“Raised by his mother and friends, he acquired an excellent upbringing as well as an impeccable character.” — Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, Allentown, Pennsylvania, Fourth of July, 1865
David Fetherolf (surname spelling variants: Featherold, Fetherold, Featherolf, Fetherolf, Fetterolf) was one of many 19th-century German-Americans from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who worked to eradicate the brutal practice of chattel slavery while fighting to preserve America’s Union during the American Civil War.
A fluent speaker of German, and possibly also Pennsylvania Dutch, he became a respected military and civic leader, despite early life circumstances which triggered a series of moves that resulted in his relocation from Schuylkill to Berks to Lehigh counties before he had even reached the age of twenty.
Born in Tuscarora Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania on 10 August 1843, David K. Fetherolf was a son of Lehigh County native Johannes Federolf (1804-1844), who was also known as John Fetterolf, and Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf (1814-1897).
Note: Johannes Fetherolf (1804-1844) was a a son of Jacob Fetherolf (1782-1849) and Anna Maria (Wannamacher) Fetherolf (1780-1821). Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf (1814-1897) was a daughter of Jacob S. Kistler (1781-1849), a native of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Anna Barbara (Bausch) Kistler (1790-1867).
Baptized during the early 1840s, David Fetherolf and his older sister, Elizabeth (1842-1900), resided in a two-parent household until fate intervened during the summer of 1844. That year, the foundation of their stable homelife was swept away when their thirty-nine-year-old father died suddenly on 24 August and was laid to rest at the Jacobs Union Church Cemetery in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Subsequently “raised by [their] mother and friends,” according to David Fetherolf’s obituary, David and his sister were “confirmed and accepted into the Evangelical Lutheran Church” during their formative years.
Sometime between the fall of 1844 and summer of 1850, David and Elizabeth’s mother then remarried widower Daniel Christ (1796-1871), and the family was split up with David sent to live with Catharine’s brother, Samuel J. Kistler.
Note: David’s sister may also have been sent away during this time because, on the day that the 1850 federal census enumerator arrived at Daniel Christ’s home in Grimville (now “Grimsville”) in Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania in September 1850, that eumerator documented that the Christ household did not include either David or Elizabeth, but did note that it included Daniel Christ’s children from his first marriage: William (aged twenty-three), Jacob (aged fifteen) and Isaac (aged eleven); a ten-year-old servant, Jonas Berg; fifteen-year-old Susanna Shirey; twelve-year-old Sarah Reimert; and four-year-old Sarah A. Reimbert.
According to the 1860 federal census, Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf Christ’s second husband, Daniel Christ, was a wool carter with an estate valued at $6,200 (approximately $218,342 in 2022 dollars). She lived with him at his home in Greenwich Township, Berks County. Also residing at the Christ home at this time were Catharine’s daughter, Elizabeth, an eighteen-year-old “domestic,” and Daniel’s children: Isaac, who was a nineteen-year-old teacher in the local schools, and Charles.
Meanwhile, in July of that same year (1860), soon-to-be-seventeen-year-old David K. Fetherolf was residing with his uncle, Samuel J. Kistler, a prosperous 40-year-old merchant, and Samuel’s wife, Matilda, and their nine-year-old daughter, Mary, at their home in Germansville, Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and was employed as a clerk at his uncle’s store. His uncle’s estate was valued by that year’s census enumerator at $7,000 (roughly $247,000 in 2022 dollars).
But as 1860 wore on, David Fetherolf and his family, like many across eastern Pennsylvania, were becoming increasingly aware that their nation was growing dangerously divided as state leaders across America’s Deep South pushed the United States closer and closer to disunion. On 20 December, South Carolina seceded from the Union, followed by Mississippi (9 January 1861), Florida (10 January 1861), Alabama (11 January 1861), Georgia (19 January 1861), Louisiana (26 January 1861), and Texas (1 February 1861).
On 4 February 1861, a convention of the states that had seceded from the Union opened in Montgomery, Alabama. Four days later, on 8 February, delegates adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America (CSA), which included a clause ensuring that chattel slavery would be protected. The next day (9 February), Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens were elected as the provisional president and vice-president of the CSA, and Davis was feted during inaugural ceremonies nine days later (on 18 February).
On 4 March 1861, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States of America during inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Among his earliest decisions was whether or not to resupply the U.S. government installation known as Fort Sumter, which was located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. At risk of falling into the hands of supporters of the Confederacy—it was surrendered to the CSA on 14 April 1861, following its repeated bombardment by Confederate troops.
Civil War—5th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
That fateful spring, twenty-one-year-old David K. Fetherolf may have become one of Pennsylvania’s earliest responders to President Lincoln’s call for help to defend the nation’s capital, according to David’s obituary, as “one of the first four soldiers to leave Heidelberg under the first call for seventy-five thousand men to surround and protect Washington for three months.”
The emergency call went out on April 15, 1861. He served in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment until his term of service expired, when he was then discharged and returned to his hometown. This was in July 1861.
However, this data regarding David Fetherolf’s early enlistment and service with the 5th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry may be incorrect. Taken from a lengthy tribute to David that was published in Allentown’s German language newspaper, Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, roughly two weeks after his death, it is not supported by records for the 5th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in Samuel P. Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, David’s U.S. Civil War Pension index card, which only documents his enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the muster rolls for the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry Veteran Reserve Corps (a Three Months’ Service unit that served from April-July 1871), the Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans’ Card File, or the Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 (5th Regiment), the latter two of which are maintained by the Pennsylvania State Archives.
But even if that military service data is inaccurate, David Fetherolf’s confirmed enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry may still be considered an early one—because it took place during the first summer of the American Civil War.
