Private Jonas Snyder: A Powder Maker Buried at Sea

Sworn testimony excerpt, U.S. Civil War Widow’s Pension file documenting the death of Maria (Miller) Snyder’s husband, Private Jonas Snyder, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1 September 1864 (U.S. National Archives, public domain; click to enlarge).

Family man. Blue collar laborer. Gunpowder producer. Jonas Snyder was all of these, and was also a defender of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and United States of America whose exact burial location will remain forever unknown.

Formative Years

Born in Pennsylvania sometime around 1817, Jonas Snyder became a husband on 6 November 1842 when he wed Maria Miller. During the mid to late 1840s, he and his wife welcomed the arrival of three children: Henry, who was born circa 1844; Aaron, who was born on 11 March 1846; and Louisa, who was born on 26 August 1849. All were natives of the Great Keystone State.

In 1850, Jonas Snyder, and his wife, Maria, were documented by that year’s federal census enumerator as residing in Mahoning Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania with Henry, Aaron and Louisa. Also living with them was fourteen-year-old Eliza Betts.

Still residing in Mahoning Township, Carbon County in 1860, according to the federal census, Jonas Snyder and his wife, Maria, had downsized their household to include just Henry, Aaron and Louisa. That year’s census enumerator also noted that Jonas Snyder was employed as a “powder maker,” meaning that he was involved in the manufacture of gunpowder. According to Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper, it was a dangerous field of employment as “a number of explosions rocked Carbon County during the days when powder mills flourished in the area.”

But Jonas managed to stay safe and come home to his family each night—a family that, like many others across Pennsylvania, began to worry as newspapers reported on the escalating tensions between America’s northern and southern states—tensions that ultimately turned into disunion as South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, prompting multiple Deep South states to follow suit in January and February 1861.

Civil War Military Service

Unknown regiment, Camp Griffin, Virginia, fall 1861 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

On 16 October 1861, Jonas Snyder enrolled for Civil War military service in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. After mustering in at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg as a Private with Company I of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 17 October 1861, he connected with his regiment two days later, via a recruiting depot, and made his way to the 47th Pennsylvania’s duty station at Camp Griffin in Virginia.

Note: 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. It was led by Captain Coleman A. G. Keck, a 26-year-old master miller in Allentown.

Military records at the time described Private Jonas Snyder as a forty-four-year-old powder maker residing in Allentown, who was 5’3” tall with dark hair, blue eyes and a light complexion.

One of his first official duties was his participation with his new comrades in a morning Divisional Review of U.S. Army troops. The extravaganza, which took place on 22 October, was described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.”

Roughly three weeks later, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton informed his family and friends back home about life at Camp Griffin via a letter penned to the Sunbury American on 17 November:

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….

As a reward for their performance at the review—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 the frequency of marches and guard duties in rainy weather soon began to wear the “bluejackets” down; multiple officers and enlisted men fell ill with fever and other ailments; more than a few died.

1862

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were transported to Florida aboard the steamship U.S. Oriental in January 1862 (public domain).

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, they were transported by train to Alexandria before sailing the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal. Reequipped, they were then 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 [sic] 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, the 47th Pennsylvanians were stepping onto the deck of the ship, ferried to the big vessel by smaller steamers with the officers boarding last. Per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, at 4 p.m., the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South. 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.

Alfred Waud’s 1862 sketch of Fort Taylor and Key West, Florida (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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 directed his I Company men to mingle with the locals at area church services.

Roughly two months later, Regimental Order No. 4 was issued on Saturday, 12 April 1862—a directive that re-assigned Captain Coleman Keck and Private William Smith to recruiting duties—a responsibility that would keep Keck at home in Allentown until sometime after 11 June 1862, according to military records. While he was away, his subordinates, First Lieutenant Levi Stuber and Second Lieutenant James Stuber were assigned to carry out command duties for the company.

The month of May brought a further 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 [sic] 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.

