“Our Country, our whole country, may we ever have willing hearts and stout arms to defend it.”
– William McCullough Hendricks
William McCullough Hendricks was not the first American to express such a sentiment; nor will he be the last. But he was one who took the above words so much to heart that he was willing to put himself in harm’s way time and again to ensure that the nation he loved would not only survive its greatest period of strife, but that its founding ideals would continue to be sustained by generations of men, women and children long after his era had passed.
He was a patriot and good neighbor in every sense of the word.
Born on 10 August 1837 in Sunbury, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, William McCullough Hendricks was a grandson of Samuel and Elizabeth (Dewees) Hendricks and son of Benjamin Dewees Hendricks (1811- 1883) and Anna Maria (Shindel) Hendricks (1816-1877), a daughter of the widely esteemed Rev. Peter Shindel. According to the Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County:
Samuel Hendrick, son of Tobias [and grandfather of William M. Hendricks], was born in Penn township, Northumberland (now Snyder) Co., Pa., and is buried at Row’s church, in Snyder county, to which he gave twenty acres of ground with the provision that ‘no Hendrick should be refused burial in the cemetery of Row’s Church’…. Samuel Hendrick was a prosperous farmer, owning a large tract which is now divided into three farms, all lying around Row’s church. He married Elizabeth DeWees, who long survived him, and who upon her second marriage, to George Boger, sold the homestead (to a man named Look) and moved to Sunbury. Samuel and Elizabeth Hendrick had one son, Benjamin, the father of Martin Luther Hendricks [and William McCullough Hendricks]. The members of the Hendricks family generally have been tall and of athletic build.
Benjamin Hendricks, son of Samuel, was born in Snyder county Sept. 25, 1811, [was christened in the same year of his birth at Row’s church that same year], received a common school education, and learned the trade of cigarmaker. He was quite young when he went to Sunbury, in 1824…. His active years were spent principally at farming, merchandising and the manufacture of lime, and he prospered, at one time owning what is known as the Hunter farm, on which Fort Augusta was located…. He was a director of the Sunbury, Hazleton & Wilkes-Barre Railroad Company during the construction of its road [later owned by the Pennsylvania Company].
In 1840, three-year-old William M. Hendricks resided in Sunbury with is parents and brothers, Samuel Shindel (1835-1890) and Jacob S. Hendricks (1839-1911). By the time of the federal census of 1850, the household had grown to include William’s siblings: Elizabeth Dewees (1841-1933), Martin Luther (1843-1911), Susan Ann (1845-1862), Louisa (born in 1848), and Maria Sophia (1849-1906).
A sister, Catharine Young Hendricks (1850-1872) arrived on Christmas Day of that same year while brothers Isaac Newton (1853-1914) and John Peter Shindel Hendricks (1855-1893) made their own appearances before the middle of the decade had passed.
Also residing with the Hendricks in 1850 were William Hendricks’ twice-widowed, 61-year-old paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Boger, and 18-year-old Margaret Van Horn. The family was clearly doing quite well; their farm was valued on that year’s census at $7,800.
Editions of the Sunbury American during this decade confirmed the family’s success, documenting that William Hendricks’ father, Benjamin, had not only prospered financially, but had become one of the borough’s leading citizens. On 10 May 1851, the newspaper announced that he had been elected to Sunbury’s Borough Council – a post he was repeatedly reelected to to over several decades. By 6 March 1852, he had also been appointed to serve as one of the vice presidents of a committee pushing county leaders to fund the extension of railroad lines from York and Harrisburg through Sunbury and Williamsport.
That same year (1852), the status of William Hendricks’ father as an innovative business and civic leader was further demonstrated via the newspaper’s 17 July report that “[q]uite a number of persons were present to witness the operation” of “one of McCormick’s Reapers, in his fields in the lower end of the borough, on Wednesday and Thursday last.” On 16 July 1853, the newspaper announced that Benjamin Hendricks was also involved in the formation of a local bank – the Sunbury Savings Institute.
