Company D

Roster: Company D, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers

History of Company D
1861-1862  

The initial recruitment for members to fill Company D of the Pennsylvania Volunteers’ 47th Regiment was conducted in Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania. A number of this company’s earliest recruits had responded, following the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital. After completing their Three Months’ Service in July, a large contingent re-enrolled for three-year tours of duty.

Company D was led by Henry Durant Woodruff, a native of Waterbury, Connecticut who had been reared and educated in Windsor, New York until the age of 18 when he relocated to Perry County, Pennsylvania. A citizen member of the local militia in Bloomfield and, professionally, a teacher and then innkeeper until 1861, Henry Woodruff had not only performed his own Three Month’s Service, but had actually raised the unit he commanded – Company D of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, comprised of residents from Bloomfield and other parts of Perry County. Commissioned a Captain with the 2nd Pennsylvania on 20 April 1861, he and his men served under General Robert Patterson at Winchester, Virginia. After honorably completing his Three Months’ Service, H. D.Woodruff mustered out at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 26 July 1861.

Knowing the fight was not over, Henry D. Woodruff then promptly raised a second company. Recruiting men from Bloomfield again, he re-enrolled on 20 August 1861, and was again  commissioned as Captain, mustering in at Camp Curtin on 31 August. His unit became Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, which had just been established weeks earlier by Tilghman H. Good.

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

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

Following a brief light infantry training period, Captain Woodruff and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. where they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, about two miles from the White House, beginning 21 September. Henry D. Wharton, a Musician with C Company, provided the following update on 22 September for readers of the Sunbury American, his hometown newspaper:

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.

We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.

Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent men and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.

I am happy to inform you that our young townsman, Mr. William Hendricks, has received the appointment of Sergeant Major to our Regiment. He made his first appearance at guard mounting this morning; he looked well, done up his duties admirably, and, in time, will make an excellent officer. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.

As part of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company D became part of the federal service when it officially mustered into  the U.S. Army on 24 September. On 27 September – a rainy day, 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 until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate  troops.

In his own letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:

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

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

The Unseen Foe

What may surprise readers most when studying the history of this and other Union regiments is that a fair number of “blue jackets” who lost their lives during the Civil War were claimed not by rifle or cannon fire, but by dysentery and other diseases commonly spread by troops suddenly placed in close military quarters, as well as by yellow fever and other tropical diseases which they encountered upon entering the Deep South.

Sergeant Frank M. Holt became one of the first of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to die in this manner. He was laid to rest in the cemetery adjacent to the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s National Home in Washington, D.C. after succumbing to Variola (smallpox) at the Kalorama General Hospital in Washington, D.C. on 18 October 1861. He had only been a member of the 47th’s Company D since August, and was just 23 years old. His family also later created a cenotaph for him in his hometown cemetery in New Hampshire.

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.” Less than a month later, in his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:

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

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

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

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

On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review 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.”

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

As a reward – and in preparation for even bigger things to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles 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 rail cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

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. The officers boarded last and, 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.

Company D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West in early February 1862. There, they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor and drilled daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the 47th Pennsylvanians mingled with local residents as they attended services at a local church.

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 risk from sniper fire and other hazards. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”

On 12 July and 28 July 1862, respectively, Privates Washington Work and Robert Martin Harper, Captain Woodruff’s brother-in-law, were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates and sent home to Perry County. Suffering from tuberculosis, Private Harper died at home in Landisburg on 16 August 1862, and was buried in his hometown cemetery. Private Work survived a month longer, passing away from complications related to dysentery at Petersburg in Perry County on 21 September 1862. He was buried at the Union Cemetery in Duncannon.

Meeting the Enemy Head On

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).

Sent on a return expedition to Florida, Company D saw its first truly intense moments when it participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, a 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the 3rd Brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with deadly snakes and alligators. By the time the expedition ended, the brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.

From 5-15 October 1862, a teenager and several young to middle-aged black men left the hardship they had known in Beaufort, South Carolina to enroll for service with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Initially assigned to kitchen duties, they would be officially mustered in for service with the regiment as Cooks and Under Cooks at Morganza, Louisiana in June 1864. More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper's Weekly in 1865.

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper’s Weekly in 1865.

From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.

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 the 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 were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; two officers and another 114 enlisted were wounded. Several resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to the sloppy records of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily buried or were forced to leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.

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.

On 26 November, plagued by rheumatism from a prior bout of black scurvy, Private James Smith was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate, and sent home.

1863

 Fort Jefferson's moat and wall, circa 1934, Dry Tortugas, Florida (C.E. Peterson, Library of Congress; public domain)

Fort Jefferson’s moat and wall, circa 1934, Dry Tortugas, Florida (C.E. Peterson, Library of Congress; public domain)

By 1863, Captain Woodruff and the men of D Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding 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 in Florida’s Dry Tortugas. Men from the 47th were also sent on skirmishes and to Fort Myers, which had been abandoned in 1858 after the third U.S. war with the Seminole Indians. As before, disease was a constant companion and foe.

