Alternate Spellings of Surname: Graeff, Graeffe, Graeph, Graffee
The life story of Richard A. Graeffe is one of valor, virtue and vision. Courageous enough as a teenager to cross an ocean in search of a better life, he grew to manhood while in service to his nation, ultimately becoming a leader of men in both times of war and peace while still just in his twenties.
Born in Aplaleben [sp?], Germany on 24 October 1833, Richard Graeffe was a son of Ferdinand Graeffe and Caroline (Schmidt) Graeffe, both natives of Germany. According to an application for a U.S. passport completed by him in 1889, he emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1847, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1889 – a quarter of a century after he had faithfully and honorably helped to preserve the Union of his adopted homeland.
Richard A. Graeffe began fulfilling the duties of citizen of his new nation almost as soon as he arrived on the shores of America. As an enlisted man with federal forces engaged in the Mexican-American War from 1847 to 1852, he fought with the United States Army as a Corporal with Company E of the 4th Artillery.
After mustering out, he began to make a new life for himself – a journey which would be interrupted in just a few short years and relations between America’s North and South worsened, and the domino effect of states seceding from the Union began in December of 1860.
Civil War Military Service – Three Months’ Service (9th Pennsylvania Infantry)
One of the first men to answer President Abraham Lincoln’s April 1861 call for 75,000 troops to help quell the South’s burgeoning rebellion following the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces, Richard A. Graeffe enrolled for military service in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. He then mustered in for duty with Company G of the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 24 April 1861. He served under Lieutenant Colonel William H. H. Hangen. The men of Company G under Graeffe at this time, who would also later serve in the 47th Pennsylvania – in Graeffe’s own company, included: Adolphus Dennig, Martin Eppler, Francis Mittenberger, and John Henry Stein.
Richard A. Graeffe was commissioned as a Captain upon enlistment. From the time of his arrival at Camp Curtin until his regiment’s departure for West Chester on 4 May 1861, Graeffe and his fellow 9th Pennsylvanians were armed, equipped, and drilled daily in infantry tactics.
Stationed next at Camp Wayne in West Chester, Graeffe and his men were joined there by the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry. (More than a few of the soldiers from the 11th Pennsylvania would also later become part of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.)
On 26 May 1861, the members of the 9th Pennsylvania were transported by train to Philadelphia and then on to Wilmington, Delaware, where they remained until 6 June 1861 “to encourage and strengthen the local sentiment, and to prevent the sending of troops to the rebel army,” according to Samuel P. Bates in his History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5.
Joining 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, the men of the 9th Pennsylvania next pitched their tents near Greencastle on 13 June 1864. Three days later, they forded 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.
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 Rebels 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 bolstered by an infusion of troops brought in via the Confederate-controlled railroad.
History has proven those officers correct. Having avoided a likely bloodbath, Captain Graeffe 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, not a single casualty among its ranks, Captain Richard A. Graeffe and the 9th Pennsylvania headed home by way of Hagerstown and Harrisburg. Having completed his Three Months’ Service, Captain Richard Graeffe honorably mustered out with his regiment at Camp Curtin on 29 July 1861.
Civil War Military Service – Three Years’ Service (47th Pennsylvania Volunteers)
With the war not waning, Richard A. Graeffe promptly re-enlisted for a three-year tour. According to A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers , authored by Lewis Schmidt: “The Easton Express reported on August 14 that … 33 year old Capt. Richard A. Graeffe, a merchant from Easton who would command Company A of the 47th, was recruiting at Glantz’s’ in Easton.”
* Note: Glantz’s was a local saloon owned by Charles Glantz. Appointed 8 November 1858 as Captain of a local militia unit, the Easton Jaegers, Glantz served as a Major with the central regimental staff of the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry, and was one of Richard A. Graeffe’s commanding officers during his Three Months’ Service. Prior to it all, Glantz partnered with Willibald Kuebler to open the Kuebler brewery in Easton in 1852. The pair stored the lager they manufactured in man-made caves along the bank of the Delaware River.
