Alternate Spellings of Surname: Kerkendall, Kirkendall
Jacob M. and Peter Kerkendall were Pennsylvania natives who opted to plant the seeds of their families in the Garden State following the conclusion of America’s traumatic Civil War.
Born in Pennsylvania respectively in December 1842 and October 1846 (with alternate birth years of 1843 and 1847), the brothers spent their formative years in the Keystone State with siblings John and Albert. Various documents confirm that their father was also a Keystone State native while their mother may have been born in New Jersey, and that Diana Ehrie and George Wilhelm were half-siblings.
As America descended into the darkness of secession and Civil War, the brothers were confirmed to be residents of the City of Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where Jacob and Peter Kerkendall were employed, respectively, as a boatman and laborer.
In 1861, military records documented that Jacob Kerkendall was 5’ 5” tall with black hair, black eyes, and a dark complexion. At the time of his own enlistment three years later, Peter Kerkendall was also similarly described – 5’ 4-¾”tall with brown hair, black eyes, and a dark complexion.
Civil War Military Service
Jacob M. Kerkendall was the first of the two brothers to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help preserve America’s union. After enrolling at the age of 19 at Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 16 September 1861, he then officially mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County the same day as a Private with Company E of the newly established 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
* Note: The initial recruitment for members to fill Company E was conducted in Easton. The smallest of the 10 companies which made up the regiment, the unit mustered in with just 83 men at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 16 September 1861. It was led by Captain Charles Hickman Yard.
According to Lewis Schmidt, author of A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers:
Capt. Yard had been enrolling men at Yard’s Saloon in Easton and took part of his company to Harrisburg on Friday, August 23, to be attached to Col. Good’s ‘Zouaves’ (a title that did not remain long with the 47th). The Captain had been recruiting men since August 13, and a number of men were still needed to fill the unit which would become Company E in the 47th…. By Monday the 26th, an additional 40 men were ready and another group left for Harrisburg. But the company was still not filled and the Captain planned to return to recruit the remaining members.
These groups were ‘sworn’ (probably enrolled) into the state service on the 28th, and placed in the hands of 1st Lt. [Lawrence] Bonstein for instruction in the drill, while the Captain returned to Easton to ‘shanghai’ some more recruits at Yard’s Saloon.
It was not until the following Monday, September 2 that an additional group of 24 men had been recruited and Capt. Yard left with these men in the morning, planning to return and complete the enrollment of the unit later.
Also according to 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. Henry D. Wharton, a Musician with C Company, penned the following update to the Sunbury American on 22 September:
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 man 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.
…. 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.
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, George Washington Hahn of E Company, David Huber and F. J. Scott described their early days 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 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 [sic], 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 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. In his 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….
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.” 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.” As a reward for their performance – and in preparation for even bigger adventures and honors to come, Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.
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, they were then sent by rail to Alexandria. Sailing the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, they were then reequipped before being 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.
As the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers commenced boarding the Oriental during the afternoon of 27 January, they were ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers. The officers boarded last and, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, 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.
Arriving in Key West by early 1862, they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents during a parade through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of soldiers from the regiment attended to their spiritual needs during services at local churches.
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.
* Note: The capture of Saint John’s Bluff followed a string of U.S. Army and Navy successes which enabled the Union to gain control over key southern towns and transportation hubs. In November 1861, the Union’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron established a base at Port Royal, South Carolina, enabling the Union to mount expeditions to Georgia and Florida. During these forays, U.S. troops took possession of Fort Clinch and Fernandina, Florida (3-4 March 1862), secured the surrender of Fort Marion and Saint Augustine (11 March), and established a Union Navy base at Mayport Mills (mid-March). That summer, Brigadier-General Joseph Finnegan, commanding officer of the Confederate States of America’s Department of Middle and Eastern Florida, placed gun batteries atop Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River and at Yellow Bluff nearby. Fortified with earthen works, the batteries were created to disable the Union’s naval and ground force operations at and beyond Mayport Mills, and were designed to house up to 18 cannon, including three eight-inch siege howitzers and eight-inch smoothbores and Columbiads (two of each).
After an exchange of fire between U.S. gunboats Uncas and Patroon and the Rebel battery at Saint John’s Bluff on 11 September, Rebel troops returned after initially being driven away. When a second, larger Union gunboat flotilla also failed to shake the Rebels loose again six days later, Union military leaders ordered a more concerted operation combining ground troops with naval support.
