Alternate Spellings of Surname: Kacy, Kacey
Although born on 8 March 1813 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the life story of James Kacy only truly began in what would today be considered his elementary school years. Taken from his home in Philadelphia by Henry Fetter, a merchant who would later go on to become a member of Pennsylvania’s Senate, he was relocated to Landisburg in Perry County. There, James Kacy was given the opportunity to work and train as a clerk in a store owned by Fetter.
* Note: According to the Pennsylvania State Senate’s website, Henry Fetter (1793-1863) was known as “The General.” Born in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Fetter made his living as a farmer and merchant before serving at the Marcus Hook Camp during the War of 1812 as a Private with the Pennsylvania Militia’s 1st Brigade, 2nd Division. “A career member of the Pennsylvania Militia during the Mexican War” [and former Captain of the Landisburg Artillery Corps in 1826 and U.S. Postmaster at Landisburg], Fetter ultimately worked his way up to become a Major General before being elected to a three-year term in the Pennsylvania Senate (1857-1859).
A Boy Becomes a Man
An eyewitness to the making of this history by Fetter, the young James Kacy would experience his own pivotal year in 1837. On 1 February, he wed Mary Ann Chisholm, a daughter of John and Margaret (McBride) Chisholm, at a ceremony in Landisburg. On 2 December 1837, he was appointed as the U.S. Postmaster for Elliottsburg in Perry County.
By 1850, James Kacy was making a living as a merchant and residing in Spring Township, Perry County with his wife and children: Jane F. (born sometime around 1837), Sara J. (born sometime around 1839), James Jones (1841-17 June 1905), William H. (29 June 1844-22 February 1923), Ann (born sometime around 1845), Cadwalader (born sometime around 1847), and Robert Frazer Kacy (1846-4 January 1900).
Before the decade was out, James and Mary Kacy became young grandparents. Daughter Jane had wed William S. Snyder, and greeted the arrival, sometime around 1859, of her own child James E. Snyder.
According to the 1860 federal census James Kacy’s place of residence was still Landisburg, Perry County, but by this time, he had also acquired the job title of “Rout Agent.” Residing with James and Mary Kacy were their children, Mary, Annie, Cadwalader, and Robert Frazer Kacy.
As one year waned and the next progressed, James Kacy continued to prosper as a merchant while making his home with his family in Elliotsburg, Perry County. But this former ward of a Major General also kept a watchful eye as the storm clouds of secession gathered on America’s horizon.
Civil War Military Service
Appealing to men from Newport and its neighboring farms to enter Civil War service during the month of August and early days of September, James Kacy raised an entire company of soldiers to defend his beloved nation before personally enrolling for duty at the age of 44 in Elliottsburg on 20 August 1861. Military records at the time described him as being 5’11” tall with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion.
On 7 September 1861, James Kacy departed Perry County with his recruits, and headed for Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County where, on 19 September 1861, he and his men officially mustered in. Among those shown on the roster was Captain Kacy’s son, James Jones Kacy, who mustered in under his father as a 20-year-old Corporal. Military records described the younger Kacy as a coppersmith who was just 5’7″ tall, but with the same light hair, blue eyes and light complexion of his father.
That same day (19 September 1861), James Kacy was promoted to the rank of Captain; his men were officially designated as Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. They were now part of an entirely new regiment which had been founded just weeks earlier by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, the man who would later go on to become a three-time mayor of the Borough of Allentown.
* Note: One of two companies composed almost entirely of men from Perry County (the other being Company D), Company H was the last of the 47th Pennsylvania’s companies to muster in for duty. Initial recruitment was conducted in Newport, Perry County, but continued through 30 October 1861 in order to bring the company’s roster county up from 90 to 97 (closer to the 100 men normally required to form a new unit).
Supporting the newly commissioned Captain Kacy was 1st Lieutenant William Wallace Geety, a 29-year-old who had been a practicing dentist in Harrisburg.
