Roster: Company I, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers
History of Company I
Company I was one of the first two companies from the borough of Allentown, Pennsylvania to join the Pennsylvania Volunteers’ 47th Regiment and was also the largest of the regiment’s ten companies to muster in during the summer and early fall of 1861.
Several of this company’s initial recruits had, following the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, been early responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After completing their Three Months’ Service in July, these men promptly re-enrolled that same summer for three-year tours of duty. Most I Company members, though, were fresh-faced recruits—encouraged to join up by Coleman A. G. Keck, a 26-year-old master miller who resided with his family in Allentown.
The son of a farmer who became a local judge, Coleman Keck had performed his own Three Months’ Service as a 1st Lieutenant with Company D of the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry from April to July of 1861. Following his honorable discharge, he promptly began to raise his own company for enlistment to continue the fight to preserve America’s Union and end slavery nationwide. He recruited his I Company soldiers at Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and then took them to Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County for muster in. Most of I Company’s 102-man roster was logged in as available for duty by 30 August 1861.
Keck also personally enrolled for duty in Allentown on 5 August 1861. The new regiment that he and his recruits were entering—the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry—had only been in the planning stages just weeks earlier, and was founded by Tilghman H. Good, the former Captain of the Allen Rifles who would later become a three-time mayor of Allentown. On the same day that Keck and his men mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin—30 August 1861—he was promoted to the rank of Captain and placed in charge of his men.
Supporting Captain Keck as leaders of I Company were Levi and James Stuber, who respectively entered at the ranks of 1st and 2nd Lieutenant, and Sergeant Allen Lawall. Entering as one of the Sergeants, Theodore Mink would be repeatedly promoted until becoming one of the captains of I Company who later succeeded Captain Keck.
Among the rank and file who enlisted were six carpenters, four printers, seven shoemakers, four tinsmiths, and teamsters.
Following a brief light infantry training period, Captain Keck and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., where they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, about two miles from the White House, beginning 21 September. Henry Wharton, a Musician with the regiment’s C Company, penned the following update the next day to his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:
After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.
We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.
Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.
…. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.
Then, on 24 September, the soldiers of Company I, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers became part of the federal service when the regiment officially mustered into the U.S. Army. On 27 September—a rainy day, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.
Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
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. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
On Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a morning Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” A week later, Private David Losch succumbed to “Pneumonia Typhoides” at the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental hospital at Camp Griffin, where he was being cared for by the 47th’s Regimental Surgeon, Elisha W. Baily, M.D.
* Note: Although the local German language newspaper for Allentown, Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, indicated that Private David Losch died at a Union Army hospital in Georgetown, this information was incorrect. The military death ledger entry for Private Losch, which was completed by the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental surgeon, confirms that Private Losch died at the regimental hospital at Camp Griffin, Virginia and not in the District of Columbia. His remains were transported north for burial at a local cemetery in his community.
In his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed still more details about life at Camp Griffin:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….
On 21 November, the 47th participated in another morning divisional review—overseen this time by 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 for their performance that day—and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
But these frequent marches and their guard duties in rainy weather gradually began to wear the men down; more fell ill with fever and other ailments; more died.
On New Year’s Day 1862, Private D. H. Nonnemacher of I Company was promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Sent by train to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
Those preparations ceased on Monday, 27 January, at 10 a.m. for a very public dismissal of one member of the regiment—I Company’s Private James C. Robinson who was dishonorably discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania (effective 27 January 1862). According to Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment:
The regiment was formed and instructed by Lt. Col. Alexander ‘that we were about drumming out a member who had behaved himself unlike a soldier.’ …. The prisoner, Pvt. James C. Robinson of Company I, was a 36 year old miner from Allentown who had been ‘disgracefully discharged’ by order of the War Department. Pvt. Robinson was marched out with martial music playing and a guard of nine men, two men on each side and five behind him at charge bayonets. The music then struck up with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ as the procession was marched up and down in front of the regiment, and Pvt. Robinson was marched out of the yard.
Reloading then resumed. By that afternoon, when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. The officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.
