“They were always patriots and they were speedy in any action in defense of their country. It is said they never did a mean thing. They never stopped working, and they never missed a pay roll. Their loyalty to their employees produced loyalty in return, and the finest tributes that can be heard are the opinions of men who worked for the heads of the house of Fuller all down the line to this day.” — Excerpt from “Big Achievements of the House of Fuller,” The Allentown Leader, 27 June 1914.
The members of the Fuller family of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania who served with the Union Army during the Civil War hold a distinguished place in American history. Each of the Fuller men who served with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was descended from Edward Fuller, 21st signatory of the Mayflower Compact, who arrived aboard the Mayflower with his wife, Anne, and youngest son, Samuel (circa 1608-1683), at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts in November 1620. Their oldest son, Matthew (circa 1605-1678), emigrated from England roughly two decades later, arriving at the Plymouth Colony sometime before the end of October in 1860.
Fifteen years later Samuel Fuller was married to Jane Lathrop by Captain Miles Standish in Scituate, Massachusetts on 8 April 1635. Samuel then ultimately became the great-great-great-grandfather of two members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers—First Lieutenant George W. Fuller and Private Orlando Fuller of F Company—and the great-great-great-great-grandfather of another—First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant James W. Fuller, Jr. who served as a sergeant with F Company before being promoted to the same regiment’s central command staff.
In 1860, Orlando and George Fuller resided in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with their parents, Pennsylvania natives Chauncey Day Fuller (1799-1870) and Sarah (Abbott) Fuller (also born sometime around 1799). There, their father was employed as a Justice of the Peace while George and Orlando helped out financially through employment, respectively, as a laborer and clerk.
Meanwhile, James W. Fuller, Jr. was also residing in Catasauqua with his parents, Clarissa (Miller) Fuller, a Pennsylvania native and daughter of Henry and Catherine (Sterner) Miller, and James Wheeler Fuller, Sr. (1821-1872), a native of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania who was another son of Chauncey Day Fuller and brother to the aforementioned Orlando and George Fuller.
Described on the 1860 federal census as a “Gentleman,” James W. Fuller, Sr. was a close friend of Andrew Gregg Curtin, Fifteenth Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
* Note: Leader of the Keystone State throughout the Civil War, Governor Andrew Curtin later founded the Commonwealth’s system of soldiers’ and orphans’ schools to educate and care for the children of Pennsylvania’s fallen men. Camp Curtin, one of the main staging areas for Union troops in Harrisburg during the Civil War, was named for him. According to the 23 January 1911 edition of The Allentown Leader:
During the worst days of the Rebellion, when Curtin needed help, no man did more to assist him in sending soldiers to the front [than James W. Wheeler, Sr.]. Often, to get relief from the cares of office, Governor Curtin came to Catasauqua to spend Sunday at the Fuller home. James W. Fuller, the first, was one of the most active spirits in raising the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, of which his son, James W. Fuller, second … became adjutant.
By 1863, James W. Fuller, Sr. (J.W.F., “the first”) had also enrolled for military duty, and was serving as a Private with Company B, 38th Pennsylvania Volunteers. According to Dale Charles Wint’s A History of the Iron Industry and Allied Businesses of the Iron Borough Catasauqua Pennsylvania, James W. Fuller, Sr. was also “the second highest income earner in Lehigh County” thanks to his successes as “a large-scale horse dealer with the federal government.” (Two years earlier, in 1858, James W. Fuller, Sr. had also created the Fairview Cemetery in what is now West Catasauqua in Lehigh County, and played a key role in the community’s post-Civil War efforts to raise a monument there to honor the men of Lehigh County who helped to preserve America’s Union. Prior to that, James Fuller, Sr. had been a canal boat operator in Craneville during the 1840s and canal store manager before securing employment in the 1850s with the Lehigh Crane Iron Company and the Thomas Iron Company owned by David Thomas.)
Neither James W. Fuller, Jr., nor his older brother, Orange (born 9 April 1841), were shown on the 1860 census as being employed at this time. Three other siblings (Clarissa, born 31 January 1851; Abbott F., born in 1851; and Clinton Henry, born 24 July 1858) also resided at the Fuller family home. Employed early as a stationer, Orange Fuller eventually went on to become a realtor; Abbott and Clinton Fuller later owned the Globe Metal Works, a scrap metal firm in Catasauqua, before becoming involved in the oil business.
FIRST LIEUTENANT GEORGE W. FULLER
George W. Fuller was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 1 September 1839. He was a son of Sarah (Abbott) Fuller and Chauncey D. Fuller, a brother of James W. Fuller, Sr. and fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Private Orlando Fuller, and an uncle of First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant James W. Fuller, Jr., also of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
According to Wint, George W. Fuller’s father had come “to the Lehigh Valley area from the ‘Plains’ above Wilkes-Barre soon after construction on the Lehigh Canal commenced,” worked for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and then later relocated to Catasauqua with his wife and children (including George Fuller).
There, in Catasauqua, Chauncey Fuller’s eldest son, James Wheeler Fuller, Sr. (1821-1872), prospered and became “a large-scale horse dealer with the federal government” during the early years of the Civil War.
Civil War Military Service
George W. Fuller enrolled for military service in Catasauqua at the age of 21 on 21 August 1861, and mustered in on 30 August 1861 at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, where he was elected by his fellow Company F members to serve as a First Lieutenant under Captain Henry S. Harte. His brother, Orlando Fuller, also enrolled and mustered in at the same time with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania, as did their nephew, James W. Fuller, Jr.
Orlando became a thirty-six-year-old Private while James, Jr. became a Sergeant. Although military records initially indicated that James was eighteen, he may in fact have been only a sixteen-year-old boy.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, the Fullers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were transported south by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched their tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. The next day, C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:
After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.
While at Camp Kalorama, the men of F Company also experienced the first of the many directives (Company Order No. 1) to be issued by Captain Harte—that F Company drill four times per day, each time for one hour.
On 24 September, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became part of the U.S. Army as its men were officially mustered into federal service. On 27 September, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. That afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again as its Mississippi rifle-armed infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using thirty-three-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps.
Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, after completing a roughly eight-mile trek, they pitched their tents in a deep ravine near Fort Ethan Allen and the headquarters of Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (also known as “Baldy”). Now part of the massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”), they would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January 1862.
On 1 October 1861, Sergeant James W. Fuller, Jr., the nephew of First Lieutenant George W. Fuller and Private Orlando Fuller, was promoted from his service with F Company to the rank of First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant with the regiment’s central command staff, a position he held for just over three months.
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 ten miles from Washington, D.C. Posted not far from their home state, members of the regiment occasionally had the good fortune to receive personal visits from family members.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin.
In a letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops:
I was ordered to take my company to Stewart’s [sic] house, drive the Rebels from it, and hold it at all hazards. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, so waiting until it was just getting day, I marched 80 men up; but the Rebels had left after driving Capt. Kacy’s company [H] into the woods. I took possession of it, and stationed my men, and there we were for 24 hours with our hands on our rifles, and without closing an eye. I took ten men, and went out scouting within half a mile of the Rebels, but could not get a prisoner, and we did not dare fire on them first. Do not think I was rash, I merely obeyed orders, and had ten men with me who could whip a hundred; Brosius, Piers, Harp and McEwen [all of Company C] were among the number. Every man in the company wanted to go. The Rebels did not attack us, and if they had they would have met with a warm reception, as I had my men posted in such a manner that I could have whipped a regiment. My men were all ready and anxious for a ‘fight.’”
Captain Gobin had been referring to Brigadier-General James Ewell Brown (“J.E.B.”) Stuart, commanding officer of the Confederate Army of the Potomac (later known as the Army of Northern Virginia), under whose authority the 4th Virginia Cavalry (“Black Horse Cavalry”) fell. Stuart’s Fairfax County, Virginia home had been commandeered by the Union Army and used by the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and other Union regiments as the base of operations for their picket lines in that area. In his own letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton also described their duties and their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.”