On 15 August 1861, Richard A. Graeffe re-enrolled for military service at Easton in Northampton County. He mustered in again at Camp Curtin, where he was again commissioned a Captain – this time on 16 September 1861 with the newly formed 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at the time described him as a merchant residing in Northampton County who was 5’8” tall with auburn hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion.
Enrolled on 15 September 1861, the 93 members of Company A mustered in under Captain Graeffe on 16 September. Following a brief light infantry training period at Camp Curtain, Captain Graeffe and A Company were transported with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., where they were stationed about two miles from the White House at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. The next day, C Company Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update to the Sunbury American newspaper:
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.
The 47th Pennsylvanians officially became part of the federal service on 24 September when they mustered, with great pomp, into the U.S. Army; they were then assigned to the 3rd Brigade of W. F. Smith’s Army of the Potomac on 27 September, a rainy, drill-free day which allowed many of the men to read or write letters home. By afternoon, however, they were headed for the eastern side of the Potomac River and Camp Lyon, Maryland. Arriving in the late afternoon, they effected a double-quick march across a chain bridge, and moved on toward Fall’s Church, Virginia.
At dusk, they reached Camp Advance, and pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal military facility (Fort Ethan Allen). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, they joined their regiment, the 3rd Brigade and Smith’s Army of the Potomac in defending the nation’s capital.
On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. On Friday morning, 22 October, the 47th participated in a Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Their performance that day was so exemplary that Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be given to each member of the 47th Pennsylvania as a reward for their efforts.
By December, 101 men were listed on Company A’s roster.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, Captain Graeffe and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Fall’s Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped railcars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, Captain Graeffe and his fellow officers were among the last to board. Then, 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.
Arriving in early February 1862, they began drilling daily in heavy artillery and other military strategies while protecting Fort Taylor. The regiment also made its presence felt among the locals early on with a parade through the city’s streets on 14 February.
From mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvania 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 main staging area were commonly rotated among the various regiments stationed there during this time, putting individual soldiers at risk from sniper fire. Per historian Samuel Bates, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”
The men were then sent on a return expedition to Florida. Company A participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the capture of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General John Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with snakes and alligators. When it was all over, the brigade had forced the Confederates to abandon an artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.
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 Mackey’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and their fellow 3rd Brigaders were less fortunate this time.
Picked off by snipers while on the move toward the Pocotaligo Bridge, they also faced massive resistance from a heavily entrenched and fortified Confederate battery that opened fire on the Union troops as they entered and crossed a clearing. Those headed for the higher ground of the Frampton Plantation fared no better as artillery and infantry fire burst forth from the midst of the surrounding forests.
Bravely, the Union regiments grappled with the Confederates where they found them, pursuing them for four miles as the enemy retreated to the bridge where the 47th then relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the Confederates were just too well fortified. After two hours of intense fighting in an unsuccessful attempt to take the ravine and bridge, sorely depleted ammunition supplies forced the 47th’s withdrawal to Mackey’s Point.
Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; two officers and another 114 enlisted were wounded. Several of the resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to sloppy Army and hospital records management or the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who were forced to hastily bury or leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat to safer ground.
The 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head on 23 October, 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 region of the South Pole on Mars discovered by Mitchel in 1846, and Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. The men of the 47th Pennsylvania were the soldiers given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
By 1863, Captain Richard A. Graeffe and the men of A Company were 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 remote Dry Tortugas.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers also turned their attention to Fort Myers, which had been abandoned in 1858 after the U.S. government’s third war with the Seminole Indians. In 1864, General D. P. Woodbury, commander of the U.S. Army’s Department of the Gulf, District of Key West and the Tortugas, would order that this installation be brought back to life in 1864 to facilitate the Union’s Gulf Coast blockade and provide food and shelter for those fleeing Confederate forces – escaped slaves, Confederate Army deserters and pro-Union residents. But in 1863, it became one of the outposts used by the 47th to pry parts of the South from Rebel hands. Captain Graeffe and men from his company played an integral role in this regard.