Resolutions expressing sympathy for Sergeant Nolf were subsequently written by officers of the 47th Pennsylvania and published in the 25 June 1862 edition of The Lehigh Register.

Fort Walker, Hilton Head, South Carolina, circa 1861 (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, public domain).

Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly thirty-five 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).

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 actually not 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.

On 12 September, Colonel Tilghman Good and his adjutant, First Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen, issued Regimental Order No. 207 from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:

I. The Colonel commanding desires to call the attention of all officers and men in the regiment to the paramount necessity of observing rules for the preservation of health. There is less to be apprehended from battle than disease. The records of all companies in climate like this show many more casualties by the neglect of sanitary post action then [sic] by the skill, ordnance and courage of the enemy. Anxious that the men in my command may be preserved in the full enjoyment of health to the service of the Union. And that only those who can leave behind the proud epitaph of having fallen on the field of battle in the defense of their country shall fail to return to their families and relations at the termination of this war.

II. All the tents will be struck at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of each week. The signal for this purpose will be given by the drum major by giving three taps on the drum. Every article of clothing and bedding will be taken out and aired; the flooring and bunks will be thoroughly cleaned. By the same signal at 11 a.m. the tents will be re-erected. On the days the tents are not struck the sides will be raised during the day for the purpose of ventilation.

III. The proper cooking of provisions is a matter of great importance more especially in this climate but have not yet received from a majority of officers of the regiment that attention that should be paid to it.

IV. Thereafter an officer of each company will be detailed by the commander of each company and have their names reported to these headquarters to superintend the cooking of provisions taking care that all food prepared for the soldiers is sufficiently cooked and that the meats are all boiled or seared (not fried). He will also have charge of the dress table and he is held responsible for the cleanliness of the kitchen cooking utensils and the preparation of the meals at the time appointed.

V. The following rules for the taking of meals and regulations in regard to the conducting of the company will be strictly followed. Every soldier will turn his plate, cup, knife and fork into the Quarter Master Sgt who will designate a permanent place or spot each member of the company and there leave his plate & cup, knife and fork placed at each meal with the soldier’s rations on it. Nor will any soldier be permitted to go to the company kitchen and take away food therefrom.

VI. Until further orders the following times for taking meals will be followed Breakfast at six, dinner at twelve, supper at six. The drum major will beat a designated call fifteen minutes before the specified time which will be the signal to prepare the tables, and at the time specified for the taking of meals he will beat the dinner call. The soldier will be permitted to take his spot at the table before the last call.

VII. Commanders of companies will see that this order is entered in their company order book and that it is read forth with each day on the company parade. All commanding officers of companies will regulate daily their time by the time of this headquarters. They will send their 1st Sergeants to this headquarters daily at 8 a.m. for this purpose.

Great punctuality is enjoined in conforming to the stated hours prescribed by the roll calls, parades, drills, and taking of meals; review of army regulations while attending all roll calls to be suspended by a commissioned officer of the companies, and a Captain to report the alternate to the Colonel or the commanding officer.

At 5 a.m., Commanders of companies are imperatively instructed to have the company quarters washed and policed and secured immediately after breakfast.

At 6 a.m., morning reports of companies [sic] request by the Captains and 1st Sgts and all applications for special privileges of soldiers must be handed to the Adjutant before 8 a.m.

By Command of Col. T. H. Good
W. H. R. Hangen Adj

In addition, First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant Hangen clarified the regiment’s schedule as follows:

  • Reveille (5:30 a.m.) and Breakfast (6:00 a.m.)
  • First and Second Calls for Guard (6:10 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.)
  • Surgeon’s Call (6:30 a.m.)
  • First and Second Calls for Company Drill (6:45 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.)
  • Recall from Company Drill (8:00 a.m.)
  • First and Second Calls for Squad Drill (9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.)
  • Recall from Squad Drill (10:30 a.m.) and Dinner (12:00 noon)
  • Call for Non-commissioned Officers (1:30 p.m.)
  • Recall for Non-commissioned Officers (2:30 p.m.)
  • First and Second Calls for Squad Drills (3:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.)
  • Recall from Squad Drill (4:30 p.m.)
  • First and Second Calls for Dress Parade (5:10 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.)
  • Supper (6:10 p.m.)
  • Tattoo (9:00 p.m.) and Taps (9:15 p.m.)