Nearly a month later, on 21 November, the 47th participated in yet another review—this time, a morning divisional headquarters review that was overseen by the regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, as well as in 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 for their performance that day—and in preparation for the even bigger adventures which were yet to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every infantryman of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
As the last signs of fall disappeared, members of the 47th Pennsylvania tried their best to make their winter quarters as cozy as possible, but their efforts did little to lessen the ache of being far from home as Christmas Day and a New Year approached.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, Virginia, 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 aboard cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the enlisted men boarded first, followed by the officers. Then, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. The 47th Pennsylvanians were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.
In early February 1862, the remaining Fullers (George and his older brother Orlando) arrived in Key West with their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. On 14 February, the regiment made its presence known to the local residents via a parade through the city’s streets. Men from the regiment also mingled with the locals during church services in town that weekend.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, the regiment also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation. The climate, initially a welcome change from the wintry north, turned out to be harsher than the men could have imagined; several members of the 47th fell ill, largely due to poor sanitary conditions and water quality.
Still, there were lighthearted days. According to a letter penned by Henry Wharton on 27 February 1862, the regiment commemorated the birthday of former U.S. President George Washington with a parade, a special ceremony involving the reading of Washington’s farewell address to the nation and the firing of cannon at the fort, and a sack race and other games on 22 February. The festivities then continued two days later when the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band hosted an officers’ ball at which “all parties enjoyed themselves, for three o’clock of the morning sounded on their ears before any motion was made to move homewards.” This was then followed by a concert by the band on Wednesday evening, 26 February.
And, wrote Schmidt, 4 June 1862 was also a festive day for the 47th. As the USS Niagara sailed for Boston, after transferring its responsibilities to the USS Potomac as the flagship of the Union Navy squadron in that sector, the guns of fifteen warships anchored nearby fired a salute, as did the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Captain Harte and F Company “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM.”
Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians camped near Fort Walker before relocating to the Beaufort District, Department of the South, roughly thirty-five miles away. Frequently assigned to hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, which put them at increased risk from enemy sniper fire, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
Detachments from the regiment were also assigned to the Expedition to Fenwick Island (9 July) and the Demonstration against Pocotaligo (10 July) while men from Companies B and H “crossed the Coosaw River at the Port Royal Ferry and drove off the Rebel pickets before returning ‘home’ without a loss,” according to Schmidt. The actions were the Union’s response to the burning by Confederate troops of the ferry house at Port Royal. H Company’s Sergeant Reuben Shatto Gardner described their actions later in a letter to family and friends:
So the other day we took a notion to turn the joke on them and we crossed over to this side and drove them off their posts and back several miles, and burnt four houses that were used by them to picket in. Our skirmishers had four shots at the rebels, but with what effect we don’t know as they soon got out of harm’s way. Companies H and B were all that crossed. The boys got so eager to follow up the rebels that they did not want to come back when ordered. Our force was too small to advance far, so we went back after doing all the damage we could to them. They fled in such a hurry as to leave three saddles, one double barrelled shot gun, several overcoats, haversacks, canteens, &c., all of which our boys brought along as relics, that being the first of anything of that kind our regiment had. Now the boys want to cross every day; but the Colonel won’t allow them as it is beyond his orders to cross the river, and probably we would meet with a repulse, as the rebels have been in force on the opposite side since we drove them off. They are like a bee’s nest when stirred up. The day after we were over they fired more than a hundred shots at our boys. They returned some shots and only laughed at them. The distance across the river is from 800 to 1000 yards, and of course there can be but little damage done at that distance.
While this was all unfolding, however, Major William H. Gausler and Captain Henry S. Harte were responding to orders from their superiors for very different assignments, according to Schmidt. Placed on detached duty during the second week of July and ordered to head back to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to resume regimental recruiting efforts, Major Gausler and Captain Harte arrived in Allentown on 15 July, and quickly re-established an efficient operation, which they kept running through early November 1862. Both were successful; Major Gausler persuaded fifty-four new recruits to join the 47th Pennsylvania while Harte rounded up an additional twelve.
This meant that, while Captain Harte was away, First Lieutenant George W. Fuller and his direct subordinate, Second Lieutenant August G. Eagle would be in command of Company F until Harte returned in early November 1862.
Battling an Invisible Foe
As the 47th Pennsylvania became increasingly involved in face-offs with Confederate troops, they were also required to battle an invisible and even more deadly foe—disease. As a result, Colonel Tilghman Good and his adjutant, First Lieutenant Washington H. R. Hangen, issued Regimental Order No. 207 from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina on 12 September:
I. The Colonel commanding desires to call the attention of all officers and men in the regiment to the paramount necessity of observing rules for the preservation of health. There is less to be apprehended from battle than disease. The records of all companies in climate like this show many more casualties by the neglect of sanitary post action then [sic] by the skill, ordnance and courage of the enemy. Anxious that the men in my command may be preserved in the full enjoyment of health to the service of the Union. And that only those who can leave behind the proud epitaph of having fallen on the field of battle in the defense of their country shall fail to return to their families and relations at the termination of this war.
II. All the tents will be struck at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of each week. The signal for this purpose will be given by the drum major by giving three taps on the drum. Every article of clothing and bedding will be taken out and aired; the flooring and bunks will be thoroughly cleaned. By the same signal at 11 a.m. the tents will be re-erected. On the days the tents are not struck the sides will be raised during the day for the purpose of ventilation.
III. The proper cooking of provisions is a matter of great importance more especially in this climate but have not yet received from a majority of officers of the regiment that attention that should be paid to it.
IV. Thereafter an officer of each company will be detailed by the commander of each company and have their names reported to these headquarters to superintend the cooking of provisions taking care that all food prepared for the soldiers is sufficiently cooked and that the meats are all boiled or seared (not fried). He will also have charge of the dress table and he is held responsible for the cleanliness of the kitchen cooking utensils and the preparation of the meals at the time appointed.
V. The following rules for the taking of meals and regulations in regard to the conducting of the company will be strictly followed. Every soldier will turn his plate, cup, knife and fork into the Quarter Master Sgt who will designate a permanent place or spot each member of the company and there leave his plate & cup, knife and fork placed at each meal with the soldier’s rations on it. Nor will any soldier be permitted to go to the company kitchen and take away food therefrom.
VI. Until further orders the following times for taking meals will be followed Breakfast at six, dinner at twelve, supper at six. The drum major will beat a designated call fifteen minutes before the specified time which will be the signal to prepare the tables, and at the time specified for the taking of meals he will beat the dinner call. The soldier will be permitted to take his spot at the table before the last call.
VII. Commanders of companies will see that this order is entered in their company order book and that it is read forth with each day on the company parade. All commanding officers of companies will regulate daily their time by the time of this headquarters. They will send their 1st Sergeants to this headquarters daily at 8 a.m. for this purpose.
Great punctuality is enjoined in conforming to the stated hours prescribed by the roll calls, parades, drills, and taking of meals; review of army regulations while attending all roll calls to be suspended by a commissioned officer of the companies, and a Captain to report the alternate to the Colonel or the commanding officer.
At 5 a.m., Commanders of companies are imperatively instructed to have the company quarters washed and policed and secured immediately after breakfast.
At 6 a.m., morning reports of companies request [sic] by the Captains and 1st Sgts and all applications for special privileges of soldiers must be handed to the Adjutant before 8 a.m.
By Command of Col. T. H. Good
W. H. R. Hangen Adj
In addition, First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant Hangen clarified the regiment’s schedule as follows:
- Reveille (5:30 a.m.) and Breakfast (6:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Guard (6:10 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.)
- Surgeon’s Call (6:30 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Company Drill (6:45 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.)
- Recall from Company Drill (8:00 a.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drill (9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (10:30 a.m.) and Dinner (12:00 noon)
- Call for Non-commissioned Officers (1:30 p.m.)
