Joseph Eugene Walter — From Medical Student to Musician to Machinist

Joseph Eugene Walter, a cornetist with Pomp’s Cornet Band of Easton, Pennsylvania (circa 1853, public domain).

Music was a staple of education for many young men and women in the 1800s. A rare few, like Hornist Thomas Coates, “The Father of Band Music in America,” were able to turn their training and talents into lengthy performance careers, gaining fame and a relative degree of financial security, while others, like Joseph Eugene Walter, chose to depart from their early musical journeys to pursue trade jobs and other careers in business after returning home from their service in America’s Civil War.

Formative Years

Born in Nazareth, Northampton County, Pennsylvania sometime around 1840, Joseph Eugene Walter was a son of Philip Walter (1799-1865), a local physician, and Rachael Belinda (Sellers) Walter (1804-1896), a daughter of Philip Sellers (1773-1832) and Hannah (Roberts) Sellers (1779-1833). His older brother, Philip S. P. Walter (1833-1912), also became a practicing physician in Nazareth after completing medical studies at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

* Note: Prior to J. Eugene Walter’s birth, Philip Walter, M.D. and wife, Rachael, had ties to other communities in other communities in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, but elected to relocate to the Moravian community in Nazareth in 1824. According to a transcription of the Nazareth Diary which was translated from the original German record and is held in the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Philip Walter was interviewed by Nazareth’s Brethren of Elders Conference on 11 November 1824 to assess his family’s fitness for membership in the community, and had signed “the necessary papers required of strangers.” The entry also noted that he was “a Lutheran, & his wife b. Sellers” was “of Quaker origin”; the couple reportedly re-settled in Nazareth on 7 December of that same year.

The translation of minutes from a 22 October 1824 meeting of the Overseer Committee (part of the leadership of this same community) during its 184th Session offers further details regarding the Walter family at this time:

Yesterday a young doctor, by name of Philip Walter, who had since practised [sic] in and around Emmaus, had by the advice of good friends, made the request, to be able to live here in Nazareth as doctor and to practice also. He had studied in Philadelphia, and can, when it is necessary show his Doctor-Diploma. He also has a letter of recommendation from David Warner in Quakertown, who is a member of … Bethlehem’s congregation, for Br. van Vleck. Further he has not been married for a long time, belongs to the Lutheran church, but his wife descents [sic] from the Quakers and has not been baptized. He also shows a desire to become a member of the Brethren’s church and he seems to be according to his conduct a very orderly man.

Because a doctor for the village is a common necessity, the committee spoke about the said request with much concern. And because the continual sickness of our present doctor has caused in several cases, where he was needed, great perplexity, and those people, who needed the doctor, had to look for other help. It seemed to the Committee not inexpedient, to perceive this opportunity to get another doctor to our village.

The brethren of the Elder Conference acknowledged this as an object [sic], which should be put before the Gemein-council for decision, namely, whether the request of Dr. Walter shall be accepted or refused. The committee agreed to do this. If the request shall be accepted, then according to the rules of our congregation the Gemein-Direction will proceed further.

The minutes for the 185th Session of the Overseers Committee, which was held on 5 November 1824, added the following details:

I Br. Rondthaler, related that the request of Dr. Walter had been put before the Gemein-council for consideration and the same had resolved, that the Gemein-Direction should inquire still closer about the character of the said Doctor, and in case that nothing important could be said against his moving to Nazareth, the permission should be given to live here. According to this resolution one had inquired in the place, where the doctor had been living, about the character of the Doctor as well as about his calling as doctor, and everywhere one received a good testimony about the doctor.

Br. Rondthaler mentioned further, that our neighbour, Dr. Rodgers, had also applied, and had told, that when he would have known, that one did wish another Doctor in the village, he would have applied for it before already. But because Dr. Walters [sic] had applied first, and because the Gemein-Direction had negotiations with him already, one could not give Dr. Rodgers any hope, to be accepted.

The committee granted Dr. Walter’s request with the condition, that he signs the regulation.

The minutes of the 187th Session of the Overseers Committee, which was held on 19 November, noted that Philip Walter had signed the required regulation, and added:

At this opportunity the Elder conference have him to understand, that one for founded reasons would not like to see, when he would accept young men for study, who do not belong to our constitution, and that he in every case should be responsible for the conduct of such people.

Still deliberating over Philip Walter’s fitness in 1826, church leaders then opted to approve his petition to become a member of the congregation at Nazareth.

In 1850, J. Eugene Walter resided with his parents, younger sister Emma (aged 8), and older brothers Philip S. P. (aged 17) and Aurelius (age 13) in Nazareth. Federal census records at the time listed him as “Eugene,” a ten-year old boy, and also noted that his father was a Pennsylvania-born physician who owned real estate valued at $6,000 (roughly equivalent to $208,996.92 in 2021).

