Washington H. R. Hangen, 1st Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant

Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen (c. 1862-1864, public domain).

Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen (c. 1862-1864, public domain).

Born in the State of New York on 6 February 1828, Washington Henry Rinehold Hangen was a son of the Rev. Jacob William Hangen and his wife, Mary M. Hangen. Christened at the Dutch Reformed Church in Columbia Center, Herkimer County, New York on 25 February 1828, he spent part of his formative years in Montgomery County, New York, where his father served as the pastor at the Currytown Dutch Reformed Church from 1832 to 1837.

Known throughout much of his life as “W. H. R. Hangen,” Washington Henry Rinehold Hangen began his own family sometime around the latter part of the 1840s or early 1850s when he wed Isabella C. Keiper, a daughter of William and Catharine Knauss (alternate surname “Keiper”) who was born in Pennsylvania in July 1829.

Allentown, Pennsylvania (c. 1865, public domain).

Allentown, Pennsylvania (c. 1865, public domain).

Together, they welcomed to the world son Lewis C. G. Hangen (1851-1920) and daughter Aurelia (1858-1898). Born in Pennsylvania on 10 March 1851, Lewis was listed on one federal census as “Eugene” while Aurelia was shown as “Amelia.” (Her name was then spelled with yet another variant on her gravestone – as “Arelia”; he more commonly went by his initials “L. C. G.”)

By the dawn of the Civil War, federal census records confirm that Washington Hangen was a shoemaker residing in Allentown’s Second Ward with his wife, Isabella, and their children, Eugene and Amelia, and Isabella’s 61-year-old widowed mother, Catharine Knauss.

 Three Months’ Service

Camp Curtin (Harpers Weekly, 1861; public domain).

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

Still residing in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the time of Fort Sumter’s fall to Confederate forces in mid-April 1861, Washington H. R. Hangen became one of America’s earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to defend the nation’s capital. On 24 April 1861, he enrolled and mustered in for military service at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as a Lieutenant Colonel with the 9th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In addition to his duties as a member of the 9th Pennsylvania’s regimental command staff, he assumed responsibilities as commandant of the camp from late April to early May 1861.

* Note: A massive military staging area for the Union Army which provided many of the volunteer and regular soldiers who passed through it with basic training in light infantry tactics, Camp Curtin ultimately became the largest federal military camp to operate during the Civil War.

On 4 May 1861, Lieutenant Colonel Washington H. R. Hangen marched with his subordinates from the 9th Pennsylvania Volunteers to the Harrisburg train station, hopped a rail car, and proceeded to Chester County, Pennsylvania. Arriving at 9 p.m. that evening, they were housed initially at the courthouse in West Chester. In fairly short order, they relocated to a nearby site that would come to be known as Camp Wayne, where they were joined by the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and continued to drill daily and receive further military training.

Ordered onward on 26 May 1861, the 9th Pennsylvanians were transported once again by train – this time to Philadelphia and then Wilmington, Delaware, where they remained until 6 June 1861 “to encourage and strengthen the local sentiment, and to prevent the sending of troops to the rebel army,” according to Samuel P. Bates in his History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Their camp was situated at Hare’s Corners.

Joining Major-General Robert Patterson’s Chambersburg, Pennsylvania command on 6 June as part of the 4th Brigade, 1st Division headed by U.S. Army Colonel Dixon S. Miles, the 9th Pennsylvanians headed for and across the Potomac River from 13-16 June – literally wading chest deep at some points en route to their encampment between Williamsport and Martinsburg, Virginia. The next day, they were ordered back across the river where, still part of the 4th Brigade, they were now under the leadership of Brigade Commander, Colonel H. C. Longenecker and Division Commander, Major-General George Cadwalader. Stationed here through the end of the month, they were assigned to picket duty.

This public domain illustration is an excerpt from a larger montage of images from the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia which ran in the 27 edition of Harper's Weekly. "Council of War" depicts "Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker" strategizing on the eve of battle.

“Council of War” depicts  “Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nag, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longenecker” strategizing on eve of Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia. (Excerpt from larger montage of images, Harper’s Weekly, 27 July 1861, public domain).

Following the Union’s battle on 2 July with Rebel troops at Falling Waters, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Hoke’s Run), the men of the 9th Pennsylvania (having not fought in that engagement) were ordered to head for Martinsburg, Virginia, where they remained from 3-15 July when they broke camp and marched toward Bunker Hill. Although Major-General Patterson had initially planned to have his forces meet the Rebels head on at Bunker Hill and Winchester, officers directly under his command changed his mind during a Council of War on 9 July in Martinsburg. A confrontation there would be disastrous for the Union, they reasoned, because the enemy was not only heavily fortified and entrenched, it could be easily resupplied and bolstered by an infusion of troops brought in via the Confederate-controlled railroad.

