“From 1820 to 1870, over seven and a half million immigrants came to the United States,” according to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall Association, “more than the entire population of the country in 1810.”
Nearly all of them came from northern and western Europe — about a third from Ireland and almost a third from Germany. Burgeoning companies were able to absorb all that wanted to work. Immigrants built canals and constructed railroads. They became involved in almost every labor-intensive endeavor in the country. Much of the country was built on their backs.
One of the German émigrés who helped his adopted homeland to progress in this way was Conrad J. Volkenand, a farmer who had raised pigs prior to beginning his own journey in search of religious and political freedom and greater economic opportunity. Born on 23 December 1839 in Widdershausen, Hesse, he arrived in the United States sometime around 1854, and apprenticed as a mason while residing in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Following his completion of that training, he moved to Schuylkill County’s nearby Borough of Ashland.
By 1861, he had relocated again – this time to the great Keystone State’s Luzerne County, where he secured employment as a blacksmith in Stockton. Unfortunately, his new-found stability was short lived as his adopted homeland descended into the all-too-familiar darkness of disunion.
Civil War Military Service
Like many of his fellow German immigrants, Conrad J. Volkenand became one of America’s earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s mid-April 1861 call for 75,000 volunteers to defend the U.S. capital following the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate troops. After enrolling for Civil War military service in Luzerne County on 21 August 1861 at the age of 21, he then officially mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 17 August 1861 as a 1st Sergeant (also known as Sergeant-Major) with Company K of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
* Note: Company K was raised with the intent of being an “all-German company” composed of native-born and naturalized German-Americans, as well as relatively recent immigrants from Germany. Its founder, George Junker, was a 26-year-old German native who lived and worked as a tombstone carver in Allentown, Lehigh County. 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.
Junker was subsequently assigned to command the men he recruited as Captain of Company K. Interestingly, Conrad Volkenand entered the service as a 1st Sergeant – a rank several grades higher than what most newly-enlisted soldiers were typically accorded, signaling the likelihood that he had had some degree of military training or service prior to his emigration from Germany.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, Sergeant-Major Volkenand and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians 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. The next day, 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.
Acclimated somewhat to their new way of life, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers became part of the U.S. Army when they were officially mustered into federal service on 24 September. Three days later, the regiment was attached to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, they were on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed infantrymen marched behind their Regimental Band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when they would be shipped south.
Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” – so named for a large chestnut tree located nearby. The site, situated roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C., would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin.”
On October 11, they marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a mid-October letter home, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, E, G, H, and K) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Also around this time, Captain Junker issued his first Special Order:
I. 15 minutes after breakfast every tent will be cleaned. The commander of each tent will be held responsible for it, and every soldier must obey the orders of the tent commander. If not, said commanders will report such men to the orderly Sgt. who will report them to headquarters.
II. There will be company drills every two hours during the day, including regimental drills with knapsacks. No one will be excused except by order of the regimental surgeon. The hours will be fixed by the commander, and as it is not certain therefore, every man must stay in his quarter, being always ready for duty. The roll will be called each time and anyone in camp found not answering will be punished the first time with extra duty. The second with carrying the 75 lb. weights, increased to 95 lb. The talking in ranks is strictly forbidden. The first offense will be punished with carrying 80 lb. weights increased to 95 lbs. for four hours.
Meanwhile, while other members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers shipped home muskets and other souvenirs seized from Confederate troops during this phase of duty, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand was safeguarding an entirely different type of keepsake – a Bible that he would carry with him for the remainder of his days – one given to him on 12 November 1861 by a chaplain stationed with him at Camp Griffin.
Around this same time, Henry Wharton was penning another letter home:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….
On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review – one that was overseen this time by the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Tilghman Good. Their afternoon was then devoted to brigade and division drills. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862. Marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church, they were then transported by rail to Alexandria, where they boarded the steamship City of Richmond. Upon reaching the Washington Arsenal, they were reequipped, and then marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, they hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January, the 47th Pennsylvanians had commenced boarding – enlisted men first, followed by the officers. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, they then sailed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the United States, was still strategically important due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.