Backed by the U.S. gunboats Cimarron, E.B. Hale, Paul Jones, Uncas and Water Witch and their 12-pound boat howitzers, the 1,500-strong Union Army force commanded by Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan advanced up the Saint John’s River and inland along the Pablo and Mt. Pleasant Creeks on 1 October 1862 before disembarking and marching for the battery atop Saint John’s Bluff. The next day, Union gunboats exchanged shellfire with the Rebel battery while the Union ground force continued on. When the 47th Pennsylvanians reached Saint John’s Bluff with their fellow brigade members on 3 October 1862, they found an abandoned battery. (Other Union troops discovered that the Yellow Bluff battery was also Rebel-free.)
With those successes, Union leaders ordered the gunboats and army troops to extend the expedition. As they did, they captured assorted watercraft as they advanced further up the river.
Companies E and K of the 47th were then led by Captain Yard on a special mission – the reconnaissance and subsequent capture of Jacksonville, Florida on 5 October 1862.
A day later, sailing up river on board 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 also then traveled 200 miles along the Saint John’s River in order to capture the Gov. Milton. Another Confederate steamer, the Gov. 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. Corporal George R. Nichols of E Company was one of the men involved in the steamer’s capture. According to Schmidt, Corporal Nichols later wrote about the incident:
At 9 PM … October 7, discovered the steamer Gov. Milton in a small creek, 2 miles above Hawkinsville; boarded her in a small boat, and found that she had been run in there but a short time before, as her fires were not yet out. Her engineer and mate, then in charge, were asleep on board at the time of her capture. They informed us that owing to the weakness of the steamer’s boiler we found her where we did….
I commanded one of the Small Boats that went in after her. I was Boatman and gave orders when the headman jumped on Bord [sic] take the Painter with him. That however Belongs to Wm. Adams or Jacob Kerkendall. It was So dark I could not tell witch [sic] Struck the deck first. But when I Struck the deck I demanded the Surrend [sic] of the Boat in the name of the U.S. after we had the boat an offercier [sic] off [sic] the Paul Jones, a Gun Boat was with us he ask me how Soon could I move her out in the Stream I said five minuts [sic]. So an Engineer one of coulered [sic] Men helped Me. and I will Say right hear [sic] he learned Me More than I ever knowed about Engineering. Where we started down the River we was one hundred and twenty five miles up the river. When we Stopped at Polatkey [Palatka] to get wood for the Steamer I went out and Borrowed a half of a deer that hung up in a [sic] out house and a bee hive for some honey for the Boys. I never forget the boys.
Nichols also noted that he and his party “returned with our prize the next day,” adding that he was then ordered to remain with the Gov. Milton:
So hear [sic] we are at Jacksonville and off we go down the river again, and the Captain Yard said you are detailed on detached duty as Engineer well that beats hell. I told him I did not Enlist for an Engineer. well I cannot help it he said. I got orders for you to stay hear [sic].. When the Boys was gone about a week orders came for us to come to Beaufort, S. Carolina by the inland rout [sic] over Museley Mash Rout [sic]. So I Borrowed a twelve pound gun with amanition [sic] for to Protect ourselves with. But I only used it once to clear Some cavalry away. We Passed fort Palask. But that was in our Possession and we got Back to Beaufort all right. and I whent [sic] up to see the Boys and Beged [sic] captain to get me Back in the company, But he could not make it go.
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 which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from yet another 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. 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 intense 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. 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 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby M. 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.
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 U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. The men of E Company again joined with Companies A, B, C, G, and I in guarding Key West’s Fort Taylor 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 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. 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. Among those choosing to re-up was Private Jacob M. Kerkendall. After re-enlisting for a second three-year term at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida on 21 October 1863, he then officially re-mustered at Fort Jefferson on 27 October.
Barely a month into the New Year of 1864, Private Jacob Kerkendall’s younger brother, Peter, elected to join him in the fight to preserve America’s union. After enrolling and officially mustering in for military service at Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 2 February 1864, he connected with his regiment via a recruiting depot. He was just 18 years old when he became a Private with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers’ E Company.
On 25 February 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry then set off for a phase of service in which the regiment 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.
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. Private Richard Hahn was killed in action. 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 from July through November. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out alive.
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 to resupply and regroup until 22 April. Retreating to Alexandria, they and their fellow Union soldiers next 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, enabling federal gunboats to more easily traverse the fluctuating water levels and rapids of the Red River.