First State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (presented to the regiment by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, 20 September 1861; retired 11 May 1865, public domain).

As the one-year anniversary of the 47th Pennsylvania’s departure from the Great Keystone State dawned on 20 September, thoughts turned to home and Divine Providence as Colonel Tilghman Good issued Special Order No. 60 from the 47th’s Regimental Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:

The Colonel commanding takes great pleasure in complimenting the officers and men of the regiment on the favorable auspices of today.

Just one year ago today, the organization of the regiment was completed to enter into the service of our beloved country, to uphold the same flag under which our forefathers fought, bled, and died, and perpetuate the same free institutions which they handed down to us unimpaired.

It is becoming therefore for us to rejoice on this first anniversary of our regimental history and to show forth devout gratitude to God for this special guardianship over us.

Whilst many other regiments who swelled the ranks of the Union Army even at a later date than the 47th have since been greatly reduced by sickness or almost cut to pieces on the field of battle, we as yet have an entire regiment and have lost but comparatively few out of our ranks.

Certain it is we have never evaded or shrunk from duty or danger, on the contrary, we have been ever anxious and ready to occupy any fort, or assume any position assigned to us in the great battle for the constitution and the Union.

We have braved the danger of land and sea, climate and disease, for our glorious cause, and it is with no ordinary degree of pleasure that the Colonel compliments the officers of the regiment for the faithfulness at their respective posts of duty and their uniform and gentlemanly manner towards one another.

Whilst in numerous other regiments there has been more or less jammings and quarrelling [sic] among the officers who thus have brought reproach upon themselves and their regiments, we have had none of this, and everything has moved along smoothly and harmoniously. We also compliment the men in the ranks for their soldierly bearing, efficiency in drill, and tidy and cleanly appearance, and if at any time it has seemed to be harsh and rigid in discipline, let the men ponder for a moment and they will see for themselves that it has been for their own good.

To the enforcement of law and order and discipline it is due our far fame as a regiment and the reputation we have won throughout the land.

With you he has shared the same trials and encountered the same dangers. We have mutually suffered from the same cold in Virginia and burned by the same southern sun in Florida and South Carolina, and he assures the officers and men of the regiment that as long as the present war continues, and the service of the regiment is required, so long he stands by them through storm and sunshine, sharing the same danger and awaiting the same glory.

Victory and First Blood

Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

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 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 twenty-five 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 then made history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls several young to middle-aged Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina. Among the men freed who subsequently opted to enroll as members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were Abraham and Edward Jassum (aged sixteen and twenty-two, respectively), and Bristor Gethers (aged thirty-three), whose name was spelled as “Presto Gettes” on transcriptions of muster rolls made by historian Samuel P. Bates. More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.

Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina

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

From 21-23 October 1862, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman 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 eighteen enlisted men died. Another two officers and 114 enlisted from the 47th were wounded.

In his report on the engagement, made from headquarters at Beaufort, South Carolina on 24 October 1862, Colonel Good wrote:

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in the action of October 22:

Eight companies, comprising 480 men, embarked on the steamship Ben De Ford, and two companies, of 120 men, on the Marblehead, at 2 p.m. October 21. With this force I arrived at Mackays Landing before daylight the following morning. At daylight I was ordered to disembark my regiment and move forward across the first causeway and take a position, and there await the arrival of the other forces. The two companies of my regiment on board of the Marblehead had not yet arrived, consequently I had but eight companies of my regiment with me at this juncture.

