Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shipping News

I've been fortunate to find a little more information concerning the ships on which my father's family arrived in the United States in the decade preceding the American Civil War.

Mystic Seaport is a town in Connecticut with a maritime museum that has a great website. If you know the name of the ship and a good approximation of the year it arrived, go to Mystic Seaport. The site has online access to the New York Marine Register for 1857 and to its successor, the American Lloyd's Register of American and Foreign Shipping.

Up until 1857, passengers took their chances getting on board a ship. There was really no reliable way for emigrants to know if the vessel on which they had booked their passage was really seaworthy. Once they'd sold all of their possessions and traveled halfway or more across Europe to get to a major port like London or Hamburg, it was a little late at that point to arrive at the dock and decide that getting on board might not be such a great idea.

The New York Marine Register of 1857 eased that dilemma substantially. It was a publication financed by a number of underwriters who insured the ships on which cargo and passengers traveled. A listing on the register gave passengers a much better idea of what to expect when they arrived at the dock. All of the ships listed on the register were given a rating, ranging from A1+ to A3-. The rating indicated the quality of the construction of the ship and the adequacy of its equipment. Lloyd's of London adopted the system set up for the New York Marine Register of 1857 and within two years the annual publication was known as the American Lloyd's Register.

My great grandfather came to America as an infant with his parents and a two year old brother. They crossed from Hamburg to New York in 1856 on a ship called the Ann Washburn, departing on May 25th and arriving on July 12th after 46 days at sea. The ship was inspected and rated for the New York Register in August that year, presumably while it was still in port following that arrival. Its rating was A1 and 1/2-. The ship was listed at 861 tons and it had two decks. It was built in 1853 at Freeport, Maine, and owned in Boston by H. H. Stevens. It was a new ship, built of oak with copper plating and iron fittings.

My great grandfather's grandparents and their family arrived in New York a year earlier in 1855 on a ship called the London. Its rating or class was 2. The captain's name was Hubbard. The ship displaced 1,143 tons and it had 3 decks. It was built in 1847 in New York by someone named Webb and it was owned in New York by M. H. Grinnell, at that time one of the most prominent shipowners in New York. He is remembered for financing polar expeditions and public lectures by Abolitionist ministers. The London was listed on the American Lloyd's Registry up until 1870, but aside from the 1855 voyage on which my ancestors sailed there isn't much news about it posted online.

The Ann Washburn, however, appeared several times in a column called Marine Intelligence in the New York Times and also in the Times Picayune. The voyage on which my great grandfather arrived from Hamburg in 1856 was notable because a seaman named George Hickson fell overboard and drowned near Nova Scotia. An earlier voyage from Antwerp to New York in April,1854, became controversial because the ship carried Belgian paupers and convicts among its passengers. The ship's captain apparently adopted a policy of excluding such passengers in subsequent voyages.

The ship made the news again in 1858 when it was moored in New Orleans. A tornado touched down along the wharf during a hurricane, wreaking havoc among the ships tied there. Several seamen were flung overboard and the Ann Washburn snapped her bowsprit and sprung a mast. The damage may have not ever been fully repaired. The ship appears to have managed the return voyage to Boston, but a voyage from Boston to New Orleans in November later that year ended in shipwreck at Looe Key near Key West. A fee of $5,000 was paid to a salvage company, probably to recover some portion of the ship's cargo. After 1859 the Ann Washburn was no longer listed on the American Lloyd's Registry.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Castle Garden

I've located the ship manifests, posted online by, for the ships on which my German ancestors arrived in America. My father's great grandparents, Wilhelm and Maria Lubach, arrived in New York at Castle Garden on July 12, 1856, on a ship called the 'Ann Washburn' which departed from Hamburg with more than 300 passengers on board, nearly all of them German, including my father's grandfather, Wilhelm, listed as an infant, and Wilhelm's brother, Carl, age 2. The family surname, Lubach, was transcribed online as Subach, which did not make finding the manifest any easier. The elder Wilhelm Lubach was 29 years old and his wife, Maria, was 26.

Maria Lubach's parents, Wilhelm and Dorothea Ebert, arrived a year earlier, July 9, 1855, on a ship called the 'London' which departed from London. They were accompanied by their children and by a son in law, August Heise, whose wife, Sophia, is listed twice on the manifest, once as the daughter of Wilhelm Ebert and a second time as the wife of August Heise. She was 22 years of age in both instances. The couple accompanied their two children, Carl, age 3, and Amelia, an infant.

There appears to have been possibly a third Ebert sister, Louisa, age 17, who is not listed as an Ebert in the 1860 census for Sheboygan County in Wisconsin. The brothers, Wilhelm, age 11, and August, age 9, are also listed on the ship's manifest as part of the Ebert family. The name of another female, age 19, listed by first name only as traveling with August and Sophia Heise and children, is difficult to read. The transcriber identified the name as Sabe. I would submit that this could have been August Heise's younger sister.

