1st Lieutenant Christian Seiler Beard

Alternate Presentations of Given Name: Christian, Christ. Alternate Spellings of Middle Name: Seiler, Syler. Alternate Spellings of Surname: Baird, Beard

 

Lieutenant Christian Seiler Beard, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, c. 1865 (public domain).

A native Pennsylvanian, Christian Seiler Beard was born on 15 February 1834. Several family historians researching the Beard’s family history believe that his birth may have occurred in Halifax, Dauphin County.

What is known for certain is that, by 1860, Christian S. Beard was employed as a carpenter and residing in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Mary Ann (Hummel) Beard. A daughter of Philip and Sophia Hummel, she was born in Pennsylvania sometime around 1837.

Civil War Military Service

Alma Pelot's photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Alma Pelot’s photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Following the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces in mid-April 1861, Christian Seiler Beard became one of the early Pennsylvanians responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After enrolling for military service at the age of 27 at Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, he then officially mustered in for duty on 23 April 1861 at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County as a Private with Company D, 11th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

* Note: Also serving in the same regiment, but in a different company from Christian Beard, were dozens of men who would later serve under him as he worked his way up the ranks of Company C of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. The majority of these men – in both F Company of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers and C Company of the 47th Pennsylvania – were former members of the local Northumberland County militia unit known as the “Sunbury Guards.”

Following a brief training period, the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers were transported by train on 4 May to Camp Wayne near West Chester, where they were equipped with uniforms, arms and ammunition, and continued to train for another three weeks. On 27 May 1861, the regiment was assigned to guard the Pittsburgh, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. During this time, Private Christian Beard and his fellow Company D men were stationed at Perryville.

Three weeks later, the regiment was ordered to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the men made camp and received additional equipment and other supplies. Ordered back to Pennsylvania in mid-June, they were briefly posted to Chambersburg before returning to Maryland soil for their next duty assignment. On 20 June 1861, the regiment was attached to the 7th U.S. Infantry’s 6th Brigade under the command of Colonel John J. Abercrombie.

This public domain illustration is an excerpt from a larger montage of images from the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia which ran in the 27 edition of Harper's Weekly. "Council of War" depicts "Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker" strategizing on the eve of battle.

This public domain illustration is an excerpt from a larger montage of images from the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia which ran in the 27 July 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Council of War depicts “Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker’ strategizing on the eve of battle.

Ordered to ford the Potomac River, the men of the 7th Infantry began crossing in the early morning hours of 2 July 1861. As the 11th Pennsylvanians reached Virginia soil near Williamsport (ahead of their fellow 7th Infantrymen from other regiments), they were sent toward Hoke’s Run where Union intelligence officials had reported the massing of Rebel troops. Initially encountering no resistance, Union leaders ordered their men to rest until the remainder of the 7th Infantry reached and rejoined them.

Reunited, they continued on and found the enemy they had been hunting. As the 11th Pennsylvanians advanced under heavy fire from Colonel Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson’s troops, they moved toward the right of the 1st Wisconsin, and pushed through a wooded area. As they did, the 11th Pennsylvanians were peppered by and smacked by Rebel rifle and artillery fire from troops hidden safely behind trees, in barns, or anywhere else that would protect them. At that point, the Union artillery opened fire on a barn, enabling their fellow infantrymen to more easily pick off their Rebel targets and gradually force the enemy into retreat. Casualties in the 11th Pennsylvania were light with only one man killed and 10 wounded.

Known as the Battle of Falling Waters, the engagement was the first Civil War battle in the Shenandoah Valley. (A second battle with a different military configuration occurred there in 1863.) Also known as the Battle of Hainesville or Hoke’s Run, this first Battle of Falling Waters unfortunately helped to pave the way for the Confederate Army victory at Manassas later that month. Historians believe that the unexpected show of resistance by Confederate troops inspired timidity by Union military leaders in future battles.

Hindsight aside, the 11th Pennsylvanians performed admirably at Falling Waters on 2 July, and were heralded for their valor by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, who proudly labeled the regiment “the Bloody Eleventh.”