On 1 September 1850, according to the Nazareth Diary, Philip S. P. Walter was admitted to the Single Brethren’s Choir. By 1857, he had his wife, Emma C. Walter (1835-1923), were welcoming daughter Sallie Z. Walter to their home. She was born on 15 March 1857.

By 1860, the household of family patriarch and physician Philip Walter, now aged 60, included his wife Rachael, and their children: Lucinda (aged 32), Joseph (a 20-year-old medical student), and Emma (aged 18). Also residing with the Walters were Hannah, Sally and Walter Shared (aged 12, 10 and 3 years, respectively) and their two-month-old sister, Mary, as well as 12-year-old Amanda Titus and 10-year-old Virginia Sellers.

The federal census for this period further notes that the Walter family’s patriarch owned real estate worth $5,000 with personal property valued at the same amount (the total of which would be roughly equivalent to $348,328.21 in 2021) while his daughter Lucinda owned real estate and personal property worth $8000 and $500 respectively (the total of which would be roughly equivalent to $296,078.97 in 2021), and  his son Philip S. P. Walter, M.D., who had begun his own medical practice by this time, owned real estate and property respectively worth $1,000 and $200 (the total of which would be roughly equivalent to $41,799.38 in 2021).

Less than a week before Christmas in 1865, the family patriarch, Philip Walter, M.D. was gone. Having passed away on 19 December, he was interred at the Moravian Cemetery. Slightly more than a year after his death, son Philip S. P. Walter and his wife, Emma, welcomed daughter Rachel M. Walter (1866-1925) on 28 December.

Tragically, Sallie Walter (the older daughter of Philip S. P. Walter, M.D. and niece of J. Eugene Walter), died suddenly on 2 March 1869. According to an entry made in the Nazareth Diary that same day:

In the morning at about 5 a.m. died the oldest daughter Sallie of Dr. Philip Walter unexpectedly, after she had been sick for three days with enteritis, inflammation of the intestines. We visited the sad parents and grandmother. The father seemed to be very sad, especially because this daughter had recently asked him, to give up his drinking, which he now promised with tears. I tried to assist him as well as possible in his attention. I then prayed with these sad people.

Sallie Walter was laid to rest on 7 March at the Moravian Cemetery in Nazareth; her grave marker noted that that she was the “daughter of Dr. Philip & Emma Walter” and that she had “Passed Away, Beloved and Lamented.”

Repeatedly mentioned throughout the Nazareth Diary as having a problem with beer drinking, Philip S. P. Walter was apparently watched closely by church elders for months after his daughter’s death, but his younger brother, J. Eugene Walter, was apparently too busy with his medical studies to attract a similar level of scrutiny because his name appears nowhere in the diary’s transcription.


Illustration of Northampton County, Pennsylvania’s Nazareth Hall (circa 1860s, public domain).

Joseph Eugene Walter was educated at Nazareth Hall, a boarding school which had been shaping the minds of boys from Northampton County, Pennsylvania since 1785. According to the federal census of 1860, he had been enrolled there by his father, a practicing physician, to study medicine; however, his curricular activities also likely included training in music since he later became a cornetist with Pomp’s Cornet Band in Easton.

School records show that he was a resident of Northampton County and that he was a member of the class of 1853.

The Principal of the school at the time he was in attendance was the Rev. Levin T. Reichel (whose tenure at Nazareth Hall lasted from 1849 to 1853). According to historian William C. Reichel, who authored a commemorative book which shed light on life at the institution during the time of J. Eugene Walter’s enrollment there:

Mr. Reichel, a son of the first Principal, was born at Bethlehem and educated in Germany. He entered the Hall as tutor in 1834, and in 1837 was appointed pastor of the congregation at Schoeneck, and subsequently of those at Emmaus and Nazareth.

During his administration, the school for day-scholars, hitherto conducted in the Hall, was transferred to a newly-erected school-house; the students of the Theological Seminary at Bethlehem furnished with apartments in the Hall; its interior arrangements altered, and the course of study materially modified; and the charges for board and tuition advanced. The number of pupils, however, decreased, and at one time there were but twenty-three boarders.

Among his possible instructors during this time were Joseph Hark, a physician who was a member of the faculty from 1845-1847; druggists Franklin Miller and Theophilus Kramer, who served respectively from 1845-1847 and 1848-1851; Andrew G. and Julius Kern, who served respectively as professors of music from 1842-1847 and 1845-1848; and James N. Beck and Jacob J. Haman, who both served as music teachers from 1848 to 1850.

