January-Early February 1862: New Year, New Civil War Mission — A Pennsylvania Regiment Heads for Florida

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

“He was the light and life of our company, and his death has caused a blight and sadness to prevail, that only the rude wheels of time can efface….” — Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin to the parents of drummer boy John Boulton Young, mid-October, 1861

“I passed the night in ‘watching,’ but somewhat differently from the watch meetings at home. I spent from 8 to 12 at night on the outposts, and we were in expectation of an attack all the time…. At 12, I was relieved and moved with my men back to the main reserve where we built a huge fire, and six to eight officers of us gathered around the fire and spent the time in telling yarns, cracking jokes.” — Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin to his own parents in a letter penned on New Year’s Day, 1862

“Will write again if I am spared to do so.” — C Company Sergeant John Gross Helfrich to his parents in a letter penned on January 12, 1862

 

As America’s Civil War dragged on, the contemplation of life’s biggest questions became an increasing preoccupation for more than a few members of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Initially elated by their August 1861 enrollment for service in the fight to preserve their nation’s Union, many were propelled heart and headlong into a valley of grief just weeks later by the untimely deaths of John Boulton Young and Alfred Eisenbraun, two of the regiment’s beloved drummer boys.

Their equilibrium was gradually restored by their work as Union Army soldiers, however, and their spirits were raised further by the approaching Christmas season—largely thanks to surprise shipments by families and friends of “care packages” stuffed with favored foods and other items of comfort. Naturally, though, many members of the regiment began ruminating again as the New Year’s Eve of 1861 gave way to the New Year’s Day of 1862—as shown by this January 1, 1862 letter written to family by C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin:

“I went on picket yesterday morning, and was relieved this morning. So the entire programme [sic] of the departure of the old and advent of the New Year was open to me. I passed the night in ‘watching,’ but somewhat differently from the watch meetings at home. I spent from 8 to 12 at night on the outposts, and we were in expectation of an attack all the time. This kept me constantly in the line, among the men preparing for an attack. At 12, I was relieved and moved with my men back to the main reserve where we built a huge fire, and six to eight officers of us gathered around the fire and spent the time in telling yarns, cracking jokes. Officers from the 7th Maine, 49th & 53d New York were present. Occasionally a shot or two would bring us all to our feet, but as all would be quiet again down we would go into the fire again. About four oclock [sic] this morning, I spread my blanket on the ground, and with a stone for a pillow, slept peaceably my first sleep for 1862. I got to Camp about 9 a.m. and found your letters awaiting me.

…. I would like to have been at home on Christmas, and had set my heart upon going, but somehow or other Col Good and Gen Brannen [sic] both do not want me to leave at present. The fact is we are daily expecting an engagement and they seem to think my company will not do as well as they expect it to unless I am there. I have the crack company in the Regiment. Yesterday was muster day and Sam Miller received the premium for having the cleanest arms in the Regiment….

…. I will make a desperate effort to spend my birthday at home. Mother if I get there I want you to cook a dish of schnitz und knep [sic]. I have been wishing for them all day. Yesterday I went into a house on the line and bought a mince pie and cup of coffee of a girl there. They were first rate, but Mother could beat them.”

* Note: Schnitz und knepp, which translates from the Pennsylvania German to English as “apples and buttons,” was a traditional fall recipe for Pennsylvania Dutch families during the 1800s, and remains so today. Made in a large kettle with dried apples, ham, and dumplings, and flavored with brown sugar and other seasonings, its aroma, taste, and warmth have long come together to create the very definition of “comfort food” on the chilly fall days of the Great Keystone State.

“I had not intended mentioning the following but for fear some of the boys may and an incorrect story gets out, I will tell you the other night while on picket, Mark Shipman fired upon one man crawling up to him, or he supposed he was. Sergeant Piers [sic] and I went out to the line to see the cause of the report, and someone attempted to shoot at us, but his cap snapped. The fellow made tracks in a hurry before we could catch him, but I think he got badly frightened anyhow. You do not say anything about this and do not be alarmed as he could not hit us. It was too dark. And if he had fired, or his gun gone off, we could have shot him, by the flash. We have not lost a man on picket in our entire division.

…. The wind is blowing a perfect hurricane around the house. I have my house papered all over now, and I tell you it is the best this side of Gen Smiths head quarters [sic]. Jake Keaffer [sic] just came in. He was on picket with me last night and tried for about two hours to catch some guinea hens for a New Year dinner. They were too wild for him and so he filled his haversack with potatoes out of a hole he found. He wont [sic] starve in this country. Remember me to all friends and all write soon.

Then, barely a week into the New Year, the regiment’s most persistent and dangerous foe to date resumed its assault, claiming H Company Private Jacob S. R. Gardner as one of the first of what would be a stunning number of casualties for the 47th Pennsylvania in 1862. Unable to withstand the “one-two punch” he absorbed from contracting measles after having just survived a battle with Variola (smallpox), the former Perry County laborer died on January 8. His brothers, Sergeant Reuben Shatto Gardner and Corporal John A. Gardner, who had both been serving side-by-side with him in H Company, saw to the shipping arrangements which sent Jacob’s body back home for interment at the Newport Cemetery in Newport, Pennsylvania, but they did not accompany the transport. Instead, they tamped down their grief and returned to duty—a difficult act that would continue to be repeated by numerous other heartbroken brothers for years to come across a bitterly divided United States.

Meanwhile, at dawn on the same day of Private Gardner’s passing, the bulk of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry had just begun to carry out the latest directive from superior officers. Marching from Camp Griffin toward the Army of the Potomac’s central commandthe headquarters of Brigadier-General William F. (“Baldy”) Smith, the 47th Pennsylvanians met up with six additional Union infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, and a ten-piece artillery unit. Moving on as part of this larger force, they continued on to Lewinsville, where they picked up the support of an additional 233 Union wagons.