During the middle of the decade, the newspaper detailed the growing community service efforts of multiple Hendricks family members, confirming via its 11 August 1855 edition that Benjamin Hendricks had served as the “Treasurer of the Borough of Sunbury for 1854,” and noting in its 14 July 1855 edition that Benjamin’s son William M. Hendricks was elected as an officer of Washington Camp, No. 19, of the Junior Sons of America. In addition, the newspaper’s 19 January and 2 August editions documented that Benjamin Hendricks was one of the Trustees of the Sunbury Academy.
The newspaper provided an even more intimate glimpse of the social and civic lives of the Hendricks family and their neighbors when it covered the community’s 1 March 1855 gala celebration of George Washington’s 124th birthday. Organizers of the event at the American Hall included Emanuel Wilvert, the man who would later become the publication’s managing editor, and John Peter Shindel Gobin, the man who would later be commissioned as William Hendricks’ commanding officer during the U.S. Civil War. Following a Sunbury String Band performance, an address by A. J. Rockefeller and adjournment to “Young’s Hall, where the ladies of the Lutheran Church had prepared an excellent supper, in a splendid style,” a series of toasts were offered from:
- Samuel Snyder: “Americans should do their duty – seek nothing but what is right, and never surrender to any thing [sic] that is wrong, and in this way they will be defended by our noble volunteers.”
- L. Shindel: “May each returning anniversary of George Washington find us a free, prosperous and happy people.”
- Jacob Young: “Thanks be to him who led George Washington on to victory, and made us a free and independent people, where we can worship God according to the dictates of our own consciences. Brethren, let us protect this blood bought liberty from foreign influence.”
- J. P. Shindel Gobin: “The Old Guard of ’44. May their names ever be revered, and their deeds perpetuated by ‘the boys of today.’”
- William M. Hendricks: “Our Country, our whole country, may we ever have willing hearts and stout arms to defend it.”
As one decade waned and another dawned, family patriarch Benjamin Hendricks was elected as an Assistant Assessor for the Borough of Sunbury while his son, William McCullough Hendricks, was embarking on his own life as a family man.
1860 – 1861
During the evening of Thursday, 12 April 1860, William M. Hendricks wed Elizabeth A. Bright (1835-1915), a daughter of George and Sarah (Weiss) Bright of Sunbury. The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Peter Rizer of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sunbury.
The newly married couple then began their lives together in their hometown of Sunbury, where William Hendricks was a farmer with a personal estate valued at $300, according to the federal census.
Daughter Mary A. Hendricks arrived in 1861. The year was also a noteworthy one because it marked the entry of William Hendricks into the same arena where his father had played an active civic leadership role for more than a decade. He was elected to the post of Street Commissioner for the Borough of Sunbury on 15 March 1861 while his father was elected as an Assistant Burgess.
But their lives and the lives of their families would change radically within a month with the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces. On Thursday morning, 18 April 1861, local attorney John Peter Shindel Gobin traveled to Harrisburg, Dauphin County to personally offer the services of Northumberland County’s militia unit, the Sunbury Guards, to Governor Andrew Curtin to help the Keystone State fulfill President Lincoln’s request for 75,000 volunteers to defend the nation’s capital.
After Curtin gratefully accepted Gobin’s offer, Gobin returned home to Sunbury finish his recruiting efforts. On Friday evening, 19 April 1861, the Sunbury Guards assembled in the grand jury room at the Sunbury Court House, where they unanimously elected Charles J. Bruner as Captain and Gobin as 1st Lieutenant. The next morning, Bruner took 40 of his Sunbury Guards to the state capital by train, making the Sunbury Guards the first military unit to leave Northumberland County to fight the growing southern rebellion. According to a diary entry made by A. N. Brice, Esq. of Sunbury, on 21 April:
The remainder of the company, numbering between forty and fifty men, was raised, and in the afternoon, at the beating of the drum, the men met and drilled, and in the evening, marched to the Lutheran church, where Rev. Rizer preached a sermon on the ‘crisis.’ The house was immensely crowded. The ladies were engaged all day in making shirts and necessary articles for the soldiers. Sunday turned into battalion-day for the protection of the flag! Long may it wave!