Castle Garden was a receiving station for immigrants at the tip of Manhattan Island, the predecessor to Ellis Island. It officially opened for business in August of 1855, a month and several days after the 'London' arrived, but the ship's manifest is maintained by NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) and transcribed as part of an effort to make the Castle Garden records available to the online public. Castle Garden is currently known by its original name, Fort Clinton. It's where visitors to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty buy tickets and board ferries for those destinations.

The elder Wilhelm Ebert's age was listed as 50 on the London's manifest which would make him two years younger than the Wilhelm Ebert buried at St. John's New Fane Cemetery, but the date of birth listed on his tombstone is July 9, the anniversary of his arrival in America.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Fane

I've recently located an online transcription for a church cemetery in the southeasternmost corner of Fond du Lac County in Wisconsin. I believe that my great great grandmother and my great great great grandfather are buried in the St. John's New Fane cemetery in Auburn Township. I had not located their graves previously because census records indicate that they lived in Scott Township in Sheboygan County and that's where I had looked. It's clear now, however, that they lived on the county line and the nearest village was and still is New Fane in Fond du Lac County.

I've posted a link for the ">Scott Township Plat Map 1875. The link is an interactive plat map put online by the University of Wisconsin Digital Library. It's very high resolution with a moveable frame that allows for zooming in and out on quadrants, sections within quadrants and quadrants within sections of the map. You can see the name of the party to whom each lot was registered in each section, what portions of their lot were cleared or wooded and where any structures on their property were located. Click on Image Detail to resize the map from Medium to Extra Large and to access the Frame and Zoom functions.

It's helpful to compare the plat map with federal census listings. Thanks to I am able to show how and where my ancestors were listed on the 1860 Census. The three images posted to the right show the names of the inhabitants of what became Section 30 in the order in which they were listed in 1860. One click on each image will enlarge it, making it much easier to read.

When you click the first image you will see that in 1860 Ludwig and Henrietta Backhaus had five sons and one daughter. The oldest son was 18 and the youngest a one year old. When you click the second image it's clear that their next door neighbors were Wilhelm and Maria Lubach, who had two sons and a daughter. The next household was that of Wilhelm and Maria D. Ebert and their sons Wilhelm and August. Next to them was the Heise or Heiser family, August and Sophia and their four children, two sons and two daughters. Beyond them is the Oeder family.

When you look at the plat map for 1875 it becomes clear that the census enumerator in 1860 was proceeding north to south along the county line from the top of Section 30, Ludwig Backhaus and family, to the bottom of Section 31, where Henry and Mary Oeder lived. The Ebert family is still in between them in 1875, but the Lubach and Heise or Heiser families have relocated. The village of New Fane is a little more than one mile west of Section 30. It was the nearest village to these farms.

Construction of St. John's Church at New Fane was begun around 1860 and completed in 1871. It is still in use and appears now very much as it did then. Wilhelm Ebert, who I believe was the father of Marie (Ebert) Lubach (my great great grandmother) and her sister, Sophia (Ebert) Heise, was buried in the New Fane Cemetery in 1872 at the age of 69.

Marie's first husband, Wilhelm Lubach, died in the Civil War on July 27, 1865, and was buried at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Marie married Ludwig Backhaus in 1867, allowing the couple to collect a Civil War pension for her four minor dependents. Ludwig's first wife, Henrietta, appears to have died between 1860 and 1867. My theory is that she died giving birth to a son, Edward, in January, 1863. She does not appear to have been buried in the St. John's New Fane cemetery. Her son, Edward, eventually took the name Lubach as his surname, apparently in honor of his stepmother's first husband. Edward was listed as a minor dependent on Marie's pension application, so it appears she may have been caring for Ludwig's youngest son before the couple married. Marie appears to have given birth to another son, Henry, a year after her marriage to Ludwig Backhaus.

Sophie's husband, August Heise, survived the war. The 1875 plat map indicates a farm belonging to A. Heyser in Section 20 of Scott Township, two miles from the county line and close to the village of Beechwood. Wilhelm Ebert's farm in 1875 in Section 30 appears to have been divided evenly between his sons, William and August.

Ludwig Backhaus may have played a central role in finding spouses for his second wife's pensionable minor dependents. Marie was buried at New Fane in 1893, the year that her oldest son Carl or Charles lost three sons to a diptheria epidemic in Findlay, Ohio. Ludwig was buried at New Fane in 1897, the same year that Marie's second son, William, died at the age of 41 in a sawmill accident in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Ludwig was 82 in 1897. The birthdate on his tombstone indicates that he celebrated his 50th birthday on the same day that my great great grandfather died at a military hospital in St. Louis.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leggett's Hill

I mentioned in a post several months ago that I visited Atlanta in 2001. I spent most of my time there at a highrise hotel in North Atlanta that was hosting a meeting my wife was attending, but I did find time for a round of golf, for an afternoon at the Stone Mountain Monument and also for a visit to one of my wife's colleagues who works at Emory University and lives in East Atlanta.