On 3 July 1861, the 11th Pennsylvanians and their fellow 6th Brigaders were ordered to occupy the nearby town of Martinsburg, Virginia, which they did until 15 July when they were ordered on to Bunker Hill and then Charlestown, West Virginia. Moving to Harper’s Ferry on 21 July, the regiment was then sent back across the Potomac River; from there, the regiment marched for Sandy Hook, where the men were then ordered to head for Baltimore and home to Harrisburg for muster out.

Of their service to the nation, F. J. Porter, Assistant Adjutant General wrote that “the conduct of the regiment has merited” the “highest approbation” from their commanding officer, Major-General Patterson:

It had the fortune to be in the advance at the affair at Hoke’s Run, where the steadiness and gallantry of both officers and men, came under his personal observation. They have well merited his thanks.

Upon honorable completion of his Three Months’ Service, Private Christian S. Beard was officially mustered out from the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Camp Curtin on 1 August 1861.

Camp Curtin (Harpers Weekly, 1861; public domain).

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

Christian Beard then promptly re-upped for a three-year tour of duty, re-enrolling on 19 August 1861 at Sunbury in Northumberland County, and re-mustering in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 2 September 1861 as a Sergeant with Company C , 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time described him as a being a 27-year-old carpenter from Northumberland County who was 5’10-1/2” tall with black hair gray eyes and a dark complexion. Sergeant Beard’s company was often referred to as the “Sunbury Guards” since it was comprised largely of former members of the Sunbury Guards militia, as well as other men from Sunbury and its surrounding Northumberland County communities.

Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, Sergeant Christian S. Beard and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania were transported south by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched their tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. The next day, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for their hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:

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

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

On 24 September, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the U.S. Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service. On 27 September, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band and headed for Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps.

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

On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. In a mid-October letter home, Company C’s Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops.

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”

As a reward for their performance – and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.

1862

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

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

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped railcars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

According to Schmidt and letters home from members of the regiment, those preparations ceased on Monday, 27 January, at 10 a.m. when:

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

Reloading then resumed. By that afternoon, when the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. Christian Beard and his fellow officers were among the last to board. Then, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

In early February 1862, Sergeant Christian Beard and his men from Company C arrived in Key West with their fellow members of the regiment, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor.On 14 February, they made their presence known to area residents as the regiment paraded through the city’s streets. That weekend, a number of men also mingled with residents during local church services.

Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation, felled trees and built new roads. A number of men fell ill, largely due to the poor water quality and sanitary conditions, but also due to the harsh climate.

On 1 April 1862, Sergeant Christian S. Beard was promoted from the rank of Sergeant to 1st Sergeant.

According to Schmidt, 4 June 1862 proved to be a festive day for the regiment. As the USS Niagara sailed for Boston after transferring its responsibilities to the USS Potomac as the flagship of the Union Navy squadron in that sector, the guns of 15 warships anchored nearby fired a salute, as did the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company also “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM.”

From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men made camp before being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, during this phase of their service, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”

Illustration of the Union Navy's base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

Illustration of the Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly 25 miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October) that had been abandoned by Confederate forces during the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.

From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel T. H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge – a key piece of southern railroad infrastructure which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.

Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. The Union soldiers grappled with Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackey’s Point.

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant, including two captains from other companies and several men from Company C, including Sergeant Peter Haupt. Some men were killed outright; others died later from wound-related complications at the post hospital at Hilton Head; still others were deemed unable to continue on, and discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.

1863

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

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

Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.

As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe, which makes it all the more remarkable that, during this phase of service, the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to re-enlist when their three-year service terms were up. Many, who could have returned home with their heads held legitimately high after all they had endured, re-enlisted in order to preserve the Union of their beloved nation.

One of those choosing to re-up was 1st Sergeant Christian S. Beard. He re-enlisted at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida on 12 October 1863.

1864

On 25 February 1864, the 47th set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would make history. Steaming first for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign spearheaded by Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. A number of men fell ill, succumbing to the effects of the harsher climate or to tropical diseases for which their northern climate-acclimated bodies were unprepared. Often short on food and water, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

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

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the back-and-forth volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

Casualties were severe. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges on 22 July and in September and November. At least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out of that prison alive.