The Sunbury residents left behind were by no means unpatriotic or lazy. Many had packed other Court House rooms on the same night the Guards were electing their officers, and continued to meet afterward, according to Bell’s History of Northumberland County to raise means for “providing for the families of the married soldiers, and furnishing clothing for those not provided with the articles necessary for a campaign.”
During their Three Months’ Service, while enrolled as members of Company F of the 11 Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the Sunbury Guardsmen were heralded for their valor by Governor Curtin in the Battle of Falling Waters, the first Civil War engagement in the Shenandoah Valley. They also engaged in the fighting at Martinsburg and Bunker Hill, Virginia before returning home on 31 July 1861. Following their honorable discharge, many opted to reenlist, inspiring others from the community to enlist in the army or navy in order to preserve America’s union.
William M. Hendricks Joins the Fight
William McCullough Hendricks became another of the early responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to preserve America’s union when he personally enrolled for Civil War military service at Sunbury in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania on 19 August 1861. Officially mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County on 2 September, he entered as a Private with Company C of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
* Note: Like the 11th Pennsylvania’s F Company, Company C of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was largely composed of members of the Sunbury Guards – with one very important twist. Led by Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, C Company was designated as the “color-bearer” unit with its members given the solemn and often dangerous duty of preventing the national and regimental colors from falling into enemy hands.
Military records at this time described William M. Hendricks as being a 24-year-old farmer and resident of Northumberland County who was 5’9” tall with black hair, gray eyes and a light complexion. He and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were provided with basic infantry training while stationed at Camp Curtin.
Captain Gobin quickly provided updates to families back home via letters to his family and to the Sunbury American, noting that, as of 17 September 1861, a total of 101 men had officially mustered in for service with C Company. C Company’s roster included both the youngest and oldest members of the entire regiment – John Boulton Young (aged 13) and Benjamin Walls (aged 65). Gobin also shared these important details about William Hendricks:
We expect to leave tonight for Washington or Baltimore. Our company has been made the color company of the regiment, the letter being accorded to rotation used, C. It is the same as E in the 11th. Wm. M. Hendricks has been appointed Sergeant Major, so that Sunbury is pretty well represented in the regiment, having the Quartermaster, Sergeant Major and Color Company…. Boulton is lying by me as I write, just about going to sleep.
In his own letter of 22 September to the Sunbury American, Musician Henry D. Wharton reported on life at Camp Kalorama. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, as part of the Union Army’s defense of Washington, D.C., he noted that:
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 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 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 man 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.
“It is a very fine location for a camp,” added Captain Gobin via a later letter. “Good water is handy, while Rock Creek, which skirts one side of us, affords an excellent place for washing and bathing.”
On 24 September 1861, Company C and the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were formally mustered into the U.S. Army. That same day, James VanDyke, Northumberland County’s ex-sheriff, was promoted from the ranks of Company C to the 47th’s central command as Regimental Quartermaster.
Three days later, Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the regiment 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 previously, 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, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the 47th Pennsylvanians 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 [sic], 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.
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.
On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a letter home in mid-October, Captain Gobin reported that the right wing of the 47th Pennsylvania (companies A, C, D, F and I) was ordered to picket duty after the left wing’s companies (B, G, K, E, and H) were forced to return to camp by Confederate troops:
I was ordered to take my company to Stewart’s 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 [sic], Harp and McEwen 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.”
In his own letter of this period (on 13 October to the Sunbury American), Henry Wharton described the typical day of a 47th Pennsylvanian:
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….
Wharton also reported that all of the men were well; unfortunately, he was wrong. On 17 October 1861, death claimed the first member of the entire regiment – drummer boy John Boulton Young. A favorite not just among C Company men, but of the entire 47th, “Boultie” had fought valiantly against Variola, but the medicines available to fight smallpox were just no match for the virulent strain which would claim two other members of the regiment in short order. In response, Captain J. P. S. Gobin wrote home, asking Sunbury residents to donate blankets for the Sunbury Guards:
The government has supplied them with one blanket apiece, which, as the cold weather approaches, is not sufficient…. Some of my men have none, two of them, Theodore Kiehl and Robert McNeal, having given theirs to our lamented drummer boy when he was taken sick… Each can give at least one blanket, (no matter what color, although we would prefer dark,) and never miss it, while it would add to the comfort of the soldiers tenfold. Very frequently while on picket duty their overcoats and blankets are both saturated by the rain. They must then wait until they can dry them by the fire before they can take their rest.
