Martin L. Guth – A Corporal with a Pioneer’s Soul

Mrs. Caroline Bost and Martin L. Guth celebrated Lincoln's birthday with fellow Grand Army of the Republic and ladies auxiliary members in in February 1933.

Mrs. Caroline Bost and Martin L. Guth celebrated Lincoln’s birthday with fellow Grand Army of the Republic and ladies auxiliary members in in February 1933.

Martin L. Guth was born in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 4 October 1844. According to baptismal records from the Jordan United Church of Christ, he was the son of “Aran Guth” and “Elisabeth Guth,” and was baptized in Allentown, Lehigh County on 24 November 1844 as “Martin Luther Guth.”

Over the years, the Guth surname was spelled variously as “Guth”, “Gut” and “Good.”

In 1860, Martin L. Guth resided in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County with his parents, Aaron Guth (1844-1887) and Elisabeth (Albright) Guth (1814-1876). Martin Guth’s father, Aaron, was a farmer and son of Henry and Catharine (Butz) Guth; Martin’s mother, Elisabeth, was a daughter of Jacob and Maria (Siegfried) Albright.

Living with Martin Guth and his parents in 1860 were Martin’s siblings: Sarah Jane (born on 21 March 1841), Jonathan (aged 14), Henry (aged 12), Emma (aged 10), Louisa Anna Elisabeth (born on 19 September 1851), and Rosiann (born on 9 January 1854). Louisa would later go on to marry and raise a family in Illinois with Phil Dilg before passing away in Chicago in 1926.

Civil War Service

A laborer by trade and resident of Guthsville in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania in 1862, Martin Luther Guth enlisted for Civil War military service as a Corporal with Company K, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. After enrolling at Allentown, Lehigh County on 26 September 1862, he then officially mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 2 October 1862.

He signed on just as his new regiment was about to face its first major test in battle, catching up with his new comrades via a recruiting depot on 13 October 1862.

Pocotaligo Depot, Charleston & Savannah Railroad, South Carolina as sketched by Theodore R. Davis for Harper’s Weekly, 25 February 1865 edition (public domain).

Pocotaligo Depot, Charleston & Savannah Railroad, South Carolina as sketched by Theodore R. Davis for Harper’s Weekly, 25 February 1865 edition (public domain).

Fresh off their early October victories in collaboration with other Union Army regiments and the U.S. Navy, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had helped to capture Saint John’s Bluff and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as the Gov. Milton, a steamer which had been actively involved in supplying Confederate troops in the region. Following these successes, the soldiers of Company K – the company which Corporal Guth was joining – and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to again combine forces with other Union Army regiments in an effort to isolate the Confederate stronghold of Charleston, South Carolina. As part of this new push, Union leaders hoped this combined troop strength would be able to destroy or disable the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and deal a crippling blow to Confederate forces in the area.

From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George Warren (“G. W.”) Alexander, the entire 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry engaged the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge – one of the key pieces of the South’s railroad infrastructure which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.

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

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

Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field.

Those Union soldiers headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. But the 47th Pennsylvanians 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 Mackey’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 while K Company Private John McConnell was also killed in action.

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

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

K Company’s Captain George Junker was mortally wounded by a minie ball from a Confederate rifle during the intense fighting near the Frampton Plantation, as were Privates Abraham Landes and Joseph Louis. All 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, died from his wounds at the same hospital on 24 October.

Private Gottlieb Fiesel, who had also sustained a head wound, somehow survived the wound itself, followed by multiple surgeries to try to save his life, only to be claimed by meningitis while recuperating; he passed away at Hilton Head on 9 November 1862. Private Edward Frederick lasted a short while longer, finally succumbing on 16 February 1863 at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. He had developed brain fever, a complication from the personal war he had waged with his battle wounds.

K Company’s Corporals John Bischoff and Manoah J. Carl and Privates Jacob F. Hertzog, Frederick Knell, Samuel Kunfer, Samuel Reinert, John Schimpf, William Schrank, and Paul Strauss were among those wounded in action who rallied. Private Strauss miraculously survived an artillery shell wound to his right shoulder, was successfully treated by local physicians, and continued to fight on with the regiment. Privates Hertzog and Knell were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability, respectively, on 24 February 1863 and 9 May 1863.

