Pastor’s son. Shoemaker. Surveyor. Mystery man.
Cited for valor after being wounded in battle during the American Civil War in 1862, Washington H. R. Hangen would be accused of cowardice under fire by a Union Army brigadier-general just two years later.
Was that shocking allegation true? Or were those assertions as baseless as those made at the same time by that same general against one of W. H. R. Hangen’s fellow regimental officers—charges that would ultimately be overturned for that officer by President Abraham Lincoln’s personal intervention?
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.
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” while Lewis 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
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 aboard a railroad car, and proceeded to Chester County, Pennsylvania. Arriving at 9 p.m. that evening, he and his men 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.
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 (now in West 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 First Lieutenant with the central command of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. 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 while based at encampments in the Georgetown section of Washington, D. C. and northern Virginia.
That same month (January 1862), Adjutant and First Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and his 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 First Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen and his fellow officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General John Milton 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.
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 typhoid fever and other tropical diseases, as well as the always likely dysentery spread by soldiers living in close, unsanitary conditions.
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 band on Wednesday evening, 26 February.
Ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly thirty-five miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July) while men from Companies B and H “crossed the Coosaw River at the Port Royal Ferry and drove off the Rebel pickets before returning ‘home’ without a loss,” according to Schmidt. The actions were the Union’s response to the burning by Confederate troops of the ferry house at Port Royal. H Company’s Sergeant Reuben Shatto Gardner described their actions later in a letter to family and friends:
So the other day we took a notion to turn the joke on them and we crossed over to this side and drove them off their posts and back several miles, and burnt four houses that were used by them to picket in. Our skirmishers had four shots at the rebels, but with what effect we don’t know as they soon got out of harm’s way. Companies H and B were all that crossed. The boys got so eager to follow up the rebels that they did not want to come back when ordered. Our force was too small to advance far, so we went back after doing all the damage we could to them. They fled in such a hurry as to leave three saddles, one double barrelled shot gun, several overcoats, haversacks, canteens, &c., all of which our boys brought along as relics, that being the first of anything of that kind our regiment had. Now the boys want to cross every day; but the Colonel won’t allow them as it is beyond his orders to cross the river, and probably we would meet with a repulse, as the rebels have been in force on the opposite side since we drove them off. They are like a bee’s nest when stirred up. The day after we were over they fired more than a hundred shots at our boys. They returned some shots and only laughed at them. The distance across the river is from 800 to 1000 yards, and of course there can be but little damage done at that distance.
On Saturday, 12 July, H Company Lieutenant Geety documented the engagement of Union troops with other Confederate soldiers, noting that troops from five Union gunboats had “shelled the shore and crossed over and burned three shanties…. I had command of the right of the skirmish but did not get an opportunity to kill any secessionists. I got a secessionist cap box made in New York and case of a shell.”
The next day (a Sunday), Sergeant Reuben Gardner continued working on his letter, noting:
We have been on picket now ten days [near Port Royal Ferry, along the Broad River] and were due to be relieved tomorrow; but for some cause are now to stay five days longer. The general rule is ten days; but always whip the horse that pulls the hardest. We are ten miles from camp, and are picketing around the west end of the island, for 12 miles along the shore. Five companies of our regiment are out at a time. The rebel pickets are right opposite to us, across the river, and dozens of shots are exchanged every day; but without any effect on our side. The rebel’s [sic] guns fail to reach across. Our files will shoot across with a double charge, but we only fire at each other for fun. The 7th New Hampshire were on here before we came out and the rebels made them leave the line. They took advantage of that and crossed over and burnt a ferry house that stood on the end of the causeway on this side….
We have the greatest picket line here entirely. At low tide down along the beach at night you can’t hear thunder, by times, for the snapping of oysters, croaking of frogs, buzzing of mosquitoes, and the noise of a thousand other reptiles and varmints. It beats all I have heard since the commencement of the war. We have had a pretty good time out here on picket and good weather; but 15 days is a little too long to lie in the woods for my fancy.
On 12 September, Colonel Tilghman Good and First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant Washington H. R. Hangen, issued Regimental Order No. 207 from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:
I. The Colonel commanding desires to call the attention of all officers and men in the regiment to the paramount necessity of observing rules for the preservation of health. There is less to be apprehended from battle than disease. The records of all companies in climate like this show many more casualties by the neglect of sanitary post action then [sic] by the skill, ordnance and courage of the enemy. Anxious that the men in my command may be preserved in the full enjoyment of health to the service of the Union. And that only those who can leave behind the proud epitaph of having fallen on the field of battle in the defense of their country shall fail to return to their families and relations at the termination of this war.