Civil War—47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Realizing that the fight for America’s survival was far from over, David Fetherolf enlisted for a three-year term of Civil War military service on 21 August 1861. He subsequently mustered in at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 17 September as a Second Lieutenant with Company K of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records described him as a clerk who resided in the Lehigh County community of Saegersville.
Note: Company K was raised with the intent of being an “all-German company.” Its founder, George Junker, was a 26-year-old, proud native of Germany who lived and worked as a tombstone carver in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and served as a Quartermaster Sergeant with the Allen Infantry at the dawn of the Civil War. Also known as the “Allen Guards,” that group of soldiers was commanded by Captain Thomas Yeager and became the first of the Allentown militia units (and one of the first five Pennsylvania units) to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers in mid-April 1861.
When the men recruited by George Junker mustered in at Camp Curtin on 17 September 1861, the company’s roster count was eighty-eight—just twelve men shy of the Union Army’s standard of one hundred soldiers per company. Junker had made a concerted effort to reach out to German immigrants, as well as naturalized and native born German-Americans for help. Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, the Lehigh Valley’s Allentown-based, German language newspaper, praised him for his initiative in its 7 August 1861 edition. Roughly translated, the announcement read:
It’s good to hear, that Sergeant Junker, of this city, is bringing a new German company of the Lehigh Valley along under the terms of recruitment for the duration of the war. It will be particularly sweet to him if such Germans already here or abroad, who have served as soldiers, sign up immediately for him, and join the company. It can be noted that Sergeant Junker, who recently returned from the scene of the war, has done important services for the Union side in this time, and has all capabilities that are necessary for a Captain. We wish him the best luck for his company.
Analysis: It is highly likely that the officers of Company K, including Second Lieutenant David Fetherolf, were speakers of German and/or Pennsylvania Dutch because, had they not been, they would have had difficulty communicating with their fellow officers and enlisted men who spoke only one or both of these languages (but whose English proficiency was limited). This comfort with the German language and its variants would prove to be crucial when training new recruits how to maintain and use their weapons—and even more so over the next several years as they were called upon to direct men into combat positions before ordering them to fire upon the enemy.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, the men of Company K and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians hopped aboard a train at the Harrisburg depot, and were transported by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September.
Note: The training and departure process was clearly a hectic one. Private Elias Reidy (alternate spelling: “Ready”) was felled by “friendly fire” from an errant pistol shot; hospitalized, he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 26 November. Meanwhile, Private William Schubert/Schubard/Schubert was incorrectly labeled a deserter when the scribe in charge of the regiment’s muster rolls failed to update his entry to note that he had been left behind at the camp hospital for disease-related treatment as the regiment moved on to the nation’s capital.
On 22 September, Henry D. Wharton, a Musician with the regiment’s C Company, penned the following update 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.
On 24 September 1861, the members of Company G and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers officially mustered in with the U.S. Army. Three days later, on September 27, a rainy, drill-free day which permitted many of the men to read or write letters home, the 47th Pennsylvanians were assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Ingalls Isaac Stevens. By that afternoon, they were on the move again, headed for the Potomac River’s eastern side where, upon arriving at Camp Lyon in Maryland, they were ordered to march double-quick over a chain bridge and off toward Falls Church, Virginia.
Arriving at Camp Advance at dusk, the men pitched their tents in a deep ravine about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, near a new federal military facility under construction (Fort Ethan Allen), which was also located near the headquarters of Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (nicknamed “Baldy”), the commander of the Union’s massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, their job was to help defend the nation’s capital.
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.
According to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt, Second Lieutenant David Fetherolf had barely had a chance to grow accustomed to his new surroundings when he was ordered back to Harrisburg to resume regimental recruiting efforts:
On the morning of Monday, September 30, there was much cannonading heard in the west, and at noon Capt. Rhoads’s Company B and Capt. Woodruff’s Company D were ordered out some four miles for 48 hours on picket duty. Many of the houses were deserted along the road on the way to their duty, but in others there were still some members of the female sex living, the whereabouts of their men not known. The companies enjoyed themselves foraging and gorging themselves on potatoes, corn, and other foods found in abundance. And on this day the 47th viewed its first military funeral. The funeral took place at Fort Ethan Allen for two men of the California Regiment who were killed in the skirmish the day before, and who were buried side by side with all military honors. After the service, Col. Good returned to his headquarters at Camp Advance to write to Gen. Stevens and report that his regiment was 70 men short of the maximum number. He requested permission and transportation to send Lt. Fetherolf of Company I [sic] to Harrisburg on detached duty, to attempt to recruit some additional men for the regiment. The request included the cost of transportation to Allentown, and later back to Washington.
Meanwhile, sometime during this phase of duty, the other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and their fellow members of the 3rd Brigade were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” in reference to a large chestnut tree on the campsite. Their new home would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly ten miles from Washington, D.C.
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 then transported by rail to Alexandria, before traveling aboard the steamship City of Richmond along the Potomac River to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before being marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the U.S. Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding that steamship. Ferried to the Oriental by smaller steamers, the enlisted men clambered aboard first, followed by the officers. Then, per the directive of Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. The 47th Pennsylvanians were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the United States, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.
Company K and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West by early February 1862. There, they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania introduced its presence to Key West residents by parading through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of soldiers from the regiment attended to their spiritual needs by sitting in on the services at local churches, where they also met and mingled with residents from the area.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they strengthened the fortifications at this federal installation, felled trees and built new roads.