William Hendricks’ family and other Sunbury locals replied by donating blankets, yarn and other goods to help comfort and protect their beloved 47th Pennsylvanians as fall turned into winter. In a separate letter, Captain Gobin expressed his appreciation for a package that had been hand delivered by the wife of one of his fellow officers:
I have not tried that Brandy yet, but am very grateful for it. After being out on the picket in the rain for 24 hours, a little of it is worth a fortune. Tell Mrs. Snyder I will think of her kindness every time I take a drink. You know I will not abuse it, or disgrace myself… I had all my men vaccinated, and myself too. Mine took well, and my arm is getting very sore. Bill’s [Hendricks] arm is very sore, and he is quite sick tonight from it. I think we have blocked it completely.
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th participated in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.”
By early November, Gobin was reporting to community leaders back home that “the health of the Company and Regiment are in the best condition. No cases of small pox have appeared since the death of Boultie.” He also noted that half of the 47th Pennsylvanians, including Sunbury Guardsmen, had been ordered to join parts of the 33rd Maine and 46th New York in extending the reach of their division’s picket lines, which they did successfully to “a half mile beyond Lewinsville.”
On 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed still 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….
They weren’t sent to relieve Sherman, in fact, but they did participate in a history-making spectacle on 21 November when they engaged in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. Henry Wharton described the event to the Sunbury American in his letter of 26 November 1861 as follows:
Last Wednesday was a gala day for the soldiers on this side of the Potomac, it was a grand review, by General McClellan, of all the Volunteer troops encamped on the Virginia side of the river. – Never before, in this country, has there been assembled together such an immense body of armed men, as were reviewed then, on the ‘sacred soil’ of Virginia. The review was held in some large fields between Munson’s Hill and Ball’s Cross Roads. From Munson’s Hill, the view of the large army, passing before the President, Secretaries Cameron and Seward, General McClellan, with the Generals of the 15 different Divisions, was magnificent, and I thought as I saw the seventy-five thousand men before me, men who were willing to die for their loved flag, that if they were at once marched on to Manassas, we should have an easy victory, the peace of our country restored and an end would be put to this unjust, cursed war.
The President, with the Secretaries above mentioned, on horse back, did not reach the ground until after twelve o’clock. They were followed by several regiments of cavalry, together with a mounted brass band. I did not have the pleasure of being close enough to the President to discern his features, which fact took away considerable of the day’s pleasure.
I would suppose there was over thirty thousand civilians, looking at the review. – You can imagine, the road I passed over was about six miles, which was completely filled with vehicles of all sorts, from the finest barouche to a common furniture car, full of men, women and children, all trying their best to be on the ground first, so as to have the best position to obtain a sight of the grand affair. There was any number of ladies and gentlemen out on horseback. The ladies were elegantly dressed, some, a la milataire, and others in the highest style of fashionable art.
Sergeant Major Hendricks accompanied men, and while we were looking at the ‘bold soldier boys,’ a rabbit passed us, when the Major gave chase and soon returned, bringing the long-eared gentleman as prisoner. This capture of ‘secesh’ hastened on the departure for camp. On our way back many were the exclamations of the ladies as they passed us, concerning the rabbit – the Major was asked so many questions, that he got tired answering, so that finally he held the animal up that they could all see it and take that as answer to all questions. One boy wanted to trade his horse on the rabbit, but on examination, Hendricks concluded that his ‘haus’ was more valuable than the old quadruped of the boy. The rabbit was brought to camp and next morning it was nicely served up, by Rigby, the Captain’s cook, just in time for the Captain’s breakfast, as he returned from piquet.
The following are the Divisions and Batteries that were present at the review:
Gen McCall’s division with ten infantry and one cavalry regiment, and two batteries of artillery.
Gen. Heintzelman’s division, with seven infantry and one cavalry regiments and two batteries.