By early February 1862, the 47th Pennsylvanians were disembarking in Key West, Florida, where they were immediately assigned to garrison duty at Fort Taylor. Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened fortifications, felled trees and built new roads. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, they paraded through the streets of Key West and attended area church services to introduce themselves to local residents.
Unfortunately, disease became a most fearsome foe for the 47th during this phase of duty as multiple members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were felled by typhoid fever, dysentery, and/or chronic diarrhea, and confined to the post hospital at Fort Taylor. A fair number of those then died, and were laid to rest at the post cemetery. Still others were deemed too ill to continued serving and were honorably discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.
From mid-June through July, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where they made camp before being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were rotated among the regiments present, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire, including the men from K Company who served on picket duty beginning 5 July.
Saint John’s Bluff, Florida and the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th 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. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly 25 miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th Pennsylvanians moved inland where, on 3 October, they captured artillery and ammunition stores that had been abandoned by Confederate forces as they fled the bombardment of the bluff by Union gunboats.
The Union detachment was then ordered to press on. Advancing up the river, the 47th’s Companies E and K then participated in the 5 October capture of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a special mission led by Captain Charles Yard.
A day later, while protected by the Union gunboat Hale, they sailed another 200 miles upriver, aboard the Union gunboat Darlington (formerly a Confederate steamer). As they neared Hawkinsville, they also seized the Governor Milton, a Confederate steamer engaged in furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies to Confederate Army units throughout the region, sailed it back down river, and moved it behind Union lines.
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman Good and Lieutenant Colonel George Warren (“G. W.”) Alexander, the entire 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry next joined with other Union regiments to engage the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge. Their primary mission was to destroy that bridge – a key piece of the South’s railroad infrastructure that Confederate leaders would not allow to be eliminated without a fight.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, the Union troops met resistance from yet another entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on them 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. After relieving the 7th Connecticut, the 47th Pennsylvanians engaged in two hours of intense fighting with the enemy before being forced to withdraw by their depleted ammunition.
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 Captain George Junker and several of his enlisted men were mortally wounded by minie balls during the intense fighting near the Frampton Plantation. 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 Gottlieb Fiesel, whose skull was fractured by an exploding artillery shell, somehow survived, but contracted meningitis following brain surgery, and passed away at Hilton Head on 9 November 1862. Private Edward Frederick lasted a short while longer, but succumbed to the post-surgical complication of brain fever on 16 February 1863 at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Other wounded men ultimately rallied, including Privates Manoah J. Carl, Jacob F. Hertzog, Frederick Knell, Samuel Kunfer, Samuel Reinert, John Schimpf, William Schrank, and Paul Strauss. Meanwhile, the command vacancy created when Captain Junker fell in battle was filled immediately by 1st Lieutenant Charles W. Abbott.
On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers returned to Hilton Head, where several members of the regiment were assigned to serve on the funeral guard for General Ormsby M. Mitchel, who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. Ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, they would spend much of 1863 garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South.
As Christmas came and went and the New Year dawned, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand joined his fellow K Company soldiers and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies D, F, and H in garrisoning Fort Jefferson in the remote Dry Tortugas area of Florida (under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Warren Alexander) while the men from Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I continued to guard Key West’s Fort Taylor (under the Command of Colonel Tilghman Good).
On 25 February 1864, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians set off for a phase of service in which their regiment would truly make history. Steaming for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, they arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February. Transported next by train to Brashear City and then by steamer 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.
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.
Once again, casualties were severe with multiple members of the regiment killed, severely wounded or reported as missing in action. Still others were captured by Confederate troops. Held initially as prisoners of war at Pleasant Hill and Mansfield, Louisiana or at the CSA hospital at Shreveport, they were subsequently marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as POWs until released during prisoner exchanges from July through November. (Sadly, at least three members of the 47th never made it out 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 until 22 April. Retreating to Alexandria, Louisiana, they and their fellow Union soldiers next scored a clear victory against the Confederates near Monett’s Ferry in the Battle of Cane River on 23 April 1864.