Sometime during this phase of service, several members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers contracted typhoid fever, and were confined to the post hospital at Fort Taylor. Privates Amandus Long, Augustus Schirer (alternate spelling: “Shirer”), George Leonhard (alternate spelling: “Leonard”), and Lewis Dipple of K Company died from “Febris Typhoides” on March 29, 5 April, 19 April, and 27 April 1862, respectively, and were all initially laid to rest at the Key West Post Cemetery.
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, as men from Company K were on 5 July, 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).
On 29 July 1862, drummer Daniel K. Fritz and Private Rudolph Fisher, K Company’s wagoner, were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability, but both died from their respective illnesses (typhoid fever and chronic diarrhea) while en route home.
From 20-31 August 1862, Company K resumed picket duty, this time stationed at “Barnwells” (so labeled by Company C Captain J. P. S. Gobin) while other companies from the regiment performed picket duty in the areas around Point Royal Ferry.
But it would be the months of September and October that would bring the most significant changes.
Saint John’s Bluff and the Capture of a Confederate Steamer
During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly twenty-five miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October), which had been abandoned by Confederate forces due to the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.
* Note: The capture of Saint John’s Bluff followed a string of U.S. Army and Navy successes which allowed the Union to gain control over key southern towns and transportation hubs. In November 1861, the Union’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron established a base at Port Royal, South Carolina, enabling the Union to mount expeditions to Georgia and Florida. During these forays, U.S. troops took possession of Fort Clinch and Fernandina, Florida (3-4 March 1862), secured the surrender of Fort Marion and Saint Augustine (11 March), and established a Union Navy base at Mayport Mills (mid-March). That summer, Brigadier-General Joseph Finnegan, commanding officer of the Confederate States of America’s Department of Middle and Eastern Florida, placed gun batteries atop Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River and at Yellow Bluff nearby. Fortified with earthworks, the batteries were created to disable the Union’s naval and ground force operations at and beyond Mayport Mills, and were designed to house up to eighteen cannon, including three eight-inch siege howitzers and eight-inch smoothbores and Columbiads (two of each).
After an exchange of fire between U.S. gunboats Uncas and Patroon and the Rebel battery at Saint John’s Bluff on 11 September, Rebel troops returned after initially being driven away. When a second, larger Union gunboat flotilla also failed to shake the Rebels loose again six days later, Union military leaders ordered a more aggressive operation combining ground troops with naval support.
Backed by the U.S. gunboats Cimarron, E.B. Hale, Paul Jones, Uncas, and Water Witch, and their 12-pound boat howitzers, the 1,500-strong Union Army force commanded by Brigadier-General Brannan advanced up the Saint John’s River and inland along the Pablo and Mt. Pleasant Creeks on 1 October 1862 before disembarking and marching for the battery atop Saint John’s Bluff. The next day, Union gunboats exchanged shellfire with the Rebel battery while the Union ground force continued its march. When the 47th Pennsylvanians reached Saint John’s Bluff with their fellow brigade members on 3 October 1862, they found an abandoned battery. (Other Union troops discovered that the Yellow Bluff battery was also Rebel-free.)
Companies E and K of the 47th were then led by E Company’s commander, Captain Charles H. Yard on a special mission; the men of E and K Companies joined with other Union Army soldiers in the reconnaissance and subsequent capture of Jacksonville, Florida on 5 October 1862.
A day later, sailing up river on board the Union gunboat Darlington (formerly a Confederate steamer)—with protection from the Union gunboat Hale, men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies E and K traveled two hundred miles along the Saint John’s River. Their target was another Confederate steamer—the Gov. Milton—which had been engaged in furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies to Confederate Army units scattered throughout the region, including the batteries at Saint John’s Bluff and Yellow Bluff, and was reported to be docked near Hawkinsville.
Seized by the soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies E and K with support from other Union troops, the Gov. Milton was sailed back down the Saint John’s River and moved behind Union lines, while members of Companies E and K joined other members of Brannan’s force in Union efforts related to the occupation of Jacksonville before ultimately receiving orders to return to the Union’s base at Mayport Mills.
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
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George Warren Alexander, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined with other Union regiments in engaging the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina—including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge—a key piece of the South’s railroad infrastructure which Union leaders ordered destroyed.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from yet another 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. But the Union soldiers would not give in; grappling with the Confederates where they found them, they pursued the Rebels for four miles as the Confederate Army retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut.
Unfortunately, the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, the 47th was forced by depleted ammunition supplies to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant. Captain Charles Mickley of G Company died where he fell from a gunshot wound to his head and K Company Captain George Junker was mortally wounded by a minié ball from a Confederate rifle during the intense fighting near the Frampton Plantation, as were Privates Abraham Landes (alternate spelling: “Landis”) and Joseph Louis (alternate spelling: “Lewis”). The latter three died the next day while being treated for their wounds at the Union Army’s General Hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Private John Schuchard, who was also mortally wounded at Pocotaligo, then died from his wounds at the same hospital on 24 October.
The command vacancy created when Captain George Junker fell in battle at Pocotaligo was immediately filled when First Lieutenant Charles W. Abbott was advanced to the rank of Captain. On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head. Four days later (27 October 1862), First Sergeant Alfred P. Swoyer was honorably discharged from Company K in order to re-enlist as a Second Lieutenant with the same unit and regiment, which he did that same day at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida.
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 (on 23 October), 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 high honor 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.)
The aftershocks of the Battle of Pocotaligo then continued to ripple through the regiment over the next several months as men who had been grievously wounded in action continued to fight for their lives. Many were successful, but many were not.