II. All the tents will be struck at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of each week. The signal for this purpose will be given by the drum major by giving three taps on the drum. Every article of clothing and bedding will be taken out and aired; the flooring and bunks will be thoroughly cleaned. By the same signal at 11 a.m. the tents will be re-erected. On the days the tents are not struck the sides will be raised during the day for the purpose of ventilation.
III. The proper cooking of provisions is a matter of great importance more especially in this climate but have not yet received from a majority of officers of the regiment that attention that should be paid to it.
IV. Thereafter an officer of each company will be detailed by the commander of each company and have their names reported to these headquarters to superintend the cooking of provisions taking care that all food prepared for the soldiers is sufficiently cooked and that the meats are all boiled or seared (not fried). He will also have charge of the dress table and he is held responsible for the cleanliness of the kitchen cooking utensils and the preparation of the meals at the time appointed.
V. The following rules for the taking of meals and regulations in regard to the conducting of the company will be strictly followed. Every soldier will turn his plate, cup, knife and fork into the Quarter Master Sgt who will designate a permanent place or spot each member of the company and there leave his plate & cup, knife and fork placed at each meal with the soldier’s rations on it. Nor will any soldier be permitted to go to the company kitchen and take away food therefrom.
VI. Until further orders the following times for taking meals will be followed Breakfast at six, dinner at twelve, supper at six. The drum major will beat a designated call fifteen minutes before the specified time which will be the signal to prepare the tables, and at the time specified for the taking of meals he will beat the dinner call. The soldier will be permitted to take his spot at the table before the last call.
VII. Commanders of companies will see that this order is entered in their company order book and that it is read forth with each day on the company parade. All commanding officers of companies will regulate daily their time by the time of this headquarters. They will send their 1st Sergeants to this headquarters daily at 8 a.m. for this purpose.
Great punctuality is enjoined in conforming to the stated hours prescribed by the roll calls, parades, drills, and taking of meals; review of army regulations while attending all roll calls to be suspended by a commissioned officer of the companies, and a Captain to report the alternate to the Colonel or the commanding officer.
At 5 a.m., Commanders of companies are imperatively instructed to have the company quarters washed and policed and secured immediately after breakfast.
At 6 a.m., morning reports of companies request [sic] by the Captains and 1st Sgts and all applications for special privileges of soldiers must be handed to the Adjutant before 8 a.m.
By Command of Col. T. H. Good
W. H. R. Hangen Adj
In addition, Adjutant Hangen clarified the regiment’s schedule as follows:
- Reveille (5:30 a.m.)
- Breakfast (6:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Guard (6:10 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.)
- Surgeon’s Call (6:30 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Company Drill (6:45 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.)
- Recall from Company Drill (8:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drill (9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (10:30 a.m.)
- Dinner (12:00 noon)
- Call for Non-commissioned Officers (1:30 p.m.)
- Recall for Non-commissioned Officers (2:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drills (3:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (4:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Dress Parade (5:10 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.)
- Supper (6:10 p.m.)
- Tattoo (9:00 p.m.)
- Taps (9:15 p.m.)
As the one year anniversary of the 47th Pennsylvania’s departure from the Great Keystone State dawned, thoughts turned to home and Divine Providence as Colonel Tilghman Good issued Special Order No. 60 from the 47th’s Regimental Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:
The Colonel commanding takes great pleasure in complimenting the officers and men of the regiment on the favorable auspices of today.
Just one year ago today, the organization of the regiment was completed to enter into the service of our beloved country, to uphold the same flag under which our forefathers fought, bled, and died, and perpetuate the same free institutions which they handed down to us unimpaired.
It is becoming therefore for us to rejoice on this first anniversary of our regimental history and to show forth devout gratitude to God for this special guardianship over us.
Whilst many other regiments who swelled the ranks of the Union Army even at a later date than the 47th have since been greatly reduced by sickness or almost cut to pieces on the field of battle, we as yet have an entire regiment and have lost but comparatively few out of our ranks.
Certain it is we have never evaded or shrunk from duty or danger, on the contrary, we have been ever anxious and ready to occupy any fort, or assume any position assigned to us in the great battle for the constitution and the Union.