Meanwhile, from April 30 to 10 May, while temporarily assigned to 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 fluctuating water levels and rapids of the Red River.
Beginning 16 May, Captain Charles Abbott and the men from K Company then moved with the majority of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, Louisiana, reaching New Orleans on 20 June.
Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s performance during the Red River Expedition, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln, and later spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.
The service by Pennsylvania’s 47th Volunteer Infantry was, however, far from over.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
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, arriving in Virginia on 28 July; they then reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.
Due to this delay, however, Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand and his fellow K Company comrades missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, and also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the now fully-staffed 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August, 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” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early. The 47th Pennsylvania then engaged in its next major encounter during the Battle of Berryville, Virginia from 3-4 September.
But, as Sheridan’s campaign was ramping up, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was also undergoing a major transformation as multiple officers and enlisted men mustered out at Berryville, Virginia upon expiration of their three-year terms of service. Among those departing on 18 September 1864 were the captains of Companies D, E and F, and Sergeant-Major Conrad Volkenand of Company K.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Conrad Volkenand returned home to Pennsylvania where, in 1865, he wed Catherina Elisabeth Ringleben (1847-1890). A native of Philadelphia who had been born on 20 February 1847, she was a daughter of Andrew Ringleben (1817-1873) and Mary E. (Wagner) Ringleben (1832-1898), a native of Hessen, Germany.
He also launched his business career around this same time, opening a saloon business in Luzerne County. Daughter Anna Gertrude then opened her eyes for the first time at their home in Hazleton sometime around 1866. Three years later, on 11 May 1869, he joined his local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (Robison Post No. 20) – an organization he would continue to actively support for the remainder of his life.
Still operating his restaurant and saloon in Hazleton by 1870, he continued to reside in that borough with his wife and daughter Anna G. Volkenand. His real and personal estate holdings were valued at $9,500. He also founded the National Rifles in Hazleton that same year, and was commissioned as Captain on 22 March 1870 (and then later as Major – a title he would hold for the remainder of his life). Under his leadership, this local militia organization also became a unit, on 10 June 1870, of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 9th Division.
Five years later, on 30 March 1875, he applied for a U.S. Passport. Confirming for the record that he had been born in “Widdershausen” on 20 December 1839, he also noted that he was married to 29-year-old Catherine Elisabeth, that they had a nine-year-old daughter named Anna Gertrude, and that he was 35 years old and 5’11½” tall with brown hair, hazel eyes, a fair complexion, and a medium-sized nose, mouth and chin.
By 1880, the federal census taker in his Hazleton neighborhood documented that he was the operator of a hotel and saloon business at 37-39 East Broad Street, and that his household now included his wife, daughter, and Sophia Reinhold, a 19-year-old servant. Newspapers of the period also reported on his election by the general public to Hazleton’s borough council and, in 1880, as Luzerne County Recorder. Daughter Anna then wed Joseph McHale sometime mid-decade, and welcomed the birth of two sons – Conrad Joseph McHale circa 1887 and Joseph J. W. McHale on 3 July 1889.
But there were also moments of deep sadness. According to the 28 April 1888 edition of the Hazleton Plain Speaker:
Shortly before noon yesterday Catharine, the wife Ernst Lemmerhirt, and sister of Major C. J. and Andrew Volkenand, breathed her last at the family residence, on Church street, Diamond Addition, in the 51st year of her age. The deceased had been ill for some time and her recovery was not expected. The funeral will take place on Sunday afternoon, at 3 o’clock. Services will be held in Christ’s German Lutheran church by Rev. E. A. Bauer and interment will be made in the Vine street cemetery.
Two years later, the family then endured another tragedy with the on 26 January 1890 death of Joseph J. W. McHale (1889-1890), Conrad Volkenand’s youngest grandson. According to Hazleton Plain Speaker:
Joseph J. W. McHale, son of Anna and the late Joseph McHale, died at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon at the residence of Major C. J. Volkenand, on East Broad street, aged 6 months and 21 days. The funeral will take place Sunday afternoon, at 2 o’clock. Services will be held in Christ German church by Rev. E. A. Bauer. Interment in the Vine street cemetery.