The command vacancy created when K Company’s Captain George Junker fell in battle at Pocotaligo was immediately filled when 1st Lieutenant Charles W. Abbott was advanced to the rank of Captain that same day (on 22 October).

On 23 October, Corporal Martin Guth and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Here, members of the regiment served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a region of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were also given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.


 Fort Jefferson's moat and wall, circa 1934, Dry Tortugas, Florida (C.E. Peterson, Library of Congress; public domain)

Fort Jefferson’s moat and wall, circa 1934, Dry Tortugas, Florida (C.E. Peterson, Library of Congress; public domain)

Having been ordered to Key West, Florida on 15 November 1862 (a return trip for the majority of the 47th Pennsylvanian Volunteers), much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. The men of K Company joined with Companies D, F, and H in garrisoning Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I continued to guard Key West’s Fort Taylor.

While serving as a 2nd Lieutenant at Fort Jefferson under Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, Company K’s David K. Fetherolf was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant on 2 May 1863; he was then also appointed Acting Quartermaster at Fort Jefferson in August 1863. Also promoted on 2 May was 1st Sergeant Alfred P. Swoyer, who advanced to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

As with their previous assignments, the men soon came to realize that disease would be their constant foe, making it all the more remarkable that, during this phase of service, the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to re-enlist when their three-year service terms were up. Many, who could have returned home with their heads held legitimately high after all they had endured, re-enlisted in order to preserve the Union of their beloved nation.


The New Year of 1864 brought more personnel changes to Company K, including for Corporal Matthias Miller who advanced to the rank of 1st Sergeant on New Year’s Day.

Less than two months later, on 25 February 1864, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania were ordered into a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, Corporal Martin Guth and his fellow soldiers arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February. Transported next by train to Brashear City and, following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche, the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, becoming the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign spearheaded by Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water while slogging through an unbearably harsh climate in challenging terrain, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day.

Map of the Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads Area, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, April 1864. (Source: General Nathaniel Banks’ official report on the Red River Campaign; public domain.)

Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads Area, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, April 1864. (Source: General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign report; public domain.)

Marching until mid-afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians were then rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division. Sixty members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). 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. Company K’s 2nd Lieutenant Alfred P. Swoyer was one of those killed in action at Mansfield.

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. 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, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges on 22 July or in August, September or November. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania 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 to resupply and regroup until 22 April. Retreating to Alexandria, they and their fellow Union soldiers next scored a clear victory against the Confederates at Cane Hill.

Known as "Bailey's Dam" for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 was designed to facilitate passage of Union gunboats to and from the Mississippi River. Photo: Public domain.

Christened “Bailey’s Dam” for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 facilitated passage of Union gunboats. Photo: Public domain.

On 23 April, the 47th Pennsylvania and its brigade crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry. Just seven days later, K Company’s Private William Walbert was gone, having succumbed to disease-related complications at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans.

From April 30 to 10 May, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, the remaining men of Company K and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians helped to build a dam to enable federal gunboats to more easily traverse the rapids of the Red River.

Beginning 16 May, Captain Charles Abbott and K Company moved with the majority of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, Louisiana, finally reaching New Orleans on 20 June.

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

Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers willingly continued their fight to preserve the Union during the summer of 1864. After receiving orders on the 4th of July to return to the East Coast, they did so 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, they finally sailed away at the end of the month, arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.

Due to the delay, the boys from K Company missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, and also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers experienced still more personnel changes, including that of 1st Sergeant Matthias Miller of Company K, who was promoted this time to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

The 47th Pennsylvanians then engaged in the regiment’s next major encounter during the Battle of Berryville, Virginia from 3-4 September. Once again, several men were killed or wounded in action during the battle and its aftermath, including Private George Kilmore (alternate spelling “Killmer”), who sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen on 5 September.

