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B.F. Fisher

B.F. Fisher

Federal (USV)


Benjamin Franklin Fisher

(1834 - 1915)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Command Billet: Signal Officer

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: Signal Detachment, Army of the Potomac


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

An attorney from Bucks County, he was 26 years old in July 1861 when he was mustered into service as 1st Lieutenant, Company H, 3rd Pennsylvania Reserves. He was detached to the Signal Corps on 27August and promoted to Captain on 7 July 18621. He commanded a detachment of signallers from February 1862, with General Hooker, and on the Peninsular Campaign under McClellan.2

On the Campaign

He was in charge of the Signal detachment, Army of the Potomac on the Maryland Campaign.

The rest of the War

He was Chief Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac by June 1863, when he was captured on reconnaissance near Aldie, Virginia, at the outset of what became the Gettysburg Campaign. 3

"On the 9th of February [1864] a number of officers made their escape from Libby prison, in Richmond. Among these was Captain Benjamin F. Fisher, of the Third regiment [PA Reserves]. He was a young man of liberal education; quick in conception, and energetic in the execution of movements and projects that pertained to his command. [...] During the movement to Chancellorsville Captain Fisher rendered great service to the commanding general, and again, was the first to detect and report Lee's movements up the Rappahannock at the beginning of the campaign into Pennsylvania. On the 17th of June, he left the headquarters of the army, then at Fairfax station, to report to General Pleasonton, who was in command of the cavalry near Aldie. He was directed by the chief of staff to make a reconnoissance, under an escort to be furnished by General Pleasonton, to the Blue Ridge, in order to ascertain the location of Lee's forces; but whilst en route for Pleasonton's headquarters, he was captured by a band of Moseby's men, and when next heard from he was an inmate of Libby prison."

"Colonel Ross, of Pennsylvania, who was also a prisoner, organized a working party for the purpose of effecting an escape from Libby. After many days of anxious labor he completed a tunnel about fifty feet long, extending from the cellar of the prison under an open lot of ground to the yard connecting with the adjoining building. The work was completed on the 9th of February, and the prisoner, emerged from the yard in squads of two and three, and thence made their escape from the city, aided by the loyal citizens in the rebel capital. The exodus began about nine o'clock in the evening and continued until three o'clock next morning. Captain Fisher, with one companion, had been admitted into the organized party, and hence came out at about ten o'clock in the evening, and thus had a reasonable prospect for successful escape. They proceeded to the Chickahominy river that night, passing the guard stationed at Meadow bridge; they concealed themselves during the next day under a pine thicket several miles beyond the river. At dark they resumed their journey and continued traveling all night, avoiding the roads and again concealing themselves in the thickets and jungles of the Chickahominy swamp during the day. When they reached the vicinity of the White house they were overtaken by a severe snow storm, and were compelled to lie for two days and one night under a laurel thicket, without stirring lest the rebel scouts, who were searching in every direction, should discover their hiding place. On the evening of the 18th of February they encountered a party of the enemy, were pursued and fired upon; the captain's companion was recaptured, but he, armed with the desperate determination that had nerved him through all the days of privation and nights of exposure, made good his escape through thickets and swamps, and reached Williamsburg on the morning of the 21st of February, where he with many others was finally rescued by the cavalry sent out by General Butler to search for the escaped prisoners. Captain Fisher was reassigned to his old position on the staff of the Army of the Potomac, was promoted to the rank of major in the signal corps, and subsequently was made the chief signal officer of the United States, with the rank of Colonel."4

After the War

He had relieved Colonel Nicodemus in December 1864 as Chief of the Army Signal Corps, at the rank of Colonel, an interim appointment. He was nominated by the President and approved by the Senate as permanent Chief of Signals when his commission expired in 1866, but the appointment was reversed in favor of Colonel Myer in 1867. He mustered out of service and had been Brevetted Brigadier General of Volunteers in March 1865 for War service.

He returned to his previous occupation, practicing law, in Montgomery County, PA - by 1888 he was said to be "a prominent member of the bar of Philadelphia".5

References & notes

His papers are at the Pennsylvania State Archives (see summary), and a photo of him with his staff on the "steps of Signal Corps Headquarters, 1816 F St., NW - Washington, D.C., April 1865" has been posted online by The photo used here c. 1862 from a CDV sold by Heritage Auctions in December 2012.


11/21/1834; Boalsburg, PA


09/09/1915; Valley Forge, PA; burial in Morris Cemetery, Phoenixville, PA


1   His service card is online.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Adjutant-General, Pennsylvania Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866, Published <2005, first accessed 01 July 2005, <>, Source page: Fisher, B. F.  [AotW citation 175]

2   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 5 (Ser #5)  [AotW citation 176]

3   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 27/Part 1 (Ser #43)  [AotW citation 177]

4   Sypher, Josiah Rhinehart, History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr and Company, 1865, pp. 504-506  [AotW citation 178]

5   Linn, John Blair, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883, Rev. Peter Fisher biographical sketch  [AotW citation 179]