McCape, Sylvester (Private)

Alternate Spellings of Surname: McCabe, McCafe, McCape.

 

Born in Ireland on 4 March 1842, Sylvester McCape was just ten years old when he emigrated to America with his parents. As he grew from boy to teen to young adult, he took up the trade of shoe repair, ultimately becoming known as a trusted cobbler to the residents of Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Civil War Military – Three Months’ Service

Alma Pelot's photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Alma Pelot’s photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Following the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces in mid-April 1861, Sylvester McCape also became one of the earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to defend the nation’s capital. Enlisting with the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in April 1861, he was among those who marched off as part of the first three companies from the Lehigh Valley to turn out for duty.

On 4 May, the 9th Pennsylvanians were transported by rail to West Chester, Pennsylvania. Arriving around 9 p.m. in the midst of a blizzard, they were stationed at the courthouse until their camp site was available. Relocated to Camp Wayne near West Chester, they then pitched their tents and began regular drilling. They were followed by the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a number of whom would join with the 9th Pennsylvanians in enlisting later that same year for three-year tours of duty with a different regiment the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

On 26 May, the 9th Pennsylvanians were transported by rail to Philadelphia en route to Wilmington, Delaware. Their assignment was to boost morale of those residents of the region who were loyal to the Union while “keeping the lid on” the actions of any citizens who might be tempted to join or otherwise assist Rebel forces. Making camp at Hare’s Corners near the Delaware River and along the road from Wilmington to New Castle, they fulfilled these duties until 6 June 1861 when they were shipped by the Northern Central and Cumberland Valley Railroads to south central Pennsylvania.

Upon arrival at their next designated locale, they were attached to Major-General Robert Patterson’s Chambersburg, Pennsylvania command in early June as part of the 4th Brigade, 1st Division headed by U.S. Army Colonel Dixon S. Miles. Ordered to move again three days later, the 9th Pennsylvanians pitched their tents near Greencastle on 13 June 1864. On 16 June, when ordered to march, they found themselves fording the Potomac River on the right of the 4th Brigade – literally wading chest deep at some points en route to their encampment between Williamsport and Martinsburg, Virginia.

The next day, they were ordered back across the river where, still part of the 4th Brigade, they were now under the leadership of Brigade Commander, Colonel H. C. Longenecker and Division Commander, Major-General George Cadwalader. Stationed here through the end of the month, they were assigned to picket duty.

This public domain illustration is an excerpt from a larger montage of images from the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia which ran in the 27 edition of Harper's Weekly. "Council of War" depicts "Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker" strategizing on the eve of battle.

Excerpt from larger montage of images of the Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia, 27 July 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly. “Council of War” shows “Generals Williams, Cadwallader, Keim, Nagle, Wynkoop, and Colonels Thomas and Longnecker” strategizing on the eve of battle.

Following the Union’s battle with Rebel troops at Falling Waters, Virginia, the men of the 9th Pennsylvania (having not fought in that engagement) were ordered to head for Martinsburg, Virginia, where they remained from 3-15 July when they broke camp and marched toward Bunker Hill.

Although Major-General Patterson had initially planned to have his forces meet the Confederates head on at Bunker Hill and Winchester, officers directly under his command changed his mind during a Council of War on 9 July in Martinsburg. A confrontation there would be disastrous for the Union, they reasoned, because the enemy was not only heavily fortified and entrenched, it could be easily resupplied and strengthened as Rebel leaders brought in more troops via the Confederate-controlled railroad.

History has proven those officers correct. Having avoided a likely bloodbath, 1st Corporal Charles Nolf, Jr. and the 9th Pennsylvania encamped with the 4th Brigade near Charlestown from 17-21 July, and then headed for Harper’s Ferry. After crossing the Potomac into Maryland, the 9th made camp roughly a mile away.

The next day, with not a single casualty among its ranks, Private Sylvester McCape and his fellow 9th Pennsylvanians headed home by way of Hagerstown and Harrisburg. Having completed his Three Months’ Service, Private McCape then honorably mustered out with his regiment at Camp Curtin on 29 July 1861.

