Sunday, November 30, 2014

Traditions Shattered by the Civil War’s Carnage

During the early years of the 19th century, death normally occurred within the privacy of the home where family gathered to comfort the dying and await their last words. Amid prayers and rituals, family and friends reverently carried the loved one to the cemetery for burial in a consecrated space, most often beside other family members. Religious rituals carried out at the gravesite brought reassurance of spiritual continuity and dignified the meaning of life itself.

Shiloh, the bloodiest battle in American history until that time, shattered those fundamental beliefs and traditions. Families, who waited anxiously at home to learn the fate of their loved ones, were shocked when news came that there were more than 23,000 casualties!

Emanuel Fink
Courtesy of Ron Claypool

And so it was for Jane Ames Fink, the wife of Emanuel, who had enlisted at Elmore in the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The son of a Dunkard minister, Emanuel had married Jane ten years earlier. Although she had four small children, Jane managed to travel the 300 miles to Louisville, Kentucky, where she learned that her wounded Emanuel had been taken. 

Battle of Shiloh

Louisville, Kentucky was a staging area for Union military operations. Its steamboats plied the waters of the Ohio River, carrying men and materiel to southern battlefields. When Ohioans learned of the masses of wounded and dead at Shiloh, soldiers’ relief societies filled those same steamboats with tents, clothing, bandages, medicine, and food. On their arrival at Shiloh, supplies were distributed and the boats were re-loaded with thousands of the most severely wounded. Many of Ohio’s wounded were taken up river to Cincinnati; Louisville, Kentucky; and New Albany and Evansville, Indiana.
According to Jane’s obituary, written many years later, she expected to care for Emanuel until she could bring him home. But it was not to be. When she arrived, she found that Emanuel had died and was already buried.  The Civil War’s scale and duration, the size of its battles, and the number of casualties were unprecedented and unexpected. Both North and South described it as a “harvest of death.”
Jane Ames Fink
Courtesy of Ron Claypool

If it could be imagined, Jane and her children were more fortunate than most. They knew what had happened to Emanuel. There were tens of thousands of families who never learned the fates of their loved ones. At least half of the Civil War dead were never identified.

Like many widows, Jane Fink rejected the idea of leaving her husband in an anonymous grave far from home. But very few had the money or the means to bring their loved ones home for burial. For most of the Civil War generation, those traditional burial customs were gone forever. But somehow Jane had found a way. Emanuel’s remains were transported to Elmore, where he was buried in the “little graveyard near the railroad bridge.”

With four little ones, Jane had no choice but to carry on as best she could. With the pension allotted by the government, she bought a house west of Elmore where she lived until their children were raised. Four years prior to her death in 1900, Jane Fink had Emanuel removed from that “little graveyard” to what was then known as the Guss Cemetery where she too was laid to rest.

Fink Monument
Courtesy of Find A Grave

Courtesy of Find A Grave

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Anna Wood Clark: Civil War Nurse with the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

During this 150th commemoration of the Civil War, many have learned more about the regiments that fought for both North and South, uniforms, battles, generals, and their very own ancestors who served in the rank and file. But little progress has been made in identifying women who served as nurses. It has not been for the lack of trying, but rather that there were so few records.

Their stories were often discovered long after the war in reunion minutes, letters, diaries, obituaries, county histories, and family reminiscences. And so it was with Anna Amelia Clark, who passed away at Catawba Island at the age of 89 in 1936. Her occupation as a nurse during the Civil War was recounted in her obituary, but it was largely based on an interview given six years earlier to a “Progressive Times” reporter at her home on West Third Street in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Born in Painesville, Ohio in 1847 to James and Emma (Welsh) Wood, Anna, moved a short time later with her family to Adrian, Michigan. When the Civil War broke out and President Lincoln called for 60,000 troops, the men of Adrian soon raised a regiment known as the 4th Michigan Infantry. Anna, only 13 years old, went with her father to serve as a nurse for the troops of the 4th Michigan. She was joined by Anna Aldrich, the daughter of another member of the regiment. 

The 4thMichigan left for Washington D.C. where they were equipped for battle and reviewed by President Abraham Lincoln himself. Anna recalled that Lincoln shook her hand and that of her friend Anna Aldrich and a third lady who had joined them in Washington.