Following a brief light infantry training period, Captain Kacy and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., where they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, about two miles from the White House, beginning 21 September. On this day and the next, Privates John D. Clay, David R. Frank, Martin Harper, William Hayes, John H. Meyers, Samuel A. M. Reed, and William H. Robinson transferred from one Perry County company (H) to the other (D) within the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
On 22 September, C Company Musician Henry D. 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.
We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.
Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent men and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.
I am happy to inform you that our young townsman, Mr. William Hendricks, has received the appointment of Sergeant Major to our Regiment. He made his first appearance at guard mounting this morning; he looked well, done up his duties admirably, and, in time, will make an excellent officer. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.
Then, on 24 September, the soldiers of Company H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers became part of the federal service when the regiment officially mustered into the U.S. Army. That same day, C. K. Breneman was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant with Company H.
On 27 September – a rainy day which gave many soldiers the opportunity to read or write letters to loved ones, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W.F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.
Once again, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American, that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville, a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C. Posted not far from their home state, members of the regiment occasionally had the good fortune to receive personal visits from family members.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops:
I was ordered to take my company to Stewart’s [sic] house, drive the Rebels from it, and hold it at all hazards. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, so waiting until it was just getting day, I marched 80 men up; but the Rebels had left after driving Capt. Kacy’s company [H] into the woods. I took possession of it, and stationed my men, and there we were for 24 hours with our hands on our rifles, and without closing an eye. I took ten men, and went out scouting within half a mile of the Rebels, but could not get a prisoner, and we did not dare fire on them first. Do not think I was rash, I merely obeyed orders, and had ten men with me who could whip a hundred; Brosius, Piers, Harp and McEwen [all of Company C] were among the number. Every man in the company wanted to go. The Rebels did not attack us, and if they had they would have met with a warm reception, as I had my men posted in such a manner that I could have whipped a regiment. My men were all ready and anxious for a ‘fight.’”
Captain Gobin had been referring to Brigadier-General James Ewell Brown (“J.E.B.”) Stuart, commanding officer of the Confederate Army of the Potomac (later known as the Army of Northern Virginia), under whose authority the 4th Virginia Cavalry (“Black Horse Cavalry”) fell. Stuart’s Fairfax County, Virginia home had been commandeered by the Union Army and used by the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and other Union regiments as the base of operations for their picket lines in that area. Among the Civil War-related papers of H Company’s 1st Lieutenant William Geety at the U.S. Army Military History Institute, are a photograph and other items taken from Stuart’s Union-occupied home.
In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton also described their duties and 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 20 October 1861, Private Daniel Foose died while the regiment was stationed at Camp Griffin, Virginia. According to Schmidt and others researching the 47th Pennsylvania, Private Foose was laid to rest with full military honors three days later – at 4 p.m. on 23 October 1861 – under the large chestnut tree for which the camp had originally been named. He was just 19 years old.
Two days later, on Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a morning Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.”
In late October, writes Schmidt, the men from Companies B, G and H woke at 3 a.m., assembled a day’s worth of rations, marched four miles from camp, and took over picket duties from the 49th New York:
Company B was stationed in the vicinity of a Mrs. Jackson’s house, with Capt. Kacy’s Company H on guard around the house. The men of Company B had erected a hut made of fence rails gathered around an oak tree, in front of which was the house and property, including a persimmon tree whose fruit supplied them with a snack. Behind the house was the woods were the Rebels had been fired on last Wednesday morning while they were chopping wood there.
Around this same time, Capt James Kacy divided H Company into four squads, by tent grouping, each under the leadership of a sergeant:
whose duty it shall be to see that the arms and accoutrements are kept in good order. That the men keep their tents clean, that they are clean in their person, and that they wash their hands and faces and comb their hair every day. That the men keep order in their quarters and report all damage to arms, want or waste of ammunition, and all disorderly conduct.
Captain Kacy followed that order with another, clarifying meal times (breakfast: 6 a.m., dinner: noon, supper: 6 p.m.) and duty schedules (7 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m.). In early November, he directed that:
while in camp, no permits or washing will be given on any other days than Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. All washing must be done in the forenoon. No permits or leaves of absence from company will be given on any days but Monday and Friday. Sutler tickets will be given only in the morning between the hours of 7 and 9.