The opening days of September also saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including the captains of Companies D, E and F, as well as K Company Sergeants Peter Reinmiller and Conrad Volkenwond, Corporals Lewis Benner and George Knuck, and a number of privates. All mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their three-year terms of service. Those members of the 47th who remained on duty, like Corporal Martin Guth, were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864

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

Image of the victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces. Kurz & Allison, circa 1893. Public domain, courtesy of the Library of Congress: LC-DIG-pga-01855 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-1753 (color film copy transparency).

Victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces. Kurz & Allison, circa 1893. Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.

The march toward destiny by Corporal Martin Guth and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians 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 Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Rebel troops. 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 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 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), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.

Moving forward, the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman H. Good  and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George 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, October 1864

During the Fall of 1864, 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. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag six months earlier at Pleasant Hill was cut down in full view of his young son, who was serving with the same company. Privates Lewis Berliner and and Lewis Schneck of K Company were killed in action, as was Private Moses Klotz, who sustained a fatal head wound. After the fighting ceased, the fallen were buried on the battlefield.

Private John Kolb died two days later in Baltimore – from an unseen foe – typhoid fever. Sergeant William H. Burger of Company K fought valiantly to survive the artillery shell wound to his head which compressed his brain, but ultimately died from that traumatic brain injury on 5 November 1865 at the Union Army’s Satterlee General Hospital in Philadelphia.

Private Harrison Fegely was seriously enough wounded that, after recuperating, he was transferred to Company E of the 21st Regiment, 1st Battalion of the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”) while 1st Lieutenant David K. Fetherolf, also seriously wounded in battle, returned home to Heidelberg Township in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania after recuperating enough to be discharged on 17 November 1864. He survived until the Summer of 1865.

K Company Corporals Joseph Frack and William Landis were more fortunate, as was Private James Strauss; wounded in action, they recovered and continued to serve with the regiment. Also wounded in action was Private Peter Cope, who was treated for his injuries until finally well enough to be discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability from a Union Army hospital on 22 June 1865. Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss when a bullet pierced his cap.

Still others were captured and held as prisoners of war, several of whom died while being held at the Confederate Army’s prison camp at Salisbury, North Carolina. At least two men ended up at the Rebels’ version of Hell – the Andersonville prison in Georgia. Private Benjamin Zellner, twice wounded during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana six months earlier, was wounded again – twice – during the Battle of Cedar Creek (via a gunshot wound to his right ankle and by bayonet so grievously that the wound reportedly never healed properly).

Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to outpost and railroad guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia.

Five days before Christmas Corporal Martin Guth and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.

1865 –1866

Captain Miller's leadership style evidently made an impression on at least one young corporal. At the time of his passing nearly three quarters of a century later, the funeral records of Martin L. Guth noted that Corporal Guth had served under Captain Miller.

Captain Mathias Miller’s leadership style evidently made an impression on at least one young corporal from Company K. At the time of Martin Guth’s passing 70 years after the end of the war, his funeral records noted that he had served under Captain Miller.

New responsibilities arrived with the New Year of 1865 as Captain Charles W. Abbott was promoted from his leadership of K Company to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with the 47th Pennsylvania’s central command staff on 3 January. Matthias Miller was then awarded command of Company K the following day, promoted from his role as 2nd Lieutenant to Captain on 4 January 1865.

On 23 January, Sergeant Elias F. Benner was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and 1st Sergent Franklin Beisel advanced to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. The next day, Sergeant George J. Scherer  became 1st Sergeant Scherer, and Corporal John Bischoff, who had been wounded in action during the Battle of Pocotaligo, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

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

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

Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. By 19 April 1864, Corporal Martin Guth and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital – this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.

Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their imprisonment and trial.

As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May.

On their final southern tour, the men of Company K and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, U.S. Department of the South. On 22 June 1865, Private Joseph Frack, who had been wounded in action during the Battle of Cedar Creek, honorably mustered out by General Order, as did Private Peter Cope.

Ruins seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, SC, 1865. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (111-B-4667, public domain).

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina as seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, 1865.
Source: U.S. National Archives (111-B-4667, public domain).