Gen. Smith’s division, with ten regiments of infantry, one cavalry and two batteries.
Gen. Franklin’s division, twelve regiments of infantry, one of cavalry and three batteries.
Gen. Blenker’s division, eleven regiments of infantry, one of cavalry and two batteries.
Gen. Porter’s division, thirteen regiments of infantry two cavalry and three batteries.
According to historian Schmidt, “each man [had been] supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, General Smith directed Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan to inform the 47th Pennsylvania’s commanding officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, that the 47th “was the best regiment in the whole division.”
Brannan rewarded the 47th Pennsylvanians for their outstanding performance by directing his staff to procure and deliver new Springfield rifles to each and every 47th Pennsylvanian.
By early December, Regimental Quartermaster James C. VanDyke, who was back home in Sunbury for an approved furlough, was arranging for another surprise for the regiment – shipments of “various articles of comfort, for the inner as well as the outer man,” according to the 21 December 1861 edition of the Sunbury American. Upon his return to camp, he also revealed an even better surprise – a sizable supply of sauerkraut – serious “comfort food” for a regiment staffed largely by German-Americans and German immigrants.
Having been ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862. Marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles, they reached the railroad station at Falls Church, and were then transported by rail to Alexandria. From there, they sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where 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 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 February 1862, Sergeant-Major William Hendricks and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians arrived at Fort Taylor in Key West. Assigned to garrison duty, they drilled daily in military strategy, including heavy artillery tactics, and helped to fell trees, build new roads and strengthen the installation’s fortifications. During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment paraded through the streets of the city. That Sunday, a number of the men mingled with locals while attending area church services. But while there were pleasant moments, there was also frustration and heartache – the time here for the 47th made more difficult by the presence of typhoid fever and other tropical diseases and the ever present dysentery spawned by soldiers living in close, unsanitary conditions.
Next ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, they camped near Fort Walker and then quartered in the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Frequently on hazardous picket detail north of their main camp, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania became known for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” and “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
Sadly though, while stationed in South Carolina, Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks received word that his younger sister, Susan, had contracted and died from spotted fever on 5 July 1862 during a visit to Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Her remains were returned home to Sunbury in Northumberland County, and interred at the Pomfret Manor Cemetery.
On 30 September 1862, the 47th Pennsylvanians were sent back to Florida where they participated with other Union forces in the assault on Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Under the command of Brigadier-General Brannan, the 1,500-plus Union force left their gunboat-escorted troop carriers at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek. With the 47th Pennsylvania on point and braving alligators, snakes and Rebel troops, the men pushed through 25 dense miles of forests and swampland in order to capture the bluff and pave the way for the Union’s occupation of Jacksonville, Florida. Companies E and K of the 47th, led by Captain Yard, also engaged in the capture of the Gov. Milton, a Confederate steamer docked near Hawkinsville.
On 5 and 15 October 1862, respectively, the 47th Pennsylvania then made even more impressive history as it became an integrated regiment, adding to its muster rolls a black teen and several young to middle-aged black men who had endured plantation enslavement in Beaufort, South Carolina. Among the men freed who subsequently opted to enroll as members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were Abraham and Edward Jassum (aged 16 and 22, respectively), and Bristor Gethers (aged33), whose name was spelled as “Presto Gettes” on transcriptions of muster rolls made by historian Samuel P. Bates. 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, Sergeant-Major William Hendricks and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians engaged Confederate forces in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point under the brigade command of 47th Pennsylvania founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, and regimental command of Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th led the way once again. This time, however, the Union’s luck ran out.
Bedeviled by snipers, the brigade faced massive resistance from an entrenched Confederate battery, as well as withering fire upon entering an open cotton field. Those headed for the Frampton Plantation’s higher ground were pounded by Rebel artillery and infantry from the surrounding forests.
Undaunted, the Union forces charged into the fire, and forced the Rebels into a four-mile retreat to the Pocotaligo Bridge. At this juncture, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut but, after two hours of exchanging fire while attempting to take the ravine and bridge, the 47th ran low on ammunition, and withdrew to Mackey’s Point. Two officers and 18 enlisted men from the 47th were killed during the expedition, including Private Seth Deibert; two officers and 114 enlisted were wounded, including Privates Jeremiah Haas, Conrad Holman, Michael Larkins, Charles Leffer, Thomas Lothard, Timothy Matthias Snyder, and Peter Wolf.
