Sunday, December 19, 2004

Gone With The Wind

I've done some more reading and found additional details concerning William Ebert, the soldier with the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry who I think may have been my great great grandmother's younger brother. The Regimental History for the 12th includes a fairly detailed account of the Battle of Bald Hill outside of Atlanta on July 21st and 22nd, 1864, and William Ebert is specifically mentioned as one of the ten men from Company D who were wounded in that battle on the 21st. Ten more men from that company were killed that day making it the single bloodiest day in the war for Company D. Two regiments, the 12th Wisconsin and the 16th Wisconsin, attacked the outer perimeter of the rebel defense for the city of Atlanta, gaining for the Union a foothold in the series of trenches that had been dug by rebel defenders on the eastern outskirts of the city. Once ensconced inside the defense works, Sherman's army was able to gradually extend its control of the networked trenches over the next two months until the city fell into Union hands.

The 12th had seen very little combat during its first two years in the war, which were spent mostly in the vicinity of Vicksburg as part of an extended siege and subsequent occupation. The rebels there had preferred surrender to starvation. The 12th was apparently "veteranized" in the spring of 1864 for the Army of the Tennessee's push from Kentucky through Tennessee and Alabama into Georgia and the Carolinas. This meant that a number of soldiers with considerable combat experience whose units had completed their three years of service were able to reenlist and transfer into the 12th Wisconsin, a well-seasoned but not yet combat-hardened outfit, rather than start from scratch with a newly formed regiment consisting mostly of green recruits. The men of the 12th in 1864 were in the last year of their three year enlistment and many were counting the days until they could go home having done their stint. Men in the unit who were willing to reenlist were given furloughs that spring so they could visit their families and help recruit replacements for those who didn't plan to reenlist. One of the soldiers in Company D, Charles Waldo, had been a young newspaper editor for the West Bend Post before the war and had regularly published letters in that paper throughout the first two years of his enlistment. His letters didn't glorify the war by any means, but they did make it clear that for a great many infantrymen the war was perhaps not a grand adventure but certainly something different and a bit more interesting than a life of hard labor on the family farm. His accounts of daily life in the army made it abundantly clear that a thousand men from the next county had spent far more time cleaning their guns than shooting them. So it's not that hard for me to imagine a twenty-year-old younger sibling of one of my ancestors joining up, probably in defiance of his elders, a father pushing around a sixty-year-old German beer gut , and the husbands of his older sisters, who were almost forty and couldn't go because they had kids to raise.

Signing up as he did on George Washington's birthday, William Ebert might have had perhaps six or eight weeks of boot camp to learn the basics of soldiering before he was sent off by train to join up with the remainder of the regiment at the end of April in Cairo, Illinois. More than three hundred new recruits joined the regiment that spring and they perhaps had a chance to share their barracks at Camp Randall in Madison for a few days with the five hundred or more "veterans" who had earned furloughs by extending their enlistments. From Cairo they apparently went by boat on the Tennessee River to Clifton, Tennessee, where they arrived on the 14th of May, then they marched 300 miles across northern Alabama through Huntsville to Decatur and on to Rome, Georgia before arriving in Ackworth on the 8th of June as part of "the Atlanta campaign under General Sherman." .

According to the record, twenty-five men from each of six companies from the 12th, comprising a force of 150 men, were assigned the task of storming a rebel entrenchment at Kennesaw Mountain on the 15th of June after a means was found to get past a dense thicket not far from the entrenched position. They managed to dislodge the entrenched rebels and hold their position for a short period of time before rebel reinforcements arrived to drive them back beyond the thicket. The short-lived success of this maneuver seems to have established the blueprint for the plan of attack employed a little more than a month later at Bald Hill. Only one man from Company D was killed at Kennesaw Mountain and a small handful were wounded in the encounter, but the fact that this strategy was repeated suggests that it was viewed as a workable one, albeit potentially quite hazardous. At Bald Hill the battle lasted two days instead of fifteen minutes. The casualty count was much higher, but they were able to establish control of the position and from that foothold in the enemy trenches they carried forward a two-month siege with quite limited losses for their unit.

My guess is that William Ebert, the green recruit, had a good chance to see what soldiers are expected to do at Kennesaw Mountain and a chance to do it himself a month later at Bald Hill, where he suffered a wound that probably put him in a hospital for about six months before he was told in January, 1865, that his services to the Union army were no longer required. He probably returned to Scott Township in mid-January just as my great great grandfather and his brother-in-law were completing whatever training they received at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee in preparation for their great adventure in Mobile Bay and on the Texas gulf coast at the mouth of the Rio Grande.

