Private Edward Newman – A German Immigrant Defends the Union of His Adopted Homeland

Born in Sachsen (Saxony), Germany sometime around 1820, Edward Newman emigrated to America, found employment as a baker, and ultimately became a defender of his adopted homeland’s Union as America entered the second year of its greatest period of strife.

Civil War Military Service

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

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

In August 1862, Edward Newman enrolled for military service at Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania as a Private with Company I of the 127th Pennsylvania Volunteers, more commonly known as the “Dauphin County Regiment.” Comprised largely of men from Adams County, Company I was initially led by Captain Ira R. Shipley, who was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability several weeks after the company’s formation. Lieutenant Christian Nissley from C Company was then promoted and appointed to replace him as the unit’s Captain and commanding officer.

Initially assembled at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Private Newman and his fellow 127th Pennsylvanians were given uniforms and armed with Springfield rifles before receiving basic training and drilling instruction. Then, on 17 August 1862, they were transported via the Northern Central Railway, by way of York, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland, to Washington City, where they helped to defend the nation’s capita.

They made their home at Camp Welles in Virginia from 19 to 23 August when they were ordered to guard the Chain Bridge near Fort Ethan Allen. After switching camps several times during that Fall and early Winter of 1862 and being ordered to various guard assignments during this period, Private Edward Newman and his fellow 127 Pennsylvanians were assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the Union’s Army of the Potomac in early December of 1862.

From 11-15 December, they took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg. Battered badly by the experience, the 127th Pennsylvania sustained a significant number of casualties, and was reported by historians H. C. Alleman and F. Asbury Awl to have “returned to Camp Alleman on the 16th of December, not in a complete phalanx … but mostly in detachments, squads, in couples and singly. Some were borne on the shoulders of their stalwart comrades; some hobbled into camp as best they could; and when roll-call was sounded, there was ominous silence when the names of the missing, the wounded, the dying and the dead were called….”

On 13 May 1863, the regiment was ordered to return to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where it was disbanded and its members honorably discharged during the afternoon of 16 May upon expiration of their designated terms of service.

Continued Civil War Service

Realizing that the troubles of his adopted homeland were not over, Edward Newman subsequently re-enlisted for military service. After re-enrolling at Allentown on 23 October 1863, he officially mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 26 October as a Private with Company H of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time described him as a 40-year-old baker who was 5’9″ tall with dark hair, gray eyes and a dark complexion.

* Note: One of two companies with members enrolled almost exclusively from Perry County (the other being Company D), Company H was led by Captain James Kacy, a 44-year-old merchant and resident of Elliottsburg, Pennsylvania who had served as a railroad postal clerk for the United States government in the mid-1850s during the administration of President Franklin Pierce.

By the time Private Edward Newman connected with the 47th Pennsylvania, his new comrades had already participated in the defense of the nation’s capital (Fall 1861), garrisoning of Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida (February-June 1862), occupation of Beaufort, South Carolina (Summer 1862), and the capture of Saint John’s Bluff and Jacksonville, Florida (early October 1862), and had been bloodied severely in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (21-23 October 1862).

* Note: The 47th Pennsylvania was also somewhat integrated by this time, having enrolled several young black men beginning in October 1862. 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 (the same company Private Edward Newman would enter in 1863). Described as a 5’4″ laborer with black hair, black eyes and a black complexion, Thomas Haywood was mustered in officially 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.

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)

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, the water quality was often poor and the climate was harsh. As a result, disease was a constant companion and foe. A number of soldiers died from dysentery or tropical diseases such as typhoid or yellow fever while others were deemed too ill to continue serving, and were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.

1864

On 25 February 1864, Private Edward Newman and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City.

Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansifled (8 April 1864, public domain).

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansifled (8 April 1864, 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 volley of fire unleashed in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

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

Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the regiment’s second in command, 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. A number of 47th Pennsylvanians were also discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability.

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.

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 Pennsylvanian Volunteers and their fellow Union soldiers then scored a clear victory against the Confederates 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 Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, the officer directing its construction, 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 (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, 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.

On the 4th of July 1864, Private Edward Newman learned that his fight was far from over as his 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 later 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 of H Company, his fellow captains from D, E and F companies, and more than a dozen enlisted men from H Company. All mustered out 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective service terms. Those members of the 47th who remained on duty were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.

Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill, September 1864

Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the members of Company H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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, c. 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 massive 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 the Confederate Army commanded by Early. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.