In February 1862, Company I arrived with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in Key West, where the 47th was assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. They drilled daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies, felled trees, helped to build new roads, and strengthened the fortifications in and around the Union Army’s presence at Key West. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced themselves to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, Captain Keck ensured that many of his I Company men attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at local churches.
Issued on Saturday, 12 April 1862, Regimental Order No. 4 assigned Captain Coleman Keck and Private William Smith to recruiting—a responsibility that kept Keck at home in Allentown until sometime after 11 June of that year, according to military records.
The month of May brought a slight reshuffling of I Company leadership as Private William Frack was promoted to the rank of Corporal on 1 May and, per Order No. 22, Private Robert R. Kingsborough replaced Private William O’Brien as company cook, and began reporting to the company quartermaster. On 17 May, Private John W. H. Diehl was also promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Meanwhile, back in Key West on 9 June 1862, Sergeant Charles Nolf, Jr. of I Company was accidentally killed by a member of the 90th New York Volunteers while collecting shells on a beach in the southern part of Key West. According to Schmidt and letters from soldiers who recounted the incident:
The 24 year old bricklayer from Allentown was shot through the brain and killed instantly while he was on the beach gathering shells with a few of his friends from the company. In front of the Sergeant and his friends were four members of the 90th New York with loaded rifles on their shoulders. One of them was carelessly playing with the trigger of his gun, ‘when bang! off went the load, the ball entering the forehead of Nolf, killing him instantly.’ Some members of his company ‘were bent on revenge’, but an investigation proved it an accident, although the carrying of loaded rifles was strictly prohibited…. Sgt. Nolf’s remains were probably originally buried in the Key West Post Cemetery, but in January of 1864 his remains were disinterred and returned to Allentown on January 28 by undertaker Paul Balliet, and buried in the Fairview Cemetery in West Catasauqua….”
Resolutions expressing sympathy for the Sergeant Nolf were written by officers of the 47th Pennsylvania and published in the 25 June 1862 edition of The Lehigh Register.
Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, they camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly 35 miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July).
In mid to late July, I Company’s Private William Burger was assigned to detached duty in Beaufort as a teamster. On 30 July 1862, Private George T. Gross was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. Sadly, sometime between the late hours of 1 August and the pre-dawn hours of 2 August 1862, Private William Ellis died from congestive fever at Beaufort, South Carolina, which may have been related to a cholera outbreak that had occurred earlier in the area. According to Schmidt, Ellis was the first member of the regiment to die in South Carolina:
He was a native of Catasauqua and a former laborer at the Allentown Iron Works. After a short burial in South Carolina, his body was returned from Beaufort by Allentown undertaker Paul Balliet and the transport Delaware on November 29. His family was one of the few who spent the government’s $100 as intended, to bring home the body of the deceased soldier, whose remains in this case are now buried in the Fairview Cemetery at West Catasauqua.
His story becomes even more poignant when one realizes that Ellis was not, in fact, a native of Catasauqua, but an immigrant from Ireland who had left the famine and poverty he had known there in the mid-1800s in search of a better life in America.
Victory and First Blood
Sent on a return expedition to Florida as September 1862 waned, the men of Company I saw their first truly intense moments of service when their unit 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 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 equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.
Integration of the Regiment
On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania made history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls a Black teen and several young to middle-aged Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina:
- Just 16 years old at the time of his enlistment, Abraham Jassum joined the 47th Pennsylvania from a recruiting depot on 5 October 1862. Military records indicate that he mustered in as “negro undercook” with Company F at Beaufort, South Carolina. Military records described him as being 5 feet 6 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and stated that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” Records also indicate that he continued to serve with F Company until he mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 when his three-year term of enlistment expired.
- Also signing up as an Under Cook that day at the Beaufort recruiting depot was 33-year-old Bristor Gethers. Although his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives listed him as “Presto Gettes,” his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing spelled his name as “Bristor Gethers” and his wife’s name as “Rachel Gethers.” This index also includes the aliases of “Presto Garris” and “Bristor Geddes.” He was described on military records as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. He mustered in as “Negro under cook” with Company F on 5 October 1862, and mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service. Federal records indicate that he and his wife applied for his Civil War Pension from South Carolina.