Private George Horner survived his wounds and made it back to Fort Taylor only to die in the regimental hospital there on 21 October.
On 23 October 1862, the 47th Pennsylvanians returned to Hilton Head, where several members of the regiment were appointed to serve as funeral Honor Guardsmen for the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South, General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, who had succumbed to yellow fever 30 October. Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, was later named for him. The men of the 47th Pennsylvania were the soldiers given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.
C Company’s Sergeant Peter Haupt, who also survived being wounded at Pocotaligo, succumbed from the complications of traumatic tetanus on 14 November 1862.
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 for the men of the 47th Pennsylvania was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps, Department of the South. Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks and his C Company men joined with Companies A, B, E, G, and I in duties at Key West’s Fort Taylor while the soldiers from Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
Meanwhile, back home in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, the Sunbury American was reporting in its 28 February and 7 March 1863 editions that family patriarch Benjamin Hendricks had been reelected to the Sunbury Borough Council on 20 February, and was then appointed, with Charles A. Bright, to the borough’s Graveyard oversight committee. In that latter edition, another of Henry Wharton’s letters mentioned the brief detached duty by William Hendricks at Fort Jefferson:
Yesterday a week ago, the 90th N.Y.S. Vols., Col. Morgan, arrived at Key West to relieve our regiment. We were not at all surprised at being relieved; had expected it, and were all exceedingly glad that we were to make our exit from that barren spot of creation; but that a regiment who are at ‘daggers points’ with the citizens should be sent back to see to the welfare of Unionists, Conks and the colored people, took all aback, and caused no little grumbling on the outside of the 47th Regiment. On Friday evening last, we went on board the U.S. Transport Matansas, but owing to high winds, and very probably, the superstitious idea of Friday being an unlucky day among the sailors, we did not leave the slip until next morning; when with fair weather and a good head of steam, we moved slowly and quietly down the harbor, passed the good war ship St. Lawrence and ‘Fort Taylor,’ and ere an hour had passed, Key West was lost to our vision, an [sic] I can say with the rest of the boys, ‘I hope forever.’
Col. Morgan’s return was a great thing for the colored population of Key West. He is looked on by them as the greatest man of the age … and the extravagant behavior exhibited, by them, on his arrival, exceeded anything I have yet seen…. Some two weeks ago, the Emancipation Proclamation, or Act, was celebrated at Key West…. In the morning the male portion had a procession, with music (furnished by themselves, and banners flying; conspicuous was the Stars and Stripes. By the way, a Conk, that is a resident of the Key, hailing from Nassau, N.P., whose ancesters [sic] were tories, and fled from Charleston to Nassau during the Revolutionary war, threw a stone at the procession as it was passing by, and came very near hitting the flag we are fighting for, when a stalwart son of Lehigh county, asked the fellow if he had thrown that stone to insult the flag, when he received an answer, something like ‘my own business,’ for which he received a stunner from ‘the shoulder’ that sent him reeling to the ground, from which he had to be carried by his friends, teaching him a lesson not to meddle with the emblem of Liberty when the 47th boys are about. In the afternoon the party had a gay and happy time at the Baracoon, a short distance from Fort Taylor, on the beach. Four large tables were set, and to say they ‘groaned’ under the weight of good things, substantial and dainty, would be telling, literally, the truth. – The refreshments were not dealt out grudgingly, but every one had their fill, of which more than one officer and many soldiers can bear witness to…. Mr. Curtis, a rich shipmaster, addressed them in a neat speech, welcomed them as citizens, since the President, in his wisdom, had made them so, and hoped they would keep as good a character for honesty and truth as they had when they were in bondage. Sandy, the aristocratic farmer of the race, was called on and made a speech of the day. The days [sic] festivities concluded with music and dancing….