It was also during this phase that H Company suffered one of its earliest casualties. Private Daniel Biceline (or “Bistline”) died from “Febris Typhoides” (typhoid fever) on 5 November 1861 at Camp Griffin. In his own letter of 17 November, Company C’s 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 another morning divisional review – this time by Colonel Tilghman H. Good. Brigade and division drills were then held that 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 – and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.
As Winter arrived and deepened, Privates Robert Fry and William Dorman were discharged, respectively, on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability on 16 December and New Year’s Eve. Captain James Kacy was also granted leave, and was able to spend a brief period of time with his family at home in Perry County over the holidays before returning for duty in early January.
The opening days of the New Year proved to be as difficult for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers as the old of the prior year. On 8 January 1862, Jacob R. Gardner became another of the unfortunates who perished while the regiment was stationed at Camp Griffin. On 19 January, Private John Keim was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvanians left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862. Marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles to reach the railroad station at Falls Church, they were sent by rail to Alexandria, and then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal. Once there, they were 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.
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, the remaining members of Company H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers disembarked in Key West, and were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor and drill daily in heavy artillery tactics. A few short days later, Private Frederick Watts was dead, having succumbed 13 February 1862 while confined to the 47th’s Regimental Hospital. Military records described his cause of death as pneumonia or “brain fever.” According to Schmidt, Watts:
arrived at Key West sick with measles and a cold he had caught on board ship, died of brain fever or ‘Pneumonia Typhoides’ as it was variously reported, and was buried with military honors. Chaplain Rodrock reported that he had died of ‘brain fever, contracted on board the Oriental. Aged 23 years’. He was the fourth member of Capt. Kacy’s Company H to die since the regiment was mustered in. The young man was buried in Grave 27 of the Post Cemetery on the day of his death, probably out of fear of the contagious nature of the disease and a lack of refrigeration or other means of preserving the body. Pvt. Watt’s mortal remains would eventually travel north in 1927, when the Key West Post Cemetery would be abandoned, and the bodies shipped on the tug ‘Jenkins’ to Fort Barrancas National Cemetery on the Naval Air Station grounds at Pensacola, Florida. He would be reinterred in Section 17, Grave 92.
With the officers of the 47th Pennsylvania concerned once again regarding the potential for disease to decimate the ranks, Captain Kacy of Company H ordered that:
Sgt. R.S. Gardner will have under his command tents #1 and 2 and will be held personally responsible for the clean up of the men in person, clothing, arms, accoutrements, and quarters. Sgt. James Hahn will have under him tents #3 and 4 and be held responsible the same as #1 and 2. Sgt. Lynch will have under his control tents #5 and 6 and will be likewise held responsible. The Sgts. Gardner, Hahn and Lynch will have the men of the company on the parade ground at 5:30 AM and when one of them is on guard, the other two will attend to this drill duty and divide the squad between their respective commands.
In addition to drilling, the 47th Pennsylvanians also felled trees, helped to build new roads and strengthened the fortifications in and around the Union Army’s presence at Key West. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, they introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men attended to their spiritual needs by attending services at local churches.
On 4 March 1862, Private Abraham Burd was discharged from Fort Taylor on a Surgeon’s Certificate.
As Spring approached, on Saturday, 12 April 1862, Captain Kacy of H Company served with his fellow officers on a court martial panel. Presided over by the 47th Pennsylvania’s Commanding Officer Tilghman H. Good and C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, who had been an attorney by trade in his prior civilian life, the group reviewed the behavior of soldiers serving with the 90th New York.
According to Schmidt, nearly a month later – on Saturday, 10 May 1862, life for the men in the 47th Pennsylvania’s H Company continued to be one of preparation for encounter with the enemy. “Cpl. James J. Kacey [sic] was detailed to daily duty fixing cartridge boxes.”
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 while disease also remained a fearsome adversary.