Heading out again, they trekked on for eight miles until reaching Peacock Hill, where they chased off a significantly smaller group of Confederate States Army troops from picket duty, and then proceeded to remove 200 bushels of corn and 30 loads of hay.

Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks, central regimental command, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (c. 1863, public domain).

In his subsequent recap of the event, Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks noted, “We just marched up to a corn crib, and off went the roof, and the wagons were backed up and filled.” The 47th Pennsylvanians were back in camp that same day by 4 p.m.

According to Gobin in his own letter home, which was penned on the same day of the expedition:

“Yesterday our division of about ten thousand men went out to Hunters Mill, and got 252 wagon loads of forage. We drove in the Rebel pickets and waited a long time for them to come at us, but they did not show themselves. The march was a hard one. I was very tired, but one nights [sic] sleep, and all as sound as ever.”

On Friday, January 10, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were informed that they had performed their duties so admirably up to this point that they had been chosen by Union Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan to join a new expedition under his leadership. Shortly thereafter, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry began packing up their regiment’s tents, Springfield rifles, ammunition, cooking utensils, and other equipment critical to any Union Army unit on the move.

Excerpt of letter from Sergeant John Helfrich, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, January 12, 1862 (used with permission from Colin Colfield).

In the midst of all of this, C Company Sergeant John Helfrich carved time out to pen the following letter:

“Camp Griffin,
Jan. 12th 1862

Dear Parents,

I will again address you, in order to inform you of my getting along, and at the same time I will remark that this will to all probability be the last letter that I may be able to write, while at this place, as we have orders to leave at almost any moment. The place of our destination I can not [sic] name for certain, however, it is rumored that we would go to Florida.

While I am writing, I am informed that we will first go either to Baltimore or Anapolis [sic], and there join the fleet just about being fitted out for some southern seaport. Our going is a certainty, as Gen. Brannan, has gone to either of the above named places to make the necessary arrangements, preparatory to our going.

Yesterday, (Saturday) our regiment was paid for the preceeding [sic] two month service. The monthly wages of a sergeant is seventeen and those of a private thirteen, dollars.

Our company has first passed through the usual Sunday morning inspection, when each man is [to] have a suit of clean clothes in his knapsack, and must also have his arms, and accoutrements, in perfect good condition. This inspection, greatly promotes the healthy, as well as the good appearances of the soldier, and in fact is indispensable.

Our company is in excellent health not a man is at present in the hospital. The health of the regt. has always been pretty good during the first four month [sic] we are now in service, which is verified by the fact that there occurred but seven cases that proved fatal, out of our nine hundred men, and we can not [sic] find language to express our thanks to the Great giver of this our greatest and blessing, that a mortal being can enjoy, and it is our prayer that He may continue to bless us in the future.

I would very much like to see my friends and relations first before we go, but time, and circumstances, will not permit me to do so. I hope however that the time may soon be at hand, when peace may again be restored to our former blessed land, and when those who are now separated from their Parents and friends, fighting for their country, cause and honor, may again be permitted to return home, and enter the circle of their Parents, families, and friends, left and home in peace and prosperity.

Enclosed find ten dollars of my wages. I would send you more, but perhaps I may need it myself, from this until next payday. I must now close by saying that I am well, hoping that you and all the rest of the family are enjoying the same. Remember me kindly to all my friends at home and abroad.

A friendly goodby [sic] to you all.

Your son,

John G. Helfrich

Will write again soon if I am spared to do so.

J. G. Helfrich”

The City of Richmond, a sidewheel steamer which transported Union troops during the Civil War (Maine, c. late 1860s, public domain).

Lined up and ready to move out early on the morning of Wednesday, January 22, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers “gave three cheers for Camp Griffin” after listening to the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band play “Auld Lang Syne,” according to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt. Marching forth at 8:30 a.m., the men of B Company brought up the rear as the regiment slogged through snow and deep mud for three miles in order to reach the Vienna railroad depot in Falls Church, Virginia. Arriving at 9:30 a.m., they boarded a train and departed at 11 for Alexandria, Virginia where, a half hour later, they marched behind their band to the strains of “Yankee Doodle.”

Arriving at the docks nearby, they quickly began loading their equipment on the City of Richmond, a steamship which ultimately transported them along the Potomac River to the Washington Arsenal, where they disembarked sometime around 4 p.m. Marched from the arsenal area’s docks to the munitions storage area, regimental leaders replenished the ammunition supplies of the regiment, one company at a time—a process which took roughly two hours. They were then marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C.

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

The next day (January 23), the 47th Pennsylvanians reloaded their equipment onto and then boarded a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train. Departing for Annapolis, Maryland at 2 p.m., they arrived around 10 p.m., were assigned quarters in barracks at the U.S. Naval Academy, and turned in for the night. They then spent that Friday through Monday (January 24-27) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the 210-foot steamship S.S. Oriental. Those preparations ceased on Monday, January 27, at 10 a.m., however, in order to make time for a very public dismissal of one member of the regiment—Private James C. Robinson—who was dishonorably discharged from the 47th Pennsylvania (effective on that same date). According to regimental historian Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment:

“The regiment was formed and instructed by Lt. Col. Alexander ‘that we were about drumming out a member who had behaved himself unlike a soldier.’ …. The prisoner, Pvt. James C. Robinson of Company I, was a 36 year old miner from Allentown who had been ‘disgracefully discharged’ by order of the War Department. Pvt. Robinson was marched out with martial music playing and a guard of nine men, two men on each side and five behind him at charge bayonets. The music then struck up with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ as the procession was marched up and down in front of the regiment, and Pvt. Robinson was marched out of the yard.”

