From Louisiana to Virginia (1864): The Battle of Snicker’s Gap and Service with the Army of the Shenandoah

Cool Spring Battlefield, Clark County, Virginia (2016, North Virginia Regional Park Authority, public domain).

Cool Spring Battlefield, Clarke County, Virginia (2016, North Virginia Regional Park Authority, public domain).

Battered but undeterred following their experience in the Union’s Red River Campaign across Louisiana and still attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers received new orders on the 4th of July 1864. Under the command of brigadier-generals James W. McMillan, William Dwight, Jr. and William Hemsley Emory (with McMillan continuing to report to Dwight and Dwight to Emory, who headed the 19th Corps), the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were directed to return to the East Coast.

They did – but they did so in two stages.

U.S. Steamer McClellan (Alfred Waud, c. 1860-1865, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

U.S. Steamer McClellan (Alfred Waud, c. 1860-1865, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

According to 47th Pennsylvania historian Lewis Schmidt, ‘’Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I, composing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and half of the 4th division, sailed from Algiers … at 1 PM on Thursday, July 7. Companies B, G and K of the 4th and 5th divisions remained behind at Morganza, La. under command of Capt. Harte, for want of transportation, and would not arrive in Washington until July 28.”

The men from the 47th’s first detachment could not yet know it, but their transit would lead them into a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln.

As this first grouping readied for departure, Corporal George R. Nichols of E Company penned the following diary entry on 7 July:

Received orders to Pack up at Six O’clock AM and I was detailed on fatigue duty to Load wagons it was for a Mark [demerit]. We Marched to the dock. Embarked on Board of the Steamer McClellan. ar [sic] was packed on Board because about Nine hundred Men was Shoved on her at one O’clock PM. Started down the Mississippi River. Past a New Mail Steamer at five PM Bound for New Orleans Past forts St. Phillip and Jackson at 8 PM. came to anchor at ten Oclock and layed to for the Night’…. [continuing on Friday]: ‘Started this Morning at four Oclock AM. Crost the Bar about Seven. Shaped our course South East. At nine Oclock the orders was torn open, and then we knowed or destination. So we are Bound for Virginia. Well I am Glad. Maby I can See My Brother’ [with the Pennsylvania Bucktail Regiment].

En route, C Company scribe Henry D. Wharton continued chronicling the regiment’s movement:

The passage down the Mississippi was mostly at night, so I am unable to give you a description of it. At Pilottown we exchanged pilots; immediately below was hailed by the S river gunboat 48 with ‘steamer ahoy: what steamer’s that?’ which was answered satisfactorily, when with a wave of the hand we parted, our boat on its way to cross the bar, and then to find out by certain papers our destination. An expedition was on the move but what point no one outside of headquarters was able to tell. It was a secret move. This was right, for the destination of former expeditions was known weeks before embarking, and by the time the troops reached the point to which they were ordered, the rebs were ready to receive them. New Orleans is filled with traitors and spies, ready to do the bidding of Jefferson D., and it is necessary that the greatest precaution be used when anything extraordinary is going on.

As the pilot was leaving, after safely steering ‘Little Mac’ past the Belize, the sealed orders were opened, when we learned our course was toward Fortress Monroe, to join in the good work going on in front of Richmond. Why our destination was kept so secret I cannot conjecture, unless it was a bait to catch spies, inducing them to forward word to Johnston that an advance was being made on Mobile, which might lead him to withdraw a portion of his troops from Sherman’s front an send them to the protection of the latter city.

When out on the gulf sixty miles, Jonas Snyder of Carbon County, Pa., a member of Company I, died. His body was prepared for burial by nicely sewing it up in blankets, with weights attached to make it sink. The funeral was conducted by Chaplain Rodrock, who read the beautiful sea service from the prayer book of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The ‘Flag of our Union’ was at half mast, the boat stopped, and as the sun was hiding in the west, the body was launched into the sea, sinking to rise no more, until the great day comes when the soul must give an account for the ‘deeds’ done in the body. 

[Note: Pvt. Jonas Snyder: 45 years old, 5’3”tall, former powder maker, died from chronic diarrhea on Friday, 8 July; however, his death was recorded in regimental books as having occurred on 19 July 1864.

A significant thinning of the ranks occurred during this phase of duty as other ailing members of the 47th Pennsylvania who had been left behind to convalesce in Louisiana and Mississippi lost their battles with disease and war wound recovery, or were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability. Among the deceased were B Company’s Josiah Braden, who died in New Orleans and rests at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish; H Company’s Private George H. Smith, who passed away while receiving medical care at the Union’s general hospital at Natchez, Mississippi and was laid to rest in the city cemetery there before being exhumed and reinterred at the Natchez National Cemetery; and G Company’s Sergeant James Crader, who also died at the Natchez hospital but whose body was ultimately returned to Pennsylvania for burial at Allentown’s Union-West End Cemetery. According to Schmidt:

Sgt. Crader, a 48 year old shoemaker, was the father of James W., Thomas K., and Edwin K. Crader who served with the same company. His son James W. Crader would receive a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant in 1865. A news article in the Allentown Morning Call of October 24, 1910, reported in contradiction, that Sgt. Crader was ‘on his way home sick’ when he died.

The deaths continued in mid-July as A Company Privates J. Williamson and Michael Andrew died, respectively, at Baton Rouge and New Orleans on 13 and 14 July; Williamson’s grave remains unidentified to this day, according to Schmidt, but may be located at one of the national cemeteries in Baton Rouge or Port Hudson, Louisiana. Andrew, a widowed father who left behind five children under the age of 16, was ultimately interred at the Chalmette National Cemetery.

“Also returning home on another ship about this same time, after being discharged with a surgeon’s certificate in June, was Pvt. Jacob Rinnick of Company E.” Per Schmidt, he:

died on board ship as a civilian, one day out of New York. The body was temporarily buried on Long Island in the Cypress Hill Cemetery, and later disinterred after a short burial. On Saturday, July 30, the remains were returned to Easton and interred in the City Cemetery after services in his father’s house. Another source reported that the burial took place at the German Reformed Church Burial Ground in Easton.

Privates Thaddeus Heckroth of B Company, Jerome Bryner of H Company and I Company’s William Münch were among those discharged via Surgeons’ Certificates. Heckroth and Bryner were released from duty while still in Louisiana while Münch was discharged while at sea.]

Meanwhile, as Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I were en route to the East Coast via the steamer McClellan, the Confederate threat to the nation’s capital mounted as troops led by Brigadier-General Jubal Early made their way north through the Shenandoah Valley toward Washington. “As a result,” explained Schmidt, “troops were diverted to the defenses of Washington, and as units of the First Division of the 19th Corps began to arrive at Fortress Monroe, their orders were changed and they were sent on to the Capital. This confusion in destinations caused the main detachment of the [47th Pennsylvania] to bypass Bermuda Hundred and proceed directly to Washington.”

Still steaming aboard the McClellan on Sunday, 10 July, the 47th Pennsylvanians purposefully avoided both Forts Taylor and Jefferson due to a raging yellow fever outbreak, according to Wharton, who added:

In one week from the day we started we reached Fortress Monroe [Thursday, July 14]. Gen. [McMillan] went ashore to report, where he received orders to push on to Washington. It was here we received the first intimation of the rebel raid into Maryland and the supposed danger to which Washington was exposed. The boys were anxious to move forward that they might participate in any punishment that would be given the rebels.

Arrival in Virginia

According to C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, “Pleasant weather attended the voyage,” and the McClellan finally steamed into Hampton Roads, Virginia on the afternoon of 11 July. The next morning, he and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians headed for Washington. While disembarked briefly at Fort Stevens, they saw President Lincoln in the flesh, and thrilled to the pomp befitting the arrival of a battle-tested regiment. Their trip down the Potomac while aboard the Creole was described by both Nichols and Wharton in their writings of 15 July as “splendid.”

As they passed Washington’s tomb, wrote Wharton, “the band of the 47th played ‘Hail Columbia’, and several national airs, while the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on the stern of the McClellan was lowered and hoisted in salute.” After disembarking at the wharf on 7th Street, the regiment then marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, “out past the President’s house to Georgetown, and then on to this place where we bivouacked…. The 47th had disembarked and took up its line of march, arriving at Tenleytown, located about two miles north of Georgetown. The weather had been very hot, and the regiment remained in camp at Tenleytown until 3PM on Saturday.”

Nichols confirmed that the regiment started its march toward Washington at daylight, and observed that their new assignment:

Seems More like life hear then down South. We past fort Washington about 12 M. and Sighted the Capitol and Alexandria at the Same time. arrived at Washington at about one oclock PM disembarked about three Got coffee and crackers at the Sanitary Commissions. Started on the March at Six oclock PM. Marched through Washington and Georgetown to Tenlatown [Tenleytown] about Eight Miles and Bivouac for the Night at Nine oclock PM.

In his History of the Nineteenth Army Corps, Richard B. Irwin confirmed that the 47th Pennsylvania’s main detachment had indeed arrived at Tenleytown by mid-July:

About 3,600 men of Emory’s division had landed at Washington during the 12th and 13th of July, increasing the effective force of the Nineteenth Corps to about 4,200, most of whom spent the night in following the windings of the road that marks the long outline of northern fortifications.

 This grouping, explained Irwin, arrived as follows:

On the 13th of July the Clinton arrived at Washington with the 29th Maine and part of the 13th Maine, the St. Mary with the 8th Vermont, the Corinthian with the remaining six companies of the 114th New York, the Mississippi with the 90th and 116th New York and the 30th Massachusetts, the Creole with the 47th Pennsylvania. As the detachments landed they were hurried, in most instances by long and needless circuits to Tennallytown, where they found themselves at night without supplies or wagons, without orders, and without much organization.