Illness, Death and Interment
Sometime around this same time, Conrad Volkenand also fell ill with Bright’s disease (chronic nephritis), a severe inflammation of the kidneys often associated with heart disease, and died at his home in Hazleton during the evening of 15 March 1890. Two days later, the Hazleton Plain Speaker then published the following tribute:
As a chronicler of passing events it becomes our duty this morning to announce the death of Major C. J. Volkenand, which occurred at his residence, on East Broad street, about half-past ten o’clock Saturday night, after an illness of five weeks with Bright’s disease of the kidneys, aged 50 years, 2 months and 25 days.
The deceased was born December 20, 1839, at Wiederhausen, Kurhessen, Germany. At the age of fifteen he came to this country and located at Tamaqua, where he learned the trade of a mason. He left there and went to Ashland. After a short residence in that place he came to Hazleton and lived here ever since. At the breaking out of the rebellion he enlisted in Company K., 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Capt. George Yunkers in command, which was mustered in at Allentown August 5, 1861. On September 17, of the same year, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He served with the company until the expiration of his term on September 18, 1864. He participated in many of the severest battles and it is said that he was as brave a soldier as ever enlisted. In 1865 he was married to Miss Catherine E. Ringleben, of town, who with one daughter, Annie, widow of the late Joseph H. McHale, and a little grandson in whom he was particularly interested, survive him. After he was married he engaged in the saloon business and has been ever since. On May 11, 1869, he was mustered in Robison Post, No. 20, G.A.R., and has been one of its most active members, having held several offices and at the time of his death was Past Commander of the Post.
In 1870 Mr. Volkenand organized the National Rifles in town and was made the captain of the company. His commission dated from March 22nd of that year. On the 10th of June the same year the company was attached to the National Guards of Pennsylvania, in the Brigade of the Ninth Division, composed of the uniformed militia of Columbia, Luzerne and Wyoming counties. Later he received his commission as Major.
In 1880 he was elected Recorder of this county and held the office three years. He also served as a member of the borough council for three years. He always took a deep interest in secret societies. He was a member of Encampment No. 27, Union Veteran Legion, Independent Order of Red Men, Good Brothers, Harugari, Knights of the Golden Eagle, the Mace and Lager, Royal Arcanum, and an honorary member of the Maennerchor and Concordia Singing Societies. Major Volkenand had in his possession a Testament which he prized very highly and always carried it with him. It was presented to him by the camp chaplain at Camp Griffin, Florida, November 12, 1861.
The deceased has a brother, A. F. Volkenand, and a sister, Mrs. Nicholas Eichler, who are residents of town. His father, a brother and two sisters are still in Germany. His father is quite old and is now in his eighty-first year.
The funeral will take place Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock. In accordance with a request made by him some time since it will be in charge of Robison Post and the dirge will be rendered by the Liberty Band. The services will be in Christ German church. A German and an English sermon will be preached. The remains will be interred in the Vine street cemetery.
Major Volkenand enjoyed a very large acquaintance and by his death another old soldier has answered the last roll call and fought his last battle.
