Regimental Quartermaster Francis Z. Heebner — Everybody’s “Dad”

Alternate Spellings of Surname: Heebner, Huebner

Allentown (also known as Northampton Towne, 1851, Frederick Wulff, public domain).

His nickname tells you all you need to know about him. He was known to his family, friends, and comrades in the struggle to save America’s Union as “Dad”—the steady, trustworthy guy you could depend on whether you needed sensible advice about finding a good bargain or a stalwart ally to stick with you when facing an unshakable adversary. His name was Francis Z. Heebner.

Formative Years

Born on 25 May 1823, Francis Z. Heebner was a native of Pennsylvania. Although very little is known about his parents or childhood, researchers have been able to determine that he became a successful entrepreneur as a young man. Per mid-19th century editions of Der Lecha Caunty Patriot (the German language newspaper in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania), Francis Heebner and his business partner received significant news and advertising coverage of their opening of a warehouse in Allentown in December 1850. This new company offered a large assortment of bureaus, secretary desks, sofas, wardrobes, and other types of furnishings for bedrooms and residential living and dining, according to advertisements which ran in that same newspaper throughout 1851.

From 1851 to 1852, Francis Heebner served on the board of directors of the Good Will Fire Company in Allentown with Tilghman H. Good. Good, who had married Mary A. Trexler on 4 April 1851, soon became Heebner’s brother-in-law by marriage (on 1 May 1853) when Heebner married Dianna Trexler (1832-1864; alternate spellings of name: “Diannah”, “Diana”). Both women were daughters of Amandes Trexler (1803-1866), a Lehigh Valley businessman, and Sarah (Stahl) Trexler (1807-1877).

Sometime around 1854, Francis and Dianna Heebner welcomed the birth of their daughter, Emma. Their son, Robert, was then born in June 1857.

Employed as a clerk by 1860, Francis Heebner resided with his wife, Dianna, and their two children in Allentown’s Second Ward, where his personal estate was valued at $1,000 (roughly the equivalent of $33,000 in the year 2021).

But their happy life would soon be clouded by worry as relations between the northern and southern states of their nation deteriorated and then ruptured with the December 1860 secession of South Carolina from the United States.

Civil War

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

A family man with obligations to his wife and children when Fort Sumter fell to Confederate troops in mid-April 1861, Francis Z. Heebner initially opted to remain at home as younger, single men in his community enlisted with local militia organizations during that troubling spring of 1861. But by that summer, he knew that he would not be able to remain at home if he truly wanted to ensure a safe and comfortable life for his wife and children.

So, on 10 September 1861, Francis Z. Heebner became one of the first groups of early responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for more volunteers to end the national emergency. Following his enrollment that day in Allentown, he officially mustered in for duty on 14 September at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County as a Private with Company B of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry—a brand new regiment which had been established on 5 August 1861 by his brother-in-law by marriage, Tilghman H. Good. (Upon creation of the new regiment, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin had commissioned Good as the new regiment’s first Colonel and Commanding Officer.)

Military records at the time described Private Francis Z. Heebner as a 31-year-old woolen manufacturer and resident of Allentown who was 5 feet, 4 inches tall with dark hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion.

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

After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.

After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.

We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on discovering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.

Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.

…. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.

Chain Bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown looking toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).

On 24 September, Private Francis Z. Heebner became part of the federal military service, mustering in with his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to the U.S. Army. Three days later, the 47th Pennsylvanians were assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, they were on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their Regimental Band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on into Virginia for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.

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

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

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

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

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

Unknown regiment, Camp Griffin, Virginia, fall 1861 (public domain, U.S. Library of Congress).

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

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

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

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

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

A former tobacco stripper and son of a Frakturist-tombstone carver, 15-year-old Musician Eisenbraun had been shipped back to Georgetown on 22 or 23 October with other ailing members of his regiment after he had contracted typhoid fever in late September or early October. He died there at the army’s general hospital at Georgetown’s Union Hotel on Saturday, 26 October, and was laid to rest at the Military Asylum Cemetery (now the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery) in Washington, D.C.

Soldiering On

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

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

In his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed still more details about life at Camp Griffin:

This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….

The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….

A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….

Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

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

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

1862

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

On 16 January 1862, Regimental Quartermaster James Van Dyke resigned from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Four days later (on 20 January 1862), Private Francis Z. Heebner was transferred from service with Company B to the central regimental command staff, and promoted to the rank of Quartermaster—a tremendously important job within regimental and U.S. Army operations.

According to accounting and business management professors Darwin L. King and Carl J. Case:

A brief review of military organization will provide the reader with more insight into the two basic military cost accounting positions: the Company Accounting Clerk and the Regimental Quartermaster. The Civil War Union Army was organized into corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and companies (Boatner, 1991). A corps was the largest military unit. It was made up of two or three divisions under the direction of a Major General. A division was composed of three to five brigades … [each of which were] led by a Major General or Senior Brigade General … [and composed] of three to six regiments [led by] … a Brigadier General or a senior Colonel…. A regiment was typically composed of 500 to 1,000 men … [and was typically led by] a Colonel…. Finally, the regiment was broken down into the military’s smallest record keeping unit called a company….

The company or accounting clerk was a position filled by a man who was either a non-commissioned officer or soldier who was known to have good penmanship and a capacity for keeping good reports and records. This basically meant that privates … corporals, or sergeants (non-commissioned officers) were allowed to hold the position of company clerk. Either the commanding officer of the company (i.e. captain) or the first sergeant normally supervised the clerk…. The Company Accounting Clerk represented the heart of cost control for the army during the Civil War.

The next level of cost accounting was at the regimental level. Each quartermaster was responsible for cost records relating to the ten or twelve companies comprising the regiment. Since the quartermasters handled a large amount of cash for making payrolls and purchasing required supplies, regulations required all newly appointed quartermasters to purchase a “good and sufficient bond” in an amount specified by the Secretary of War.

According to Professors King and Case, company clerks were responsible for creating and updating records in their respective regimental morning report books, which detailed “the duty status of each soldier in the company,” and also “described the reason for every officer or soldier not being available for duty,” such as those who had been assigned to the Quartermaster’s Department or were “under arrest, away with or without leave, killed in action, wounded, hospitalized, or sick.” In addition, company clerks were also responsible for updating the accounts of company funds, which kept track of cash accounts “utilized by the unit for the purchase of necessities … not furnished by the army … such as the purchase of spices for cooking,” and for keeping current the books documenting “all general orders from the regimental headquarters … [and] any special orders that pertained to the company in general or to a particular member of the unit,” sick books, records of target practice, and descriptive books, which “listed each non-commissioned officer and enlisted men of the company with numerous details pertaining to each man [including] age, height, complexion, eye and hair color, birthplace, occupation, and when, where, and for how long they enlisted,” as well as “character, promotions, appointments, compliments … medals earned [and any] punishments resulting from court-martials.”