 …. Out of this Grant brought order by assigning Wright to conduct the pursuit of Early. When, therefore, on the morning of the 13th Wright found Early gone from his front, he marched after him with the Sixth Corps, and ordered the detachment of the Nineteenth Corps to follow. Grant wished Wright to push on to Edwards Ferry to cut off Early’s retreat across the Potomac.

On 16 July, the 47th Pennsylvanians joined in crossing the Potomac with their fellow members of the 19th Corps, 1st Division, under Brigadier-General Emory, along with the U.S. 6th Corps at White’s Ford, the spot on the Potomac at which Early’s troops had just managed to evade the Union’s pursuit and escape to Leesburg, Virginia. The 19th Corpsmen then trekked roughly three miles past Leesburg into the Catoctin Mountains, pitched their tents at Clark’s Gap, and provided support to the Union forces led by Major-General David Hunter as Hunter’s group began flanking Early’s Army.

Unfortunately, Early’s men escaped once again, and headed again for the Shenandoah Valley – this time, marching through Snicker’s Gap.

According to the U.S. National Park Service:

A Union column, consisting of the VI Corps and elements of the XIX Corps under Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright, pursued Early’s army as it withdrew from the environs of Washington, D.C.  Wright’s force was joined by elements of Crook’s command, which had accompanied Hunter during his retreat through West Virginia.  On July 17, the Union cavalry passed through Snickers Gap and attempted to force passage of the Shenandoah River at Snickers Ford (Castleman’s Ferry). On the morning of July 18, the vanguard of the Union infantry moved through Snickers Gap. Col. Joseph Thoburn (of Crook’s command) led his division downstream to cross the river at Judge Richard Parker’s Ford. Early’s three nearby infantry divisions moved to defend the fords. In the afternoon, Rodes’s division attacked and shattered Thoburn’s right flank on the Cool Spring plantation. Thoburn made a stand behind a stone wall at the river’s edge and beat off three attacks until darkness enabled him to withdraw. Union pursuit of Early was delayed several days.

 On 18 July 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania became one of those Union regiments tasked with entering the Shenandoah Valley via Snicker’s Gap. While there, the regiment engaged the enemy in the Battle of Cool Spring, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Snicker’s Gap). Converging on Early’s larger Confederate Army of 8,000 from three sides (front, flank and rear) as part of the smaller Union force of 5,000 men, the 47th Pennsylvania helped inspire the Rebel retreat to Strasburg from 19-20 July.

Chain Bridge Across the Potomac Above Georgetown Looking Toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).

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

Returning to Leesburg, the Union troops encamped at Goose Creek before heading back to Washington, D.C. on 22 July. After crossing the Chain Bridge the next day, the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I and their fellow 19th Corpsmen established a new camp “on the high ground overlooking the Potomac near Battery Vermont,” thereby ending “the ‘Snicker’s Gap war,” according to Irwin. (Casualties – Union: 422; Confederate: 397.)

Through the Eyes of a 47th Pennsylvanian

 In recounting the Battle of Cool Spring, Wharton delineated the actions of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers as follows:

The 6th Corps crossed the Potomac on Saturday, previous to which they overtook the rear guard of the enemy at Poolesville, a section of artillery with cavalry pressed forward and vigorously shelled the enemy from several positions. The corps overtook them at Snicker’s Gap. Though the gap might have been successfully held, it was evacuated without much delay, and our infantry took possession. The enemy held possession of the other bank of the Shenandoah River, one mile distant.

A part of Hunter’s command, to the number of five thousand, were ordered to the river, which they crossed in face of the enemy’s fire. After the force had crossed, the enemy attempted a flank movement on their right and left, but Adams’ Rhode Island Battery came into position on an eminence overlooking the valley below. They immediately opened upon the enemy with shot and shell from the three inch rifled guns, creating great havoc among them. The range was accurate and each shell burst in their midst. The enemy finding the damage to their infantry so great, attempted to silence the battery by firing upon them with twenty pound parrots, which however, lasted but a moment, as they in turn were fired upon and forced to silence. Night coming on our infantry recrossed the river to come under the batteries. At this point we lost a number in killed and wounded; a few were drowned in getting off the proper ford. Among the wounded I noticed Ed. M. Shindel, son of Rev. Jeremiah Shindel, and nephew of H. B. Masser, Esq. I am happy to state that his wound is so slight that it will scarcely keep him from duty….

Instead of going to Grant in front of Petersburg, as we expected, orders were issued sending the 6th and 19th Corps up through Maryland in quest of rebels. On the route I conversed with many farmers who had been deprived of property by the chivalry in their late raid and all of them agree in the abhorrence with which they hold the raiders, and are no ways particular in their speech concerning them. A gentleman told me they came not as warriors, but as the lower class of robbers, resorting to petty larceny, and were so mean that they even asked ladies for the ear drops worn as ornaments. At a farmer’s where they had stolen eight horses, a young lady sad that the ‘low fellows wanted papa to take the boots off his feet to give them.’

We are to move forward after the enemy, but whether it will be before the arrival of three of our companies, who could not get passage with us, I cannot tell. From what I can learn we will move towards the Point of Rocks. The raiders have, or are attempting to cross the Potomac at Rockville.

 The diary of E Company’s George Nichols adds further color to Wharton’s words, indicating that on that Saturday, the 47th:

Received three days Rations. Started on the March at three oclock PM. Plenty of Good cool water along the Road. I Picked Some Green appels and ate them the first I Seen for two years and Six Month on trees Marched the distance of fourteen Miles and Encamped at half past ten oclock PM.

 The next Sunday, Nichols reported that he was:

 acting left Genl. Guide to the Regtment and I are not compelled to carry a Gun so in the wagon it Goes. it will be easier for Me. we Started on the tramp at Eight AM very hot and dusty at twelve M. half of the Redgt. Was Stragling be hind and when we Got to the Potomac our company Musterd only Nine Men offercers and all. The rest was Played out. We came fourteen Miles to Kelleysford [sic] arrived at three PM. We are Ordered Back to Washington’. On Monday the ‘order [was] contermanded So we Started at four oclock AM croost the River to Virginia Side the Water was three feet deep. But we forderd her all the Same We Struck the leesburg pike whent through leesburg. hamiltonn and Perserville at four PM. We caught the Rear Guard of the army and at twelve oclock Midnight we came to our division after Marching about Twenty Eight Miles. We Passed through Snickers Gap and Encamped in the Vally at Twelve oclock PM.

Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock River (Edwin Forbes, 10 February 1864, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain)

Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (Edwin Forbes, 10 February 1864, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Wharton’s writings back up Nichols’ account of the Kelly’s Ford experience, and also confirm that the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I) did indeed engage in the Battle of Cool Spring/Snicker’s Gap:

The second day’s march brought us to the Potomac at Kelly’s Ford, which we crossed by wading, proceeded on our way to Leesburg, making Snicker’s Gap, where we joined the 6th Army Corps and the balance of our division of the 19th. The 6th boys are some on a march, but were completely taken by surprise when they learned we had crossed the Potomac that morning after sunrise, thinking it was impossible for troops to make what they did not, thirty miles on a hard pike.

On the Move Again

By late July, Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I from the 47th Pennsylvania were on the move again with Emory’s Army. Encamped the night of 26 July in Maryland “on the Frederick road, four miles north of Rockville, after a march of nineteen miles,” according to Irwin, they departed at 3 a.m. the next morning, marching another fifteen miles to a site just beyond Hyattstown. “On the 28th Emory took the road at five, marched to Monocacy Junction, where the Sixth Corps crossed the Monocacy, then filed to the right, and crossed at the upper ford, and passing through Frederick went into bivouac four miles beyond.”

They had trekked another 13 miles.

“On the 29th, an intensely hot day,” wrote Irwin, “Emory marched at eight, following the Sixth Corps, crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, marched nineteen miles, and went into bivouac at Halltown.” Following another 13-mile march on 31 July – back into and across the Catoctin Mountains – Emory ordered his exhausted men to make camp at 1 a.m. near Jefferson.

Just four hours later, they were awakened by bugle call and sent on the march again at 6 a.m. Thirteen miles later, they pitched their tents along the Emmitsburg Road, roughly two miles past Frederick. Their duties involved “holding the line of the Monocacy and observing the passes of the South Mountain,” according to Irwin.

Meanwhile, Captain Henry S. Harte and the men from Companies B, G and K were finally making their own East Coast arrival.

A Regiment Reunited

Having sailed from Louisiana aboard the Blackstone and, according to Schmidt, “after first stopping enroute [sic] at Bermuda Hundred, under temporary assignment to the Army of the James, with the Second Division of the 19th Corps,” Captain Harte and the men of Companies B, G and K arrived in Virginia on 28 July, and finally reconnected with the bulk of their regiment in Maryland at Monocacy on 2 August 1864.

On 6 August, Emory’s men crossed back over the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, preceded and followed, respectively, by the Union forces led by brigadier-generals George R. Crook and John B. Ricketts. “Hunter took up his position covering Halltown and proceeded to strengthen its entrenchments,” according to Irwin, while “Crook’s left rested on the Shenandoah, Emory extended the line to the turnpike road, and Wright carried it to the Potomac.”