Private Gottlieb Fiesel, who had survived somehow, despite sustaining a fractured skull from artillery shell shrapnel and enduring multiple delicate surgeries, died on 9 November from meningitis contracted while recuperating at the U.S. Army Hospital at Hilton Head. Private Edward Frederick lasted a short while longer, succumbing to brain fever on 16 February 1863 at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida—another casualty of a war waged with battle wounds.
Among those who rallied were K Company’s Private Jacob F. Hertzog, who had sustained a gunshot wound (“Vulnus Sclopet”) to his right arm and endured a lengthy treatment period before being discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 24 February 1863; Corporal John Bischoff; and Privates Manoah J. Carl, Frederick Knell, Samuel Kunfer, Samuel Reinert, John Schimpf, William Schrank, and Paul Strauss, the latter of whom survived an artillery shell wound to his right shoulder and continued to serve with the regiment.
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I remained on duty at Key West’s Fort Taylor while the soldiers from Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
The climate and living conditions were harsh and unpleasant and, as before, disease was a constant companion. According to U.S. National Park Service historians:
Even though construction began in 1846, by the time the Civil War came around Fort Jefferson was nowhere near completed (the Union Army controlled the fort during the war). It was vital to place cannon on the top level of the fort, which was not yet ready, and thus it was ordered to construct the second level only to the extent that it could support the weight of the structure above it. Once done, efforts on the second level ceased and all resources were put into completing and arming the top level. The unfinished second level was eventually used as housing for the enlisted men and as a military prison during and after the Civil War.
From 1862 through the early part of 1863, that second floor “housing” for the 47th Pennsylvanians and their prisoners was located, in reality, in “empty casemates”—the “series of brick rooms framed by archways” one sees in period and present-day photos of the fort. Fortunately, construction began on a new main sewer line and improved accommodations for enlisted men in 1863, enabling members of the 47th Pennsylvania to eventually move into actual army barracks.
In addition to better living conditions, members of Company K also were afforded opportunities to advance in rank. According to Schmidt:
Back in Pennsylvania, Mr. Samuel J. Kistler of Saegersville wrote a long letter to Governor Curtin on Saturday, March 7, recommending the promotion of 2nd Lt. David Fetherolf to 1st Lieutenant and 1st Lt. Charles W. Abbott to Captain of Company K, to replace Capt. Junker who lost his life at Pocotaligo. Capt. Abbott’s promotion was approved and made effective from the date of the battle, October 22, 1862. Lt. Fetherolf was the nephew of Mr. Kistler and had been a clerk in his store in Saegersville before the war.
With that promotion, David Fetherolf became one of those Pennsylvanians who earned the coveted distinction of “Veteran Volunteer” for re-upping for an additional tour of duty. A Second Lieutenant under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander at Fort Jefferson, he was subsequently commissioned as a First Lieutenant on 2 May 1863 and given increasingly important leadership responsibilities, including as Acting Quartermaster there in August 1863 (duties he would continue to perform through December of that year).
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach further by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be used to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Captain Richard Graeffe and a group of men from Company A were charged with expanding the fort and conducting raids on area cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence. Graeffe and his men subsequently turned the fort into both their base of operations and a shelter for pro-Union supporters, escaped slaves, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops. According to Schmidt:
Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard….
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:
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 had begun preparing for the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (which was situated across the river from New Orleans and is now a neighborhood in New Orleans), followed on 1 March by the other 47th Pennsylvanians from Companies E, F, G, and H.
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 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
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 Iberia, Vermilionville (now part of Lafayette), Opelousas, and Washington.
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 Hill) the night of 7 April.
Resuming their trek the next day (8 April 1864), the 47th Pennsylvanians marched until mid-afternoon. Upon reaching their intended destination, they were then rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division.
Sixty members of the 47th were ultimately cut down that day during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield), including Company K’s Second Lieutenant Alfred P. Swoyer, who sustained a fatal rifle shot to the temple after shouting the warning his men, “They’re coming nine deep!”
The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew 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 who was the 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 severe yet again. Privates Nicholas Hagelgans, Jacob Madder and Samuel Wolf of K Company were all killed in action. The regiment’s second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.
Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops. Held initially as prisoners of war at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, they were subsequently marched roughly one hundred and twenty-five miles to the largest Confederate prison west of the Mississippi River—Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas—and held there as POWs until they were released during prisoner exchanges between late July and November. (One of the men spirited away was K Company Private Ben Zellner, who had been shot in the leg. After some time as a POW in Texas, Private Zellner became one of 300 to 400 men deemed well enough by Camp Ford officials to be shipped to Shreveport, Louisiana. They were then transported by rail to the notorious Confederate POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Held there until his release in September 1864, Zellner recovered and continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.) Sadly, at least two members of the 47th never made it out of Camp Ford alive.
Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for eleven days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then moved back to Natchitoches Parish. Starting out on 22 April, they arrived in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night after marching forty-five miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and move forward.
The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of 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 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, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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 all of this was going on, K Company’s Private William Walbert was slowly slipping away. On 30 April, he succumbed to disease-related complications at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans.
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 [Bailey’s Dam] had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal of 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 Mathias Gerrett (alternate spelling of surname: “Garrett”) then died from fever at the Union’s Barracks Hospital in New Orleans on 24 May 1864. Sergeant John Gross Helfrich, Solomon Long, Joseph Smith, and T. J. Helm, would also later die on 5 August, 21 August, 2 September, and 21 September, respectively. All six now rest in marked graves at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish while Private Charles Resch, who would die at a Union Army hospital in Baton Rouge on 18 August, rests at the Baton Rouge National Cemetery.