A Musical Talent

As he grew to manhood, J. Eugene Walter secured a chair as a cornetist with Pomp’s Cornet Band in Easton, a performing ensemble with a distinguished history in and beyond Northampton County. Described by Matthew Schropp Henry in his 1898 History of the Lehigh Valley as “one of the oldest musical organizations in the country,” the band’s roots dated back to 1818 when an organization named the Artillerist Band became “the first band or musical association ever formed in Easton.” The first conductor was John D. Weiss, and its 25-member roster included the musical sounding Melchior Horn, as well as Jonathan Lick, Peter Pomp, William Bixler, John Branham, George Luckenbach, George and Joseph Sigman, Joseph Snyder, and Samuel Yohe. The ensemble bolstered the spirits of Easton residents when war was declared in 1812, and performed for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824.

From 1838 to 1842, when the ensemble became an all-brass band, the organization was managed by William H. Pomp and under the baton of Peter Pomp, who had been named conductor on 1 July 1833.

In 1852, the ensemble was still managed by William H. Pomp and conducted by Professor Thomas Coates. Renowned as Pomp’s Cornet Band, the instruments used by J. Eugene Walter and its other members were each made of German silver.

Civil War Military Service — 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers

The bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-14 April 1861 (Currier & Ives, public domain).

All of the possibilities of a young 19th century man’s life were ahead of Joseph Eugene Walter as a 20-year-old medical student in 1860.The expectations that he would follow in the physician footsteps of his father and older brother, Philip S. P. Walter, M.D. were radically altered, however, when South Carolina legislators decided to sever ties with the United States in December 1860, setting off a series of southern state secessions which propelled the nation toward Civil War.

As a cornetist with Pomp’s Cornet Band in Easton, J. Eugene Walter may very well have been present the day that Professor Thomas Coates and the band gave 180 local soldiers a rousing sendoff as they left the city for Harrisburg in mid-April 1861 as volunteers answering President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to help defend the nation’s capital following Fort Sumter’s fall.

He became a volunteer himself just four months later, joining the military on 18 August 1861—four days after Professor Coates had signed his own enlistment papers. After enrolling at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Walter then officially mustered in with the Regimental Band of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers on 24 September at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown in the District of Columbia—roughly two miles from the White House.

That same day, the musicians, officers and infantrymen of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became part of the U.S. Army as its men were officially mustered into federal service with all of the pomp one might expect. Three days later, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York Volunteers.

By that afternoon, they were on the move. With the regimental band in the lead, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvanians marched to Camp Lyon, Maryland on the eastern side of the Potomac, and joined the 46th Pennsylvania in charging, double-quick, across a chain bridge onto Virginia soil at 5 p.m. that evening. Marching on for roughly another mile, the weary soldiers were finally permitted to make camp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wharton also reported that all members of the regiment were healthy but, sadly, he was mistaken. The first member of the regiment to die was both a musician and the youngest member of the entire regiment—John Boulton Young. Known affectionately as “Boulty,” the drummer boy was just 13 when he succumbed to smallpox at the Kalorama eruptive fever hospital in Georgetown on 17 October 1861. His passing was deeply mourned by his superior officer, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, who penned poignant letters describing Boulty’s death and burial.

Pomp and Pageantry Plus Hard Work

On Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Less than a month later, in his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:

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

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

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

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

On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review overseen by the regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.”

Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.” As a reward—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brannan obtained new Springfield rifles for infantryman of the 47th Pennsylvania.


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

In January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Annapolis, Maryland and southward via the steamer Oriental from 27 January to February 1862. Upon arrival, they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida and protect civilians loyal to the Union.

During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, many of the regiment’s soldiers attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at local churches. During this phase of duty, soldiers from the regiment also felled trees, built new roads and helped to strengthen the fortifications at the federal installation while continuing to drill and hone their fighting skills.

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

From mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina and attached to the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Assigned duties, at times, were hazardous as men were sent out on picket details, risking injury or death from sniper fire.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the bean counters were busy tallying up the costs of a war now entering its second year. Deeming regimental bands an unnecessary expense in light of rising federal costs, the U.S. Congress passed legislation on 17 July 1862 ordering that all such bands be promptly, but honorably mustered out. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. War Department effected this change via General Order 91, issued on 29 July 1862. As the musicians of Regimental Band, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry packed and readied for their return home in early September 1862, the 47th’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, expressed both disappointment and respect in a letter to the ensemble:

Headquarters 47th Regt. P.V.
Beaufort, S.C., Sept. 9, 1862

Gentlemen of the Band,

In accordance with an enactment of Congress and an order from the War Department, you have been regularly mustered out of the service of the United States, and are consequently detached from the regiment. I had vainly hoped when you were with us, united to do battle for our country, that we should remain together, to share the dangers and reap the same glory, until every vestige of the present wicked rebellion should be forever crushed, and we unitedly return again to our homes in peace, and receive of our fellow creatures the welcome plaudit, ‘well done’.