But once again, a major shakeup in the top level of Union leadership was underway. Explained Irwin:

Grant had already proposed to unite in a single command the four distinct departments covering the theatre of war on the Shenandoah and on the upper Potomac; as the commander he had first suggested Franklin and afterward Meade. Now, since no action had followed either suggestion, he sent up Sheridan, meaning to place him in command of all the active forces of these four departments, for the purpose of overthrowing Early or expelling him from the Shenandoah. Upon learning this, Hunter, to remove the difficulty, asked to be relieved; and thus, on the 7th of August, Grant gained his wish, and an order was issued by the War Department, creating the Middle Military Division, to include Washington, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and part of Ohio, and Sheridan was assigned to the command.

 The stage was now set for Major-General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning, 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

 

Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.

2. Battle of Snicker’s Gap/Battle of Cool Spring, in CWSAC Battle Summaries. Washington, D.C.: Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC), The American Battlefield Protection Program, retrieved online 1 September 2016.

3. Bluhm, Jr., Raymond K. Shenandoah Valley Campaign: March-November 1864. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army.

4. Gobin, Companion J. P. S. Lincoln Under Fire, in records of the Memorial Meeting held on 13 February 1907, in Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia: Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1907-1911.

5. Irwin, Richard Bache. History of the Nineteenth Army Corps. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893.

6. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office (Record Group 94). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.

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

8. The Battle of Cool Spring. Washington, D.C.: Civil War Trust, retrieved online 1 September 2016.

9. U.S. Civil War Veterans’, Widows’ and Orphans’ Pension Files. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

10. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury: Sunbury American, 1864.

 

A Voyage North and a Memorable Encounter with Abraham Lincoln

Pres. Abraham Lincoln at Fort Stevens, July 1864 (public domain illustration).

Pres. Abraham Lincoln at Fort Stevens, 12 July 1864 (public domain illustration).

With the Union’s Red River Campaign across Louisiana finally over by June of 1864, their supplies replenished, their dead buried, and the traumatic injuries of their wounded on the mend by early July, it was time for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to move on. Still part of the 2nd Brigade of Brigadier General William Dwight’s 1st Division in Brigadier General William H. Emory’s 19th U.S. Army Corps, Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I received orders on the 4th of July to leave Companies B, G and K behind and march for Algiers, Louisiana. Boarding the U.S. Steamer McClellan there on Thursday, 7 July 1864, the bulk of 47th Pennsylvanians then sailed away from the docks at 1 p.m.

According to a diary entry made that day by Corporal George R. Nichols of E Company, the regiment was forced to leave behind those three companies because the McClellan simply did not have enough space for the entire regiment. Noting that they had been ordered to begin packing at 6 a.m. that morning for the march to the steamer, he said “about Nine hundred men was Shoved on her.”

Note: Left behind in Morganza, Louisiana under the command of F Company Captain Henry S. Harte to await additional transportation, Companies B, G, and K sailed later that same month aboard the Blackstone, made a brief stop at Bermuda Hundred, arrived in the Washington, D.C. area on 28 July 1864, and reconnected with the remainder of the regiment and the 19th Corps three days later in Maryland at Monocacy.

Carrying sealed orders with instructions that they be opened and read only after the McClellan had traveled “beyond the bar,” Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I sailed in the dark – figuratively and literally. “The passage down the Mississippi was mostly at night, so I am unable to give you a description of it. An expedition was on the move but what point no one outside of headquarters was able to tell. It was a secret move,” wrote C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton to his hometown newspaper. He and his superiors were among the many who speculated that the regiment was headed for new duties near Mobile, Alabama which would place them under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Note: This speculation proved to be completely off the mark, and would result in the utterly incorrect “documentation” by numerous genealogists, historians and news reporters which persists even today that the 47th Pennsylvania had participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea and the burning of Atlanta when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were nowhere near Sherman and his troops during those incidents.

The initial secrecy was a smart move, observed Wharton, “for the destination of former expeditions was known weeks before embarking, and by the time the troops reached the point to which they were ordered, the rebs were ready to receive them.” New Orleans, he added, was “filled with traitors and spies, ready to do the bidding of Jefferson D.,” making it “necessary that the greatest precaution be used when anything extraordinary is going on.”

After obtaining a new pilot for the steamer at Pilottown, the McClellan continued on. Once the pilot had helped the steamer to clear the bar, the orders were indeed finally opened and, according to Captain Gobin, “the consternation was great when it was discovered we were bound for the Army of the Potomac.”

U.S. Steamer McClellan_Alfred Waud_c. 1860-1865

U.S. Steamer McClellan (Alfred Waud, c. 1860s, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Still steaming for Washington, the 47th Pennsylvanians lost another of their brotherhood when, on 8 July, Private Jonas Snyder of I Company died from consumption (tuberculosis) and related complications. The 45-year-old Carbon County native was buried at sea with full military honors – sixty miles off America’s coast in the Gulf of Mexico. In recounting the ceremony for Private Snyder, Wharton noted that:

His body was prepared for burial by nicely sewing it up in blankets, with weights attached to make it sink. The funeral was conducted by Chaplain Rodrock, who read the beautiful sea service from the prayer book of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The ‘Flag of our Union’ was at half mast, the boat stopped, and as the sun was hiding in the west, the body was launched into the sea, sinking to rise no more, until the great day comes when the soul must give an account for the ‘deeds’ done in the body.

As the 47th Pennsylvanians grieved their latest loss, the hearts of citizens in Washington City were also troubled as General Jubal Early’s Confederate troops marched their way. According to historian Lewis Schmidt, as the first members of the 19th Corps began arriving at Fortress Monroe in Virginia, “their orders were changed and they were sent on to the Capital.”

At 7 a.m. on Sunday, 10 July, the 47th Pennsylvanians began rounding the tip of Florida, sailing past Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, and on past Key West at 2 p.m. An intense yellow fever epidemic among the locals and remaining soldiers stationed there eliminated all hopes of a short sojourn at Fort Taylor.

According to Captain Gobin, “Pleasant weather attended the voyage,” and the McClellan finally steamed into Hampton Roads, Virginia on the afternoon of 11 July. But before the ship’s anchor could even hit the water, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were receiving new orders – directed to march for Washington, which they did the next morning. Little did they know they would soon have yet another memorable story to be passed down to their grandchildren – and their grandchildren’s grandchildren.

An Encounter with Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Arriving on Horseback at Fort Stevens, 8 July 1864 (Frank Leslie's Illustrated Nespaper, 13 August 1864, public domain).

Lincoln Arrives on Horseback at Fort Stevens, 12 July 1864 (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 13 August 1864, public domain).

In an essay penned in 1907 for the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, The Honorable John Peter Shindel Gobin (now a former Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania), recalled how the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers suddenly realized they were seeing Abraham Lincoln in the flesh during the summer of 1864 – and how an incident that same day which “might have been exceedingly serious in the prosecution of the war” nearly took the life of their beloved Commander-in-Chief as it brought Lincoln “under the actual fire of the enemy in their attack upon Fort Stevens, July 12th, 1864”:

We landed at the Navy Yard, were met by an officer with instructions to move out at once, leaving a detail to look after baggage and horses. Up the avenue and out Seventh St. we at once proceeded, and at intervals were met by handsomely uniformed officers, who urged us to hurry up double quick.

Officers and men moving along discussed the cause of all this, but with no intimation of trouble or information or instructions of what was needed until we heard the sound of artillery and later of musketry.

There appeared to be no unusual commotion in Washington – few people on the streets – nothing to indicate the presence of an enemy, until the sound of firing was heard. The day was very hot the column marched along until Fort Stevens was reached, when, to the great surprise of every one, it was evident that a fight was going on at the front. We halted, and then began the inquiry, ‘What’s up? Are those Johnnies? Where’s Grant?’

Fort Stevens, explained Gobin, “was an earthwork in a line of fortifications built for the defense of Washington. It was a strong earthwork, and apparently easily protected. The guns were mounted en-barbette and were all of heavy caliber.” While waiting for new orders, members of the 47th struck up a conversation with an officer from another Union regiment and were told, “’Old Abe’s in the Fort.’”

This was so startling, as it was repeated from file to file, that everybody made a rush to get near enough to see him. There was no mistaking him. His tall figure and high hat made him prominent, and I think every man of the regiment had a look at him.

Our Corps badge resembled that of the 5th Corps, and to many inquiries, ‘Do you belong to the 5th Corps?’ the answer was, ‘No, to the 19th.’ Considerable curiosity was evinced to know where the 19th Corps was from, and great surprise was expressed as to how we had gotten there from New Orleans, as it was stated, just in time.

In the meantime, numerous officers had been circulating around, various orders had been received, but nobody seemed to know what to do with us, and the regiment stood awaiting definite instructions.

At last it came, to move out to the left and deploy, move forward and connect with Bidwell’s Brigade. As we came into line and moved out, a young staff officer rode down the line, shouting, ‘You are going into action under the eye of the President! He wants to see how you can fight.’ The answer was a shout and a rush. We met with but little opposition. A sparse picket line of dismounted cavalry got out of the way readily, other regiments came in on our left. We did not meet Bidwell’s Brigade, but passed over their battle ground, until, after nightfall, we passed over some of the ground they had fought over, and recognized the red cross of the 1st Division, 6th Corps, as being the fighters. They had evidently been on the extreme left of the line in action. We bivouacked that night near the remains of a burnt house which was said to be Montgomery Blair’s.

The fighting was virtually over before we arrived, but the camp was full of stories during the night as to what had occurred at Fort Stevens while the President was there. Evidently that fort was within the range of the artillery and the skirmishers of the Rebel Army, and it was rumored that General H. G. Wright had positively ordered the President to get out of the range of danger after an officer had been shot by his side.