- Also attached initially to Company F upon his 15 October 1862 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of Under Cook with the 47th Pennsylvania at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and then transferred to Company H on 11 October 1864. Like Abraham Jassum, Edward Jassum also continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until being honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service.
More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.
On 12 October 1862, Private Henry A. Blumer of I Company died aboard a U.S. Navy transport while steaming to connect for service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. The local Allentown German language newspaper, Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, reported his death in its 5 November 1862 edition [translation from German to English by the editor]:
Henry A. Blumer, Esq., of Allentown, who joined some time ago with Maj. Gausler as a soldier with the 47th Regiment, which is commanded by Col. T. H. Good and stationed in South Carolina, died a few days ago on his journey there by ship. He is buried at Hilton Head, South Carolina, was 25 years old, and had married a few days ago.
Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
From 21-23 October 1862, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field.
Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests.
The Union soldiers grappled with the Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including I Company Privates Jeremiah Metz (alternate spelling “Mertz”) and L. Druckenmiller (alternate spelling “Druckermiller”), who was killed by “Vulnus Sclopet” (a gunshot) during the fighting near the Frampton Plantation, according to his federal death ledger entry.
Another two officers and 114 enlisted from the 47th were wounded, including I Company Privates J. Bondenschlager, James B. Cole, Edwin Dreisbach, Frederick Drester, and Daniel Kramer. Dreisbach survived and continued to serve for the duration of the war, but was impaired in later life by mental illness (possibly “Soldier’s Heart,” which is more commonly known today as post-traumatic stress disorder) while Privates Shaffer, Bondenschlager, Cole and Drester were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability on 22 October, 29 October, 15 November and 22 December 1862, respectively.
Several resting places of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers still remain unidentified to this day, the information lost to the sloppy records of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily buried or were forced to leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.
On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served 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. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another Black man escape from slavery near Beaufort when they added 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5 feet 4 inch-tall laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, he was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and served until the expiration of his own three-year term of service on 31 October 1865.
On 29 November 1862, Private Francis Daeufer (alternate spelling “Deifer”) was advanced to the rank of Corporal. In later life, he would go on to play a key role in the planning, raising and celebration of a monument dedicated to the memory of his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians and other Civil War soldiers—the Lehigh County Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
By 1863, Captain Keck and the men of I 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.
During this phase of duty, disease was a constant companion and foe. On 27 July 1863, Private Henry D. Spinner was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.
The time spent here by the men of Company I and their fellow Union soldiers was notable also for the men’s commitment to preserving the Union. Many who could have returned home chose instead to re-enlist in order to finish the fight.
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by Major-General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be reclaimed to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Captain Richard Graeffe and a group of men from Company A were charged with expanding the fort and conducting raids on area cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence across Florida. Graeffe and his men subsequently turned the fort into both their base of operations and a shelter for pro-Union supporters, escaped slaves, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops. According to Schmidt:
Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard. Lt. Harris was directed to tow the Matchless if necessary.
Punta Rassa was probably the location where the troops disembarked, and was located on the tip of the southwest delta of the Caloosahatchee River … near what is now the mainland or eastern end of the Sanibel Causeway… Fort Myers was established further up the Caloosahatchee at a location less vulnerable to storms and hurricanes. In 1864, the Army built a long wharf and a barracks 100 feet long and 50 feet wide at Punta Rassa, and used it as an embarkation point for shipping north as many as 4400 Florida cattle….
Capt. Graeffe and company were disembarked on the evening of January 7, and Gen. Woodbury ordered the company to occupy Fort Myers on the south side of the Caloosahatchee, about 12 miles from its mouth and 150 miles from Key West. Shortly after, [a detachment of men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s A Company stationed on Useppa Island] was also ordered to proceed to Fort Myers and join the main body of Company A, the entire command under direct orders of the General who was in the area…. Gen. Woodbury returned to Key West on the Honduras prior to January 19, and the command was left in charge of Capt. Graeffe who dispatched various patrols in search of refugees for enlistment and for activities involving Confederate cattle shipments.
