Captain Edwin Gilbert – A Soldier’s Soldier

Born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 18 November 1834, Edwin Gilbert was a son of Julia (Troxell) Gilbert (1807-1876) and William H. Gilbert (1805-1862), a New Jersey native who operated a mill and collected tolls at Biery’s Bridge after relocating to Pennsylvania.

In 1850, he lived in Lehigh Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania with his parents and younger sister, Helena (born sometime around 1833). There, he helped to support his family on a laborer’s wages.

Before the decade was out, Edwin Gilbert had wed Ellen Caroline Tombler (1831-1914). A native of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, she was a daughter of Daniel Tombler (1796-1841) and Catharine (Hartzell) Tombler (1797-1852).

On 31 January 1856, Edwin and Ellen welcomed daughter Rebecca Gilbert (1856-1914) to the world. (Rebecca went on to wed Nathan Bartholomew in 1881.)

Son David William Gilbert (1857-1916) followed on 28 September 1857, and another daughter, Alice C. Gilbert (1859-1932) arrived on 25 September 1859. (David went on to wed Annie Frey in 1880. Alice married Sylvester Minich.)

Captain Gilbert’s namesake, son Edwin, was born sometime around 1861, later wed Lillian, and passed away at the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia in 1942.

Civil War Military Service

Edwin Gilbert enrolled for military service at the age of 27 on 21 August 1861 at Catasauqua, Lehigh County and mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 30 August as a Corporal with Company F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time described him as a carpenter who was 5’6” tall with brown hair, light eyes and a light complexion.

While the dates of his early promotions up through the ranks from Corporal to 1st Sergeant remain unclear, what is certain is that Edwin Gilbert re-enlisted for a second three-year term of service on 19 October 1863 while stationed with his company at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. After distinguishing himself in combat, he was then promoted from the rank of 1st Sergeant to Captain on 1 January 1865.

The 1890 U.S. Veterans’ Schedule noted that he suffered sunstroke at some point while serving with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and that it was a serious enough episode that he was still classified as a veteran with a disability nearly three decades later.

1861

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

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

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

While at Camp Kalorama, Corporal Gilbert’s F Company superior, Captain Henry S. Harte, issued his first directive (Company Order No. 1) that the company drill four times per day, each time for one hour.

On 24 September, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the U.S. Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service.

On 27 September – 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.

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 mid-October, 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.”

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

As a reward for their performance that day – and in preparation for the even bigger adventures which awaited them on the horizon, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

1862

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

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

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at 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.

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

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

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

In early February 1862, Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation.

The 47th’s early days here were not easy. Several members of the regiment fell ill, largely due to poor sanitary conditions and water quality. Some were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates; others died in the regimental hospital at Fort Taylor, and were interred at the Key West Post Cemetery. (The remains of most of these men were then later exhumed and relocated to the Barrancas National Cemetery in Florida.)

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

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

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

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

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

Union leaders then ordered the gunboats and army troops to extend the expedition, which they did, capturing assorted watercraft as they advanced further up the river. During this phase, Companies E and K of the 47th were led by Captain Charles Yard (E Company’s captain) in capturing Jacksonville, Florida (5 October) and the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer. Docked near Hawkinsville, the Milton had been furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies not only to the Rebel battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, but to other Confederate Army units scattered throughout the region.

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

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

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant. Captain Charles Mickley of G Company was killed in action. Captain George Junker of Company K was mortally wounded, as was Private John O’Brien of Company F, who died on 26 October while being treated for his wounds at the Union Army’s hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Still more were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates.

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

1863

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

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

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

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

1864

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

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. 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.

Map of the Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads Area, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, April 1864. (Source: General Nathaniel Banks’ official report on the Red River Campaign; public domain.)

Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads Area, Louisiana, April 1864. (Source: General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign report; public domain.)

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

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

Casualties were severe. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed; the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands, and Company F lost several men as well.

Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges on 22 July and in September and November. At least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out alive.

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

Known as "Bailey's Dam" for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 was designed to facilitate passage of Union gunboats to and from the Mississippi River. Photo: Public domain.

Christened “Bailey’s Dam” for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 eased passage of Union gunboats. Photo: Public domain.

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

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

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan from 5-12 July 1864 – but they did so without their commanding officer, Captain Henry S. Harte, who was ordered to serve on detached duty as the leader of the 47th Pennsylvanians serving with Companies B, G and K, who were left behind because the McClellan was unable to transport the entire regiment. (Captain Harte sailed later aboard the Blackstone with Companies B, G and K, and arrived in the Washington, D.C. area on 28 July.)