History has proven those officers correct. Having avoided a likely bloodbath, Lieutenant Colonel W. H. R. Hangen and the 9th Pennsylvania encamped with the 4th Brigade near Charlestown from 17-21 July, and then headed for Harper’s Ferry. After crossing the Potomac into Maryland, the 9th made camp roughly a mile away. The next day, not a single casualty among its ranks, the 9th Pennsylvanians headed home by way of Hagerstown, Maryland and Harrisburg. Having honorably completed his Three Months’ Service, Lieutenant Colonel W. H. R. Hangen mustered out with his regiment at Camp Curtin on 29 July 1861.

Civil War Military Service – 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers

The entry for Washington H. R. Hangen in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives states that Washington Hangen re-upped for additional military service, re-enrolling for a three-year term on 13 January 1862 at Camp Griffin, Virginia. He then officially mustered in as Regimental Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers’ central command. This entry further notes that Hangen was a resident of the Lehigh Valley at the time of his enlistment, and adds that he “Joined from Civil Life.” Muster rolls noted that his given name was “Washington.”

He joined a regiment which had already spent the past four months guarding the nation’s capital from encampments in the Georgetown section of Washington, D. C. and northern Virginia.

1862 – 1863

U.S. Naval Academy Barracks and temporary hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, c. 1861-1865 (public domain).

U.S. Naval Academy Barracks and temporary hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, c. 1861-1865 (public domain).

That same month, Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to move from their Virginia encampment to Maryland. Departing from Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, they marched through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Transported by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before being marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C.

The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the 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 historian Lewis 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. Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and his fellow officers boarded last and then, 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.

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

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

In early February 1862, Hangen and the 47th Pennsylvanians arrived at Fort Taylor in Key West. They made their presence known to residents early on with a parade through the city’s streets on 14 February. That same weekend, men from the regiment also mingled with residents as they attended local church services.

Assigned initially to garrison duty, they drilled daily in military strategy, including heavy artillery tactics. Their time was made more difficult by the presence of yellow jack and other tropical diseases, as well as the always likely dysentery spread by soldiers living in close, unsanitary conditions.

Ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, they camped near Fort Walker and then quartered in the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Frequently on hazardous picket detail north of camp, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” receiving “the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.

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

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

On 30 September 1862, Adjutant and 1st Leutenant W. H. R. Hangen and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent back to Florida where they engaged with other Union forces in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Under the command of Brigadier-General John M. Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked from gunboat-escorted troop ships at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek. With the 47th Pennsylvania on point and braving alligators, snakes and Rebel troops, the men pushed through 25 dense miles of forests and swampland in order to capture the bluff and pave the way for the Union’s occupation of Jacksonville, Florida.

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

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

From 21-23 October, Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers took on Confederate forces in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point under the brigade command of 47th Pennsylvania founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, and regimental command of Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th Pennsylvanians led the way once again. This time, however, the 47th’s luck ran out. Harassed by snipers, they met resistance from an entrenched Confederate battery, and endured withering fire as they entered a cotton field. Those headed for the higher ground of Frampton Plantation were pounded by artillery and infantry from the surrounding forests.

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

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

Undaunted, the Union Army charged, forcing the Rebels into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. At this juncture, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut but, after volleying fire for two hours while attempting to take the ravine and bridge, ammunition ran low, forcing the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point. Two officers and 18 enlisted men from the 47th had been killed; two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded.

Among the gravely injured was Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen, who had been so severely wounded in the knee that his subsequent medical care by regimental and division surgeons nearly required amputation of his damaged leg. While recuperating, he was cited for his valor at Pocotaligo via a memorandum to the U.S. Department of the South from Brigadier-General John M. Brannan, who described Hangen as one of the officers from the 47th Pennsylvania “who rendered themselves specially worthy of notice by their bravery and praiseworthy conduct.”

Recruiting notice published by Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Sunbury American, 1 August 1863, public domain).

Recruiting notice published by Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Sunbury American, 1 August 1863, public domain).

Able to return to service only after a significantly long treatment period, he was then ordered back to Pennsylvania to serve on detached duty as Recruiting Officer for the 47th Pennsylvania at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg. This was done both to facilitate his further recovery and to also re-build the regiment’s ranks which had been thinned significantly by disease and the casualties incurred by the 47th during the Battle of Pocotaligo.

Hangen fulfilled his recruiting officer duties from the time of his Lehigh Valley arrival on Christmas Eve in 1862 through December 1863. But even this Keystone State-based recovery presented challenges. According to Schmidt:

At home in Allentown, Adj. Hangen, who had been detached on recruiting duty while his wounded leg healed, suffered injury to the leg again [sometime around mid-April 1863], during a collision while traveling on the Lebanon Railroad. The Adjutant was on crutches, and had been under orders to proceed to Hollidaysburg in Blair County to open a ‘recruiting rendezvous’ with Sgt. Trexler and Cpl. Glace, but his trip was delayed as a result, and he would join them later. Monday, April 20 would be the two year anniversary of his leading a company into the Three Month Service….”

