He Couldn’t Stay Away – A Civil War Soldier’s Story

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

Do you remember a post I did a little while back called Checking a Goal Off My To-Do List? I was researching a Civil War soldier who’s surname was one of my family lines. Not only did I fill in the blanks on the soldier I was researching (James Vanmeter) I found he had a brother who also served in the Civil War. George Vanmeter’s story is even more compelling than James!

George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children of parents John and Rachel Stevenson Vanmeter. John and Rachel had deep roots in Putnam County, Ohio. Both were born there, they married there and started their family there nestled in a prosperous farming community.

Certainly George’s closest friend and playmate growing up was his brother James. Only 22 months younger, James and George were close. Their reliance on each other was strengthened when the family left their home, grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins to live in Lucas County, Ohio. Quite a distance from their relatives and friends the family farmed in their new location. The close ties to each other that would develop in Lucas County came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.

George was only 10 years old when his father died. Along with his siblings he brought his father’s body back to Putnam County to be buried. Laid to rest among family members John Vanmeter’s death rocked this family to its very core.

Mother Rachel could not support her seven children ranging in age from 13 years to baby John just over one year old. The children were sent to live with aunts and uncles in the area. Their family was broken apart.

George and James lived in different households for a few years. Living with extended family they were able to see each other at church and other gatherings. Yet those years separated didn’t diminish their brotherly love.

When politics became tumultuous in the early 1860′s and war became a reality the Vanmeter brother’s were quick to answer the president’s call for troops. Together both young men, George 20 years old and James now 18 joined Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in the village of Rockport. They enlisted on September 6, and mustered in November 12, 1861.

The boys enlisted to serve their president, their country and maybe even to make their late father proud. Although in the same company their time spent together soon ended as James was sick often with lung disease and spent much time in and out of the hospital. George went on serving gallantly with the 4th.

The next events of George’s life can only be stated as facts without a lot of details. He married Samantha Allison January 27, 1862 in Allen County, Ohio. Perhaps he had permission to leave his company long enough to go home to wed. Next George is listed in the hospital on May 14, 1862 in Murfreesboro, TN and then discharged with a surgeon’ s certificate of disability on June 16, 1862. His service to the 4th OVC complete. Going back home to join his bride, George and Samantha become the proud parents of a daughter Louisa on April 24, 1863.

George’s story doesn’t end here following a long, happy life and a house full of children. Whether he missed the camaraderie of his cavalry mates, had an overwhelming urge to preserve the union or he was pursued by a persistent enlistment officer, George did reenlist. This time in Co. G 9th OVC. He was mustered in as a private on October 9, 1863 just 16 months after receiving his discharge form the 4th.

Spending a couple of months at Camp Dennison the newly formed unit joined the regiment and was assigned patrol duty along the Tennessee River at Athens and Florence Alabama. On April 12, 1864 Co. G was spending the night on a farmer’s property near the river. George Vanmeter and a couple other men were on picket duty. The 27th and 35th Alabama completely surprised the men of the 9th OVC killing the three soldiers on picket duty and capturing the larger part of Co. G along with their horses, mules and supplies.

In that instant Samantha Vanmeter became a widow and Louisa a few days from her first birthday was fatherless. George Vanmeter was another casualty in the War Between the States.

In a strange twist of fate George’s brother James died seven weeks earlier at home on furlough. He succumbed to the continued illness and lung disease that wracked his body during his military service.

It’s not known where George Vanmeter is buried. His death is listed as “near Florence Alabama”. Perhaps he’s in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery or his final resting place is close to where he fell. In any event George gave “his last full measure” to his country.

Vanmeter did not shirk his duty to his country even when an earlier injury would have made his service sufficient in the war effort. His dedication, and loyalty pushed him on and are remembered here. May these few words be a lasting tribute to George Vanmeter’s memory.

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