And these clerks also played a key role in keeping track of their regiments’ respective expenditures on clothing, arms, and other equipment. King and Case explain that:

The army normally provided the men with their entire first year’s clothing allowance upon enlistment. In following years, the clerk used a monthly allowance to determine if an overdrawn or under drawn situation existed [and if a soldier was overdrawn or was caught selling his clothing, he was expected to pay the army back during a bimonthly payroll muster]….

The Register of Public Property Issued to Soldiers was another book prepared by the accounting clerk … to record all of the rifles, pistols, swords, and other arms issued to each man [as well as] cap-boxes, cartridge-boxes, gun slings, waist belts, and small tools used to maintain the weapons. Soldiers were normally charged for lost arms unless there was a very legitimate reason…. Following a military engagement, the officers of the company were required to inventory arms in the hands of surviving soldiers and collect weapons from soldiers who were either killed or wounded….

The target practice record book would have been of particular interest to someone like Francis Z. Heebner because it was “furnished by the Regimental Quartermaster,” according to Professors King and Case, for use by company clerks in “recording the rifle shooting abilities of each man in the company”:

Each man fired four rounds at distances from 150 to 400 yards. Soldiers with the best accuracy received a company prize, which was a brass medal indicating sharpshooter ability. This book had to be forwarded to the commanding officer of the regiment weekly….

King and Case also note that “Article XLII define[d] the Quartermaster’s Department as the unit that provide[d] ‘the quarters and transportation of the army, storage and transportation of all army supplies, army clothing, camp and garrison equipage, cavalry and artillery horses, fuel, forage, straw, material for bedding, and stationery,’” adding that:

The Regulations of 1861 … specified a standard amount of barracks and fuel for all officers … [and] the amount of stationery available for all officers. For example, Section 1130 states that an officer commanding a regiment of not less than five companies was allowed a quarterly allotment of ten quires (500 pages) of writing paper, one quire of envelopes, forty quill pens, six ounces of sealing wax, and two rolls of office tape….

…. Section 1148 allows a general three tents, one axe, and one hatchet while in the field. Also, for every fifteen soldiers on foot and every thirteen mounted soldiers, there was allocated one tent, two spades, two axes, two picks, two hatchets, two camp kettles, and five mess pans…. If the unit abused their allotment of equipment, any additional items requested over the standard allowance were billed to the requesting company or regiment.

The subsistence department provided standard cost information on expenditures for the preparation of meals for the men. Notes to Section 1229 of the regulations quote the cost of 100 rations for the soldiers at $11.05. This figure represented detailed cost figures on pork, beef, flour, beans, rice, coffee, tea, sugar, vinegar, candles, soap, and salt. For example, 68 rations of pork were 51 pounds of meat at a standard cost of six cents per pound. The other 32 rations (to make the 100 rations total) was 40 pounds of beef at four cents per pound. The cost of the pork ($3.06) and beef ($1.60) represented a significant portion of the total cost of the rations of $11.05. Feeding all of the soldiers three times daily was a significant expense whose cost was carefully regulated by army headquarters.

These regulations “also included details on the allowed quantities of medicines and equipment for both general and post hospitals.”

The standard quantities allowed were based on the number of men in the post. For example, a post with 500 men was allowed a yearly allotment of 96 bottles of alcohol. This was increased to 192 bottles per year if the post had 1,000 men. This standard allowance table, in addition to medicines, included the yearly allotment of instruments (stethoscopes, syringes, splints, etc.), books, hospital stores, bedding, dressings and related supplies. If a post required additional items, they paid a standard cost for each product ordered over the yearly allotment.

In addition, clothing use was also closely controlled, say King and Case:

Soldiers were allowed, according to Section 1050 of the Regulations of 1861, a certain number of articles of clothing … seven caps, five hats, eight coats, thirteen trousers, fifteen shirts, twenty pairs of socks, and ten pairs of boots over a five year enlistment term….

Both clerks and quartermasters were required to prepare[quarterly] budgets that were called “Estimate of Funds Required” … to determine the funds needed by a company or regiment for muster (payroll), food and rations, ordnance service (including police and preservation of the post and tools and machinery), supplies, and all other materials required by the unit….

But these records maintained by Regimental Quartermaster Francis Heebner and his subordinates were not meant only for “internal consumption” by leaders of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. According to Professors King and Case, “At the regimental level, all reports received from the company clerks were summarized and reviewed for accuracy prior to sending the information to Washington.”

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were transported to Florida aboard the steamship Oriental in January 1862 (public domain).

In addition to becoming enmeshed in the world of cost accounting, the next change for now-Regimental Quartermaster Heebner was the news that the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had been ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland. Departing Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, he and his fellow soldiers slogged through deep mud with their equipment, marching for three miles 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 they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

During the afternoon of Monday, 24 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the officers boarded last. 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.

Alfred Waud’s 1862 sketch of Fort Taylor and Key West, Florida (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West in February, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, they introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at local churches.

While stationed in Key West, the men of the 47th drilled in heavy artillery and other tactics—often as much as eight hours per day. They also felled trees, built roads and strengthened the installation’s fortifications.

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

On 1 June 1862, Quartermaster Francis Z. Heebner and Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin returned from a visit to Havana, Cuba, where they reportedly had “a high old time,” according to a letter later penned to family and friends by Gobin.

Fort Walker, Hilton Head, South Carolina, circa 1861 (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, public domain).

Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly 35 miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the 47th Pennsylvanians 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).

Union Navy Base, Mayport Mills, Florida (Harper’s Weekly, 5 October 1862, public domain).

On 30 September the 47th was sent on a return expedition to Florida where the regiment participated with other Union forces in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1-3 October. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked from gunboat-escorted troop carriers at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek. With the 47th Pennsylvania in the lead and braving alligators, skirmishing Confederates and killer snakes, the brigade negotiated 25 miles of thickly forested swamps in order to capture the bluff and pave the way for the Union’s occupation of Jacksonville, Florida.

Integration of the Regiment

On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania made history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls several young Black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina:

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

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

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

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania at Pocotaligo were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; another two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded, including Privates Martin W. Leisenring and Obadiah Pfeiffer.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania headed back to Hilton Head, where members of the regiment were assigned to perform honor guard duties during the funeral of Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South. Mitchel, who had died of yellow fever at the Union Army’s hospital at Hilton Head on 30 October, had initially gained fame in 1846 as an astronomer at the University of Cincinnati, following his discovery of The Mountains of Mitchel on Mars. Members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were awarded the high honor of firing the salute over the grave of the departed general.