 1864 – Red River Campaign

Recovered from his knee wound and deemed fit to return to active duty with his regiment, Adjutant W. H. R. Hangen reconnected with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers sometime in January or February 1864. Having been ordered back to Hilton Head, South Carolina following the Battle of Pocotaligo and then shipped back to Key West on 15 November 1862, Companies A, B, C, E and I of the 47th Pennsylvania had spent 1863 at Fort Taylor there while the men rom Companies D, F, H, and K were sent to garrison Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Florida’s coast. It had been a noteworthy year both for the number of men claimed by disease – and because most of the soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania chose to re-enlist when their original three-year terms of service expired.

On 25 February 1862, Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians set off for a new period of duty in which the regiment would make history. Steaming first for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the 47th Pennsylvanians arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and were then sent by train to Brashear City. Shipped aboard the steamer Franklin via the Bayou Teche, they then finally joined up with 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 10 March to 22 May 1864 across Louisiana).

Often short on food and water, the 47th Pennsylvanians also suffered from the harsh climate and long marches.

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

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

From 14-26 March, the 47th marched for the top of the L in the L-shaped state, passing through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington en route to Alexandria. On 8 April, they engaged in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield). Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down during the back-and-forth volley of fire. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, the uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, 9 April 1864 (Harper's Weekly, 7 May 1864, public domain).

Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, 9 April 1864 (Harper’s Weekly, 7 May 1864, public domain).

The next day, Sunbury Guardsman and 68-year-old Company C Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls was wounded during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, as was Sergeant William Pyers. The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had been 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 and block another Confederate assault.

During this engagement, the 47th Pennsylvania also recaptured a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during the earlier Confederate assault. While he was mounting the 47th Pennsylvania’s colors on a recaptured Massachusetts caisson, Color Sergeant Benjamin Walls was shot in the left shoulder. As Walls fell, Sergeant William Pyers saved the American flag. Both men survived their wounds and continued to fight on.

A significant number of the 47th were killed or wounded during these two days. Others were captured by Rebel forces, and held as prisoners of war (POWs) at Confederate Army prison camps until being released in prisoner exchanges from July through November of that same year. At least two members of the 47th died in captivity. Still others were claimed by disease.

Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin was cited for his valor, but three other officers from the regiment – including Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen – were charged with cowardice.

The Controversy

Although the 11 May 1864 Evening Star reported Maj. William Gausler's dismissal, President Lincoln personally overturned the federal government's ruling against Gausler. Image: Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.

Although the 11 May 1864 Evening Star reported Major William Gausler’s dismissal, President Lincoln personally overturned the federal government’s ruling against Gausler (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The 11 May 1864 Evening Star in Washington, D.C. carried startling news for those who knew Washington H. R. Hangen. Hangen – who had received his own citation for valor after being wounded in the Battle of Pocotaligo in 1862 – had been dismissed, along with Major William Gausler and 1st Lieutenant William Reese, 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).

According to the History Book Club’s The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 8 (derived from Collected Works. The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1953) and other sources, President Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed and reversed the U.S. Adjutant General’s findings against Gausler via Special Order No. 350 on 17 October 1864: “By direction of the President, so much of Special Orders, No. 169 . . . as relates to Major W. H. Gansler [sic], 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, is hereby revoked, and he is honorably discharged, on tender of resignation.”

William Reese was also ultimately cleared of the charges against him – although he was forced to wait nearly a year to have his own honor restored. Per Special Order No. 81, issued by the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General and War Department, 1st Lieutenant William Reese’s order of dismissal was revoked on 18 February 1865.

However, confusion remains to this day whether or not the charges were reversed against Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen. While some records show that Hangen was discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania in either June or July of 1864 – signaling a possible reversal or reduction of the charges against him – his entry on regimental muster-out rolls for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers remains unaltered to this day.

Viewed as a stain on his honor, just the act of being charged with cowardice appears to have been enough to dramatically alter the trajectory of W. H. R. Hangen’s life – as documented by various federal and state records and historical accounts in various newspapers of the latter 19th century.

Starting Over

According to Civil War historian Mark A. Weitz, “Cowardice in the civil war was defined as deserting in the face of the enemy.” Such an action, explains Weitz, “often occurred on a unit-wide basis as some portion of the line became physically or morally overwhelmed and gave way. The subsequent retreat disintegrated into a wild, disorderly effort to escape slaughter.”

This description aptly describes what happened during both the battles of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield and Pleasant Hill while Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen was fighting with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Various historical accounts report that Union lines buckled multiple times, and that the 47th Pennsylvania was forced to thwart several attempted end runs by Confederate forces.