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.
In June of 1864, Company K lost another of its members when Private Paul Houser died while on furlough; he was among those men who drowned near Cape May, New Jersey during the sinking of the steamer Pocahontas. Follow-up coverage in The New York Times reported that many of the men who lost their lives were on their way home, having been wounded in action or taken ill while in service to their nation.
While encamped at Morganza, the nine formerly enslaved Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania in Beaufort, South Carolina (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.
On the Fourth of July, leaders of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry received orders to return to the East Coast, and began packing up and loading their men onto ships in two stages. Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed for the Washington, D.C. area beginning 7 July while the men from Companies B, G and K remained behind on detached duty and to await transportation. Led by F Company Captain Henry S. Harte, the 47th Pennsylvanians who had been left behind in Louisiana finally sailed away at the end of the month aboard the Blackstone. Arriving in Virginia on 28 July, they reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August, but they missed the opportunity the earlier departing men had to have a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July 1864, and also missed the mid-July Battle of Cool Spring at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, was being removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures. Placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln, he later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.
On 24 July 1864, Captain J. P. S. Gobin was promoted from his leadership of Company C to the rank of Major and service with the central regimental command of the 47th Pennsylvania.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in early August, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia, and also engaged over the next several weeks in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” between the Union Army under Major-General Philip H. Sheridan and the Confederate troops of Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.
Sometime during late July or early August, First Lieutenant David Fetherolf “was struck down by Typhoid Fever,” according to his obituary. The 6 August 1864 edition of The Crutch, the newspaper of the Union’s military hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, also documented his illness, noting that First Lieutenant David Fetherolf was a patient there at the time of that particular edition’s publication. But, although his obituary would later note that “as soon as he was able to get up again, [Fetherolf] rejoined his regiment, on the eleventh of September, 1864, which was then about twenty miles from Harpers Ferry, Virginia,” his physicians were clearly overestimating his stamina. Per that same obituary:
In all subsequent meetings [illegible] of the Shenandoah Valley, under Sheridan, he took an active part, namely as Commander of Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment, and it was there that he had to struggle so much, perhaps more so than another soldier or other person who had just had a sick leave. The result was that he caught a cold, which was not much appreciated at first, but later turned into consumption, and put an end to his comfortable and healthy life.
This means that First Lieutenant David Fetherolf missed participating with his regiment in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia from 3-4 September 1864, but was involved in the Battles of Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”) and Fisher’s Hill, the first of which was fought on 19 September and was a significant factor in helping President Abraham Lincoln to secure reelection, the latter of which was waged on 22 September.
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. 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. Finally reaching the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Confederate Army. 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 William Emory to attack and pursue Major-General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as a 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, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September). Among the 47th Pennsylvanians listed on the casualty rosters following the Battle of Fisher’s Hill was Private James M. Sieger of Company K. (According to the special veterans’ census that would later be taken in 1890, he sustained a wound above one of his knees.)
Following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one, Early’s Confederates then fled to Waynesboro. The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were among those sent out in skirmishing parties.
Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers made camp at Cedar Creek. They would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced with leaders who were equally respected for their front-line experience and temperament, including Major John Peter Shindel Gobin, formerly of the 47th’s Company C, who had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and regimental commanding officer).
Battle of Cedar Creek
During the fall of 1864, Major-General Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s 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 and win the day.
From a military standpoint, it was another impressive, but heartrending encounter. 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.
Once again, casualties for the 47th were high. Among those whose names were entered on the casualty lists was First Lieutenant David Fetherolf. Wounded in action on 19 October 1864, he was initially treated on the battle field and/or at a regimental hospital, and was then likely moved to a division hospital behind Union Army lines.
Still under a physician’s care when Election Day arrived, First Lieutenant David Fetherolf then demonstrated his love for country yet again by voting, according to a news report about the 47th Pennsylvania’s annual reunion which was published in the 23 October 1916 edition of The Allentown Leader.
Physicians subsequently determined that his wound made him unfit for continued military service. Just over a month later, he was honorably discharged at Berryville, Virginia on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability—on 17 November 1864—and sent home to the arms of loved ones.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military, David Fetherolf returned home to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where he was soon able to put to good civic use the skills he had honed as a member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s Quartermaster’s Department.
On 28 February 1865, David Fetherolf and two other civic officials in Lynn Township, Lehigh County penned an auditors’ report on behalf of the township, which then appeared in the 7 March edition of that year’s Der Lecha Caunty Patriot (Allentown’s German language newspaper):
Bericht de Auditoren
über die Rechnung von Samuel Hermann, Schatzmeister der Lynn Taunschip, Bounty-Fund Committee für Aussüffung der Quoten des besagten taunschips unter des Präsidenten Ausgeboten vom 5 January 1864 und vom 18 Marz 1864.
An Fonds, empfangen von den Schulboard, Collectoren der Bounty Tax No. 1 $10,644.48
Ein Wechsel von der obigen Committee discontirt von der “Allentown Bank,” 10,000.00
Fonds, empfangen von Joseph Miller, Collector der Bounty Tax No. 2 9.943.00
Für 52 Recruten zu je $300 $9,600.00
Für Recrut zu $305 305.00
[breakdown of list continues with additional amounts for total of $30,587.48)
Wir, die underzeichneten Auditoren von Lynn Taunschip, bezugen dass wir vorstehende Rechnung geprüft und folche nach unferm besten Wissen und Glauben als richtig befunden haben.
“Report of the Auditors
on the account of Samuel Hermann, Treasurer of the Lynn Township, Bounty-Fund Committee for satisfaction of the quotas of said township under the President’s Proposals dated 5 January 1864 and 18 March 1864.