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

On 19 November 1862, Private Alfred C. Pretz of Company I penned a letter to his family, noting that:

Quartermaster Heebner met us at the wharf and most obligingly assisted us in removing our baggage to the Major’s quarters. At headquarters, where we presented ourselves immediate upon our arrival, we were welcomed by Col. Good and staff. Their kind attentions made me feel at home. Our most worthy commander assigned me to duty in his office. We live in a fine old deserted mansion, fronting the bay. Our garden contains choice flowers in bloom, orange and banana trees bearing fruit.”

In early December 1862, according to historian Lewis Schmidt, and based on the letters of Henry Wharton of Company C, a company of New York artillerymen “arrived on the gunboat Sagamore, having been taken from the ‘sparkling sea’, wrecked near Carysfort Reef off the coast of Florida.” Wharton and Schmidt were most likely referring to the wreck of the Union steamer, Menemon Sanford, which ran aground on the reef on 10 December 1862. According to historian W. Craig Gaines, the ship’s “cargo was thrown overboard,” and the members of the 156th New York Infantry that were aboard were “rescued by the Gemsbock and Blackstone without any loss of life.” In response, “Quartermaster Heebner of the 47th left for the wreck on Sunday morning with a steamer and schooner, in an attempt to recover the ‘horses, clothing, and so forth,’” according to Wharton.

Four days later, on 14 December, Private Henry J. Hornbeck, who had been assigned to duties in the Quartermaster’s Department, penned a diary entry in which he described how his day had unfolded and in which he mentioned Quartermaster Francis Heebner:

Sunday Dec. 14. Rose as usual. Went to office. Very busy all morning writing out orders, relieving all extra duty men of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Received an order to draw my pay for the time engaged in the office. Wrote letters to sister & others of our departure for Florida, then went to camp and prepared for leaving in the morning. After supper, Quartermaster Heebner, Tom Leisenring and myself went to the ‘Stevens House’ where we were treated by the Quartermaster & different officers. Tom & myself then went back to Camp. The boys had a large bonfire made, and a good deal of fun is going on, being the last night in Beaufort, S.C. retired at 10 o’clock.

The next day, Private Hornbeck penned a follow-up entry:

Monday Dec. 15th. Rose as usual. After breakfast, packed up duds, and proceeded to the wharf. Drew my extra duty pay, at Capt. Cornell’s office, Post Quartermaster, then got aboard the steamer Cosmopolitan. The whole regiment embarked at about 12 o’clock. We did not get ready to start until 2 o’clock, having a large amount of baggage to be laden. The band played a beautiful piece as we left the wharf, along which were scattered the 55th Pennsylvania, 6th Connecticut, 8th Maine to see us off & who gave us three hearty cheers, which were as heartily responded to by us. The sail from Beaufort to Hilton Head was fine, the scenery being so beautiful. Stopped a short time at Hilton head, and took aboard the wounded of our Regiment. General Brannan also came on board for a few minutes. We then started. We seem to be unfortunate in traveling by sea, as our trip was very stormy, and we were in great danger all along. We were three days on the water. We kept rather close to shore, along the Florida Coast, and arrived at Key West, Fla. on Thursday morning at 11 o’clock. This is a fine place being very warm at noon. We immediately after landing went into the restaurants and regaled ourselves. Cool drinks are to be had in every shop, and every kind of fruit in abundance, especially cocoa nuts, the place is full of cocoa nut trees, lemon trees &c which bear the fruit abundantly…. The Regiment is entirely divided, Four Companies D. H. K. & F. are sent to Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island to garrison said Fort. Two Companies, C. & I, are in Fort Taylor, at this place, and Companies. B. & E. are in the old barracks, & Companies A. & G. are in the new barracks, in which latter, I also am. We have very fine quarters, & am much better pleased than at Beaufort S.C. nothing of importance, further, I was detailed as a clerk in the Quartermasters Office on the 20th. Kept pretty busy, as Lt. Gibbs, Quartermaster is relieved and turns over the stores to F. Z. Heebner, his successor.

1863

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

Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 for the men of the 47th Pennsylvania was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. Captain Rhoads and his B Company men joined with Companies A, C, E, G, and I in carrying out their assigned duties at Key West’s Fort Taylor while the soldiers from Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.

According to several diary entries penned in late February and early March of 1863 by Private Henry J. Hornbeck, who had been assigned duties related to the regiment’s Quartermaster’s Department, he and his fellow soldier-accountants were not always stationed on dry land and life was not always “all business”:

Thursday February 26th, at sea…. Running very near coast all day. Today being Wm. Ginkinger’s birthday, I took dinner with him at the table. Had a splendid dinner consisting of roast duck & the &c. Lighthouse in sight at 3 p.m. Passed Cape Florida Lighthouse at 4 p.m. At 9 p.m. passed Carysfort Lighthouse. Retired at 9:30. Sea rough.

Saturday February 28th. Nothing to do today. Companies G & E left early this morning for Tortugas. Colonel Good accompanying them. Very warm all day. Took a stroll about the city, and then went to McGrath’s with Ginkinger, Weiss & Mennig. He kindly informed us to stay with him as long as we please & for which we shall ever feel grateful….

Sunday March 1st. Rose early this morning and went to U.S. Barracks and had a good bath although in salt water, on the beach. Today very warm again. In the evening Mr. McGrath, Ginkinger & myself attended Catholic Church and heard a very able sermon. At the close, he announced a meeting to take place next day, to offer up thanks for their deliverance from the persecuting order which was happily countermanded by our arrival….

Wednesday March 4th. Today Lt. Heebner takes charge of the post commissary. Assisted this morning at the accounts of his predecessor Lt. Locke 90th N.Y. Volunteers.

Sunday March 8th…. After breakfast Mennig, Weiss & myself went to Fort Taylor, remained there until after dinner. Weiss & myself then went to Headquarters and witnessed Dress Parade, the returned to town. After supper, Weiss, Ginkinger & myself attended the Catholic Church….

Monday March 9th. Rose as usual, assisted today in keeping tally in the loading of the ship Underwriter with subsistence stores. In the evening our Band played on the balcony at the Russell House. Our mess was today regularly commenced, consisting of the following, Will Ginkinger, Commissary Sergeant; Jacob Beck, Quartermaster Sergeant; Will J. Weiss, Luther Mennig, two butchers and myself having and Irish woman (Mrs. Boyle) as cook….