A retrospective view of Sergeant Charles Waldo, the embedded reporter with the 12th Wisconsin, is provided in a student essay written in 1967 by Herbert Neeck, who had access to an extensive diary maintained by Waldo in addition to the steady stream of letters posted in the West Bend Post. The string of newspaper accounts ends just as my ancestor's probable sibling was undergoing his basic training in Madison. It may be that the trenches on the outskirts of Atlanta weren't real conducive to successful warblogging, but I think we all know that few accounts of what transpired there could really compete with the panoramic view later provided by Margaret Mitchell in 'Gone With The Wind'.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

This Just In

I received a few e-mails this week in reply to e-mails I sent. Nothing unusual about that. But I do have some news as a result. I heard from The American Civil War Homepage and am informed that later this month my webpage and I will be listed as their contact for descendants of Civil War soldiers who served in the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. More than a thousand men served in the 27th and three-fourths of them survived the war, so after four or five generations the number of potential descendants of those survivors is now quite large if not yet astronomical. Needless to say, I don't really expect to hear from all of them.

I also heard from the managing editor of the Kewaskum Stateman, a small, family-owned, weekly newspaper that has been in business now for 109 years. I'm told that for a small fee they will be happy to track down an obituary from their archives which may help to resolve one of the enduring mysteries raised on my webpage, the meaning of my middle name. Ordinarily all of my genealogical research is done free of charge, but in this case I'll make an exception as I know what it is I'm looking for and they know how to find it. I don't belong to or to any of the other big genealogy sites that charge monthly or annual fees for membership. It may be that the paysites are well worth the expense, but I can't vouch for them personally as I've never joined any of them. My experience has been that an amazing amount of material is already freely available on the internet. One of the main purposes of my webpage is to demonstrate just how much information can be gleaned from close reading of only a few key, freely available documents.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

My Niche

I signed up with Blog Explosion about a month ago and this is only my third or fourth post as a BE member. Belonging has greatly increased the amount of traffic I get which I guess is the main idea, but the vast majority of those visitors have been of the thirty seconds and out variety. I've gotten a couple of encouraging comments from a few people who have read my blog and managed to find their way to my webpage, but so far I don't really feel like part of an online community. The most important effect of belonging is that my page has had enough visitors so that it now registers on the search engines and I am starting to get the occasional visit from Google searchers for whom my site may be a bit more relevant. Family history enthusiasts, German genealogy researchers and Civil War history buffs occupy related spheres that are separate but have significant overlaps. Blogging is for me a way to look at some of the overlaps and try to find ways to make those separate spheres interesting to outsiders who are not actively involved in any of them. So far I haven't had a great deal of luck, but as a project I think it's one that will take some time to gain momentum and I suspect it will require some patience and persistence.

A day after last week's post appeared I went to lunch at a local Sbarro's, one of my usual haunts. Usually I dine alone as the Filipinos tend to give expats an amount of personal space rarely extended to other Filipinos. But on this occasion an elderly Filipino saw me eating alone and asked if he could share my table. He told me he was eighty-eight years old. That means he was in his mid-twenties when the Japanese began their invasion a few days after Pearl Harbor. He told me that the Japanese were harsh, but that things were very orderly and people felt safe and secure during the Japanese occupation of the country. This man would have been not yet thirty when MacArthur restored American rule to the Philippines. I've read books about the Battle of Manila, some of which estimate the causalties in my immediate neighborhood at far in excess of 100,000 lives, so I knew enough to be able to ask questions that would trigger a few memories. He was especially impressed by last month's elections in the U.S., marveling that Kerry could concede defeat only one day after a poll decided by only a few hundred thousand votes in southern Ohio. Vote-counting in the Philippines routinely takes a month or more to determine an outcome, even when the exit polls suggest a wide margin of victory. Bush-Gore in 2000 is the kind of post-election politicking Filipinos expect from their elections, but usually with a few more shootings than we're accustomed to seeing.