The visit to Stone Mountain awakened in me a slumbering interest in the Civil War. I knew at that time that a brother of my mother's great grandfather from Ohio had died at Andersonville Prison, but I wasn't aware then that any of my father's ancestors or inlaws in Wisconsin had even participated in the Civil War. I've since learned that the same Confederate general, Patrick Cleburne, whose men captured my mother's great uncle in Chattanooga, also commanded the men who shot my dad's great grandmother's brother in Atlanta.

During the past five years, using almost exclusively information freely available on the internet, I've discovered that my dad's great grandfather died in the Civil War, that he served in the same unit with a man married to his wife's sister, and that his wife's younger brother, William, enlisted in the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on February 22, 1864. William Ebert fought and was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta on July 21st and was discharged in January 1865, after convalescing for nearly six months at an army hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. He received his "red badge of courage" when he was 21 years old, a gunshot wound to his upper left arm. He sailed across the Atlantic from Prussia to Wisconsin at age 11.

The last time I posted about him I began wondering if I might have passed anywhere near the scene of that historic battle on my visit to Atlanta. We rented a car while we were there and, thanks to Dave Buckhout and his site, Tracking the Battle of Atlanta Today, I now know that I actually passed, more than once, through the battlefield where my great great uncle was shot.

Bald Hill was renamed Leggett's Hill as a direct result of that battle. General Mortimer Leggett commanded the brigade that included both the 12th and the 16th Wisconsin infantry regiments. His orders from Sherman on the 21st were to take that hill and to hold it. He did. And the Battle for Atlanta on the 22nd involved the unsuccessful efforts of the Confederate army to dislodge him from that strategic location. Nearly 12,000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in that battle. It was the decisive battle in what became the Siege of Atlanta.

Abraham Lincoln was in the middle of a heated election campaign that summer, running for reelection against his Democratic challenger, General George McClellan. Soldiers who favored the challenger were disparaged and shunned as "copperheads", men who thought that the war was a catastrophic standoff that could only be resolved through a negotiated compromise.

When Atlanta fell, burned to the ground in September, and when Sherman's March to the Sea in October was well underweigh, it became clear that the war was indeed winnable. Lincoln won the election in a landslide. If General Patrick Cleburne's men had reclaimed control of the trenches on Bald Hill on July 22nd, Atlanta could easily have been a hopeless stalemate on election day and Lincoln might only have had until January to win the war.

Present day pictures of Bald or Leggett's Hill and vicinity, more than fifty of them, can be seen at Dave Buckhout's Inheritage website. Many of the pictures indicate the location of plaques that tell the story of the many different incidents and events that were part of the battle. The hill itself was leveled quite some time ago and is now a twelve-lane freeway.

A bridge crosses the freeway at Moreland Avenue, the street we took to visit our friend who works at Emory University. The view from the Moreland Avenue overpass is essentially the same view that the men in the trenches had from the brow of Bald Hill. Cleburne's men mounted their valiant attempt to reclaim the hill from an area now under construction that will soon be a large shopping mall.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You're Invited

Descendants of any of the people pictured in the photo above are cordially invited to attend a family reunion hosted by my third cousin, Kim, in California. Actually she wants to have the reunion in North Liberty Township in South Bend, Indiana, where the picture was taken more than a hundred years ago. My mother was born and raised in South Bend. She bore a striking resemblance to her grandmother.

A firm date has not yet been set, and the venue is still up for grabs. I alone have two aunts, three sisters, two brothers, two nephews, two nieces and eleven first cousins, all of whom are eligible to attend. I'm sure Kim must have at least that many, as well, and she tells me she's contacted at least one other cousin.

The elderly couple seated in the rocking chairs are Alexander H. and Lydia Anne Price. My great grandmother, Laura (Price) Steele, the youngest of their ten children, is seated between them. Her youngest sisters, Manerva Hively and Emeline Gushwa, are seated in front beside Alexander and Lydia Anne. Standing behind them left to right are Mary Freeman, Lorenzo Price, Angeline Knepp, Albert Price, Margaret Krieger, Frank Price and Elzira Klopfer. Elzira was my cousin Kim's great grandmother.

Alexander and Lydia Anne moved to South Bend from Ohio in 1864 during the American Civil War. Frank was the first of the children born in Indiana. The first five were all born in Ohio during or before the war. An obituary for Alexander indicates that Alexander and Lydia Anne belonged to a church that was part of what was called the Evangelical Association. He and his family apparently lived in what was called the Preacher's House. My great grandfather, Ira Steele, Laura's husband, was ordained as an Evangelical minister in 1909, ten years after my grandfather was born.

