Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 27, 1862: 47th PA Infantry Regt. Ships Out to Florida

On January 22, 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment traveled by boats to the Georgetown Arsenal to exchange their muskets.  The soldiers exchanged their old Harper's Ferry Arsenal Model 1842 "Mississippi Rifles" for the new Springfield Arsenal Model 1861 rifled muskets.  After receiving their new rifles, the regiment traveled by train to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
At Annapolis, Samuel Lightcap and other members of Allentown's Company B received passes to go tour the town.  After eating a hearty dinner at the Hotel Metropolitan, Company B returned to camp and was ordered to go back and round up the other members of the regiment who had slipped into town without passes.

The regiment loaded its equipment on transports, and on January 27, 1862, Colonel Tilghman Good's 47th Pennsylvania Regiment steamed out of the Chesapeake Bay toward the Atlantic Ocean on the newly built steamer ORIENTAL, commanded by Captain Benjamin Franklin Tuzo.  Three men from Easton companies - two from Company E and one from Company A - deserted before the ship sailed.  The ship anchored at Fortress Monroe, Virginia for the night and weighed anchor in the morning for Florida.

After a few days at sea, the men of the 47th began to suffer from seasickness as they passed around stormy Cape Hatteras.  Captain J. P. S. Gobin, of Company C, recalled in his letters and journal, "Nearly every one of them became seasick. The bulwarks, the deck, and every available spot was filled with them, emptying the contents of their stomachs.  At the supper table (on Wednesday), I nearly died laughing to see one after another of the officers get up and leave for their rooms.  I began to feel rather serious, and as I was resolved that those left should not have a chance to laugh at me, I started for my room.  When I got there, I found [Lieutenant] Reese in it, awfully sick, and making as much fuss as if he was trying to get his boots up through his stomach.  I was laughing at him when all at once it caught me. and oh Jerusalem, but I was sick!  After throwing up all I had in me, and trying hard to hunt something else, I laid down and did not get up until Friday morning.  No matter how sick anyone became, he got no sympathy.  The well ones would laugh at him, knowing there was no danger.  On Friday, I staggered on deck and by noon was all right again.  But of all on board, over 1,000, I do not think there were 50 who were not sick."

While at sea, Francis J. Mildenberger, of Phillipsburg, in Captain Richard Graeffe's Company A, was promoted to 5th Sergeant.  Jacob Beck, of Easton, also in Company A, was promoted to Sergeant.

The ORIENTAL steamed southward.  The soldiers were amazed at the sight of flying fishes, sea turtles, and dolphins that passed the ship.  Lieutenant Charles Abbott, of Company K, passed his collapsible telescope around so the men could see the sea creatures and the islands of the Bahamas as they steamed past them. 

When the ORIENTAL arrived in Key West, Florida, an officers' meeting was called, and a committee was elected to draft the customary resolution thanking the ship's crew for their safe passage.  The committee consisted of Colonel Good, Chaplain W. D. C. Rodrock, Major Gausler, Captain Gobin, Lieutenant Bonstein and Lieutenant Stuber.  The resolution was presented to Captain Tuzo and his officers: William Swaney, Van Wit, and Antonio Labens.  

On February 6, 1862, Captain Charles H. Yard, of Company E, wrote to the Easton Daily Evening Express, "Having a few spare minutes, after the labor of the day, I thought it best to write a few lines to you and get it off with to-morrow's mail, to let our friends in Easton know our whereabouts.  We started from Annapolis twelve days ago, on the steamship ORIENTAL for this place, where we arrived the day before yesterday.  We had a very pleasant voyage, and the only thing to mar it was sea-sickness.  Altogether, I think we have made quite an agreeable change from the mud of Virginia to the sandy beach of Key West.  It is about the same warmth here at the present as it is in summer in Easton, and it is the winter season.  The members of the company are all well and enjoying themselves.  Oranges, cocoa-nuts and fish are in great abundance here.   

"We are preparing our camping place out of a thicket.  The average height of the bushes is fourteen feet and very dense.  I will write as soon as possible and give you a description of our trip, and also one of the island. There are at present on the island five companies of regulars and three regiments of volunteers, the 90th and 91st New York and the 47th Pennsylvania.  I will  try and give you all the particulars in my next letter and hoping this short letter will prove satisfactory for the present.  I remain, Yours Respectfully, Capt. C. H. Yard."

Copyright 1999-2012: Jay C. Richards      

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