The 4th Michigan wore Americanized Zouave uniforms that included a fez hat, sack coat, tan gaitors, and loose trousers. Since there were no organized medical teams for regiments, neither Anna nor her fellow nurses had uniforms.  They wore dark wool dresses and carried bandages and canteens of water and whiskey.

Riverview Cemetery
Port Clinton, Ohio
Courtesy of Find A Grave

Anna recalled that first battle at Bull Run with deep regret. As she moved among the dead and wounded, she came upon a Confederate boy probably fifteen years old. The standard bearer of his regiment, he had been hit by a shell. Severely wounded, the boy asked Anna to place the flag in the ground above him so that he would be found and identified. It was against orders and Anna could not comply. She gave the boy a drink and in a few moments he took his last breath.

Anna recalled the ferocious fighting of the Seven Days Battles that took place in the spring of 1862. So many were killed that the dead – North and South were rolled into blankets with no identification and placed together in a single trench.  At Malvern Hill, Colonel Dwight Woodbury of the regiment was killed.

Battle of Malvern Hill 

Anna continued to serve with the regiment until the fall of 1862 when she contracted malaria in the swamplands of Virginia. After her recovery, she returned to Washington with her mother and grandfather in the spring of 1865. They were present in Ford’sTheatre when John Wilkes Booth took the life of President Lincoln.

Obviously intelligent and educated, Anna, later in life, learned shorthand and took down the speeches of Reverend Moody, transcribing them for publication. She also wrote articles for magazines and newspapers. Anna married Edwin Babcock and later Lemuel Clark. When she died in 1936, the reporter believed that two Civil War veterans were still alive in the county, but Anna Wood Clark was the only Civil War nurse in Ottawa County.  She is buried in the Riverview Cemetery.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Trommer Extract of Malt Company, Fremont, Ohio

The Trommer Extract of Malt Company

Nearly everyone experiences a bellyache from time to time. Most of us know why it happened. It may have been a “touch of the flu” or that we ate too much or we ate the wrong food – too spicy, too greasy, or too rich! If it lasts very long, we are off to the doctor, who generally gets to the root of the problem fairly quickly. 

During the nineteenth century, stomachaches were even more common than today. Known as dyspepsia, colic, bilious fever, heartburn, intestinal catarrh, or cacogastritis, a stomachache was often a symptom of something much more ominous than overeating! Bacteria from poorly cooked or rotting food, parasites, an inflamed appendix, gallstones, dysentery, ulcers, or cancer were some of the serious conditions that brought on a stomachache.

There were thousands who manufactured and sold patent medicines during this period when diseases were poorly understood. Sold as tonics, elixirs, and bitters, the products were often advertised as a cure for everything from that stomachache to ingrown toenails and baldness.  And the tens of thousands who were desperate for relief made up a ready market. Finding “magic in a bottle” or even a temporary “fix” could become a lucrative business. Many contained dangerous levels of alcohol, morphine, or cocaine. Others were harmless, while still others were actually beneficial.

One of these was Trommer Extract of Malt produced at 117 S. Arch Street in Fremont in 1874. The well-respected Civil War surgeon Dr. John B. Rice secured the rights from a German chemist to make and sell the tonic everywhere but in Germany. Made from Canadian barley malt, the elixir contained the enzyme diastase and malt sugar as well as alkaline salts and bitter of hops. Trommer Extract featured only 2% alcohol. Still, alcohol did have its place! The company prescribed a tablespoon of the tonic mixed with cold water, milk, or wine to be taken three times a day immediately after meals. “Any kind of spirituous liquor may be added in quantities to suit the taste and requirements of each case” - so said the label.

Dr. John B. Rice

Brothers Stephen and Ralph Buckland, Dr. Gustavus Gessner, and Dr. Robert Rice invested heavily in the company. With the help of energetic agents across the United States, Trommer Extract of Malt became a booming business. Sold in amber-colored bottles stamped with the company’s name, Trommer Extract of Malt went for a dollar each. The “Improved” version retailed at a $1.50. Sales reached nearly $65,000 by 1890 and $150,000 by 1905. From its London offices, the company distributed the tonic throughout Europe.

