Wednesday, November 29, 2006
47th Pennsylvania Volunteers
The Forty-seventh Regiment's commanding officer was a strict disciplinarian, having for years commanded the Allen Rifles, a militia company well known in Pennsylvania for its efficient drill.
The regiment, brigade and division were moved to Camp Griffin and on the 11th of October, participated in the grand review at Bailey's Cross Roads.
On the 22nd of January, 1862, the regiment was, at the request of Brigadier General Brannan, then commanding the Third Brigade, ordered to accompany him to Key West, Florida. On the 27th of January the regiment boarded the steamship Oriental at Annapolis, Maryland and proceeded to Key West. Arriving on the 4th of February, the regiment joined with the Seventh New Hampshire, and the Ninetieth and Ninety-first New York, the whole under the command of General Brannan. The regiments were drilled five to eight hours each day, a part of the drill being in heavy artillery. The men of the regiment suffered much from fevers incident to the climate, and many of its members died. Remaining at Key West until the 18th of June, it embarked with the brigade to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where it arrived on the 22nd. It remained in camp at the rear of Fort Walker.
On the 16th of September an expedition was outfitted to penetrate Florida and remove the obstruction in the St. John's River. The force selected consisted of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, Seventh Connecticut, First Connecticut Battery and one company of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, all under the command of General Brannan. Landing at Maysport Mills, on the 1st of October, the campaign opened by operations directed against St. John's Bluff, a strongly fortified point, five miles from the mouth of the St. John River. Moving on the 2nd through swamps and pine woods, by a circuit of twenty-five miles, the Forty-seventh in advance, constantly skirmishing with, and driving the enemy as they went, the command bivouacked at night, in rear of the fort, in sight of the rebel works. The gunboats were continually exchanging shots with the fort during the night. In the morning, the brigade was formed, and moved to the assault, but found that the rebel General Finnegan, who was in command, had evacuated under cover of darkness, leaving eleven pieces of artillery, in excellent order, and an immense quantity of ammunition. Companies E and K, under command of Captain Yard, were sent in pursuit of the retreating foe, and, after a sharp skirmish, took possession of Jacksonville, Florida. Thence the two companies proceeded, on the 6th, by steamer Darlington, two hundred miles up the river, where the rebel steamer Governor Milton was captured, and safely conveyed within the Union lines. The artillery, ammunition and materials captured at St. John's Bluff, was placed upon steamers, and with the command were taken to Hilton Head, where they arrived on the 7th, the object of the expedition having been accomplished, with a loss to the Forty-seventh of only two wounded.
On the 21st of October 1862, the command proceeded to destroy the railroad bridge over the Pocotaligo, and sever communications between Charleston and Savannah. The brigade engaged the enemy at Pocotaligo. The enemy was strongly posted and the two opposing forces fought for about two hours until the Union brigade, running low on ammunition and with night falling, withdrew to Mackey's Point.
On the 15th of November, the regiment was ordered to Key West, Florida, and arrived at that post on the 18th. Here a detachment of five companies was ordered to garrison Fort Taylor, and the remaining five companies to garrison Fort Jefferson. The military importance of these Forts was considered very great. The Southern government was attempting to secure foreign intervention and there was a high likelihood that forts would be attacked. Recognizing the imminent peril to which they were exposed, without a moment's delay, the forts were put into the highest possible condition of defence in an effort to make them impregnable. During this time, the enlistments of nearly five hundred of the men of the regiment re-enlisted, and received a veteran furlough. The regiment remained in these forts until the 25th of February, 1863. On this date, orders were received to proceed to Louisiana, embarking on the steamer Charles Thomas. Arriving at Algiers on the 28th they were moved by rail to Brashear City and thence conveyed by steamer up the Bayou Teche to Franklin, its destination. On the 15th of March it moved, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, via New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washignton, to Alexandria, at which place it was joined by a fleet of Federal gunboats.