Lydia Anne's father, Nathan Cordray, was born around 1800 in Upper Old Town in Allegany County Maryland near the headwaters of the Potomac River. Upper Old Town had been a fort used by George Washington as a headquarters when he and General Braddock politely asked the French to abandon their forts in Ohio during the French and Indian War. Nathan's father, Isaac Cordray, was born in Upper Old Town in 1769 near the end of Chief Pontiac's Rebellion.

It's not clear exactly when Nathan and his wife, Mary, moved to Ohio, but Lydia Anne was born in Ohio around 1834. Her mother reported on census records that she was born in Ohio in 1803, so it seems likely that she and Nathan met somewhere in Ohio.
Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, but the vast majority of those people born in Ohio in 1803 were referred to as Indians. Very few of them had family ties in Delhi, Calcutta or Bombay.

Nathan Cordray served as the enumerator of the 1860 Census for the five townships in Coshocton County along the Tuscarawas River. His job was to count all of the white people living in those townships.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Little Rock

As far as I know, Konrad Krez only published three poems about his experiences commanding a Union regiment in the Civil War. None of those poems, to my knowledge, have been translated into English except on this blog.

Unlike 'New Orleans, February 1865' and 'Heimchen Brazos Santiago', written about locales where his unit was stationed for only a week or two, 'Little Rock' is about the place where he and his men were assigned for a year and a half, fully half of the three years that the 27th Wisconsin was involved in the war.

My great great grandfather, as a replacement troop, joined up with the regiment at the end of January, 1865, a few days before the unit was transferred by boat to Mobile by way of New Orleans.

Little Rock

Where, as from the emerald gates
A stream of silver, the Arkansas
From forested hills down into the flat land
Flows, and you crown the plain,
The river's long course from far distant
Rocks spills at last its flood.

Beloved of the South, the North
Kisses the sweat from your brow;
Underground springs that never run dry
Replenish your cool waters.

February brings you its buds,
Leaves in full array decorate your March,
And with the flowers' fragrance filling
The air, your blossoms bring in April.

On far away mountains the snow in May melts,
Delivering refreshing floods to your feet
To soften your summer nights.
Storms douse your hot autumn,
And in November the first frost comes
To kill your last roses
And the leaves on your trees turn colors.

Your eaves shiver with the light snow
In January, often coating your ponds
With thin ice, and more often,
Ornamenting your trees with icicles,
That hang with the rainbow's splendor
From your pine needles, covering
Every bough with glittering jewels.

Mild is your winter, and indeed cold enough,
That with the comfort of a chimney
One enjoys the warmth of a good fire.

How fortuitously mixed your heaven of warm and cold!
In which a foreigner, coming from hot
Or cold lands, always encounters old friends,
For your Germans are your wild vines,
And your oaks, as lovely and large
As those of the Spessarts, are like
A piece of his old Fatherland.

In your garden an apple tree stands
Beside pear, plum and fig plants,
And all of the familiar flowers
That with our species go wandering.

A rock, like the Lorelei on the Rhine,
Nearby to you in your highlands,
Looks out over the plain, where your corn's
Full cobs grow higher than
A man on horseback, standing in his stirrups,
Can reach with his outstretched arms.

There grows the barley and there the rye
In heavy sheaves, richly turned out;
There fly the bursting shells of cotton about,
Where the white fleece, like balls of snow,
Hangs from green stalks.

Generous, as your fertile soil,
Are your hospitable people,
Who know no poverty
And make thrift their virtue.
Welcome is the foreigner, for whom
A ready chair is found at every table.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I finished high school, quite a few years ago, in Galveston, Texas, and started college in Houston. One of my first college reading assignments was a book called 'Invisible Man'. It was for a course called Existential Literature or something along that line. We read Malraux, Sartre, Camus, Beckett and a few others as well. I have fairly distinct recollections of most of those writers, but I think Ralph Ellison's first novel was probably the most challenging and eye-opening work in that lot. Perhaps it was because I was attending school in inner city Houston and exposed for the first time in my life to a community in which people of color were the norm and not just a novelty.

I remember reading about Ellison's death a few years ago and noting that a long awaited second novel called 'Juneteenth' was expected to be published posthumously. I haven't latched onto a copy of it yet, but I'm sure I will as it was finally published about two years ago and the preface in that edition was written by a professor, Charles Johnson, in whose graduate seminar I was a student. I'll buy the book on that account alone.

It's only in reading about Ellison's second novel online that I've become aware of the title's historical significance. Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, the day on which the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation was officially fulfilled once the outcome of the Civil War had been determined. It's a black or African-American holiday that was first celebrated on that date in Galveston when Union forces took possession of that city a few weeks after the war had officially ended. Texas was the last of the Confederate States of America to reenter the Union.

