Born in Pennsylvania in 1833, David W. Huber was a son of Pennsylvania natives, David and Deborah Huber (born sometime around 1802 and 18o7, respectively). In 1850, David Huber (Huber family patriarch and father of child David W. and his siblings) was employed a a saddler in the Borough of Easton, where he resided with his wife, older children Charles, John and Elizabeth, and David W., as well as the youngest Huber children Edward and Mary. (Charles, John and David W., all also saddlers, were born respectively, in 1824, 1830, and 1832. Elizabeth, John’s twin, was also born in 1830. Edward and Mary followed in 1837 and 1842, respectively.)
In 1861, the younger David W. Huber was employed as a painter, but still residing in Easton with his mother, who was now a widow. Living with them were David W. Huber’s siblings: Elizabeth (now 28), Edward (now 23 and employed as a silver plater) and Mary (now age 18), as well as 40-year-old milliner Anna M. Hess and her children, Anna (age 19) and George (a 17-year-0ld clerk).
By 1861, at the dawn of the Civil War, David W. Huber was 28 years old, still living in Easton, and once again employed as a saddler.
Civil War – Three Months’ Military Service
David W. Huber became one of the earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help defend the nation’s capital following the mid-April 1861 fall of Fort Sumter. Enrolling for military service Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 20 April 1861, he mustered in at the massive Union Army staging area on the same day as a Private with Company D, 1st Pennsylvania Infantry.
Transported with his regiment via the Northern Central Railroad to Maryland at Cockeysville, Private David W. Huber and his regiment then spent time at Camp Scott near York, Pennsylvania before being ordered to railroad guard duties near Baltimore, Maryland from 14-25 May 1861. From there, his regiment was assigned to protect the Harper’s Ferry Road from 25 May to June 3, moving to Catonsville (25 May) and Franklintown (29 May) before being ordered back across the border and stationed at Chambersburg (3 June). Sent on an expedition to Rockville, Maryland from 10 June to 7 July, Private Huber and his regiment were attached to the 2nd Brigade (under Wyncoop), 2nd Division (under Keim) in General Robert Patterson’s Army.
Ordered to Hagerstown, Maryland on 18 June and then to Funkstown, Goose Creek and Edward’s Ferry, the regiment remained in that vicinity until 22 June, when it was ordered to Frederick, Maryland. Assigned with other Union regiments to occupy the town of Martinsburg, Virginia from 8-21 July (following the Battle of Falling Waters earlier that month), Private David W. Huber and his regiment were sent to Harper’s Ferry on 21 July. Following the honorable completion of his Three Months’ Service, Private Huber mustered out with his regiment on 23 July 1861.
Civil War – Three-Year Term of Service
Like many of the other early responders, David W. Huber knew the fight to preserve America’s Union was far from over that Summer of 1861. So, he re-enlisted for a three-year tour of duty. Enrolling at Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 25 August 1861, he mustered in again at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg – this time on 16 September 1861 as a Private with Company E of the newly formed 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records of the period describe him as being 5’4-1/2″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion.
According to historian Lewis Schmidt, the men of E Company were issued:
1 light blue overcoat, 1 extra good blouse, 1 pair dark pantaloons, 2 white flannel shirts, 2 pair drawers, 2 pair socks, 1 pair shoes, 1 cap, 1 knapsack (suspended from shoulder), 1 haversack (suspended from waist), 1 canteen,” and “received 71 rifles on the 19th.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, the men of Company E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were transported by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. The next day, C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update to his 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 the 24th of that same month, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the U.S. Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service.
The next day, 25 September, David W. Huber, George Washington Hahn and Frederick J. Scott of E Company described their early moments with the 47th Pennsylvania via a letter from Camp Kalorama to the Easton Daily Evening Express:
[A]fter a ride of about twenty-four hours in those delightful cattle cars, we came in sight of the Capitol of the U.S. with colors flying and the band playing and everyone in the best of spirits…. We have one of the best camps in the Union; plenty of shade trees, water and food at present; we have had no ‘Hardees’ [hardtack] yet in this camp, but no doubt we will have them in abundance by and by. But we can cook them in so many different ways, they are better than beef. We soak them over night, fry them for breakfast, stew them for dinner, and warm them over for supper…. The way we pass our time in the evening is as follows: first, after supper, we have a good Union song, then we read, write, crack jokes and sing again. We are ‘gay and happy’ and always shall be while the stars and stripes float over us.
…. We have a noble Colonel and an excellent Band, and the company officers throughout are well drilled for their positions. Our boys are well and contented; satisfied with their clothing, satisfied with their rations, and more than all satisfied with their officers, from Captain to the 8th Corporal. Our boys will stand by the Captain till the last man falls….
This morning we … visited Georgetown Heights; we stood on top of the reservoir and from there had a fine view of the Federal forts and forces on the other side of the Potomac. It looks impossible for an enemy to enter Washington, so strongly fortified is every hill and the camps connect for miles along the river. We saw General McClellan and Professor Lowe taking a view of the Confederate army from the balloon. The rebels are now only four miles from here….
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 a bridge marked as “Chain Bridge” on federal maps.
Marching 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, 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 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 John Milton Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
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.
By the afternoon on 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 while the officers boarded last. 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, Company E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. On 14 February, the regiment made its presence known to area residents via a parade through the city’s streets.
Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at this federal installation. Per Schmidt, Captain Charles H. Yard commanded three regiments charged with “clearing land and cutting roads” in April 1862. A “fine military road had been cut by the brigade from Fort Taylor directly through the island.”
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.”
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), which had been abandoned by Confederate forces due to the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.