Situated on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River on land that is now occupied by the federal building and court house in present-day Fort Myers, an 1856 survey of the fort contained in the Federal Register “suggest that the fort’s wooden stockade ran from just east of Broadway to just east of Royal Palm, and from Main Street on the south to the river bank, which meandered along what is Bay Street today,” according to Tom Hall, creator of a website about the arts in Southwest Florida:
It consisted of as many as three dozen hewn pine buildings which included officers’ quarters … barracks, administration offices, a 2½-story hospital with plastered rooms, warehouses for the storage of munitions and general supplies, a guard house … blacksmith’s and carpenter’s shops, a kitchen, bakery, laundry, a sutler’s store, stables for horses and mules, a gardener’s shack, and even a bowling alley and bathing pier and pavilion.
It also boasted a pier nearly 700 feet long that had wide dock and rails that enabled the soldiers to bring in supplies by tram without having to lighter them ashore. The buildings were sided and topped by cedar shingles shipped in from Pensacola and Apalachicola, together with doors, windows and flooring. The interior featured parade grounds, a carefully-tended velvety lawn, two immense vegetable gardens, rock-rimmed river banks, shell walks, lush palms and even citrus trees.
Also according to Hall:
By the time Captain Richard A. Graeffe and his soldiers arrived at the fort, most of the wood stockade had disappeared, so he ordered his men to construct an earthen wall 15 feet wide by 7 feet tall. Three guard towers were also constructed: one where the hospital had been; a second by the garden and bowling alley; and the third between the stables and riverside warehouse. Then Captain Graeffe sent his troops across the river to begin rounding up the herds of scrub cows being raised by ranchers between Punta Gorda and Tampa. As they did, resistance began to grow. Captain Graeffe realized he needed reinforcements and Companies D and I of the [U.S. Colored Troop’s] 2nd Regiment were brought up from Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2010 for the Everglades National Park partially documents Captain Graeffe’s time in Florida this way:
A small contingent of 20 men and two officers from the Pennsylvania 47th Regiment, led by Captain Henry Crain of the 2nd Regiment of Florida, arrived at the fort on January 7, 1864. A short time later, the party was joined by another small detachment of the 47th under the command of Captain Richard A. Graeffe. Over a short period, increasing reinforcements of the fort led to increasing cattle raids throughout the region. A Union force so far into Confederate land did not go well with Confederate loyalists. The fact that so many men stationed at the post were black soldiers from the newly created U.S. Colored Troops was particularly aggravating. The raids were so antagonizing that the Confederates created a Cattle Guard Battalion called the “Cow Cavalry” to repulse Union raiders. The unit remained a primary threat to the Union soldiers carrying out raids and reconnaissance missions from Brooksville to as far south as Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.
The detachment of the 47th which served under Graeffe at Fort Myers is labeled as the Florida Rangers in several publications, including The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Robert N. Scott, et. al. (1891). Several of Graeffe’s hand drawn sketches of Fort Myers were published in 2000 in Images of America: Fort Myers by Gregg Tuner and Stan Mulford.
Departing Under a Cloud of Controversy
Although muster rolls for the 47th Pennsylvania documented that Captain Richard A. Graeffe mustered out on 18 September 1864 at Berryville, Virginia upon expiration of his three-year term of service, his entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives states that he mustered out on 10 December 1864. The reason for this confusion is that Captain Graeffe and his colleague Captain Charles Hickman Yard, Sr. left their respective unit commands under a cloud of controversy. According to historian Lewis Schmidt:
“Now a civilian, Captain Yard had a private reception at Carlisle, Pa. on Friday [23 September 1864] as a Court Martial was held and he was charged under Orders #380, dated December 19, 1864. The charges had to do with bounties paid by various communities to the men who re-enlisted and were credited to their draft quotas. The communities involved were Lower Nazareth and Allen Townships in Lehigh County, the Borough of Bethlehem and Eldred Township in Monroe County, and involved bounties of $291, $315, $315 and $310 respectively. It was charged that Captain Yard withheld portions of the bounties for his own use, ranging from $10 to $45 per man for the 70 men involved. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty of the specifications and the charge of “Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman’, and was sentenced to be dismissed from the service. The findings of the court were disapproved by the Secretary of War and the Captain was released from arrest and honorably discharged. Although Captains Yard and Graeffe were each equally charged in the specifications at this court martial involving the Borough of Bethlehem and Eldred Township, Capt. Graeffe would be tried separately on October 17, 1864 with the same results. Those charges at that time would involve both Captains and two additional communities, the Borough of Nazareth and Forks Township in Lehigh County.