Company A’s muster roll provides the following account of the expedition under command of Capt. Graeffe: ‘The company left Key West Fla Jany 4. 64 enroute to Fort Meyers Coloosahatche River [sic] Fla. were joined by a detachment of the U.S. 2nd Fla Rangers at Punta Rossa Fla took possession of Fort Myers Jan 10. Captured a Rebel Indian Agent and two other men.’
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:
A small contingent of 20 men and two officers from the Pennsylvania 47th Regiment, led by Captain Henry Crain of the 2nd Regiment of Florida, arrived at the fort on January 7, 1864. A short time later, the party was joined by another small detachment of the 47th under the command of Captain Richard A. Graeffe. Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana, but Company I would be making that journey without Captain Coleman A. G. Keck, who resigned his commission on 22 February 1864 due to disability. (Tragically, Keck would be dead within two years, succumbing to the ravages of liver disease on 23 January 1866.)
Three days after Captain Keck’s resignation, the 47th Pennsylvania began its phased departure for a new military campaign. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K headed for Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the now almost fully reunited regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.
On 12 March 1864, Private Levi Kraft was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability while Private Samuel Noss was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”).
Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria, Louisiana with those prisoners on 9 April.
Red River Campaign
From 14-26 March, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry headed for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana, by way of New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington. From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron, James, and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Natchitoches. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty on 22 June at Morganza. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”
Often short on food and water throughout their long hard trek through enemy territory, the men encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell as those who were uninjured collapsed 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 G. 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. Corporal William Frack of I Company was killed in action while I Company’s Sergeant William H. Halderman (alternate spelling “Haltiman”) and Corporal William H. Meyers of were among those who were wounded in battle.
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, including I Company’s Private Frederick Smith who died at Camp Ford 4 May 1864; another member of the regiment died while being treated at the Confederate Army hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana.
I Company’s Private Owen Fetzer also died—on 19 April 1864 at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans.
Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. After 11 days at Grand Ecore, they then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April. Marching 45 miles that day, they arrived in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. While en route, thee were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on.
The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”).
Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvania supported Emory’s artillery.
Meanwhile, other Emory troops found and worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, forced a Rebel retreat, and erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.
In a letter penned from Morganza, Louisiana on 29 May, Henry Wharton described what had happened to the 47th Pennsylvanians during and immediately after making camp at Grand Ecore:
Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.
While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.
The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.
After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.
Having finally reached Alexandria on 26 April, they learned they would remain at their latest new camp for at least two weeks. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they were assigned yet again to the hard labor of fortification work, helping to erect “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to more easily make their way back down the Red River.
On 12 May, Private William Baumeister was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”). Two days later, on 14 May while convalescing back home in Pennsylvania, Private Levi Scholtz (alternate spelling “Schiffs”) lost his battle with typhoid fever. He succumbed at the Union Army’s Turner’s Lane General Hospital in Philadelphia.
While stationed in Rapides Parish in late April and early May, according to Wharton:
We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, an unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.
On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee.
Having entered Avoyelles Parish, they “rested on their arms” for the night, half-dozing without pitching their tents, but with their rifles right beside them. They were now positioned just outside of Marksville, Louisiana on the eve of the 16 May 1864 Battle of Mansura, which unfolded as follows, according to Wharton:
Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.
It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.*
* Note: Disease continued to be a truly formidable foe, claiming yet more members of the 47th Pennsylvania. On 17 May, Private Josiah Stocker died at the University General Hospital in New Orleans. Private Elvin Knauss (alternate spelling: “Kneuss”) would then from disease-related complications at the Union’s Marine Memorial Hospital in New Orleans on 3 August while Sergeant John Gross Helfrich and Privates Joseph Smith and T. J. Helm would die in New Orleans on 5 August, 2 September, and 21 September, respectively. All five now rest in marked graves at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish.
