Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lest We Forget: Remembering Sandusky County, Ohio's Veterans

CBS Sunday Morning
On Memorial Day 2010, CBS Sunday Morning featured the efforts of Wayne Van Doren and his family to place American flags beside the grave sites  of veterans in six Sandusky County cemeteries. From Revolutionary War soldiers to the highest ranking general killed in the Civil War, McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, Ohio, is the final resting place for nearly a thousand veterans. Wayne has meticulously mapped the location of each so that on every Memorial Day he and his family can continue their tradition of honoring those who have served in America's wars.

Wayne Van Doren 
Fremont, Ohio's Oakwood Cemetery
Courtesy of The News-Messenger
Wayne has extended his reach. He hopes to honor each veteran buried in Sandusky County, Ohio by placing an American flag beside each grave. Wayne stated that there are 64 cemeteries in Sandusky County where veterans are buried. Above is a picture of Wayne in Fremont's Oakwood Cemetery that appeared in the September 16th, 2011 issue of The News-Messenger.  Wayne has been walking Oakwood Cemetery all summer, attempting to locate all of the veterans' grave sites. It is one of the largest in the county. Sadly, in Oakwood alone, there are 357 veterans' graves that do not have bronze flag holders beside them. Flag holders and an American flag are issued to veterans' surviving family members when veterans die. Each flag holder has the emblem that identifies the war in which the veteran served.

After learning of my attempts to discover Sandusky County's African American Civil War soldiers, Wayne took photographs of their gravesites while walking Oakwood. Below is the photo he gave me of David J. Vance's tombstone. Others that Wayne shared with me are posted on the Hayes Presidential Center's Civil War Research page, where short sketches of each African American Civil War soldier appears. (With the help of Charles Weiker, we recently discovered the service of two additional soldiers.  Both have been added to the page.)
David J. Vance
Oakwood Cemetery, Fremont, Ohio

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pvt. John Grabach: Third Ohio Cavalry at Lovejoy's Station

During a visit to Clyde, Ohio for a family reunion, John Grabach, then living in Grand Island, Nebraska, related his experience after saving the life of a wounded comrade at Lovejoy's Station during the Civil War. Grabach served in the Third Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The "Clyde Enterprise" published his reminiscence in the January 12th, 1899 issue of the newspaper.

Pvt. John Grabach
1843 - 1924

John Grabach died November 13, 1924 in Portland, Oregon, where he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Post #12. His grave remained unmarked for 85 years until a government headstone was obtained and placed by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The above photograph is courtesy of Randy Fletcher, who took the image at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Portland and placed it on Find A Grave. As a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mr. Fletcher worked to complete the renovation of this cemetery in 2009, which included the replacement of a bronze statue stolen more than forty years earlier. 
"Clyde Enterprise"
January 12, 1899

About the middle of August 1864, General Kilpatrick received orders from General Sherman to take such regiments of cavalry as he wished and to the rear of the Confederate army near Atlanta and destroy all railroads, so that it would be impossible for them to move out of the city by rail. On August 17th General Kilpatrick was ready to move, with five regiments of cavalry and about 3,000 men. One of the regiments selected was the Third Ohio Cavalry of which O.M. Mallernee, J. M. Kelsey, J. Setzler, Henry Grabach, Robert Benfer, Jacob Trott, Joseph Britenburg, Orrin Buzzell, and Theodore Rickey of Clyde [Ohio] and vicinity, also John and Augustus, brothers of Henry Grabach, and the late F. VanHorn of Monroeville, husband of Mrs. Elvira VanHorn of Clyde were all members. They were ordered to carry five days rations and none but sound men and horses were allowed to go. One of the survivors now living here tells the story of what followed in the following way:

“We started in the morning, going to the extreme right of Sherman’s army and far to the left of the Confederate army (under command of General Hood) marching all night and stopping early in the morning for an hour’ s rest and to feed, but made no fires to cook coffee. By this time we were in the rear of the Confederate army. Then we started again as fast as our horses could stand it, and when night came we again stopped to feed, but built no fires nor unsaddled horses. About midnight we struck the first railroad, which we tore up, built fires and heated the rails in the middle and bent them around telegraph poles to make them unfit for further use, and as soon as the job was done we went on as fast our horses could carry us.

Track of Confederate railroads destroyed by Union troops became known as "Sherman's Neckties"

About daylight we came to another railrodad at Lovejoy Station, where we again tore up the track and destroyed the rails, but before we were ready to move we found that the enemy were firing on our pickets from every direction. They had moved quite an army from Macon on the east and from Atlanta on the west, and before we were aware of it they had us surrounded and it looked as though the only thing to be done was to surrender. However, we found that General Kilpatrick was not the kind of a man who surrenders. When an aide from the rebel general demanded our surrender, General Kilpatrick replied, “Go back and tell your general that the government don’t furnish us horses to surrender to rebels.” He quickly formed us into proper shape for a grand cavalry charge for freedom, and at the command from a signal gun we were off with drawn swords and everyone shouting at the top of his voice. We did not have far to go before we met the Confederate infantry, which were at “charge bayonets to receive cavalry.” But we went on and on, over bayonets and men. No we did not all go on. Many were killed or wounded in this charge and hand to hand fight.

