Notable Veterans of The Woodlands

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Kathie Brill, our newest intern from the Historic Preservation Department at UPenn has highlighted the stories of two notable Veterans buried at The Woodlands. She is also taking over our Instagram account this week, sharing her perspective as a new Philadelphia resident and frequent visitor of The Woodlands.


Emily Bliss Souder

Emily Bliss Souder was a volunteer nurse at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. She lived in Philadelphia with her husband and 4 children. At that point in time, formal organization for trained nurses in the United States had just come to life. In 1861 A woman named Dorothy Dix ”was appointed Superintendent of Female Nurses of the Union Army by Secretary of War Simon Cameron. She was empowered to create a volunteer nurse corps and regulate supplies that were donated to the troops.” (Stanley B. Burns, Nursing in the Civil War, 2009). So, women like Emily Souder and her contemporaries, upon the hearing of significant combat, made the pilgrimage out to scenes of post battle devastation along with doctors, surgeons, and members of the Sanitary Department. Between five and ten thousand women offered their services in the medical field during the Civil War.

The book “Leaves from the battlefield of Gettysburg; a series of letters from a field hospital; and national poems” is a published collection of letters and poems written by Emily Souder describing her nursing experiences. She writes “of the great and pressing want of kind Christian women, who can minister to the bodily suffering and also to the spiritual wants of our poor soldiers…how sorely stricken and wounded our noble soldiers are, and how grievously these rebel wounded are suffering and both lying side by side like brothers.” I recommend reading the entire book which lucidly depicts an inside account of the gruesome aftermath in the weeks following the Battle of Gettysburg, and the crucial role women played during that time. It also provides a glimpse of war in the context of a time period with a limited amount of treatments and technology in the medical world, in comparison to what exists today.

The full text can be found here.

Works Cited:
Burns, Stanley B. “Nursing in the Civil War.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service.

 Colonel Sylvester Bonnaffon Jr.


Sylvester Bonnaffon Jr. entered the army in 1861 in the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Throughout the Civil War he worked his way up through the ranks eventually becoming a Colonel in April of 1865. He is one of two Civil War Medal of Honor recipients buried at The Woodlands. He received the award for “’distinguished gallantry at the at the battle of Bodyton Plant road, Virginia, October 27th 1864. [Where he] checked the rout and rallied the troops of his command in the face of terrible fire and musketry.’” (Benson, Benson, & Wiedersheim 1992) He was injured during this battle. He was mustered out of the 99th Infantry in 1865 but continued to serve in First Regiment Infantry in the National Guard of Pennsylvania, as lieutenant and then captain. He was honorably discharged in 1874, and then was called to emergency service from July to September of 1877 as a Colonel in the Twentieth Regiment Emergency Infantry. He then Major of the Artillery Corps, Washington Grays Batillion and finally the Colonel of the Third Regiment Infantry, National Guard of Pennsylvania until 1890. During his time with the Third Infantry he built the Armory at 12th and Reed Streets which was completed in1882. His Son, Sylvester Bonnaffon III, continued the legacy of military service serving as a US army officer during the Spanish American War and WWI.

Works Cited:
Benson, Edwin N., et al. History of the First Regiment Infantry, National Guard of Pennsylvania. University Publications of America, 1992.