Mr. Chittenden, Register of the Treasury, in his account of it says that when he reached the Fort, he found the President, Secretary Stanton and other civilians. A young colonel of the artillery, who appeared to be the officer of the day, was in great distress because the President would expose himself and paid little attention to his warnings.  He was satisfied the Confederates had recognized him, for they were firing at him very hotly, and a soldier near him had just fallen with a broken thigh. He asked my advice, says Chittenden, for he said the President was in great danger. After some consultation the young officer walked to where the President was looking over the edge of the parapet and said, ‘Mr. President, you are standing within range of 500 Rebel rifles. Please come down to a safer place. If you do not it will be my duty to call a file of men and make you.’

‘And you would do quite right, my boy,’ said the President, coming down at once, ‘you are in command of this fort. I should be the last man to set an example of disobedience.’ He was shown to a place where the view was less extended, but where there was almost no exposure. As Mr. Chittenden was present and speaks from personal knowledge, I assume this to be a correct statement.

I have recently seen a publication in which an officer, claiming to be on the staff of General Upton, describes the President as having halted at the side of the road, and with having been struck by a stray bullet. No mention of it is made in any of the accounts hitherto published of his presence. Certain it is, he was in the Fort and not in the road when we reached there. There were no other troops except those in the trenches and in the Fort at that time, and my recollection is that it must have been after dinner, the fight well over as, although we went in immediately and rapidly, we had no serious casualties. Our Brig.-General came to us, as he said, as soon as he could get a horse, and halted us for the night.

 The 47th Pennsylvanians could breathe a sigh of genuine relief when they were all finally reunited in late July of 1864. President Abraham Lincoln was still safe – and the boys from Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I had gotten a very good look at him.

 

Sources:

1. Gobin, Companion J. P. S. Lincoln Under Fire, in records of the Memorial Meeting held on 13 February 1907, in Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia: Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1907-1911.

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

3. Wharton, Henry D. Letters from the Sunbury Guards. Sunbury: Sunbury American, 1864.

 

Celebrating the Fourth Far from Home

The city was gaily dressed in flags, and the prettiest thing of the kind was that at the guard station, under Lt. Reese of Company C. Five flags were suspended from the quarters, with wreaths, while the whole front of the enclosure of the yard was covered with evergreens and the red, white, and blue. The Navy had their vessels dressed in their best ‘bib and tucker’, flags flying fore and aft, of our own and those of all nations. It was a pretty sight, and in a measure paid for the fatigue of the boys on their march. At 12 noon, both Army and Navy fired a national salute of thirty five guns. – Henry D. Wharton

 

The 1863 Fourth of July celebrations in Key West, Florida likely resembled those captured in this image from January 1880 in which former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and General Philip Sheridan arrived at the Russell House on Duval Street (Florida Memory Project, public domain).

The 1863 Fourth of July celebrations in Key West, Florida likely resembled those captured in this image from January 1880 in which former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and General Philip Sheridan arrived at the Russell House on Duval Street (Florida Memory Project, public domain).

It was the Fourth of July, 1863, and the native sons of Pennsylvania enrolled for Civil War military service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed about as far from home as they could possibly be. The men serving with Companies A, B, C, D, and I were stationed at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida while those assigned to companies E, F, G, H, and K were toughing it out at Fort Jefferson, the Union’ remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas. The men from D Company had only just returned to Key West from Fort Jefferson a month earlier.

But life was not all about duty for the Keystone Staters in 1863. According to historian Lewis Schmidt,”July 4th fell on a Saturday, and the celebrations began at Key West at 9 AM when the five companies of the 47th stationed there were reviewed by Gen. Woodbury before the regiment’s office. Immediately after inspection, the regiment marched in a ‘street parade through the principal streets of the city in the heat of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the dust almost suffocating.’ After which each ‘detachment was taken to their quarters, dismissed, and then to enjoy themselves as best they could.'”

Henry D. Wharton, a member of Company C known for his detailed letters to his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American, added, “The day passed off pleasantly, all seemed to enjoy themselves.” Afterward, said Wharton, “the city was as quiet as could be expected.”

 

 

Sources:

1. Letters from Henry D. Wharton, in Sunbury American. Sunbury: 1861-1865.

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

 

47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story Receives Grant to Digitize Historic Civil War-era Photographs

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

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

Thomas MacEntee, founder of High-Definition Genealogy, recently announced that 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story will receive a grant from The Genealogy Fairy to begin digitizing and making publicly available photographs of the officers and enlisted men who served with the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during America’s Civil War.

“Five percent of all revenue at Genealogy Bargains is set aside each month to fund The Genealogy Fairy™ program,” explained MacEntee. “The goal is to give back to the genealogy community through a series of grants to organizations and individuals undertaking worthwhile genealogy-related projects.”

“This early support of our work is incredibly important,” said Laurie Snyder, managing editor for 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story. “There are currently hundreds of photographs scattered across America in public libraries, historical societies, universities, and private family history collections – carte de visite images of individual soldiers and the physicians who treated their battle wounds, as well as group photos of the companies in which they served. Most have yet to be digitized, and could be lost for all time if a fire or flood damaged one of the buildings where they’re held.”

William DeWitt Clinton Rodrock, Chaplain, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Fort Jefferson, 1 December 1863, public domain)

William DeWitt Clinton Rodrock, Chaplain, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Fort Jefferson, 1 December 1863, public domain)

Preserving the photographs of those who served with this particular Civil War unit is especially vital, explained Snyder, because the 47th Pennsylvania was the only regiment from the Keystone State to fight in the Union’s Red River Campaign across Louisiana during the spring of 1864 and was also the only Pennsylvania regiment to have men held as prisoners of war at Camp Ford, the largest Confederate Army prison west of the Mississippi. In addition, the 47th Pennsylvania was also stationed at Beaufort, South Carolina and fought in the Battle of Pocotaligo in 1862, garrisoned Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Florida, fought in the Union’s tide-turning Shenandoah Valley Campaign during the fall of 1864, helped to defend the nation’s capital following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and assisted with Reconstruction efforts in Charleston, South Carolina during the summer and fall of 1865.

“Each one of these photos not only holds the potential to help family members feel closer to their ancestors, but has the power to enable teachers to help students truly connect with and appreciate their Civil War studies. By ‘putting faces to the names’ on military muster rolls, we will be bringing history to life for those wanting to learn more about this regiment while also honoring those who fought to preserve our nation’s union.”

To learn more about the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and lend your support to this historic initiative, visit the website of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, and follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Blest Be the Tie That Binds – Putting Aside Differences to Become One Nation, Indivisible on Memorial Day

Ottumwa today showed her honor to the nation’s defenders by closing shop and factory, school and place of merchandising, that all might lend their token of honor and veneration to the memory of those who fought, bled and died that the country might live. The Grand Army of the Republic, the Women’s Relief corps, those who were orphaned through the great strife of nearly half a century ago, and others that represent a grateful nation, have devoted this day to the memory of the Union soldiery of the civil war, both living and dead. The dead are being remembered by eulogy and flower tribute, the living by the willingness manifest by the people generally to honor the dead and the cause that all feel a like interest in. Music and eloquence, silent tears and prayers, the floral tribute that adds a fragrance incense-like to the solemn occasion – all are blended with the full heart of gratitude and esteem paid the memory of the dead and living veterans who made possible the happiness and prosperity, peace and security that today is the blessed heritage of the citizens of the United States. – Ottumwa Courier (1 June 1911)

 

Ottumwa, Iowa. Most Americans recognize the name of this community in the nation’s heartland as the hometown of fictional television character Walter O’Reilly – better known as “Radar,” the young corporal at the 4077th M.A.S.H. who slept with a teddy bear while coming of age at an army hospital during the Korean War. His eyes witnessed the worst of humanity; his responses to the most painful of those moments tweaked the collective conscience of the millions of television viewers tuning in each week, reminding us that displays of kindness, compassion and hope are still possible even in the midst of hate and horror.

But Ottumwa also has ties to very real wars, including to America’s terrible Civil War – and to one of that war’s lesser known, but valiant regiments – the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. For it was in Ottumwa where Lewis W. Saylor (1845-1877) chose to resettle after serving two terms as a Private with Company H of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and where he closed his eyes for the final time and was buried with military honors.

Memorial Day Planning Headline, Ottumwa Courier, 9 May 1901 (public domain).

Memorial Day Planning Headline, Ottumwa Courier, 9 May 1901 (public domain).

On Memorial Day in 1911, Ottumwans honored Lewis Saylor and more than 200 other Civil War veterans with pomp and poignant oratory. The day began with a gathering by members of the Grand Army of the Republic’s Cloutman post who rode or marched from the court house to the Ottumwa Cemetery, the place where the largest number of Civil War soldiers had been laid to rest. The 1 June 1911 edition of the Ottumwa Courier described the procession as follows:

Led by six police officers each of whom carried a large bouquet of flowers to place upon the graves of the veteran dead, the parade formed and wended its way up Court hill. The Fifty-fourth regiment band attired in its military uniforms added a martial aspect to the pageant which was inspired by the national melodies that were rendered by this excellent musical organization. The local guardsmen of Co. G.I.N.G. were also in the line as were a number of Sons of Veterans aiding by their presence to the occasion that honored their fathers’ memory. The speakers in carriages and the old soldiers in vehicles were also in evidence and excited the love and esteem of the onlookers as the parade moved forward to the cemetery. Both Cloutman and Tuttle posts of the G.A.R. and the Relief corps of the two posts were a part of the parade. Citizens voluntarily fell in to swell the ranks and lend their aid to the expression of honor and esteem of the veterans. 