To funds received from the school board, collectors of Bounty Tax No. 1 $10,644.48
A bill of exchange from the above committee discounted from the ‘Allentown Requisition,’ 10,000.00
Fund received from Joseph Miller, Collector of Bounty Tax No. 2 9,943.00
For 52 recruits at $300 each $9,600.00
For 1 recruit at $300 305.00
[breakdown of list continues with additional amounts for total of $30,587.48]
We, the undersigned auditors of Lynn Township, have checked the foregoing account and found the following to the best of our knowledge and belief to be correct.”
But this phase of public service proved to be all too short for David Fetherolf and all those who loved and respected him.
Illness, Death and Interment
On 17 June 1865, neighbors and friends of David Fetherolf received the shocking news that he had died at the Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania home of his uncle, Samuel Kistler. Following funeral services, he was buried with full military honors, including a salute fired over his grave by members of the Allen Rifles.
He remains at rest at the Heidelberg Union Cemetery in Slatington, Lehigh County in a grave marked by a large obelisk erected by family and friends in recognition of his valor and service to his beloved commonwealth and nation.
Just over two weeks later, he was eulogized in a lengthy news story about his life and death by his county’s German language newspaper, Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, in its Fourth of July edition:
Lieut. D. K. Fetterolf [sic]
Starb am 17ten Juni, in dem hause seines Uncles Samuel J. Kistler, Esq., in Heidelberg Taunschip, Lecha Caunty, Lieut. David K. Fetterolf [sic], in dem Alter von 21 Jahren, 10 Monaten und 7 Tagen. Dienstags darauf wurde sein entselter Leichnam, unter militärischer Begleitung der Erde übergeben, bei welcher Gelegenheiter Ehrm. W. A. Helfrich eine passende Trauerrede hielt.
David K. Fetterolf [sic] war ein Sohn von John W. Fetterolf und seiner Ehegattin Catharina, eine geborn Kistler—wer wurde geboren am 10ten August im Jahr 1843, in Tuscarora Tsp, Schuylkill Caunty, Pa. Später wurde er getauft, confirmirt und in die Evangelische-Lutherische Kirche anfgenommen. Seine Kranfheit hat er sich im Kriege für die Ber. Staaten z gezogen.
Im Juli 1864, mahrer sein Regiment, das 47ste Pa, von Louisiana nach Washington beordert wurde, um sich der armee unter General Scheridan in der Schenandoah Valley anzufschliessen, welcher Order am 1sten Tag August ergient z., war er durch Typhoid Fever niedergestredt—so bald es er aber wieder aufstehen fonnte, folgte er seinem Regimente wieder nach, und zwar am 11ten Sep 1864, welches damals etwa 20 Meilen von Harpers Ferry, in Virginien sein [illegible]. In allen darauffelgenden Treff [illegible] der Schenandoah Valley, [illegible] Scheridan, nahm er thatigen Antheil, und zwar als Commandor der Compagnie D des 47 Regiments Pa Freimilligen—und es war dorten dass er sich so viel aussissen musste, vielleicht mehr so als eine Personthen sellte, die gerade von einem Kranfenhatte [illegible]. Die Folge war, dass er sich daselest eine Berfältung zugog, welche ihm aus die Lange schlug, und welches zwar im Anfange nicht viel geachtet wurde—sich aber später in eine Auszehrung um andelte, und seinem fuegen und nusslichen Leben eine Ende machre.
Er war einer von den vier ersten Soldaten die Heidelberg veilichen unter dem ersten Ruf des Draftoehten für 75000 Mann, für 3 Monaten, um Washington zu berzchüssen. Der Ruf erging hefannilich am ermählt 15 April 1861. Er diente im 5ten Pa. Regiment, bist seine Dienstzei abgelaufen war—wo er dann entlassen wurde und in seine heimath zurüdfam. Dies war im Juli 1861. Um 21 August liess er sich aber schon wieder in die Armee anmerben, und wurde als 2ten Lieutenant, in der Compagnie K des 47 Pa. Regiments. Er diente in dieser Capacity bis nach dem Treffen von Pocotaligo, S.C., welches sich am 22 October 1862 ereignete—und bei welchem sein Capitain, George Junker, fiel und Fetterolf [sic] dann durch Promotion 1ten Lieutenant wurde.
Sein Regiment uf ipäter von Hilton Head nach Key West und Tortugas, Florida, beordert worden. Zu Tortugas wurde er bei Fort Jefferson zum Quartermeister ermählt. Und diesem Ort verblieb das Regiment eine Zeitlang und zwar bis dachelbe beordert wurde, zu der Armee von Louisiana unter Gen. Banks zu stossen—und in diesem Felduge wurde er als agirend r Ajutant von Louisiana ernannt. Später wur de das Regiment wie vorbefagt nach Washington beordert—und nach den Treffen in der Schenandoah Valley, l ef seine Dienstzeit aus und er wurde ehrbar entlassen, und zwar um 19 Nov. 1864. Im Gantzen hat er sein m Faterlande in der Armee 3 Jahre und 6 Monaten—weniger 2 Tagen-gedient.
Sein Vater starb am 23 August 1844, als David erst 1 Jahr und 13 Tage war. Er wurde durch seine Mutter und Freunde erzogen, und er erwarb sich eine vortreffliche Erziehung so wie gleichfalls einen fledenlosen Charafter.