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

Reloading then resumed and, that same afternoon (January 27), the enlisted members of the 47th Regiment, Volunteer Infantry began to board the Oriental, followed by their superior officers. Ferried to that Philadelphia-built steamship by smaller steamers, they sailed away for America’s Deep South at 4 p.m., per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas. Their ship, which was captained by Benjamin F. Tuzo, was rocked by rough seas for much of their trip; consequently, many members of the regiment suffered from intense seasickness—particularly as the Oriental made its way down the stormy coast of the Carolinas and passed the Bahamas and Great Abaco Island.

On February 2, Regimental Chaplain William DeWitt Clinton Rodrock gathered his flock together for Sunday services, which began with the tolling of the ship’s bell at 11 a.m., a selection of hymns performed by the Regimental Band, and an opening prayer and scripture reading by Rodrock. Following the regiment’s singing of “From All That Dwell Below the Skies” (accompanied by the band to the music of “Old Hundred”), Rodrock presented that week’s sermon, which was based on the Bible’s “Acts of the Apostles,” chapter 17, verse 23. The service then closed with the singing of “Lord Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing” and the Doxology, followed by Rodrock’s benediction.

That day and the next, the men’s spirits were boosted further by the sight of dolphins swimming alongside the Oriental.

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

Arriving in the waters off Key West, Florida at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 3, the 47th Pennsylvanians were forced to endure a waiting game aboard ship until a pilot could be brought aboard to bring the ship into a safe place in the harbor—a process the pilot began at 7 a.m. the next morning.

According to Schmidt, “The deck was crowded with the regiment’s men, with the band playing as they passed some of the men-at-war…. Arriving in the harbor at 8 AM, the bands playing ‘national songs’ and numerous onlookers, including many ‘colored women,’ along the shore watching the ship sail into port.”

“After disembarking at 9 AM on the dock about one mile west of Fort Taylor, the regiment marched down the main street of the city in their regular order of column of divisions, and stacked their weapons, waiting until the unit would be notified where to make camp…. At 12 in the afternoon, the men were ordered to fall in and stand to attention, and with their 23 member band playing and the ladies of Key West waving their handkerchiefs, and with quite a crowd of followers, the 1000 men marched to their new camp ‘one fourth mile out of the city, near the beach,’ across from the barracks of the 90th New York Regiment.”

Led to the area of Key West that is now known as Palm and White streets, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were, in fact, initially housed just 350 feet from the ocean—a locale which may sound breathtakingly luxurious to the modern day reader until one realizes that the 47th Pennsylvanians’ first nights were “spent in blankets on the beach, with knapsacks for pillows”—a vexing, sandy state of affairs which persisted until their tents were unloaded and assembled on Thursday, February 6.

Even so, the members of the regiment still managed to make an early, favorable impression on Key West residents, including a New York Herald reporter who “commented on the fact that the 47th was equipped with the best weapons available, and was the best looking Volunteer Regiment he had ever seen.’’

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

This was in very large part due to the leadership of Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the founder and commanding officer of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, who had been placed in charge not just of the 47th Pennsylvania, but of all of the men who had been assigned to serve under Brannan in Key West, including two volunteer regiments from New York and U.S. Army artillery units. Good would continue to perform this role until Brannan was able to reach Florida and assume command of his brigade. The 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Adjutant Washington H. R. Hangen was then also appointed as Adjutant General for Brannan’s brigade.

And those tents which took so long to be delivered and assembled? They were officially designated as “Camp Brannan” in honor of the brigadier-general who had requested that the 47th Pennsylvania be assigned to his command.

* NOTE: Three months after dropping the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers off in Key West, the steamship Oriental ran aground and sank north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Its boiler may still be seen from shore while walking along the beach at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Sources:

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

2. Faust, Drew G. “The Civil War soldier and the art of dying,” in The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 3-38. Houston, Texas: Southern Historical Association (Rice University), 2001.

3. Gobin, John Peter Shindel. Personal Letters, 1861-1865. Northumberland, Pennsylvania: Personal Collection of John Deppen.

4. Helfrich, John G. Personal Letters, 1862. Mesa, Arizona: Personal Collection of Colin Cofield.

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

6. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1868.

 

 

December 1861: A Young Regiment’s First Christmas and New Year’s Day Away from Home

First State Color, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (issued 20 September 1861, retired 11 May 1865).

Barely four months old when December 1861 arrived, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry continued its occupation of Virginia—just one of the many Union regiments attached to the Army of the Potomac charged with defending the nation’s capital from potential invasion by Confederate States Army troops during the first year of America’s Civil War. Encamped at Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen during late September and early October, the 47th Pennsylvania had spent a significant portion of its time reinforcing and expanding upon the basic training in Hardee’s light infantry tactics that it had received upon its muster at Camp Curtin.

On one typical day—Friday, October 4—the regiment drilled from just after reveille until roughly 7 a.m., repeated the drill between 10 and 11 a.m. and then again between 2 and 3 p.m., and then marched in a formal regimental parade from 5 to 6 p.m. Two days later, the regiment demonstrated its readiness yet again when its members were formally inspected by senior officers of its brigade. At midnight the next day—Monday, October 7—the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was ordered to engage the enemy.

Following behind the 79th New York Volunteers and trailed by the 33rd and 49th New York, as well as a Union cavalry unit and three Union artillery batteries, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched away from Camp Advance at 3 a.m.—excited to do more than mere drilling. Before they could reach their intended destination, however, the 79th New York Volunteers ran smack into Confederate skirmishers three miles outside of Lewinsville.

As battle lines began to form, the 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to move to the front and both sides of the road to shield the brigade’s other units. Initially stationed at the front, the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company and A Company were shifted to protective positions at the brigade’s left and right, respectively, and Company D and Company I were then shifted to protect the brigade’s front. Advancing in this formation up and down three miles of the undulating, forested Virginia countryside, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers pushed the Confederate troops back toward Prospect Hill, where they stopped and held their brigade’s position for the remainder of the day and night.