At 12 m. I was ordered to take the advance with four companies, one of the Forty-seventh and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and two of the Sixth Connecticut, and to deploy two of them as skirmishers and move forward. After moving forward about 2 miles I discerned some 30 or 40 of the enemys [sic] cavalry ahead, but they fled as we advanced. About 2 miles farther on I discovered two pieces of artillery and some cavalry, occupying a position about three-quarters of a mile ahead in the road. I immediately called for a regiment, but seeing that the position was not a strong one I made a charge with the skirmishing line. The enemy, after firing a few rounds of shell, fled. I followed up as rapidly as possible to within about 1 mile of Frampton Creek. In front of this stream is a strip of woods about 500 yards wide, and in front of the woods a marsh of about 200 yards, with a small stream running through it parallel with the woods. A causeway also extends across the swamp, to the right of which the swamp is impassable. Here the enemy opened a terrible fire of shell from the rear, of the woods. I again called for a regiment, and my regiment came forward very promptly. I immediately deployed in line of battle and charged forward to the woods, three companies on the right and the other five on the left of the road. I moved forward in quick-time, and when within about 500 yards of the woods the enemy opened a galling fire of infantry from it. I ordered double-quick and raised a cheer, and with a grand yell the officers and men moved forward in splendid order and glorious determination, driving the enemy from this position.

On reaching the woods I halted and reorganized my line. The three companies on the right of the road (in consequence of not being able to get through the marsh) did not reach the woods, and were moved by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander by the flank on the causeway. During this time a terrible fire of grape and canister was opened by the enemy through the woods, hence I did not wait for the three companies, but immediately charged with the five at hand directly through the woods; but in consequence of the denseness of the woods, which was a perfect matting of vines and brush, it was almost impossible to get through, but by dint of untiring assiduity the men worked their way through nobly. At this point I was called out of the woods by Lieutenant Bacon, aide-de-camp, who gave the order, ‘The general wants you to charge through the woods.’ I replied that I was then charging, and that the men were working their way through as fast as possible. Just then I saw the two companies of my regiment which embarked on the Marblehead coming up to one of the companies that was unable to get through the swamp on the right. I went out to meet them, hastening them forward, with a view of re-enforcing the five already engaged on the left of the road in the woods; but the latter having worked their way successfully through and driven the enemy from his position, I moved the two companies up the road through the woods until I came up with the advance. The two companies on the right side of the road, under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander had also worked their way up through the woods and opened fire on the retreating enemy. At this point I halted and reorganized my regiment, by forming close column by companies. I then detailed Lieutenant Minnich, of Company B, and Lieutenant Breneman, of Company H, with a squad of men, to collect the killed and wounded. They promptly and faithfully attended to this important duty, deserving much praise for the efficiency and coolness they displayed during the fight and in the discharge of this humane and worthy trust.

The casualties in this engagement were 96. Captain Junker of Company K; Captain Mickley, of Company I [sic; Company G], and Lieutenant Geety, of Company H, fell mortally wounded while gallantly leading their respective companies on.

I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men. They all performed deeds of valor, and rushed forward to duty and danger with a spirit and energy worthy of veterans.

The rear forces coming up passed my regiment and pursued the enemy. When I had my regiment again placed in order, and hearing the boom of cannon, I immediately followed up, and, upon reaching the scene of action, I was ordered to deploy my regiment on the right side of the wood, move forward along the edge of it, and relieve the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. This I promptly obeyed. The position here occupied by the enemy was on the opposite side of the Pocotaligo Creek, with a marsh on either side of it, and about 800 yards distant from the opposite wood, where the enemy had thrown up rifle pits all along its edge.

On my arrival the enemy had ceased firing; but after the lapse of a few minutes they commenced to cheer and hurrah for the Twenty-sixth South Carolina. We distinctly saw this regiment come up in double-quick and the men rapidly jumping into the pits. We immediately opened fire upon them with terrible effect, and saw their men thinning by scores. In return they opened a galling fire upon us. I ordered the men under cover and to keep up the fire. During this time our forces commenced to retire. I kept my position until all our forces were on the march, and then gave one volley and retired by flank in the road at double-quick about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut. This regiment was formed about 1,000 yards in the rear of my former position. We jointly formed the rear guard of our forces and alternately retired in the above manner.

