Charles Bachman — From Pennsylvania Native to Neighborly Iowan

Charles Bachman’s jewelry shop, Main Street, Ottumwa, Iowa (1906, public domain).

Born in Fort Washington, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on 29 June 1840, Charles Bachman was a respected jeweler and businessman, first in his native state of Pennsylvania and then in his adopted hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa following America’s Civil War. A son of Henry Bachman, Charles became a Philadelphian while still an infant when he and his family relocated to the Keystone State’s largest city.

He then became an Allentonian at the age of 12 as his family relocated yet again—this time to the city of Allentown in Lehigh County. It was in Allentown, in fact, where he learned the trade of watchmaking—and in Philadelphia where, as a 20-year-old man, he continued to hone and perfect that art.

He would later go on to wed and make a home with Elizabeth Sarah Renninger. A native of Allentown born on 11 November 1854, she was a daughter of Aaron Groth Renninger (1815-1894) and Eliza Julia (Schreiber) Renninger (1822-1898).

Civil War

Camp Curtin (Harper’s Weekly, 1861, public domain).

As 1860 waned and 1861 dawned, residents of Philadelphia and northward were kept on tenterhooks by the steady drumbeat of news regarding the secession of America’s southern states. After Fort Sumter fell to Confederate forces in mid-April of 1861, Charles Bachman and his neighbors knew it would only be a matter of months before men of all ages would be called upon to defend America’s Union.

On 18 August 1861, he became one of those early defenders as he enrolled for military service at the age of 21 in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The initial recruitment for members to fill Company B of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had begun in the same city where that new regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, would later go on to serve three terms as mayor.

Bachman then officially mustered in for duty two days later as a Private with the 47th Pennsylvania’s B Company at Camp Curtin in Dauphin County. Military records at the time described him as being 5 feet 7 inches tall with sandy hair, a light complexion and gray eyes.

Note: The spelling of his surname was spelled incorrectly on various transcriptions of military records over the years as “Backman,” but has since been confirmed as “Bachman” via multiple sources, including his  grave marker.

He initially served under Emanuel P. Rhoads, grandson of Peter Rhoads, Jr., former president of the Northampton Bank. Often referred to as “E. P.,” Rhoads had been appointed as Company B’s captain after re-enrolling following his completion of his Three Months’ Service as a First Lieutenant with Company I of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Note: B Company was one of the first two of four companies from the city of Allentown in total to muster in for duty with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Company I was the second.

Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics, the 47th Pennsylvanians headed for Washington, D.C. Stationed about two miles from the White House, they made their new home at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. Henry D. Wharton, a Musician with the regiment’s C Company, penned the following update for the Sunbury American newspaper on 22 September:

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, the men of Company B became part of the federal military service, mustering into the U.S. Army with their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Three days later, on 27 September—a rainy day, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.

The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.

Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:

On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….

We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….

There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….

Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.

On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. Also around this time, companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:

The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.

Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….

On Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Four days later, Company B’s drummer boy, Alfred Eisenbraun, was dead—the second “man” from the regiment to die since the 47th Pennsylvania’s formation. (The first was another drummer boy, John Boulton Young of C Company, who was felled by smallpox at the Kalorama eruptive fever hospital in Georgetown on 17 October.)

Soldiering On

In late October 1861 according to Schmidt, the men from Companies B, G and H woke at 3 a.m., assembled a day’s worth of rations, marched four miles from camp, and took over picket duties from the 49th New York:

Company B was stationed in the vicinity of a Mrs. Jackson’s house, with Capt. Kacy’s Company H on guard around the house. The men of Company B had erected a hut made of fence rails gathered around an oak tree, in front of which was the house and property, including a persimmon tree whose fruit supplied them with a snack. Behind the house was the woods were the Rebels had been fired on last Wednesday morning while they were chopping wood there.

On 6 November, Private Charles Bachman was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Less than two weeks later, Henry Wharton revealed still more details about life at Camp Griffin via a 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….

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review overseen by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.” As a reward—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brannan obtained new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.

The guard duties in rainy weather and frequent marches, however, gradually began to wear the men down; a number of 47th Pennsylvanians fell ill with fever. Several contracted Variola (smallpox), which was also sickening Confederate troops stationed nearby. Sent back to Union Army hospitals in Washington, D.C., at least two members of the regiment died there while receiving treatment.