There were no outlandish “cure-all” claims. Trommer was sold as a help for “sick headaches, loss of appetite, indigestion, consumption, asthma, diarrhea, and the debilities of females and aged.” To be perfectly fair, the tonic was probably beneficial to many in relieving indigestion. Diastase, the first enzyme discovered, aided in breaking down foods. For those recovering from illnesses, Trommer Extract probably “settled the stomach,” much like we would use today. Sufferers of chronic illnesses may have found that the “improved version” (with cod liver oil) increased the appetite. Although Trommer Extract of Malt was not “magic in a bottle,” it had its place in many homes across the nation until the company was officially dissolved in 1933.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War

13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War by Senator John McCain and Mark Salter
Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Senator John McCain and Mark Salter have teamed up for a sixth time to bring us their perspective on the history of  Americans at war. 13 Soldiers tells the personal stories of thirteen remarkable soldiers who fought in major military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War of 1776 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain and Salter focus on real soldiers who exhibited extraordinary bravery, sacrifice, obedience, initiative, and love. McCain and Salter believe they are the best America has to offer.

Elton Mackin
Courtesy of Susan Smith

One of those 13 soldiers is Elton Mackin of Lewiston, New York, a Marine who served in World War I and later in life settled in Norwalk, Ohio. This highly decorated Marine fought in every Marine Brigade battle from Belleau Wood to the crossing of the Meuse on the eve of the Armistice. Mackin was awarded the United States Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and two Army Silver Star citations. Several summers ago, I discovered at the Hayes Presidential Center, four cassette tapes of a 1973 interview with Elton Mackin by the late Dr. Carl Klophenstein, Professor of History at Heidelberg University. Transcribed by Assistant Julie Mayle and Intern Becca Dickinson, the interview now appears on the Hayes Presidential Center website. Contact with Mackin's family brought the donation of photographs and a copy of Mackin's manuscript "Flashes and Fragments." His manuscript and the interview were later adapted by Marine Corps historian George B. Clark and published in 1993 as Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die: Memoirs of a World War I Marine.

Published by Presidio Press 1993

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Join Us for History Roundtable with Mike Gilbert!

Officers of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Vicksburg 1863

Orin England, A. G. Tuther, Eugene Rawson, Milton Williamson, Henry Buckland
(left to right)
Ralph P. Buckland

History Roundtable with Mike Gilbert


 Sandusky Countians have strong links to the Civil War.   Sandusky County, Ohio men formed substantial elements of the following Ohio regiments: 8th, 21st, 25th, 49th, 53rd, 55th, 57th, 67th, 72nd, 100th, 101st, 111th, and 186th as well as the 169th ONG and the 3rd, 9th, and 10th cavalry units. The county's largest single contribution of men was the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry recruited by Fremont attorney and Ohio Congressman Ralph P. Buckland. By war's end, 65% of the county's military-age men saw service in the Civil War.
There were two Medal of Honor winners: John Miller of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Gettysburg and Charles McCleary of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Nashville. Major General James Birdseye McPherson of Clyde, Ohio, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War.

Hayes Presidential Center’s newest educational program History Roundtable with Mike Gilbert explores those connections.

Recently retired from Fremont Ross, the ever-popular Mike Gilbert taught history for 38 years. Topics related to the Civil War always have been a passion of his and he has spent many hours researching the war’s history. Gilbert assisted the Hayes Presidential Center during several of its multi-year grants that focused on History for elementary, high school, community college educators.

Earlier this year, Curator of Manuscripts Nan Card approached Gilbert about launching a roundtable discussion series at the Hayes Presidential Center. Their conversation resulted in History Roundtable.

In its inaugural year, the six-part series focuses on “Sandusky County in the Civil War Era.” The first session is Saturday, Sept. 20. Each session takes place 10-11:30 a.m. in the Hayes Museum. Cost is $5/each or $25/for all six. To pre-register please call Nan Card at 419-332-2081, ext. 239.