“Lieut. D. K. Fetterolf [sic]
Died June 17th, at the home of his Uncle Samuel J. Kistler, Esq., at Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, Lieut. David K. Fetterolf [sic], at the age of twenty-one years, ten months and seven days. On the following Tuesday his shattered body was handed over to earth under military escort, on which occasion Rev. W. A. Helfrich gave a fitting eulogy.
David K. Fetterolf [sic] was a son of John W. Fetterolf and his wife Catharina, née Kistler, who was born August 10, 1843, in Tuscarora Township, Schuylkill County, Pa. Later he was baptized, confirmed and accepted into the Evangelical Lutheran Church. He contracted his illness during the war for the United States. In July 1864, his regiment, the 47th Pennsylvania, was ordered from Louisiana to Washington to join the army under General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, which order was received on the first day of August, he was struck down by Typhoid Fever, but as soon as he was able to get up again, he rejoined his regiment, on the eleventh of September, 1864, which was then about twenty miles from Harpers Ferry, Virginia. In all subsequent meetings [illegible] of the Shenandoah Valley, under Sheridan, he took an active part, namely as Commander of Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment, and it was there that he had to struggle so much, perhaps more so than another soldier or other person who had just had a sick leave. The result was that he caught a cold, which was not much appreciated at first, but later turned into consumption, and put an end to his comfortable and healthy life.
He was one of the first four soldiers to leave Heidelberg under the first call for seventy-five thousand men to surround and protect Washington for three months. The emergency call went out on April 15, 1861. He served in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment until his term of service expired, when he was then discharged and returned to his hometown. This was in July 1861.
On August 21, however, he was again enlisted in the army and was promoted to Second Lieutenant in Company K of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment. He served in that capacity until after the Battle of Pocotaligo, S.C., which occurred on October 22, 1862, and at which its captain, George Junker, fell, and Fetterolf [sic] then became First Lieutenant by promotion.
Later, his regiment was ordered from Hilton Head to Key West and Tortugas, Florida. At Tortugas, he was promoted to quartermaster at Fort Jefferson. And in this place the regiment remained for a time, until it was ordered to join the army of Louisiana under Gen. Banks, and in that campaign, he was appointed acting aide-de-camp of Louisiana. Later the regiment was ordered to Washington as instructed, and after the Shenandoah Valley battles, his term of service expired and he was honorably discharged, about Nov. 19, 1864. In all, he had served in the Army of his fatherland for just two days shy of three years and six months.
His father died on August 23, 1844 when David was only one year and thirteen days old. Raised by his mother and friends, he acquired an excellent upbringing as well as an impeccable character.”
During the early 1900s, First Lieutenant David Fetherolf’s name was one of multiple members of Company K that were inscribed on the Soldiers’ Monument erected at the Heidelberg Church Cemetery in Lehigh County.
In 1907, he was honored posthumously by his former 47th Pennsylvania comrades who paid tribute to him at their annual reunion, which was held in Allentown on 22 October that year. Each surviving member of the regiment wore a badge emblazoned with David’s portrait, according to news coverage of the event that also mentioned that he had been wounded in action during the Battle of Cedar Creek.
What Happened to David Fetherolf’s Mother and Sister?
By 1870, David Fetherolf’s mother, Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf Christ, was still living with her second husband, Daniel, at their home Grimville, Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania along with Daniel’s son Charles.
But David’s sister, Elizabeth, had moved on by this time, having married farmer James W. Dietrich (1842-1900) sometime around 1863. By the time that the federal census enumerator arrived at the Dietrich home in Grimville in 1870, Elizabeth and James had already welcomed the births of: Louisa Catherine (1864-1870), who was born in Berks County on 31 August 1864, but sadly died at the age of five on 21 May 1870); Emma Elizabeth (1866-1936), who was born on 28 May 1866, was shown on the 1870 U.S. Census as “Anna E.,” and who later wed Charles J. Sittler/Sitler (1861-1938); Levi Franklin (1869-1869), who was born in Lenhartsville, Berks County on 4 May 1869, but sadly passed away in Lenhartsville just over four months later on 19 September; Alice M. (1872-1893), who was born in Greenwich Township on 24 February 1872, went on to marry Elwood D. Sunday (1869-1946) in 1890 and, sadly, died at the age of twenty-one on 25 April 1893; and Rosa Ellen (1877-1894), who was born on 4 January 1877, but also died young—at the age of seventeen on 11 January 1894.
In 1871, David’s mother, Catharine, was widowed by her second husband, Daniel Christ, who was laid to rest at the New Bethel Zion Church Cemetery in Grimville, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf Christ then remarried a third time—to Reuben Buck (1813-1883), whose first wife died in 1871 (the same year Catharine was widowed by her second husband, Daniel Christ). According to the 1880 federal census, Catharine subsequently resided with her third husband, Reuben, a 67-year-old farmer, in Lynn Township, Lehigh County. Also living at the home with the couple were two servants: William Billig (aged nineteen) and Rosa Sechler (aged twelve).
Twelve years later, in 1883, Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf Christ Buck was then widowed a third time when Reuben Buck died. He was laid to rest at the Jacobs Union Church Cemetery in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania:
Three-time widow, Catharine (Kistler) Fetherolf Christ Buck, subsequently sought and secured a U.S. Civil War Mother’s Pension. She was granted her pension award in 1893 in recognition of the service of her son, First Lieutenant David K. Fetherolf.