I mention it here because it's only quite recently that I've been able to determine where my great great grandfather was on that date. I still don't know precisely where he was, but I feel as though I've got it pretty well narrowed down. On June 6, 1865, he disembarked at Brazos Santiago from a ship called the Clinton with quite a few other Union soldiers who had steamed there in less than a week from Mobile, Alabama. He was hospitalized on June 8, 1865. His unit, the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, marched from the island of Brazos Santiago to a camp on the Texas mainland north of the Rio Grande near a small town called Clarksville on the 13th. Their unit was part of a quite substantial force that was sent to take possession of Brownsville which they did in the first week of August.

A handful of soldiers in Galveston on June 19th, declaring themselves in charge of Texas, is one thing. A whole lot of soldiers, several brigades if not an entire division or two, occupying Brownsville on August 8th, is another. Brownsville was where whole shiploads of cotton came into the hands of British, French, Spanish and German merchants. Cotton was king in the Confederate States of America. And as long as the cotton grown in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could be safely transported to Brownsville, the Confederate States of America were economically viable. That trade ended, not on June 19, but in August when Union forces took control of that city. Officially, the war ended in May, but the fat lady didn't actually sing until the first week of August.

It's not yet clear on what day my great great grandfather arrived at the hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, but I would guess that arrangements were made for his transport when it became clear that he was not fit for the march to Clarksville on the 13th. I doubt that he would have been sent off before that date as it would have been hoped that he might recuperate enough to make the march and stay with his unit. Hospital beds would have been needed for other units arriving as part of the buildup for the march on Brownsville, so I would guess he was put on a ship within two or three days or a week at most after his unit had moved out. On June 19th he was probably on a ship on the Gulf of Mexico headed north to the mouth of the Mississippi.

My great great grandfather died of pneumonia in the hospital at Jefferson Barracks on July 27, 1865, and is buried in the National Cemetery there. He was a Prussian. He may have learned a little English during his ten years as an immigrant, but probably not very much. Roughly a third of the men in his regiment spoke German, but one of them was his commanding officer, Brigadier General Konrad Krez. Throughout most of the war Colonel Krez took his orders from another German, Adolph Engelman, and Engelman got his orders from a Prussian, Frederick Salomon, a brother of the then acting governor of Wisconsin, Edward Salomon. These were men who had formal military training as officers in an army that had bested Napoleon at the Battle of Mockern somewhat prior to his encounter with Wellington at Waterloo.

I lived on the Texas gulf coast for about four years. Mostly those years seem like a short vacation from the rest of my life, but there are times when my sojourn in the southlands does seem to have played a role in shaping my identity. My recollection is that, at least in the summer, the Gulf stream water was even warmer than the Sulu Sea. Happy Juneteenth.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lizard Mounds

I had a chance to visit a county park near Milwaukee last month. It had actually been a state park in Wisconsin for a number of years until just a few years ago. The temperature was below freezing, but it was still a real nice day for a walk in the woods.

My wife and I were visiting my mother-in-law who lives in Milwaukee. She's 86 years old, also of German stock, and quite accustomed to cold weather, but she stayed in the car while we took our stroll and snapped a few pictures.

Lizard Mounds is several miles north of West Bend in Washington County, and about ten or twelve miles south of the area where three generations of my dad's family lived for about two decades when they first arrived in America from Prussia, shortly before, during and after the American Civil War. The mounds were built as a burial ground by Native Americans around the time that King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table were conquering the southern portion of England. Most of the mounds were plowed up and turned into farmland by the early settlers in the 1850s, among them my ancestors, but a few of the mounds still remain, preserved in the Lizard Mounds park. It's called Lizard Mounds because many of the mounds were originally designed to resemble lizards, birds and other clan oriented creatures.

Six years ago my wife and I and her brother and his wife to be took my mother-in-law to Mackinac Island in Michigan to celebrate her 80th birthday. We had a great time there. Later that year, about a month after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, my wife and I went to Lynchburg, Virginia to visit some friends, the couple who introduced me to my wife. We went to Lynchburg by way of Atlanta because my wife had a meeting to attend there. We flew to Atlanta, then drove to Lynchburg and back by way of South Carolina and North Carolina, the same states, if not exactly the same route taken by General Sherman on his March to the Sea.

While in Atlanta we visited the Stone Mountain monument, Dixie's Mt. Rushmore. Six years ago it had never really occurred to me to even wonder if I might have a Civil War ancestor. But visiting the monument turned out to be an awakening for me. It wasn't until more than a year later that I first found my great great grandfather's name on an online regimental roster. And it took two more years before I became fully convinced that the name on that roster actully was my great great grandfather. Two world wars waged against Germany served quite effectively to remind Americans of German descent to remember to forget that their ancestors took any part in that conflict. Part of it is because the biggest wave of German immigration took place after the Civil War.