* Note: Richard Graeffe’s U.S. Civil War Pension Index Card indicates that, in addition to his service with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, he had also served with Company E of the 4th U.S. Artillery (regular Army).
Return to Civilian Life
After learning of the court’s findings, Richard Graeffe remained briefly in Pennsylvania before heading west in 1868 in search of a better future. Settling in Michigan, he resided in Wayne County for the remainder of his life. The 1870 federal census, which spelled his surname as “Graffee,” documented his life as a farmer and resident of Nankin Township. Jacob Schaub, a 30-year-old native of Holland, resided with and worked for him as a farm laborer.
Sometime in early 1875, Richard Graeffe traveled to his native Germany. A ship’s passenger manifest for the Westphalia, dated 28 April 1875, listed him as a Detroit resident returning from Hamburg, Germany to New York City.
Just over six months later, on 23 November 1875, the now 41-year-old farmer wed 34-year-old Mary Swartz in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Pastor Charles Haas performed the ceremony witnessed by Martin Burck and Julius W. Parish of Detroit. A daughter of John and Catherine Swartz, Graeffe’s new bride was a Detroit native who had been born sometime around 1836.
By 1880, Richard and Mary Graeffe were shown on the federal census as residents of Detroit. Their surname spelled as “Graeph,” his occupation was still listed as farmer, and his place of birth and that of his parents noted family ties to “Prussia.” Mary was shown on this census as a Michigan native, her mother as a native Pennsylvanian, and her father as having been born in Austria. “Mary Read,” a 19-year-old native New Yorker, was also residing with and working as a servant for the Graeffes in 1880.
Richard Graeffe’s 1889 passport application confirms that he had officially become an American citizen before the decade was over – naturalized on 11 March 1889 in Detroit, Michigan by the Circuit Court of Wayne County. This record also confirms that he had been living “uninterruptedly” since 1868 in Detroit, that he was 5 feet, 8 inches tall with brown eyes, a “proportionate” nose and mouth, round chin, healthy complexion, and a high forehead, and that he was by this time employed as a chemist.
His life would change again before the turn of the century when, on 9 January 1896, he was widowed by Mary. After her death, he continued to make his home in Detroit. By 1900, 39-year-old “Mary Leed” was residing with and working for him as a servant.
Nearly two decades after his wife’s passing, Richard A. Graeffe closed his eyes for the final time. According to his death certificate, he was a retired Army Officer. Claimed by heart failure at Harper Hospital in Detroit on 3 September 1913, he was laid to rest at the Elmwood Cemetery in Wayne County on 6 September 1913.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Civil War Muster Rolls and Related Records. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11).
3. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
4. Death Certificate (Richard Graeffe), Death Index Listing (Mary S. Graeffe), and Marriage Record (Richard Graeffe and Mary Swartz). Detroit: State of Michigan, Department of Vital Statistics.
5. Hall, Tom. Fort Myers: An Alternative History, and Clayton, on the website Arts SWFL.com. Estero.
6. History Pours from the Lehigh Valley’s Breweries, in The Morning Call. Allentown: 14 March 2015.
7. Minutes of Council of War Held July 9, 1861, at Martinsburg, Virginia – Captain Simpson, Topographical Engineers, excerpted in Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
8. Returns from U.S. Military Posts. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives (U.S. Adjutant General’s Office and Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida; Record Group 84, Microlfilm M617), March 1863 – December 1863.
9. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.
10. Tamiami Trail Modifications: Next Steps – Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Appendix E, U.S. National Park Service – Everglades National Park: 29 January 2010.
11. U.S. Census (1870, 1880, 1900). Washington, D.C.
12. U.S. Civil War Pension Index (Application No.: 877962, Certificate No.: 687955, filed from Michigan by veteran, 4 September 1890). Washington, D.C.
13. U.S. Passport Application (application date: 11 March 1889; passport issued: 14 March 1889). Washington, D.C. and Wayne County, Michigan, 1889.
14. U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C.