Our passage up was about the same as we have had. Nothing new – only that if bad accommodations and filth, even worse than we ever had, can be any news, then I give it to you. The vessel was a good iron steamer; the Captain, a jolly old Dane, and his officers and crew very clever and gentlemanly. There was more sea-sickness this time than on any of our voyages. I took the plan of staying on deck and keeping quiet, the escaping the squamishness [sic] peculiar to sea voyages. We arrived at Hilton Head on Monday evening, when the Colonel went ashore to receive orders. When the boat got back, that conveyed him to the shore, it brought such news that caused a yell that fairly shook the boat, viz: Col. T. H. Good to have the command of a Brigade composed of Pennsylvanians, besides having command of the forces on this part of Port Royal Island. To be sure he is only acting Brigadier, but before long, we are sure he will wear the star, by right, and no man better deserves it.
The news here is very stirring – activity shows itself. At the Head is now lying a very formidable fleet, and by the next mail you may expect to hear of some big work – work no less than the capture of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, and I hope the perfect annihiliation [sic] of Charleston. On last Saturday a week, about four in the morning, an affair came off similar to that of Galveston, only the Rebs couldn’t keep the prizes. The account is the morning was foggy but the lookout on the gunboat Mercidita discovered a strange looking craft, bearing down on the ship from the direction of Charleston, and only a few hundred yards distant. The guns were immediately trained, and preparations made for a chase, when the Captain after hailing some five times fired into it, but before a second round of shot could be fired against her, she struck the Mercidita against the side, crushing it as readily as if it had been pasteboard. The ram at the same time opened fire on the gunboat and put a seven-inch rifle shot through one of her boilers, exploding it, and killing two and wounding three by the scalding water and steam. The Mercedita began to sink, and the Lieut. Conig, then surrendered and gave parole for his officers and men; the ram then turned around to meet the Keystone State which was coming to the relief of the Mercedita, and at five hundred yards fired a shot that did the work by blowing up the boilers of the Keystone State, and scattering death and destruction about. The Memphis and Housatonic hearing the firing came to their relief and the ram and her consort not liking the appearance of these pieces of iron on water,’ skedaddled, and were fairly driven under the guns of Sumter. Both boats were towed to the Head and are now undergoing the repairs necessary to boilers and hulls. The loss on the Keystone State were killed 20; wounded 21, among the former was the Surgeon of the ship. The Ironsides, and Powhatan have been sent up to strengthen the blockade and prevent a like disaster.
The rebel steamer Princess Royal. (English) was captured by the blockading fleet off Charleston, last week. It was the richest prize taken yet. In the hold were two steam engines of great power; six propellers for gunboats; eight one hundred pounder Armstrong guns; besides an assortment if iron, steel and other stores which Jefferson D., is just now very much in need of. The Despatch Boat Hope captured the schooner Emily Tuttle, while she was attempting to run into Charleston. Her cargo is very valuable. She is the boat we captured before and a prize crew put on board of her to take her onto one of our ports, but the original crew overpowered them, and ran her into Nassau. This time these gentlemen were fastened in the hold and the Emily will soon be brought before notice of the Court of Admiralty.
I will write to you soon again when I hope to give you good news from this portion of Uncle Sam’s farm. Four companies of our regiment were left at Fort Jefferson, Tortugas, but will be relieved in a few days and join the regiment. Col. Alexander commands them. Sergeant Major Hendricks who was with them, is now with us at his old post, looking as hale and hearty as his friends could desire. The boys are all well and in excellent spirits at being at their old quarters.
Upon his return to Key West Sergeant-Major Hendricks continued his efforts to boost morale among his men. In his own letter home, Private Alfred C. Pretz of Company I recounted time spent with his boss and Fort Taylor roommate on 1 March 1863:
[We] left our beds at an early hour and started off for the south beach before sunrise, or just about sunrise. We were going to hunt seashells. It was a splendid morning, clear, still, and warm enough to be pleasant. We soon reached the seashore and commenced picking up samples of the numerous varieties that abound in profusion. We found many small reptiles which we examined so that we did not get to the principal shell grounds before it was time to return in order to be with the mess at the breakfast hour. On our way back, we passed through the woods, with which the key is covered. These are little more than bushes, being small trees averaging eight feet in height, growing closely together with thick undergrowth of a beautiful shrub, and then on the ground a low, broad leaved plant. I plucked specimens of their foliage for enclosure with this letter. The smooth, stout, narrow leaf is from the tree, the tiny leaf, with thorns on the branch, is the undergrowth, the third variety I send is the plant I speak of. The single flower and bud is of a deep orange color and grows on trees the size of the largest trees in the Key West woods. These flower trees (I know no other name for them) are planted around the houses of town. The other flower is of a crimson color and grows in chunks like the cactus…. We never have twilight here. As soon as the sun sets darkness sets in. At present however we have bright moonlight [sic] evenings. The weather is charming.