In pondering other similar battle situations to those encountered by 47th Pennsylvanians during those two days in Louisiana, observes Weitz, “One man abandoning his post in such a manner would be cowardice; when it happened on a unit level it simply became a rout.” And that is possibly why the cowardice charges against the 47th Pennsylvania’s Major Gausler and 1st Lieutenant William Reese were ultimately overturned by President Lincoln and senior officials of the U.S. War Department. Cooler heads apparently prevailed and, upon review of the 47th Pennsylvania’s eventual success in blocking flanking moves by the Confederates, decided that Gausler and Reese had performed as well as could be expected during such an intense enemy attack.

So for a charge of cowardice to be lodged against W. H. R. Hangen – whether or not that charge was ever overturned, it must have been difficult to stomach – even more so when thinking back on the past commendations he had received for valor after being wounded in battle and while reading newspaper accounts which acknowledged that the Red River battles in which he had fought had been poorly waged by the most senior Union officers in charge of that campaign. Adding insult to the injury, the stain of such a charge was also usually an indelible one. “Often cowardice in the face of the enemy was something observed by a soldier’s comrades, and even if never prosecuted,” explaines Weitz, “it tainted a man’s reputation for the remainder of his life if he was fortunate enough to survive the war.”

As a result, writes essayist David Carr, “A change of conscience, mistreatment, illness and injury, loss of leadership, and other factors could have persuaded a soldier to switch [his] allegiance” – as could the offers made by the opposing side to encourage soldiers to lay down their arms. “The North promised deserting Confederate soldiers a pardon if they would promise allegiance and go home…. To induce Union soldiers to desert, the Confederacy offered sanctuary in the South, civilian jobs, and in some cases land.”

So, while Washington H. R. Hangen did not desert, it is clear that, once he was officially discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania that Summer of 1864, he chose to remain in Louisiana and begin life anew, becoming active in Reconstruction efforts.

Louisiana Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau

Washington H. R. Hangen's 6 November 1866 letter documenting his appointment as Agent for the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, Louisiana (public domain).

Washington H. R. Hangen’s 6 November 1866 letter documenting his appointment as Agent for the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, Louisiana (public domain).

A letter sent by Washington H. R. Hangen in early November 1866 to the Louisiana headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (aka the “Freedmen’s Bureau”) confirmed both his acceptance of a position with the bureau at its St. Tammany Parish office and his relocation from his residence in New Orleans to Madisonville, where that bureau office was located.

* Note: According to a finding aid for Freedmen’s records created by the U.S. National Archives, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the U.S. War Department by an act of the U.S. Congress on 3 March 1865, and “was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War…. While a major part of the Bureau’s early activities involved the supervision of abandoned and confiscated property, its mission was to provide relief and help freedmen become self-sufficient. Bureau officials issued rations and clothing, operated hospitals and refugee camps, and supervised labor contracts. In addition, the Bureau managed apprenticeship disputes and complaints, assisted benevolent societies in the establishment of schools, helped freedmen in legalizing marriages entered into during slavery, and provided transportation to refugees and freedmen who were attempting to reunite with their family or relocate to other parts of the country. The Bureau also helped black soldiers, sailors, and their heirs collect bounty claims, pensions, and back pay.”

This finding aid adds that Assistant Commissioners helped supervise “the work of the Bureau in the former Confederate states, the border states, and the District of Columbia,” and notes that while “the organizational structure of staff officers varied from state to state,” the work performed was often similar. “At various times, the staff could consist of a superintendent of education, an assistant adjutant general, an assistant inspector general, a disbursing officer, a chief medical officer, a chief quartermaster, and a commissary of subsistence. Subordinate to these officers were the assistant superintendents, or subassistant commissioners as they later became known, who commanded the subdistricts.”

Moving Logs via Raft, Bayou Lacombe, St. Tammany Parish, LA (c. 1890s, State Library of Louisiana, public domain).

Moving logs by raft, Bayou Lacombe, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana (c. 1890s, State Library of Louisiana, public domain).

From November 1866 through May 1867, Washington H. R. Hangen served as the Agent for the St. Tammany and Washington Parish offices of the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Stationed at the Madisonville, Louisiana Field Office, he made frequent visits on horseback throughout his assigned territory, working to set up new educational programs for black children and improve educational opportunities for all children, improve working conditions for black adults, and mitigate the impacts of poverty of blacks and whites across the region. He also worked to improve relations between blacks and whites by mediating disputes and, when these efforts failed and hate crimes ensued, he then helped victims receive justice by working with local authorities to aid in the prosecution of those committing such crimes.

One example of his efforts was described in a letter just weeks after starting work – penned on 20 November 1866:

Office of Bureau of Refugees, F &’c
Parishes of Washington & St. Tammany,
Madisonville La Nov 20th 1866

Capt. A. F. Hayden
Ap’l; Adj’t Gen’l Bureau of R F &cNew Orleans La


I have the honor to report that since my last tri-monthly report that I have made a tour of inspection through the Northern portion of St. Tammany parish, I found the Freedmen generally employed though not under contract – no complaints of ill treatment, and apparently contented and happy.