After a few days rest, it again moved forward, following the course of the Red River to Natchitoches. The intended point of attack was Shreveport. On the night of the 7th of April, the Forty-seventh regiment encamped at Pleasant Hill, and on the following day marched until three P.M., when the column halted. Firing for some time had been heard in the direction of Sabine Cross Roads. The Forty-seventh advanced at double-quick, passing the Second Division of the Nineteenth Corps. As it approached the front, cavalry, infantry, and artillery were met in confusion seeking the rear. The brigade was brought into position on a small elevation. Scarcely had the line been formed, when the pursuing and victorious enemy came pressing on. A well directed volley suddenly checked his course, and he was driven back in dismay. Again he attempted to break the line, and again was repulsed. The rebels, thinking they had repulsed our whole army, dashed impetuously on, and through the line, but those that had been retreating stopped and made a desperate stand. They were ordered to hold their fire until the rebels were within short range, when from both infantry and the artillery, a storm of iron and lead was hurled upon the foe that literally mowed them down. the rebels halted in amazement, but still they fought, and bravely; volley after volley was discharged from each side full into the ranks of their opponents, but neither gave signs of yielding, and night charitably threw her mantle over the ghastly scene, and enforced a cessation of hostilities. With the intervention of darkness, the men lay down in line of battle. Shortly after midnight the command was withdrawn. Wearied and worn, the command returned to Pleasant Hill on the 9th. The loss within the ranks of the Forty-seventh was sixty men killed and wounded.
At Pleasant Hill the regiment was again engaged with enemy forces when the brigade was attacked by rebel forces. The Union forces were victorious but due to a shortage of supplies, was compelled to retreat and ultimately reached Alexandria arriving on the 25th of April 1863. During the progress of this memorable expedition, the regiment marched eight hundred miles, and lost by sickness, killed, wounded and missing, two hundred men. The unit remained for some time in Alexandria. On the 20th of June, the command was moved by steamer to New Orleans.
The Nineteenth Corps was now ordered to Washington, and on the 5th of July, the regiment embarked on the steamer M'Clellan, and arrived at the capital on the 12th. The corps was engaged in the defence of the National capital, and in expelling the rebel army from Maryland. General Sheridan was soon after placed in command of the forces here concentrated, and proceeded to reorganize what was thence forward known as the Army of the Shenandoah.
On the 19th of September was fought the battle of Opequan, followed by a rebel stand at Winchester which ended with the rebels fleeing toward Fort Republic. The command soon after returned and encamped at Cedar Creek. Colonel Tilghman Good, an Allentonian, and and Lt. Col. Alexander were as here mustered out of service, their terms having expired. Captain Charles W. Abbott, of Company K, was promoted to fill on of the vacancies.
At Cedar Creek on the 19th of October the rebel forces, under General Jubal Early, struck the encamped Union forces and drove them from their works. The Second Brigade with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat. he line was formed while vast bodies of men were rushing past it. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under cover of a heavy morning fog. 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 a raking fire. Repeatedly 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 atop his charger. The general, 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 by them —"Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!" The lines were reformed and subsequent charges by the enemy were repulsed. This success cheered the hearts of all and the army began to take courage. When the final grand charge was made, the brigade counter charged gallantly, and sent the rebels whirling up the valley in confusion. The loss to the regiment was one hundred and seventy-six killed, wounded and missing.
The corps went into winter quarters at Camp Russel, five miles south of Winchester. However, it moved its quarters on the 20th of December to Camp Fairview, two miles from Charleston. where it was on constant duty guarding railroads and constructing fortifications. On the 4th of April 1865, the unit was again in Virginia passing through Winchester and Kernstown; but the army under General Grant had forced the enemy under General Lee to surrender on the 9th. The fighting was ended. The regiment moved to Washington and encamped near Fort Stevens. here it was clothed and equipped, and participated in the grand review on the 23rd and 24th of May.
It should be noted that the men of the Forty-seventh re-enlisted while stationed in Key West. This caused them to be obligated to serve bebeyond the point where the war was officially over. They signed on for a specific term of service and not "for the duration" as was the case with many rebel soldiers. Thus, on the 1st of June 1865, the regiment was sent to Savannah, Georgia and in July it was in Charleston, South Carolina. Here many fell victim of disease and their remains lie in repose in the Magnolia Cemetery. At length the long wished for day of muster-out arrived. On the morning of the 3rd of January, 1866, the regiment embarked for New York, then to Philadelphia by rail. It had seen service in seven of the southern States, participated in the most exhausting campaigns, marched more than twelve hundred miles, and made twelve voyages at sea. It was the only Pennsylvania regiment that participated in the Red River expedition, or that served in that Department until after the surrender of Lee. On the 9th of January 1866, after a term of service of four years and four months, it was mustered out a Camp Cadwalader.
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