My casualties here amounted to 15 men.

We arrived at Frampton (our first battle ground) at 8 p.m. Here my regiment was relieved from further rear-guard duty by the Fourth New Hampshire Regiment. This gave me the desired opportunity to carry my dead and wounded from the field and convey them back to the landing. I arrived at the above place at 3 o’clock the following morning.

In a second report made from Beaufort on 25 October 1862, Colonel Good added the following details:

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade in the battles of October 22:

After meeting the enemy in his first position he was driven back by the skirmishing line, consisting of two companies of the Sixth Connecticut, one of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, under my command. Here the enemy only fired a few rounds of shot and shell. He then retreated and assumed another position, and immediately opened fire. Colonel Chatfield, then in command of the brigade, ordered the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania forward to me, with orders to charge. I immediately charged and drove the enemy from the second position. The Sixth Connecticut was deployed in my rear and left; the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania on my right, and the Fourth New Hampshire in the rear of the Fifty-fifth, both in close column by divisions, all under a heavy fire of shell and canister. These regiments then crossed the causeway by the flank and moved close up to the woods. Here they were halted, with orders to support the artillery. After the enemy had ceased firing the Fourth New Hampshire was ordered to move up the road in the rear of the artillery and two companies of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to follow this regiment. The Sixth Connecticut followed up, and the Fifty-fifth moved up through the woods. At this juncture Colonel Chatfield fell, seriously wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel Speidel was also wounded.

The casualties in the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania amounted to 96 men. As yet I am unable to learn the loss of the entire brigade.

The enemy having fled, the Fourth New Hampshire and the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania followed in close pursuit. During this time the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and the Sixth Connecticut halted and again organized, after which they followed. On coming up to the engagement I assumed command of the brigade, and found the forces arranged in the following order: The Fourth New Hampshire was deployed as skirmishers along the entire front, and the Fifty-fifth deployed in line of battle on the left side of the road, immediately in the rear of the Fourth New Hampshire. I then ordered the Sixth Connecticut to deploy in the rear of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to deploy on the right side of the road in line of battle and relieve the Seventh Connecticut. I then ordered the Fourth New Hampshire, which had spent all its ammunition, back under cover on the road in the woods. The enemy meantime kept up a terrific fire of grape and musketry, to which we replied with terrible effect. At this point the orders were given to retire, and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and Seventh Connecticut formed the rear guard. I then ordered the Thirty-seventh Pennsylvania to keep its position and the Sixth Connecticut to march by the flank into the road and to the rear, the Fourth New Hampshire and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania to follow. The troops of the Second Brigade were meanwhile retiring. After the whole column was in motion and a line of battle established by the Seventh Connecticut about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania I ordered the Forty-seventh to retire by the flank and establish a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut; after which the Seventh Connecticut moved by the flank to the rear and established a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty seventh, and thus retiring, alternately establishing lines, until we reached Frampton Creek, where we were relieved from this duty by the Fourth New Hampshire. We arrived at the landing at 3 o’clock on the morning of the 23d instant.

The casualties of the Sixth Connecticut are 34 in killed and wounded and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania 112 in killed and wounded. As to the remaining regiments I have as yet received no report.

Following their return to Hilton Head, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers recuperated from their wounds and resumed their normal duties. In short order, several members of the 47th were called upon to serve as the funeral honor guard for Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, and given the privilege of firing the salute over this grave. (Commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South, Mitchel succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October 1862. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered in 1846 by Mitchel as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both named after him.)

1863 

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

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 with multiple members of the regiment receiving honorable discharges on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.

But the time spent here by the 47th Pennsylvanians 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.

Private Jonas Snyder was one of the men who were honorably discharged under General Order No. 191 of the U.S. War Department in order to re-enlist. He re-enrolled as a Veteran Volunteer on 17 October 1863, and then re-mustered 27 October.