The time spent here by the men of Company D and their fellow Union soldiers was notable also for the men’s commitment to preserving the Union. Many who could have returned home chose instead to re-enlist in order to finish the fight.

A letter to the New York Times, reprinted in the 30 April 1864 edition of the Semi- Weekly Wisconsin in Milwaukee, provided insight into the mindsets of the men from company D:

Remarkable History of a Military Company
To the Editor of the New York Times:

Company D of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment, a portion of which recently spent some time at the Soldiers’ Rest, in our city, on the way to Key West, can show the following record. There are in the company the following men:

William Powell,            } Four brothers and a cousin.
John Powell,

Andrew Powell,
Solomon Powell,
Daniel Powell,

John Brady,                    } All brothers.
William Brady,
Ackinson Brady,
Leonard Brady,

Jacob Baltzer [sic],     } Brothers.
George Baltzer [sic],
Benjamin Baltzer [sic],

George Krosier [sic],  } Brothers.
William Krosier [sic],
Jesse Krosier [sic],

Edward Harper,          } Brothers [sic] and Brothers-in-law
Marvin Harper,              of the Captain.
George Harper,

Jesse Shaffer,               } Two Brothers and a Cousin.
Benjamin Shaffer,
William Shaffer,

Wilson Tag,                  } Father and two sons; father
James Tag,                      served in Mexican War.
Richard Tag,

John Clay,                     } Six pairs of brothers.
George Clay,
Jacob Charles,
Eli Charles,
John Reynolds,
Jesse Reynolds,
John Vance,
Jonathan Vance,
John Anthony,
Benjamin Anthony,
William Vertig [sic],
Franklin Vertig [sic],

Isaac Baldwin,            } Step-brothers.
Cyrus Taylor, 

These men all hail from Perry county, Pennsylvania. They are mainly of the old Holland stock, and lived within a circuit of fifteen miles. They are all re-enlisted men but two or three.

The company has been out over two years, most of the time at the extreme southern points. During eighteen months they lost but one man by sickness. They kept up strict salary regulations, commuted their rations of salt meat for fresh meat and vegetables, and saved by the operation from one hundred to one hundred thirty dollars a month, with which they made a company fund, appointing the Captain treasurer, and out of which whatever knick-nacks [sic] were needed could be purchased.

They always ate at a table, which they fixed with cross sticks, and had their food served from large bowls, each man having his place, as at home, which no one else was allowed to occupy. While the men were here, they showed that they were sober, cheerful, intelligent men, who had put their hearts into their work, and did not count any privations or sacrifices too great, if only the life of the country might thereby be maintained. During the whole term of their service, they had not had a man court-martialed.

They are commanded by Captain Henry D. Woodruff, a native of Binghamton, in this State, but long a resident of Pennsylvania. Their First Lieutenant is S. Ouchmuty [sic]; Second Lieutenant, George Stroop.

If any company can show a more striking record, it would be very interesting to know it.

The Harper brothers described above were actually brothers-in-law of Captain H. D. Woodruff.

1864

On 30 January 1864, Sergeant Jesse Meadath celebrated the New Year with a promotion to the rank of 1st Sergeant. On 25 February 1864, D Company men and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history.

Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – 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 of Union General Nathaniel Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. On 4 April 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania added to its roster of young black soldiers when 18-year-old John Bullard enrolled for service with Company D at Natchitoches, Louisiana. According to his entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives, he was officially mustered in for duty on 22 June “as (Colored) Cook.”

Often short on food and water, 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).

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 volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were 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 and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were  forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Private Ephraim Clouser of Company D was shot in his right knee, and Corporal Isaac Baldwin was also wounded.

Still others from the 47th were captured and held as prisoners of war until released during a prisoner exchange on 22 July. Sergeant James Crownover was wounded in action before being taken captive. He, Private James Downs, Corporal John Garber Miller and Private William J. Smith were four of the fortunate who survived. Downs, Miller and Smith were released on 22 July, Crownover on 25 November 1864. While held as a POW, Crownover had been commissioned, but not mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant (31 August 1864).

Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they and their fellow Union soldiers scored a clear victory against the Confederates 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 along 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 in May 1864 on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana eased 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, to enable federal gunboats to easily traverse the Red River’s rapids.

Beginning 16 May, D Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

Private William Mays of Company D was among those from the 47th who did not survive the Red River experience. He died from disease-related complications at the Union’s General Hospital in New Orleans on 30 March 1864. Many who died during this phase of service now rest at the Chalmette National Cemetery in St. Bernard Parish. A lucky few had their graves marked with headstones; other graves still remain unmarked or entirely unidentified.