1862

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

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, Corporal Charles Bachman and his fellow 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 sent by rail to Alexandria, and sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

According to Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment, those preparations ceased on Monday, 27 January, at 10 a.m. when:

The regiment was formed and instructed by Lt. Col. Alexander ‘that we were about drumming out a member who had behaved himself unlike a soldier.’ …. The prisoner, Pvt. James C. Robinson of Company I, was a 36 year old miner from Allentown who had been ‘disgracefully discharged’ by order of the War Department. Pvt. Robinson was marched out with martial music playing and a guard of nine men, two men on each side and five behind him at charge bayonets. The music then struck up with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ as the procession was marched up and down in front of the regiment, and Pvt. Robinson was marched out of the yard.

Reloading then resumed. By that afternoon, when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. The officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

The regiment’s men arrived in Key West in February and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvanians introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men attended to their spiritual needs by attending services at local churches. While here, the men of the 47th drilled in heavy artillery and other tactics—often as much as eight hours per day. They also felled trees, built roads and strengthened the installation’s fortifications.

Their time was made more difficult by the prevalence of disease. Many of the 47th’s men lost their lives to typhoid and other tropical diseases, or to dysentery and other ailments spread from soldier to soldier by poor sanitary conditions. Private Solomon Diehl of Company B was one of those struck down in this manner.

But there were lighter moments as well. According to a letter penned by Henry Wharton on 27 February 1862, the regiment commemorated the birthday of former U.S. President George Washington with a parade, a special ceremony involving the reading of Washington’s farewell address to the nation and the firing of cannon at the fort, and a sack race and other games on 22 February. The festivities then continued two days later when the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental band hosted an officers’ ball at which “all parties enjoyed themselves, for three o’clock of the morning sounded on their ears before any motion was made to move homewards.” This was then followed by a concert by the regimental band on Wednesday evening, 26 February.

Ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvania camped near Fort Walker and then quartered in the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Duties of 3rd Brigade members at this time involved hazardous picket duty to the north of their main camp. According to Pennsylvania military historian, Samuel P. Bates, the 47th’s soldiers were known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan.”

Illustration of the Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, public domain).

On 30 September the 47th was sent on a return expedition to Florida where B Company participated with its regiment and other Union forces from 1 to 3 October in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked from gunboat-escorted troop carriers at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek. With the 47th Pennsylvania in the lead and braving alligators, skirmishing Confederates and killer snakes, the brigade negotiated 25 miles of thickly forested swamps in order to capture the bluff and pave the way for the Union’s occupation of Jacksonville, Florida. The members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s E and K companies were also subsequently involved in the capture of a Confederate steamer, the Gov. Milton, near Hawkinsville when they were sent out briefly on detached duty.

In a report to his superiors, filed from Mount Pleasant Landing, Florida on 2 October 1862, 47th Pennsylvania Colonel Tilghman H. Good described the Union Army’s assault on Saint John’s Bluff:

In accordance with orders received I landed my regiment on the bank of Buckhorn Creek at 7 o’clock yesterday morning. After landing I moved forward in the direction of Parkers plantation, about 1 mile, being then within about 14 miles of said plantation. Here I halted to await the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. I advanced two companies of skirmishers toward the house, with instructions to halt in case of meeting any of the enemy and report the fact to me. After they had advanced about three-quarters of a mile they halted and reported some of the enemy ahead. I immediately went forward to the line and saw some 5 or 6 mounted men about 700 or 800 yards ahead. I then ascended a tree, so that I might have a distinct view of the house and from this elevated position I distinctly saw one company of infantry of infantry close by the house, which I supposed to number about 30 or 40 men, and also some 60 or 70 mounted men. After waiting for the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers until 10 o’clock, and it not appearing, I dispatched a squad of men back to the landing for a 6-pounder field howitzer which had been kindly offered to my service by Lieutenant Boutelle, of the Paul Jones. This howitzer had been stationed on a flat-boat to protect our landing. The party, however, did not arrive with the piece until 12 o’clock, in consequence of the difficulty of dragging it through the swamp. Being anxious to have as little delay as possible, I did not await the arrival of the howitzer, but at 11 a.m. moved forward, and as I advanced the enemy fled.

After reaching the house I awaited the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut and the howitzer. After they arrived I moved forward to the head of Mount Pleasant Creek to a bridge, at which place I arrived at 2 p.m. Here I found the bridge destroyed, but which I had repaired in a short time. I then crossed it and moved down on the south bank toward Mount Pleasant Landing. After moving about 1 mile down the bank of the creek my skirmishing companies came upon a camp, which evidently had been very hastily evacuated, from the fact that the occupants had left a table standing with a sumptuous meal already prepared for eating. On the center of the table was placed a fine, large meat pie still warm, from which one of the party had already served his plate. The skirmishers also saw 3 mounted men leave the place in hot haste. I also found a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, with 23 tents, which, for want of transportation, I was obliged to destroy. After moving about a mile farther on I came across another camp, which also indicated the same sudden evacuation. In it I found the following articles … breech-loading carbines, 12 double-barreled shot-guns, 8 breech-loading Maynard rifles, 11 Enfield rifles, and 96 knapsacks. These articles I brought along by having the men carry them. There were, besides, a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, including 16 tents, which, for the same reason as stated, I ordered to be destroyed. I then pushed forward to the landing, where I arrived at 7 p.m.