It would never have occurred to me that one of my relatives took part in and was, in fact, wounded in the Battle of Atlanta on the bloodiest single day of that campaign. My great great grandmother's younger brother enlisted with the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in February, 1864. Two months later he marched from the Tennessee River across northern Alabama into Georgia and on July 21st he was shot in the left arm during the Battle of Leggett's Hill, also known as the Battle of Bald Hill. He was sent back to Wisconsin and convalesced in a military hospital in Madison, Wisconsin until he was discharged in January, 1865.

Up until then my father's family had been relatively untouched by the war. They appear to have taken no part in the first three years of the war at all and by 1864 most of the bloodiest battles had already been fought. After Atlanta fell it was clear that the southern states had lost militarily and the only question was how much longer it would take to compel their capitulation.

My great great grandfather and the husband of his wife's sister both enlisted in October, 1864. It's not clear how much pressure was applied to get them to enlist, but my guess is that if they hadn't they would have been drafted. Draftees were not much different than prisoners of war except that prisoners of war weren't subject to that much forced labor. Both men were close to forty years old and had large families to feed. They joined their regiment, the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, in Little Rock, Arkansas in late January a few days before the unit was sent down the Mississippi to New Orleans, Mobile and later to Brownsville, Texas.

My great great grandfather's brother-in-law fell ill with dysentery before the unit reached Mobile. He was sent back to Wisconsin and remained in a military hospital in Madison, Wisconsin with chronic diarrhea for the next six months until he was discharged in August, 1865. He never re-joined his unit, which mustered out in Brownsville. He collected a monthly disability pension for his chronic diarrhea after the war. My great great grandfather took part in the Battle of Spanish Fort in early April, 1865, but fell ill on the ship when his unit was sent to Texas in early June. He was hospitalized at Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande and transferred to a hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis where he died of pneumonia at the end of July. His wife re-married two years after the war.

While my wife and I were in Atlanta six years ago we visited one of my wife's colleagues, a woman who teaches at one of the schools my wife attended nearly thirty years ago. Her colleague lives in a sub-division on the east side of Atlanta. The house is in walking distance of Leggett's Hill, and the spot where my great great grandmother's brother took a bullet in the arm for the Union cause.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Heimchen Brazos Santiago

I translated this poem more than a year ago. I wanted to be certain that my great great grandfather was actually with his unit in Texas before I put it online. It was my first attempt to translate a Krez poem from German into English. Click on the image to enlarge the German text.

Copied courtesy of Wolfgang Diehl,
Konrad Krez: Freiheitskampfer und Dichter
in Deutschland und Amerika

Pfalzische Verlagsanstalt Gmbh, Landau Pfalz

From a Camp on Brazos Santiago

Come in my tent, you unfeathered singer of the waste.
Hop fearless inside! Gladly I offer you refuge
From the scorching heat of the Mexican sun.

When in the evening the gulf breeze has finally cooled
The burning sand, and on the ocean the stars twinkle
And the barren solitude covers itself with darkness,
And you with your knowing song compensate me for the shadows,
Then I will gladly endure the day's hardships.

Your chirp overheard, I think of the crickets
That I heard in my youth on evenings at home by the fireside
And I hear again the bubbling and gurgling of the waters,
Flowing from the fountain's pipes, as melting ice,
Inexhaustible, perpetually replenishes the cistern,
Quenching the thirst better than the costliest wine.

Unforgettable Pfalz! Whose beauty drips in abundance,
From the southern heat and the chill of the north
Equally remote! Where the poorest freely eats
What the richest, even with gold, has no power to obtain.

I will think of you then in this lake of quicksand,
Your blooming fields, wrinkled with brooks,
Your chestnut forests at the foot of the mountains
And your grape-laden vineyards, where in April
The almond trees bloom, arrayed in bouquet,
Your resplendent orchards with succulent fruit,
Full of cherries and apricots, of apples and pears,
Where twittering hummingbirds nest in the treetops.

All this you become, my tent, for my soul calls me.
How the sun feeds the fantasy of streams and lakes
Appearing here as a vision in the afternoon sand.
And I forget for awhile that only a few
Spare tufts of grass grow in the sand,
That the only fruit, the pear of the thorny cactus,
Uncharitably arms itself with protruding prickles,
That every single droplet of drinkable water flowing
On the surface of this island sinks at once into brine.

And your plain song brings the evening's stillness alive,
And as the northern constellations wheel above me,
My homesickness praises this naked strip of earth
Which the creator, indeed, produced, but forgot to dress.

June, 1865

From the collection 'Aus Wisconsin', first published in 1875.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Last Train To Clarksville

I exchanged e-mails a month ago with a direct descendant of the German-American poet-general, Konrad Krez, who organized and led the regiment in which my Civil War ancestor served. The first message arrived within a day or two of the records I requested from the National Archive. He had taken a look at my online translations of two Krez poems and the foreword by Ludwig Finckh that accompanied the volume of Krez poems published in Germany in 1937. His comments were quite encouraging, so I may try to do a few more translations in the future.