We have braved the danger of land and sea, climate and disease, for our glorious cause, and it is with no ordinary degree of pleasure that the Colonel compliments the officers of the regiment for the faithfulness at their respective posts of duty and their uniform and gentlemanly manner towards one another.
Whilst in numerous other regiments there has been more or less jammings and quarrelling [sic] among the officers who thus have brought reproach upon themselves and their regiments, we have had none of this, and everything has moved along smoothly and harmoniously. We also compliment the men in the ranks for their soldierly bearing, efficiency in drill, and tidy and cleanly appearance, and if at any time it has seemed to be harsh and rigid in discipline, let the men ponder for a moment and they will see for themselves that it has been for their own good.
To the enforcement of law and order and discipline it is due our far fame as a regiment and the reputation we have won throughout the land.
With you he has shared the same trials and encountered the same dangers. We have mutually suffered from the same cold in Virginia and burned by the same southern sun in Florida and South Carolina, and he assures the officers and men of the regiment that as long as the present war continues, and the service of the regiment is required, so long he stands by them through storm and sunshine, sharing the same danger and awaiting the same glory.
Capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida
On 30 September 1862, Adjutant and First Lieutenant 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 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, which was effected by a Union force personally commanded by Brigadier-General Brannan aboard the Paul Jones. That force, which departed from the bluff on Sunday, 5 October, was composed of two companies from each of the regiments Brannan had brought with him to Florida, and included the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies C and H. (Around this same time, two other companies from the 47th Pennsylvania—E and K—were engaged in capturing the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer that had equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.)
In a report to his superiors, which was filed from Mount Pleasant Landing, Florida on 2 October 1862, 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, Colonel Good sent an update from Saint John’s Bluff, Florida, which was now in Union hands:
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.
In his own post-engagement reports, Brigadier-General Brannan described the Union Army’s capture of Jacksonville, Florida as follows:
Jacksonville I found to be nearly deserted, there being but a small portion of its inhabitants left, chiefly old men, women, and children…. Before reaching the city you see the ruins of a large number of steam saw mills, they were burned before our people reached there last season. The work was done by the Rebels to keep them from our possession. I believe they are owned mostly by northern capital. Grass and weeds grow rank and tall in the principal streets. Houses with blinds closed…. Stores with shelves but no goods. Churches deserted and gloomy…. On our first arrival some Rebel cavalry were hovering around the town, but they immediately retired on my establishing a picket line….
Three companies were thrown out as pickets, the negro guide directing. We went about a mile from the wharf, two companies on the left and one on the right…. We had hardly got stationed and were just about to send the negro and a party of men for his family three miles further on when the pickets gave the alarm that the Rebel cavalry was coming. The reserve was very speedily in line to receive them. We were on the railroad, but the cavalry came down the plank road. The outpost men fired and fell back on the reserve.
Approaching from the left, the Confederate cavalry was initially repulsed by troops from Pennsylvania, but then regouped and made second and third charges at the Union’s center and rear—attacks that were also repulsed by Brannan’s men, enabling the Union troops to advance into Jacksonville, which they occupied until 11 p.m. when they returned to the wharf and set up camp. The next morning, Union troops then went back into Jacksonville where, sadly, a number of them engaged in looting local stores—until Brigadier-General Brannan put a stop to their plunder. In a subsequent report, Brannan noted that he brought “several refugees and about 276 contrabands, including men, women, and children” back with him as he returned to his main force at the bluff.
While those adventures were unfolding, Colonel Tilghman Good, who had been placed in command of the remaining troops at the bluff, was directing the removal of all of the Confederate cannon from the area—a process that took several days. On 10 October, the Union troops then set explosive charges and destroyed the fort, which was known as Fort Finnegan.
Shortly thereafter, the combined Union force made its way back to Hilton Head, South Carolina in a staged departure, and the 47th Pennsylvanians then moved from Hilton Head back to Beaufort.
Integration of the Regiment
Meanwhile, as the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers engaged in the Expedition to Saint John’s Bluff, those who remained behind in Beaufort, South Carolina were helping their regiment to make history. On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls several young to middle-aged Black men who had been freed from enslavement on plantations in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina:
- Just sixteen 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. Military records described him as being 5′ 6″ 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 on as a member of 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 thirty-three-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′ 5″ 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 enlistment. 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, twenty-two-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned to 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 on as a member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until being honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of enlistment.
More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.
Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
From 21-23 October, Adjutant and First 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 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.
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. 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.