But – one case of outrage came to my knowledge which was reported in Manderville [sic] , parish of St. Tammany La, Nov. 4 1866. Eliz. Flanders Curry & Edward Blann, Freedmen, reported that on Sunday evening Nov 4th 1866, during divine service, in the Colored Methodist Church, at Manderville [sic] two shot [sic] were fired through the gap above the door into the Church, by parties unknown, fortunately injuring no one. They have reason for suspecting a German named Myrod, residing in Manderville [sic], he having threatened previously to murder the members of the Church for revenge, for reasons that the members of the Church, had some time since prosecuted his Myrods [sic] wife for disturbing the services of said Church on a previous occasion

The complainants not being able to enter complaint against any one, I took no action in the case, more than report the same to Capt. Sterling, Pro. Mar. Gen’l., asking for instructions.

I am sir very respectfully
Your Obd Servt
W. H. R. Hangen
Ag’t – Bureau R. F &c
parishes Washington & St. Tammany La

Although Washington Hangen initially did no more than forward information about the shooting incident to the Army’s provost marshal, he did continue to monitor the situation and wrote, in his report dated 30 November 1866, that “after investigating the case as ordered” he and the civil authorities had been unable to obtain any further details about the incident, but were “watching the case closely.” In that same report, he noted that the wife of the aforementioned alleged shooter had also had her day in court:

In the case of the members of the Colored Methodist Church against Mrs. Myrod, of Manderville [sic] parish of St. Tammany, for disturbing the services of said Church some time since, Mrs. Myrod confessed being guilty of the charge, and was anxious to settle. The [prosecutor?] refused and put her under bonds to appear at Court, after her appearance at Court the Grand Jury failed to find a true Bill against her, and dismissed the case.

* Note: To learn more about W. H. R. Hangen’s work with the Freedmen’s Bureau during ths time, read the Freedmen’s Bureau Reports of Washington H. R. Hangen, St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, Louisiana.

Throughout his time as the Agent for St. Tammany and Washington Parishes of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Washington Hangen continued to make fairly regular inspection tours throughout his assigned territory. He was then appointed to serve as the Assistant Subassistant Commissioner of this same office from May 1867 through November 1868.

* Note: In April 1867, just prior to W. H. R. Hangen’s promotion, the State of Louisiana’s Freedmen’s Bureau had been reorganized into seven subdistricts, meaning that subassistant commissioners in charge of those new subdistricts “were required to file monthly inspection reports of their respective jurisdictions with the Assistant Commissioner” while Agents or assistant subassistant commissioners like W. H. R. Hangen “who were responsible for one to two parishes [known elsewhere in the United States as counties], received their instructions from and reported to subassistant commissioners.”

Another example of Hangen’s work on behalf of the Freedmen’s Bureau during this latter service period may be found in his Report of Indigent and Destitute Whites and Freed People in the Parish of Washington, State of Louisiana applying for relief from the 1st day of May 1868 to the 31st day of May 1868, in which he documented his in-person visits on 27-28 April confirming the ongoing struggles of the following freed people:

  • Green Hart, aged 46, his wife, Caroline, aged 40, and their two children (failure of crop by overflow);
  • Mary Ann Johnson, aged 35, and her four children (widow with no visible means of support);
  • Rubber Warren, aged 27, his wife, Emily, aged 21, and their child (failure of crop by overflow);
  • Mary Ann Ord, aged 27, and her three children (failure of crop by overflow);
  • Isaac Daniel, aged 54, his wife, Jane, aged 26, and their six children (failure by crop overflow);
  • Solomon Hart, aged 70, his wife, Morning, aged 62, and four orphaned children (failure by crop overflow);
  • Edmond Hart, aged 28, his wife, Caroline, aged 27, and their three children (failure by crop overflow);
  • Eli Clark, aged 52, and his six children (failure by crop overflow);
  • Harry Butler, aged 40 (indigence, no means of support), and Diana Butler, aged 39 (indigence and infirmities, no means of support);
  • William Briggs, aged 64 (age and infirmities), and Serena Briggs, aged 48, and her four children (infirmities);
  • Franklin Kenyo, aged 36, his wife, Martha Kenyo, aged 34, and their two children (indigence, no means of support);
  • Pleasant Long, aged 47 (infirmities), and Eliza Long, aged 35, and her three children (indigence, no means of support); Mandy Smith, aged 48, his wife, Mary, aged 35, and their three children (indigence, no means of support);p and George Williams, aged 45, his wife, Mary, aged 34, and their two children (indigence, no means of support).