On 24 March 1863, Quartermaster Francis Z. Heebner accompanied his regiment’s commanding officer and regimental band members on a trip to Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortugas. According to Schmidt:

On a very hot Wednesday, the routine at Fort Jefferson was broken by the arrival of the schooner ‘Nonparel’ [sic] at 6 AM with the band, Col. Good and his staff, including Surgeon Baily and his wife and Quartermaster Heebner. The men were served rice for dinner, and tea and a ‘boilt ketle of mush’ for supper, as the weather turned cool and rough in the evening. Thursday was cold and rough, with bean soup for dinner, and fried mush for supper. Cpl. Albert baked four pies and gave one each to 2nd Lt. Breneman and Sgt. Billig of Company H. Friday’s dinner consisted of pea soup, as supper included tea….

The band, and Col. Good and staff left for Key West on the Nonparel [sic] at 3:30 PM, but the sea was rough and the night stormy, and the ship was compelled to return to the Tortugas at 7:30 PM. Surgeon Baily, Dr. Holder and his son, and Martin Galicher were aboard. Saturday brought a repeat of the same stormy weather, and more bean soup for dinner, and coffee for supper. Cpl. Albert spent part of the day scrubbing the kitchen and ‘eating room’….

The weather was not as bad on Sunday, March 28, and the Colonel, his staff, and the band returned to Key West.

In mid-June, Private Henry Hornbeck documented more of the ways in which he and Commissary Sergeant Will Ginkinger occupied their free time:

Wednesday June 17th Rose as usual. Chas. Martin Company B deserted last night. Busy at Commissary Papers. A small mail brought in by a pilot boat, from a steamer passing outside from the North. Received two shirts from Sister Mary and a letter enclosing photograph from Bro. John written by himself. No news of any account. After supper Ginkinger & myself went to Miss Allen’s, procured ice cream, then returned to office. Retired at 11 p.m. Very warm.

Friday June 19th. Busy at papers in the morning. A mail arrived from North in a gunboat. rec’d two letters, One from Sister Mary acknowledging receipt of money & trunk and the other from Bro. Molton…. After supper Ginkinger & myself took a short walk, returned by 9 p.m. Retired at 10. Weather hot and oppressing.

As the Fourth of July approached, Private Hornbeck and his Quartermaster colleagues were often occupied with the minutiae of regimental operations during their work day, but still finding time for self-care after clocking out:

Wednesday July 1st. Busy in office. Today procured Henry Kramer Company B as cook for our mess. This afternoon U.S. Gunboat Bermuda arrived from New Orleans, having an old mail for this place, which had passed here, and had gone on there, some time ago…. Weiss & myself took a short walk towards the barracks, accompanying Pretz & Lawall. After which returned to office. Answered Kern’s letter. Ginkinger, Whiting & myself then went in bathing off the wharf. Retired at 11 p.m.

Saturday July 4th. Independence Day. No work in office to-day. Rose at 4 a.m. went with Ginkinger to Slaughter House, procured rations of fresh beef for our mess. Mennig & Myself went to fish market, purchased two fish. Took a cup of coffee at café opposite Provost Marshals Office. After breakfast Whiting & myself played a game of billiards, then witnessed the parade of 47th p.v. 5 Companies with Band & Col. & Staff. Review by the Genl. At Headquarters. Dispersed at 11 a.m. Weather extremely hot. Provost Guard quarters finely decorated. Flags hoisted at great many places. Firing squibs &c, salute by Fort Taylor & Gunboats in harbor, as usual on such occasions. Remained in office all day. After supper Ginkinger & myself visited Capt. Bell, then went with Serg’t. Mink to procure ice cream at a Colored Woman’s establishment, after which returned to office. Many of boys, as usual upon such occasions, being today pretty well curried. Today the San Jacinto relieved the Magnolia as Flag Ship for this port. After taking a sea bath retired at 11 p.m.

At the end of a satisfying Christmas Day, Henry Hornbeck penned another diary entry—this time, one in which he mentioned Quartermaster Francis Heebner’s wife—Dianna (Trexler) Heebner—and conveyed what the day had been like for members of the regiment’s quartermaster’s department:

Friday December 25th. …. rose at 3 a.m. & proceeded to Slaughter House, had two Cattle & two Sheep cut up and served to the troops. Conveyed Fresh Meat to a number of citizens this morning, being Gen’l Woodburys [sic] gift, then had breakfast. Went to Fort Stables, had the horse fed, visited Mrs. Abbot in Fort Taylor, also Mrs. Heebner, from both of whom we rec’d Christmas Cakes & a drink, which were excellent…. We took dinner at Capt. Bells at 2 p.m. which was a splendid affair. A fine turkey served up, and finished up our dinner with excellent Mince pie, after the dinner we again took a ride about the Island, took the horse to Fort Stables and returned to office. At 5 p.m. a party of Masqueraders (or what we term in our State Fantasticals) paraded the street headed with music, a very comical party. Took a walk tonight, Churches finely decorated. Retired early at ½ past 8 p.m. Weather beautiful….

1864

As the New Year arrived, Private Henry Hornbeck continued to document life during the day with the Quartermaster’s Department, as well as the ways in which members of the 47th Pennsylvania amused themselves after work:

Sunday January 4th…. After breakfast, washed & dressed. After dinner John Lawall, Wm. Ginkinger & myself went to the wharf. I then returned to barracks and P. Pernd. E. Crader and myself went out on the beach, searching sea shell. Returned by 4 o’clock. I then cleaned my rifle. Witnessed dress parade. Then went to supper. After supper went to the Methodist Church, heard a good Sermon by our Chaplain. Retired at 9 o’clock.

The next day, Regimental Commissary Sergeant William H. Ginkinger re-enlisted at Fort Taylor in Key West (on 5 January 1864).

Around this same time (early January 1864), the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be used to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Captain Richard Graeffe and a group of men from Company A were assigned to special duty, charged 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, escaped slaves, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops.

Back in Key West, somewhere around this same phase of duty, Regimental Commissary Sergeant Will Ginkinger had received permission to live in quarters that were separated from the larger regimental accommodations, according to diary entries penned by Private Hornbeck:

Monday January 19th…. After breakfast went to office busy all day. I forgot to mention that yesterday we received the mail from Havana, and I received two letters, one from Sister Mary, the other from Aunt Elemina. The news from home are [sic] satisfactory, also forgot to mention that Lieutenant Levi Stuber of Company I was married last evening to a Miss Archer, of this city. After supper Mennig, Wm. Ginkinger & myself spent part of the evening at Mr. McGrath’s, our Chief Clerk. We then took a walk about the city, the band serenading Lt. Stuber & wife at Mennig & Ginkinger’s lodging place. Weather fine.