Beginning 16 May, Captain Charles Yard and E Company moved with the majority of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June. 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.
Still able and willing to fight after their Bayou battles, the soldiers of Company E and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, F, H, and I returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864. Following their arrival and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they joined up with Major-General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, and 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 1864, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia during the opening days of that month, and then engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements over the next several weeks between Halltown, Berryville and other locations within the vicinity (Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester) as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early. From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then fought in the Battle of Berryville.
The month of September also saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, E Company’s Captain Charles H. Yard and Captain Henry S. Harte of F Company. All three mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service. Those members of the 47th who remained 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 E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians 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.
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. 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. 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.
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, 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.
Despite the intensity of the fighting in both battles and their related skirmishes, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry emerged with a low casualty rate compared to other Union regiments. Unfortunately, Company E was one of the units from the 47th which was impacted with Privates Edward Smith and Jacob M. Kerkendall wounded, respectively, during the fighting at Opequan on 19 September and at Fisher’s Hill on 22 September 1864.
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 H. 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 were 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 had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and regimental commanding officer).
Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 October 1864
During the Fall of 1864, General 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 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, as were Sergeant Francis A. Parks and Private Marcus Berksheimer.
Meanwhile, Company E’s Corporal Edward W. Menner and Privates Andrew Burk, John Kunker, Owen Moser, Jacob Ochs, and John Peterson were all wounded in action. Kunker, Menner, Moser, Ochs, and Peterson survived but Private Burk was less fortunate. Having sustained gunshot wounds to the head and upper right arm, he made it through a surgical procedure to remove bone matter from his brain only to succumb two days before Christmas (on 23 December 1864) to phthisis, a chronic wasting away.
Still others were captured and held as prisoners of war in abysmal conditions; a fair number died from starvation or disease before they could be freed.
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, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. Sometime in March 1865, Private Jacob M. Kerkendall, who had been wounded during the fighting at Fisher’s Hill on 22 September 1864, was wounded again at or near Charlestown in March 1865.
On 19 April 1864, 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 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 also advanced to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central staff during this time.
On their final southern tour, Company E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, U.S. Department of the South.
One 47th Pennsylvanian who would not make this trip, however, was Private Jacob M. Kerkendall. Having been wounded at or near Charlestown in March 1865, he was transported to the Union Army’s General Hospital at Cumberland, Maryland. After convalescing successfully there, he was then honorably discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 20 July 1865, and shipped home.
Meanwhile, his brother, Private Peter E. Kerkendall continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Following the regiment’s assignment in Savannah, the 47th then took over for the 165th New York Volunteers at their duty post in Charleston, South Carolina in July, and were quartered at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.
Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that 1865, the majority of the men of Company E, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry – including Private Peter E. Kerkendall – began to honorably muster out at Charleston – 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 transported 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 – Jacob and Peter Kerkendall
Following his honorable discharge from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 20 July 1865 (after surviving his second battle wound), Jacob M. Kerkendall, the former boatman of Easton turned soldier, returned home to his family and friends.
Sometime around 1874, he wed Pennsylvania native Martha Sargent (1854-1945; alternate maiden name Weber). By the 1880s, they were making their home in Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey. In 1880, they greeted the arrival of son Oliver (1880-1928), who was followed on 7 July 1889) by another boy. Although this child was not named on New Jersey birth records, it is clear from later census records that this was the Kerkendall’s son, Harold.
On 25 May 1891, Jacob M. Kerkendall was awarded a U.S. Civil War Pension of $12 per month (retroactive to 29 July 1890), which was then increased to $19 per month (on 3 December 1912), $25 per month (on 8 July 1914 – retroactive to 10 December 1913), $30 per month (on 10 December 1918), and $40 per month (on 10 June 1918).
That same year, on New Year’s Eve (31 December 1891), Jacob and Martha Kerkendall welcomed son Leon to their Phillipsburg home.
Still residing in Phillipsburg, Warren County, the Kerkendall household included Jacob and Martha and their children: Oliver, Harold, and Leon. Also residing at the home was Reuben Kerkendall. The 1900 U.S. Census noted that the family grouping had changed somewhat with Jacob and Martha sharing their home only with sons Harold and Leon, who were both still in school, and “Charley Sergeant,” a boarder. Jacob supported his family on his wages as a laborer at a local foundry.