On 29 July 1862, Corporal James Jones Kacy, son of H Company’s commanding officer, was deemed unable to continue serving due to a loss of hearing, and was discharged from the regiment on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability issued via Special Order No. 548 at Beaufort, South Carolina. Private Jeremiah Smith then died while stationed at Beaufort, succumbing to fever complicated by dysentery on 9 August 1862.
According to historian Samuel P. Bates, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing” during this phase of service. On 20 August 1862, Private Robert H. Nelson was promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Private Isaac Slochter was released on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on 7 September 1862.
The Capture of Saint John’s Bluff and Battle of Pocotaligo
Sent on a return expedition to Florida as September 1862 waned, the men of Company H saw their first truly intense moments of service when H Company participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October.
Commanded by Brigadier-General John M. Brannan, the 47th Pennsylvanians disembarked with a 1,500-plus Union force at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th Pennsylvanians then led the 3rd Brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with deadly snakes and alligators. By the time the expedition ended, the Union brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union Army to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida. Along the way, two companies from the 47th Pennsylvania (E and K) also helped capture the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer that had equipped the bluff and surrounding Rebel troop placements with men and supplies.
That same day and ten days later, 5 and 15 October 1862 respectively, a black teen and several young to middle-aged black men left the hardship they had known in Beaufort, South Carolina to become members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers:
- Just 16 years old at the time of his enlistment, Abraham Jassum joined the 47th Pennsylvania from a recruiting depot on 5 October 1862. Military records indicate that he mustered in as “negro undercook” with Company F at Beaufort, South Carolina. Military records described him as being 5’6″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and stated that his occupation prior to enlistment was “Cook.” Records also indicate that he continued to serve with F Company until he mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 when his three-year term of enlistment expired.
- Also signing up as an Under Cook that day at the Beaufort recruiting depot was 33-year-old Bristor Gethers. Although his muster roll entry and entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File in the Pennsylvania State Archives listed him as “Presto Gettes,” his U.S. Civil War Pension Index listing spelled his name as “Bristor Gethers” and his wife’s name as “Rachel Gethers.” This index also includes the aliases of “Presto Garris”, and “Bristor Geddes.” He was described on military records as being 5’5″ tall with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, and as having been employed as a fireman. He mustered in as “Negro under cook” with Company F on 5 October 1862, and mustered out at Charleston, South Carolina on 4 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service. Federal records indicate that he and his wife applied for his Civil War Pension from South Carolina.
- Also attached initially to Company F upon his enrollment with the 47th Pennsylvania on 15 October 1862, 22-year-old Edward Jassum was also assigned kitchen duties. Records indicate that he was officially mustered into military service at the rank of Under Cook with the 47th Pennsylvania at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and then transferred to Company H on 11 October 1864. Like Abraham Jassum, Edward Jassum also continued to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers until being honorably discharged on 14 October 1865 upon expiration of his three-year term of service.
More men of color would continue to be added to the 47th Pennsylvania’s rosters in the weeks and years to come.
From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackay’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests.
The Union soldiers grappled with the Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including Privates Peter Deitrick, J. T. Robinson, Henry Stambaugh, and Jefferson Waggoner. All four fell during the fighting which raged near Frampton Plantation.
Another two officers and 114 enlisted from the 47th were wounded, including H Company’s 1st and 2nd Lieutenants, William Geety and William Gardner, 1st Sergeant George Reynolds, Corporals Daniel Reeder and P. W. Stockslager, and Privates Samuel Huggins, Comley Idall, Cyrus Johnson, and R. R. Kingsborough.
Geety’s survival was nothing short of miraculous. According to accounts by physicians who provided follow-up treatment for him in Harrisburg in 1863:
We had the pleasure yesterday of conversing with Lieutenant William Geety, a citizen of this place, who belongs to the forty-seventh Pennsylvania regiment … and was wounded in the battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina, on the 22d of October last. His case is the most extraordinary we have ever seen.