Continuing on, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then Morganza, where they made camp again. According to Wharton, the members of Company C were sent on a special mission which took them on an intense 120-mile journey:
Company C, on last Saturday was detailed by the General in command of the Division to take one hundred and eighty-seven prisoners (rebs) to New Orleans. This they done [sic] satisfactorily and returned yesterday to their regiment, ready for duty. While in the City some of the boys made Captain Gobin quite a handsome present, to show their appreciation of him as an officer gentleman.
Wharton also provided the following update regarding Company C, which had rejoined the bulk of the 47th Pennsylvania on 28 May 1864:
The boys are well. James Kennedy who was wounded at Pleasant Hill, died at New Orleans hospital a few days ago. His friends in the company were pleased to learn that Dr. Dodge of Sunbury, now of the U.S. Steamer Octorora, was with him in his last moments, and ministered to his wants. The Doctor was one of the Surgeons from the Navy who volunteered when our wounded was sent to New Orleans.
While encamped at Morganza, the nine formerly enslaved Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania in Beaufort (1862) and Natchitoches, Louisiana (April 1864) were officially mustered into the regiment between 20-24 June 1864. The regiment then moved on once again, and arrived in New Orleans in late June.
Private Francis Stick of I Company died from disease-related complications at the Union Army’s University General Hospital there on 29 June 1864.
As they did during their tour through the Carolinas and Florida, the men of the 47th had battled the elements and disease, as well as the Confederate Army, in order to survive and continue to defend their nation. But the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, would not. Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures, he was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. He later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company I and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, and H steamed aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864 while the men of Companies B, G and K were forced to cool their heels while awaiting transport aboard the Blackstone later that month.
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, they joined up with 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.
On 14 and 29 July, respectively, Privates Samuel Guth and William Mench were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the first day of the month arrived with the promotion of a man who would first become the commanding officer of his company before ultimately being advanced to a key leadership role with the regiment—1st Lieutenant Levi Stuber of I Company, who was now Captain Levi Stuber.
Records of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also document the regiment’s assignment to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August, as well as the regiment’s engagement in a series of back-and-forth movements during subsequent weeks between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.
The next month—September 1864—saw the regiment engage in its first major test of its new campaign as it fought in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia.
In addition, September was marked by 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, along with 2nd Lieutenant James Stuber, Corporals Francis Daeufer, John W. H. Diehl, T. W. Fitzinger, Henry Miller, and D. H. Nonnemacher, and Privates Theodore Baker, W. Fenstermaker, Allen P. Gilbert, William F. Henry, Charles Kaucher, Edwin Kiper, Xaver Kraff, Ogden Lewis, Peter Lynd, Aaron McHose, Gottlieb Schweitzer, William Smith, John L. Transue, John Troxell, Daniel Vansyckel, Henry W. Wieser, and Samuel Wierbach of I Company. All mustered out 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective service terms.
Those members of the 47th who remained on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864
Together with other regiments under the command of Union Major-General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the members of Company I 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 Brigadier-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.
On the day of the Union’s success at Opequan (19 September 1864), several men from I Company received promotions, including 1st Sergeant Theodore Mink, who advanced to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Corporals William H. Meyers and Edwin Kemp were promoted to the rank of Sergeant while Privates Thomas N. Burke and Allen Knauss became corporals. Private Oscar Miller was then mustered out the next day, on 20 September, upon expiration of his term of service.
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
It was during the fall of 1864 that Major-General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s crops and farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents—civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles—all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:
When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:
When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.
Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap, but he was more fortunate than many other members of the regiment. On this day alone, the 47th Pennsylvania lost the equivalent, in killed and wounded, of nearly two full companies of men. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield, and I Company, Privates John/Jonathan Bartholomew, Francis K. Guildner (alternate spelling “Gildner”), James Lutz, and Joseph Stephens were also killed while Corporal Allen Knauss sustained a gunshot wound to the right side of his face, and Sergeant William H. Myers and Privates John Gross, William Martin and Thomas Ziegler were also wounded.