1864

As the New Year dawned, change was in the air. During the early part of January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to broaden 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 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.

Meanwhile, all of the other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana.

Note: Company I would end up making the 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.)

Bayou Teche, Louisiana (Harper’s Weekly, 14 February 1863, public domain).

On 25 February 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania began its phased departure for a new military campaign. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas, the members of 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 (now Morgan City, Louisiana) before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks. (Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.)

Red River Campaign

New Iberia, Louisiana (Alfred Waud, Harper’s Weekly, 11 August 1866, public domain).

The early days on the ground in Louisiana quickly woke the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers up to just how grueling this new phase of duty would be. From 14-26 March, most members of the regiment marched for the top of the “L” in the L-shaped state, by way of New IberiaVermilionville (now part of Lafayette), Opelousas, and Washington.

Their primary destinations, during this first on-ground phase of the campaign, were Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana.

While in Natchitoches, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron Bullard (later known as Aaron French), James and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania from 4-5 April 1864. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty on 22 June at Morganza. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”

Often short on food and water throughout their long hard trek through enemy territory, the men encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill (now the Village of Pleasant Hillthe night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

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

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, sixty members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell as 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 one hundred and twenty-five 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.

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 forty-five miles that day, they arrived in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on.

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed just to the left of the “Thick Woods” with Emory’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Division as shown on this map of Union troop positions for the Battle of Cane River Crossing at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Major-General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign Report, public domain).

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, Emory’s other 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.

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

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.

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.

“Sleeping on Their Arms” by Winslow Homer (Harper’s Weekly, 21 May 1864).

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 Simmesport [sic] on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.

It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.*

* Note: Disease continued to be a truly formidable foe, claiming still 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”) died 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 died in New Orleans on 5 August, 2 September, and 21 September, respectively. All five still rest in marked graves at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish.

Union Army base at Morganza Bend, Louisiana, circa 1863-1865 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Continuing on, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then Morganza, where they made camp again.

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.

And more men continued to die, including Private Francis Stick of I Company, who succumbed to disease-related complications at the Union Army’s University General Hospital on 29 June 1864.

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

On the Fourth of July, senior officers of the 47th Pennsylvania received word that their regiment would be shipped back to the Eastern Theatre of battle, and began readying their men for the trip. The soldiers of Company I and the members of 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.

But the voyage would prove to be an ill-fated one for Private Jonas Snyder.

Illness, Death and Burial at Sea

Before the Steamer McClellan could even make its way through the Gulf of Mexico, Private Jonas Snyder, who had been ailing with consumption (tuberculosis), died on 8 July 1864. He was then quickly buried at sea.

The burial allegedly did not go smoothly, however, according to I Company Lieutenant James Stuber, who presented the following account in a March 1909 interview with Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper:

A strange incident, concerning a well-known Allentonian, is narrated in a sketch of veteran Jonas Snyder, of Mahoning township, Carbon county, in a booklet recently issued by J. F. Kressley, of Weatherly.

Snyder was a member of Co. I, 47th Reg’t. This was known as ‘The Traveling Regiment’ of the war and was commanded by Cols. Good and Gobin. It travelled more miles during the war than any other regiment. Mr. Snyder was one of a family, every male member of which went into the Union service. He enlisted in 1861. In July 1865 while his regiment accompanied General Banks up the Red River he was taken ill and was placed in a hospital at New Orleans. When the regiment returned they took him aboard but while crossing the Gulf of Mexico on the steamer McClellan, he died and was buried at sea. Lieutenant James W. Stuber, of his company, relates the strange incident that occurred when the burial of the body was made, and which left a deep impression on his mind. Although the body had been weighted down with iron, after it had been deposited from the board into the gulf and apparently gone out of sight, by reason of the undercurrent it returned as it were, and stood erect and life-like upon the water, as if to say I want to go with you, then disappeared again.