We drove the enemys [sic] skirmishers in small parties along the entire march. The march was a difficult one, in consequence of meeting so many swamps almost knee-deep.

On 3 October, Good filed an update from Saint John’s Bluff, Florida, noting that:

At 9 o’clock last night Lieutenant Cannon reported to me that his command, consisting of one section of the First Connecticut Battery, was then coming up the creek on flat-boats with a view of landing. At 4 o’clock this morning a safe landing was effected [sic] and the command was ready to move. The order to move to Saint John’s Bluff reached me at 4 p.m. yesterday. In accordance with it I put the column in motion immediately and moved cautiously up the bank of the Saint John’s River, the skirmishing companies occasionally seeing small parties of the enemy’s cavalry retiring in our front as we advanced. When about 2 miles from the bluff the left wing of the skirmishing line came upon another camp of the enemy, which, however, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, I did not take time to examine, it being then already dark.

After my arrival at the bluff, it then being 7:30 o’clock, I dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander with two companies back to the last-named camp (which I found, from a number of papers left behind, to have been called Camp Hopkins and occupied by the Milton Artillery, of Florida) to reconnoiter and ascertain its condition. Upon his return he reported that from every appearance the skedaddling of the enemy was as sudden as in the other instances already mentioned, leaving their trunks and all the camp equipage behind; also a small store of commissary supplies, sugar, rice, half barrel of flour, one bag of salt, &c., including 60 tents which I have brought in this morning. The commissary stores were used by the troops of my command.

Integration of the Regiment

On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls several young Black men who had been freed from enslavement on plantations in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina:

  • Just 16 years old at the time of his enlistment, Abraham Jassum joined the 47th Pennsylvania from a recruiting depot on 5 October 1862. Military records indicate that he mustered in as “negro undercook” with Company F at Beaufort, South Carolina, described him as being 5 feet 6 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and stated that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” Records also indicate that he continued to serve with F Company until he mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 when his three-year term of enlistment expired.
  • Also signing up as an Under Cook that day at the Beaufort recruiting depot was 33-year-old Bristor Gethers. Although his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives listed him as “Presto Gettes,” his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing spelled his name as “Bristor Gethers” and his wife’s name as “Rachel Gethers.” This index also includes the aliases of “Presto Garris” and “Bristor Geddes.” He was described on military records as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. He mustered in as “Negro under cook” with Company F on 5 October 1862, and mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service. Federal records indicate that he and his wife applied for his Civil War Pension from South Carolina.
  • Also attached initially to Company F upon his 15 October 1862 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of Under Cook with the 47th Pennsylvania at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and then transferred to Company H on 11 October 1864. Like Abraham Jassum, Edward Jassum also continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until being honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service.

More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.

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

From 21-23 October, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again. This time, however, their luck would run out. Their brigade was bedeviled by snipers and faced massive resistance from an entrenched Confederate battery, which opened fire on the Union troops as they headed through an open cotton field. Those trying to reach the higher ground of the Frampton Plantation were pounded by Confederate artillery and infantry hidden in the surrounding forests.

Charging into the fire, Union forces fought the Confederates where they found them, pushing them into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. At this juncture, the 47th then relieved the 7th Connecticut, but after two hours of exchanging fire while attempting, unsuccessfully, to take the ravine and bridge, the men of the 47th were forced by their dwindling ammunition to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania at Pocotaligo were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; another two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded, including Privates Martin W. Leisenring and Obadiah Pfeiffer. Several resting places for 47th soldiers remain unidentified, their locations lost to sloppy Army or hospital records management, or because one comrade was forced to hastily bury or leave behind the body of another while dodging fire or retreating.

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], 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.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania headed back to Hilton Head, where members of the regiment were assigned to serve on the honor guard during the funeral of Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South. The town of Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s self-governed community created after the Civil War, was also named for him. Members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were awarded the high honor of firing the salute over the grave of the departed general.

On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another Black man escape from slavery near Beaufort when they added 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5 feet 4 inch-tall laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, Haywood was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and served until the expiration of his own three-year term of service on 31 October 1865.