- Recall for Non-commissioned Officers (2:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Squad Drills (3:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.)
- Recall from Squad Drill (4:30 p.m.)
- First and Second Calls for Dress Parade (5:10 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.)
- Supper (6:10 p.m.)
- Tattoo (9:00 p.m.) and Taps (9:15 p.m.)
As the one year anniversary of the 47th Pennsylvania’s departure from the Great Keystone State dawned, thoughts turned to home and Divine Providence as Colonel Tilghman Good issued Special Order No. 60 from the 47th’s Regimental Headquarters in Beaufort, South Carolina:
The Colonel commanding takes great pleasure in complimenting the officers and men of the regiment on the favorable auspices of today.
Just one year ago today, the organization of the regiment was completed to enter into the service of our beloved country, to uphold the same flag under which our forefathers fought, bled, and died, and perpetuate the same free institutions which they handed down to us unimpaired.
It is becoming therefore for us to rejoice on this first anniversary of our regimental history and to show forth devout gratitude to God for this special guardianship over us.
Whilst many other regiments who swelled the ranks of the Union Army even at a later date than the 47th have since been greatly reduced by sickness or almost cut to pieces on the field of battle, we as yet have an entire regiment and have lost but comparatively few out of our ranks.
Certain it is we have never evaded or shrunk from duty or danger, on the contrary, we have been ever anxious and ready to occupy any fort, or assume any position assigned to us in the great battle for the constitution and the Union.
We have braved the danger of land and sea, climate and disease, for our glorious cause, and it is with no ordinary degree of pleasure that the Colonel compliments the officers of the regiment for the faithfulness at their respective posts of duty and their uniform and gentlemanly manner towards one another.
Whilst in numerous other regiments there has been more or less jammings and quarrelling [sic] among the officers who thus have brought reproach upon themselves and their regiments, we have had none of this, and everything has moved along smoothly and harmoniously. We also compliment the men in the ranks for their soldierly bearing, efficiency in drill, and tidy and cleanly appearance, and if at any time it has seemed to be harsh and rigid in discipline, let the men ponder for a moment and they will see for themselves that it has been for their own good.
To the enforcement of law and order and discipline it is due our far fame as a regiment and the reputation we have won throughout the land.
With you he has shared the same trials and encountered the same dangers. We have mutually suffered from the same cold in Virginia and burned by the same southern sun in Florida and South Carolina, and he assures the officers and men of the regiment that as long as the present war continues, and the service of the regiment is required, so long he stands by them through storm and sunshine, sharing the same danger and awaiting the same glory.
Capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida
During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly twenty-five miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October) that had been abandoned by Confederate forces during the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.
In his report on the matter, filed from Mount Pleasant Landing, Florida on 2 October 1862, Colonel Tilghman Good described the Union Army’s assault on Saint John’s Bluff:
In accordance with orders received I landed my regiment on the bank of Buckhorn Creek at 7 o’clock yesterday morning. After landing I moved forward in the direction of Parkers plantation, about 1 mile, being then within about 14 miles of said plantation. Here I halted to await the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. I advanced two companies of skirmishers toward the house, with instructions to halt in case of meeting any of the enemy and report the fact to me. After they had advanced about three-quarters of a mile they halted and reported some of the enemy ahead. I immediately went forward to the line and saw some 5 or 6 mounted men about 700 or 800 yards ahead. I then ascended a tree, so that I might have a distinct view of the house and from this elevated position I distinctly saw one company of infantry of infantry close by the house, which I supposed to number about 30 or 40 men, and also some 60 or 70 mounted men. After waiting for the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers until 10 o’clock, and it not appearing, I dispatched a squad of men back to the landing for a 6-pounder field howitzer which had been kindly offered to my service by Lieutenant Boutelle, of the Paul Jones. This howitzer had been stationed on a flat-boat to protect our landing. The party, however, did not arrive with the piece until 12 o’clock, in consequence of the difficulty of dragging it through the swamp. Being anxious to have as little delay as possible, I did not await the arrival of the howitzer, but at 11 a.m. moved forward, and as I advanced the enemy fled.
After reaching the house I awaited the arrival of the Seventh Connecticut and the howitzer. After they arrived I moved forward to the head of Mount Pleasant Creek to a bridge, at which place I arrived at 2 p.m. Here I found the bridge destroyed, but which I had repaired in a short time. I then crossed it and moved down on the south bank toward Mount Pleasant Landing. After moving about 1 mile down the bank of the creek my skirmishing companies came upon a camp, which evidently had been very hastily evacuated, from the fact that the occupants had left a table standing with a sumptuous meal already prepared for eating. On the center of the table was placed a fine, large meat pie still warm, from which one of the party had already served his plate. The skirmishers also saw 3 mounted men leave the place in hot haste. I also found a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, with 23 tents, which, for want of transportation, I was obliged to destroy. After moving about a mile farther on I came across another camp, which also indicated the same sudden evacuation. In it I found the following articles … breech-loading carbines, 12 double-barreled shot-guns, 8 breech-loading Maynard rifles, 11 Enfield rifles, and 96 knapsacks. These articles I brought along by having the men carry them. There were, besides, a small quantity of commissary and quartermasters stores, including 16 tents, which, for the same reason as stated, I ordered to be destroyed. I then pushed forward to the landing, where I arrived at 7 p.m.
We drove the enemys [sic] skirmishers in small parties along the entire march. The march was a difficult one, in consequence of meeting so many swamps almost knee-deep.
On 3 October, Colonel Good filed his report from Saint John’s Bluff, Florida, now in Union hands:
At 9 o’clock last night Lieutenant Cannon reported to me that his command, consisting of one section of the First Connecticut Battery, was then coming up the creek on flat-boats with a view of landing. At 4 o’clock this morning a safe landing was effected [sic] and the command was ready to move. The order to move to Saint John’s Bluff reached me at 4 p.m. yesterday. In accordance with it I put the column in motion immediately and moved cautiously up the bank of the Saint John’s River, the skirmishing companies occasionally seeing small parties of the enemy’s cavalry retiring in our front as we advanced. When about 2 miles from the bluff the left wing of the skirmishing line came upon another camp of the enemy, which, however, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, I did not take time to examine, it being then already dark.
After my arrival at the bluff, it then being 7:30 o’clock, I dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander with two companies back to the last-named camp (which I found, from a number of papers left behind, to have been called Camp Hopkins and occupied by the Milton Artillery, of Florida) to reconnoiter and ascertain its condition. Upon his return he reported that from every appearance the skedaddling of the enemy was as sudden as in the other instances already mentioned, leaving their trunks and all the camp equipage behind; also a small store of commissary supplies, sugar, rice, half barrel of flour, one bag of salt, &c., including 60 tents which I have brought in this morning. The commissary stores were used by the troops of my command.
By the time the expedition ended, the Union brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union Army to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida, which was effected by a Union force personally commanded by Brigadier-General Brannan aboard the Paul Jones. That force, which departed from the bluff on Sunday, 5 October, was composed of two companies from each of the regiments Brannan had brought with him to Florida, and included the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies C and H. (Around this same time, two other companies from the 47th Pennsylvania—E and K—were engaged in capturing the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer that had equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.)
All of this happened while First Lieutenant George Fuller was in charge of F Company because his commanding officer, Captain Henry S. Harte, was away on recruiting duty in Pennsylvania.
Integration of the Regiment
On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls several young Black men who had been freed from enslavement on plantations in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina:
- Just sixteen years old at the time of his enlistment, Abraham Jassum joined the 47th Pennsylvania from a recruiting depot on 5 October 1862. Military records indicate that he mustered in as “negro undercook” with Company F at Beaufort, South Carolina, described him as being 5’6″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and stated that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” Records also indicate that was a member of F Company until he was honorably mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 when his three-year term of enlistment expired.