Companies E and K of the 47th were then led by Captain Yard on a special mission; ordered by their superiors to help extend the Union Army’s reach further along the Saint John’s River, and venturing deeper and deeper into Confederate territory, the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s E and K Companies collaborated with other Union Army soldiers to scope out and subsequently gain control of the town of Jacksonville, Florida on 5 October 1862. The combined Union force had also been charged with capturing or destroying the Confederate-controlled watercraft they encountered along the way.
A day later, while sailing aboard the Union gunboat Darlington (formerly a Confederate steamer) – with protection from the Union gunboat Hale, men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies E and K then traveled 200 miles along the Saint John’s River in order to capture the Gov. Milton on 6 October 1862. Another Confederate steamer, the Governor Milton was reported to be docked near Hawkinsville, and had been engaged in furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies to Confederate Army units scattered throughout the region, including the batteries at Saint John’s Bluff and Yellow Bluff.
Identified as a thorn that needed to be plucked from the Union’s side, the Gov. Milton was seized by Companies E and K with support from other Union troops. Their expedition having gone deep enough into Confederate territory, the combined Union Army-Navy team sailed the Gov. Milton and other ships back down the Saint John’s River, and moved the Milton behind Union lines.
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. (“T. H.”) Good and Lieutenant Colonel George Warren (“G. W.”) Alexander, the entire 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined with other Union regiments to engage the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge. A key piece of the South’s railroad infrastructure, Union leaders were determine that it should be destroyed.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, the combined Union force met resistance from yet another entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which let loose with intense fire as they entered an open cotton field. A significant number of Union troops were wounded or killed.
Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they were battered by artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. But the Union soldiers would not give in; grappling with the Confederates where they found them, they pursued the Rebels for four miles as the Confederate Army retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. Unfortunately, the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of dogged fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, the 47th was forced by depleted ammunition supplies to withdraw to Mackey’s Point.
Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant. Captain Charles Mickley was killed and Captain George Junker mortally wounded. Lieutenant William Geety was wounded, but survived, as did E Company’s Corporal Reuben Weiss, and Privates Nathan Derr, William A. Force and George Coult. Wounded in both legs (including a gunshot to the left leg), Corporal Weiss returned to action after convalescing, and served for another two years until being honorably discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate. Privates Nathan Derr, George Hahn, and William Force were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates on 2 February 1863, 25 February 1863, and 10 April 1863, respectively. Private George Coult was deemed too unfit to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania – but not so unfit he was unable to serve at all; he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on 16 March 1864.
Privates Henry A. Backman, Nathan George, Samuel Minnick, George B. Rose and 14 other enlisted men died; a total of 114 had been wounded in action. Although Private John Lind initially survived, he died from his wounds two days later at the Union Army hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina (on 24 October 1862).
On 20 November 1862, Private David W. Huber was honorably discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability and sent home to Easton, Pennsylvania. The timing and nature of this discharge from duty indicates that Private Huber may also have been wounded during the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina or during one of its related skirmishes between 21-23 October 1862 – or that he came down with one of the tropical illnesses plaguing the 47th Pennsylvania around this time.
Continuation of Civil War Service – 1864
After recuperating at home, Private David W. Huber then re-enlisted on 2 December 1863 at Harrisburg with the same company and regiment (Company E, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers). He subsequently reconnected with his company and regiment from a recruiting depot on 3 January 1864.
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, his regiment had spent much of 1863 garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. The men of E Company had joined with Companies A, B, C, G, and I in guarding Key West’s Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas. Located off Florida’s southwestern coast, it was reachable only by boat.
As with their previous assignments, the men soon came to realize that disease would be their constant companion and foe – making 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 – and that Private David W. Huber, having already been felled in October of 1862 by disease or in battle, would choose to re-enlist and return to military life in such a harsh climate.
The soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania remained in Florida until 25 February 1864, when the regiment set off for a phase of service in which it would make history. Steaming 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. 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. A number of men were wounded or killed in action during the Battles of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill (8-9 April 1864); others were captured and marched 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp, where they were held as prisoners of war (POWs) until being released in prisoner exchanges in July, August or November. Still others were claimed by disease.
Discharged again sometime in 1864 and sent back home to Easton, Pennsylvania, this time Private David W. Huber was released on a “sick furlough” to recuperate, but after all that had happened to him, his body was just too damaged. He died at home in Easton from disease-related complications on 18 October 1864.
The handwriting on his entry in the U.S. Army’s Register of Deaths of Volunteers is difficult to read in some segments, but states:
While on furl from [illegible – possibly ‘G.H.’, the designation for hospital] Jefferson.
Above this entry, someone also wrote “Barracks” and then possibly “Mo”.
This appears to indicate that Private David Huber was taken ill while the 47th was stationed at Fort Jefferson in Tortugas, Florida, and left behind at the hospital there to recuperate while the remainder of the 47th moved on to the Red River Campaign in Louisiana. (And that, when he didn’t improve sufficiently, he was then sent home to a better climate and better care.)
He was interred in plot S1 at the Easton Cemetery in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
Major Engagements During Private David W. Huber’s First Term of Service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: Defense of the nation’s capital (Fall 1861); garrisoning of Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida (February-June 1861); duty with the U.S. Army’s Beaufort District, South Carolina (June 1862-30 September 1862); capture of Saint John’s Bluff, Florida (1-3 October 1862); capture of Jacksonville, Florida (5 October 1862); capture of the Confederate steamer, Gov. Milton (6 October 1862); Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (21-23 October 1862).
Continued Engagements with the 47th After His Return from the Surgeon’s Certificate Discharge: Garrisoning of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida and/or Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
3. Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
4. Registers of Deaths of Volunteer Soldiers. Washington, D.C. U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General, U.S. National Archives.
5. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
6. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C.: 1850, 1860.