My great great grandfather's service record shows that he was first hospitalized on June 8, 1865 on the island of Brazos Santiago, just south of South Padre Island in Texas at the mouth of the Rio Grande. It's clear that Wilhelm Lubach made the trip on the Clinton with the rest of his unit on June 2, 1865, from Mobile to Brazos Santiago. The date of his hospitalization suggests that he fell ill on the ship as it occurred only two days after June 6, the date the ship arrived. It's not clear how long he stayed there or exactly when he was put on another ship and transferred up the Mississippi to the hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, but I would guess it was within a week or two at most. The port there was a busy place at that time. The unit was moved upriver on the Rio Grande to the town of Clarksville on the 13th of June. One of the documents from Mark Knipping's book about the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment provides a fairly detailed account of the unit's arrival at Brazos Santiago. Click once on the text to enlarge it.

The account was written by the regiment's adjutant. My great great grandfather officially died of pneumonia and it appears in the records that he spent the last eight weeks of his life in a hospital bed. An e-mail from my aunt a year ago indicated that she thought he died of yellow fever, a mosquito borne disease similar in some respects to dengue or to malaria. The incubation period is about ten to twelve days. Swamps, such as those found around Mobile, are a likely place for contracting it and death from pneumonia is not unusual for those who don't rebound when the fever snaps. Treatment usually involves rehydration with an IV drip as the extended high fever often results in acute dehydration.

The only personal effect listed as returned to his widow was the army issued shirt he'd worn. Nearly fifty dollars was deducted from his pay for that shirt and whatever other items of clothing he was issued.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Price Family Reunion 1902

I heard from a third cousin, Kim in California, in response to a post I wrote in November headed Earl of Great Grandpa Price. I mentioned in that post that my mother had shown me a picture of my great grandmother, Laura Steele, and one of her sisters, Emma, and that in the picture it looked to her as though they might have been part Native American.

My cousin sent me these pictures of a Price family reunion and 50th wedding anniversary that took place in 1902 in North Liberty near South Bend, Indiana, my mother's hometown. She said that she thinks Emma does have features that could be Native American, but that their other sister, Angie, definitely looks Native American.

If you click on the reunion photo to enlarge it and slide to the upper right hand corner of the picture, you can see three of the seven Price sisters grouped around their brother, Frank. My great grandmother, Laura Price Steele, is in the back row to Frank's right. Her sister, Emma, is in the back row at the far right of the frame. Angie is the woman with the dark hair directly in front of Frank.

My cousin's great grandmother, Elsie or Elzira, is near the middle of the photo and one would never guess from her appearance that she also had Native American ancestry. If you look at the picture at the bottom of my great great grandparents, Alexander H. and Lydia Anne Cordray Price, it should be fairly easy to spot them near the middle of the group photograph. The occasion was their 50th wedding anniversary, attended by all ten of their children and their twelve grandchildren.

The young fellow standing in front in the sailor suit is my grandfather, Cleon Virgil Steele. He was three years old at the time. The man in the back row near the middle with his head tilted at a twenty degree angle is my great grandfather, Ira Steele. The man to his right is my cousin's great grandfather, Michael Klopfer.

Many thanks, Kim, for passing this along to me and for your permission to post it online.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

National Archives

Back in December I filled out some forms and mailed off a record request to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C., better known as NARA. I requested military service and pension application records for three soldiers from Wisconsin, my great great grandfather, William Lubach, his wife's brother, William Ebert, and the husband of his wife's sister, August Heise.

The records arrived in early February. I included a note in my request indicating that I thought the three soldiers were brothers-in-law, related to each other by marriage. The records don't mention specifically that they were brothers-in-law, but they might as well have, as it's clear from other records that they were. The pension application serves to verify my conclusions drawn from those other records.

When my great great grandfather failed to return from the war, his widow, Maria, applied for a pension. She had to prove that she was, in fact, married to my great great grandfather and that the four minor dependents she listed were, in fact, his children. On December 18th, 1865, she presented as witnesses for these facts William Ebert and August Heise who swore "that they have known the parties above described to have lived together as husband and wife for ten years previous to and up to the time of deceased going into the aforesaid service of the United States, and that they have every reason to believe, from the appearance of the applicant, and their acquaintance with her, that she is the identical person she represents herself to be, and that they have no interest in the prosecution of this claim." Their names are signed below the cited legal verbiage.

My great great grandparents, William and Maria Lubach, were married "in the Kingdom of Prussia on the 6th day of July, 1852;" but beyond four children, it's not clear if she had any other evidence to present that this was in fact the case. Her pension application was never acted upon. On March 15, 1866, she had to file another form, a Widow's Claim for Pension in addition to the Declaration for Widow's Army Pension that she had filed three months earlier.