When the casualty figures were completely tallied, it became clear that the 47th Pennsylvania had, indeed, been hit hard. Two officers and 18 enlisted men from the 47th had been killed; two officers and 114 enlisted had been wounded. Among the gravely injured was Adjutant and First 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 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.”
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 combat.
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….”
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 of 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 the entirety of 1863 at Fort Taylor while the men rom Companies D, F, H, and K had been sent to garrison Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Florida’s coast.
As the old year waned and a new one appeared on the horizon, regimental leaders came to realize that 1863 had been a noteworthy year—both for the number of 47th Pennsylvanians claimed by disease—and because the majority of soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania had chosen to re-enlist when their original three-year terms of service expired.
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 Brigadier-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 Captain Richard Graeffe and 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.
During this phase of duty, which lasted until sometime in February of 1864, Graeffe’s men 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:
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, his Adjutant and First Lieutenant W. H. R. Hangen, and the other members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s field and staff officers’ corps 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. On 25 February 1864, the first group of 47th Pennsylvanians to be transported (Companies B, C, D, I, and K), boarded yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—and headed for Algiers (which was situated across the river from New Orleans and is now a neighborhood in New Orleans). They were followed on 1 March by the members Companies E, F, G, and H who departed from 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 (now Morgan City, Louisiana) before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks. (Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.)
Red River Campaign
The early days on the ground in Louisiana quickly woke the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers up to just how grueling this new phase of duty would be.
From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron Bullard (later known as Aaron French), James and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania 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, the 47th Pennsylvanians also suffered from the harsh climate and long marches.
The next day, on 8 April, they engaged in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield). Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down during the intense back-and-forth barrage of rifle and cannon fire.
The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, the uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. In the aftermath, several members of the regiment were reported as killed in action, but had actually survived. Others remained missing. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill (now the Village of Pleasant Hill). The next day’s fighting proved to be even more intense.
On 9 April, 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 and block another Confederate assault.
During this engagement, known today as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the 47th Pennsylvanians recaptured a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during an earlier Confederate assault. While mounting the 47th Pennsylvania’s colors on one of the caissons, Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls was shot in the left shoulder. Sergeant William Pyers was then also shot as he retrieved the American flag from Walls in order to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Both survived.
In addition, Colonel Good nearly lost his second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, who had been severely wounded in both legs. Casualties among the enlisted men were also high, and a number of soldiers were captured and held as prisoners of war (POWs) at Camp Ford (near Tyler, Texas), the largest Confederate prison camp west of the Mississippi River, until they were released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, September, or November. Tragically, at least two members of the 47th died while in captivity, and the burial locations of others remain a mystery to this day, their bodies having been hastily interred on or between battlefields—or possibly in unmarked prison graves.
Although C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin was subsequently cited for his valor, three other officers from the regiment—including Adjutant and First Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen—received an entirely different and more shocking performance evaluation.
All three were charged with cowardice.
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 a citation for valor after being wounded in the Battle of Pocotaligo in 1862—had been dismissed from military service, along with Major William Gausler and First Lieutenant William Reese, “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 stain the regiment’s reputation for months and trouble the hearts and minds of Colonel Good and his men 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. A more detailed explanation of why the 47th Pennsylvanians 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.”
According to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, and other sources, President Abraham Lincoln had finally stepped in, and had 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 then 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, First Lieutenant William Reese’s order of dismissal was revoked on 18 February 1865.
Confusion remains, however, regarding the outcome for Adjutant and First 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, the shocking act of being charged with cowardice appears to have been embarrassing and hurtful enough to Hangen that it dramatically altered the trajectory of his life—as documented by federal and state records and historical accounts in various newspapers of the latter 19th century.
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 fits what happened during both the battles of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield and Pleasant Hill while Adjutant and First Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen and his 47th Pennsylvania subordinates were engaging the enemy. Various historical accounts report that Union lines buckled multiple times, and that the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were 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 First 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 truly have been difficult for him 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 stated that the Red River battles in which he had fought had been poorly waged by the 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,” explains 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
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.”
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 across the region. He also worked to improve relations between Black and White residents in the area by mediating disputes. And when hate crimes were committed, he 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 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); 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.
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.
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 First 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:
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.
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 as they are located.
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3. Civil War Muster Rolls. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
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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.
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22. 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.
23. 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.
24. W. H. R. Hangen (mentions of his work as parish surveyor). Covington, Louisiana: The St. Tammany Farmer, 27 April 1895 (death notice) and 17 July 1888 and 4 June 1921.
25. 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.
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