1863

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 for the men of the 47th Pennsylvania was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. Captain Rhoads and his B Company men joined with Companies A, C, E, G, and I in duties 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.

In a letter to the Sunbury American on 23 August 1863, Henry Wharton described Thanksgiving celebrations held by the regiment and residents of Key West and a yacht race the following Saturday at which participants had “an opportunity of tripping the ‘light, fantastic toe,’ to the fine music of the 47th Band, lead by that excellent musician, Prof. Bush.”

The year would draw to a close having been another noteworthy one—not only for the casualties wrought by disease—but for the clear commitment of the men of the 47th to preserving the Union and ending the brutal practice of slavery across the United States. Many, like Corporal Charles Bachman, chose to reenlist when their terms of service expired, opting to finish the fight rather than returning home to families and friends. Bachman re-upped at Fort Taylor on 12 October 1863.

1864

In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by 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, Colonel Tilghman Good, in consultation with his superiors, assigned a group of men from Company A to special duty, and charged them with expanding the fort and conducting raids on area cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence across Florida. Graeffe and his men subsequently turned the fort into both their base of operations and a shelter for pro-Union supporters, men and women escaping slavery, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops. According to Schmidt:

Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard. Lt. Harris was directed to tow the Matchless if necessary.

Punta Rassa was probably the location where the troops disembarked, and was located on the tip of the southwest delta of the Caloosahatchee River … near what is now the mainland or eastern end of the Sanibel Causeway… Fort Myers was established further up the Caloosahatchee at a location less vulnerable to storms and hurricanes. In 1864, the Army built a long wharf and a barracks 100 feet long and 50 feet wide at Punta Rassa, and used it as an embarkation point for shipping north as many as 4400 Florida cattle….

Capt. Graeffe and company were disembarked on the evening of January 7, and Gen. Woodbury ordered the company to occupy Fort Myers on the south side of the Caloosahatchee, about 12 miles from its mouth and 150 miles from Key West. Shortly after, [a detachment of men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s A Company stationed on Useppa Island] was also ordered to proceed to Fort Myers and join the main body of Company A, the entire command under direct orders of the General who was in the area…. Gen. Woodbury returned to Key West on the Honduras prior to January 19, and the command was left in charge of Capt. Graeffe who dispatched various patrols in search of refugees for enlistment and for activities involving Confederate cattle shipments.

Company A’s muster roll provides the following account of the expedition under command of Capt. Graeffe: ‘The company left Key West Fla Jany 4. 64 enroute to Fort Meyers Coloosahatche River [sic] Fla. were joined by a detachment of the U.S. 2nd Fla Rangers at Punta Rossa Fla took possession of Fort Myers Jan 10. Captured a Rebel Indian Agent and two other men.’

Graeffe’s men, in fact, captured three Confederate sympathizers at the fort, including a blockade runner and spy named Griffin and an Indian interpreter and agent named Lewis. Charged with multiple offenses against the United States, they were transported to Key West, where they were kept under guard by the Provost Marshal—Major William Gausler, third-in-command of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:

A small contingent of 20 men and two officers from the Pennsylvania 47th Regiment, led by Captain Henry Crain of the 2nd Regiment of Florida, arrived at the fort on January 7, 1864. A short time later, the party was joined by another small detachment of the 47th under the command of Captain Richard A. Graeffe. Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.

Meanwhile, Colonel Good and his officers had begun preparing to take the members of all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 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 (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the now almost fully reunited regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.

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

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

From 14-26 March, the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana, by way of New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington. From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron, James, and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania at Natchitoches. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty on 22 June at Morganza. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”

Often short on food and water throughout their long, grueling trek through enemy territory, the 47th Pennsylvanians encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill on the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon. On 8 April, they engaged in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield), losing 60 of their friends to fierce gun and cannon fire. In the confusion, some were reported as killed in action, but apparently survived.

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, and the 47th nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, who had been severely wounded in both legs.

On that day, now known as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also recaptured a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during the earlier Confederate assault. During that particular skirmish, 68-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls of Company C was wounded, as was Sergeant William Pyers of the same company, who had picked up the American flag when Walls fell.

In B Company, John Fries and Tilghman H. Reinsmith were wounded; Edward Fink was killed. Others were captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war (POWs) by Confederate forces until released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, or November. At least three members of the 47th died while in captivity at what was the largest Confederate prison west of the Mississippi River while still others remain missing to this day, possibly having been hastily interred on or between battlefields—or in unmarked prison graves.