Tuesday January 20th. Yesterday afternoon I answered Aunt Elemina’s letter. Rose this morning at 4 o’clock, went to a coffee house and had a cup of good coffee. We then (Mennig, Ginkinger & myself) went to the butcher shop for our regiment and remained until 8 o’clock, then had breakfast. After breakfast went to the office, not having much to do, went to the commissary building and remained until dinner. Rumors that McClellan was again in command. Retired at 9.

Saturday January 24th. Busy in office all day. The tug having again gone to Havana for the mail, returned today with the mail. I received nothing. No news of any account. Took a walk after supper with Ginkinger, then went to camp. Retired at 9 p.m.

Monday January 26th…. Read a novelette in the afternoon. After supper Weiss, Ginkinger & myself went to Black Church. They made arrangements for the parade they intend giving. Thursday was the day appointed. This evening the prize steamer Virginia arrived in the harbor, having been captured by the gunboat Sonoma….

Thursday January 29th…. Busy in office until 10 o’clock. Mennig & myself then went to courthouse where the Blacks congregate for a parade today in honor of their freedom. They marched up to the colonel’s headquarters and gave him 3 cheers. They marched through most of the streets. There were a few stones thrown at them in passing through Conktown. At 3 p.m. they had a dinner at the Baracoon on the beach, and had dancing. It created great excitement in the city and fighting amongst a few. In the evening Wm. Weiss, Ginkinger, Fritz Jacobs & myself spent most of the evening at McGrath’s. Ginkinger & myself procured secesh badges, worn by a few Young Ladies. The Ladies had one taken from them by a soldier, and we seeing it done, walked up to them, and under the plea of reporting to the Colonel the soldiers conduct, and by persuasive language procured two as samples. This place is altogether secesh, it proved itself this day, by their conduct. Tonight a member of Company E received a flesh wound, from a brother soldier, not purposely though, he having fired at a Black. Retired at 10 o’clock.

By early February, according to Private Henry Hornbeck, their lives were filled with a variety of events to keep their minds active and their spirits high:

Sunday February 1st…. Went to office after breakfast, remained about there until noon. Had John Lawall, We. Weiss, T. Leisenring, Sam. Smith & Dan. Wannermacher to dinner. After dinner went to wharf and passed most of the afternoon there, talking, &c. Had supper at 4 o’clock. Mennig, Ginkinger & myself then went to headquarters and witnessed dress parade at 6 o’clock, of Companies B and E, the band playing. After which Ginkinger, Weiss & myself attended Catholic Church, then went to barracks & retired.

But all that would change in less than a week’s time:

Tuesday February 3rd…. Busy in the office. At 3 o’clock this afternoon the steamer Matanzas arrived having on board the 90th New York Regiment who come to relieve us. They took us quite by surprise, we having just been comfortably situated. Received an old letter from Uncle Newhard, with this steamer, having lain at Beaufort, with Uncle’s photograph. Worked at the accounts until 11 o’clock tonight and wrote two letters…. Slept at the Provost Marshall’s house tonight.

February 6th Friday. Very stormy and raining this morning, finished the accounts so far as to be enabled to make out entirely when we arrive at Beaufort. Packed up and placed on board all my effect at 4 o’clock. The companies were all marched on board at 5 o’clock. The four companies in Tortugas will be relieved in a few days. Mennig, Ginkinger & myself spent the evening at McGrath’s, left at about 11 o’clock and he actually cried when bidding us good bye. Slept to night at the Provost Marshal’s office. There is great excitement amongst the citizens on account of our leaving. Many intend leaving the island and some have done so already.

This latest move would turn out to be one that had been undertaken in preparation for their regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H who had been stationed at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Upon the second group’s arrival, the now almost fully reunited regiment moved by train on 28 February to Brashear City before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.

Red River Campaign 

From 14-26 March, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana (near the top of the “L” of this L-shaped state). As they progressed, they made their way through New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington. Often short on food and water during their long, hard trek through enemy territory, they finally arrived at their destination in early April.

From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron, James, and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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 would be officially mustered in for duty when the regiment reached a safer base of Union operations. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”

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

Moving on within a few days, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers made camp briefly at Pleasant Hill during the evening of 7 April. The next day (8 April 1864), they engaged in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, also known as the Battle of Mansfield, losing 60 of their friends to fierce gun and cannon fire. In the confusion, others were reported as killed in action, but survived.

The fighting waned only when darkness fell, and as the uninjured collapsed in exhaustion beside their gravely wounded or dead comrades. After midnight, they and their fellow surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

The next day (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 Major-General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

On that day, now known as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the 47th nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, who had been severely wounded in both legs. In addition, 68-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls of Company C was wounded while trying to mount the regimental colors on a caisson that had been recaptured from Confederate troops, as was Sergeant William Pyers of the same company, who had picked up the American flag when Walls fell, preventing it from falling into enemy hands.

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

Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for a total of eleven days (through 22 April 1864). While at Grand Ecore, Commissary Sergeant Will Ginkinger’s comrade and friend, Private Henry J. Hornbeck, was officially transferred from the 47th Pennsylvania’s B Company to the regiment’s central command staff, and promoted to the rank of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.

After engaging in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications, they then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that night after completing a 45-mile march. En route, the Union forces were attacked again—this time in the rear, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on.

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed just to the left of the “Thick Woods” with Emory’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Division as shown on this map of Union troop positions for the Battle of Cane River at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Major-General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign Report, public domain).

The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”).

Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery.

Meanwhile, other Emory troops found and worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, and forced a Rebel retreat. That Union brigade then erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.

In a letter penned from Morganza, Louisiana on 29 May, Henry Wharton described what had happened to the 47th Pennsylvanians during and immediately after making camp at Grand Ecore:

Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.

While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.’

The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.

After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.

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

Having finally reached Alexandria on 26 April, they learned they would remain at their latest new camp for at least two weeks. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they were assigned yet again to the hard labor of fortification work, helping to erect “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to make their way back down the Red River more easily. According to Wharton:

We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.

On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee.

“Sleeping on Their Arms” by Winslow Homer (Harper’s Weekly, 21 May 1864).

Having entered Avoyelles Parish, they “rested on their arms” for the night, half-dozing without pitching their tents, but with their rifles right beside them. They were now positioned just outside of Marksville, Louisiana on the eve of the 16 May 1864 Battle of Mansura, which unfolded as follows, according to Wharton:

Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport [sic] on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.

It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.

After the surviving members of the 47th made their way through Simmesport and into the Atchafalaya Basin, they moved on to Morganza, where they made camp again. According to Wharton, the members of Company C were sent on a special mission which took them on an intense 120-mile journey:

Company C, on last Saturday was detailed by the General in command of the Division to take one hundred and eighty-seven prisoners (rebs) to New Orleans. This they done [sic] satisfactorily and returned yesterday to their regiment, ready for duty. While in the City some of the boys made Captain Gobin quite a handsome present, to show their appreciation of him as an officer gentleman.