While standing on the field that day, giving orders to his men, a shrapnell shell from the enemy’s batteries struck, and threw casing and balls in every direction. One of these balls, a cast iron one, fully half an inch in diameter, struck him fairly between the eyes, entered his head in an upward direction, struck the base of the skull and then glanced down behind the left jaw, lodging at last in the left side of his neck, close behind the carotid artery. There it remained ever since, as its extraction was deemed a hazardous operation by the various surgeons who examined it, in consequence of its dangerous proximity to that artery.
As its long lodgment there had become annoying and unsightly, the patient determined to risk its extraction, and on Friday last the operation was successfully performed by Dr. J.P. Wilson, hospital surgeon at Camp Curtin.
Lieut. G. informs us that he knew nothing of his injury at the time he received the wound – in other words, ‘didn’t know what hurt him’ – and that he lay partially insensible for three days. When he at length ‘became aware of himself,’ he found that his left eye had been entirely destroyed and his face badly torn by a portion of the shell-casing, and that the nerves of sensation on the left side of his face and neck had been destroyed. To this fact he attributes his recovery, as no man with nerves could have endured the suffering which would otherwise have ensued.
One of the strange effects of his wounds is the partial destruction of the sense of taste, which was so interfered with as to render him unable to distinguish with accuracy between different flavors.
After recounting for its readership 1st Lieutenant Geety’s injury in battle and subsequent treatment, the Harrisburg Union & Patriot newspaper added the following update:
Lieutenant Geety is now at home in this city on recruiting service. His wounds have all healed, thanks to a healthy habit of body; and, although never more vigorous than the average of men, he in now in the enjoyment of better health than when he went into the service. He must be a wonder to himself as well as to others, for he has stood on the extremest [sic] verge of the dark river and felt the splashing of its floods.
Reeder, who lost an arm due to his battle wounds, and Stockslager, Johnson and Kingsborough all also survived the Battle of Pocotaligo. Rather than continuing their service, however, they were discharged and sent home on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability. Kingsborough was released on 26 October while Reeder, and Stockslager were discharged on 24 November; Johnson departed on 16 December 1862. Private Alexander Biger was also discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate – on 8 November 1862, signaling that he, too, had likely been a casualty of Pocotaligo.
But Idall, Reynolds and Huggins were less fortunate. Idall died eight days after the battle from “Vulnus Sclopet” – a gunshot wound – while undergoing care at the Union Army’s post hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Reynolds also succumbed to complications there on 8 November while Private Huggins, who had sustained a wound to his leg (also described on his Army death ledger entry as “Vulnus Sclopet”) died there from his wounds on 16 December 1862.
Several resting places of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers still remain unidentified to this day, the information lost to the sloppy records of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily buried or were forced to leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.
On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
On 1 November 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania helped another black man escape Beaufort’s hardship by adding 30-year-old Thomas Haywood to the kitchen staff of Company H. Described as a 5’4″ laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, he was officially mustered in as an Under Cook at Morganza, Louisiana on 22 June 1864, and served until the expiration of his own three-year term of service on 31 October 1865.
On 4 November 1862, Corporal Robert H. Nelson of H Company was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Private Mitchell Watt was discharged by General Order of the U.S. War Department on 28 November.
By 1863, Captain Kacy and the men of H Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortugas.
During this phase of duty, disease was a constant companion and foe yet again. Privates William J. Simonton, Henry Bollinger, and Michael C. Lynch were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates on 13 February, 19 April, and 30 June, respectively.
The time spent here by the men of Company H and their fellow Union soldiers was notable also for the men’s commitment to preserving the Union. Many who could have returned home chose instead to re-enlist in order to finish the fight.
Back home in Pennsylvania, Captain Kacy’s son, James Jones Kacy, also re-enlisted, enrolling for duty as a Private with Company E of the 49th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and mustered in at Huntingdon County on 29 August. (Despite his hearing loss, he was permitted to serve with the 49th Pennsylvania until 24 January 1864 when he was again discharged for deafness on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability – this time at Brandy Station, Virginia.)
As the holidays approached, the sad news was received that another member of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company H had perished. Sent home to convalesce, Private David W. Fisher succumbed at the Union Army’s Cotton Factory General Hospital in Harrisburg three days before Christmas to “Phthisis Pulmonaris,” a wasting away common to sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis.