- Also signing up as an Under Cook that day at the Beaufort recruiting depot was thirty-three-year-old Bristor Gethers. Although his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives listed him as “Presto Gettes,” his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing spelled his name as “Bristor Gethers” and his wife’s name as “Rachel Gethers.” This index also includes the aliases of “Presto Garris” and “Bristor Geddes.” He was described on military records as being 5’5″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. He mustered in as “Negro under cook” with Company F on 5 October 1862, and honorably mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of enlistment. Federal records indicate that he and his wife applied for his Civil War Pension from South Carolina.
- Also attached initially to Company F upon his 15 October 1862 enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania, twenty-two-year-old Edward Jassum was assigned 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 was a member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until he was honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of enlistment.
More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.
Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina
From 21-23 October, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again. This time, however, their luck would run out. Their brigade was bedeviled by snipers and faced massive resistance from an entrenched Confederate battery, which opened fire on the Union troops as they headed through an open cotton field. Those trying to reach the higher ground of the Frampton Plantation were pounded by Confederate artillery and infantry hidden in the surrounding forests.
Charging into the fire, Union forces fought the Confederates where they found them, pushing them into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. At this juncture, the 47th then relieved the 7th Connecticut, but after two hours of exchanging fire while attempting, unsuccessfully, to take the ravine and bridge, the men of the 47th were forced by their dwindling ammunition to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania at Pocotaligo were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including Captain Charles Mickley of G Company, who was killed in action, and Captain George Junker of Company K and Private John O’Brien of Company F, who were both mortally wounded. An additional two officers and 114 enlisted men were also listed on the 47th’s roster of wounded men. In his report on the engagement, made from headquarters at Beaufort, South Carolina on 24 October 1862, Colonel Good wrote:
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Forty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers in the action of October 22:
Eight companies, comprising 480 men, embarked on the steamship Ben De Ford, and two companies, of 120 men, on the Marblehead, at 2 p.m. October 21. With this force I arrived at Mackays Landing before daylight the following morning. At daylight I was ordered to disembark my regiment and move forward across the first causeway and take a position, and there await the arrival of the other forces. The two companies of my regiment on board of the Marblehead had not yet arrived, consequently I had but eight companies of my regiment with me at this juncture.
At 12 m. I was ordered to take the advance with four companies, one of the Forty-seventh and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and two of the Sixth Connecticut, and to deploy two of them as skirmishers and move forward. After moving forward about 2 miles I discerned some 30 or 40 of the enemys [sic] cavalry ahead, but they fled as we advanced. About 2 miles farther on I discovered two pieces of artillery and some cavalry, occupying a position about three-quarters of a mile ahead in the road. I immediately called for a regiment, but seeing that the position was not a strong one I made a charge with the skirmishing line. The enemy, after firing a few rounds of shell, fled. I followed up as rapidly as possible to within about 1 mile of Frampton Creek. In front of this stream is a strip of woods about 500 yards wide, and in front of the woods a marsh of about 200 yards, with a small stream running through it parallel with the woods. A causeway also extends across the swamp, to the right of which the swamp is impassable. Here the enemy opened a terrible fire of shell from the rear, of the woods. I again called for a regiment, and my regiment came forward very promptly. I immediately deployed in line of battle and charged forward to the woods, three companies on the right and the other five on the left of the road. I moved forward in quick-time, and when within about 500 yards of the woods the enemy opened a galling fire of infantry from it. I ordered double-quick and raised a cheer, and with a grand yell the officers and men moved forward in splendid order and glorious determination, driving the enemy from this position.
On reaching the woods I halted and reorganized my line. The three companies on the right of the road (in consequence of not being able to get through the marsh) did not reach the woods, and were moved by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander by the flank on the causeway. During this time a terrible fire of grape and canister was opened by the enemy through the woods, hence I did not wait for the three companies, but immediately charged with the five at hand directly through the woods; but in consequence of the denseness of the woods, which was a perfect matting of vines and brush, it was almost impossible to get through, but by dint of untiring assiduity the men worked their way through nobly. At this point I was called out of the woods by Lieutenant Bacon, aide-de-camp, who gave the order, ‘The general wants you to charge through the woods.’ I replied that I was then charging, and that the men were working their way through as fast as possible. Just then I saw the two companies of my regiment which embarked on the Marblehead coming up to one of the companies that was unable to get through the swamp on the right. I went out to meet them, hastening them forward, with a view of re-enforcing the five already engaged on the left of the road in the woods; but the latter having worked their way successfully through and driven the enemy from his position, I moved the two companies up the road through the woods until I came up with the advance. The two companies on the right side of the road, under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander had also worked their way up through the woods and opened fire on the retreating enemy. At this point I halted and reorganized my regiment, by forming close column by companies. I then detailed Lieutenant Minnich, of Company B, and Lieutenant Breneman, of Company H, with a squad of men, to collect the killed and wounded. They promptly and faithfully attended to this important duty, deserving much praise for the efficiency and coolness they displayed during the fight and in the discharge of this humane and worthy trust.
The casualties in this engagement were 96. Captain Junker of Company K; Captain Mickley, of Company I [sic], and Lieutenant Geety, of Company H, fell mortally wounded while gallantly leading their respective companies on.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men. They all performed deeds of valor, and rushed forward to duty and danger with a spirit and energy worthy of veterans.
The rear forces coming up passed my regiment and pursued the enemy. When I had my regiment again placed in order, and hearing the boom of cannon, I immediately followed up, and, upon reaching the scene of action, I was ordered to deploy my regiment on the right side of the wood, move forward along the edge of it, and relieve the Seventh Connecticut Regiment. This I promptly obeyed. The position here occupied by the enemy was on the opposite side of the Pocotaligo Creek, with a marsh on either side of it, and about 800 yards distant from the opposite wood, where the enemy had thrown up rifle pits all along its edge.
On my arrival the enemy had ceased firing; but after the lapse of a few minutes they commenced to cheer and hurrah for the Twenty-sixth South Carolina. We distinctly saw this regiment come up in double-quick and the men rapidly jumping into the pits. We immediately opened fire upon them with terrible effect, and saw their men thinning by scores. In return they opened a galling fire upon us. I ordered the men under cover and to keep up the fire. During this time our forces commenced to retire. I kept my position until all our forces were on the march, and then gave one volley and retired by flank in the road at double-quick about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut. This regiment was formed about 1,000 yards in the rear of my former position. We jointly formed the rear guard of our forces and alternately retired in the above manner.
My casualties here amounted to 15 men.
We arrived at Frampton (our first battle ground) at 8 p.m. Here my regiment was relieved from further rear-guard duty by the Fourth New Hampshire Regiment. This gave me the desired opportunity to carry my dead and wounded from the field and convey them back to the landing. I arrived at the above place at 3 o’clock the following morning.
In a second report made from Beaufort on 25 October 1862, Colonel Good added the following details:
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade in the battles of October 22:
After meeting the enemy in his first position he was driven back by the skirmishing line, consisting of two companies of the Sixth Connecticut, one of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, and one of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, under my command. Here the enemy only fired a few rounds of shot and shell. He then retreated and assumed another position, and immediately opened fire. Colonel Chatfield, then in command of the brigade, ordered the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania forward to me, with orders to charge. I immediately charged and drove the enemy from the second position. The Sixth Connecticut was deployed in my rear and left; the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania on my right, and the Fourth New Hampshire in the rear of the Fifty-fifth, both in close column by divisions, all under a heavy fire of shell and canister. These regiments then crossed the causeway by the flank and moved close up to the woods. Here they were halted, with orders to support the artillery. After the enemy had ceased firing the Fourth New Hampshire was ordered to move up the road in the rear of the artillery and two companies of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to follow this regiment. The Sixth Connecticut followed up, and the Fifty-fifth moved up through the woods. At this juncture Colonel Chatfield fell, seriously wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel Speidel was also wounded.