On this form the date of her marriage to William Lubach has changed from "the 6th day of July, 1852" to "the 6th day of June, 1852" and she also specifies that the wedding took place "at Zehden in Prussia" and that it was performed "by one Rev. Meletz, a Minister of the Gospel;" and that "her name before her marriage was Maria Ebert." She also deposed "that she believes there is a public record, in the above mentioned place, of her marriage, but the same can only be obtained at considerable expense and delay and offers herewith the testimony of two disinterested witnesses to said marriage."

This form isn't signed by William Ebert and August Heise, but it would seem likely that if William Ebert was her brother and August Heise was married to her sister, Sophie, they would probably have been in attendance on the occasion of her wedding. If her statement does not refer to them, it could perhaps refer to her parents, Wilhelm and Dorothea M. Ebert, her next door neighbors in Scott Township and the parents of her brothers, William and August. I think it might be difficult to maintain, as she did, that her brother, William Ebert, and her sister's husband, August Heise, were "disinterested witnesses to said marriage." The wedding might have been boring and it might have been difficult to recall fifteen years later if it took place in June or July, but 'disinterest' doesn't really apply when a federal pension is riding on what you remember about your sister's or your wife's sister's wedding.

Maria Lubach was apparently never granted a widow's pension, but she did remarry and her second husband, Ludwig or Lewis Backhaus, filed a Declaration of Minor Children for Pension on the 19th of May, 1868. Maria married her neighbor, Lewis Backhaus on January 20, 1867, and by virtue of that marriage and his Declaration he became guardian of her pensionable children. Maria's marriage to William Lubach in Prussia was recognized in the declaration Lewis Backhaus made requesting a pension for his wards. The pension was apparently paid at the rate of $10 monthly until February 13, 1879, which nearly coincides with the date of my great grandfather's marriage to Hannah Boettcher at Eagle Point in 1879.

Now the question might be reasonably asked, why is all of this so important? It isn't really, except to me. Maria listed four children, Charles, age 12, William, age 10, Louise, age 7, and Edward, age 3, on her declaration for a widow's pension. My webpage , written three years ago, presents the status of these children as an abiding mystery. The State of Wisconsin conducted a census in 1865 in which William and Maria Lubach were listed as the parents of three children, with ages and gender corresponding to Charles, William and Louise, in agreement with the 1860 federal census. Edward appears, at least on paper, to have been part of the Backhaus household.

In 1860 Ludwig Backhaus was married to a woman named Henrietta with most of their children fully grown or in their teens. I don't know what happened to Henrietta, but my suspicion has long been that she may have died giving birth to Edward. And I suspect that with Henrietta's death, Maria may have stepped in and raised Edward as though he were her own.

So when William failed to return from the Civil War, it was a fairly natural progression to marry the father of a son she had already essentially adopted, despite the substantial difference in their ages. And it appears that Maria gave birth to another son by Ludwig Backhaus in 1868, so the marriage was not simply a matter of pensionable federal record keeping.

I wrote a post about two years ago concerning William Ebert, who served in the 12th Wisconsin and was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta. I mentioned then that I did not know if this William Ebert was in fact the younger brother of my great great grandmother, but that I considered it a distinct possibility. The records received from NARA greatly enhance the probability of that supposition. William was shot in the upper portion of his left arm and spent the major portion of his military career recuperating from that wound in a military hospital.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Scott Union Ranger

I've discovered that my great great grandfather's unit in the War of the Rebellion now has a more or less official history. The book is called A History of the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, 1862-1865. It was written in 2001 by Mark H. Knipping, a descendant of a soldier from that regiment. The manuscript is still technically unpublished, although I've learned that it has been part of the State of Wisconsin's Digital Collection now since November, 2006.

Company F, the unit of the regiment in which my great great grandfather served, was one of the first companies recruited in 1862 and they called themselves the Scott Union Rangers. The soldiers in that company came from the townships of Scott, Mitchell and Abbott in Sheboygan County. My great great grandfather enlisted as a replacement troop in October, 1864.

The book is nearly two hundred pages in length. It includes extended quotations from newspaper accounts published during the war of many of the events that took place along with statements issued by the regiment that often provided the basis for news reports.

While the book does contain an enormous amount of carefully documented information, I wasn't able to find any specific information concerning my great great grandfather's death from disease in July, 1865.

Military records also make it clear that Company F was reorganized during the spring of 1864, in between the regiment's two main combat engagements that year. The company's captain was court-martialed in 1864 and his first lieutenant resigned a week later. None of the book's narrative, or its primary or secondary sources, makes any reference that I could find to any incidents resulting in disciplinary action.

Even so, it's a fascinating account, replete with enough verifiable facts so that the regiment's location and activity on almost any given day can be clearly ascertained. I know I'll be spending some time doing just that now that I've received military service records and pension applications from the National Archives for my ancestor and his soldier in-laws.