After arriving in Virginia, the men from F Company and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, where they assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August and once again under the command of Captain Henry S. Harte, mid-September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, E Company’s Captain Charles H. Yard, and F Company’s Captain Harte. All three mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.

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 F and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces at Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle of Cedar Creek, October 1864

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

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

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

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

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

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. Perry County resident and Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. More men from Company F were killed or wounded in action. Still others were captured and held as prisoners of war, several of whom died.

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

On New Year’s Day 1865, 1st Sergeant Edwin Gilbert was promoted to the rank of Captain. Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved back to Washington, D.C., via Winchester and Kernstown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On their final southern tour, the remaining men of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Attached again to Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. During this phase of duty, their responsibilities were largely Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related – rebuilding key pieces of the region’s infrastructure which had been damaged or destroyed during the long war.

Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania next quartered in Charleston at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.

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

Return to Civilian Life

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Captain Edwin Gilbert returned home to his wife and children in Lehigh County. In 1866, he and his wife, Ellen, welcomed son Franklin P. Sheridan Gilbert (1866-1910) to their home.

* Note: Franklin P. Sheridan Gilbert was most likely named for Philip Sheridan, the General who led the Union Army’s successful 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign – an engagement in which Captain Gilbert’s regiment, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, had served so gallantly.

He grew up to be a prominent local baseball player. His 1910 obituary in The Allentown Democrat recalled his glory days as it announced the news of his passing:

VETERAN BALL PLAYER DIED AT CATASAUQUA
Frank P. S. Gilbert Succumbed to Complications – Catcher of Old Iron Borough Nine

Death yesterday removed Frank P. S. Gilbert, aged 43 years, of Catasauqua, for many years prominent in the base ball [sic] circles of this vicinity.

Deceased had been ailing with a complication of diseases for about a year. For sixteen years he had been employed at the rollers of the Bryden Horse Shoe Works. On the diamond Gilbert for a number of years was catcher for the old Catasauqua nine, and also played in the Allentown State League team under Bill Sharsig. He was never married and leaves to mourn his death his parents, Capt. Edward [sic] G. and Ella C. Gilbert, two brothers, David of Catasauqua and Edward of Philadelphia, and three sisters, Mrs. Mabel Bartholomew of North Catasauqua, Mrs. Sylvester Minnich of Allentown, and Ellen Gilbert at home.

The funeral arrangements will be announced later.

Although the article contained incorrect information (Capt. Gilbert had passed away by this time and the given name of the captain and his namesake was “Edwin” rather than “Edward,” it does briefly illuminate Frank Gilbert’s baseball career. The Allentown Leader also announced Frank Gilbert’s death, and described him as follows:

FRANKLIN GILBERT AT REST

The funeral of Franklin P. S. Gilbert, the well-known base ball [sic] player, who died on Wednesday evening after a year’s illness, was held this afternoon and was attended by many relatives, friends, No Surrender Council No. 103, Jr. O. U. A. M., and Fullerton Beneficial Society, of which he was a member, and employes [sic] of the Bryden Horse Shoe Works. The services were held at the residence of his mother, Mrs. Edwin Gilbert, No. 733 Second Street, with whom he lived, Rev. R. W. Hand of St. John’s U.E. Church officiating. Interment was made in Fairview Cemetery. A number of handsome floral tokens were grouped about the casket.

In 1868, Captain Edwin Gilbert and his wife welcomed another son – Eugene Grant Gilbert.

On 23 August 1869, Edwin Gilbert was appointed to serve as Captain of a newly formed militia unit, the Sheridan Guards of Catasauqua. The Harrisburg Telegraph covered the news as follows:

THE SHERIDAN GUARDS of Catasauqua completed their organization on the 23d of August by the election of the following officers: Captain, Edwin Gilbert; First Lieutenant, Frank H. Wilson; Second Lieutenant, Augustus J. Dier.

In 1870, Edwin and Ellen Gilbert resided in Catasauqua with their children: Rebecca, David and Edwin Gilbert, Franklin P. Sheridan Gilbert, and Eugene Grant Gilbert. Here, Edwin continued to support his family as a carpenter.

Daughter Elizabeth W. Gilbert was born in 1871, followed by daughter Ella C. Gilbert (1872-1953) on 26 September 1872.

By 1880, the Gilbert family had added yet another new member – Annie, who had married the Gilbert’s son, David. Children Rebecca, Edwin, Franklin P. Sheridan, Elizabeth and Ellen were also all still living at home. Captain Edwin Gilbert continued to work as a carpenter while sons David and Edwin were employed, respectively as a hostler and laborer.