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 11 days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night, after marching 45 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 continue on.

The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”). Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvania supported Emory’s artillery.

Meanwhile, other Emory troops 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. Encamping overnight before resuming their march toward Rapides Parish, the 47th Pennsylvanians finally arrived on 26 April in Alexandria, where they camped for 17 more days (through 13 May 1864).

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

During this time (from April 30 through May 10), the 47th helped to build a dam across the Red River, a timber structure which helped Union gunboats more easily navigate the river’s fluctuating water levels.

The Controversy

While these battles, marches, and other military actions were all unfolding, a controversial incident roiled not only the 47th Pennsylvania’s officers’ corps, but senior levels of the Union Army’s leadership in Louisiana.

The 11 May 1864 Evening Star in Washington, D.C. gave a glimpse into the situation with the startling news that Major William H. Gausler and 1st Lieutenants W. H. R. Hangen and William Reese of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had been dismissed from military service “for cowardice in the actions of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill on the 8th and 9th of April, and for having tendered their resignations while under such charges” (AGO Special Order No. 169, 6 May 1864).

The allegations against the 47th Pennsylvania’s officers would continue to trouble the hearts and minds of regimental leaders for months as the situation went unresolved—despite official protests that were lodged by Good and others who condemned the allegations of cowardice against Gausler, Hangen, and Reese as grossly inaccurate and unfair. The stain was finally removed from the regiment when President Abraham Lincoln stepped in. According to the History Book Club’s The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 8 (derived from Collected Works. The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1953), President Lincoln personally reviewed and reversed the Adjutant General’s findings against Gausler. On 14 October 1864, Lincoln wrote to U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

Please send the papers of Major Gansler [sic], by the bearer, Mr. Longnecker. A. LINCOLN

An annotation  to Lincoln’s collected works explains that “Mr. Longnecker was probably Henry C. Longnecker of Allentown, Pennsylvania,” and makes clear that, although Major W. H. Gausler had indeed been dismissed for cowardice, President Lincoln disagreed with the decision, and overturned it on 17 October 1864. The notation further explains, “Although the name appears as ‘Gansler’ in Special Orders, it is ‘Gausler’ on the roster of the regiment.”

A more detailed explanation of why the 47th Pennsylvania’s field and staff officers were so angered by the allegations against Gausler and the others was later provided in Gausler’s 1914 obituary in The Allentown Leader:

“[Gausler] was court martialed for making a superior officer apologize on his knees at the point of a gun for slurring Pennsylvania German soldiers, but was pardoned by President Lincoln.”

Although the incident left a sour taste in the mouths of the 47th Pennsylvania’s officers, they did not let it deter them from their mission. Beginning 13 May, they moved their regiment to Morganza, then to New Orleans on 20 June and, after receiving orders on the 4th of July to return to the East Coast, they loaded 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, Corporal Charles Bachman and the other 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.

Unfortunately, due to this delay, Bachman and his fellow B Company boys missed out on a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln. They also missed the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia.

On 1 August 1864, Bachman was promoted to the rank of Full Sergeant.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign 

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

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah in Virginia, from August through November of 1864, it was here at this time and this place that the now full-strength 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would engage in their greatest moments of valor.

Inflicting heavy casualties during the Battle of Opequan (also known as “Third Winchester”) on 19 September, Union Major-General Philip Sheridan’s gallant men forced a stunning retreat of Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederates—first to Fisher’s Hill (21-22 September) and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack. Their victories helped Abraham Lincoln win a second term as President.

On 23-24 September 1864, Colonel Tilghman Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander mustered out upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately for the 47th, they were replaced by others equally beloved for their temperament and front line experience.

Sheridan’s Army then began the first Union “scorched earth” campaign during this period, starving Confederate forces and their supporters into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed by many today as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the turning of the war further in favor of the Union. Early’s men, successful in many prior engagements but now weakened by hunger, strayed from battlefields in increasing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864.

From a military standpoint, it was an impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles—all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:

When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”

The Union’s counterattack pounded Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th fought so courageously that they would later be commended for their valor 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.

Through it all, the casualty rates for the 47th continued to climb. Captain Edwin G. Minnich and Privates John Schimpf, Thomas Steffen, and James Tice of Company B were among those killed in action while Corporal August C. Scherer and others died later from their battle wounds. Among those who survived their wounds were Charles Bachman, Harrison Geiger, Allen L. Kramer, and Henry H. Kramer, but 18-year-old Private Franklin Rhoads reportedly succumbed to disease after being captured and transported from the Cedar Creek battlefield area to the Confederate Army’s notorious Salisbury, North Carolina prison camp.