The casualties in the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania amounted to 96 men. As yet I am unable to learn the loss of the entire brigade.
The enemy having fled, the Fourth New Hampshire and the Fifty- fifth Pennsylvania followed in close pursuit. During this time the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and the Sixth Connecticut halted and again organized, after which they followed. On coming up to the engagement I assumed command of the brigade, and found the forces arranged in the following order: The Fourth New Hampshire was deployed as skirmishers along the entire front, and the Fifty-fifth deployed in line of battle on the left side of the road, immediately in the rear of the Fourth New Hampshire. I then ordered the Sixth Connecticut to deploy in the rear of the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania to deploy on the right side of the road in line of battle and relieve the Seventh Connecticut. I then ordered the Fourth New Hampshire, which had spent all its ammunition, back under cover on the road in the woods. The enemy meantime kept up a terrific fire of grape and musketry, to which we replied with terrible effect. At this point the orders were given to retire, and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and Seventh Connecticut formed the rear guard. I then ordered the Thirty-seventh Pennsylvania to keep its position and the Sixth Connecticut to march by the flank into the road and to the rear, the Fourth New Hampshire and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania to follow. The troops of the Second Brigade were meanwhile retiring. After the whole column was in motion and a line of battle established by the Seventh Connecticut about 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania I ordered the Forty-seventh to retire by the flank and establish a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Seventh Connecticut; after which the Seventh Connecticut moved by the flank to the rear and established a line of battle 1,000 yards in the rear of the Forty seventh, and thus retiring, alternately establishing lines, until we reached Frampton Creek, where we were relieved from this duty by the Fourth New Hampshire. We arrived at the landing at 3 o’clock on the morning of the 23d instant.
The casualties of the Sixth Connecticut are 34 in killed and wounded and the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania 112 in killed and wounded. As to the remaining regiments I have as yet received no report.
Once again, it was First Lieutenant George W. Fuller who led the men of F Company in battle because their commanding officer, Captain Henry S. Harte, was still away on detached duty in Pennsylvania.
As the month of October came to an end, a group of men from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were given the high honor of serving as the funeral Honor Guard for Major-General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South, who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. As part of this duty, these 47th Pennsylvanians fired the salute over General Mitchel’s grave.
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped another Black man escape his previous life as an enslaved man in Beaufort by adding 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5’4″-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 enlistment on 31 October 1865.
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe. A number of men from the 47th Pennsylvania fell ill; still more died. Even so, many 47th Pennsylvanians still chose to reenlist when their terms of service expired, opting to finish the fight rather than returning home to families and friends.
In a letter to the Sunbury American on 23 August 1863, Henry Wharton described Thanksgiving celebrations held by the regiment and residents of Key West and a yacht race the following Saturday at which participants had “an opportunity of tripping the ‘light, fantastic toe,’ to the fine music of the 47th Band, lead by that excellent musician, Prof. Bush.”
In early January 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to expand the Union’s reach by sending part of the regiment north to retake possession of Fort Myers, a federal installation that had been abandoned in 1858 following the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. Per orders issued earlier in 1864 by Brigadier-General D. P. Woodbury, Commanding Officer, U.S. Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, that the fort be used to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade, Colonel Tilghman Good, in consultation with his superiors, assigned a group of men from Company A to special duty, and charged them with expanding the fort and conducting raids on area cattle herds to provide food for the growing Union troop presence across Florida. Captain Richard Graeffe and his men subsequently turned the fort into both their base of operations and a shelter for pro-Union supporters, men and women escaping slavery, Confederate Army deserters, and others fleeing Rebel troops. According to Schmidt:
Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon William F. Reiber, commanded the main portion of Company A which boarded ship on Monday, January 4 and sailed the following day, Tuesday, for Fort Myers, on the Caloosahatchee River fifteen air miles southeast of Charlotte Harbor. The company was transported on board the Army quartermaster schooner Matchless, after having embarked the day before, and was accompanied by the steamer U.S.S. Honduras commanded by Lt. Harris, and with Gen. Woodbury aboard. Lt. Harris was directed to tow the Matchless if necessary.
Graeffe’s men went on to capture three Confederate sympathizers, including a blockade runner and spy named Griffin and an Indian interpreter and agent named Lewis. Charged with multiple offenses against the United States, they were transported to Key West, where they were kept under guard by the Provost Marshal—Major William Gausler, third-in-command of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents the time of Richard Graeffe and the men under his Florida command this way:
Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, Colonel Good and his officers had begun preparing to take the members of all of the other companies of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on the regiment’s history-making journey to Louisiana. Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (which was situated across the river from New Orleans and is now a neighborhood in 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 (now Morgan City, Louisiana) before heading to Franklin by steamer through the Bayou Teche. There, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps, and became the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks. (Unable to reach Louisiana until 23 March, the men from Company A were effectively placed on a different type of detached duty in New Orleans while they awaited transport to enable them to catch up with the main part of their regiment. Charged with guarding and overseeing the transport of 245 Confederate prisoners, they were finally able to board the Ohio Belle on 7 April, and reached Alexandria with those prisoners on 9 April.)
Red River Campaign
The early days on the ground in Louisiana quickly woke the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers up to just how grueling this new phase of duty would be.
From 14-26 March, most members of the regiment marched for Alexandria and Natchitoches, Louisiana, by way of New Iberia, Vermilionville (now part of Lafayette), Opelousas, and Washington.
From 4-5 April 1864, the regiment added to its roster of young Black soldiers when Aaron Bullard (later known as Aaron French), James and John Bullard, Samuel Jones, and Hamilton Blanchard (also known as John Hamilton) enrolled for military service with the 47th Pennsylvania at Natchitoches. According to their respective entries in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives and on regimental muster rolls, the men were then officially mustered in for duty on 22 June at Morganza. Several of their entries noted that they were assigned the rank of “(Colored) Cook” while others were given the rank of “Under Cook.”
Often short on food and water throughout their long, hard trek through enemy territory in a harsh climate, the men encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill (now the Village of Pleasant Hill) the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (also known as the Battle of Mansfield because of its proximity to the community of Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault, and the 47th nearly lost its second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, when he was severely wounded in both legs.
On that day, now known as the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also recaptured a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during the earlier Confederate assault. During that particular skirmish, sixty-eight-year-old Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls of Company C was wounded, as was Sergeant William Pyers of the same company, who had picked up the American flag when Walls fell.
F Company lost men as well. Some were wounded or killed in action; still others were captured and marched off as prisoners of war (POWs) to Camp Ford (near Tyler, Texas), the largest Confederate prison camp west of the Mississippi River, where they were held until released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, September, or November. But at least two members of the 47th died while in captivity 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 eleven days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then moved back to Natchitoches Parish. Starting out on 22 April, they arrived in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night after marching forty-five miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and move forward.
The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”). Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvania supported Emory’s artillery.
Meanwhile, other Emory troops worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, forced a Rebel retreat, and erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.
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.
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 more easily make their way back down the Red River. 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, an 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.
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.
Continuing on, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then 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.
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.
On 22 June 1864, Lieutenant George W. Fuller was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability while his brother, Private Orlando Fuller, continued to fight on with the 47th Pennsylvania, which had been ordered to return to the East Coast for further duty.
Steaming for the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864, Private Orlando Fuller and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians from Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I had a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln before joining with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, where they fought in the Battle of Cool Spring and also assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers next fought in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia from 3-4 September 1864. Members of the regiment then witnessed the September departure of several officers and enlisted members of their regiment, including the captains of Companies D, E and F and Private Orlando Fuller, the older brother of First Lieutenant George W. Fuller. Having served honorably, all four mustered out at Berryville on 18 September upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.
Less than two weeks later, First Lieutenant George W. Fuller was dead. Although he had been discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability in June, he had been too ill to travel and had been left behind to convalesce. On 29 September 1864, he passed away at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. His remains were prepared for transport home to the Lehigh Valley, likely by Paul Balliet.