As with the Red River Campaign, men from the 47th Pennsylvania were also captured by Rebel soldiers and carted off to Confederate prisons at Andersonville, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia and Salisbury, North Carolina. Of those held as POWs at this time, only a handful survived. Among the unfortunates were I Company’s Private Henry J. Schlagle, who died at Salisbury three days after Christmas. The Roll of Honor No. XIV: Names of Soldiers Who in Defence of the American Union, Suffered Martyrdom in the Prison Pens throughout the South, published by the U.S. Quartermaster General’s Office on 20 February 1868, confirms this data—and that Private Schlagle died from catarrh; however the entry for him in the Union Army’s Register of Deaths of Volunteer Soldiers indicates that he died on 27 December and that his cause of death was “not stated.”
Sadly, both sources spelled his name incorrectly—the Army Register listing him as “Leaghlefle, Henry,” and the Honor Roll—ostensibly America’s tribute to him—spelled his name as “Seahlegel, Henry.” His entry number on the Quartermaster’s POW Honor Roll is No. 2807: “Seahlegel, Henry.”
The precise location of Private Schlagle’s grave remains unknown. There were two cemeteries created for the Confederate Army’s prison camp near Salisbury in Rowan County, North Carolina. A small “Lutheran Cemetery, located roughly 150 yards northwest of the North Carolina Railroad’s depot near Salisbury held an estimated 100 bodies of Union soldiers, which were interred haphazardly in unmarked graves by Confederate Army soldiers, but then exhumed and reinterred with more dignity by the U.S. government at the main Salisbury cemetery following the war.
But the largest contingent of men—roughly 5,000 Union soldiers—was interred in a primary burial ground. Located on a hill within one hundred yards of the North Carolina Railroad and roughly one half mile southwest of Salisbury, this POW cemetery was also largest in terms of its half-acre land mass. According to J. J. Dana, Major and Quartermaster, U.S.A., Brevet Brigadier-General who submitted the Salisbury POW Honor Roll to his superiors for review and subsequent publication:
The burial of these soldiers in so inhumane a manner was done by one Sergeant Harris, under the orders of Major Gee, both of the rebel army. Out of some nine or ten thousand soldiers confined there, over five thousand fell victims to the cruelty of the rebels then in charge by starvation and disease.
These 5,000 Union soldiers—the equivalent of five Union regiments—were buried together, without coffins or identification, in 13 trenches in Salisbury’s primary cemetery.
As a result, although Bates and other sources placed Private Schlagle’s burial date as 13 or 18 January 1865, based on information from surviving POWs which may or may not have been reliable, Private Henry Schlagle’s exact, individual grave location and date of burial will never be confirmed. He was just 26 years old.
On 23 October 1864, Company I became another integrated company within the regiment with Order No. 70, which directed that John Bullard be transferred from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company D to I Company. Bullard, who had mustered in as a Cook while the regiment was stationed in Louisiana, would continue to serve with I Company for the duration of the war and muster out with his regiment on Christmas Day in December 1865.
Following these major engagements, the 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, Virginia, where it remained from November through most of December. On 3 November 1864, 2nd Lieutenant Theodore Mink was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to outpost and railroad guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia five days before Christmas.
1865 – 1866
The New Year brought new responsibilities for several men from I Company, including Sergeant William H. Halderman, who was advanced to the rank of 1st Sergeant, and Sergeant Allen Lawall who was granted the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on New Year’s Day. Private Henry C. Snavely mustered out on 17 January 1865 upon expiration of his term of service.
Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. On 20 March 1865, Private John Clemmens transferred to the regiment’s C Company.
On 3 April 1865, Private Philip W. Miller was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”). Eight days later, on 11 April 1865, Privates Samuel Dillingham and Frederick Zieg were then discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.
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 received new uniforms and were otherwise resupplied. On 21 April 1865, Private Joseph Kramer was promoted to the rank of Corporal Kramer.
Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their trial or imprisonment.
As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May. It was also during this phase of duty that Captain Levi Stuber, the commanding officer of I Company was promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central command staff, and 1st Lieutenant Theodore Mink was advanced to the rank of Captain, I Company (22 May 1865).
Five days later, Sergeant William H. Meyers and 1st Sergeant William H. Halderman, who had both been wounded in action during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, were advanced on 27 May to the ranks of 1st Sergeant and 2nd Lieutenant, respectively, while Allen Lawall became 1st Lieutenant Lawall on 30 May.