In addition, Hangen provided the brief analysis of the economic climate of Washington Parish at the time:

REMARKS (which will contain the reason why the Parish Authorities fail to provide for their own destitute): The Parish is unable to support indigent and destitute people by reason of the poor condition of its finances which has been caused by the mismanagement of former tax collectors. Parish Bonds are worth about twenty cents on the dollar and no money in the Treasury to redeem them. The within named parties have reported in person by reason of the negligence of the members of the Police Jury.

Madisonville, La.
April 30th, 1868
Capt. W. N. R. Hangen Asst. Sub. Comr. B. R. F. & A. L.
Parishes Washington & St. Tammany, La.

Apparently, Washington Hangen’s efforts were well received because he was welcomed with open arms by his fellow community members in efforts to found a new Masonic lodge – the Covington Lodge #188, F & AM. Established by a small group of Freemasons in July 1867 through petition to the Mount Moriah Lodge #5 in New Orleans, the initial officers “all served in the Army of the Confederacy during the Civil War,” according to the Covington Lodge’s website.

A dispensation was granted by the Mount Moriah Lodge and, on 5 August 1867, the Covington Lodge held its first meeting in Covington, which was “presided over by Brother John W. Anderson, Worshipful Master of Mount Moriah Lodge, acting as Deputy Grand Master for Louisiana in the absence of Most Worshipful Brother A.J. Norwood, Grand Master of Louisiana, who was unable to attend. The lodge’s history further adds that, at this meeting:

 The officers named for the Lodge under dispensation were named. They were:

 Worshipful Master: Robert F. Clute, minister and Rector of Christ Episcopal Church
Senior Warden: James M. Thompson, lawyer
Junior Warden: Henry F. Spring, farmer
Secretary: William B. Hosmer
Senior Deacon: James M. Ford
Junior Deacon: W. H. R. Hangen
Tyler: Charles Heintz

At this meeting, a committee composed of Brothers Thompson, Spring, and Ford was appointed to draw up a set of by-laws for the Lodge. These must have been previously drawn, for they were presented and adopted at this meeting. At this first meeting, three new petitions for degrees in Masonry were received. The time of future meetings was fixed at the first Saturday of each month, commencing at the hour of four o’clock p.m. The first officers for the newly chartered Lodge were then elected and installed. They were:

Worshipful Master: Robert F. Clute
Senior Warden: James M. Thompson
Junior Warden: Fenelon B. Martindale
Secretary: Alonzo Given
Treasurer: Charles Heintz
Junior Deacon: W. H. R. Hangen
Senior Deacon: J. M. Ford
Tyler: John Theobold

 The lodge’s history currently makes no further mention of Hangen, and notes that:

There is no record showing where the first meeting was held except that it was in Covington. The minutes do show that after the installation of officers, the Lodge was closed and the officers, members, and guests departed to the boarding house of Mrs. Sterling ‘next door,’ where all enjoyed a fine meal ending with Masonic Songs. The old building known as the Sterling Hotel was still standing in the year 1909, and with it being ‘next door’ to the Lodge, it is evident that the Lodge met in some building next to the site of the present Temple.

From the time the Lodge was first organized, it occupied a rented quarters for a meeting place until November 21, 1871, when it purchased from Mrs. Emma Afroux the property described as Lot 4 in Square 7, Division of St. John, Town of Covington, and which is on the South side of and adjacent to the lot on which the present temple is now located. On the lot purchased from Mrs. Afroux, there was a wooden frame building. This structure was remodeled and used as the Temple until it was destroyed by fire on October 29, 1909.

What is evident from other Louisiana records, though, is that Washington H. R. Hangen’s stature in civil circles continued to rise. On 21 July 1870, as a resident of Mandeville, Louisiana, he was appointed as a deputy surveyor for the State of Louisiana after swearing an oath to the state’s Surveyor General that he would fulfill contractual obligations to for that state’s southwestern district.

The 1870 federal census also documented that he was employed as a surveyor, and described him as a New York native residing in Madisonville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana with his 33-year-old wife, Susan C. Hangen, a native of Pennsylvania. Still noting that he was a native New Yorker, the 1880 federal census, however, describes him as an engineer whose parents were native Pennsylvanians – and also adds a further complication by describing his wife at this time as 35-year-old “Amelia” – a native of Canada, whose parents were also native Canadians. In addition this census notes that Washington and Amelia Hangen had adopted a 10-year-old daughter, “Elizabeth Baldwin,” who was apparently a native of Louisiana, but who was the daughter of a father who had been born in Ohio and a mother who had been born in New York.

On 6 June 1871, he was awarded a contract by the Surveyor General’s Office in New Orleans (E. W. Foster, Surveyor General, Louisiana) to survey 100 miles of the Sabine military reservation in the Southwestern District of Louisiana at $8/mile (for a total of $800). He continued to do contract surveying work for the Louisiana Surveyor General in 1872 and 1873, as evidenced by various reports to Congress by Freedmen’s Bureau officials and other federal documents.