My seatmate from Hong Kong to Manila, the last leg of my recent 30 hour transit from the mid-Pacific via Auckland on an Airbus owned by Cathay Pacific, was a forty-year-old remodeling contractor from Cincinnatti. He'd never been out of the continental U.S. before, but apparently had struck up a romance with a Filipina on the internet. His fiance' was planning to meet him at the airport. Immigration rules say that marriages arranged over the internet don't include a green card unless an in-person, in-country relationship prior to the marriage can be documented. So he planned to spend a week or two in Manila as the guest of his bride-to-be. He seemed fairly content with the role Cincinnatti played in the outcome of the recent U.S. election.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I Have Returned

I've returned feeling refreshed after a two-week travel break with very limited access to the internet. If you must know, I spent a week on Rarotonga and a night on Aitutaki Lagoon. Perhaps at some point I'll post a few pictures. Having just returned to Manila, perhaps it's appropriate to mention a link I found concerning the whereabouts of the son of the late General Douglas MacArthur, who remains an American icon here in the Philippines despite the fact that the generation here who still remembers him with fondness is rapidly dying off. I bring it up because I've begun to suspect that my ancestry is linked in some obscure way with that of the MacArthur clan and may somehow account for some of the circumstances that have brought me here at this point in time. It's all still quite mysterious to me, but I am beginning to think there may be something to this hunch. Douglas MacArthur's father, Arthur, was a Civil War hero, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, where as a teenager he served as a first lieutenant with the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Nearly forty years later, as a lieutenant general, he commanded the U.S. Army forces that captured Manila during the Spanish-American War. Arthur MacArthur's father, Arthur MacArthur Sr., was a lawyer, politician and judge in Milwaukee and in Madison, Wisconsin throughout the Civil War era before accepting a position as a federal judge in Washington D.C. during the Grant administration. Visitors to my webpage might take note of the chain of command I outlined, extending from the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry upward to the command of the VII Army Corps. Arthur MacArthur Sr. was elected lieutenant governor of Wisconsin in 1855 and served briefly as governor in 1856. During the Civil War my great-great grandfather's commanding officer served under and alongside two fellow German officers who were brothers of Edward Salomon, a German immigrant who was elected lieutenant governor of Wisconsin in 1861, but served as governor of the state during the Civil War from 1862 to 1863..

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Brazos Santiago

I mentioned that my great-great grandfather's final posting in the Civil War was on the island of Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande. The terrain of that locale was well described when American troops were first stationed there during the Mexican War. Links on that page include an enlargeable map, a more recent photograph of the remains of CampBelknap and a sketch from 1846 of the town of Camargo on the Mexican side of the river. The channel of the Rio Grande is at the far left edge of the map. French troops still occupied that town when Germans from the 27th Wisconsin visited at the end of the war, a rare chance for European grandsons of troops who once fought at Waterloo to get acquainted. A severe hurricane destroyed all of the facilities on the island of Brazos Santiago in 1867 and they were never rebuilt, so it was only used by the military in that brief historical window of twenty years from the birth of the Republic of Texas until the alleged demise of the Confederacy. Another Civil War site has a Harper's Weekly cover from 1863 that featured Brazos Santiago. A map of the Confederacy linked on that page looks strangely reminiscent of last week's red and blue electoral map. I haven't yet found an occasion for mentioning Robert E.Lee, but I'm told that a link to his portrait will earn a reciprocal link and a snappy salute from the sons of the South.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

To Hell and Back

Here's another link, one I came across yesterday in my surfing, that I bring up because we are now within forty-eight hours of the 2004 election, the only poll that counts. I think it's fascinating that according to polls the predicted blue and red state outcomes in the electoral college are again following, with only a few exceptions, the old Mason-Dixon line. Indiana is solidly red; Maryland is solidly blue; otherwise the election comes down to the Union versus the Confederacy. Florida, like the Left Coast, is filled with transplanted Yankees, so it's a swing state. Eight states that fought to keep Old Glory in one piece, including New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, are reputedly in danger of becoming Dixie-Cans this year. If half of them do, we're looking at four more years instead of three more months. And if that happens it will be because the alleged losers of that struggle 140 years ago have more enduring memories of it than their northern counterparts. Majorities in Congress have always relied on the Dixie vote for their edge. When fully half of Democratic representation consisted of Dixiecrats, the party was terribly split, especially on issues like civil rights, and southern emphasis on state's rights tended to temper Yankee federalism. Lincoln's party won the ideological war, but lost the peace when it's view of Reconstruction, "malice toward none", failed to hold sway. So the Republicans became the party of big business and didn't really move to the right until FDR, out of necessity, put a lock on leftward leanings in America by turning the union movement into tax-paying businesses.

As to the topic at hand, I don't own a gun and I tend to favor gun control. I don't think that another disputed election outcome is apt to trigger a second Civil War, largely because I'm pretty well convinced that the first one is still going strong. If it is four more years, I think it's likely that in the next four years voters in the northern tier of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, the states from which most of the Union troops were drawn, will regret trusting their welfare to the Dixiecans because in their chagrin it will occur to them how much of their past they have unwittingly forgotten. But I think they have had some help in that regard.