Sept. 20- Tales of the 72nd OVI 

Sept. 27- 
E. J. Conger: On the Trail of Lincoln’s Assassin 

Oct. 11- 
Fremont’s Civil War Doctor John Rice 

Oct. 18- 
Buckland, Sherman and Shiloh 

Oct. 25- 
Women’s Roles in the Civil War 

Nov. 1- James McPherson: A Life Cut Short


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Charles and Jessie Biehler Family's Sacrifice in WWII

Robert Biehler
Armored Reconnaissance Division,
 Entered the U.S. Army November 11,1942

Earl Biehler
North Africa, Christmas 1942
Inducted into the U. S. Army January 8, 1942

Donald Biehler
Enlisted in the U.S. Navy October 2, 1944
Discharged September 14, 1945

Louis Biehler
Served with the 164th Infantry in the Negras, in the Philippines
Killed May 7, 1945 Philippines

Fred "Fritz" Biehler
Entered the U.S. Army January 9, 1942
Military Police

Lester Biehler
Served with the U. S. Army Communications Headquarters Division,
330th Infantry
since October 29, 1942
Participated inn the landing at Omaha Beach 
Killed July 5, 1944
Carentan, Normandy, France

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Mildred Biehler Lipstraw of Oak Harbor, Ohio, at the Hayes Presidential Center. She had seen our news release regarding the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project.
 She wanted to tell me of the extraordinary sacrifice of her family during World War II.

Mildred is one of twelve children of Charles and Jessie Caris Biehler, who originally lived not far from Rocky Ridge in Ottawa County, Ohio.  According to Mildred, the family moved to Sandusky County around 1927, where her father managed the Sandusky County Farm Bureau Co-op. Three of her brothers were employees of the Co-op

It was humbling experience to learn of the Biehler family's sacrifice. Six of Charles and Jessie's sons served during World War II. Two did not survive the war. Lester and Louis were killed in action. Lester was killed in Carenton France just after the D-Day invasion. Louis was killed in the Philippines May 7, 1945.

Mildred remembers that in November 1948, a Military Honor Guard accompanied the bodies of her brothers Lester and Louis home to Fremont. The Honor Guard remained on duty through the days prior to the memorial service held for these young heroes . They rest in the Veterans Circle at Fremont's Oakwood Cemetery.

It is with much thanks to Mrs. Lipstraw for providing the Hayes Presidential Center with copies of her brothers' war time photographs and other documents about their service. They will be added to the Center's Biographical File, but we wanted to share the Biehler family's sacrifice for our country's freedom during World War II.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion Post #114 Donates $1000 to the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project

Julie Mayle, Manuscripts Assistant and Officers of the Auxiliary of the American Legion, John A. Fador Post, Oak Harbor, Ohio

Just as the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project was getting underway, Jeannie Gloor, Sergeant-at-Arms of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary of Oak Harbor, Ohio, contacted Nan Card at the Hayes Presidential Center. The auxiliary had read about the Hayes Presidential Center's project. They said, " We believe recording and preserving the experiences of veterans is very important and we would like to support this effort."

On behalf of the Ladies Auxiliary American Legion, John A. Fador Post #114, President Kathy Johnson. Vice President Becky Scherf;  First Vice President Liz Smith; and Jeannie Gloor, Sergeant-at-Arms presented Julie Mayle, who heads the project for the Hayes Center, with a check for $1.000! The 73-member auxiliary is deeply devoted to supporting America's veterans who have sacrificed so much on behalf of our nation.

The funds will help cover travel, scanning, copying, and recording costs; expansion of our Veterans Tribute displayed on the wall just outside the Library's research room; archival boxes and folders for storage of donated military documents, letters, and photos; veterans' packets, and educational kits for use by students in future years. Eventually, Julie and Nan hope to use materials for an exhibit at the Hayes Center.  

Jeannie Gloor said, "It is such a great gift to these veterans and their families.. It takes a lot of courage for them to get their story out."

Julie interviews veterans and records their memories. Then, she transcribes the recorded interviews and scans letters, documents, and photographs. Originals are returned to the veteran along with a typed transcription and CD with their scanned documents and photographs. These can be shared with their families. Another copy is kept permanently at the Hayes Center for research in the decades ahead. Lastly, the audio interview and scanned images are placed on Youtube and Historypin.

Card said, "This will be a great help! Julie and I have found it so very rewarding and a privilege to speak with veterans about their experiences. We are deeply grateful to the auxiliary for their thoughtfulness, deep commitment, and generous support!"

If you or someone you know, is a military veteran or is active military and would like to participate, please contact Julie Mayle, Manuscripts Assistant (, or Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts (, at the Hayes Presidential Center, 1/800-998-7737 x239. Julie and Nan would be pleased to arrange an interview at a time and place that is convenient for you. We also would encourage participation of U S citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting the war efforts - USO workers, defense workers, WAVES, medical volunteers, etc.