Born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 16 June 1828, Henry Heikle lived in Reed Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania in 1850 with his mother, Mary (a Pennsylvania native born sometime around 1790), and his brother, Joseph (born in Pennsylvania about 1831). Sarah Earles, aged 16, also lived with the family at this time.
According to a listing of boatmen in the History of Perry County, Pennsylvania penned by Harry Harrison Hain:
From Montgomery’s Ferry came the three Fortney brothers, Charles, William, and Jacob; Valentine Arndt and Farmer Bair. The island (Duncan’s) contributed Henry Heikel, David Miller, John Briner, John Lukens, and others.
Civil War Military Service
Heikel also became one of the county’s earliest to enlist in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops following the fall of Fort Sumter. Joining Company E, 1st Pennsylvania Infantry on 18 April 1861, he served as a Private before mustering out on 24 July 1861 after having completed his Three Months’ Service.
As with many of Pennsylvania’s earliest responders, he joined up again again, this time re-enrolling for military service at Bloomfield in Perry County, Pennsylvania on 20 August 1861 before mustering in again at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County as a Sergeant under Captain Henry Durant Woodruff of Company D of the newly established 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Military records at the time described him as being a 33-year-old boatman residing in Benvenue, Dauphin County. Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, Captain Woodruff and his Company D soldiers were sent by train with their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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. The next day, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for 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.
As part of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Sergeant Heikel and Company D became part of the federal service when the 47th Pennsylvania mustered into the U.S. Army on 24 September. On September 27, a rainy, drill-free day which permitted many of the men to read or write letters home, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of W.F. Smith’s Army of the Potomac. That afternoon, they marched to the Potomac River’s eastern side and, after arriving at Camp Lyon, Maryland, marched double-quick over a chain bridge before moving on toward Fall’s Church, Virginia.
Arriving at Camp Advance at dusk, they pitched their tents in a deep ravine about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, near a new federal military facility under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, they would join with their regiment, the 3rd Brigade and Smith’s Army of the Potomac in defending the nation’s capital until January when the 47th Pennsylvania would be ordered to duty in the Deep 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 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.
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 that day – and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered his subordinates to ensure that brand new Springfield rifles were purchased for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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 Fall’s 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.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the enlisted men boarded first, followed by their superior officers. 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 Henry Heikel and his fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania arrived in Key West, Florida where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor and drilled daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies. On 14 February, the regiment made itself known to area residents via a parade through the city’s streets.
From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men pitched their tents before being housed in the U.S. 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.”
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 Battle 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 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 by both sides 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 regimental 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 prisoner exchanges in July and November.
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 they 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.
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. Then, on the 4th of July, they learned their fight was not yet over as the regiment received new orders to set sail yet again.
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, E, F, H, and I boarded the McClellan and steamed away for the East Coast on 7 July.
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they then joined Major-General David Hunter’s forces in the fighting at Snicker’s Gap and, once again, 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, early and mid-September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, 1st Lieutenant Samuel Auchmuty, Corporal Cornelius Stewart, and Sergeants Alex Wilson an Henry Heikel. All mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 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.
After the War
Returning home after the war, Henry operated a hotel in Fisherville, Reed Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania in 1870 with his wife, Martha (Berly Miller) Heikel. Living with them were sons, Christian B. Heikel (born about 1868) and Henry J. Heikel (born August 1870). Henry’s stepson, David E. Miller (born about 1861), was also living with Henry and Martha at the time. (Note: Both Christian and Henry are listed as Henry’s stepsons on the 1880 census, and were listed with the same surname – “Miller” – as their brother, David.) Others living with the family in 1870 included 15-year-old Mary Siders and 12-year-old Alda Michael, servants; and Jacob Fletcher, Jacob Holman, and Lorenzo Michaels, laborers who were lodging at the hotel.
By 1880, Henry was working as a Retail Grocer and living in Reed Township with Martha, David, Thomas, and Henry. He remained in Reed Township with Martha until his death in 1893, and was interred at the Presbyterian Cemetery in Duncannon.
Described by the Harrisburg Telegraph in a brief notice of his death as “an old Susquehanna boatman,” Henry Heikel passed away at Duncan’s Island on 1 October 1893.
He was interred at the Duncannon Presbyterian Cemetery in Duncannon, Perry County, Pennsyvania.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Hain, Harry Harrison. History of Perry County, Pennsylvania. Including Descriptions of Indians and Pioneer Life from the Time of Earliest Settlement. Harrisburg: Hain-Moore Company, 1922.
3. Harrisburg Telegraph (Heikel death notice). Harrisburg: 2 October 1893.
4. Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Veterans Affairs.
5. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
6. U.S. Census (1850, 1880) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C.