My great great grandfather came to America from East Brandenburg, Prussia in 1856. He lived in America for less than a decade and the last six months of his life were spent as a volunteer, sacrificing his life on the border between Texas and Mexico to preserve the union. He crossed an ocean to come to America and died making sure that his children would inherit the dream of America he had pursued. I only learned who my great great grandfather was within the past two years and the information I used to rediscover his life came via the internet from a country that for most of my life has been two countries. One of the issues raised in this year's electoral campaign is whether there are now really two Americas, just as only a few years ago there were two Germanies.
I live overseas and I'm often asked what country I am from. If it is four more years, I won't have any problem telling people that I come from the "other" America, the one Prussian soldiers died fighting to preserve.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Berlin Travelblog

I'm posting a link for a blog I found that gives some good insight into life these days for visitors to Berlin. Two years ago this week I was in Berlin for two days and three nights just to have a look around. At that point I was only beginning to develop an interest in family history. I had located the cemetery and the census records for Tilden and Chippewa Falls that are mentioned on my webpage, but that's as far as it went. I had yet to find the German emigration record or the Civil War roster that enabled me to locate and reassemble the first generation of my father's ancestors in America.

My visit to Berlin made Germany much more real to me as an actual place anchored in space and time. I think my most lasting impressions are of visits I made to the Bauhaus Museum in downtown Berlin and to the Schloss Charlottenhof in nearby Potsdam. The remarkable thing about the Bauhaus is how utterly unremarkable the items that are on display seem at first glance. Anyone who is old enough to remember the fifties and sixties in America will see a collection of furniture and furnishings that are terribly familiar. It's all worn out stuff that someone forgot to throw out. But in the museum these items are all things that were designed in the twenties and were the height of fashion in the Nazi era before they became fixtures of the American commonplace. The displays strip the film of familiarity from things that otherwise seem perfectly ordinary. The Museum itself is situated on a street that once contained a stretch of the Berlin Wall, one of the best places in Berlin to cross back and forth between the former East and West Berlin.

I got off the train in Potsdam and walked to the Schlossen which I reached by following Zeppelinstrasse much farther than I should have. The street borders an abandoned navy base that hasn't been maintained or in use since reunification. The startling thing was that the street was so wide and had so little traffic; a street that was clearly once a major thoroughfare is now used mostly by buses that have no reason to stop. When you enter the Schloss district from this side you have the best access to the Roman ruins that made the area suitable as a park for Prussian palaces when they first went up three centuries ago.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sherman's March

I've found a regimental listing for a William Ebert who I think may be related. If I'm correct that William and Maria D. Ebert in Scott Township in Sheboygan County were the parents of Sophie (Ebert) Heise and Marie (Ebert) Lubach, then William and August Ebert would have been the younger brothers of Sophie and Marie. William was 16 in 1860 and August was 14. The State of Wisconsin census lists August as the head of the household in 1865 when he would have been 19 and the youngest in the family of four. Maria D. Ebert was listed as age 57 in 1860 so she would have been 62 in 1865 and her husband, Wilhelm, perhaps a few years older than that. William Ebert enlisted with Company D of the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on February 22, 1864, in Scott Township. He served until January 9, 1865, when he was discharged due to wounds received in a battle in Atlanta. Apparently the 12th was part of Sherman's famous march to the sea. My guess is that the wound was fairly serious as most of the men listed as wounded in Company D either died from their wounds or managed to return to their unit in time to muster out in July, 1865. A wound severe enough to merit a discharge meant that the army did not expect him to recuperate enough to be fit for service within the two years remaining on his enlistment. The Ebert family does not seem to have still been resident in Scott Township in 1870. Perhaps Wilhelm and Maria were deceased by then. William may well have spent his adult life as an invalid, perhaps dependent at least for awhile on the support of his younger brother, August. Nearly two hundred men served in Company D of the 12th Wisconsin during the Civil War, ten of them from Scott Township and fifteen from nearby Kewaskum in Washington County.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kommen wir aus der Uckermark?