A large crowd was gathered in the city park preliminary to the starting of the parade and in the band stand of the park, the Fifty-fourth rendered several selections while the crowds assembled. Carriages and autos gathered about the park ready to join in the parade to the cemetery, and the street cars carried hundreds to the graves of the departed veterans and relatives as the pageant moved slowly toward the cemetery.

The Courier went on to report that members of the G.A.R and Women’s Relief Corps also decorated the graves of Union veterans at the Calvary Cemetery, and added:

Honorable Ellsworth Rominger of Bloomfield this morning made the Memorial day address in South Ottumwa. He told a remnant of the Grand Army of the Republic, their wives who largely comprised the Women’s Relief Corps and the children of the veterans, of the great debt the nation owes the noble sons who in the stormy days of the nation’s strife and her hour of greatest need, responded to the call. He graphically sketched and in a realistic panorama brought before the minds of the assemblage the days of the civil war, and equally effective was his treatment of the fruits of this terrible conflict so great in cost to the nation.

 Noting that the ranks of the aging Civil War veterans were now “somewhat thinner,” the Courier also observed that:

The ravages of passing years was made more evident in the expressions and step of the veterans who each year have assembled at this memorial gatherings. There were present those who had to be wheeled to the hall in a chair, some who are bent with age an infirmity, but all seemed young once more as the days of the civil war were recalled by the speakers.”

The Program

Memorial Day Headline, Ottumwa Courier, 31 May 1900 (public domain).

Memorial Day Headline, Ottumwa Courier, 31 May 1900 (public domain).

Commander J. Trisler began the day’s events at the 1911 Memorial Day ceremony in Ottumwa with a brief speech, followed by prayers delivered by the pastor of the Davis Street Christian Church, Rev. S. I. Elder, and the formal Memorial Day address by Major Hamilton. The regimental band of the Fifty-Fourth Iowa then led the G.A.R marchers into the ceremonial gathering, and Ellsworth Rominger began his aforementioned address. Declaring that the Grand Army of the Republic would continue to live on in the hearts and minds of Americans even after the passing of the G.A.R.’s final member, Rominger added:

If you would ask me what this great war cost, I would ask you to accompany me through the soldiers’ home of this state and look into the faces of 600 veterans. There your answer would be plain and you would readily appreciate the great cost the war had been. It is said that this strife cost the nation $400,000,000 and 100,000 lives, more than enough to purchase all of the slaves. But that was not the cost, for it cannot be computed in money.

Rominger then said something which still holds a powerful truth, and is worthy of taking to heart in the midst of America’s recent heated election season. Despite the extreme divisiveness which erupted before and during America’s Civil War, Americans who had opposed each other in battle later went on to come together to work for the betterment of their nation and respective communities. They found the strength to forgive, to put aside their differences, and to compromise. To illustrate his point, he recalled the dignity accorded to a Confederate soldier’s recent burial. Accompanied by a Grand Army of the Republic honor guard, the soldier’s casket was draped with both the Confederate flag (“stars and bars”) and the American flag.

To solidify that sentiment and close that 1911 Memorial Day program, Ottumwans joined in singing Blest Be the Tie That Binds:

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above. 

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our alms, are one,
Our comforts and our cares. 

We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear,
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear. 

When here our pathways part,
We suffer bitter pain;
Yet, one in Christ and one in heart,
We hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way,
While each in expectation lives
And longs to see the day. 

From sorrow, toil, and pain,
And sin we shall be free
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity. 

– John Fawcett (1772)

Others who had served with East Coast or federal units during the Civil War and were also lionized that day included:

  • Applegate, N. S.: Co. E, 9th New Jersey Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Barnhart, Ira: Co. H, 124th New York Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Buckley, Thomas R.: Co. M, 3rd New York Cavalry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Best, Nelson: Co. I, 47th New York Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Bannister, D.: Colonel and paymaster, U.S. Volunteers, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Caton, James C.: 50th U.S. Infantry, interred at the Catholic Cemetery;
  • Conlin, Michael: Co. K, 160th New York Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Carter, Josiah: Co. C, 3rd U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Davenport, W.D.: Co. H, 3rd New York Cavalry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Davis, Edmund: 24th Pennsylvania Reserves, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Dodd, Zachariah: Co. C, 18th U.S. Colored Troops, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Dougherty, Constantine: 1st Mechanical Engineering Corps, interred at the Catholic Cemetery;
  • Fetzer, W. H.: 10th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Fleming, John: 16th U.S. Infantry, interred at the Catholic Cemetery;
  • Grebby, George: Co. F, 8th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Hutchison, J. G.; 131st Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Hoffman, William: Pennsylvania Reserves, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Jolliff, Jas.: Co. K, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Keister, J. D.: Co. I, 44th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Kilby, L. W.: Co. F, 147th New York Volunteers, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Manchester, J. C.: Co. E, 1st Connecticut Artillery, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Mahon, S. K.: Captain, 16th U.S. Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Miller, William: 55th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Mills, Robert: 11th U.S. Cavalry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Morley, George: Co. C, 19th U.S. Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Peck, Jesse: Co. H, 85th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Powell, C. C.: Co. I, 9th Delaware, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Shaw, F. B.: 33rd Massachusetts Infantry, interred at Shaul Cemetery;
  • Smith, Zachias: Corporal, Co. G, 1st U.S. Battery, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery;
  • Stewart, Calloway: Co. G, 2nd U.S. Infantry, interred at Shaul Cemetery;
  • Stoddard, John C.: Surgeon, 56th U.S. Infantry, interred at Ottumwa Cemetery; and
  • Wilson, J. H.: Co. C, 15th New York Artillery.

As you celebrate Memorial Day this year, take a moment to give thanks to the men, women and children who gave so much so that we might remain “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

 

RED RIVER CAMPAIGN (Louisiana, March to May 1864)

February-March 1864:

 "For twenty minutes a continual roar of musketry was heard, reports of artillery shook the earth and the air seemed filled with the whiz of shells and bullets, commingled with the cheers of the men engaged in deadly strife…." - Henry D. Wharton, Company C, regarding the Battle of Opequan (19 September 1864)

First State Color, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers; carried during the Red River Campaign across Louisiana, March-May 1864.

On 25 February 1864, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry sets off for a phase of service in which the regiment will truly make history. Steaming for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men of the 47th arrive at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and are then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joins the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th becomes the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. The 1st Division of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps is commanded by Brigadier General William Hemsley Emory. The 2nd Brigade is led by Brigadier General James W. McMillan.

From 14-26 March, the 47th marches through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, a number of men from the regiment become ill during the grueling marches in the harsh Louisiana climate while others are felled by dysentery and/or tropical diseases.

6 April 1864:

Nathaniel P. Banks. Major General, U.S. Volunteers (1863, U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Nathaniel P. Banks, Major General, U.S. Volunteers (1863, U.S. National Archives, public domain).

Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks sends his Union troops west via a single road. The column of men stretches for 20+ miles.

Heading the column are roughly 4,000 cavalrymen led by Brigadier General Albert Lindley Lee. Most are newbies who have little experience on horseback. They are followed by 300 supply wagons, artillery units, one infantry division, 700 additional support wagons, and most of the 13th and 19th Corps.

As they move, they move west, marching toward Los Adaes, Louisiana, and then north on the Shreveport-Natchitoches stagecoach road. The column is SO long and SO slow moving that the troops at its head reach Pleasant Hill before the last men have even left Natchitoches, Louisiana.

7 April 1864:

Union cavalry troops of Major General Nathaniel Banks begin their march. Led by Brigadier General Albert Lee, their progress is slowed by Union wagons. Lee’s requests for infantry support plus redirection of the wagons is denied by Banks and leaders of the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps.

8 April 1864 (morning):

Union Major General Nathaniel Banks’ Cavalry, led by Brigadier General Albert Lee, crosses a stream, and moves through trees and fields. In the distance, atop a ridge, Lee spots Confederate cavalry and infantry which stretch along both sides of the road for 3/4 mile. After he spots more Confederate cavalry troops to his right, he asks for help from Banks. After taking his time, Banks finally orders the 13th U.S. Army to move up to assist Lee’s cavalry. Banks also moves up to see what’s happening.

Major General Richard Taylor, CSA (c. 1860s, public domain).

Major General Richard Taylor, CSA (c. 1860s, public domain).

Arrayed before him in the distance are roughly 10,000 troops led by Confederate Major General Richard Taylor, a plantation owner and son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor. (Ironically, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had just spent a significant period of time – off and on between 1862 to early 1864 – garrisoning Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Florida.)

It’s the morning of April 8, 1864, the day of the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads near Mansfield, Louisiana.

Confederate Taylor and his 10,000 troops expect Banks’ Union forces to charge – but they don’t. A six-hour waiting game ensues.

8 April 1864 (afternoon and evening):

At 4 p.m. Louisiana time, Confederate Major General Richard Taylor’s left flank slowly begins an echelon formation attack on troops commanded by Union Major General Nathaniel Banks, and the Union’s cavalry line buckles. BUT, in the process, 11 out of 14 Confederate officers are killed in action within 14 minutes of the opening charge.

Replacing one of those fallen Confederate leaders is Brigadier General Camille Armand Jules Marie, the Prince de Polignac. A Prince of France, he fought with the Confederate Army during America’s Civil War, and is an important name for descendants of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and others studying the 47th’s history because, later that same day, forces led by Polignac and Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Green (Texas Cavalry Corps) directly engage in battle with the 47th Pennsylvania.

Good, Tilghman HThe 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers are led by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the regiment’s founder, and his second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George Warren Alexander.

Following the charge by Taylor’s Confederate troops and the resulting buckling of the Union’s right flank, Banks’ left Union flank also collapses. Taylor’s troops continue on, puncturing a secondary Union position 3/4 mile behind the Union’s front line.