In its 1 August 1863 edition, the Sunbury American reported that Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks’ brother, Martin Luther Hendricks, mustered in as a 4th Corporal and with Company F of the 36th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia. A different William Hendricks was also reported in that same edition as serving with the 36th Pennsylvania Militia’s Company K.
As 1863 began to slip away with each passing day, it became an increasingly noteworthy year for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers both for the number of men lost to disease – and because most of the soldiers from the regiment chose to re-enlist when their original three-year terms of service expired. Among those making this commitment was Sergeant-Major William M. Hendricks, who re-upped on 12 October 1863 at Fort Taylor in Key West.
Less than a month later, the Sunbury American published the list of “Exemptions from the Draft” which had been released on 30 October by the Provost Marshal’s Office, 14th District in Harrisburg. Among those reported as having “Paid the Commutation Money” was William Hendricks’ brother, Jacob S. Hendricks.
Meanwhile, Sergeant-Major Hendricks would continue to serve with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers as America’s Civil War ground on into 1864. Learn about his experiences during the Union’s Red River and Shenandoah Valley Campaigns in part two of this biographical sketch.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869.
2. Bell, Herbert Charles, ed. History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, Including Its Aboriginal History; the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods; Early Settlement and Subsequent Growth; Political Organization; Agricultural, Mining, and Manufacturing Interests; Internal Improvements; Religious, Educational, Social, and Military History; Sketches of Its Boroughs, Villages, and Townships; Portraits and Biographies of Pioneers and Representative Citizens, etc., etc. Chicago, Illinois: Brown, Runk & Co., Publishers, 1891.
3. Emma Hendricks, in Elderly Resident of County Seat Expires. Shamokin, Pennsylvania: Shamokin News Dispatch, 23 September 1949.
4. Hendricks Family, in Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County Pennsylvania, Containing a Genealogical Record of Representative Families, Including Many of the Early Settlers, and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens, Prepared from Data Obtained from Original Sources of Information. Chicago, Illinois: J. L. Floyd & Co., 1911.
5. Hendricks Family Birth Records (Benjamin Hendricks), in Pennsylvania Births and Christenings, 1709-1950 (Rows or Salem Lutheran Church, Penn Township, Snyder County, Pennsylvania, FHL microfilm 924,005). Salt Lake City, Family History Library, 26 September 1811.
6. Hendricks Family Marriage Records (Anna M. Hendricks and John A. Morris), in Pennsylvania Marriages, 1709-1940 (Northumberland County, FHL microfilm 961,094). Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library, 1890.
7. Hendricks Family Media Coverage. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 1840-1880.
8. Hendricks, William M., in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
9. Schmidt, Lewis G. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
10. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Virginia: 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880.
11. William Hendricks and Elizabeth Bright, in Marriages. Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, Saturday, 21 April 1860.
12. Wm. M. Hendricks, in Borough Election (also Election or The Borough Election). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 23 March 1861, 23 February 1867, and 20 February 1874.
13. Wm. M. Hendricks, in Court Proceedings (notice of his assistance in transporting prisoners to the penitentiary in Philadelphia). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 17 August 1872.
14. Wm. M. Hendricks, in In Memoriam (tribute resolutions by the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers upon Hendricks’ death). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 18 June 1875.
15. Wm. M. Hendricks, in Local Affairs (notice of Governor’s appointment of James Beard to take over William Hendricks’ job as Justice of the Peace, following Hendricks’ death). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 2 July 1875.