This “recollection” of Stuber’s appears to be, at best, an attempt by an old soldier with a failing memory to try to recall details of an event that he had either witnessed or only heard about nearly half a century prior to his retelling, or, at worst, an attempt by one veteran to burnish his own reputation at the expense of a deceased soldier who was unable to dispute the tall tale.

Confirmation by the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General of the 1864 death and burial at sea of Private Jonas Snyder, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1867 (U.S. National Archives, public domain; click to enlarge).

Whatever the reason for the misinformation, Stuber’s yarn, forty-five years after Private Snyder’s death, flies in the face of U.S. government accounts of Private Snyder’s death and burial—records that were researched and written within several years of Jonas Snyder’s death and which make no mention of any problems with the burial at sea whatsoever. Additionally, a letter written by Henry D. Wharton, a trusted Union Army clerk who was also a frequent reporter to newspapers of the regiment’s activities, contradicts Stuber’s account.

Penned on 16 July 1864 from the 47th Pennsylvania’s encampment at “Tanellytown, D.C.,” for publication in the 23 July 1864 Sunbury American—just over a week after Private Snyder’s death and burial—Wharton’s description of the military funeral noted that:

When out on the Gulf sixty miles, Jonas Snyder of Carbon county, Pa., a member of Co. I, died. His body was prepared for burial by nicely sewing it up in blankets, with weights attached to make it sink. The funeral was conducted by Chaplain Rodrock, who read the beautiful sea service from the prayer book of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Flag of our Union was at half mast, the boat stopped, and as the sun was hiding in the west, the body was launched into the sea, sinking to rise no more, until the great day comes when the soul must give an account for the ‘deeds done in the body.’

Paying Tribute

In 2015, researchers for 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story created a memorial for Private Jonas Snyder on Find A Grave with the hope that supporters of the project will pay tribute to Jonas Snyder by posting virtual flowers there in his honor.

What Happened to Jonas Snyder’s Family?

Researchers have not yet been able to confirm what happened to Jonas Snyder’s widow or two of his children, but have learned quite a bit about his son, Aaron.

A soon-to-be young man in his late teens, Aaron Snyder had already reached the age of eligibility for enlistment as a Union Army soldier by the time his father died aboard the McClellan. Perhaps inspired by his father’s enlistment—or motivated by his death while in service to the nation or his family’s need to have the steady income of a military man, he chose to enlist roughly two months after his father lost his battle with consumption.

Enrolling at the age of nineteen in Mahoning Township, Carbon County for a one-year term of service, he then mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 25 August 1864 as a Private with Company A of the 202nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. By September, he and his fellow 202nd Pennsylvanians were guarding a key segment of a railroad line that supplied the Union’s Army of the Shenandoah—the Manassas Gap Railroad between Rectortown and Thoroughfare Gap. During this time, his regiment skirmished with troops led by “the Gray Ghost”—John S. Mosby—at Salem, Virginia on 8 and 16 October 1864. Following the Union Army’s victory in the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia on 19 October, Private Aaron Snyder and his regiment were next assigned to dismantle the railroad infrastructure near there and then, after that task’s completion, were assigned, as part of the U.S. Army’s 22nd Corps, to guard a segment of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad between Bull Run and Fairfax Station, Virginia.

In May 1865, they were transported to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and then on to Mauch Chunk (now the community of Jim Thorpe), where they were ordered to quell a strike by miners employed by the New York and Schuylkill Coal Company. After ending that strike, Private Aaron Snyder and his fellow A Company men were transported to Pittsburgh for duty there in early July. He and his fellow 202nd Pennsylvanians were then honorably discharged at Harrisburg on 3 August 1865.