Banks then orders Brigadier General William Emory to move his 1st Division, 19th U.S. Army Corps men to the front. Among Emory’s 5,859 men were nine New York regiments, three from Maine – and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Ninety minutes and seven miles of marching later, Emory’s men are waiting for the Confederates on the ridge above Chapman’s Bayou.

* Note: The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were positioned behind the 161st New York, 29th Maine, and other Union regiments at/near the farm of Joshua Chapman, about five miles southeast of Mansfield, Louisiana. The battles here were termed the “Peach Orchard” fight by Confederates and “Pleasant Grove” by 47th Pennsylvanians, a name attributed by some historians to the live oak trees in front of Chapman’s house. The fighting at the peach orchard was particularly brutal.

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

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

As Confederates, led by Polignac, et. al. attack the center of the Union line, the 161st buckles, but the 29th Maine is able to repulse the Confederates. Green’s Confederate cavalrymen then attempt an end run on the Union’s right flank. His troops include: Brigadier General Xavier DeBray’s Cavalry Brigade (composed of the 26th and 36th Texas Cavalry) and Colonel Augustus Buchel’s Cavalry Brigade (composed of the 1st Texas Cavalry and Terrell’s Texas Cavalry).

Initially positioned to the right of the 13th Maine Infantry, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and 13th Maine both pinwheel to head off Green’s attack, and end Green’s flanking effort.

As darkness falls on 8 April 1864, fighting wanes and then ceases as exhausted troops on both sides collapse between the bodies of their dead comrades. Seventy-four men were killed in action, at least 161 are wounded, and hundreds more are declared missing in action, including 188 from the 19th U.S. Army (to which the 47th Pennsylvania was attached). Some of these missing men (including men from the 47th Pennsylvania) are eventually found wounded or dead; others (including 47th Pennsylvanians) end up as prisoners of war (POWs), at Camp Ford, a Confederate prison near Tyler, Texas, but some remain missing to this day.

* Note: Some historians believe that these missing men may have been hastily interred somewhere on or near the battlefield by fellow soldiers or local residents, but no remains were found during archaeological excavations of the area during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 1996, L.P. Hecht, in his Echoes from the Letters of a Civil War Surgeon, reported that wild hogs had eaten the remains of at least some of the federal soldiers who had been left unburied.

8 April 1864 (late evening):

Receiving word of another likely attack, Banks orders his Union troops to withdraw Pleasant Hill (not to be confused with the aforementioned Pleasant Grove). This withdrawal commences after midnight and through the early hours of 9 April 1864. According to Banks:

From Pleasant Grove, where this action occurred, to Pleasant Hill was 15 miles. It was certain that the enemy, who was within the reach of re-enforcements, would renew the attack in the morning, and it was wholly uncertain whether the command of General Smith could reach the position we held in season for a second engagement. For this reason the army toward morning fell back to Pleasant Hill, General Emory covering the rear, burying the dead, bringing off the wounded, and all the material of the army. It arrived there at 8.30 on the morning of the 9th, effecting a junction with the forces of General Smith and the colored brigade under Colonel Dickey, which had reached that point the evening previous.

9 April 1864 (morning):

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

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

Arriving at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana around 8:30 a.m., and with the enemy believed to be in pursuit, Union Major General Nathaniel Banks orders his troops to regroup and ready themselves for a new round of fighting.

The Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana is just hours from its start. In his official Red River Campaign Report penned a year later, Banks described how the day unfolded:

A line of battle was formed in the following order: First Brigade, Nineteenth Corps, on the right, resting on a ravine; Second Brigade in the center, and Third Brigade on the left. The center was strengthened by a brigade of General Smith’s forces, whose main force was held in reserve. The enemy moved toward our right flank. The Second Brigade[including the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers] withdrew from the center to the support of the First Brigade. The brigade in support of the center moved up into position, and another of General Smith’s brigades was posted to the extreme left position on the hill, in echelon to the rear of the left main line.

Light skirmishing occurred during the afternoon. Between 4 and 5 o’clock it increased in vigor, and about 5 p.m., when it appeared to have nearly ceased, the enemy drove in our skirmishers and attacked in force, his first onset being against the left. He advanced in two oblique lines, extending well over toward the right of the Third Brigade, Nineteenth Corps. After a determined resistance this part of the line gave way and went slowly back to the reserves. The First and Second Brigades were soon enveloped in front, right, and rear. By skillful movements of General Emory the flanks of the two brigades, now bearing the brunt of the battle, were covered. The enemy pursued the brigades, passing the left and center, until he approached the reserves under General Smith, when he was met by a charge led by General Mower and checked. The whole of the reserves were now ordered up, and in turn we drove the enemy, continuing the pursuit until night compelled us to halt.

The battle of the 9th was desperate and sanguinary. The defeat of the enemy was complete, and his loss in officers and men more than double that sustained by our forces. There was nothing in the immediate position or condition of the two armies to prevent a forward movement the next morning, and orders were given to prepare for an advance. The train, which had been turned to the rear on the day of the battle, was ordered to reform and advance at daybreak. I communicated this purpose at the close of the day to General A. J. Smith, who expressed his concurrence therein. But representations subsequently received from General Franklin and all the general officers of the Nineteenth Corps, as to the condition of their respective commands for immediate active operations against the enemy, caused a suspension of this order, and a conference of the general officers was held in the evening, in which it was determined, upon the urgent recommendation of all the general officers above named, and with the acquiescence of General Smith, to retire upon Grand Ecore the following day. The reasons urged for this course by the officers commanding the Nineteenth and Thirteenth Corps were, first, that the absence of water made it absolutely necessary to advance or retire without delay. General Emory’s command [including the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers] had been without rations for two days, and the train, which had been turned to the rear during the battle, could not be put in condition to move forward upon the single road through dense woods, in which it stood, without difficulty and loss of time. It was for the purpose of communicating with the fleet at Springfield Landing from the Sabine Cross-Roads to the river, as well as to prevent the concentration of the Texan troops with the enemy at Mansfield, that we had pushed for the early occupation of that point. Considering the difficulty with which the gun-boats passed Alexandria and Grand Ecore, there was every reason to believe that the navigation of the river would be found impracticable. A squadron of cavalry, under direction of Mr. Young, who had formerly been employed in the surveys of this country and was now connected with the engineer department, which had been sent upon a reconnaissance to the river, returned to Pleasant Hill on the day of the battle with the report that they had not been able to discover the fleet nor learn from the people its passage up the river. (The report of General T. Kilby Smith, commanding the river forces, states that the fleet did not arrive at Loggy Bayou until 2 p.m. on the 10th of April, two days after the battle at Sabine Cross-Roads.) This led to the belief that the low water had prevented the advance of the fleet. The condition of the river, which had been steadily falling since our march from Alexandria, rendered it very doubtful, if the fleet ascended the river, whether it could return from any intermediate point, and probable, if not certain, that if it reached Shreveport it would never escape without a rise of the river, of which all hopes began to fail. The forces designated for this campaign numbered 42,000 men. Less than half that number was actually available for service against the enemy during its progress.

The distance which separated General Steele’s command from the line of our operations (nearly 200 miles) rendered his movements of little moment to us or to the enemy, and reduced the strength of the fighting column to the extent of his force, which was expected to be from 10,000 to 15,000 men. The depot at Alexandria, made necessary by the impracticable navigation, withdrew from our forces 3,000 men under General Grover. The return of the Marine Brigade to the defense of the Mississippi, upon the demand of Major-General McPherson, and which could not pass Alexandria without its steamers nor move by land for want of land transportation, made a further reduction of 3,000 men. The protection of the fleet of transports against the enemy on both sides of the river made it necessary for General A. J. Smith to detach General T. Kilby Smith’s division of 2,500 men from the main body for that duty. The army train required a guard of 500 men. These several detachments, which it was impossible to avoid, and the distance of General Steele’s command, which it was not in my power to correct, reduced the number of troops that we were able at any point to bring into action from 42,000 men to about 20,000. The losses sustained in the very severe battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of April amounted to about 3,969 men, and necessarily reduced our active forces to that extent.

The enemy, superior to us in numbers in the outset, by falling back was able to recover from his great losses by means of re-enforcements, which were within his reach as he approached his base of operations, while we were growing weaker as we departed from ours. We had fought the battle at Pleasant Hill with about 15,000 against 22,000 men and won a victory, which for these reasons we were unable to follow up. Other considerations connected with the actual military condition of affairs afforded additional reasons for the course recommended. Between the commencement of the expedition and the battle of Pleasant Hill a change had occurred in the general command of the army, which caused a modification of my instructions in regard to this expedition.

Lieutenant-General Grant, in a dispatch dated the 15th March, which I received on the 27th March, at Alexandria, eight days before we reached Grand Ecore, by special messenger, gave me the following instructions:

‘Should you find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be absent from their command you will send them back at the time specified in his note of (blank date) March, even if it should lead to the abandonment of the main object of the expedition. Should it prove successful, hold Shreveport and Red River with such force as you deem necessary and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans.’

These instructions, I was informed, were given for the purpose of having ‘all parts of the army, or rather all armies, act as much in concert as possible,’ and with a view to a movement in the spring campaign against Mobile, which was certainly to be made ‘if troops enough could be obtained without embarrassing other movements; in which event New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an expedition.’ A subsequent dispatch, though it did not control, fully justified my action, repeated these general views and stated that the commanding general ‘would much rather the Red River expedition had never been begun that that you should be detained one day beyond the 1st of May in commencing the movement east of the Mississippi.’