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

The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill (21-22 September), eight miles south of Winchester, 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, they and other 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 expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they were replaced by others equally admired both for temperament and their front line experience, including John Peter Shindel Gobin, a man who would later go on to become Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

On 11 October 1864, Private Edward Jassum transferred within the 47th Pennsylvania from F Company to Company H, furthering adding to the integrated status of the company with which Private Edward Newman was serving.

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 crops and 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.

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

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

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

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

Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Sergeant William Pyers, the C Company man who had so gallantly rescued the flag at Pleasant Hill was cut down and later buried on the battlefield.

A number of men from H Company were also killed in action or so severely wounded that they died later while receiving treatment at regimental or division hospitals.

As with the Red River Campaign, men from the 47th Pennsylvania were also captured by Rebel soldiers and carted off to Confederate prisons at Andersonville, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia and Salisbury, North Carolina. Of those held as POWs at this time, only a handful survived. Among the dead were H Company’s Privates Henry Shapley and Stephen Shaffer who perished at Salisbury, on 10 December 1864 and 8 January 1865, respectively.

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.

1865 – 1866

Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, Private Edward Newman and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. On 16 February, 1st Lieutenant Reuben S. Gardner was commissioned as Captain of Company H, and 2nd Lieutenant James Hahn was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

Company H was further integrated at this pivotal moment in American history when Emanuel Guera, a 26-year-old dentist who had been born in Cuba, mustered in as a Private on 10 March 1865.

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.)

Beginning 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians were assigned to defend the nation’s capital – following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.

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

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 of the Armies 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).

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina as seen from the Circular Church, 1865 (U.S. National Archives, public domain).

On their final southern tour, Company H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, they quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.

Duties during this phase of service included Provost (military police) assignments and Reconstruction-related tasks (assisting with the rebuilding of key infrastructure items which had been damaged or destroyed during the long war).

Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Private Edward Newman, began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina – a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then 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

This public domain image depicts the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton, Ohio. (Source: U.S. Library of Congress.)

This public domain image depicts the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton, Ohio. (Source: U.S. Library of Congress.)

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Edward Newman returned home to Pennsylvania and tried to begin life anew. Unfortunately, like many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians, he had developed health problems while serving in America’s Deep South – problems which would continue to plague him for the remainder of his life.

Suffering from rheumatism which developed while the 47th Pennsylvania was stationed near Cedar Creek, Virginia during the Fall of 1864, he was admitted to the network of U.S. Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at the Central Branch in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio on 17 July 1877. Single and just 57 years old at the time of his admission, he listed fellow Lehigh Valley resident, James Meyer, of “Westerville” as his next of kin/nearest living relative.

The federal census documented Edward Newman’s status as a resident of the National Soldiers’ Home at Dayton in 1880, also noting that he was still unmarried, had been employed as a baker, and that his parents had both been natives of Saxony, Germany.

Death and Interment

Pvt. Edward Newman (c. 1820-1886), Co. H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Military Headstone, Dayton National Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio (image provided by and used with permission of photographer, Wendy S. Hockenberry, copyright 2016).

Grave of Private Edward Newman, Co. H, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Dayton National Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio (copyright 2016; used with permission of photographer, Wendy Hockenberry).

As his rheumatism worsened and additional health concerns developed as a direct result of his difficult service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in America’s Deep South during the Civil War, Edward Newman grew to depend upon the National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, Ohio, where he continued to receive treatment in his final years.

Finally, suffering from acute enteritis, an inflammation of the intestines resulting often from the ingestion of microbe-contaminated food, he passed away at the National Soldiers’ Home at Dayton in Montgomery County, Ohio on 22 January 1886.

The German immigrant baker who had served his adopted country so faithfully during one of America’s most terrible times of strife was then laid to rest in grave number 31 at the Dayton National Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

 

Sources:

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

2. Edward Newman (obituary), in Dayton Daily Journal, Vol. XXIII, Issue 154, p. 1, column 5. Dayton: 23 January 1866.

3. Newman, Edward, in Burial Ledgers, The National Cemetery Administration, in Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15), and in Records of the Department of Defense and Department of the Army (Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

4. Newman, Edward, in Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879-ca. 1903 (Microfilm M1845), in Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.

5. Newman, Edward, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

6. Newman, Edward, in Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 (Microfilm M1749, Central Branch/Dayton, Ohio), in Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives.

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

8. U.S. Census: 1880.

 

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