Union Army base at Morganza Bend, Louisiana, circa 1863-1865 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

While encamped at Morganza, the nine formerly enslaved Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania in Beaufort, South Carolina (1862) and Natchitoches, Louisiana (April 1864) were officially mustered into the regiment between 20-24 June 1864. The regiment then moved on once again, and arrived in New Orleans in late June.

As they did during their tour through the Carolinas and Florida, the men of the 47th had battled the elements and disease, as well as the Confederate Army, in order to survive and continue to defend their nation. But the Red River Campaign’s most senior leader, Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, would not. Removed from command amid the controversy regarding the Union Army’s successes and failures, he was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. He later redeemed himself by spending much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for the people of Louisiana.

Snicker’s Gap and the Battle of Cool Spring

Undaunted by their travails in Bayou country, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers continued their fight to preserve the Union during the summer of 1864. After receiving orders on the 4th of July to return to the East Coast, they did so in two stages.

Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed for the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July while the men from Companies B, G, and K remained behind on detached duty and to await transportation. (Led by F Company Captain Henry S. Harte, the latter group finally sailed away at the end of the month aboard the Blackstone, arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.)

Sadly, while Quartermaster Sergeant Francis Heebner could not have known it at the time, his transit back to the Civil War’s Eastern Theatre of combat would mark the start of several dramatic changes in his life.

The first was the heartbreaking loss of his wife, Dianna (Trexler) Heebner, who passed away at the age of 32 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Following her death on 12 July 1864, she was laid to rest at that city’s Union-West End Cemetery.

The second, would come that fall—at the end of a series of intense battles that were part of Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign—and would effectively remove him from military service for roughly five months after he was captured by Confederate troops during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia on 19 October 1864.

That period of service all began with Quartermaster Sergeant Heebner’s participation with his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in combat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, the regimental command staff of the 47th Pennsylvania and the men from Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces near Snicker’s Gap, Virginia in mid-July 1864. While there, they fought in the Battle of Cool Spring and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign 

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah from August through November of 1864, it was during this time that the now full-strength 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would engage in their greatest moments of valor. Records of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers confirm that the regiment was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August 1864, and engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown, and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.

From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers fought in the Battle of Berryville, and engaged in related post-battle skirmishes with the enemy over the next several days.

Battle of Opequan/Third Winchester, Virginia, 19 September 1864 (public domain).

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

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

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

Battle of Cedar Creek

Alfred Waud’s 1864 sketch, “Surprise at Cedar Creek,” captured the flanking attack on the rear of Union Brigadier-General William Emory’s 19th Corps by Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate army, and the subsequent resistance by Emory’s troops from their Union rifle pits, 19 October 1864 (public domain).

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

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

The Union’s counterattack pounded Early’s forces so far into submission that the men of the 47th would later be commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:

When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.

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

Also captured by Confederate troops and carted off to a POW camp on that terrible day of carnage was Regimental Quartermaster Francis Z. Heebner. But, somehow, he managed to survive until he was released in early March of 1865. Sent home to the Lehigh Valley to recuperate, he arrived there sometime around 13 March 1865 (a Monday). Less than three months later, he was officially discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania (on 1 June 1865) upon expiration of his three-year term of service.

Return to Civilian Life

Allentown, Pennsylvania (circa 1865, public domain).

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Francis Heebner returned to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley where, in 1866, he was appointed as the Internal Revenue Assessor of the 6th District. According to news coverage of the event in the Lehigh Register on 4 September 1866:

Lieut. F. Z. Heebner has been appointed Internal Revenue Assessor of the 6th District, in place of H. J. Saeger, removed. Mr. Saeger has been associated with the office since it was first started, first as chief clerk for Mr. Samuel MoIIose, and afterward as Assessor. He has proved to be a faithful officer, attentive to his duties, just and fair to those having business with him.

Mr. Heebner entered the army in 1861, and about the beginning of 1862, was promoted to Quartermaster of the 47th Regt. P. V., and served in that capacity until captured in the Shenandoah Valley, in 1864. Soon after his release, in 1865, he was mustered out of service under the rules of the Department. He was a faithful officer while in the army, and if a change had to be made and a Copperhead appointed, we prefer his appointment to that of any other person we have heard named.

Mr. Heebner has always voted the Democratic ticket, and was a strong McClellan man in 1864, and his appointment leads us to believe that the assertions that no Democrat could be appointed, when a Republican could be made to promise to vote for Clymer are true, and that the Copper-Johnsons were unable to find such a man here capable of writing his name, willing to sell his principles for an office, and that the boasted Republican Johnson Clymer club with its 60 members, is either a myth or they are all so degraded as to be entirely unfit for that or any other position outside of strong stone walls and iron bolts.

Widowed after the tragic, early death of his first wife, Dianna, which occurred he was away at war, he did his best to resume life as a single dad while trying to perform his new duties for the federal government. On 2 January 1867, President Andrew Johnson sent a series of internal assessor nominations to the United States Senate for consideration. Among those recommended by Johnson was Frances Z. Heebner, according to the Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, which documented Johnson’s appeal as follows:

To the Senate of the United States:

I nominate Frances Z. Heebner, to be assessor of internal revenue, 6th district of Pennsylvania, he having been appointed during the recess of the Senate, in place of H. J. Saeger, removed.

ANDREW JOHNSON.
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 2d, 1867.

Later that same year, Francis Heebner remarried during a wedding ceremony that was held on 10 October 1867 at the Allentown home of the woman who became his second wife—“Mrs. Elizabeth Algert.” Because she was the mother of two daughters, his family also immediately became a “blended” one, bringing his son, Robert Heebner (from his first marriage), under the same roof with his new stepdaughters, Julia and Mollie Algert (who had been born, respectively, circa 1858 and 1862).

* Note: Researchers have been able to confirm, via a review of the 1860 U.S. Census, that an “Elisa Algert” resided in Allentown’s Second Ward (the same ward in which Francis Heebner lived with his first wife in 1860), and that the household included Elizabeth Algert’s first husband, Henry, a 28-year-old express agent, and their children: Harriet (aged 4), Juliann (aged 3), and Mary (aged nine months).