But fate has decreed otherwise, and you are about to bid ‘farewell’, and in taking leave of you, gentlemen, I beg leave to compliment you on your good deportment and manly bearings whilst connected with the regiment, and when you shall have departed from amongst us the sweet strains of music which emanated from you and so often swelled the breeze during dress parade, shall still ring in our ears.

Invoking heaven’s choicest gifts upon you collectively and individually, I bid you god speed on your homeward voyage and through all your future career. May your future course through life be as bright and happy as your past has been prosperous and safe.

I am, Gents,
Your obedient servant,
H. Good
Col. 47th Regt. Penna. Vols.

As a result, Cornetist J. Eugene Walter and his fellow bandsmen were officially mustered out by General Order in September 1862, and sent home to Pennsylvania. But like many of his fellow musicians, he was not willing to be sidelined while his neighbors and friends fought to preserve America’s union.

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

So, he opted to re-enlist, and was subsequently commissioned as Band Leader for the Regimental Band of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. Organized at Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in September 1862, he and his musicians re-mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 6 October.

His tenure with his new regiment was once again short, but this time it was history making.

Following their transport to Washington, D.C. by rail on 12 October 1862, J. Eugene Walter and his fellow 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers became part of the massive U.S. Army of the Potomac, where they were attached to the 11th Corps’ 1st Brigade, 1st Division. Charged with defending the nation’s capital through December of that year, they were also assigned reconnaissance duties in and around Chantilly, Snicker’s Ferry and Berryville, Virginia by late November.

According to Lochard Lovenstein, author of a book about the 153rd Pennsylvania, J. Eugene Walter and his bandsmen caught the attention early on of Major-General Franz Sigel, Commander of the U.S. 11th Corps. That 24 November in 1862:

The band had been practicing in a nearby barn, since their arrival in Chantilly. After completing his inspection [of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers], Sigel summoned the regiment’s officers forward, and lectured them on the importance of drilling. He admonished his officers not to place their confidence in the appearance or showiness of the regiment. Sigel wanted the 153rd drilled in accordance with the Manual of Arms, in both shooting and bayoneting.

But Sigel also took time out, during the visit, to listen to and commend Walter and the band. And, per a later account of their time near Chantilly, the enlisted members of the 153rd also seemed pleased by the band’s performance. According to the Rev. William Kiefer, “Here we spent twenty-two days made blithesome by our band.”

Ordered to march for Fredericksburg, the 153rd Pennsylvanians were then stationed there from 9-16 December before being reassigned to the Stafford Court House, where they remained until 19 January 1863. Engaged from 20-24 January in the Mud March launched by Union Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside in a second, futile attempt to impede Robert E. Lee’s Confederate troop operations, they then resumed duties at the Stafford Court House through 24 April.

Sketch by Private Newton H. Mark, Co. K, 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, circa April 1863, of the 153rd’s winter quarters, Brooks Station, Virginia (public domain).

During this time, while the regiment was housed at its winter quarters in Brooks Station, Virginia, Regimental Band Leader J. Eugene Walter experienced one of the heaviest burdens of military leadership when he lost the first man under his command—bandsman Henry Medernach, who died on 12 February 1863.

* Note: J. Eugene Walter’s brother, Philip S. P. Walter, M.D., would also come to know the ravages of war, having been appointed 18 February 1863 as an Assistant Surgeon for the 2nd Pennsylvania Cavalry—a position he would hold until being honorably mustered out on 30 December 1863—meaning that he was present during the Battle of Gettysburg from 1-3 July 1863, and would have experienced the carnage of those days in a uniquely personal and devastating way—as a physician caring for the countless numbers of mortally wounded and dying men he was expected to save. This fact is worth considering when pondering the aforementioned Nazareth Diary entries about his alleged post-Civil War problems with beer drinking. He very likely had developed “Soldier’s Heart”—what is now known today as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Stationed in the Chancellorsville, Virginia area from 27 April to 6 May 1863, J. Eugene Walter and his fellow 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers then took part in the Battle of Chancellorsville from 1-5 May. And once again, Walter would experience another loss when Jacob Senseman, a member of A Company, was captured by Confederate troops. Held as a prisoner (POW) with other members of the 153rd Pennsylvania, Senseman was treated reasonably well before being released during a prisoner exchange a few weeks later. In recalling their time as POWs, 153rd Pennsylvanian Lewis Clewell noted:

During the evening we were calling for one of our men, Jacob Senseman, a member of our Regimental Band. The Rebel officer in command of the guard, hearing the name called, approached us, asked if we called Senseman. We said yes. He then asked us where he was from. We replied from Nazareth Pa. He said, ‘I would like to see him. I was a student at Nazareth Hall and was well acquainted in Nazareth.’ He made inquiry about many of his old acquaintances and was friendly, allowing us to communicate with the guard, who treated us very kindly.