Edwin Gilbert became one of several officers to take an active interest in the financial plight of the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment. On 11 November 1889, the Lebanon Daily News reported that he had joined forces with his fellow Captain Charles H. Yard (Company E), 2nd Lieutenant Edward Menner (Company E), J. Gilbert Snyder, and their former regimental commanding officers Colonel John Peter Shindel Gobin, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Abbott to lobby the U.S. Congress provide substantial support for men who had fought during the Civil War:

Resolutions Regarding Pensions

BETHLEHEM, Pa., Nov. 11, – The survivors of the Forty-seventh regiment, Pennsylvania volunteers, Col. J. P. S. Gobin, have addressed the following resolution to the United States congress: ‘Resolved, That we heartily commend and endorse the per diem rated service pension bill, passed on the principle of paying all soldiers, sailors and marines a monthly pension of 1 cent for each day they were in service during the war of the rebellion, and we earnestly urge on congress the early passage of said bill.’ Signed by Charles H. Yard, president; Charles W. Abbott, secretary; Edwin Gilbert, Edward A. Menner and J. Gilbert Snyder. A number of survivors of the regiment are Bethlehemites.

In 1893, Captain Gilbert served on the planning committee for the 47th’s annual reunion.

Death, Funeral and Interment

As the Old Year waned in 1893, Edwin Gilbert suffered a stroke. The Allentown Leader prepared readers for the worst in its 1 January 1894 edition:

Capt. Edwin Gilbert, of Catasauqua, sustained a stroke of palsy last night, and has been unconscious since. His recovery is a matter of grave doubt.

The Harrisburg Telegraph conveyed the sad news of Captain Gilbert’s passing via its 2 January 1894 edition:

A Veteran Dead

ALLENTOWN, Jan. 2. – Edwin Gilbert, captain of company “F,” forty-seventh regiment during the rebellion was stricken with apoplexy during watch-night services at Catasauqua and died this morning.

The Allentown Leader provided an update on 3 January 1894:

Captain Edwin Gilbert passed quietly away yesterday morning. He was a highly respected citizen and leaves a widow and five children, two sons and three daughters. Mr. Gilbert was a past commander of Geo. Fuller Post, G.A.R. Funeral services will be held at the German Methodist Church.

The Scranton Tribune reported his death under its Group of Notable Deaths on 4 January 1894:

Edwin Gilbert, captain of Company F, Forty-seventh regiment, of Pennsylvania, during the Rebellion, at Catasauqua, Pa.

The Allentown Democrat provided only these basic nuts and bolts in its 10 January 1894 edition:

On the 2nd inst., at Catasauqua, EDWIN GILBERT, aged 59 years, 1 month and 14 days.

Captain Edwin Gilbert, an eyewitness to and active participant in one of the most turbulent periods in American history, was laid to rest at the Fairview Cemetery in West Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania – the same cemetery where many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also rest in peace.

Sources:

1. Allentown Leader, The. Allentown: Various Dates:

  • Our Neighbors: Catasauqua: Captain Edwin Gilbert, in The Allentown Leader: 3 January 1894.
  • Franklin Gilbert at Rest, in The Allentown Leader, 12 November 1910.
  • Points About People (Capt. Edwin Gilbert), in The Allentown Leader. Allentown: 1 January 1894.

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

3. Gilbert Family Death Certificates. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

4. Group of Notable Deaths (Edwin Gilbert), in Scranton Tribune. Scranton: 4 January 1894.

5. Harrisburg Daily Telegraph. Harrisburg: Various Dates:

  • A Veteran Dead, in Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg: 2 January 1894.
  • The Sheridan Guards of Catasauqua (notice), in Harrisburg Daily Telegraph. Harrisburg: 8 September 1869.

6. Resolutions Regarding Pensions, in Lebanon Daily News. Lebanon: 11 November 1889.

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

8. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910.

9. U.S. Civil War Pension Index (Gilbert, Edwin and Ellen C. Gilbert). Washington, D.C.: Application no.: 543229, certificate no.: 408874, filed by the veteran 24 June 1885; application no.: 589830, certificate no.: 402398, filed by the veteran’s widow from Pennsylvania 1 February 1894.

10. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1890.

11. Veteran Ball Player Died at Catasauqua: Frank P. S. Gilbert Succumbed to Complications – Catcher of Old Iron Borough Nine, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 10 November 1910.