Taking over for the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers took up their new quarters in Charleston, South Carolina at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury. Duties during this phase of service were frequently Provost (military police) or Reconstruction-related (repairing railroads and other key regional infrastructure items which had been destroyed or damaged during the long war).

Finally, on 1 October 1865, Corporal Martin Guth joined Sergeant Phaon Guth, fellow Corporal William Knerr, and Privates Benjamin Amey, Tilghman Breisch, Harrison Handwerk, Edward Houser, John Keiser, Henry Savitz, and William Schlicher in mustering out at Charleston, South Carolina upon expiration of their respective three year terms of service. All received honorable discharges.

A California military register entry for Corporal Martin L. Guth, dated 5 January 1910, documents a disability – a broken leg – and confirms his service with the 47th Pennsylvania during the Union Army’s Red River, Cedar Creek and Winchester campaigns. Other records documented that the leg never healed properly, indicating that Martin Guth suffered from a lifelong problem of ulcers on this damaged limb.

After the War

Federal census records confirm that Martin returned to civilian life after war’s end, married in 1883, and had four children with his wife, Carrie E. Guth, only two of whom had survived by the turn of the century: daughter Maude (born on 19 July 1884 in New Mexico) and son, Charles (born in California in March 1893). A native of Texas born in October 1868, Carrie Guth was the daughter of a father and mother who had been born, respectively, in South Carolina and New York.

The California military register mentioned above also documents that Martin L. Guth sought work after the war in the Nevada mining industry. His work was described as “prospector” on that register and as “miner” on various other records of the period.

On 6 April and 17 August 1892, Martin Guth registered to vote at Butte City in Glenn County, California. Voter Registers for both periods described him as being a 47-year-old who was 5’9″ tall with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. The earlier record described him as being employed as a farmer while the latter described him as a laborer.

By 1900, Martin and Carrie were living apart. Carrie resided with their two children, Maude and Charles, in Bandon, Coos County, Oregon. Carrie supported her children on the wages of a dressmaker. Within a decade, Martin Guth was residing at the Veterans’ Home of California in Yount Township, Napa County, California.

He was subsequently admitted to the Mountain Branch of the network of U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Johnson City, Tennessee on 11 February 1912, and then discharged on 12 December 1920. Disabilities when admitted included an old compound fracture of right leg with chronic ulcer of that leg, defective vision (right eye), chronic bronchitis, and arteriosclerosis. His physical and personal characteristics at time of admission were: age (68), height (5’7″), complexion (fair), eye color (blue), hair (gray), religion (Protestant), occupation (miner), marital status (widower), nearest relative: “Mrs. Thandi Elliott” (daughter, Vallejo, California). His residence subsequent to discharge was Fallen, Nevada.

He was readmitted on 30 July 1912 – this time at the soldiers’ home in Leavenworth, Kansas. He was discharged on 29 September 1913. His daughter, Mrs. Maude Elliott, of Vallejo, California, was once again listed as his nearest living relative.

In 1920, Martin Guth lived alone on Fruitvale in Oakland, Alameda County, but remained active in his community throughout the decade. In 1921, he was appointed Post Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic’s Appomattox Post No. 50.

Two years later, the 18 May 1923 edition of The Modesto Evening News reported that he had been elected as one of 25 delegates to the Grand Army of the Republic’s national encampment, and would be representing G.A.R. Post No. 50 (Appomattox). Less than a year later, on 3 January 1924, he was appointed as a Junior Vice-Commander of his post (G.A.R.’s Appomattox Post No. 5o) during an installation ceremony in the Wigwam Hall of Oakland’s Pacific Building.

On 29 August 1925, according to the Oakland Tribune, “President Clara Stellman and Comrade Martin L. Guth left this week to attend the national encampment of the G.A.R. and the W.R.C. at Grand Rapids, Mich.” Four months earlier, he had joined fellow Appomattox Post members A. Rumsey, A. W. Search and J. W. Wert as “honored guests” at a meeting of the Appomattox Relief Corps No. 5, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic at which “President Clara Stellman, President of the corps, presided and one candidate was initiated,” and during which a “goodly sum was voted to needy members and comrades, and a committee was appointed on the Memorial Day committee.”