Battered by their Chancellorsville engagements, the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers were given a short time to recuperate before being sent back to Pennsylvania. Encamped near Gettysburg from 22 June to 24 July 1863, they were then called into action, fighting valiantly in the Battle of Gettysburg from 1-3 July before spending another week chasing Lee’s troops out of Pennsylvania.

The 153rd Pennsylvanians then honorably mustered out on 24 July 1863. By the time this regiment’s brief service was over, one officer and 48 enlisted men had been mortally wounded or killed in action with another 28 enlisted men felled by disease. The men who served so bravely under J. Eugene Walter as musicians under fire were:

Able, Lewis H. (Company A; alternate spelling “Abel”)
Beitel, James C. (Company A)
Brace, John (Company G; alternate spelling “Bruce”)
Burcaw, William H. (Company F)
Clewell, William (Company A)
Hirst, Stephen D. (Company H)
Leibfried, Henry C. (Company A)
Medernach, Henry (Company B; alternate spelling “Medemack”)
Michael, Edwin J. (Company A)
Nolf, Henry (Company D)
Schuman, Charles (Company F)
Seiple, Joseph E.
Senseman, Jacob (Company A; alternate spelling “Sensiman”)
Strickland, Curtis V. (Company D)
Vogel, Reuben S. (Company D)

Also among the musicians in the regiment were drummer boys who served with each of the lettered companies, assigned to tap out rhythmic patterns conveying marching orders and battle signals to the men in their respective units. One such drummer boy was the aforementioned William Kiefer of F Company, who went on to become a minister and was chosen in 1908 by survivors of the 153rd Pennsylvania to pen a regimental history.

Another was Curtis V. Strickland, a Musician with D Company, who also became a minister, and recounted what happened at the Battle of Chancellorsville for a newspaper in his later years:

Editor National Tribune:– I am reading your history in the National Tribune of the battle of Chancellorsville with much interest. Our regiment, the 153rd, Pa., was a member of the First Brigade, First Division, Eleventh Corps. Our regiment was on the extreme right, in the woods, and ‘up in the air.’ It was our first experience. The skirmish line was driven in, I should think, about 3 p.m. As they reached the line the entire brigade fired one volley. The drummer boys (and there were a lot of us), most all from Easton, Pa. – our ages from 14 to 16 – the regimental band and a few others were to the right and rear of the regiment. We were having lots of fun, chasing rabbits, etc., little realizing what was going on in our front. When the volley was fired we drummers all started on a run. Snider lost his hat. The firing having ceased, we returned to our former place, guying each other. Gen. Devens soon came with his staff. I saw him in conversation with Gen. von Gilsa; then he left. They did not seem to be in the best of humor. We then resolved if there was another such occasion we would not run. We did not wait long. Skirmishing began and they were soon driven in, and the battle was on. We stood this time until we saw our brigade retreat, then we, too, started. We were soon out of the woods, and in crossing an open field I was struck with a minie ball. I fell to the ground. Some of the boys stopped. Snider tried to help me. Then our Chaplain and Comrade Mack, now of Bethlehem, Pa., stopped and picked me up, assisting me into the woods. At my earnest request they, in sorrow, left. The rebels were coming. I told them as they would at once be taken prisoners, they should leave me. With sad hearts they said good-by, and none too soon, as the first line of battle, ‘Jackson’s men,’ were there in a few minutes. I cannot ask space to explain and tell all I saw. However, will say, I lay in the woods until Monday afternoon, when I was found and taken to the house in the middle of the field mentioned, which was turned into a hospital. I was under fire in the woods all day Sunday, and can hardly comprehend how it happened that I escaped being hit again, for sometimes the shells exploded and bullets struck all around me. Then the terrible fire of the woods, especially the underbrush. I escaped being burned only by two Rebels helping me over the fire line, and laying me down where it had burned. I was found and taken back to the little house in the field, which was turned into a hospital. I saw a number of those who had been burned to death and other dead lying on the battlefield. The wounded had all been brought up. I was among the last ones rescued. In 13 days we were paroled, and under flag of truce were brought back in ambulances to our line, crossing at the United States Ford. My wound has given me much trouble all my days, but the comrades have appreciated my work, and I am gratified to know that all over our land, in every State, my music is used, especially on Memorial Day.

