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