Forming a new battle line the next morning at 8 a.m., the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were assigned, again, to guard both sides of their brigade. When neighboring Confederate troops failed to attack by 10 a.m., they were ordered to begin fortifying their brigade’s position, and proceeded to carve out a five-mile road and fell a substantial number of trees in order to construct earthen breastworks in front of the brigade’s artillery batteries. They were also assigned to dig holes to create rifle pits for brigade snipers—work which continued until they were relieved by a regiment from Vermont at sundown. Allowed to sleep until daylight via a procedure known as “laying on their arms,” they essentially held their rifles while napping lightly.

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

Ordered on toward Manassas Gap early that same week, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were next stationed between Lewinsville and Falls Church as part of this mission. Moving back and forth around this area, they reached as far as the Leesburg Turnpike, which was roughly two miles from the Chain Bridge they had first crossed when entering Virginia in September. Moving out again the next day, the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing (Companies A, C, D, F, and I) were ordered to head for a new camp site in Fairfax County, Virginia. Marching to a site two miles outside of Falls Church, they began pitching regimental tents at “Camp Big Chestnut”—so named due to the looming presence of a large chestnut tree located there. This encampment would ultimately come to be known as Camp Griffin.

Meanwhile, the men from H Company and other units of the 47th Pennsylvania’s left wing were ordered out on a new, five-mile expedition. During this time, a six-man detail from H Company, commanded by Lieutenant William W. Geety, was sent out on reconnaissance toward the Richmond Turnpike, but nearly met with disaster when Confederate cavalry approached within 300 feet of that detail’s position around midnight. Fortunately, this detachment was saved by a thick fog which descended and obscured its position from the enemy’s view.

On Thursday, October 10, Geety’s party was joined by the regiment’s third-in-command, Major William H. Gausler, who ordered Geety to perform further reconnaissance. Spotting enemy pickets a quarter mile away from the main encampment of the 47th Pennsylvania’s expedition, Geety promptly returned to Gausler to report his findings. Men from G Company were then placed on picket duty, which they performed until they were relieved at 1 a.m. the next day.

According to regimental historian, Lewis Schmidt, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the 47th Pennsylvania’s founder and commanding officer, reported to his superiors “that the work associated with being out on advanced picket duty was very difficult, and that the enemy pickets at times were too close to his camp, which gave his troops constant unrest.” Further adding to their stress, they were forced to wait so long for their tents to be brought from their former encampment that they ended up having to pitch those tents “during constant alarms from the enemy pickets.”

They’d barely finished when the rains came. Geety later reported that they’d endured such a hard downpour that he’d “slept in a puddle all night”; those of his subordinates who weren’t sent out on picket duty again spent the next two days trying unsuccessfully to dry their clothes.

Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, Co. C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1862 (public domain).

Many hours were, in fact, passed in similarly miserable conditions—so much so that camp life became a test of endurance. According to Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, the commanding officer of the 47th Pennsylvania’s C Company, Friday, November 29 was “the most disagreeable time we have yet experienced.” Assigned to picket duty, he had been ordered to march his subordinates out and position them away from camp some distance in order to head off potential enemy attacks on the Army of the Potomac’s massive encampment by Confederate troops stationed in their vicinity.

“It rained hard all day and night, and was very cold. I had command of the first relief, which went to the special reserve at 12 midnight. By that time most of us were wet through, so I took possession of a minister’s house, near by, where I quartered my men until morning.”

Additional letters written by other 47th Pennsylvanians around this same time evoke similar shivers of empathy, transporting present day readers back in time and into the muddy shoes and heavy, sodden uniforms of the cold, sniffling soldiers who wearily set pen to paper once they were finally permitted to crawl back into their dry tents at camp.

Consequently, disease became an even more formidable foe than the Confederate States Army—and a fearsome one at that, scything multiple members of the regiment from its ranks, including two drummer boys, aged thirteen and fifteen, and a seasoned sergeant within days of each of their respective hospitalizations, followed by Daniel Foose, a 19-year-old private from Perry County’s H Company who was felled by typhoid or bilious fever; David Losch, a 22-year-old Allentown native and private from I Company; Daniel Biceline, a 23-year-old H Company private also felled by typhoid; and Private William Young of G Company.

Easing their distress somewhat was the long overdue news that members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry would finally be paid for the first time since enrolling for service. When the money arrived, many members of the regiment began transferring what they could home to parents and wives. C Company men sent $900 to their loved ones in Sunbury while those from Company A and Company D sent a whopping $2,500 and $2,000, respectively, to Northampton and Perry counties.

Additionally, the regiment was still stationed close enough to Pennsylvania that a significant number of 47th Pennsylvanians were able to personally return to their hometowns on brief furloughs while others were buoyed by family members who had the means to travel to their Virginia encampment for short visits.

Christmas

Quartermaster James C. VanDyke procured a holiday surprise for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Sunbury American, 21 December 1861, public domain).

As a result, it was with a mixture of heavy hearts and hope that members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry welcomed the dawn of Christmas Day in 1861.

Among those making the time more bearable for his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians was former Northumberland County sheriff James VanDyke who, according to the December 21 edition of the Sunbury American, “came home on a short visit and returned to Camp Griffin 47th Regiment … taking with him three or four large boxes filled with various articles of comfort, for the inner as well as the outer man….”

The newspaper also included this important detail:

“Among the edibles, was a barrel of ‘sour krout,’ presented by William I. Greenough, Esq.”