Undaunted by his intense experiences at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Joseph Eugene Walter then re-upped for service a third time, opting to rejoin his old unit, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Re-enlisting at a Private with Company E under Captain Charles H. Yard, he mustered in on 19 November 1863. He joined just in time to make history yet again—this time with the only regiment from the Keystone State to fight in the Union’s 1864 Red River Campaign across Louisiana.

1864 – Red River Campaign

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

Boarding yet another steamer—the Charles Thomas—on 25 February 1864, the men from Companies B, C, D, I, and K of the 47th Pennsylvania headed for Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans), followed on 1 March by other members of the regiment from Companies E, F, G, and H. (The members of Company A would arrive later, having been serving on detached duty at Fort Myers in Florida since early January.) Transported by train to Brashear City and by steamer via the Bayou Teche, the nearly fully reassembled 47th Pennsylvania then reached, and were attached to, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the U.S. Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps.

From 14-26 March, the 47th Pennsylvanians passed through New Iberia, Vermilionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon. Along the way, men were felled by disease and exposure to the harsh climate.

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 (see map above). 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.

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

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 and 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.

During this battle, the 47th Pennsylvania succeeded in recapturing a Massachusetts artillery battery that had been lost during the earlier Confederate assault, but casualties were severe. Private Richard Hahn was killed in action, the regiment’s second-in-command, Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.

Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges in July, August, September, or November. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out of that camp alive.

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 for 11 days, where they engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving at 10 p.m. that night in Cloutierville, after marching 45 miles. While en route, the Union forces were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and continue on.

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

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

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

Encamping overnight, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and other Union regiments resumed their march toward Rapides Parish, and finally arrived in Alexandria, Louisiana on 26 April.

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

Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey from 30 April through May 10, the 47th Pennsylvanians then helped to build a dam across the Red River near Alexandria, which enabled federal gunboats to more easily navigate the river’s fluctuating river levels.

Beginning 13 May, Captain Charles Yard and E Company moved with the majority of the 47th from Simmesport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

Removed from command amid the controversy over the Union Army’s successes and failures during the Red River Expedition, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. Banks subsequently spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.

1864 — Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their Bayou battles, the soldiers of Company E and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, F, H, and I returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864.

Following their arrival and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, Private J. Eugene Walter and the bulk of the regiment joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, where they assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

As summer waned, according to Schmidt, military clerks of the 47th Pennsylvania penned records which documented that, on 31 August 1864, Joseph Eugene Walter was paid for service with the 47th’s Regimental Band No. 2:

[The] 47th was paid this date by a Major Eaton. Various members of the band were paid by the 47th’s Council of Administration effective through this date, generally for a three to four month period. The men and accounts are as follows: Anthony B. Bush, $157.50; Eugene Walters [sic] and John Rupp, each $100; David Gackenback [sic], $52.50 Henry Kern and George Frederick, each $60; Henry Tool, $30; and Lewis Sponheimer, Harrison Handwerk, Edwin Dreisbach, Daniel Dachradt [sic] and William Heckman, each $16.”

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the opening days of September saw the departure of several members of the regiment who had served honorably, including E Company’s Captain Charles H. Yard, who mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of his three-year term of service.

Those members of the 47th who remained on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill — September 1864

Together with other regiments under the command of Union Major-General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the members of Company E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant-General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces at Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.

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

The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny at Opequan began at 2 a.m. on 19 September 1864 as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. Advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps became bogged down for several hours by the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. Finally reaching the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Confederate Army. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.

Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by Brigadier-General Emory to attack and pursue Major-General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice—once in the chest, was mortally wounded.

The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank. The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.”

Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.

Moving forward, the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced with leaders who were equally respected for their front line experience and temperament, including Major John Peter Shindel Gobin, formerly of the 47th’s Company C, who had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and regimental commanding officer).

Battle of Cedar Creek — October 1864

During the fall of 1864, Major-General Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents—civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day.

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

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

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

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

Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield. Company E’s Corporal Edward W. Menner and Privates Andrew Burk, John Kunker, Owen Moser, Jacob Ochs, and John Peterson were wounded in action. Kunker, Menner, Moser, Ochs, and Peterson survived but Private Burk, who had sustained gunshot wounds to the head and upper right arm and had initially been declared killed in action by mistake, finally succumbed to battle wound-related complications just two days before Christmas.

Still others were captured and held as prisoners of war, several of whom died. Corporal James Huff, wounded in action and captured by Confederate forces during the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana just six months earlier, was captured again by Rebels during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Marched to the Confederate Army prison camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, he died there as a POW on 5 March 1865.

Corporal Frederick J. Scott was also captured; he died in captivity at Danville, Virginia on 22 February 1865. He was promoted to the rank of, but not mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant on 20 March 1865.

Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, where it remained from November through most of December. Private Charles Arnold was accidentally wounded on 23 November 1864, and was discharged seven months later (on 25 June 1865) on a Surgeon’s Certificate.

Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th Pennsylvanians were then ordered to take up outpost and railroad guard duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia. Five days before Christmas, they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.

1865 — 1866

Matthew Brady’s photograph of spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. On 19 April 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were once again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital—this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.

Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during the early days of their imprisonment. As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May. Captain Levi Stuber of Company I also advanced to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central staff during this time.

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

On their final southern tour, Private J. Eugene Walter and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were attached to the 3rd Brigade, U.S. Department of the South. Taking over for the 165th New York Volunteers in July, they quartered in Charleston, South Carolina at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.

Finally, beginning on Christmas Day of that year, the majority of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Private J. Eugene Walter, began to muster out forever at Charleston, South Carolina—a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the now exhausted 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers disembarked in New York City, were then transported to Philadelphia by train, and were handed their honorable discharge papers at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866.

Return to Civilian Life

Sometime after returning home to Pennsylvania, J. Eugene Walter found work as a machinist, married, and began his own family in Northampton County. In December 1868, he and his wife welcomed daughter Gertrude to the world.

By 1880, however, both he and his brother, Philip S. P. Walter, M.D., appeared to be having difficulties because their respective daughters, Gertrude (aged 10) and Rachel M. (aged 13), were both residing with 76-year-old Walter family patriarch, Rachel Belinda (Sellers) Walter, at her Main Street, Nazareth home. Gertrude and Rachel M. Walter, who were both enrolled in school at the time, were first cousins and granddaughters of Rachel B. Walter. (Although Philip S. P. Walter and his wife, Emma, also resided on Main Street, they did so in a home separate from the one owned by Philip’s mother.)

By 1891, Gertrude Walter was a married woman, having wed William Henry Whitesell (1860-1956), a native of Nazareth who operated the Nazareth Inn in partnership with his father. They welcomed the birth of two children in quick succession: Frances Rae Whitesell (30 July 1892-2 April 1982) and Donald Walter Whitesell (15 September 1893-25 December 1959).

* Note: W. H. Whitesell ended his role as proprietor of the Nazareth Inn in 1897, and relocated to California with his wife Gertrude and their children, Frances and Donald. According to the notice, “Will Leave Nazareth” in the 14 July 1897 edition of The Allentown Democrat:

W. H. Whitesell, proprietor of the Nazareth Inn, at Nazareth, has disposed of his stock and fixtures to George H. Locker, of Philadelphia, who will take charge at once. Mr. Whitesell expects to remove his family to California for locating either at Los Angeles or Pasadena.

The remaining years of the 19th century brought still more changes for the Walter family, including the death of matriarch Rachael Belinda (Sellers) Walter, who passed away two weeks before Christmas in 1896. She was laid to rest at the Moravian Cemetery—next to her husband whom she had survived by more than three decades.

Less than two years later, Joseph Eugene Walter also answered his own final bugle call, passing away in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania on Saturday, 5 March 1898. Following funeral services three days later, he was laid to rest at the Forest Hill Cemetery in the community of Dunmore in that same county.  The 12 March edition of The Allentown Leader reported his passing as follows:

Joseph Eugene Walter, of Scranton died on Saturday, March 5…. The funeral was held Tuesday last in that city. He was a native of Nazareth. At Scranton he had been employed at his trade as a machinist. He was a veteran of the late war, having first enlisted in the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. After his discharge he enlisted in the 153rd Regiment, and was leader of the regiment band. Later he re-enlisted in the 47th Regiment and remained with it until the close of the war. One daughter, Mrs. W. H. Whitesell, of Philadelphia, formerly of Nazareth, and, one son, William Walter, of Bethlehem, survive. He also leaves one brother, Dr. P. S. P. Walter, and two sisters, Mrs. E. T. Henry, Nazareth, and Mrs. L. M. Marvine, Scranton.

Blazing New Trails in the New Century

The older brother of J. Eugene Walter, Philip S. P. Walter, M.D., lived long enough to celebrate his Golden Wedding Anniversary with wife, Emma, in November 1905 and enjoy seven additional years with her before he, too, passed away. Following his death in 1912 in Nazareth, he was interred at the Moravian Cemetery—the same burial ground where his daughter Sallie had been laid to rest forty-three years earlier.

Meanwhile, like many young men and women of the early 20th century, J. Eugene Walter’s daughter opted to lead a lifestyle which differed dramatically from that of her parents, uncle and grandparents. Having married and begun a family with W. H. Whitesell a decade before the end of the century in which she was born, she relocated cross-country with him before that century was out. According to 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census records, she resided in Los Angeles County, California with her husband and their children—Frances Rae and Donald Whitesell (aged 17 and 16, respectively).