On 25 February 1864, H Company men and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City.
Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.
On 12 March 1864, Private Isaiah Billett was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Two days later, Privates Michael Lupfer and Alexander Saylor were transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (also known as the “invalid corps”). Discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate on 28 March 1864, H Company’s Private Valentine Davenport died less than two months later on 4 May.
From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. Private William Barry of H Company was one of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers killed in action.
The fighting waned only when darkness fell as those who were uninjured collapsed from exhaustion beside the gravely wounded. Finally, after midnight, the surviving Union troops were ordered to withdraw to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.
Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands. Privates William F. Dumm and Nicholas Orris of Company H were killed in action.
Still others from the 47th were captured, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war (POWs) until released during prisoner exchanges beginning 22 July 1864. At least two men from the 47th never made it out of that camp alive, and another died while being treated at the Confederate Army hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana.
On 18 April 1864, H Company Corporal George W. Albert was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.
Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. That last day at Grand Ecore, H Company’s Private Reuben Shaffer became another of the 47th Pennsylvanians to die in service.
Retreating further to Alexandria, the 47th Pennsylvanians and their fellow Union soldiers then scored a clear victory against the Confederates at Cane Hill.
On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, to enable federal gunboats to easily traverse the Red River’s rapids.
Beginning 16 May, H Company moved with most of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June. Private John Evans of H Company died sometime around this period at a Union Army hospital in New Orleans; his date of burial was recorded in military records as having occurred on 11 or June 20 1865. On the 4th of July, they learned their fight was not yet over as the regiment received new orders to return to the East Coast for further duty.
Removed from command amid the controversy over the Union Army’s successes and failures during the Red River Expedition, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks was placed on leave by President Abraham Lincoln. Banks subsequently spent much of his time in Washington, D.C. as a Reconstruction advocate for Louisiana.
Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company H and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, and I steamed aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864.
Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln on 12 July, they joined up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap in mid-July 1864. There, they fought in the Battle of Cool Spring and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the opening days of September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Captain James Kacy and 1st Lieutenant William W. Geety, Musician Allen McCabe, Sergeant Robert H. Nelson, Corporal James F. Naylor, and Privates Augustus Bupp, John A. Durham, Thomas J. Haney, Isaac Henderson, Michael Horting, William Hutcheson, John Kitner, Adam Louden, Walter C. Miller, John Morian, S. M. Raudibaugh, David and William R. Thompson, Benjamin Thornton, and George W. Zinn.
All mustered out 18 September 1864 at Berryville, Virginia upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service, as did the captains of Companies D, E, and F.
Return to Civilian Life – Captain James Kacy
Following his honorable discharge from the military, James Kacy returned home to the Keystone State where, in 1870, he resided with son James Jones Kacy in Philadelphia. James Kacy, the elder, worked as a grain merchant while his son practiced his trade as a tinsmith. Also residing at the home at this time were the wife (Marianna/Mary) and children (George, Mary and Jane) of the younger James Kacy.
The elder James Kacy had apparently been widowed by this time since his wife, Mary is not shown on this census. By the time the next census was taken 1880, he had moved out of his son’s home. On 6 January 1886, he filed for his U.S. Civil War Pension. According to the U.S. Civil War Pension Index, his wife, Margaret (12 November 1838 – 12 March 1914), became the beneficiary of his pension following his death.
By 1890, Captain James Kacy had made a home for himself in the village of Bird-in-Hand, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The U.S. Veterans’ Schedule for that year confirms that he struggled, like many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians, with lifelong illnesses which most likely arose from service during the Civil War. Like his son, James Jones Kacy, he had also become deaf.
Death and Interment
Despite his failing health and hearing disability, Captain James Kacy continued to be a productive citizen and respected member of his community. After a long full life, Captain James Kacy suffered a paralytic stroke, and passed away at his home in Bird-in-Hand, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on 10 March 1897. He was laid to rest at the Bird-in-Hand Methodist Cemetery. His wife, Margaret A. Kacy (1838-1914), was also interred there following her passing.