An early thinning of the 47th Pennsylvania’s ranks began on 1 June 1865 when a General Order from the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General provided for the honorable discharge of several members of the regiment, including I Company’s Corporal Joseph Kramer, John J. Lawall, Jesse Moyer, Stephen Schechterly, Samuel Smith, Israel Troxell, D. Wannamaker, and Sylvester McCape.
On their final southern tour, Company I and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. On 2 June, Private Owen Kuder was promoted to the rank of Corporal, as were Privates Israel F. Hartzell and Stephen Hettinger.
Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury at Charleston, South Carolina. Private Thomas J. Kerr was promoted to the rank of Corporal on 2 July. Just over a week later, on 11 July 1865, Corporal Owen Kuder was promoted again, this time to the rank of Sergeant, as was Thomas N. Burke. Privates Charles H. Dankle, Alvin J. Hartzell, Joseph Hettinger, and Jefferson Kunkle were advanced, receiving promotions to the rank of Corporal.
As with their previous tours of duty in the Deep South, disease stalked the 47th as men who had survived the worst in battle were felled by fevers, tropical diseases and dysentery. Many of those who died during this phase of service were initially interred in Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery before being exhumed and reinterred later at the Beaufort National Cemetery; others still rest in unidentified graves.
2nd Lieutenant William H. Halderman (alternate spelling “Haltiman”) became one of those men claimed during this southern tour of duty. Having survived being wounded in action during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on 9 April 1864, he suffered severe sunstroke while on duty and died on 23 July 1865 at Pineville, South Carolina. Samuel B. Sturdivant, M.D., the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Surgeon, certified Halderman’s death.
Two days later, on 25 July 1865, William H. Meyers, was commissioned but not mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant. Meyers had been a fellow survivor with Halderman of the Red River Campaign carnage.
Then, on 7 September 1865, Corporal Allen Knauss, who had survived the wounds he sustained during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. On 1 and 2 October, Privates William Baker and Charles G. Sasserman mustered out at Charleston upon expiration of their respective terms of service.
In mid-October, Private William Radeline died at Charleston while Private Leander Morrell mustered out on 22 October upon expiration of his term of service. Private Charles Smith was then discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 14 November.
Finally, beginning on Christmas Day of that year, the majority of the men of Company I, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina—a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers. One of the regimental officers who led them through this last phase of duty was Major Levi Stuber, the former 1st Lieutenant of I Company, who was beloved and admired by his fellow Volunteers for having served his full tour and more.
Many of the 47th Pennsylvanians went on to live long full lives. Some were, unfortunately, so shattered by their wartime experiences that they developed “Soldier’s Heart.” Known today as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD sufferers were often labeled by their communities, courts and local medical institutions as “insane” or spent time in and out of the federal government’s system of national soldiers’ homes until their passing. Solomon Gross was one such man. Wounded in the thigh while serving in battle with the 47th Pennsylvania and a former resident of Williamsport, he was documented on the 1890 U.S. Veterans’ Schedule as confined to the U.S. Hospital for the Insane at Montour in Danville, Pennsylvania.
A number of other members of the regiment, including Tilghman H. Good and John Peter Shindel Gobin, contributed greatly to their communities, becoming leaders in business or government. Most, though, faded quietly into the background, content to take up farming, carpentry or other trades to support their new and growing families.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Burial Ledgers, in Record Group 15, The National Cemetery Administration, and Record Group 92, U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
3. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
4. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
5. Claims for Widow and Minor Pensions, in U.S. Civil War Widows’ Pension Files. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
6. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
7. Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records (baptismal, marriage, death and burial records of various churches across Pennsylvania). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
8. Interment Control Forms, in Record Group 92, U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General. College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
9. Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
9. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
10. Roll of Honor (No. XIV): Names of Soldiers Who, in Defence [sic] of the American Union, Suffered Martyrdom in the Prison Pens throughout the South, in Quartermaster General’s Office, General Orders No. 7, February 20 1868. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1868.
11. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
12. Stegall, Joel T. “Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.
13. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.
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