W. H. Whitesell supported his family at this time through employment described on the 1900 U.S. Census only as “bicycles.” In June 1910, the Los Angeles Herald announced that daughter, Frances Whitesell, was one of 29 girls who had graduated from the Collegiate School.

From 1930-1940, the still unmarried Frances Whitesell continued to reside in Los Angeles County with her parents. Her brother Donald had, however, wed Elizabeth H. Stevens in Los Angeles on 25 June 1919, moved into his own home, and begun a new family, welcoming their children (and the great-grandchildren of J. Eugene Walter), Patritia [sp?] and Donald Whitesell, Jr., to their Los Angeles County home sometime around 1921 and 1924, respectively.

Renowned American artist Roger Noble Burnham was photographed circa 1935-1939 sculpting a bust of Frances Whitesell, a granddaughter of Civil War musician J. Eugene Walter (UCLA Digital-Los Angeles Times collection, public domain).

Frances Rae Whitesell, in fact, never did get around to marrying—but she did go on to live a long, active life. Multiple newspaper announcements throughout the 1920s and 1930s chronicled the participation of this granddaughter of J. Eugene Walter in bridge games, society teas and functions for the betterment of the public. On 7 February 1937, The Los Angeles Times reported on her volunteer flood relief efforts on behalf of the American Red Cross:

Climaxing appeals by letter to 1500 individuals and groups asking funds for the flood sufferers, Mrs. Chester C. Ashley, chairman of finance for the women’s division of the local Red Cross chapter, is conducting personal contribution hours at various organizations. War president of Ebell Club, she will call on the contingent who served with her as Red Cross workers during the World War and, as then, they will don the Red Cross head-dress tomorrow. Collection will be taken at the club’s afternoon general assembly. “In the present national emergency, the Red Cross is the only agency giving individual help, caring for hospitalization and case work. Rebuilding and such rehabilitation of devastated regions is done by the Federal government,” reminded Mrs. Ashley yesterday. Assisting her at Ebell tomorrow will be Mmes. Grantland Seton Long, Hot Johnson, Robert S. Hardy, Frank Stiff, Gustave Pochels, Misses Laura Paxton and Frances Whitesell.

Interestingly, she bore a striking resemblance to her grandfather. Photographed sometime between 1935 and 1940 with American artist Roger Noble Burnham while he was sculpting a bust of her, Frances Whitesell sat with a correspondingly erect posture to the one assumed by her grandfather, J. Eugene Walter, in his 1850s photograph (see beginning of this sketch). Gazing out into the distance as her ancestor had done so many years earlier, her eyes and slightly cleft chin conveyed a similar intensity of spirit and strength of heart.

After reaching the age of 90, she passed away in Los Angeles County, California on 2 April 1982.


1. 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, in Union Regimental Histories. The Civil War Archive, retrieved online 1 May 2017.

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

3. “Death of Two Veterans: Joseph Walter, of the 47th, and David Eckert of the 129th, Pass Away.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 12 March 1898.

4. Dr. P. S. P. Walter, in “Northampton County.” Reading, Pennsylvania: The Reading Times, 8 November 1905.

5. Hacker, H. H. Nazareth Hall: An Historical Sketch and Roster of Principals, Teachers and Pupils. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Times Publishing Co., 1910.

6. Kiefer, Rev. William R. and Newton H. Mack. History of the One hundred and fifty-third regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry Which Was Recruited in Northampton County, Pa. 1862-1863. Easton, Pennsylvania: The Chemical Publishing Co., 1909.

7. Lovenstein, Lochard H. In Lieu of a Draft: A History of the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2012.

8. “Red Cross Group Active War-time Workers Seek Flood Relief Funds.” Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles Times, 7 February 1937.

9. Reichel, William C. Historical Sketch of Nazareth Hall from 1755 to 1869; with an account of the reunions of former pupils and of the inauguration of a monument at Nazareth on the 11th of June, 1868, erected in memory of alumni who fell in the late rebellion. Philadelphia Pennsylvania: Printed for the Reunion Society of Nazareth Hall by J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1869.

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

11. U.S. Census (1840, 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940). Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and California: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

12. Walter, J. Eugene, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

13. Walter, Joseph E., in U.S. Civil War Pension Index. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1890.

14. Walter, Philip (older and younger) and Sallie Walter, in Nazareth Diary. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Moravian Historical Society and Moravian Church Archives, 1830-1869.

15. Whitesell and Walter Family Marriage and Death Records, in California County Marriages and in California Death Index. Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library, 1890-1960.