Among those celebrating Lincoln's birthday at a special February 1933 program sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic and its women's auxiliaries were (from left): Caroline Bost, Martin L. Guth, R. B. Dumser, F. R. Young, and E. A. May.

Among those celebrating Lincoln’s birthday at a special February 1933 program sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic and its women’s auxiliaries were (from left): Caroline Bost, Martin L. Guth, R. B. Dumser, F. R. Young, and E. A. May.

The 18 February 1928 edition of the Oakland Tribune then reported that Martin Guth “gave Lincoln’s farewell address” at a program presented “in honor of Lincoln’s birthday” by the Appomattox Relief Corps No. 5.

By 1930, Martin Guth was residing with Maude, her husband (Oregon native Ralph Elliott), and their son (California native, Jack, 1912-1949) at the Elliott home on Broadway in Oakland. Son-in-law, Ralph, supported the family on a barber’s salary. Maude and Ralph’s daugther, Mona (shown on prior census records as “Moynah” or “Moinah”) had married begun a life outside of the Elliott home in 1924.

Six days before Christmas in 1933, Martin L. Guth was one of the “guests of honor … at a luncheon meeting of the Dorothea Dix and Jennie L. Logan tents of the Daughters of Union Veterans held at the Veterans Memorial Building,” according to the Oakland Tribune. “Each of the veterans present received a gift from the Christmas tree which was installed in the dining room of the Veterans Building.”

Death and Interment

After a long life filled with adventure, Martin L. Guth died at the age of 91 on 11 October 1935 at the veterans’ facility in San Francisco, California. His modest funeral arrangements were made by Maude (Guth) Elliott with Halsted & Company of San Francisco. Chapel services were held at 1 p.m. on Monday, 14 October 1935, followed by a 2 p.m. interment in Section D-East, Grave 18 at the San Francisco National Cemetery (also known as the Presidio Cemetery). The 12 October 1935 edition of the Oakland Tribune reported his death as follows:

GUTH – In San Francisco, October 11, 1935, Martin Luther Guth, loving father of Mrs. Maude Elliott, devoted grandfather of Mrs. Mona Rupp and Jack Elliott, great grandfather of Barbara Jean Elliott; a past Commander of Appomattox Post G.A.R.

Funeral service will be held Monday, October 14, at 10 o’clock p.m. [sic] from the Mortuary of Halsted & Co., 1123 Sutter Street, San Francisco.


1. Baptismal Records, Jordan United Church of Christ. Allentown: 1844.

2. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65. Harrisburg: 1869.

3. California Voter Registers (Guth, Martin), in Great Registers (Collection No. 4-2A, CSL Roll No.: 14). Sacramento: California State Library, 1892.

4. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

5. Death Index (Guth, Martin L.; State File No.: 59682). Sacramento: State of California, Department of Health and Welfare, 1935.

6. Funeral Records (Guth, Martin L.), in Halsted & Company Funeral Records. San Francisco: History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

7. Interment Control Form (Guth, Martin), U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). College Park: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

8. Ledgers, U.S. National Soldiers’ Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.Washington, D.C., 1912-1935.

9. Military Records (Guth, Martin L.), in Military Department Records (ID No.: R186), California Offices of the Adjutant General and Secretary of State. Sacramento: California State Archive, 1910-1935.

10. G.A.R. Convention Brought to an End, in The Modesto Evening News. Modesto: 18 May 1923.

11. Oakland Tribune. Oakland: Various Dates:

  • Alameda County Lodges: Appomattox G.A.R., in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 9 January 1921;
  • Charles Patrick Is Installed as Commander, in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 6 January 1924;
  • Relief Thrift Committee to Meet on Friday, in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 2 May 1925;
  • Guth (death notice), in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 12 October 1935;
  • W.R.C. and G.A.R. Envoys Leave for Conventions, in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 29 August 1925;
  • Corps Plans Removal to New Site, in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 18 February 1928; and
  • Veterans Are Feted, in Oakland Tribune. Oakland: 20 December 1933.

12. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, California and Oregon: 1860, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.