H. Grabach had his horse shot, but fortunately for him he found a horse without a rider, and he went on. By this time we were badly demoralized and it was necessary to halt and reform our lines and commands, and soon the command was again on the move, but unfortunately, the Third Ohio Cavalry was put on as rear guard. We counted off our thinned ranks by fours, and every fourth man held horses while numbers one, two, and three were deployed on foot as rear guard to hold the enemy in check and give the balance of the command a chance to retreat in good order.

While on this rear guard fighting we had many men killed and wounded, and among them was Lieutenant George Garfield, a nephew of General J. A. Garfield, who was wounded in the neck and shoulder, so that he was unable to hold up his head; but the comrades, among them John Grabach, who were near to him, put him into a rubber blanket and carried him back a little ways and then again used their guns upon the enemy. But we were so hard pressed that they carried him back further. He was losing blood and was in such a condition that without care he would have died in a short time. When Garfield saw they could not carry him further, he asked if anyone of them would stay with him, whereupon John Grabach informed him that he would stay and care for him. Grabach immediately gave his arms to Lieutenant Charles Kelsey, a brother to our townsmen, James and A. I. Kelsey, who was the last man to go. In a few minutes the enemy were there, and at once traded their poor shoes for Grabach and Garfield’s good boots and the next squad traded coats etc., but offered no personal harm.

After the escape of Kilpatrick’s force the wounded were picked up, both Union and Confederate, and all the Union men that were able to be moved were sent to Andersonville prison hospital, where John Grabach was installed as wound dresser.

Up to this time, no guard had been placed over Grabach, who was the only sound Union soldier. Only his duty to his comrades kept him seventeen days after the fight, Wheeler Forgerson, a cousin to our townsman, Tom Forgerson, bunkmate of Grabach, died from a wound received in the charge, and a few days later Lieutenant Garfield had so far recovered that he was able to be moved, and he was sent to Libby Prison, an officers’ prison in Richmond, Virginia, and the other wounded had died or were on the way to recovery. Then one day an order came to the hospital from Captain Wirz for all sailors and marine men to fall in for exchange, Whereupon Grabach made up his mind he was a sailor. But the officer in charge said there were too many, and he wanted only sailors and marines, and all others should fall out. Many fell out, but Grabach still insisted that he was a marine. When they arrived at Captain Wirz’s headquarters, the roll was called. Finally a name was called and no one answered, and soon another name was called without an answer. When it was called again, Grabach answered and also another soldier, whereupon an investigation followed and the other man was decided to be the right one. Captain Wirz ordered a guard to take charge of Grabach, and after the roll was finished there were four more men than they had on the roll, and Captain Wirz ordered the guard to take them to the guard house and put them in stocks, and pointing to Grabach, he said, “ and that _____ put him in the spread eagle stocks.” They were placed there but the guards were more humane than the officers and took them out of the stocks with a promise that if any of the officers came around they must at once be placed in the stocks again until they were gone.

Libby Prison
(National Archives)
Within a few hours an order came to send all prisoners in the guard house to the train, which was loading with prisoners, as they claimed for exchange, but the real object was to keep them from falling into the hands of General Sherman. In the night, the train arrived at Macon, Georgia, and here Grabach jumped from the train and dodged the guards, and before daylight was out of the city in the open country headed for our lines. After many days of traveling by night and hiding by day, and being fed by the escaped prisoners’ friend, the black man, he was retaken just before reaching our lines.

Again he was a prisoner, and this time he was taken to Millen, being the first of a lot of 35 to be put into this prison stockade, but in a few days it had been increased five thousand. One day after a few weeks of prison life he with a squad of others was taken outside of the stockade to carry in some wood. When the opportunity offered, Grabach dropped behind a big log and again made his escape, and commenced his lonely march by night and sleeping in woods and fields by day, and after many nights of marching, hunger, and cold he was again recaptured.

Again he was a prisoner of war and was being taken to Florida. While going through Savannah with other prisoners he again made his escape, this time by playing off sick, being apparently in such condition that he could not go any farther. Here in the city of Savannah for several weeks he was cared for by a German family and often went downstreet where almost every day some prisoners were being put aboard transports for exchange. One day he found an opportunity to fall into the ranks of prisoners for exchange. He got on board the transport as one of them with much difficulty. This time he was successful in gaining his liberty and in due time arrived in Annapolis, Maryland, and then came to his home near Clyde, Ohio, and in a few weeks rejoined his regiment at Gravelly Springs, Mississippi, where he was mustered out of the army in February, 1865, having been a prisoner about five months, and about four months after his term of three years service had expired.”

For several years after the war, he lived in Clyde, but for many years he has lived in Nebraska, which is now his home. For the past few weeks he has been revisiting this, the home of his younger manhood, and participating in the Grabach family reunion.