Civil War – 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers

Barely settled back into his duties as a cobbler, Sylvester McCape re-enrolled for Civil War military service on 15 January 1862 at Allentown, Pennsylvania. Re-mustering for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, he became a Private with Company I, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 17 January 1862. Military records at the time described him as a shoemaker and resident of Allentown who was 5’6” tall with dark hair, gray eyes and a light complexion.

The company which Private Sylvester McCape was joining – I Company – was already a seasoned one, having just participated with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers and other Union Army and Navy units in the captures of Saint John’s Bluff and Jacksonville, Florida in early October 1862 – and the capture of the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer which had been actively engaged in transporting and supplying Rebel troops up and down the coastal areas in and around the Saint John’s River.

After completing his enlistment and training, Private McCape finally connected with his regiment from a recruiting depot on 13 October 1862 – just in time for the 47th Pennsylvania’s first major combat engagement.

Union Army map of the Pocotaligo-Coosawhatchie Expedition, 21-23 October 1862 (public domain).

Union Army map of the Pocotaligo-Coosawhatchie Expedition, 21-23 October 1862 (public domain).

From 21-23 October 1862, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, Private Sylvester McCape and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point. Although this assignment at point displayed the confidence of their leaders, it was an assignment which came with a high likelihood of injury or death.

Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, Private McCape and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers 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 challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper's Weekly in 1865.

The challenging environment of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad was illustrated by Harper’s Weekly in 1865.

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 Mackey’s Point.

Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died, including I Company Privates L. Druckenmiller and Jeremiah Metz. Druckenmiller was killed by “Vulnus Sclopet” (a gunshot) during the fighting near the Frampton Plantation, according to his federal death ledger entry.

Another two officers and 114 enlisted from the 47th were wounded, including I Company Privates J. Bondenschlager, James B. Cole, Edwin Dreisbach, Frederick Drester, Daniel Kramer. Dreisbach survived and continued to serve for the duration of the war while Privates Shaffer, Bondenschlager, Cole and Drester were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability on 22 October, 29 October, 15 November and 22 December 1862, respectively.

Several resting places of 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers still remain unidentified to this day, their burial data lost to the sloppy records of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily interred 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.

1863

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War. (Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.)

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War. (Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.)

By 1863, Private Sylvester McCape and the other men of I Company were once based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered 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. A significant number of men were felled by typhoid fever and other ailments for which their bodies were ill prepared. Others suffered from illnesses common to the often unsanitary conditions created by close camp living; many died or were discharged on Surgeons’ Certificates of Disability due to chronic dysentery and its related complications. Several even contracted scurvy.

The time spent here by the men of Company I 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.

1864

One who did not finish the fight was the head of Sylvester McCape’s company. Captain Coleman A. G. Keck of I Company resigned his commission on 22 February 1864 due to disability; he would be dead within two years, succumbing to the ravages of liver disease on 23 January 1866.

Three days after Captain Keck’s resignation, Private McCape and the men of Company I and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off on 25 February 1864 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 men of Company I – now under the command of their 1st Lieutenant Levi Stuber – joined with their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians in trekking through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the men 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, DeSoto Parish, 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 volley of fire unleashed during 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 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. Corporal William Frack of I Company was killed in action while I Company’s Sergeant William H. Halderman (alternate spelling “Haltiman”) and Corporal William H. Meyers of were among those who were wounded in battle.

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 a prisoner exchanges beginning 22 July 1864. At least two men from the 47th never made it out of that camp alive, including I Company’s Private Frederick Smith who died at Camp Ford 4 May 1864; another member of the regiment 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. 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 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 facilitated 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, to enable federal gunboats to easily traverse the Red River’s rapids.

Beginning 16 May, I 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 that year, they learned their fight was far from 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 I and the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, E, F, and H 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 first day of the month arrived with the promotion of a man who would first become the commanding officer of his company before ultimately being advanced to a key leadership role with the regiment. 1st Lieutenant Levi Stuber of I Company was now Captain Levi Stuber.

The next month – September 1864 – saw the regiment engaged in the Battle of Berryville, Virginia and the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including the captains of D, E, F, and H companies, along with a number of officers and enlisted men from I 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 I 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, 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 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.

On the day of the Union’s success at Opequan (19 September 1864), several men from I Company received promotions, including 1st Sergeant Theodore Mink, who advanced to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Corporals William H. Meyers and Edwin Kemp were promoted to the rank of Sergeant while Privates Thomas N. Burke and Allen Knauss became corporals.