In addition to being a beloved taste of home for the often hungry members of the regiment, the sauerkraut likely also served an important cultural function for the numerous German-Americans and German immigrants who had enrolled with the 47th. When paired with pork and eaten on New Year’s Day as part of an annual tradition, sauerkraut has been said to attract prosperity for the remainder of the year because it is made from green cabbage (green being the color of money) while eating pork ensures progress and good luck because pigs “root forward” with their snouts rather than backward with their feet as chickens do, according to a 2015 article by Billy Penn News.

Pvt. Abraham Nicholas Wolf, Company B, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1861 (public domain).

Food and other “articles of comfort” were, in fact, on the minds of pretty much all members of the regiment as they were about to spend their first Christmas and New Year’s holidays away from loved ones. While penning a letter to his family during regimental church services on Sunday, December 29, Private Abraham N. Wolf told his wife, Sarah, that the Regimental Band was playing a hymn as he wrote to her.

Noting that he’d received the gift box she’d sent him, Wolf’s joy was child-like when he added that “everything was in it yet what you said was in it and it came on the second day of Christmas.” Just that morning, he’d fried “fried some of the sausages” that she’d sent him “and took some sausages along for dinner” later because he’d been scheduled for duty—chopping wood for the regiment—“and they tasted pretty good to me for it was something new to me for it was from home.” And then he added that the day before:

“… the chicken cooked for dinner and so we had a good dinner for it was the best dinner that I had since I left home. And this morning I ate the last part of the chickens but I have some of your molasses candy yet which you sent to me. And I have the big cake yet. And that pocket handkerchief which your mother sent to me I got too.”

Their joy and respite were brief, however; by mid-January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were on the move again. When they finally stopped and were able to take in their new surroundings, they would suddenly gain an entirely different perspective on the meaning of “far from the comforts of home.”

 

For more Christmas and New Year’s-related content, please check out this sampling of our prior posts on 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story:

To see an image and read more of Abraham Wolf’s letter, read the article, 1861: Abraham Nicholas Wolf Jr. to Sarah (Trexler) Wolf,” by Spared and Shared.

 

Sources:

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

2. Gobin, John Peter Shindel. Personal Letters, 1861-1865. Northumberland, Pennsylvania: Personal Collection of John Deppen.

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

4. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1868.

 

 

Healing a Nation – A President’s Christmas Acts of Forgiveness and Compassion

President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 (W.E. Winner, painter, J. Serz, engraver, c. 1864; public domain, U.S. Library of Congress).

1863 was a pivotal year for Abraham Lincoln and the United States of America. It began with the New Year’s Day execution of the President’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all people held as slaves in every state which had seceded from the Union, saw the course of the American Civil War swing in the federal government’s favor with the Union’s victory over Confederate States Army troops in the bloody, tide-turning Battle of Gettysburg in early July, and closed with Lincoln’s attempts to reunify both his nation and family in the days leading up to Christmas through two very different documents which shared the common threads of compassion and forgiveness – an Executive Letter designed to provide his wife’s cousin – a supporter of the Confederacy – to have safe passage to, and secure residency at, her home in Arkansas, and a proclamation intended to inspire similar CSA supporters to pressure their leaders to end the war and return to the Union fold.

The texts of both documents are shown below.

 

Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction (8 December 1863)

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
A PROCLAMATION.

WHEREAS, in and by the Constitution of the United States, it is provided that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment;” and

Whereas, a rebellion now exists whereby the loyal state governments of several states have for a long time been subverted, and many persons have committed, and are now guilty of, treason against the United States; and

Whereas, with reference to said rebellion and treason, laws have been enacted by congress, declaring forfeitures and confiscation of property and liberation of slaves, all upon terms and conditions therein stated, and also declaring that the President was thereby authorized at any time thereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion, in any state or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions and at such times and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare; and

Whereas, the congressional declaration for limited and conditional pardon accords with well-established judicial exposition of the pardoning power; and

Whereas, with reference to said rebellion, the President of the United States has issued several proclamations, with provisions in regard to the liberation of slaves; and

Whereas, it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States, and to reinaugurate loyal state governments within and for their respective states: Therefore–

I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:–

“I, ______ , do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or held void by congress, or by decision of the supreme court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the supreme court. So help me God.”

The persons excepted from the benefits of the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have been, civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called Confederate government; all who have left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military or naval officers of said so-called Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States congress to aid the rebellion; all who resigned commissions in the army or navy of the United States and afterwards aided the rebellion; and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may have been found in the United States service as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity.

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that whenever, in any of the States of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one tenth in number of the votes cast in such state at the presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, each having taken the oath aforesaid, and not having since violated it, and being a qualified voter by the election law of the state existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and excluding all others, shall reestablish a state government which shall be republican, and in nowise contravening said oath, such shall be recognized as the true government of the state, and the state shall receive thereunder the benefits of the constitutional provision which declares that “the United States shall guaranty to every state in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence.”

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that any provision which may be adopted by such state government in relation to the freed people of such state, which shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent as a temporary arrangement with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class, will not be objected to by the National Executive.

And it is suggested as not improper that, in constructing a loyal state government in any state, the name of the state, the boundary, the subdivisions, the constitution, and the general code of laws, as before the rebellion, be maintained, subject only to the modifications made necessary by the conditions hereinbefore stated, and such others, if any, not contravening said conditions, and which may be deemed expedient by those framing the new state government.

To avoid misunderstanding, it may be proper to say that this proclamation, so far as it relates to state governments, has no reference to states wherein loyal state governments have all the while been maintained. And, for the same reason, it may be proper to further say, that whether members sent to congress from any state shall be admitted to seats constitutionally rests exclusively with the respective houses, and not to any extent with the Executive. And still further, that this proclamation is intended to present the people of the states wherein the national authority has been suspended, and loyal state governments have been subverted, a mode in and by which the national authority and loyal state governments may be reestablished within said states, or in any of them; and while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest, with his present impressions, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable.