Given a slight respite after Cedar Creek, the men of the 47th were quartered at the Union’s Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December before receiving orders to assume outpost duty at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia just five days before Christmas.

1865–1866

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 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

By February of 1865, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah.

By 19 April, the regiment was back in Washington, D.C., ordered there to defend the nation’s capital again—this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. While serving in the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps (Dwight’s Division), the 47th also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May. Captain Levi Stuber of Company I was also promoted to the rank of Major with the regimental command staff during this time.

Letters home during this period and interviews conducted in later years with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania confirm that at least one member of the 47th was given the honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while still others were assigned to guard duties at the prison where the alleged Lincoln assassination conspirators were held and tried.

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 as seen from the Circular Church (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Taking one final swing through the South, the 47th served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June as part of the Department of the South’s 3rd Brigade (Dwight’s Division) and at Charleston beginning in June.

Duties during this time were Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related, including rebuilding railroads and other key aspects of the region’s infrastructure that had been damaged or destroyed during the long war.

On 1 November 1865, Sergeant Charles Bachman was promoted from his service with B Company to service with the regiment’s central command as Commissary Sergeant.

Finally, on Christmas Day in 1865, Commissary Sergeant Charles Bachman and the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers began to muster out, a process which continued through early January 1866.

After surviving a stormy voyage home and an exhausting train trip to Philadelphia, the now very experienced 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers received their final discharge papers at Camp Cadwalader, and were returned to their loved ones and neighbors.

Return to Civilian Life

Allentown, Pennsylvania (circa 1865, public domain).

Following the honorable completion of his military service and return home to his native state of Pennsylvania, Charles Bachman resettled in Allentown and resumed work as a watchmaker.

Less than two years later, in January 1868, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he remained briefly before moving on to Ottawa, Iowa. By October of that same year, he had moved on again—this time to Ottumwa—the County Seat of Wapello County, Iowa and the community where he would reside for the remainder of his life.

Church Street, Ottumwa, Iowa, circa 1870s (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

He arrived during a time of great change. According to The History of Wapello County, Iowa, “The first railroad across the State was completed to Council Bluffs in January, 1871. The others were completed soon after. In 1854, there was not a mile of railroad in the State. In 1874, twenty years after there were 3,765 miles in successful operation.”

As a watchmaker in an increasingly prosperous city, Bachman prospered, too. He expanded his services to include the sale of clocks, jewelry and silver and plated ware, as well as watches, and became both a retail and wholesale dealer. Two days after Christmas in 1900, he reported via the local newspaper that his business was thriving:

I can say that my trade during the holiday season this year was largely in excess of last year, and I was entirely satisfied with the showing. Many articles suitable for Christmas gifts were sold. I have enjoyed an increase in my business during the entire year, and the total business for 1900 is considerable more than that for 1899. The year just closing has been an exceedingly good one in every particular. I noticed a good demand for Courier coupons, and I believe I gave out all I had. Many of the buyers called for them, and considerable interest was evidenced in the contest.

Main and Market Streets, Ottumwa, Iowa, circa 1907 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Among his professional and community service activities, Charles Bachman was a member of Ottumwa’s Grand Army of the Republic post and, in 1878, was a Grand Mason, 3rd Degree and officer with the local Masonic chapter.

In the spring of 1901, he served on multiple committees that were engaged in planning the city’s Decoration Day (Memorial Day) celebration, including the general committee overseeing all of the volunteers and their respective assignments and the music and grave decorating committees. In 1906, his local newspaper reported his Decoration Day responsibilities as follows:

Arriving at the Ottumwa cemetery the school children under the direction of Charles Bachman and E. M. B. Scott were placed one at each grave and supplied with flowers. A military salute was fired by a squad from Company G and was followed by a bugle call when the children placed the flowers on the graves. After this simple and pretty ceremony the children returned to the platform where the program was given.

Charles Bachman, post commander [Cloutman Post No. 69, Grand Army of the Republic] and president of the day, called the meeting to order. The Fifty-fourth regiment band played ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ Rev. G. N. Tegnell pastor of the Swedish Mission church, pronounced the invocation. The choir under the direction of Prof. J. H. Rheem sang ‘Under the Daisies Our Comrades Are Sleeping,’ in a most effective manner.