Following his return home, Aaron Snyder began his own family when he wed Leanna Nothstein (1845-1932), who was a daughter of Salome (Kistler) Nothstein (1820-1911). Together, they welcomed the births of: Emma L. (1866-1947), who was born in Lehighton, Carbon County on 14 September 1866 and later wed Alvin P. Stout (1863-1951); Lillian L., who was born on 10 February 1875 and later wed Harry W. Fronheiser (1871-1959); Mary Deborah (1877-1912), who was born in 1877 and later wed George Abraham Geiger (1877-1954) in 1899; and Clara A. Snyder (1880-1981), who was born on 14 September 1880) and later wed William Martin Hawk (1871-1931).

By 1870, he was a railroad worker residing in Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Leanna, and their daughters Emma and Sarah (aged three and one, respectively). Also living with them were his wife’s mother, Salome Nothstein, and his wife’s brothers, Lewis, an eighteen-year-old railroad worker, and James, aged ten. By the time of the federal census taker’s arrival in 1880, Aaron Snyder was still working for the railroad, his in-laws had departed, and he and his wife were living in Mahoning Township, Carbon County with their children: Emma (aged ten), Lilly (aged five) and Mary (aged three).

After the turn of the century, a federal census enumerator documented that he was a laborer, that he and his wife, Leanna, had been married for 33 years, had had five children together, four of whom were still alive in 1900, and that he and Leanna were residing in Lehighton with daughter Clara and Leanna’s mother. By 1910, however, Aaron and Leanna Snyder were residents of Jamestown in Carbon County, where he was employed as a laborer for an engine house. Living with them were Leanna’s mother and Luella Fronheiser, their seven-year-old granddaughter (who was the daughter of Aaron and Leanna’s daughter, Lillian).

Suffering from an enlarged heart, Aaron Snyder died at the age of seventy-three in Jamestown, Pennsylvania on 24 June 1919, and was laid to rest at the Gnaden Huetten Cemetery in Lehighton the next day.

According to his brief obituary in Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper:

Aaron Snyder, who had been ill almost five years and during which time he lived on broths mostly, died at Jamestown early yesterday morning. He was 73 years old and is survived by his wife and three children, Mrs. Nathan Hawk, Mrs. Harry Fronheiser, Mrs. Alfred Stout and Mrs. John Cowell. His funeral will be held Saturday afternoon, Rev. W. H. Berk officiating.

 

Sources:

  1. Aaron Snyder (son of Jonas Snyder and Barbara (Miller) Snyder), in Death Certificates (file no.: 67163, registered no.: 63, 24 June 1919). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
  2. Aaron Snyder (son of Jonas Snyder), in Death Notices. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, Friday, 27 June 1919.
  3. Aaron Snyder (son of Jonas Snyder), in U.S. Census (1870: Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania; 1880: Mahoning Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania; 1900: Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania; 1910: Jamestown, Carbon County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  4. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1: 47th Regiment. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
  5. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 5: 202nd Regiment. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1871.
  6. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
  7. Snyder, Aaron (son of Jonas Snyder), in “Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865” (202nd Regiment: Company A), in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
  8. Snyder, Aaron (son of Jonas Snyder) in U.S. Civil War Muster Rolls (202nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry: Company A). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  9. Snyder, Jonas, Mariah [sic], Henry, Aaron, and Louisa, and/or Eliza Betts, in U.S. Census (1850, 1860: Mahoning Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  10. Snyder, Jonas, in U.S. Civil War Muster Rolls (47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry: Company I), 1861-1864. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  11. Snyder, Jonas and Snyder, Maria, in U.S. Civil War Widow’s Pension General Index Cards (application no: 102865, certificate no.: 103662, filed on 20 July 1865). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  12. Snyder, Jonas, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866 (I-47 I). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
  13. Snyder, Jonas, in Registers of Deaths of U.S. Volunteers, 1864. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  14. “The 1800s Were an Explosive Era in Carbon County.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, 17 January 1993.
  15. “Weighted Corpse Would Not Sink” Lieutenant James Stuber Tells of Remarkable Occurrence During War.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, 26 March 1909, p. 4.
  16. Wharton, Henry D. “Letter from the Sunbury Guards: Tanellytown, D.C., 16 July 1864. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 23 July 1864.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.