Given under my hand at the city of Washington the eighth day of December, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

 

Executive Letter in Support of Mary Todd Lincoln’s First Cousin (21 December 1863)

Executive Mansion
Washington, December 21, 1863.

Mr. and Mrs. Craig, of Arkansas, whose plantation, situated upon the Mississippi River a few miles below Helena, has been desolated during the present war, purpose returning to reoccupy and cultivate said plantation; and it is my wish that they be permitted to do so, and that the United States military forces in that vicinity will not molest them, or allow them to be molested, as long as the said Mr. and Mrs. Craig shall demean themselves as peaceful, loyal citizens of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln

Letter Text: The Raab Collection (see “Sources” below)

 

Sources:

1. “An Original Christmas Week Letter from Abraham Lincoln During the Civil War Is Up for Sale for the First Time.” Ardmore, Pennsylvania: The Raab Collection, December 13, 2018.

2. “Civil War Timeline,” in “Gettysburg National Military Park. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Park Service, retrieved online December 1, 2018.

3. “The Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction,” in “Freedmen & Southern Society Project.” College Park, Maryland: Department of History, University of Maryland, retrieved online December 1, 2018.

4. “Transcript of the Proclamation,” in “The Emancipation Proclamation,” in “Online Exhibits: Featured Documents.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, retrieved online December 1, 2018.

5. Sanger, George P., ed. The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America from December 1863, to to December 1865, Vol. XIII, pp. 737–39. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company, 1866.

 

In Their Own Words: Soldiers Reflect on Life as Christmas and the New Year Approach During the U.S. Civil War

 

Personal Letter from Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, Commanding Officer of Company C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (14 December 1862)

Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, Company C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (circa 1862, public domain).

Beaufort, So. Ca.
December 14, 1862

Dear Friends,

This is the last letter you will receive from me dated as above. For some time, our Regt. has been ordered to Key West again and we leave for there tomorrow. We are even now all packed up and I am writing amid the piles of rubbish accumulated in a five months residence in Camp. Gen. Brannen [sic] expects to go North and his object evidently is to get us out of this Department so that when he is established in his command, he can get us with him. If we remained here Gen Hunter would not let us go as he is as well aware as is Brannen [sic] is that we are the best Regiment in the Department. Although I do not like the idea of going back there, under the circumstances we are content. At all events we will have nice quarters easy times, and plenty of food. But for my part I would rather have some fighting to do. Since we have become initiated I rather like it. At Key West we will get none, and have a nice rest after our duties here. I will take all my men along – not being compelled to leave any behind. Direct my letters hereafter to Key West, Fla.

I supposed the body of Sergt Haupt has arrived at home long ere this. When we left Key West [Last?] Oyster & myself  bought a large quantity of shells, and sent them to Mrs Oyster. If we got home all right [sic] Haupt was to make boxes for us. He having died, you and Mrs Oyster divide the shells, and you can take [two illegible words] and give them to our friends. Some to Uncle Luther [sp?], Jacob Lawk [sp?], Louisa Shindel and all friends. I can send some more when we get to Key West if they want them.

Arrangements are being made to run a schooner regularly between here and Key West, so your boxes sent to us will follow us. Neither Mrs Wilsons nor yours has been received yet.

I think I will send a box home from  here containing a few articles picked up at St. John’s Bluff and here. They examine all boxes closely but I think I can get some few articles through. The powder horn bullet pouch and breech sight I got at St. John’s Bluff the rest here. I will write, as soon as we get to Key West. Let me hear from you often. With love to all I remain

Yours,
J. P. Shindel Gobin

P.S. Get Youngman & [illegible name] to publish the change of your address.

 

Letter to the Sunbury American Newspaper from Henry D. Wharton, Musician, Company C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (published 10 January 1863)

USS Seminole and USS Ellen accompanied by transports (left to right: Belvidere, McClellan, Boston, Delaware, and Cosmpolitan) at Wassau Sound, Georgia (circa January 1862, Harper’s Weekly, public domain).

[Correspondence for the AMERICAN.]
Letter from the Sunbury Guards,
FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, Florida.  }
December 21, 1862.

DEAR WILVERT:– Again at Key West. On Monday, December 15th we left Beaufort, S.C., on board the Steamer Cosmopolitan and proceeded to Hilton Head, where Gen. Brannen [sic] came on board to bid farewell to his regiment. Capt. Gobin addressed him in a neat little speech, which the General tried to reply to, but his feelings were too full and tears were in his eye as he bid the old word, ‘Good Bye.’ The boys gave him tremendous cheers as he left the vessel and the Band discoursed sweet music ‘till he reached the shore. The members of our regiment felt badly on leaving his command; but the assurance that we will soon be with him, in another department, makes them in a better humor; for with him they know all their wants are cared for, and in battle they have a leader on whom they can depend.

On the passage down, we ran along almost the whole coast of Florida. Rather a dangerous ground, and the reefs are no playthings. We were jarred considerably by running on one, and not liking the sensation our course was altered for the Gulf Stream. We had heavy sea all the time. I had often heard of ‘waves as big as a house,’ and thought it was a sailor’s yarn, but I have seen ‘em and am perfectly satisfied; so now, not having a nautical turn of mind, I prefer our movements being done on terra firma, and leave old neptune to those who have more desire for his better acquaintance. A nearer chance of a shipwreck never took place than ours, and it was only through Providence that we were saved. The Cosmopolitan is a good river boat, but to send her to sea, loadened [sic] with U.S. troops is a shame, and looks as though those in authority wish to get clear of soldiers in another way than that of battle. There was some sea sickness on our passage; several of the boys ‘casting up their accounts’ on the wrong side of the ledger.