After the battle, 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 combat, 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.

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. Regimental Chaplain William Rodrock suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. A number of enlisted men from I Company were also killed or wounded in action.

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 unfortunates were I Company’s Private Henry J. Schlagle, who died at Salisbury three days after Christmas.

On 23 October 1864, Company I became another integrated company within the regiment with Order No. 70, which directed that John Bullard be transferred from the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company D to I Company. Bullard, who had mustered in as a Cook while the regiment was stationed in Louisiana, would continue to serve with I Company for the duration of the war and muster out with his regiment on Christmas Day in December 1865.

Following these major engagements, the 47th was ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester, Virginia from November through most of December. On 3 November 1864, 2nd Lieutenant Theodore Mink was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. 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, the men of the 47th moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, back to Washington, D.C. Beginning 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians were 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 otherwise 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 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. It was also during this phase of duty that Captain Levi Stuber, the commanding officer of I Company was promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central command staff, and 1st Lieutenant Theodore Mink was advanced to the rank of Captain, I Company (22 May 1865).

An early thinning of the 47th Pennsylvania’s ranks began on 1 June 1865 when General Order No. 53 from the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General and U.S. Army’s Middle Military Division provided for the honorable discharge of several members of the regiment, including I Company’s Corporal Joseph Kramer, John J. Lawall, Jesse Moyer, Stephen Schechterly, Samuel Smith, Israel Troxell, D. Wannamaker, and Private Sylvester McCape.

Return to Civilian Life

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Sylvester McCape returned home to Pennsylvania. On 5 March 1865, according to The Allentown Democrat, he wed Jemima C. Ruhf. A native of Salisbury Township, Lehigh County who was born on 1 October 1846, she was raised and resided in Allentown for much of her life, and was a daughter of Pennsylvania natives, Peter Ruhf and Emilie (Kruger) Ruhf. This wedding date may be in error, however, since certain records indicate that their only child – daughter Alice Amelia McCape – was born on 3 January 1865.

What is known for certain is that, by 1870, Sylvester McCape and his wife, Jemima, were residing in Allentown’s 6th Ward with their five-year-old daughter, Alice. Here, at this place and time, he supported his wife and daughter through employment as a laborer at a local furnace. Jemima McCape also became, during this decade or the next, an active member of the ladies’ auxiliary which supported her local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) post.

In 1880, Sylvester, Jemima and Alice McCape continued to reside in Allentown while Sylvester continued to support his family on the wages of a laborer. The 1890 U.S. Veterans’ Schedule confirms that he was still a resident of Allentown before the turn of the century. Additionally, local newspapers also confirm his Allentown residency during this decade. In listing him as a juror for the 6 June 1898 Petit Jury, the 7 May 1898 edition of The Allentown Leader described him as “shoemaker, Allentown,” but spelled his surname incorrectly as “McCabe.”

By 1900, Sylvester and Jemima McCape were living on their own in Allentown, where Sylvester continued is employment in shoe repair. Their daughter, Alice, had taken the married surname of Delp (alternate spelling “Delph”), and had begun housekeeping with her husband in their own home.

By 1910, Sylvester McCape had retired. The next year (1911), The Allentown Democrat reported in its 7 February 1911 that Sylvester McCape was the beneficiary of a small sum of money from the estate of a former rag peddler:

The will of John Bahnhoff the retired rag peddler, who met his death in a plunge from a second story window last week, was probated yesterday [6 February 1911]. He directs that all his household goods, furniture, clothing, etc. together with $100 in cash be given to Mrs. Mamie Leiby. This is a token of appreciation for kindnesses shown the testator during his stay in her house. The executor, William J. Egge, Jr., is directed to make suitable funeral arrangements, the cost of which is not to exceed $100. $25 is to be given o Sylvester McCape for services rendered. The balance of the personal property, together with all cash in bank and money from life insurance policies is bequeathed to Miss Emma Clemens of Reedsville, Mifflin County, this state. The will was made on July 24, 1909 and was witnessed by T. E. Miller and Sylvester McCape.

