. 1906, public domain).

Louis W. Bernheisel, one of the sons from Luther Bernheisel’s first marriage, also opted to settle in the Philadelphia area after his own wedding. In 1910, he was employed as an inspector in the coal industry and living in Philadelphia’s 46th Ward with his wife, Emma, and nine-year-old son Louis E. (1900-1985), but by the time of his World War I draft registration, he and his wife were residing in West Collingswood, Camden County, New Jersey. Records of the period documented that he was an Assistant Superintendent of the car service for Philadelphia’s Berwind-White Coal Mining Company. The 22 June 1927 edition of the Altoona Tribune provided the following details about the family:

Louis Bernheisel, of Philadelphia, a medical student who spends his summer vacation at Hollidaysburg, clerking in the office of the Berwind-White car shop at East Hollidaysburg, of which corporation his father is president, arrived several days ago and is again on the job.

The 1928 edition of The Medic, yearbook of Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Medical College, noted both the graduation that year of the younger Louis E. Bernheisel, his initial internship at the Rhode Island Homeopathic Hospital (prior to transfer to New Jersey following his father’s untimely death), and a subsequent appointment as Superintendent of a tubercular sanatorium in Colorado. This same publication also confirmed the death in December 1927 of his father, Louis Winters Bernheisel, and noted that, in 1919, the younger Louis E. Bernheisel had graduated from the high school in Collingswood, New Jersey, where he had played “a prominent part in athletics, being Captain of the Football Team, Manager of the Baseball Team and a member of the Track Team,” and that before entering medical school, “he served for a time on the engineer corps in West Virginia coal mines and also with the Installation Department of the Philadelphia Bell Telephone Company.” Records confirm that he earned his Bachelor of Science and medical degrees at Hahnemann in 1927 and 1928, respectively. Nicknamed “Bernie”, he was also “a member of Alpha Sigma Fraternity and Treasurer of the Second Science Class,” a Lutheran and a Republican.

Harry Sheetz Bernheisel, the oldest son from Luther P. Bernheisel’s second marriage, ultimately went on to marry Helen Margaret Elberti (1897-1982). After working for a number of years as an Office Manager for the H. J. Heinz Food Company, he passed away in Corpus Christi, Texas on 1 August 1981. The informant on his death certificate was his daughter Mary Louise (Bernheisel) Tibbs. His cremains were inurned at the Royal Palm South Cemetery in Saint Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as viewed from the Capitol Building, c. 1930s (public domain).

Robert N. Bernheisel (1867-1936), another of the sons from Luther Bernheisel’s first marriage to Catharine (Winters) Bernheisel, went on to work for a Dauphin County newspaper publishing company before passing away suddenly in Dauphin County on 8 December 1936. The day after his death, the Harrisburg Telegraph reported his death as follows:

Funeral services for Robert N. Bernheisel, 69, 215 South Seventeenth street, Camp Hill, who died suddenly yesterday at his office in the Telegraph Press, will be conducted Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock in the Musselman funeral parlors, 324 Hummel avenue, Lemoyne. The Rev. Edward H. Parr, pastor of the Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church, Harrisburg, will officiate. Burial will be in the Paxtang Cemetery. The body may be viewed Friday evening at the parlors.

And Luther P. Bernheisel’s daughter, Martha (Bernheisel) Briggles, also went on to have a family and long full life. After she passed away on 13 February 1955, she too was laid to rest at the East Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.


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

2. Bernheisel, Jesse L. and Lillian Tuckmantel, in Marriage Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: City of Philadelphia, 1924.

3. Bernheisel, Jesse L. Berny’s Poems; Hints Toward Happiness. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1927.

4. Bernheisel, Jesse L. The Happy Trio, in The Uplift, Vol. XIX, No. 1. Concord, North Carolina: The Printing Class of the Stonewall Jackson Training and Industrial School, 1931.

5. Bernheisel, Jesse Lenker, Harry Sheetz Bernheisel, and Louis Winters Bernheisel, in World War I and World War II Draft Registration Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1917 and 1942.

6. Bernheisel, Louis, Emma Lillian Biester, Luther and Catharine Bernheisel, and George and Mary Biester, in Marriage Records. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Register of Wills, 14 September 1899.

7. Bernheisel, Louis E. and Louis W. Bernheisel, in The Medic. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Hahnemann Medical College, 1928.

8. Bernheisel, Luther, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

9. Bernheisel, Luther, in Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Containing Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and Many of the Early Scotch-Irish and German Settlers. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: J. M. Runk & Company, Publishers, 1896.

10. Bernheisel, Luther, in Pension Payment Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Veterans Administration, 1907-1918.

11. Bernheisel, Rachel, John T. Malligan, Luther and Catharine Bernheisel, and James and Elizabeth Malligan, in Marriage Records. Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans’ Court and Prothonotary’s Office, 24 April 1907.

12. Funeral (obituary of Helen Markley Bernheisel, Jessie Bernheisel’s wife). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, Thursday, 11 November 1920.

13. Funeral Services Held for Luther Bernheisel. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, 1 June 1918.

14. Hain, Harry Harrison. History of Perry County, Pennsylvania. Including Descriptions of Indians and Pioneer Life from the Time of Earliest Settlement. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Hain-Moore Company, 1922.

15. Personals (Louis Bernheisel, father and son). Altoona, Pennsylvania: Altoona Tribune, 22 June 1927.

16. Robert Bernheisel Funeral Announced, in Obituaries. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, 9 December 1936.

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

18. Sons Are Heirs (estate of Susan Emma Bernheisel). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Telegraph, we February 1935.

19. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.