Following what some historians have called a drubbing by the Confederate Army and others have called a technical Union victory (or at least a draw), the 47th Pennsylvania fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they then scored another victory against the Confederates, this time at Cane Hill.

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 the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River, Alexandria, Louisiana, May 1864 facilitated passage of Union gunboats. Photo: Public domain.

On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, which enabled federal gunboats to successfully traverse the rapids of the Red River.

Beginning 16 May, 1st Sergeant Christian S. Beard and C Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company C and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians from Companies A, D, E, F, Hi, and I returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864. During this time, several members of the regiment were left behind at Union Army hospitals in Louisiana, Mississippi or Florida, or were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates while sailing home.

After arriving in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, the 47th Pennsylvanians joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap (also known as the “Battle of Cool Spring”), where they assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, September saw the promotion of several men, including 1st Sergeant Christian S. Beard, who was advanced to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on 1 September 1864. 1st Lieutenant Daniel Oyster was also promoted that same day – to the rank of Captain. Made the commanding officer of C Company, Captain Oyster replaced John Peter Shindel Gobin who had been promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central command staff.

Little did he know it, but the newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Beard would be forced to take on more responsibility sooner than he could have imagined. Just 2 days after their respective promotions, the regiment was engaged in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia; two days after that, on 5 September 1864, Captain Daniel Oyster was shot in the left shoulder at Berryville. He survived, but needed several weeks to recuperate before returning to full duty.

Still others departed also departed from their regiment over the next few weeks upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service. For the remaining members of the 47th, the fighting was not yet over, and those still on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864

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

Image of the victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces. Kurz & Allison, circa 1893. Public domain, courtesy of the Library of Congress: LC-DIG-pga-01855 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-1753 (color film copy transparency).

Victory of Philip Sheridan’s Union army over Jubal Early’s Confederate forces. Kurz & Allison, circa 1893. Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.

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

The 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by General William Emory to attack and pursue Major General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice – once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.

The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.

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

Battle of Cedar Creek, October 1864

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

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

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

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

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

But once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill, was cut down and later buried on the battlefield, as were others from C Company. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. Others were wounded in action, but survived. Still more were captured by the enemy and taken to prison camps at Salisbury and Andersonville, the most infamous hellhole of all. As before, several died while still being held as prisoners of war (POWs); the bodies of some were never recovered.

Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, the 47th was then ordered to outpost and railroad guarding duties at Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia. Five days before Christmas they trudged through a snowstorm in order to reach their new home.

1865 – 1866

Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved back to Washington, D.C., via Winchester and Kernstown.

On 4 April 1865, while they were stationed in the Washington, D.C. area, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers presented a saber to 2nd Lieutenant Christian S. Beard, which had been made in Philadelphia by W.H. Horstmann & Sons. Engraved on the scabbard were the words, “Presented to Christian Seiler Beard by the members of Company C, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers.” That saber is currently displayed at the Rose Hill Mansion, formerly the centerpiece of the Rose Hill Plantation.

Immediately before and during the Civil War, Rose Hill was owned by secessionists John Kirk, M.D. and his wife, Carolina. Their daughter, Emily, helped to design and make one of the area’s first secession flags. In May 1862 alone, Dr. Kirk’s estimated war-related loss of human “property” (129 slaves) was a staggering $92,900.

The men, women and children who had been held in bondage by the Kirk family included: “Infant” (three), Casey and Harmody (both aged 60); Scrap – a “fine house servant” aged 18; Ben – a “very fine driver” who was 40 years old; little ones Caleb, Chisholm, Daniel, Eve, Jack, Lavinia, Luna, Linda, Richard, and Venus (aged 3, 2, 6, 5, 2, 4, 2, 4, 2 and 6, respectively); and field hands: Adam, Annette, Chloe, Doll, Fortune and Hagar, Hetty and Jackson, Lucretia, Maria, Mingo, Nancy, Nelson, Nora, Sally and Tom (aged 30, 38, 17, 36, both 24, both 40, 32, 35, 40, 41, 15, 14, 21 and 27), among others.