In 1915, Sylvester McCape celebrated his 70th birthday and then, in short order, also celebrated the Golden Anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Jemima (Ruhf) McCape. The 6 March 1915 edition of The Allentown Democrat reported the festivities as follows:

Fifty years ago yesterday Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester McCabe [sic], 516 North Eighth St., were married and the celebration of the golden wedding anniversary was quietly held at their home Thursday. Mr. McCabe [sic] celebrated his seventieth birthday anniversary and last evening the members of the Allen Circle, No. 10, Ladies of the G.A.R., of which Mrs. McCabe [sic] is one of the oldest members, surprised the couple at their home.

The members of the G.A.R. did not know that Mr. McCabe’s [sic] birthday was Thursday and this feature was in turn a surprise to them. However, the couple was not expecting any festivities last night and the surprise was complete. The evening was very pleasantly spent with selections on the Victrola, the exchanging of reminiscences and fine refreshments were served.

The couple are very well preserved and are full of vitality. None of those present last evening enjoyed the event more thoroughly than they did.

Mr. McCabe [sic] served his first enlistment, three month, in Company D, Ninth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, being a member of the third company to leave Allentown. Later he served three more years.

Before her marriage, Mrs. McCabe [sic] was Jemima Ruhf. She was born in Salisbury township and reared in this city, and resided her all her life.

Death and Interment

Suffering from Angina Pectoris, Sylvester McCape succumbed to the disease’s effects at his home at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of 17 October 1918. He was 76 years, 8 months and 12 days old. His widow, Jemima, served as the informant on his death certificate.

Funeral services were held at his home on Monday, 21 October 1918 at 1:30 p.m.; later than afternoon, he was laid to rest at the Union-West End Cemetery in Allentown. Allentown’s local newspapers reported his passing as follows:

Sylvester McCape, 76 years old, 516 N. Eighth St., died yesterday at his home from complications. Mr. McCape was born in Ireland March 5th, 1842, and when ten years old came to this country with his parents. He was a Civil War veteran and served two engagements. He was a member of the 9th Regiment, Pa. Vol., and after being mustered out re-enlisted in Co. I, 47th Vol., and served throughout the war. After the war Mr. McCape learned the shoe business and continued in that business until about a year ago, when he retired. He was a member of Salem Reformed church and 47th Regiment Asso., and he is also a member of Post 13 G.A.R. He is survived by his widow, Jemima (nee Ruhf) and four grandchildren. Mrs. Alice Delph, his daughter, died some years ago. Interment in Union cemetery.

The 23 October 1918 edition of The Allentown Democrat added the following details regarding Sylvester McCape’s funeral:

Beautiful floral offerings were received by the family of Sylvester McCape, whose funeral took place last Thursday [17 October 1918]. Following is a list: Sheaf of wheat, wife; sheaf of wheat, Distil family; chrysanthemums, Mrs. Mohr; carnations, Mrs. Fogel, Lillie and Clinton; chrysanthemums, grandchildren; slumber robe, Samuel I. Glasser and family.

The family wishes to express their appreciation for the thoughtful attention shown them suring their bereavement by friends and relatives.

His widow, Jemima (Ruhf) McCape, who would also suffer from heart disease later in her own life, joined him in death on 9 July 1937, passing away at the McCape family home in Allentown. She was also interred at the Union-West End Cemetery. Her grandson, Paul Delp (son of Jemima’s late daughter, Alice), served as the informant on Jemima’s death certificate.

 

Sources:

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

2. Card of Appreciation, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 23 October 1918.

3. Celebrate Their Golden Wedding Anniversary, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 6 March 1915.

4. Civil War Muster Rolls and Related Records (Record Group 19, Series 19.11), in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

5. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

6. Civil War Veteran Answers Last Call, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 18 October 1918.

7. Death Certificates (Sylvester McCape and Jemima Ruhf McCape). Harrisburg Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

8. June Jury Panels: Men to Sit at the Next Criminal Court Are Chosen: Petit Jury for June 6, in The Allentown Leader. Allentown: 7 May 1898.

9. Kindness Rewarded: Will of John Bahnhoff, Provides for Those Who Befriended Him, in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 7 February 1911.

10. McCape [funeral notice], in The Allentown Democrat. Allentown: 18 October and 21 October 1918.

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

12. Sylvester McCape (burial record), in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1918.

13. U.S. Census and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule. Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: 1850-1920.