Fort Jefferson, Dry Torguas, Florida (interior, c.irca 1934, C.E. Peterson, photographer, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

We landed here on last Thursday at noon, and immediately marched to quarters. Company I. and C., in Fort Taylor, E. and B. in the old Barracks, and A. and G. in the new Barracks. Lieut. Col. Alexander, with the other four companies proceeded to Tortugas, Col. Good having command of all the forces in and around Key West. Our regiment relieves the 90th Regiment N.Y.S. Vols. Col. Joseph Morgan, who will proceed to Hilton Head to report to the General commanding. His actions have been severely criticized by the people, but, as it is in bad taste to say anything against ones superiors, I merely mention, judging from the expression of the citizens, they were very glad of the return of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

The U.S. Gunboat ‘Sagamore’ has had good luck lately. She returned from a cruise on the 16th inst., having captured the English sloop ‘Ellen’ and schooners ‘Agnes,’ ‘By George’ and ‘Alicia,’ all hailing from Nassau N.P. The two former were cut out in India river by a boat expedition from the Sagamore. They had, however, previously discharged their cargoes, consisting principally of salt, and were awaiting a return cargo of the staple, (cotton) when the boats relieved them from further trouble and anxiety. The ‘By George’ was sighted on the morning of the 1st, and after a short chase she was overhauled. Her Captain, in answer to ‘where bound!’ replied Key West, but being so much out of his course and rather deficient in the required papers, an officer was placed in charge in order that she might safely reach this port. Cargo – Coffee, Salt, Medicines, &c. The “Alicia,’ cotton loaded, was taken in Indian river inlet, where she was nicely stowed away waiting a clear coast. The boats of the Sagamore also destroyed two small sloops. They were used in Indian river, near Daplin, by the rebels in lightering cargoes up and down the river. There are about twenty more prizes lying here, but I was unable to get the names of more than the following:

Schooner ‘Dianah.’ assorted cargo.
“         ‘Maria.’           “             “
“         ‘Corse.’           “             “
“       ‘Velocity.’        “             “
“  ‘W.E. Chester.’  sixty bales of cotton.

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

Key West has improved very little since we left last June, but there is one improvement for which the 90th New York deserve a great deal of praise, and that is the beautifying of the ‘home’ of dec’d. soldiers. A neat and strong wall of stone encloses the yard, the ground is laid off in squares, all the graves are flat and are nicely put in proper shape by boards eight or ten inches high on the ends sides, covered with white sand, while a head and foot board, with the full name, company and regiment, marks the last resting place of the patriot who sacrificed himself for his country.

Two regiments of Gen. Bank’s [sic] expedition are now at this place, the vessels, on which they had taken passage for Ship Island, being disabled, they were obliged to disembark, and are now waiting transportation. They are the 156th and 160th N.Y.S. Vols. Part of the 156th are with us in Fort Taylor.

Key West is very healthy; the yellow fever having done its work, the people are very much relieved of its departure. The boys of our company are all well. I will write to you again as soon as ‘something turns up.’ With respects to friends generally, I remain,

Yours, Fraternally,
H. D. W.

 

Excerpts of Diary Entries from Henry Jacob Hornbeck, Private, Company G, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (December 1863 and Early January 1864)

Key West, Florida (circa 1850, courtesy of the Florida Memory Project).

December 1863. The workers at the fortification in Key West demanded back pay and a raise in December; their rate was $1.40 per day. The town had some excitement in December as a spark from a railway locomotive set the mess hall on fire, burning it to the ground; and nature retaliated with a violent storm, which caused heavy damage, putting the railroad out of service.

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

1864

January 1st Thursday. Rose as usual. After breakfast, went to office, kept busy all day on account of many steamers lying in port, waiting to coal. After supper took a walk about the city with Frank Good and Wm. Steckel. Heard music in a side street, went there and found the Black Band playing at the Postmaster’s residence. The Postmaster then called all the soldiers in, and gave us each a glass of wine.

He is a very patriotic man and very generous. I believe his name is Mr. Albury. We then went to barracks and retired.

January 2nd Friday…. After breakfast, work as usual in office. After dinner took a horseback ride to Fort Taylor…. Retired at 9 o’clock. Weather cool.

January 3rd Saturday…. Received our extra duty pay this afternoon. Purchased toilet articles. After supper went to the camp, took a walk about city, then went barracks & retired. Latest reports are that Burnside was defeated with great loss and the Cabinet broke up in a row. Retired at 10. Weather fine.

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

Monday January 5th…. After breakfast went to office, busy, wrote a letter to Reuben Leisenring. At 11 o’clock the U.S. Mail Steamer Bio arrived from New York, having come in 5 days, papers dating 30th inst. The reports of a few days ago, are not confirmed, therefore they are untrue. She also has a mail on board.

Tuesday January 6th…. Received no letter yesterday, very small mail for our regiment. Busy all day in office. After supper, Wm. Smith, Allen Wolf & myself took a walk about the city, then went to barracks. Retired at 10 o’clock. Wrote a letter this afternoon to Uncle Ebenezer, sent him also by mail a small collection of sea shells. Weather fine.

 

 

Sources:

1. Gobin, John Peter Shindel. Personal Letters, 1861-1865. Northumberland, Pennsylvania: Personal Collection of John Deppen.

2. Hornbeck, Henry Jacob. Diary Excerpts, 1862-1864, in 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story. Retrieved online 1 December 2017.

3. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1861-1868.

 

 

Snyder Family Recipes: Turkey, Filling and Gravy (Thanksgiving and Christmas)

 

Selecting the Thanksgiving Turkey, cover, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (4 December 1860, public domain).

