CDV – Major William H. Gausler, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry- & A First Defender – 1st PA Vols.

By 1912, he was the oldest surviving officer of the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers.  And he along with others in the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers, was one of the First Defenders, one of the first call men in the Civil War.

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CDV – Major William H. Gausler, 47th Pennsylvania Infantry.  Identified on the back in period ink.  William Gausler enlisted into the Field & Staff of the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry on September 24, 1861, and commissioned on that date,  and was discharged by Special Order on April 15, 1864. Note in the photo that Gausler is using a Mounted Rifles officer insignia on his cap, with the “47” below. Whether he could not find a regular infantry horn, or was his company designated at some point during the war as a mounted rifle company?  An interesting usage for an infantry line officer.

The Victorian chair has some color tinting, as well as his sword sash.


In 1856, Gausler began operating a lumber business (that would eventually be closed due to another sudden flood), and was also actively engaged in civic affairs, serving as the commanding officer of a local militia unit, the Jordan Artillery. Also known as the “Jordan Artillerists,” the Allentown-based unit dressed in the same uniforms worn by federal troops (but with plumed hats), was equipped with Springfield rifles.

In January of the New Year, when Pennsylvania leaders learned that President-Elect Abraham Lincoln would make a stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as part of a February 1861, a whistle stop tour that he was making enroute to his enauguratioh at Washington, D.C., and that Lincoln’s life was at risk because southern sympathizers had threatened to kill him before he could take office, Captain William Gausler and his men were called upon to help ensure a peaceful transition of power. (A Republican politically, Gausler was a supporter of Lincoln’s.)

Assigned with the Allen Rifles, to guard Jones House in Harrisburg, where Lincoln was slated to address a crowd, the Jordan Artillerists were among the 5,000 soldiers who heard Lincoln speak in person on 22 February 1861. Lincoln also addressed the Pennsylvania General Assembly later that same day.

It was mid-April 1861, and the President me a call for 75,000 Volunteers to suppress the rebellion and defend the Capital, and Gausler, enlisted into the Company I, 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry — Three Months’ Service

The bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-14 April 1861 (Currier & Ives, public domain).

The bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-14 April 1861 (Currier & Ives, public domain).

Combining Gausler’s Jordan Artillerists with the men from the Allen Rifles, Company I  was hastily mustered into service at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg on 20 April 1861 as part of the brand new 1st Regiment, which had been established on 13 April 1861 by the citizenry of Lehigh and Northampton counties in the face of rising tensions between America’s North and South.

Gausler’s surname would frequently be misspelled throughout the Civil War as “Gansler” in both Adjutant General records and press coverage of his wartime service, and this is perhaps many researching this officer miss his early service in the Civil War, as the spelling used in the rolls of the 1st Penn. is “Gansler.”

Initially ordered to guard railroad lines, the men of Company I and their fellow 1st Regiment volunteers were assigned to defend Baltimore, While occupying Frederick City, Md, Gausler and his Company I soldiers volunteered to procure supplies from Point of Rocks, which they did—while under fire from Confederate troops.

Receiving  a personal letter from Gov. Curtin,  shortly after this, appointing him a field officer and authorizing him to assemble a recruited regiment.” In response, Gausler help in founding and staffing the new 47th Penn. Volunteer Infantry.

47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry — Three Years’ Service.

Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for 11 days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night, after marching 45 miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade.

But Major Gausler and two other officers from the 47th Pennsylvania would be unable to guide their subordinates when they needed it most.

The Controversy

Although the 11 May 1864 Evening Star reported Maj. William Gausler's dismissal, President Lincoln personally overturned the federal government's ruling against Gausler. Image: Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.

Although the 11 May 1864 Evening Star reported W. H. Gausler’s  dismissal, President Lincoln personally overturned the federal government’s ruling against Gausler (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

The 11 May 1864 Evening Star in Washington, D.C. carried startling news for those who knew William H. Gausler. Gausler had been dismissed, along with First Lieutenants W. H. R. Hangen and William Rees, from military service “for cowardice in the actions of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill on the 8th and 9th of April, and for having tendered their resignations while under such charges” (AGO Special Order No. 169, 6 May 1864).

The allegations against the 47th Pennsylvania’s officers would continue to trouble the hearts and minds of Colonel Good and his men for months as the situation went unresolved—despite official protests that were lodged by Good and others who condemned the allegations of cowardice against Gausler, Hangen, and Reese as grossly inaccurate and unfair.

The stain was finally removed from the regiment when President Abraham Lincoln stepped in. According to the History Book Club’s The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 8 (derived from Collected Works. The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1953), President Lincoln personally reviewed and reversed the Adjutant General’s findings against Gausler. On 14 October 1864, Lincoln wrote to U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

Please send the papers of Major Gansler [sic], by the bearer, Mr. Longnecker. A. LINCOLN

An annotation  to Lincoln’s collected works explains that “Mr. Longnecker was probably Henry C. Longnecker of Allentown, Pennsylvania,” and makes clear that, although Major W. H. Gausler had indeed been dismissed for cowardice, President Lincoln disagreed with the decision, and overturned it on 17 October 1864.

This same annotation presents confirmation of President Lincoln’s action and the resulting Special Orders (No. 350), issued by the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General:

By direction of the President, so much of Special Orders, No. 169 . . . as relates to Major W. H. Gansler [sic], 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, is hereby revoked, and he is honorably discharged, on tender of resignation.

The notation further explains, “Although the name appears as ‘Gansler’ in Special Orders, it is ‘Gausler’ on the roster of the regiment.”

A more detailed explanation of why Gausler was brought up on those charges was provided in Gausler’s obituary in The Allentown Leader, following his passing in 1914:

“He was court martialed for making a superior officer apologize on his knees at the point of a gun for slurring.

In 1907, the surviving members of the 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers formed an “alumni association,” and elected their former captain, William H. Gausler, as the group’s first president. Gausler also became a favorite at 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer reunions.

By 1912, he was the oldest surviving officer of the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. At the regiment’s 41st annual reunion in October 1913, he was reported by Easton news media to have recounted the 47th Pennsylvania’s exploits for the surviving members of the regiment and their families in a special presentation to the gathering, and proclaimed that the 47th “was noted for discipline and second to no volunteer regiment in the Rebellion (Civil War).”

Less than six months later, the old soldier was gone, having passed away at his home at 2143 North Van Pelt Street in Philadelphia on 19 March 1914. According to his obituary in The Allentown Leader, he was preceded in death by his wife and had been in failing health, himself, for some time:

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The image is in very good condition.



Additional information

Weight .5 lbs