* Note: The first undertaker to serve the residents of Allentown and later superintendent of the Fairview Cemetery from 1871-1879, Paul Balliet became famous for retrieving and returning home to the Lehigh Valley the bodies of numerous soldiers who had been killed far from their native Pennsylvania soil, including soldiers who died during the Battle of Antietam and members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Historian Lewis Schmidt confirmed that Balliet readied for travel the remains of several who had served with the 47th Pennsylvania in 1862 and 1864, as well as a child of the regiment’s chaplain, William Rodrock.)
First Lieutenant George W. Fuller was laid to rest at the Fairview Cemetery.
In recognition of his service to the nation, the Grand Army of the Republic chapter in Catasauqua was named the Lt. G. W. Fuller Post No. 378. Initially organized on 19 August 1867, the first officers of this G.A.R. post were all members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: Post Commander Edwin Gilbert (former captain of F Company), SVC Spencer Tetemer, JVC William H. Myers, and Adjutant Aaron McHose. Briefly disbanded in 1869, the post was reorganized on 13 April 1872, disbanded in 1876, and reorganized again on 10 September 1883.
FIRST LIEUTENANT AND REGIMENTAL ADJUTANT JAMES WHEELER FULLER, JR.
James Wheeler Fuller, Jr. was born in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 16 March 1845, the second oldest son of James Wheeler Fuller, Sr. and nephew of James, Sr.’s older brothers, Orlando and George W. Fuller, who served with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, respectively, as a First Lieutenant and Private.
Descended from an English pioneer who sailed for the New World aboard the Mayflower in 1620, he became a pioneer in his own right as an internationally respected inventor and business executive.
* Note: Although several sources indicate that the year of birth for J. W. Fuller, Jr. was 1843, an 1894 U.S. passport application (completed in James W. Fuller, Jr.’s own hand) indicated that his year of birth was 1845.
In 1850, James W. Fuller, Jr. resided in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his parents and brothers: Orange M. Fuller (1841-1902) and William F. Fuller (1845-1852). Also living at the Fuller family home at this time were several boarders and Abbott Fuller and Ellen Caroline Tombler (1831-1914). Born in 1828, Abbott Fuller was the brother of James W. Fuller, Sr. and uncle of James W. Fuller, Jr. A native of Catasauqua in Lehigh County and daughter of Daniel Tombler (1796-1841) and Catharine (Hartzell) Tombler (1797-1852), Ellen Caroline Tombler was employed in 1850 as a servant in the Fuller family home and would, in a few short years, go on to marry the man who would later become the Fullers superior during the Civil War—Captain Edwin Gilbert of Company F, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
A product of the local public schools, James W. Fuller, Jr. furthered his education by attending private schools in the Pennsylvania communities of Weaversville, Norristown and Kingston.
Civil War Military Service
James W. Fuller, Jr. enrolled for military service at Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 21 August 1861. He was awarded the rank of Sergeant with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (the same company and regiment in which his uncles Orlando and George W. Fuller served), and mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 30 August.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics, he was shipped by rail with his uncles and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians to Washington, D.C. where, beginning 21 September, they were stationed roughly two miles from the White House at “Camp Kalorama” near Georgetown. Mustered into federal service with the U.S. Army on 24 September, they became part of the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Isaac Ingalls Stevens. Ordered to march out once again, they headed for Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore before moving on toward Camp Advance. They pitched their tents in a deep ravine near Fort Ethan Allen and the headquarters of Union Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (also known as “Baldy”). As part of the massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”), they were assigned to help to defend the nation’s capital.
On 1 October 1861, Sergeant James W. Fuller, Jr. was promoted from his service with F Company to the rank of First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant with the regiment’s central command staff, a position he held for just over three months. According to James Franklin Lambert and Henry J. Reinhard in their A History of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, James W. Fuller, Jr., “suffered a protracted illness, which overtook him during the first year of the Civil War in Virginia,” and “was honorably discharged from the army and returned to his home.”
The article, Big Achievements in the House of Fuller, which ran in the 27 June 1914 edition of The Allentown Leader, seems to confirm Fuller’s illness:
After Mr. Fuller’s death William H. Glace, Esq., his friend for fifty years and his companion in sickness in the garret of a Virginia farm shack during the winter of 1863-1864, paid him a beautiful tribute. Mr. Glace wrote:–
‘Owing to the forethought of his uncle, Lieut. George W. Fuller, a victim of the same war, two young girls, daughters of the owner, Mr. Wren, attended us through that long siege of sickness where he lay nigh to death many weeks. After a tedious convalescence, he recovered only in a measure and was honorably discharged, whilst I recovered to serve the full period of three years.
‘In 1891 he said to me, ‘I wonder what became of the Wren girls; let us go down and see.’ We went to Washington and drove up along the Potomac to the Chain Bridge; thence over into Fairfax County, Virginia, and as we came near the place we could not fix our surroundings, as large trees had grown where there had been farm land, and we stopped at a farm house, when a man over thirty-five years of age, a Mr. Catlin, came out, and we inquired if that house on the hill was the Wren house and whether the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment and 7th Maine Regiment had encamped on yonder slope the first Winter of the war. ‘Oh, yes,’ he replied. ‘I heard my father say that the regiments lay there and lost 200 men that first Winter. Anyhow, the Wrens live there.’ I shall never forget as he turned to me and said, ‘How strange; did you hear him say, ‘My father told me?’ We forget a generation had grown up since that time.’ As we entered the house, the first object that attracted his attention was Lieut. George W. Fuller’s photograph in full uniform on the mantel.
‘We had dinner, after which we gave each of the two women a bank bag of gold. A young son of one of them, when he heard the click of gold, exclaimed, ‘Now I can go to Washington and learn to be an architect.’
However, that article was derived almost entirely from the Lambert-Reinhard book, and the dates presented both in the book and in the retelling of that account by The Allentown Leader were wrong (1863-1864 instead of 1861-1862 when the 47th was stationed in Virginia). Furthermore, members of the 47th Pennsylvania generally were not treated for their illnesses in the homes of civilians, but in camp. When diagnosed as seriously ill, they were confined to the post hospital associated with their respective duty stations. When wounds or illnesses were deemed beyond the capacity of these facilities, soldiers were moved on to the Union Army’s larger general hospital system where they could receive more advanced care.
In addition, several of the biographical sketches in the Lambert-Reinhard book also contain other factual errors. (The sketch for James W. Fuller, among its mistakes, lists the company he initially served with in the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers as Company I, rather than Company F.) Even more puzzling, while the Lambert-Reinhard book and Fuller’s military records indicate that J. W. Fuller, Jr. was eighteen at the time of his enlistment (making his birth year 1843, a fact which seems to be confirmed by his gravestone), Fuller’s own passport application—completed in his own hand—stated that he was born in 1845 (meaning he was just sixteen at the time of his enlistment).
The timing and subsequent short duration of his promotion, combined with the confusion surrounding his birth year, may signal that James W. Fuller, Jr. was actually under age at the time of his enlistment and may have been removed from harm’s way by his superiors once they discovered he was not the eighteen-year-old he had claimed to be at enlistment, or he may have been removed at the request of his father, James W. Fuller, Sr., who was a close friend of Pennsylvania’s Governor.
Regardless of the cause of his honorable discharge, James W. Fuller, Jr. most definitely did serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the early days of the Civil War. On 11 October, his regiment marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. In mid-October, he may have served on picket duty in fulfillment of an order which directed Companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) to take over after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) were forced to return to camp by Confederate troops.
On 22 October 1861, his regiment took part in a spectacular Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” And on 21 November, his regiment engaged in another morning divisional headquarters review—this one under the watchful eyes of Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the 47th’s commanding officer. First Lieutenant James W. Fuller, Jr. also likely participated in the regiment’s move from its Virginia camp back to Maryland, where it was quartered in barracks at Annapolis.