During the early part of the century, the Bachman’s home also became a place for social gatherings. In 1902, Ottumwa newspapers reported that Charles and Lizzie Bachman hosted members of Ottumwa’s downtown churches and local Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. chapters at vesper services on the grounds of their home at 119 West Fifth Street:

It was a beautiful evening and a large number were present; in fact, more than had been expected. The meeting was ably conducted by C. W. Messenger from the subject, ‘Faith is the Victory.’ The Y.M.C.A. chorus was present and added greatly to the success of the meeting by rendering two vocal selections. Mrs. Edwin Dungan as organist and Russel Harper with cornet accompanied the singing of the congregation. Last evening’s meeting was both pleasant and helpful and it is probable that these meetings will be continued throughout the summer.

Local newspapers reported on 30 April 1903 that Lizzie Bachman returned from a five-month visit with family and friends in Allentown, Pennsylvania, having resided during that time with her parents at their home near Macungie. In 1904, she hosted Ladies Guild teas at the Bachman home for her fellow Trinity Episcopal Church members. These events were often described by local news outlets as “delightful.”

Sadly, in 1906, Charles and Lizzie Bachman suffered a reversal of fortunes when a fire ravaged multiple businesses on Ottumwa’s Main Street, including Charles’ jewelry shop. According to a report in the 1 March edition of The Ottumwa Courier, which termed the blaze “the most disastrous fire Ottumwa has experienced within the last year”:

The fire was confined principally to the tailor shop of J. P. Anderson, though a hole was burned down through the floor into the room occupied by the jewelry store of Charles Bachman. Also the fire burned through the roof into the hall of the I.O.O.F. lodge above…. The stock of Charles Bachman and the I.O.O.F. hall suffered far more severely from the water and smoke than they did from the fire. Next to Mr. Anderson, Mr. Backman was the heaviest loser, it being estimated that the water which drenched the lower floor will damage the stock to the amount of $1,000. There was no insurance.

According to initial newspaper accounts, the cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but was suspected to have started in the back room of Anderson’s tailor shop. The total loss to all of the businesses at 224-226 Main Street which were impacted by the fire ranged between $5,000 to $10,000. Although the alarm had been sounded by 4:20 a.m., the fire had grown significantly by the time fire engines could arrive to render assistance:

So thick was the smoke that it was impossible for the firemen to ascend the steps and ladders were placed and the fire was reached through the front windows of the second story. It was first attempted to extinguish the conflagration with the chemical, but it was soon seen that this was impossible on account of the headway gained by the fire, and water was used.

Three years later, he received the news that he might become the owner of new land:

Charles Bachman, Ottumwa jeweler, is the only lucky Ottumwan to draw a tract of land in the Coeur d’Alene reservation homestead drawings. He drew No. 1598. Three thousand names were drawn. In an interview this morning Mr. Bachman said: ‘This is the first tidings I have received so far regarding my good fortune in the Coeur d’Alene land drawing. So far I have received no official information from authorities. Being an old soldier I was entitled to the privilege of making application through a friend and did not have to be present at the drawing. Some of the land is being reclaimed by the government, and it may be that the property which I drew is among this. At any rate I will not go west until I have received official information that the land is open to settlement. If I find that this is the case, I will move to Coeur d’Alene and settle.’

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Aug. 11. – The drawing for homesteads in the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation was ended yesterday afternoon when 3,000 envelopes had been taken from the great iron casks. Chicago and Illinois kept up their lucky percentage in the race, thirteen more Chicagoans landing in the second half of the prize winners. This was against fifteen Chicagoans who won yesterday.

There are still two more reservations for which drawings will be made in the next two weeks….

It is a matter of speculation with Judge Witten, superintending the land drawings, as to how many applicants can be given lands in the Flathead reservation, even if they draw lucky numbers. Under the reclamation act the government is likely to withdraw a large part of the irrigable land in that reservation. Approximately 2,800 claims are to be had in this reserve, but the proposed reclamation of part will reduce the number by several hundred.

Judge Witten says he is unable to say how much the government was considering reclaiming, but it is likely to be some of the most valuable land….

There are many of the persons who drew lucky numbers yesterday who will be unable to get homesteads as there are only 1,028 claims available for settlement. The drawing of 3,000 names was done to allow for withdrawals and failure to file claims on the land. Hundreds of those whose names were drawn may never appear to claim a right to locate on lands. Thousands registered simply to have a chance on winning one of the first 50 or 100 names.

The majority of the winners in the drawing were poor men. They have received tidings which mean fortunes. Hundreds who have won the chance to select claims worth from $20,000 to $25,000 are now in poverty. Laborers, poor workmen, widows, sons of widows and school teachers are numbered to a great extend among the winners.

Iowans were lucky in the land drawing for the Coeur d’Alene yesterday. The following names were among those drawn: Geo. C. Davis of Hamilton … Charles Bachman of Ottumwa….