In 1905 and 1910, census records documented that Martha and Jacob Kerkendall, a store clerk in 1910, shared their Phillipsburg home only with sons, Harold, a weaver, and Leon, a collector for the telephone company. By 1915, Harold was the only son still at home, and was described on that year’s census as a silk weaver.
Meanwhile, during this same time, Jacob’s brother, Peter Kerkendall was starting his own family. After marrying Pennsylvania native Isabella Till (1843-1921) sometime around 1869, they also settled in Warren County, New Jersey.
Daughter Minnie (1870-1946) arrived in November 1870, followed by sons William Edward (1871-1930), Clarence (born circa 1872), and Robert Floyd (1877-1919).
In 1885, Peter and Isabella Kerkendall resided in the 4th Ward of Phillipsburg with those same four children.
All but Clarence were still residing at the Kerkendall family home in Phillipsburg by the time of the 1900 federal census. Patriarch Peter supported the family as a laborer with help from William, a silk weaver.
Death and Interment – Peter Kerkendall
Just a few short years into the new century, Peter Kerkendall was gone. The 4 April 1906 edition of the Easton Daily Express reported his passing as follows:
Peter Kirkendall died this morning at 10 o’clock at his home, No. 132 Bullman street, of a complication of diseases, aged 60 years. Deceased was well known here. He was a veteran of the Civil War and served in company E, forty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Besides his widow, deceased leaves the following children: Miss Minnie Kirkendall, William P., Clarence, and Robert F. Kirkendall of Phillipsburg; three brothers, Rinalda [sic] and Jacob Kirkendall of Phillipsburg, and John Kirkendall of Montana; one sister, Mrs. Catharine Shafer, and one half-sister, Mrs. Diana Ehrie, both of Phillipsburg.
Deceased was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, and J. G. Tolmie Post 50, G.A.R.
He was then laid to rest at the Easton Cemetery in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. His gravestone spelled his surname as “Kerkendall.”
Per U.S. Veterans Administration records, his widow, Isabella, was awarded a U.S. Civil War Pension of $12 per month on 5 January 1907 (retroactive to 5 April 1906). That rate was then increased to $20 per month (on 8 September 1916), $25 per month (on 6 October 1917), and $30 per month (on 1 May 1920).
The 1910, U.S. Census then documented that Isabella Kerkendall continued to reside in Phillipsburg, Warren County, Jersey, following her husband’s death. Also residing with her were their children: Minnie (a dressmaker), William (a weaver) and Robert (a dyer).
Before another decade could pass, however, Isabella Kerkendall also lost her son, Robert, who passed away in 1919; he was laid to rest at the same cemetery where his father had been buried – the Easton Cemetery in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
Two years later, on 3 April 1921, family matriarch Isabella (Till) Kerkendall also joined husband Peter and son Robert in death. She, too, was laid to rest at the Easton Cemetery, as were son William, who passed away in 1930, and daughter Minnie, who passed away in 1946.
Despite having been wounded in action twice during America’s Civil War, Jacob Kerkendall outlived his younger brother by more than a decade. Answering his own final bugle call on 13 January 1922, he was then laid to rest at the Phillipsburg Cemetery in Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey. His surname was spelled as “Kirkendall” on his gravestone.
Two decades later, his widow, Martha (Sargent) Kerkendall, followed him in death. After passing away in Wilson, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, she was laid to rest beside her husband at the Phillipsburg Cemetery in Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
2. Kerkendall, Clarence and Lizzie L. Cater, in New Jersey Marriages, 1678-1985 (Clarence Kerkendall and Lizzie L. Cater, 29 Jun 1898; citing 589,819). Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch.
3. Kerkendall, Peter, Jacob Kirkendall, Isabella T. Kerkendall and Martha Kirkendall. Pension Payment Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Veterans Administration, 1907-1921.
4.Kerkendall, Jacob and Peter, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
5. Kirkendall, Jacob and Peter, in 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., 1861-1865.
6. Kirkendall, Peter. Easton, Pennsylvania: Easton Daily Express, 4 April 1906.
7. Kirkendall, Un-named Sons, Jacob Kirkendall and Martha Sergent, in New Jersey, Births, 1670-1980 (FamilySearch database transcribed from New Jersey Department of State, Division of Archives and Record Management records for 7 July 1889 and 31 December 1891, Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey; FHL microfilm 494,215 and 494,221). Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch.
8. New Jersey State Census. Trenton, New Jersey: 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915.
9. Schmidt, Lewis A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
10. U.S. Census and U.S. Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War (1890). Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and New Jersey: 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910.