But unlike his fellow members of the 47th, he did not board the steamship Oriental on 27 January 1862 to head for Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida. Instead, his military records confirm that he resigned his commission on 9 January 1862. The 23 January 1911 edition of The Allentown Leader also documented his honorable service and departure, as well as his later support for the military:
During a long, active and useful career, James W. Fuller, second, was prouder of nothing more than of his association with the 47th Regiment, of whose Veteran Association he was president when he died [in 1910].
Return to Civilian Life
Following his resignation from the military, James Wheeler Fuller, Jr. returned home to Pennsylvania. From roughly 1862 to 1864, he sold Queen’s ware (Wedgwood cream ware) in Philadelphia. (His former superior, Major William H. Gausler, would also later engage in a similar enterprise following his own discharge from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1864.)
On 8 December 1864, James Wheeler Fuller, Jr. wed Kate Thomas, the daughter of Hopkin and Catherine Thomas, in the parsonage of Catasauqua’s Presbyterian Church. On 18 September 1865, they welcomed daughter Maud Miller Fuller (1865-1938) to the world. (Born in Philadelphia and baptized there two years later, Maud would go on to wed Joseph Sketchly Elverson at the Presbyterian Church in Catasauqua on 1 June 1893.)
Sometime around mid-March 1866, James W. Fuller, Jr. entered into a partnership agreement with his uncle Charles D. Fuller, friend James Harper McKee (1818-1895), brother-in-law James Thomas, and William R. Thomas (1829-1917) to create McKee, Fuller and Company in order to manufacture railroad car wheels. Together, they purchased roughly eight miles of land along the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s main line, got their factory up and running, and were able to achieve a production rate of 15 wheels per day.
Daughter, Blanche Thomas Fuller (1867-1936), was born in Philadelphia on 19 April 1867, followed by son George Llewellyn Fuller (1869-1890) on 27 July 1869. (Blanche wed Louis Audenried Saladé in 1888. They raised their family in Philadelphia and then relocated to Jackson County, Oregon.)
Another daughter, Mary Louise Fuller (1871-1951), arrived at the Fuller home in Catasauqua on 23 June 1871. (Mary Louise later wed Hiram Dryer McCaskey and, like her older sister Blanche, relocated with her husband to Jackson County, Oregon.)
On 2 April 1873, James W. Fuller, Jr. and his wife, Kate, welcomed son James W. Fuller, III (1873-1929) to their Catasauqua home.
* Note: Colonel James W. Fuller, III would go on to become a successful businessman in his own right as head of the Lehigh Car, Wheel and Axle Works and receive a staff appointment with the office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1911. While traveling in Honolulu, Hawaii and California, he contracted sleeping sickness, was confined to St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco, and died there on 4 April 1929. His remains were returned home, and buried at the same cemetery where his father and grandfather were interred. According to the Shamokin News Dispatch announcement published that same day:
The colonel was president of the Allentown Portland Cement Company, Valley Forge Cement Company, of Conshohocken, and the Fuller Company which constructed and shipped pulverizing machinery to all parts of the world. He was reputed to be a multi-millionaire. The title of ‘colonel’ was bestowed on Mr. Fuller through his appointment to the Pennsylvania Guard Staff by former Governor Tener. He was a prominent member of the Mayflower society. His ancestor [sic] being the Dr. Fuller who served as physician to the pilgrims on the Mayflower’s historic voyage to America. Thoroughbred Arabian and Persian horses and prize winning Jersey cattle were hobbies of Colonel Fuller. He kept many prize winners on his Willow Brook farm near Catasauqua.
Despite the joy experienced when his son James, III was born, life was not all roses and sunshine for James W. Fuller, Jr. Business operations became increasingly difficult due to the Panic of 1873, which hampered profit generation efforts by Fuller and his partners, who dropped out as the stagnation turned into an economic depression across North America and in Europe. Before a decade had passed, Fuller and McKee were the only partners left. Reinvesting whatever profits they could eke out, they added machinery and expanded their land holdings until their fortunes finally changed.
McKee, Fuller added production capacity by purchasing Frederick and Beck, an idle car plant, and then expanded its workforce to 1,500, relaunched the closed Davies Foundry, and added a forge. In 1876, the firm garnered even greater recognition when its exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair was given one of that fair’s top awards. In 1880, they secured a contract with the Erie Railroad to modernize the railroad’s fleet with eight-wheeled cars.
Fuller also became active in the development of Ferndale during the 1870s, working to turn it into a vibrant company town for his workers. On 13 February 1883, William Weir McKee (1852-1905), the son of Fuller’s business partner James H. McKee, and B. Frank Swartz joined the partnership. By June, the firm had made $2,800,000 (roughly the equivalent of $80,150,000 today) by producing 1,849 eight-wheeled railroad cars. By 1884, they were making $4 million annually (roughly $118,000,000 in 2022 dollars).
In 1895, the town of Ferndale in Whitehall Township, Lehigh County was renamed “Fullerton” to honor the contributions made to its growth and prosperity by James W. Fuller, Jr. Sadly, that same year, Fuller’s business partner James H. McKee died.
Six years later, in 1901, a new partnership charter was established, interests were redistributed, and the firm was renamed, officially becoming the Lehigh Car, Wheel & Axle Works. As railroads phased out their wooden cars and a new century dawned with new needs, Fuller and his business partners entered into the Lehigh Valley’s burgeoning cement industry, and became internationally respected for their high quality machinery supplied to local and foreign mills.
Adding to his success, Fuller also served as president of the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company, vice president of the Empire Steel and Iron Company (formerly the Lehigh Crane Iron Company) and on various corporate boards of directors, including those of the Catasauqua & Fogelsville Railway Company, the Ironton Railroad, two coal companies, the Lehigh Foundry Company, the Lehigh Valley Trust Company of Allentown, the Thomas Iron Company of Hokendauqua (formerly the Lehigh Crane Iron Company), and the Wahnetah Silk Company of Catasauqua.
Death and Interment
James W. Fuller, Jr., died at his home in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 15 January 1910. As with his father before him, he was interred at the Fairview Cemetery in West Catasauqua.
William H. Glace, Esq., who eulogized J. W. Fuller, Jr. in Big Achievements in the House of Fuller for the 1914 edition of The Allentown Leader, remembered his longtime friend as follows:
Mr. Fuller inherited from his father personal magnetism and an alert mind, grasping a subject quickly, almost intuitively, had an excellent knowledge of men and had that peculiar ability in a great degree possessed by men of large affairs in selecting men for positions of responsibility and trust and attach them to him by strands of steel. From his mother he inherited a wiry constitution, free from taint, love of rural scenes, of animals and a rapid manner or speech. In all my life I never heard from his lips an unclean or unchaste word; never an oath, and under great provocation as a rule kept himself master of the situation. An aged mother had but to express a wish and it was granted, whilst he stood sponsor for his sister and brothers, always ready to grant any reasonable desire. Fortunate indeed were the son and daughters who had the benefit of his advice and guidance, and it would be impossible in this short sketch even to enter the door in describing the good deeds done by him, and fortunate is the town or community that can number a citizen like Mr. Fuller, whose life work lies within its boundaries.
PRIVATE ORLANDO FULLER
Born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania in March 1826, Orlando Fuller was a son of Sarah (Abbott) Fuller and Chauncey D. Fuller, the older brother of First Lieutenant George W. Fuller of F Company, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and James W. Fuller, Sr., and the uncle of First Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant James W. Fuller, Jr. who also served with 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Orlando and his brother, James (later James Sr.), spent their early years in the “Plains” of North Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County before relocating with their parents and siblings to the Lehigh Valley sometime after construction began on the Lehigh Canal.