The limitation of time referred to in these dispatches was based upon an opinion which I had verbally expressed to General Sherman at New Orleans, that General Smith could be spared in thirty days after we reached Alexandria, but it was predicted upon the expectation that the navigation of the river would be unobstructed; that we should advance without delay at Alexandria, Grand Ecore, or elsewhere on account of low water, and that the forces of General Steele were to co-operate with us effectively at some point on Red River, near Natchitoches or Monroe. It was never understood that an expedition that involved on the part of my command a land march of nearly 400 miles into the enemy’s country, and which terminated at a point which we might not be able to hold, either on account of the strength of the enemy or the difficulties of obtaining supplies, was to be limited to thirty days. The condition of our forces, and the distance and difficulties attending the further advance into the enemy’s country after the battles of the 8th and 9th against an enemy superior in numbers to our own, rendered it probable that we could not occupy Shreveport within the time specified, and certain that without a rise in the river the troops necessary to hold it against the enemy would be compelled to evacuate it for want of supplies, and impossible that the expedition should return in any event to New Orleans in time to co-operate in the general movements of the army contemplated for the spring campaign. It was known at this time that the fleet could not repass the rapids at Alexandria, and it was doubtful, if the fleet reached any point above Grand Ecore, whether it would be able to return. By falling back to Grand Ecore we should be able to ascertain the condition of the fleet, the practicability of continuing the movement by the river, reorganize a part of the forces that had been shattered in the battles of the 7th, 8th, and 9th, possibly ascertain the position of General Steele and obtain from him the assistance expected for a new advance north of the river or upon its southern bank, and perhaps obtain definite instructions from the Government as to the course to be pursued.

Upon these general considerations, and without reference to the actual condition of the respective armies, at 12 o’clock midnight on the 9th I countermanded the order for the return of the train, and directed preparations to be made for the return of the army to Grand Ecore. The dead were buried and the wounded brought in from the field of battle and placed in the most comfortable hospitals that could be provided, and surgeons and supplies furnished for them. A second squadron of cavalry was sent, under direction of Mr. Young, of the engineer department, to inform the fleet of our retrograde movement and to direct its return, if it had ascended the river, and on the morning of the 10th the army leisurely returned to Grand Ecore.

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had been ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines that day (9 April 1864), their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. According to Bates, after fighting off a charge by the troops of Confederate Major General Richard Taylor, the 47th was forced to bolster the buckling lines of the 165th New York Infantry – just as the 47th was shifting to the left of the massed Union forces.

The regiment sustained heavy casualties during the Battle of Pleasant Hill. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, was severely wounded in both legs. Regimental Color-Sergeant Benjamin Walls and Sergeant William Pyers both sustained gunshot wounds.

Color-Sergeant Walls, the oldest man in the regiment, was shot in the left shoulder as he was mounting the 47th’s flag on one of the Massachusetts artillery caissons that had been recaptured by the 47th. Sergeant Pyers was then shot while retrieving the American flag from Walls, thereby preventing it falling into enemy hands. Both men survived and continued to fight for the 47th – Walls until his three-year term of service expired on 18 September 1864, Pyers until he was killed in action just over a month later during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia.

Many others were less fortunate. Hastily buried by comrades or local citizens, several still rest in unknown graves.

In addition, more men from the 47th Pennsylvania were captured and marched off to Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas, becoming the only soldiers from any Pennsylvania regiment to have men imprisoned there. At least three 47th Pennsylvanians never made it out alive; the remaining POWs were released in prisoner exchanges which took place from July through the Fall of 1864.

Nearly two decades later, 1st Lieutenant James Hahn recalled his involvement (as a Sergeant) in both engagements for a retrospective article in the 31 January 1884 edition of The National Tribune:

A PENNSYLVANIA SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCE.

Lieutenant James Hahn, of the 47th Pennsylvania infantry, writing from Newport, Pa., refers as follows to the engagements at Sabine Cross-roads and Pleasant Hill :

‘The 19th Corps had gone into camp for the evening about four miles from Sabine Cross-Roads. The engagement at Mansfield had been fought by the 13th Corps, who struggled bravely against overwhelming odds until they were driven from the field. I presume the rebel Gen. Dick Taylor knew of the situation of our army, and that the 19th was in the rear of the 13th, and the 16th still in rear of the 19th, some thirteen miles away, encamped at Pleasant Hill. They thought it would be a good joke to whip Banks’ army in detail : first, the 13th corps, then 19th, then finish up on the 16th. But they counted without their hosts; for when the couriers came flying back to the 19th with the news of the sad disaster that had befallen the 13th corps, we were double-quicked a distance of some four miles, and just met the advance of our defeated 13th corps – coming pell-mell, infantry, cavalry, and artillery all in one conglomerated mass, in such a manner as only a defeated and routed army can be mixed up – at Sabine Cross-roads, where our corps was thrown into line just in time to receive the victorious and elated Johnnies with a very warm reception, which gave them a recoil, and which stopped their impetuous headway, and gave the 13th corps time to get safely to the rear. I do not know what would have been the consequence if the 19th had been defeated also, that evening of the 8th, at Sabine Cross-roads, and the victorious rebel army had thrown themselves upon the ‘guerrillas’ then lying in camp at Pleasant Hill. It was just about getting dark when the Johnnies made their last assault upon the lines of the 19tb. We held the field until about midnight, and then fell back and left the picket to hold the line while we joined the 16th at Pleasant Hill the morning of the 9th of April, soon after daybreak. It was not long until the rebel cavalry put in an appearance, and soon skirmishing commenced. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon the engagement become general all along the line, and with varied success, until late in the afternoon the rebels were driven from the field, and were followed until darkness set in, and about midnight our army made a retrograde movement, which ended at Grand Ecore, and left our dead and wounded lying on the field, all of whom fell into rebel hands. I have been informed since by one of our regiment, who was left wounded on the field, that the rebels were so completely defeated that they did not return to the battlefield till late the next day, and I have always been of the opinion that, if the defeat that the rebels got at Pleasant Hill had been followed up, Banks’ army, with the aid of A. J. Smith’s divisions, could have got to Shreveport (the objective point) without much left or hindrance from the rebel army.’

10 April-20 June 1864:

After the regiment resettled in at Grand Ecore, Louisiana, 47th Pennsylvania scribe Henry D. Wharton finally had time to gather his thoughts and pen an account for the Sunbury American of the regiment’s recent battles:

Grand Ecore, Western La. }
April 12, 1864.

DEAR WILVERT:–After lying over for three days at Natchitoches to recruit and get a fresh supply from the Commisariat [sic], we again pushed forward in hunt of the rebs, as the sequel will show, proved lucky to us, and a perfect discomfiture to the enemy. On the first days march we were detained several hours by letting the 13th Army Corps pass by us, when we pushed forward to Double Bridges, a distance of sixteen miles. It was at this place, shortly before our arrival that a brisk skirmish came off between our cavalry and the rebs, in which we lost ninety men in killed and wounded. The rebs loss was more severe, besides a number of prisoners. On our march next day we saw unmistakeable [sic] evidence of hot work, the limbs were knocked from trees and their trunks were well pierced with shot and a number of horses lie dead by the road side, which showed the good work done by our cavalry…. We made Pleasant Hill that day and encamped. It was here that we expected a heavy fight, but there was a mere skirmish, the rebs skedaddling in a hurry, followed by our cavalry. Our forces moved early next morning, the 13th corps far in the advance. We made but seven miles and then went into camp, when the news [broke] that the 13th  and cavalry had engaged the enemy in force. Receiving two days hard tack, orders came to forward, which was done in double quick, making the distance, eight miles, in one hour and twenty minutes. We reached there at the right time, for the 13th had fought hard, expending their ammunition; the cavalry were repulsed and in their retreat made such confusion among the teams, that had it not been for our timely arrival, a panic would have ensued, exceeding that of Bull Run.

Our corps, the 19th, rushed to the rescue, fell into line of battle, and were soon pouring on the rebs a fire which turned the tide of affairs. We were two hours under fire, giving the enemy more than we received, when darkness caused the fight to come to a close, not, however, until we gave them a parting salute of two volleys from the whole corps. Three pieces of Nimm’s battery was [sic] captured by the enemy before our corps got there, besides the train of the cavalry, with ammunition and stores.

About 10 o’clock that night our forces made a retrograde movement, falling back to Pleasant Hill, to secure a better position.– The trains were sent back so as not to interfere with our movements. We arrived safely at nine o’clock, next morning [10 April 1864], and immediately prepared for the coming work. An hour later the rear guard came in informing us of the approach of the enemy.– Our skirmishers of cavalry and infantry were sent out, and ’twas not long until shots were exchanged. At this time, 10 o’clock, Smith’s 16th Army Corps reinforced us, and was soon formed in line of battle. Skirmishing continued until four o’clock, when the rebs commenced feeling our lines, with artillery, on right, left and centre [sic]. This was well replied to by the 25th N.Y. Battery. (The Battery to which Dad Randels and some others of our own boys are attached.)

The battle then commenced in real earnest. The rebs charged our lines, with cheers, firing volleys of musketry that would seem to annihilate our forces. They tried to flank our right and left, but the boys repulsed them handsomely. Batteries were captured and recaptured; advances were made and repulsed, the enemy fighting as though it was the last of a desperate cause. Our volleys of musketry, of which more was used than in any fight during the war, and the executions of the artillery was too much for them, for they fled, our men after them, yelling shouts of victory, and chasing them for five miles beyond the battlefield. Our fire told with terrible effect. A rebel Lieut.-Col. prisoner, said that in a charge made by one of their Brigades, when they advanced so far as to make a capture of a portion of our left a sure thing, they were met by a fire that destroyed four hundred, and then were driven back in confusion. In another advance, our fire was so destructive that only three men were left unscathed to return within their lines.