According to historians Ross R. Cotroneo and Jack Dozier, “In the history of Indian-government relations one of the most important pieces of legislation enacted was the General Allotment Act, or Dawes Severalty Act of 1887.”

Operating on the tenet that the tribe had to be destroyed as a political, cultural, and social entity before the Indian could be assimilated, the act provided for the dissolution of tribal boundaries by giving the land to the Indians in severalty. Each tribesman was to be provided a 40 to 160 acre tract of land, and the title to it was to be held in trust by the government for a period of twenty-five years. The trust clause was included as a safeguard to prevent the Indians from disposing of the land before they could be educated as to its value and taught to earn a living from it. The full rights of citizenship were also to be conferred upon the Indians at the expiration of the trust period.

Under another provision of the act, those lands remaining after distribution of allotments to the Indians were to be sold to white settlers. This had a two-fold purpose; first, additional lands were opened to settlement; and second, it was hoped that the resultant close intermingling of the two cultures would result in the Indians’ more rapid acceptance of the white man’s ways. The money received from the sale of these lands was to be expended by the secretary of the interior for the education and the advancement of the Indians.

Applied first in Oklahoma in 1890, and then in other areas, the act became an answer to the problems caused by the disappearance of cheap frontier land. Rather than a method for assimilating the Indians, the law came to be used primarily as an instrument for the aggrandizement of their territorial holdings. Regardless of its original intent, once the act was applied to the Coeur d’Alene Indians in northern Idaho its results were disruptively profound, causing the irrevocable loss of approximately 84 percent of the tribal holdings, a total economic and political destruction of the tribal entity….

Although newspapers announced that Charles Bachman had been one of the winners of the Coeur d’Alene drawing, this was either an incorrect report—or Bachman realized that relocation would not be possible. This conclusion was documented by subsequent news reports that he and his wife continued to reside in Iowa for the remainder of their days.

Final Months

On 20 July 1911, local newspapers reported that Charles and Lizzie Bachman were once again hosts of a “Guild Tea” and picnic on the grounds of their West Fifth Street home in Ottumwa. A potluck affair to which attendees brought food for sharing, Trinity Episcopal parish members also enjoyed ice cream and musical entertainment.

Death and Interment

Just over a month later, after a long full life, Charles Bachman passed away at the age of 72 in Ottumwa, Iowa on 22 August 1911. His obituary in the 26 August edition of the Ottumwa Tri-weekly Courier described his passing as follows:

Ottumwa lost another of its pioneer citizens when Charles Bachman died after a brief illness. Mr. Bachman came to Ottumwa in October, 1868, forty-three years ago this fall. He had answered the call to arms and from August, 1861 to July, 1866 gave his services in the time of the nation’s peril. Mr. Bachman was identified with Ottumwa business interests for almost half a century and stood high among his business associates. Modest and unassuming, a man of the strictest integrity, he won life-long friends to whom his death will cause deep sorrow.

His remains were returned to Pennsylvania, and he was laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown, Lehigh County Pennsylvania. His widow, Elizabeth (Renninger) Bachman, was the Administratrix of his estate, and was later laid to rest beside him, following her death in Allentown more than two decades later on 5 December 1935.

Sources:

1. Bachman and Backman, Charles, in Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1861-1865.

2. Bachman, Charles, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

3. Bachman, Charles (death record), in Iowa Select Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990. Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library.

4. Bachman, Charles (mentions). Ottumwa, Iowa: Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier, 1868-1911.

5. Bachman, Charles in The History of Wapello County, Iowa, Containing a history of the County, its Cities, Towns, &c., A Biographical Directory of Citizens, War Record of its Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Wapello County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c. Chicago, Illinois: Western Historical Company, 1878.

6. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. I. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

7. Charles Bachman, in “Fire Does Damage: Loss Caused by Conflagration Early This Morning Estimated at $6,000.” Ottumwa, Iowa: The Ottumwa Courier, 1 March 1906.

8. “Chas. Bachmann Ottumwan Is Farm Winner: Without Expense of Trip to the West, Local Merchant Draws Homestead in Couer [sic] D’Alene Reservation.” Ottumwa, Iowa: Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier, 12 August 1909.

9. Cotroneo, Joel R. and Jack Dozier. A Time of Disintegration: The Coeur d’Alene and the Dawes Act,” in Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 4, October 1974. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

10. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.

11. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

12. Stegall, Joel T. Salisbury Prison: North Carolina’s Andersonville.” Fayetteville, North Carolina: North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, 13 September 2018.

13. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.