Return to Civilian Life – James Jones Kasey
As indicated above, Captain Kacy’s son, James Jones Kacy, also married and started a family following his own honorable discharge from Civil War military service. Sometime around 1864, he wed Marianna Chisholm. Her maiden name is confirmed by several sources, including death certificates of her children.
Choosing to make their home in Philadelphia, James J. and Marianna Kacy welcomed to the world the following children: George S. (born 9 May 1865); Mary C. (born sometime around 1867); Jane E. (born on 2 January 1870 and known as “Jennie”); Amy D. (5 October 1871 – 23 March 1942); Alice J. (born on 25 May 1873); Blanche (born sometime around 1875); James (born on 27 March 1877); Edward (born on 27 July 1879); Edith (born in April or May 1880) and Charles File Kacy (born on 7 February 1883).
In 1870, as indicated above, the family resided in Philadelphia; their household included James J. Kacy’s father and Civil War former commanding officer, Captain James Kacy.
By 1880, Captain Kacy had moved on to new pursuits, leaving James J. Kacy and his wife, Marianna, to continue raising their children in Philadelphia. There, the younger James J. Kacy was employed as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad (P.R.R.). Tragically, roughly two weeks after this federal census was taken, James and Marianna buried their six-week-old daughter, Edith, who had passed away on 15 June. She was laid to rest at the Fernwood Cemetery in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Just two years later, daughter Blanche was also gone. She passed away on 10 April 1882, and was also laid to rest at the Fernwood Cemetery.
Joy briefly returned to the Kacy house in 1887 when James and Marianna’s son, George, wed Emily Shuster in Philadelphia. Tragically, though, Marianna (Chisholm) Kacy also passed away that same year. Still married, according to her Philadelphia city death certificate, she died in Philadelphia on 25 May 1887, and was also interred at the Fernwood Cemetery.
Four years later, James Jones Kacy remarried, taking Catherine C. Presser (1853-1935) as his second wife at a Philadelphia wedding ceremony on 23 August 1895. In 1900, he resided in Philadelphia’s Second Ward with second wife “Katie” and three children from his first marriage – Amy, Edward and Charles.
* Note: In 1900, Robert F. Kacy, the younger brother of James J. Kacy, passed away in Philadelphia. He had also been employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and was interred at the same cemetery where many Kacy family members were laid to rest. In 1901, James J. Kacy’s daughter, Amy, wed Philadelphia native Edward P. Kluxen (1872-1961); after raising a family with him and enjoying a long life, she passed away at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in 1942.
Unlike his father, James Jones Kacy lived a much shorter life. Suffering from pneumonia, he succumbed to complications in Philadelphia on 17 June 1905, and was also laid to rest at the Fernwood Cemetery. His second wife, Catherine, followed him in death three decades later, and was interred at Philadelphia’s Mount Moriah Cemetery.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Biography of Henry Fetter, in Historical Biographies, on Pennsylvania State Senate website. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Senate, retrieved online 3 April 2016.
3. Kacey, James and James J. Kacey, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1865. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
4. Kacy, James (obituary), in The Perry County Democrat. New Bloomfield, 17 May 1897.
5. Kacy, James, in Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971 (NARA Microfilm Publication, M841), in Records of the Post Office Department (Record Group Number 28). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives, 1837.
6. Kacy, James and Margaret A. Kacy, in Gerberich Collection-Gravestone Inscriptions, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1897 and 1914.
7. Kacy, Marianna (burial record with notation of “Oliver Baer” as funeral home) and Blanche and Edith Kacy, in Fernwood Cemetery Burial Records, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
8. Kacy, Marianna and Blanche Kacy (death certificates), in Death Records. Philadelphia: Philadelphia City Archives, 1887.
9. Kacy Family Death Records, in Death Certificates. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
10. Kacy Family Marriage and Records, in Records of the Philadelphia County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court
11. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-Published, 1989.
12. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900.
13. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1890.