The prisoners captured amounted to two thousand; among them one General, one Lieutenant-Colonel, and any quantity of Captains and Lieutenants. Of the number killed and wounded I am unable to say, but the general impression is it amounted to over five thousand. The dead body of Lieut.-Gen. Mouton was found on the field, they leaving him in their hasty retreat. He was killed by the explosion of a shell, tearing away the upper portion of his head.

Nimm’s Battery was recaptured by our regiment. Twenty-three pieces of artillery were captured by the enemy. It was at the recaptured of Nimm’s Battery that our Color Sergeant, B. F. Walls, received his wound. The Squire was so well pleased at the recapture, that he rushed forward with his flag and raised it on the wheels of a caisson, when he fell pierced by a bullet in the left shoulder.

It seems the enemy were panic stricken, fleeing from the field in confusion, not caring for the wounded. They burned their entire train for fear of its falling into our hands. Part of this was well for us, for by doing so, the train taken from our cavalry was destroyed, giving us the satisfaction that our stores done [sic] them no good.

Our whole loss, in killed, wounded, missing and stragglers is estimated at three thousand. The greatest portion belonging to the 13th corps, having occurred at Sabine, on the 8th, in the first fight. The loss in Company “C,” is Jeremiah Haas, killed. Jerry felt no pain, dying almost instantly. He was beloved by his comrades, and his loss is much regretted by them. He was a good soldier, a young man whose morals were not injured from the influences of an army, and best of all, an honest man. The wounded are – 

Serg. Wm. Pyers, arm and side, not dangerous.
”  B. F. Walls, left shoulder.
Private Thomas Lothard, two wounds in arm, slight,
”  Cornelius Kramer, left leg, below knee.
”  George Miller, side.
”  Thomas Nipple, hip, slight.
”  James Kennedy, right and side, severe.

Missing – J. W. McNew, J. W. Firth, Samuel Miller, Edward Matthews, John Sterner and Conrad Holman.

The whole force of the enemy was thirty-five thousand – ten thousand of them coming fresh into the fight on the second day, at Pleasant Hill, under General (Pap) Price. Our forces, parts of the 19th and 16th corps, amounted to fifteen thousand, the 13th taking no part in this action. We expect to have another fight soon, probably at Shreveport, where it is expected the rebellion will be crushed on the western side of the Mississippi.

Our wounded are getting along finely, and are in the best of spirits. They will be sent to New Orleans to remain in hospital until convalescent. The boys remaining are well and seem anxious for another encounter with the graybacks.

The 47th Pennsylvanians remained at Grand Ecore for a total of eleven days (through 22 April 1864), where they engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications in a brutal climate. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish where they arrived in Cloutierville, after marching 45 miles, at 10 p.m. that night. En route, the Union forces were attacked again – this time in the rear, but they were able to end the encounter fairly quickly and continue on.

The next morning (23 April 1864), skirmishing sparked in earnest, and then 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 Monett’s Ferry (also known as the “Cane Rive Crossing”). Responding to a barrage from the Confederate’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,” 47th Pennsylvanians supported Emory’s artillery. Meanwhile, other Emory troops found and worked their way across the Cane River, attacked Bee’s flank, and forced a Rebel retreat. That Union brigade then erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day.

As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.

Known as "Bailey's Dam" for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 was designed to facilitate passage of Union gunboats to and from the Mississippi River. Photo: Public domain.

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

Encamping overnight before resuming their march toward Rapides Parish, the 47th Pennsylvanians finally arrived on 26 April in Alexandria, where they camped for 17 more days (through 13 May 1864). While there, they engaged yet again in the hard labor of fortification work, and also helped to build “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to make their way back down the Red River.

In a follow-up letter penned from the 47th’s encampment at Morganza to the Sunbury American on 29 May 1864, Henry D. Wharton reported on the dam’s construction and other key details from this difficult period of service:

MORGAWZA [sic] BEND, La., May 29, 1864

DEAR WILVERT: – The uncertainty of a mail passing the blockade on the Red river, established by the Johnny Rebs while we were lying at Alexandria, prevented me from writing to you until now; but knowing the anxiety you have for us, I feel justified in commencing from where I dated my last letter, and will give you the ‘dangers we have passed’ as I recollect them.

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

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

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

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

We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’

Tragically, sometime after the 47th’s departure from Alexandria, an individual or groups of individuals torched the city. Although many present-day historians indicate that this terrible act was the work of Union troops, Henry Wharton recounted in his same letter of 29 May what had been reported about the fire to leaders of the 47th on 14 May 1864, and also provided a glimpse into two horrific attacks by Confederates on non-combatant ships:

The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, and unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.

As the Union troops continued their march toward the southeastern part of Louisiana, they passed Fort DeRussy, and then engaged in yet another battle – this time in Avoyelles Parish near Marksville. Fighting in this Battle of Mansura on 16 May 1864, Union infantry skirmished with Dick Taylor’s Confederates, and then orchestrated a flanking attack to force Taylor’s troops into retreat during what was largely a four-hour artillery shoot out:

On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee. Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.

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

On Saturday, 21 May 1864, Brigadier-General William Emory then ordered the men of Company C – the 47th Pennsylvania’s Color-Guard Unit – to move enemy prisoners to a safer Union stronghold. So, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin and his men marched 187 Confederate soldiers south, transferred their management to the appropriate Union authorities, and returned to the regiment.

In his continuation of his 29 May letter home, Henry Wharton delivered the sad news that James Kennedy had died at a Union hospital in New Orleans from the wounds he had sustained in action during the Battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April:

His friends in the company were pleased to learn that Dr. Dodge of Sunbury, now of the U.S. Steamer Octorora, was with him in his last moments, and ministered to his wants. The Doctor was one of the Surgeons from the Navy who volunteered when our wounded was [sic] sent to New Orleans.

Aftermath

In addition to deaths in combat or at Confederate prison camps, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers lost a significant number of men to disease and the hardships wrought by hard duty in a difficult climate. Three members of the regiment also drowned during the Red River Campaign – one at the start of the expedition, the other two as the regiment’s time in Louisiana wound down.

Many of the regiment’s dead were ultimately laid to rest at the Chalmette National Cemetery in Chalmette, Louisiana – a fair number in unmarked graves. The graves of others still have not yet been located. At least one historian believes the missing status of soldiers on both sides is due to a combination of factors – poor military record keeping, hasty burials of war dead by civilians or retreating troops in shallow, unmarked graves, or the destruction of bodies by feral hogs which devoured soldiers’ remains before they could be properly interred. Quite simply, the scale of the carnage, once again, had overwhelmed military leaders on both sides.

History books record the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield as a Confederate victory, the Battle of Pleasant Hill as a technical victory for the Union, and the Battle of Monett’s Ferry/Cane River Crossing and Battle of Mansura/Marksville as clear victories for the Union.

Through it all, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was represented by just one regiment – the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

 

Sources:

1. 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Records, in Camp Ford Prisoner of War Database. Tyler: The Smith County Historical Society, 1864.

2. A Pennsylvania Soldier’s Experience, in Up the Red River: How the Famous Banks Expedition Came to Grief: Off for Shreveport: The March from Grand Ecore to Pleasant Hill: Sabine Cross-Roads, And the Part the 13th Corps Played in That Battle. Washington, D.C.: 31 January 1884.

3. Banks, Nathaniel P. General Banks’s Report of the Red River Campaign, in Annual Report of the Secretary of War, in Message of the President of the United States, and Accompanying Documents, to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866.

4. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.

5. Burial Ledgers, in Records of The National Cemetery Administration, and in Records of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1864-1865.

6. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

7. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

8. Claims for Widow and Minor Pensions, in U.S. Civil War Widows’ Pension Files. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.

9. Dixon, Boyd. Archaeological Investigations at the Third Phase of the Battle of Mansfield, in Bulletin of the Louisiana Archaeological Society, Number 33. New Orleans: 2006. Retrieved online December 2015.

10. Gilbert, Randal B. A New Look at Camp Ford, Tyler Texas: The Largest Confederate Prison Camp West of the Mississippi River, 3rd Edition. Tyler: The Smith County Historical Society, 2010.

11. Interment Control Forms, in Records of the U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General. College Park: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

12. Joiner, Gary D. The Red River Campaign: March 10 – May 22, 1864. Civil War Trust: Washington, D.C. Retrieved online December 2015.

13. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, in Records of the U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1864-1865.

14. Reports of Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks (dated 6 April 1865), et. al., in The War of the Rebellion, Vol. XXXIV: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891.

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

16. The Red River Campaign: Detailed Account of the Retrograde Movement How the Gunboats Escaped, in The New York Times. New York: 5 June 1864.

17. Wharton, Henry D. (as “H. D. W.”), in Sunbury American. Sunbury: 1864-1865.

 

Battle Flags – 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

First State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Presented to the Regiment by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin on 20 September 1861. Retired 11 May 1865. Source: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (1985.057, State Color, Evans and Hassall, v1p126).

First State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Presented to the Regiment by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin on 20 September 1861. Retired 11 May 1865. Source: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (1985.057, State Color, Evans and Hassall, v1p126).

Second State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Presented to the Regiment, Spring 1865; documents the Regiment's major engagements. Source: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (1985.058. State Color, Horstmann Brothers and Company, v1p127).

Second State Color, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Presented to the Regiment, 7 March 1865; documents the Regiment’s major engagements. Source: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (1985.058. State Color, Horstmann Brothers and Company, v1p127).