Four years later, on 20 April 1897, she then also departed the world, and was laid to rest at the Jerusalem Union Church Cemetery in Stony Run, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
As the new century dawned, David Fetherolf’s sister, Elizabeth (Fetherolf) Dietrich, was living with her husband at the home of their daughter, Emma, and her husband, Charles Sittler (alternate spelling: Sitler), a farmer. Also residing at the home were Charles and Emma’s daughters, Cora (1884-1957) and Evada (aged six), and fourteen-year-old servant Charles Rothermel. That year’s federal census enumerator noted in his records in mid-June 1900 that, of the five children born to Elizabeth, only one was still living at that time.
Sadly, Elizabeth and her husband would not live to see the end of that year; her husband widowed her on 15 July 1900. Following his death at the age of fifty-seven, he was laid to rest at the Dunkels Church Cemetery in Lenhartsville, Berks County.
Three months later, Elizabeth, still residing at her daughter’s home just outside of Kutztown and overwhelmed by her deep grief, took her own life. Just fifty-eight when she died on 16 October 1900, she was laid to rest beside her husband at the Dunkels Church Cemetery. According to a news report in the 17 October 1900 edition of The Reading Times:
This town was shocked to hear this morning of the death by her own hand of Mrs. Elizabeth Dietrich. Mrs. Dietrich was a widow, aged about 60. She lived a mile and a half beyond the town. Her husband died last spring. Since then she has been melancholy and depressed. Her friends tried to cheer her up, but in vain. She seemed to have lost all interest in life. Sometimes she said she wished she would die. Several times she hinted at self destruction, but her friends did not take these hints seriously.
This morning her daughter found her body hanging in front of the bake oven in the yard near her house. She had skillfully contrived a noose and swung herself to eternity with great deliberation. She had been hanging there for some time when discovered and life was extinct. She was hastily cut down and removed to her home. A physician was summoned, but his services were useless.
Squire Marx empaneled a jury and held an inquest. The verdict was death by her own hand.
Her life had been a difficult one almost from its beginning, punctuated by the deaths of her father when she was just a toddler, her younger brother, who had become a casualty of the American Civil War, four of her children, and her thrice-married, seemingly distant mother, followed by the unexpected death of her husband—a final burden that was one too many to bear.
- “Aged Widow’s Suicide: Mrs. Elizabeth Dietrich Hangs Herself in Front of a Bake Oven.” Reading, Pennsylvania: The Reading Times, 17 October 1900.
- Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
- Buck, Reuben and Catharine (David Fetherolf’s mother), in in U.S. Census (1880: Lynn Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Christ, Daniel, Catharine (David Fetherolf’s mother), William, Jacob, and Isaac, and Susanna Shirey, Sarah Reimert, Sarah A. Reimbert, and Jonas Berg, in U.S. Census (1870: Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Dietrich, James W., Elizabeth (David Fetherolf’s sister), “Anna” [sic], Emma, Alice and/or Rosa, in U.S. Census (1870, 1880: Grimsville, Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- “Dry Tortugas National Park: Fort Jefferson,” in “National Park Planner.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Park Service.
- “Emma E. Sittler” (niece of David Fetherolf), in Death Certificates (file no.: 18154, registered no.: 41). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth, Pennsylvania: Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
- Featheroff [sic], D. K., in Muster Rolls of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Company K), 1861-1864. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Featheroff [sic], David K.; Fetherolf, David and Catherine Buck, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index (mother’s pension application no. 570918, 18 February 1893). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Fetherolf, David, in U.S. Returns from Military Posts (military rosters from January-December 1863). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Fetherolf, David H. [sic] (K-47 I), in Civil War Veterans Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
- Hitchcock, Susan L. and Beth W. Byrd. Dry Tortugas National Park: Garden Key Cultural Landscape Report.” Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. National Park Service, Southeast Regional Office, Cultural Resources Division, June 2011.
- Honeck, Mischa. “Abolitionists from the Other Shore: Radical German Immigrants and the Transnational Struggle to End American Slavery,” in Amerikastudien/American Studies, vol. 56, no. 2, 2011, pp. 171-196. Heidelberg, German Universitätsverlag WINTER Gmbh, 2011.
- Honeck, Mischa. We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848. Athens Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 15 March 2011.
- Kistler, Samuel, Matilda and Mary M., and Fetherolf, David K., in U.S. Census (1860: Germansville, Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- “Lieut. D. K. Fetterolf [sic]” (obituary). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, 4 July 1864, p. 3.
- Mrs. Reuben Buck (obituary of David Fetherolf’s mother). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, Saturday, 24 April 1897.
- Oswald, Meryn. “Death of the Dutchy?”, on the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s website. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Center for the Book, The Pennsylvania State University, fall 2010 (retrieved online, 27 June 2022).
- “Admitted,” in “Report of Changes in Division No. 1: B. A. Vanderkieft Surgeon in Charge” (name of First Lieutenant D. K. Fetherolf on the admissions rosters of the U.S. military hospital at Annapolis). Annapolis, Maryland: The Crutch, 6 August 1864.
- “Reunion of the 47th Regiment: To Be Held This Year in Allentown on Usual Date, Oct. 22: Brave Comrade to Be Honored: Badge to Contain Portrait of Lieutenant Fetherolf, Cousin of Lawyer Samuel J. Kistler—Preparations for Event Already in Progress. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 18 July 1907.
- Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
- “Shaft Dedication to Be Postponed: Soldiers’ Monument in Heidelberg Church Cemetery: Event Was Too Long Delayed.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, 13 October 1909, front page.
- Sittler, Charles, Emma, Cora, and Evada, and Dietrich, James and Elizabeth (sister of David Fetherolf), in U.S. Census (1900: Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania). Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- “Voting on the Field,” in “Glorious Reunion of 47th Regiment: 60 Survivors Meet in Allentown and Dine at Lafayette.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 23 October 1916, p. 1.