Civil War Military Service
On 25 August 1861, Orlando Fuller enrolled for military service at Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. He then mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 30 August 1861 as a Private with Company F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
His tour of duty took him to all of the same locations and service assignments as those experienced by First Lieutenant George W. Fuller, his younger brother and one of his superior officers in Company F (see biographical sketch above), plus a few more. From Camp Curtin, the Fuller brothers were stationed together at Camp Kalorama in Washington, D.C. (fall 1861), garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida and served in the U.S. Department of the South’s Beaufort District in South Carolina (1862), participated in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida (1-3 October 1862) and the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (21-23 October 1862), garrisoned Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida (1863), and fought in Union Major-General Nathaniel Banks’ Red River Campaign across Louisiana (as part of the only Pennsylvania regiment so engaged from March to June 1864).
Then, after his brother was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 22 June 1864, Private Orlando Fuller continued to fight on, serving with the 47th Pennsylvania at Snicker’s Gap under the command of Major-General David Hunter (mid-July 1864) and then with the 47th under legendary Major-General Philip H. Sheridan during the opening days of his tide-turning 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
On 18 September 1864, Private Orlando Fuller mustered out from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Berryville, Virginia upon expiration of his three-year term of service. At the time, he was suffering from heart disease and aortic stenosis. Less than two weeks later, his brother George was dead, having passed away at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida on 29 September.
Despite his heart condition, Private Orlando Fuller opted to continue to serve his nation, re-enrolling and re-mustering on 24 February 1865 in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania as a Private with Company D of the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a regiment which was attached to the Union Army’s 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 20th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland until June 1865 when it was transferred to the 3rd Brigade, Bartlett’s Division, 22nd Army Corps, U.S. Department of Washington. Among its late stage engagements, the 28th Pennsylvania participated in the Campaign of the Carolinas (until April 1865), the Union Army’s march to Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C. (29 April-20 May 1865), and the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C. (23-24 May 1865). Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the 28th Pennsylvania also served with the U.S. Department of Washington during the early days of the imprisonment and trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators (May 1865).
Sometime during this phase of service, Private Orlando Fuller developed rheumatic heart disease; he was subsequently mustered out with his regiment at Alexandria, Virginia on 18 July 1865.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his second honorable discharge from the military, Orlando Fuller returned home to the Lehigh Valley for what he likely thought would be the remainder of his life. By 1870, still unmarried, he was employed as a laborer and living with the family of John Gohring, a retired grocer who resided in South Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
Additional sources document that, during the 1870s, Orlando Fuller was employed with the McKee & Fuller Car Wheel Works, the family firm founded by his nephew, James W. Fuller, Jr. Unfortunately, according to the 22 April 1876 edition of The Carbon Advocate, he suffered a serious injury while on the job:
Mr. Orlando Fuller, an employee at the Car Wheel Works of McKee & Fuller, at Ferndale, had his left foot badly hurt one day last week by being struck thereon by a falling car wheel.
By 1895, Orlando Fuller was a resident of Wescosville, according to November 1895 editions of The Allentown Leader and The Allentown Democrat, which also announced that he had recently been awarded his original pension for service during the Civil War. The amount initially granted—$6.00 monthly—steadily increased over the years until reaching a rate of $12.00 per month, and was awarded due to his “Inability to earn a support by Manual labor,” according to an entry in the admissions ledger for the Central Branch of the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio (where he was admitted on 7 November 1895).
This 1895 ledger entry also described him as an unmarried Protestant, former laborer, aged sixty-nine, who was 5’9″ tall with a dark complexion, gray hair and gray eyes, who was able to read and write. Although the Dayton Soldiers’ Home admissions ledger listed his residence subsequent to discharge as Wescosville, it is clear from U.S. Census records of the time, that Orlando Fuller had opted to resettle in Montgomery County to be closer to the federal government medical care that he was able to receive as a former Civil War soldier. Like many of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Orlando Fuller suffered not only from the heart disease that prompted his discharge from the 47th Pennsylvania in September 1864 and from the 28th Pennsylvania in 1865, but from chronic bronchitis, first contracted due to the often damp and harsh conditions experienced during the early years of the Rebellion.
At the dawn of the new century, federal census records indicated that he was still residing at the Dayton National Soldiers’ Home. Just four years later, on 22 December 1904, Orlando Fuller was gone. His death notice in the 29 December 1904 of the Dayton Daily Journal provided the following details:
FULLER – At the Central branch, National Military Home for D.V.S., December 22, 1904, Orlando Fuller, late of Co. D, 28th Pennsylvania Infantry aged 78. Cause of death, chronic bronchitis, with senectus [old age].
His net worth was appraised by the Dayton National Soldiers’ Home as $341.40, $335 of which was yet to be drawn from his pension, the remaining $6.40 being “found on person.” The next of kin listed on the Dayton Soldiers’ Home admissions ledger was his nephew and former employer, James W. Fuller, Jr. of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania.
A death entry in that same soldiers’ home admissions ledger indicated that Private Orlando Fuller was interred at the Dayton National Cemetery in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio in Section N, Row 12, Grave 17.
1. “A Genealogical Profile of Edward Fuller.” Plymouth, Massachusetts: Plimoth Plantation in collaboration with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2 November 2011.
2. “Allentown’s First Undertaker Dead.” Pennsburg, Pennsylvania: Town and Country Newspaper, 16 January 1904.
3. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
4. “Big Achievements of the House of Fuller: Long Line of Able Men Whose Ancestor Was a Signer of the ‘Mayflower’ Agreement Noted for Their Accomplishments.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 27 June 1914.
5. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11, 28th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
6. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
7. “Col. James Fuller Dies of Sleeping Sickness.” Canonsburg, Pennsylvania: The Daily Notes, 4 April 1929.
8. “Col. J. W. Fuller Dies in ‘Frisco: Wealthy Cement Magnate Reported to Have Died from Sleeping Sickness Resulting from Bite of Bug.” Shamokin, Pennsylvania: Shamokin Dispatch, 4 April 1929.
9. Death Notice (Orlando Fuller). Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Daily Journal, 29 December 1904.
10. “Death of Paul Balliet: Allentown’s Oldest Undertaker Passes Away at His Home on Union Street.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 13 January 1904.
11. “Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” in Florida Memory. Tallahassee, Florida: State Archives of Florida.
12. Fuller Family Baptismal, Marriage and Death Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
13. Fuller Family Baptismal, Marriage and Death Records, in Methodist Church Records. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Eastern Pennsylvania United Methodist Church Commission on Archives and History.
14. Lambert, James Franklin and Henry J. Reinhard. A History of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Catasauqua, Pennsylvania: Searles & Dresser Company, Incorporated, 1914.
15. “Local and Personal (Mr. Orlando Fuller).” Lehighton, Pennsylvania: The Carbon Advocate, 22 April 1876.
16. “New Lehigh Colonel on Governor’s Staff: James W. Fuller Accepts Tender of Place by Mr. Tener: Family Strongly Patriotic: Father Adjutant of 47th Penna. Volunteers and Grandfather Close Friend of Curtin—Also Noted for High-Class Business Ability.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 23 January 1911.
17. Orlando Fuller, in Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15, Microfilm M1749), in Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1895-1904.
18. “Returned.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 3 February 1864.
19. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
20. “Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps,” in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. and Everglades National Park, Florida: U.S. National Park Service, 2010.
21. U.S. Census (1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C., Ohio and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
22. U.S. Civil War Pension Index. Washington, D.C.: Various Dates and Filing Locations: Fuller, Orlando (application no.: 1026012, certificate no.: 896744, 25 May 1891, filed from Pennsylvania by the veteran and his attorney). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
23. Passport Applications (roll no.: 415, February 1894). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
24. Wheeler, Albert Gallatins. Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America. Boston, Massachusetts: American College of Genealogy, 1914.
25. Wint, David Charles. A History of the Iron Industry and Allied Businesses of the Iron Borough of Catasauqua Pennsylvania. Catasauqua, Pennsylvania: 1993.
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