Upon further research, “Mrs. Elizabeth Algert” has been determined to have been Elizabeth Burton (Depue/Depew/DePew) Algert (1835-1903). A daughter of New Jersey native, Nicholas Depue/Depew/DePew (1800-1879), and Pennsylvania native, Catharine Ihrie (1792-1956), she had been born in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, and had, sometime around 1852, married Henry Keller Algert (1829-1864), who had enlisted with of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in December 1861 and been subsequently captured by Confederate troops while serving as a sergeant with that regiment’s F Company. Taken to Andersonville, the Confederate States’ infamous prisoner of war camp in Georgia, he had widowed her on 9 May 1864 when he died there from bronchitis. Their children were: Charles Henry Algert (1856-1922), Julia Depew (Algert) Williams (1858-1932), and Mary Catherine (Algert) Keiser (1859-1942).

According to the 1870 federal census, Francis Heebner resided in Allentown with his son, Robert, and his second wife, Elizabeth (aged 32), and her two daughters, Julia and Mollie “Aulgert” [sic], who were aged 12 and 8, per that year’s federal census enumerator. Robert, who was aged 12 at this time, appears to have either been the only surviving child from Francis Heebner’s first marriage or the only child still residing at home because Francis and Dianna’s daughter, Emma, who would have been roughly 16 years old at this time, was not listed on the 1870 federal census entries for “F. Z. Heebner.” The federal census taker did note that Frances Heebner was now employed as a successful coal dealer who had amassed $21,000 and $1,000, respectively in real and personal estate holdings (roughly the total equivalent of $460,000 in the year 2021).

By 1880, Robert Heebner was no longer listed as part of his father’s household, either; however, the federal census enumerator did confirm that year that Francis and Elizabeth Heebner were still living together in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that Francis was employed as a clerk at a local hotel, and that their household had shrunk to just three members. The third person living with them was “Mollie Algert,” who had been listed on the 1870 census with her mother and older sister, but was now shown without them, and was described as a “servant.”

* Note: Researchers have been able to determine that Francis and Dianna Heebner’s son, Robert C. Heebner, relocated to Massachusetts sometime during the 1880s—per a marriage ledger entry from the Town of Winthrop, Massachusetts which documented that he wed Leonora Z. Wallis on 17 June 1886. That ledger entry further notes that Robert C. Heebner was a 28-year-old native of Allentown, Pennsylvania who was residing in Winthrop at that time, that he was the son of Francis and “Diannah Heebner” and was employed as a merchant, and that his 26-year-old wife was a native of Boston and daughter of George F. A. and Martha J. Wallis. Their wedding ceremony was officiated by a Baptist clergyman.

On 2 September 1887, Francis Z. Heebner filed for his U.S. Civil War Pension from Washington, D.C., where he was now residing with his second wife. By 1891, Francis Z. Heebner had secured employment there as a watchman for the U.S. Postal Service.

Still employed with the U.S. Postal Service as of 1893, Francis Z. and Elizabeth Heebner continued to make their home in the nation’s capital. The next year, The Allentown Democrat reported in its 7 November edition that, although he was still employed with the U.S. Postal Service and still residing in Washington, D.C., Francis Z. Heebner still had such strong ties to the Lehigh Valley that he returned to Allentown the day before Election Day “to vote for Singerly and the entire Democratic ticket.”

Death and Interment

But the old soldier was eventually forced by time and declining health to accept the fact that the next summons to duty that he would hear would be his last. That summons came just over three years before the dawn of the 20th Century. Following his death in Washington, D.C. on 22 November 1896, Francis Heebner’s remains were returned home to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, and laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown.

What Happened to the Wife and Children of Francis Z. Heebner?

Elizabeth Heebner’s letters re: Francis Z. Heebner’s estate and Civil War pension (F. Z. Heebner probate files, Lehigh County Register of Wills, January 1897, public domain).

On 27 November 1896, Francis Heebner’s widow, Elizabeth B. Heebner (1835-1903), filed for a U.S. Civil War Widow’s Pension. She then renounced her role as administrator of her late husband’s estate in favor of her stepson, Robert C. Heebner, while making clear that she still expected to receive payments from her husband’s U.S. Civil War Pension. (Her letters are included as part of Francis Z. Heebner’s probate records in Lehigh County, and were filed with county officials by Robert Heebner’s attorney on 21 January 1897. An appraiser working on behalf of Robert Heebner and his attorney also provided an appraisal of the total value of Francis Heebner’s estate at $811.28, the largest components of which were five shares of stock valued at $352.28, $199 from the Post Office Relief Fund, and $195 in cash in Francis Heebner’s bank account.)

Still residing in Washington, D.C. after the turn of the century, Elizabeth B. Heebner was documented by a 1900 federal census enumerator as a lodger residing at the B Street, Washington, D.C. home of government clerk Thomas Baker. She survived roughly three more years before passing away at the age of 67 on 5 June 1903, and was then laid to rest beside her husband at the Union-West End Cemetery back in Allentown.

As for Francis Heebner’s children, researchers have not yet been able to determine what happened to his daughter, Emma, but have been able to confirm that his son, Robert C. Heebner (1857-1942), went on to live a long, full life after relocating to the town of Winthrop, Massachusetts and marrying Leonora Z. Wallis (born in Winthrop, October 1859) on 17 June 1886. The couple subsequently relocated to Brookline, Massachusetts sometime before 1890, based on the 1900 federal census which documented that Robert and his wife, Leonora, resided there with their 9-year-old daughter, Muriel, who had been born in November of 1890. By 1900, according to the census, Robert Heebner was doing well enough from his work as a leather salesman to employ a live-in servant at his family’s home. They then relocated to Newton, Massachusetts sometime before 1891 (based on the 1912 marriage records of their 21-year-old daughter, Muriel Heebner, which show that she was born in Newton circa 1891, was the daughter of Robert C. Heebner and Leonora (Wallis) Heebner, and that she wed William Lewis Axt in Newton on 22 June 1912).

Still employed as a leather goods salesman in 1910, Robert C. Heebner still lived with his wife and daughter at their home at 926 Beacon in Newton, but without the help of a live-in servant. That same year, he and his wife were entered into The Blue Book of Newton, the annual publication listing the wealthy and well-connected members in their community. Six years later, he rented the Tabor cottage in Casco Bay, Maine so that his family could spend a pleasant Labor Day weekend away from their hometown. By 1919, he was employed as a salesman in Boston, but still residing with his wife at 926 Beacon in Newton, Massachusetts, and still evidently doing well financially because the society pages of The Boston Globe reported on 11 July 1920, that “Robert C. Heebner of Newton Center has taken the Lottie S. Haskins Cottage on the headlands for the season.” Working as a leather buyer, but residing alone by 1930, Robert Heebner was living at a hotel located at 110 St. James Avenue in Boston. The 1940 federal census corrects this data, however, noting that both Robert and Leonora Heebner had been living at the Westminster Hotel in Boston since at least the time of the 1930 federal census, and that Robert’s final business title had been “vice president.” But they still spent their summers at the beach each year, and that was where Robert C. Heebner drew his final breath. According to his obituary in The Boston Globe, he died at his home on Norwood Avenue in Rockport, Massachusetts on 9 July 1942.