It appears, however, that neither John Kirk nor his wife ever came face to face with Lieutenant Christian Beard or anyone from the 47th Pennsylvania during the early years of the war. Although the 47th Pennsylvania was engaged in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina near the Rose Hill Plantation from 21-23 October 1862, Dr. Kirk and his wife had already fled to Grahamville before this battle broke out. Kirk’s wife died there in 1864 – well after the 47th Pennsylvania had already been sent back to Fort Taylor in Key West and then on to Louisiana for the Red River Campaign – and well before the 47th Pennsylvania presented the saber to Lieutenant Beard in April 1865.

* Note: The 47th Pennsylvania did later return to South Carolina in 1865; so it is possible that Dr. Kirk may have encountered some members of the regiment at that time. Ordered first to Savannah Georgia in late May 1865, the 47th was then attached in July to the U.S. Department of the South in Charleston, South Carolina. There, they performed Provost (judicial and military-police) and Reconstruction-related tasks, including the repair of railroads and other key infrastructure elements which had been destroyed during the long war. Dr. Kirk may, while attempting to reclaim and reinvigorate his business interests, have interacted with leaders of the 47th Pennsylvania sometime between July 1865 and January 1866 when the regiment departed from Charleston. Kirk subsequently died at Rose Hill in 1868.

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

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

By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were once again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital – this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.

Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their imprisonment and trial.

As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review on 23-24 May.

Ruins seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, SC, 1865. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (111-B-4667, public domain).

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

On their final southern tour, 2nd Lieutenant Christian S. Beard and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Attached again to Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania next quartered in Charleston at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury. Duties during this phase of service were largely Provost (judicial and military police) or Reconstruction-related, involving repair or replacement of key areas of the region’s infrastructure.

On 5 July 1865, 2nd Lieutenant Christian S. Beard was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company C, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers – including 1st Lieutenant Christian S. Beard – began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina, a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.

Return to Civilian Life

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Christian S. Beard returned home to his wife in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and resumed work as a carpenter. Sometime around 1867, they welcomed to the world daughter Lucy and then son Frank Rudy Baird, who was born in Harrisburg, Dauphin County 23 December 1873 (and died in Monongahela, Washington County 14 December 1943). Mary’s younger sister, Lizzie, also resided with the Beard family at this time.

Sadly, in 1875, Mary widowed Christian, passing away in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 28 March.

In 1884, Christian S. Beard found love again and wed a second time, marrying Laura Eberhart (1847-1932). A native of Perryopolis Pennsylvania born on 11 October 1847, Laura was a daughter of Pennsylvanian Louis A. Eberhart and Lucinda (Banks) Eberhart, a native of Keene, New Hampshire. After their marriage, Christian and Laura resided in Pittsburgh with Frank Beard, Christian’s son from his first marriage.

By 1890, Christian and his family were still residing in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The U.S. 1890 Veterans’ Schedule confirms that he was suffering from chronic rheumatism, an illness common to a number of survivors from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

In 1900, Christian Beard continued to work as a carpenter. He and his wife, Laura, also still resided in Pittsburgh with Frank Beard, Christian’s son from his first marriage. But by 1910, Christian and Laura were residing at the Pittsburgh home of Laura’s brother, James W. Eberhart.

Death and Interment

Having survived one of America’s most difficult eras and witnessed the dawning progress of a new century, Christian Seiler Beard died from acute gastritis and heart, kidney and aging-related dementia complications in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on 16 November 1911. He was interred at the Highwood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on 20 November 1911. His death certificate indicates that his second wife, Laura, was the informant, and that he was retired from his former occupation of “Policeman.”

Christian Beard’s second wife, Laura, was also laid to rest at the Highwood Cemetery when she passed away in 1932. The Allegheny County Home in Woodville, Pennsylvania was the informant on her death certificate.
Sources:

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

2. Christian S. Beard, in Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

3. Christian S. Baird, Christian S. Beard (alias) and Laura Baird, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.

4. 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.

5. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

6. Death Certificates (Christian S. Beard and Laura Eberhart Baird). Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Health, Department of Vital Statistics.

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

8. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1860, 1870. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1890.

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