Wednesday, October 29, 2014

February 1864: 47th PA Honors Col. Robert McAllister

From 15 December to 25 February 1864, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were stationed in Florida.  Company A was assigned to garrison Fort Meyers.  Companies B, C, D and I were assigned to garrison Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.  Companies E, F, G, and H were assigned to man Fort Jefferson, the Union's most desolate fortress in the Dry Tortugas, which was considered to be America's Devil's Island. 

The men of the 47th were plagued with malaria, dysentery, hepatitis and other diseases while in Florida.  Private Jenkins J. Richards, of Company E, suffered attacks of dysentery, malaria and hepatitis periodically from 15 May 1863 until his discharge by a surgeon's certificate on 3 June 1865. 

To help pass the time, the troops at Fort Jefferson started a couple of theatrical groups to perform in the fort's theater.  John Lynn Dennett founded "Jack Lynn's Troupe of Pennsylvania Minstrels."  The troupe performed Dennett's melodramas such as "Charles Brandon - or The Gambler's Fate" and some of Dennett's "Serious Comical Burlesques" or his "Extravaganzica Plantationico Display of Ethiopian Eccentricities" or "Sports of the Cotton Field." 

In February 1864, the 47th was relieved of Florida garrison duty by the 110th New York Infantry Regiment and the 2nd US Colored Troops.  The 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to steam to Louisiana to join General Nathaniel Bank's Red River Campaign, which was supposed to isolate Texas from the rest of the Confederacy.  

Before leaving Florida, men of Companies D and H - from Perry County, PA - purchased a number of Florida crabwood canes to be sent to several of Perry County's leading citizens.  Among the canes was one for former Perry County resident Colonel Robert McAllister, commander of the 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  McAllister had moved to Oxford Furnace in Warren County, NJ before the war.  When the war broke out, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in May 1861 at the age of 47 years.  On 30 June 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  On 2 July 1863, McAllister was wounded near the Smith Farm on Emmetsburg Road in Gettysburg, PA by a Minie ball passing through his left leg and an artillery shell fragment striking his right foot.  McAllister recuperated  with his family in the Hotel Belvidere in Warren County.   The Perry County men of the 47th Pennsylvania had heard of McAllister's leg injuries so they wanted McAllister to have a special crabwood cane.

Copyright 1999-2014: Jay C. Richards  

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