In addition, researchers have determined that Francis Heebner’s youngest stepdaughter, Mary Catherine Algert (1859-1942), also known as “Mollie,” went on to marry Philadelphia native Henry Bernhard Albert Keiser (born circa 1855; alternate spellings of surname: “Kaiser,” “Keiser,” and “Keyser”) in Allentown on 6 September 1881. They had two children, Elizabeth Katharina Keiser (1884-1971) and Bernardine E. Keiser. Having begun their westward migration sometime before the arrival of Bernardine, who was born in Pittsburgh circa 1894, they initially made a life in the Allegheny County community of Edgewood before leaving Pennsylvania for Ohio to resettle in East Cleveland. Following a long, full life, Mollie (Algert) Keiser died in Berkeley, Alameda County, California on 26 November 1942, according to California state death records.

And Francis Heebner’s stepdaughter, Julia Depew (Algert) Williams (1858-1932), also had two children of her own with her husband, Albert Tillman Williams (1854-1909), whom she wed sometime around 1876. After making a life with her husband and children, she relocated with her family to Eutaw, Alabama, where she was widowed on 29 May 1909. Interestingly, Albert Williams’ obituary in The Allentown Democrat mentions the subject of this bio, Francis Z. Heebner:

Relatives and friends at Catasauqua were informed of the death of Albert T. Williams, at his home, at Eutaw, Alabama, after a short illness, aged 54 years. He was a native of Oshkosh, Wis. [and] came to Fullerton [Lehigh County], in 1872, and took charge of a store which had been conducted by his father up to the time of his death. While there he was married to Miss Julia Algert, a stepdaughter of the late F. Z. (Dad) Huebner [sic], of this city, who survives, with two daughters, Mrs. Edward C. Meredith, Jr., and Miss Adeline Williams….

Julia (Algert) Williams, the elder stepdaughter of Francis Heebner, survived her husband by more than two decades before passing away in Tuskegee, Georgia on 6 May 1932. She was buried beside her husband at the Mesopotamia Cemetery in Eutaw, Georgia.

Sources:

  1. “A Change” (notice of Francis Heebner’s appointment as Internal Revenue Assessor). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh Register, 4 September 1866.
  2. “Appointed” (notice of Francis Heebner’s appointment as Internal Revenue Assessor). Washington, D.C.: Evening Star, 29 August 1866, p. 2.
  3. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
  4. “Came Home to Vote.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 7 November 1894, p. 2.
  5. F. Heebner , in “Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916 (microfilm serial: M617; microfilm roll: 1312; location: Key West, Florida; year: 1863). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  6. “F. Z. (Dad) Huebner,” in Died in Alabama (obituary of Albert T. Williams, the husband of Francis Heebner’s stepdaughter; it is a source for Heebner’s nickname, “Dad” and the alternative spelling of his surname). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 25 May 1909.
  7. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
  8. Francis Heebner and Diana Trexler (marriage announcement). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh Register, 11 May 1853.
  9. Frances Z. Heebner, in Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, 14 January 1867. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1867.
  10. Frances Z. Heebner, in Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employes [sic] in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service on the First of July, 1891, vol. II: “The Post-Office Department and The Postal Service,” p. 10. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1892.
  11. Frances Z. Heebner, in Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employes [sic] in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service on the First of July, 1893, vol. I: “Legislative, Executive, Judicial,” p. 670. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1893.
  12. Francis Z. Heebner and Mrs. Elizabeth Algert,” in Grace Episcopal Church Records (marriage, 10 October 1867), in “Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records.” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
  13. Francis Z. Heebner, Elizabeth B. Heebner, and Robert C. Heebner, in “Estate Papers File,” in “Probate Records (21-22 January 1897). Allentown, Pennsylvania: Register of Wills, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
  14. Gaines, W. Craig. Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks, p. 43 (Menemon Sanford). Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louisiana State University Press, 2008.
  15. “Good Will Fire Co.’s Semi-Centennial.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 31 March 1900, p.2.
  16. Heebner, Francis, et. al., in U.S. Census (1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1930, 1940). Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  17. “Heebner, Francis Z.,” in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866 (F&S – 47 I). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
  18. “Heebner, Francis Z.,” in Records of Burial Places of Veterans. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Military Affairs.
  19. Heebner, Francis Z. and Elizabeth B. (application no.: 621431, certificate no.: 527217, filed from the District of Columbia by the veteran on 2 September 1887; application no.: 644025, certificate no.: 441202, filed by the veterans’ widow from the District of Columbia on 27 November 1896). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  20. Heebner, Muriel and William Louis Axt, Robert C. Heebner and Leonora (Wallis) Heebner, and John B. Axt and Louise (Reiboldt) Axt, in Marriage Records, Town of Newton, Massachusetts (22 June 1912). Newton, Massachusetts: Office of the Town Clerk.
  21. Heebner, Robert C. and Leonora Z. Wallis, Francis and Diannah Heebner, and George A. and Martha J. Wallis, in Marriage Records, Town of Winthrop, Massachusetts (12 and 17 June, 1886). Winthrop, Massachusetts: Office of the Town Clerk.
  22. Heebner, Robert C. and Leonora, in The Newton Directory, vol. no. XXVI, 1919-1920. Boston, Massachusetts: Sampson & Murdock Co, 1919.
  23. King, Darwin L. and Carl J. Case. Civil War Accounting Procedures and Their Influence on Current Cost Accounting Practices,” in the Journal of the American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences (ASBBS), vol. 3, no. 1, 2007.
  24. Mary Catherine Keiser (Francis Heebner’s stepdaughter), in California Death Index (date of death: 26 November 1942, father’s surname: Algert, mother’s maiden name: Depew). Sacramento, California: State of California, Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.
  25. “Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Heebner,” in The Blue Book of Newton, 1915, p. 115. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Suburban Book Co, 1915.
  26. “Neue Cabinet Waaren Stube.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: Der Lecha Caunty Patriot, 19 December 1850, 2 and 23 January 1851, 20 and 27 February 1851, 27 March 1851, 1 May 1851.
  27. “Robert C. Heebner” (mention). Boston, Massachusetts: The Boston Globe, 11 July 1920, p. 142.
  28. “Robert C. Heebner” (obituary). Boston, Massachusetts: The Boston Globe, 11 July 1942.
  29. “Robert C Heebner” (mention). Portland, Maine: Casco Bay Breeze, 7 September 1916, p. 2.
  30. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.