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

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company D and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I boarded the McClellan and steamed away for the East Coast beginning 7 July 1864.

Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they then joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap in mid-July 1864. There, they engaged in the Battle of Cool Spring and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Rebel troops from Maryland.

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the opening days of September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, 1st Lieutenant Samuel Auchmuty, Sergeants Henry Heikel and Alex Wilson, and Corporals Cornelius Stewart and Samuel A. M. Reed. All mustered out 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their service terms. At least one of those departures – that of Sergeant Henry Heikel – might have been prevented had senior military leaders been more responsive to regimental advancement requests. According to historian Lewis Schmidt:

On Tuesday [9 August 1864], the 47th prepared to resume its march, this time from Halltown back to Middletown where the regiment arrived on Friday. Letters from both Col. Good and Capt. Gobin to the Governor and the Adjutant General of Pa. were written regarding promotions on this date from ‘In the field near Halltown’. In Company D, 54 of the non-commissioned officers and Privates signed a letter to the Governor’s office requesting that Sgt. Henry Heikel be promoted to Captain and Cpl. George W. Clay to Lieutenant. They were unsuccessful and this time, and other more senior men would be promoted to these positions. Sgt. Heikel would muster out the following month at the expiration of his term, and Cpl. Clay would eventually attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant on June 2, 1865.

And experienced, battle-tested leaders would be needed in the days and weeks ahead because those members of the 47th who did opt to remain on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor. The first significant test of this duty phase came during the first week of September as the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers fought in the Battle of Berryville from 3-4 September, and then engaged in related post-battle skirmishes with the enemy over subsequent days.

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 D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces during the Battle of 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 the Confederate Army commanded by Early. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.

Meanwhile, the 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by 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 (21-22 September), eight miles south of Winchester, 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. The day of the Opequan encounter (19 September 1864), Corporals John V. Brady and John G. Miller of Company were both promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and Privates Jacob P. Baltozer, William D. Hays, Noble Henkle, William Powell, John E. L. Roth, and Benjamin F. Shaffer all received promotions to the rank of Corporal.

On 22 September 1864, 1st Sergeant George W. Kosier became a 1st Lieutenant.

Moving forward, they and other 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 expiration of their respective terms of service.

Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience: 2nd Lieutenant George Stroop, who was promoted to lead Company D, and at the regimental level, John Peter Shindel Gobin, Charles W. Abbott and Levi Stuber.

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 crops and 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.

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

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

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

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

Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill was cut down and later buried on the battlefield. Corporal Edward Harper of Company D was wounded, but survived, as did Corporal Isaac Baldwin, who had been wounded earlier at Pleasant Hill. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap.

On 23 October 1864, Order No. 70 was issued, directing that John Bullard be transferred from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company D to I Company. Bullard, who had mustered in as a Cook while the regiment was stationed in Louisiana, would continue to serve with I Company for the duration of the war and muster out with his regiment on Christmas Day in December 1865.

Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. On 14 November, 2nd Lieutenant George Stroop was promoted to the rank of Captain. 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.

1865 – 1866

On 20 January 1865, Corporal Isaac Baldwin, twice wounded in battle, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant; on 30 January, Corporal George W. Clay became a 2nd Lieutenant; on 30 March, Captain George Stroop was also promoted again, this time to the rank of Major.

Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. where, on 19 April, they were 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 otherwise resupplied.

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.)

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

Captain Levi Stuber of Company I was promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central staff during this time. On 1-2 Jun 1865, 1st Lieutenant George W. Kosier was promoted to the rank of Captain and leadership of Company D prior to the mustering out of Major George Stroop, who had completed his term of service; 2nd Lieutenant George W. Clay was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

On their final southern tour, Company D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, they quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.

But once again, disease stalked the 47th. Many who did not survive were initially interred in Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery. One day after Independence Day, Corporal Theodore Troup was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, Sergeant James Crownover advanced to the rank of 1st Sergeant, and 1st Sergeant Jesse Meadath became a 2nd Lieutenant.

And, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company D, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers finally 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.

Many went on to live long full lives. Some, like their former commanding officers, Tilghman H. Good, contributed greatly to their communities. Far more faded quietly into the background, content to take up farming, carpentry or other trades to support their new and growing families.

 

Sources:

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

2. Burial Ledgers, in Record Group 15, The National Cemetery Administration, and Record Group 92, U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1861-1865.

3. 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.

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

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

6. Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records (baptismal, marriage, death and burial records of various churches across Pennsylvania). Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

7. Interment Control Forms, in Record Group 92, U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General. College Park: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

8. Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

9. 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.

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

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s