I received an e-mail this week from someone in Germany with a Lubach ancestor. Her Lubach ancestor is old enough to have been the mother of my great-great grandfather, or perhaps an aunt or a cousin. Her recent post to a German genealogy mailing list included a link that contains a map of Huguenot village churches in a part of Brandenburg called the Uckermark. The village of Wrechow, mentioned on my webpage, is not in the Uckermark or even on the map. The lower right corner of the map shows the Oder River. A town on the Polish side of the river called Cedynia was formerly known as Zehden when it was part of East Brandenburg. Wrechow was about half an inch east of Cedynia. I'm interested in the Uckermark because I've located people in Australia with Lubach ancestors who emigrated from the Uckermark during and shortly after the American Civil War. I'm told there exist church records for people named Lubach in several villages near the Oder, including the villages of Schmiedeberg and Schmolln. Another Lubach apparently lived in Vierraden, an "old town" district near the city of Schwedt. An Ebert family that emigrated to Australia traces their roots to the village of Stegelitz.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Two Weeks and Counting

The Pinnacled Dim website has been up and running now for a little over two weeks. So far I haven't been inundated with offers to buy adspace. My aim is not to attract traffic. I simply want the information I've gathered to be on the record and accessible to the few dozen or so people directly descended from a few of my ancestors. But I would also like to think that the site tells a story, one that is meaningful to a large number of Americans with German ancestry. Chippewa Falls is just one of many hundreds of small towns in the upper midwest where significant numbers of German immigrants settled in the last half of the 19th century. Sheboygan, on the other hand, was the busiest single destination on the Great Lakes for German immigrants between 1830 and 1880, busier than Milwaukee or Chicago, or Montreal or Toronto, or Detroit or Cleveland. The Germans arrived in ports like New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. They spent a few months and sometimes several years recovering from their trans-Atlantic voyage and gathering their wherewithal through a network of Germans in order to "shuffle off to Buffalo" for the boatride to Sheboygan. Vast numbers of Germans, hundreds of thousands of them, passed through Sheboygan on the way to new lives in Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Some were only there for a few days or weeks. Others stayed in Sheboygan for several months or several years. Some stayed for several decades. A few are still there. My ancestors came to America from a part of Germany that is now part of Poland, a part of what once was Germany that through forty years of Cold War and two World Wars has been held incommunicado from America since 1915. But thanks to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany and the advent of the information superhighway, it's now possible to reconstruct, at least to a certain extent, some of the news from home denied for nearly a century to three generations of German Americans. It's a possibility that I find exciting and too enticing to resist. I have a mother-in-law who lives in Milwaukee, so I've had two opportunities in the past five years to see and visit Sheboygan County. My wife goes to Europe to her employer's headquarters in Geneva once a year or more. Two years ago I went along and used that opportunity to visit Munich and Berlin. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Germany and I hope that my website and this blog will serve as a means to share some of that experience.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Happy Birthday To Me

I can't think of a better birthday present to have gotten than to have had an actual visitor to my website, one who took the time to post a comment in my guestbook, quite a positive and encouraging comment, I might add, from someone believed to be eligible to post on my blog. Posting privileges require an invitation that only I at present, as blog administrator, can extend and to do so I need the e-mail address prospective posters would expect to use for communicating on this blog. The administrator's handbook indicates that hotmail, yahoo, msn type addresses that are webmail rather than e-mail, can be more difficult to enroll as team members. Invitations are sent by e-mail and include a link that can only be used once. The link requires the user to open a blogspot account with a user name, password and profile information for a blog that the user has an option to create. Invitees who don't wish to have their own blog, but do want posting privileges as a team member on an established blog, sometimes simply put question marks in the user profile spaces. Comments from visitors to The Intense Inane that: express an interest in posting, include an e-mail address and indicate descent from my great great grandfather, will produce an invitation to post. I am, naturally, delighted to hear that the SoCal Lubachs are abuzz over the information uncovered on my website. My hope is that discussion on the blog will encourage other branches of the family to participate. I will also point out that the Tilden cemetery link on my page contains some secondary links. The link at the top of the page takes surfers to a map of Chippewa Falls and environs. The link headed Hompage at the bottom of the cemetery page takes surfers to a Chippewa County genealogy site with quite a number of links that are worth exploring. I am, however, a little concerned about the propriety of raiding, so to speak, the family tomb. Cemeteries can yield an enormous amount of useful information, but they also require a certain level of decorum and respect for the dignity and privacy of the deceased. I hope my site and discussions that take place here are not an affront to anyone's sense of due decorum.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Guest Book/Multi-User Blog

Greetings to all visitors to the Pinnacled Dim Website and to prospective members of the Intense Inane Multi-User Weblog. Members enjoy the enormous privilege of posting on this blog. Visitors and/or guests are limited by the great great grandfather clause to placing comments on the posts. Membership is restricted, at least for the time being, to direct descendants of my great great grandfather. Please, have a look around and feel free to comment if something strikes your fancy.