By September of 1875, federal records confirm that he had been appointed as the Postmaster of Madisonville, Louisiana – a fact reconfirmed by in September 1877 federal records showing that he continued to hold that appointment.

Live Oak Trees with Spanish Moss, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana (c. 1890s, State Library of Louisiana, public domain).

Live oak trees with Spanish moss, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana (c. 1890s, State Library of Louisiana, public domain).

The 14 July 1888 edition of the St. Tammany Farmer reported that “The Governor has appointed Mr. W. H. R. Hangen. of. Madisonville to the [post] of Parish Surveyor,” and confirmed in later editions that he had been responsible for surveying land in 1891 that was re-sold in the 1920s.

And the 1890 U.S. Veterans’ Schedule further confirms his continued residency in St. Tammany Parish, noting that he had been appointed as a census enumerator for that parish’s First Ward for the federal census that year.

Even more importantly, that 1890 record removes all doubt that the Washington H. R. Hangen residing in Madisonville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana was the very same Washington H. R. Hangen who served with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers – and that Hangen had ultimately been able to redeem himself professionally. This Veterans’ Schedule confirms both that Hangen had served with the 47th Pennsylvania – and that his service ended in July 1864 – three months after he was reported to have been dismissed from the same regiment on a charge of cowardice – signaling that the charges against him had indeed been revoked or reduced (as they had been for Major William Gausler and 1st Lieutenant William Reese).

What apparently still remains in dispute to this day, however, is the marital status of Washington H. R. Hangen. According to records transcribed by Donald Johnson in March 1999 for the U.S. GenWeb Project, Washington Hangen’s second wife, Amelia, preceded him in death, and was interred at the Madisonville Cemetery in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana in 1893:

Amelia Monette
w/o W. H. R. Hangen
d 15 Apr. 1893, a 53 y 3 m 14 d
native of Montreal, Canada

Meanwhile, according to newspaper reports published in the late 1890s and early 1900s, Hangen’s first family spent the reminder of their days in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley unaware of (or perhaps even trying to hide) the truth regarding the turn that Washington Hangen’s life had taken during and after the Red River Campaign. And the stress brought on by the discomfort related to the long war and its related fallout clearly did at least have some negative impacts on their lives.

Aurelia (Hangen) Erdman, Hangen’s daughter from his first marriage, fell ill in November 1898 at the age of 40, and passed away just two weeks later. According to her obituary, she was “a daughter of the late Washington and Mrs. Isabella. C. Hangen.”

In addition, by 1900, Hangen’s first wife, Isabella, had moved in with their surviving son, Lewis C. G. Hangen. Also residing there at this time were her son-in-law, George Erdman, and grandchildren (George and Aurelia’s children): Lillian and Fred, who had been born sometime around 1872 and 1879, respectively; Bessie (1885-1921); and Clyde, who had been born sometime around 1891.

Just three years later, Isabella Hangen was also gone. Her obituary, which ran in the 21-22 December 1903 editions of The Allentown Leader, reported the sad state of her affairs as follows:

Mrs. Isabella C. Hangen of 42 South Franklin Street, died suddenly Saturday afternoon in the office of the Allentown Transfer Co. while down town on a shopping trip. Leaving home, she called at the Transfer office to see her granddaughter, Miss Lillian Erdman, who is in charge. Mrs. Hangen and her granddaughter planned to visit several stores to make some Christmas purchases after the latter had closed the office. While seated in a chair Mrs. Hangen leaned over to fasten her shoe string, when she was stricken. She fell back in the chair gasping. Miss Erdman telephoned for Dr. Const Martin, but by the time the doctor arrived the stricken woman was dead. Heart failure was the cause. She had been in failing health for several years. She was in her 75th year. Mrs. Hangen was a daughter of the late William and Catharine Keiper. Her husband, Washington Hangen, enlisted in the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War and never returned. It is thought that he was killed in battle, but all inquiry made failed to establish his whereabouts or the location of his grave. One son, L. C. G. Hangen, and four grandchildren survive. The funeral will be held on Wednesday at 2 p.m. from her late home.

The latter edition of the newspaper also ran this death notice for her:

HANGEN. – Suddenly on the evening December 19th, 1903, Isabella C., widow of Washington H. R. Hangen, aged 74 years, 5 months and 4 days. Funeral services at her late residence, No. 42 South Franklin Street, on Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock, to which the relatives and friends are respectfully invited. Interment private in Union Cemetery.

The 23 December 1903 edition of The Allentown Leader then also reported on her funeral:

The funeral of Mrs. Elizabeth C. Hangen, widow of Washington H. R. Hangen, who died on Saturday evening, took place Wednesday afternoon from her late residence, No. 42 South Franklin Street. The services were held at the house and were conducted by Rev. Dr. S. G. Wagner. Private interment was made in Union Cemetery. The pall bearers were Peter Steltz, George Daufer, Dr. J. C. Fetherolf and Reuben Engleman.