The day after his interment at Hazleton’s Vine Street Cemetery during the afternoon of 19 March 1890, the same newspaper continued to honor his memory as it reported on his funeral services:
The funeral of the late Major C.J. Volkenand took place yesterday afternoon from the family residence, on East Broad street, and was one of the largest that has ever been seen in this town. The remains were laid to rest in a handsome and richly draped red cedar casket which was lined with a beautiful cream satin lining. The casket was trimmed with heavy copper and gold handles, with a name plate of same material, on which was engraved the name and age of the deceased. The floral offerings consisted of a wreath from the Ladies’ Auxiliary to Robison Post, and a pillow bearing the word ‘Father’ in blue immortelles. Short services were held at the house, and a selection was sung by the Concordia Singing Society, after which the funeral cortege proceeded in the following order to Christ German Lutheran church [now the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church]: Kiowas Tribe, I.O. of R.M., Good Brothers Lodge, Harugari Lodge, Knights of the Golden Eagle and Commandery of the same Order, Concordia Singing Society and member of the Maennerchor, the Royal Arcanum, Union Veteran Legion, Hazleton Liberty Band and Robison Post, No. 20, G.A.R., where the pastor, Rev. E. A. Bauer, preached a German sermon, and Rev. John Wagner preached in English. The remains were interred in the Vine street cemetery. At the grave services were conducted by Robison Post, and at the conclusion the Red Men let a white dove fly over the grave, emblematic of the spirit taking its flight. The Liberty Band played a funeral dirge. All the societies of which the deceased was a member attended the funeral in a body.
His widow then followed him in death later that same year when she passed away in Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania on 26 November 1890. The next day, the Hazleton Plain Speaker also reported on her passing:
Mrs. C. J. Volkenand, wife of the late Major Volkenand died at Danville on Tuesday evening. Her death was a surprise to her friends for it was expected she would finally recover. A telegram was received by H. W. Heidenriech, trustee for the estate, on Tuesday afternoon, informing him of Mrs. Volkenand’s serious illness. Yesterday morning, her daughter, Mrs. R. P. Reilly and Mr. Reilly left for Danville. They returned in the evening and brought the body with them. Deceased was a daughter of Mrs. Mary Ringleben and a sister to Mr. Andrew Ringleben, Mrs. Philip Keiper, Mrs. Charles Keiper and Mrs. Henry Schaffer. She was aged 44 years 9 months and 5 days, and was a native of Philadelphia. The funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. Services in Christ German Lutheran Church, German and English. Interment in Vine street cemetery.
What Happened to Conrad Volkenand’s Daughter and Surviving Grandchildren?
After being widowed by her first husband sometime during the 1800s, Anna Gertrude (Volkenand) McHale, the only child of Conrad and Catherine Volkenand, remarried. United in marriage to Lansford, Pennsylvania native Robert P. Riley sometime around 1891, she and her second husband then welcomed the Hazleton birth of daughter Catharine E. Riley, who ultimately went on to wed Baltimore, Maryland native Nathan R. Butler (on 27 June 1922); after a long full life, she then passed away in Massachusetts on 5 October 1991.
Her step-brother, Conrad J. McHale, the other surviving grandchild of Conrad Volkenand, went on to become the chief accountant for The Lehigh Valley Coal Company’s Drifton Shops before accepting a position as an accountant with the Jeanesville Iron Works in Hazleton, Luzerne County.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Catherine Lemmerhirt (obituary of Conrad J. Volkenand’s sister). Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Hazleton Plain Speaker, 28 April 1888.
3. Irish and German Immigration, in U.S. History Online Textbook. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Independence Hall Association, retrieved online 1 February 2018.
4. Joseph J. W. McHale (obituary). Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Hazleton Plain Speaker, 25 January 1890.
5. Major C. J. Volkenand, in History of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties, PA, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers. New York, New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 1880.
6. Major C. J. Volkenand (obituary and funeral coverage). Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Hazleton Plain Speaker, 17 and 20 March 1890.
7. McHale, Conrad J., Mary Hanlon, Joseph McHale and Anna (Volkenand) McHale, and Patrick H. and Ellen (Ferry) Hanlong; and Catherine E. Riley, Nathan R. Butler, Robert Riley, and Maiden Name of Wife’s Mother (Volkenand), in Marriage License Docket. Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Luzerne County, 2 October 1918; 27 June 1922.
8. Mrs. C. J. Volkenand (obituary). Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Hazleton Plain Speaker, 28 November 1890.
9. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
10. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1870, 1880.
11. Volkenand, C. J., Catherine Elisabeth Volkenand and Anna Gertrude Volkenand, in U.S. Passport Applications. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 30 March 1875.
12. Volkenwond, Conrad J., in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.