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.