Ingredients – Filling:

  •  4½ pounds of sliced onions
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet marjoram*
    (also called leaf marjoram)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of butter-flavored Crisco (original recipe used lard)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of margarine
  • 20 slices of dried bread
    (cut into cubes, excluding crusts)
  • 3 pounds of quartered potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • margarine and milk
    (the amounts typically used in mashed potatoes)
  • 3 raw eggs
    (leave unbroken until you reach the appropriate step in the filling recipe)

Ingredients and Cooking Implements – Turkey and Gravy:

  • 1 turkey (or chicken)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter-flavored PAM cooking spray
  • 1 Reynolds Kitchen oven bag
    (add 2 tablespoons of flour and shake to coat bag)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1½ to 3 cups of water

 

Making the Filling:

1. Use 2 frying pans. Place 2 tablespoons of Crisco and 1 tablespoon of margarine in each pan.

 2. Melt the Crisco-margarine mix, and then add 2¼ pounds of onions to each pan. Sauté the onions for roughly 1½ to 2 hours (over low heat so they won’t burn) until they’re translucent and golden.

3a. Lower the burner heat to simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1½ tablespoons of sweet marjoram to each pan; mix well. (*Note: By using sweet marjoram also called leaf marjoram rather than regular marjoram, you will preserve the taste of the original recipe, which is believed to have originated in Germany and to have been passed down through generations of the Snyder and Strohecker families prior to and following their pre-Revolutionary War arrival in America.)

3b. While the onions are cooking, boil 3 pounds of quartered potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain. Whip with hand mixer until well broken up. Add margarine and milk (in the same proportions as used for mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm until the onions have finished cooking.

4. Then add half of the dried bread cubes to each pan, and mix until evenly coated. DO NOT BURN.

5. After the onions have finished cooking and the seasonings and bread cubes have been added and browned, turn off the burner’s heat. Then add half of the mashed potatoes to each pan and mix well.

6. Combine the potato-onion-bread filling mixture from both pans in one large bowl; refrigerate until cold. [Reminder: ALWAYS fill a COLD BIRD with COLD FILLING to reduce the potential for salmonella.]

6a. Before stuffing the turkey with the filling, break 3 raw eggs over the filling and mix well.

6b. Put the remaining filling (which was not used to stuff the bird) into a buttered casserole dish, and cover with aluminum foil. Then, 20 minutes before the bird is done, place the casserole dish into the oven beside the bird so that the “non-bird version” of the filling mix will also heat through in time to be served.

 

Preparing and Roasting the Turkey:

1. Unwrap the bird, remove the turkey neck and giblet packages from the bird’s cavities, and soak the turkey in ice-cold salt water for 10 minutes. Then, drain the water, rinse the bird in cold water, and soak the turkey in fresh ice water for an additional 10 minutes to remove the salt. (Use a bowl which is large enough to cover the bird, or keep the water running, and turn the turkey over frequently.) Once the bird is thoroughly cleaned, remove and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

3. Salt and pepper the bird’s cavities to taste. Then stuff the cavities of the turkey loosely with the filling mix created from the recipe above. (Note: Stuffing the bird too tightly with filling may cause the turkey to explode.)

4. Spray the bird all over (including the bottom) with butter-flavored PAM cooking spray. Then, shield the bird’s legs and wings with aluminum foil so they won’t burn, and place the bird in a Reynolds Kitchens oven bag (to which 2 tablespoons of flour have been added and shaken around to coat the bag). Cut 4 one-inch slits in the bag, and roast. (Make sure the roasting pan is large enough so the bird doesn’t hang over the sides, and follow the roasting time instructions on the package of bags. Or see the roasting times posted on the Reynolds Kitchens’ website.)

5. Check on the progress of the bird every 30 minutes, rotating the turkey in the oven so that it browns evenly; spray with more PAM if the bird looks dry. As the end of the roasting time approaches for the bird, stick a meat thermometer into the thigh and, without touching any bone, verify whether or not the turkey is fully cooked. (When the temperature reaches 190 degrees, the bird is done.)

6a. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully take the turkey out of the bag, and set it to the side of your workspace (covered with aluminum foil). Begin preparing the gravy while the turkey is cooling.

6b. After 20 minutes, remove the filling from the cavities and carve the bird.

 

Making the Perfect Gravy:  

1. Carefully empty the turkey’s juices from the roasting bag into a pot. Place the pot on a stove burner and, on low heat, bring the juices to a slow boil, stirring to keep from burning.

2. When the juices reach a slow boil, turn off the heat, strain the contents through a sieve to remove the accumulated grease, and return the contents to the pan.

3a. Stirring constantly, bring the juices to a slow boil once again. During this process, add 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 1 beef bouillon cube (for color), and extra water (½ cup at a time, stirring until cubes are dissolved and your desired taste is achieved).

3b. In a container with a tight fitting lid, create a thickening mixture for the turkey juices by combining 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 cup of cold water; shake until smooth. Then, while constantly stirring, add the flour-water mixture to turkey juices a little at a time until the gravy reaches your desired consistency (while also being careful not to burn the gravy). Keep the gravy warm while carving the bird; then transfer to a gravy boat and serve with the roast turkey, Snyder Family Filling, and vegetables of your choice.

 

To learn more about the Snyder family’s history during the U.S. Civil War, see Corporal Timothy Matthias Snyder – A Patriot’s Great-Grandson and Telephone Pioneer’s Father.

 

 

Copyright: Snyder Family Archives, © 2017-present. All rights reserved.

Recipe Disclaimer: 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story and its creators assume no obligation or liability for any accidents, fires, food poisoning/food borne disease, or other problems that may result from preparing or eating these recipes, and make no warranties or guarantees of favorable results from this recipe’s use. Results may differ due to variations in the quality of ingredients used, omissions from the recipes posted, cooking temperatures, and/or individual cooking abilities. Caution is advised when working with eggs and other raw ingredients. Please see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website for these important food safety tips.