The Hangens’ son, Lewis, lived until 1920. Having never married, he was employed throughout his life a manager and yeoman and, according to newspapers of the time, became a beloved uncle to his sister’s children. When he passed away at the Allentown Hospital on 2 May 1920, his niece, Bessie, served as the informant on his death certificate. Like his mother and sister before him, he too was laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery.

As for what ultimately happened to Washington H. R. Hangen, researchers have been able to confirm that he died in Abita Springs in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana on Tuesday, 23 April 1895. His very brief notice in the Saturday edition of The St. Tammany Farmer confirmed his death, but also added further confusion by noting that he had been born in Connecticut rather than New York – likely nothing more than a simple obituary error, but possibly also an indication of the lengths Hangen had undertaken to hide details about his earlier family life and military career from his neighbors and friends.

Washington H. R. Hangen's Death Notice, St. Tammany Farmer, 27 April 1895 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Washington H. R. Hangen’s Death Notice, The St. Tammany Farmer, 27 April 1895 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

While no grave site has yet been located for Washington Hangen, researchers currently believe that he was most likely interred at the Madisonville Cemetery in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. This theory is supported by: a.) newspaper accounts of his Louisiana land surveys which confirm that he was still producing reports about survey assignments in that parish during 1891, b.) the U.S. GenWeb cemetery record transcription which confirms that Washington Hangen’s second wife, Amelia, was laid to rest at the Madisonville Cemetery in St. Tammany Parish in 1893; c.) W. H. R. Hangen’s own death notice which confirmed that he died in Abita Springs in St. Tammany Parish in 1895; and d.) the 1898 obituary of Aurelia (Hangen) Erdman, which described her as “a daughter of the late Washington and Mrs. Isabella. C. Hangen.”

Researchers are presently conducting a search for records or other documentation which will confirm whether or not he was buried at the Madisonville Cemetery or elsewhere, and will post this data if and when it becomes available.


To read more samples of the letters and reports penned by Washington H. R. Hangen during his Freedmen’s Bureau tenure, see Freedmen’s Bureau Reports of Washington H. R. Hangen, St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, Louisiana. More of W. H. R. Hangen’s Correspondence and Reports, U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (1866-1868) will be added over the next few weeks and months.



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

2. Carr, David. Civil War Deserters: Cowards or Heroes? in Civil War Essay Contest 2012. New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2012.

3. Civil War Muster Rolls. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

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

5. Death and funeral notices for Aurelia (Hangen) Erdman. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 15 and 18 November 1898.

6. Death of Mrs. Hangen: Expires Suddenly While on a Shopping Trip. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 21 December 1903.

7. Isabella C. Hangen, in Deaths. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 22 December 1903.

8. Mrs. Elizabeth C. Hangen, in Laid to Rest. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 23 December 1903.

9. Hangen Family Death Certificates. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

10. Hangen, W. B. H., in Returns from Military Posts, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1863.

11. Hangen, Washington H. R., in Annual Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1871. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1872.

12. Rev. Jacob W. Hangen, in W. N. P. Dailey’s The History of Montgomery Classis R.C.A. To which is added sketches of Mohawk valley men and events of early days, the Iroquois, Palatines, Indian missions, Tryon county committee of safety, Sir Wm. Johnson, Joseph Brant, Arendt Van Curler, Gen. Herkimer, Reformed church in America, doctrine and progress revolutionary residences, etc. Amsterdam, New York: Recorder Press, 1916.

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

14. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Louisiana: 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900.

15. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Louisiana: 1890.

16. W. H. R. Hangen, in History of Covington Lodge #188, F&AM. Covington, Louisiana: retrieved online 30 May 2016.

17. W. H. R. Hangen and W. H. H. Hangen, in Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service, Vol. 1, in Records of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census. Salem, Oregon: Oregon State Library, 1875, 1877.

18. W. H. R. Hangen (or W. N. R. Hangen), in Report of Indigent and Destitute Whites and Freed People in the Parish of Washington, State of Louisiana applying for relief from the 1st day of May 1868 to the 31st day of May 1868, in Reports Relating to the Condition of Freedmen, in Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869 (M1027, Roll 33). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, May 1868.

19. W. H. R. Hangen, in Records of the Field Offices for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1863-1872 (M1905). Washington, D.C.: United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, 2004.

20. W. H. R. Hangen, in The St. Tammany Farmer. Covington, Louisiana: 27 April 1895 (death notice) and 17 July 1888 and 4 June 1921 (mentions of his work as parish surveyor).

21. Washington Henry Reinhold Hangen, Jacob William Hangen and Mary M Hangen, in New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962 (database and FHL microfilm 962,643). Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2014.

22. Weitz, Mark A. Desertion, Cowardice and Punishment, in Essential Civil War Curriculum. Blacksburg, Virginia: Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, History Department, Virginia Tech University, retrieved online 1 July 2016.