Remembering Memorial Day Heroes

Pvt James R Van Meter

Pvt James R Van Meter

This weekend as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday I’d like to dedicate today’s post to my first cousin 4 times removed James R Van Meter. He was a Civil War veteran that enlisted with his brother George. As recruiters came to these brother’s tiny hometown looking for men to join the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC), 18 year old James Vanmeter and his 21 year old brother George eagerly enlisted. Mustering in Sept. 6, 1861, both in Company F, the boys joined their regiment two months later on November 12 at Camp Dennison.

With the rest of their fellow cavalrymen the Vanmeters spent their initial days drilling, learning commands, caring for their horses and building stables. A soldier’s life was much different than a farmer’s and the regimented tasks and training were learning experiences for the young men. 

Orders soon came for the 4th to move to the battlefield and on December 6, 1861 the 4th OVC headed to the front. First it was to Louisville then on to Bowling Green (KY) to face the Confederate line there. The Vanmeter brothers had to be anxious! Finally they would realize their goal of fighting for their country.

George moved with the rest of the cavalry but James stayed behind. As with many men who served James was struck down by illness. He spent January through August of 1862 in and out of field hospitals with a diagnosis of lung fever, Febris Typhoides or typhoid fever. James does seem to accompany the regiment in May and June of 1862 while they were in Huntsville, Alabama but is reported sick at Breon Creek.

Throughout the war James writes home to his mother and sends her part if not most of his pay when drawn. His Uncle Jim visits him in the military hospital on a couple of occasions. James’ close ties with his family throughout the war is apparent.

James continues his fight with lung infections during most of the war. He’s present with his company from Sept. 1862 to April 1863 so he’s involved in the great battle at Stones River. Yet he’s sick May and June of 1863, present July and August and sick yet again September and October missing the deadly battle at Chickamauga. Back with the troops in November and through the new year James sees wicked fire at Winchester and Chattanooga to name a few. Even with the illness and harrowing battles James reenlists with the 4th OVC on January 4, 1864. 

His reenlistment papers state he is 21 years and ¾ months old, a 5′ 10” blue eyed, fair complexioned farmer who is very willing to serve his country for another three years.

James along with the rest of the reenlisted veterans received a one month furlough February 5 to March 5, 1864 then he was to report back to Camp Dennison. On furlough and traveling with Lt. Thomas McClure to his home in Rockport Ohio, James contracts pneumonia. 

He arrives in his hometown of Rockport, Ohio weak and very ill. The strain of war and sickness the past two and a half years are evident in the young man. Even with home visits from the family doctor James’ lungs cannot overcome one more infection. James Vanmeter passes from this life to the next February 18, 1864. 

The short epitaph on his tombstone says it all.

Soldier rest thy warfare is ore

James Vanmeter died in service to his country. He may not have succumbed to a battle injury but still gave his life to preserve the union for a future he would never know. To my first cousin four times removed – I remember and honor your memory James R. Van Meter – Civil War soldier and hero.

Civil War Saturday – My ancestor died on the battlefield. So where’s he buried? Part 1.5

Happy Civil War Saturday friends!!

This is Part 1.5 of My ancestor died on the battlefield. So where’s he buried?

If you checked my last post you saw the research log I’m using. Listed are the resources I’m checking as I begin my research on where my Civil War ancestor who died on a little known, remote battlefield may be buried.

Now just as a recap we’re talking about my first cousin four times removed George S Vanmeter. He was with Co. G 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and was killed in a skirmish with Confederate forces April 12, 1864 on the Jack Peters plantation outside of Florence, Alabama.

Only three men were killed in this small battle. One Confederate and two Union soldiers. The rest of Company G was captured by the men of the 27th and 35th Alabama and sent to Andersonville.

As far as I know his body was not brought back to Ohio for burial. I have never seen a gravesite for him at the cemeteries he would likely be buried at. As family historians I know you’ll understand, I frequent these cemeteries several times a year.

So this round of research includes:

Find-a-grave
Billion Graves
Names in Stone
*Ohio Gen-Web TombstoneTranscription Project
Interment
National Cemeteries

 

Research Log

As you can see my research at these websites did not yield any results but is a good place to start in trying to find where he is buried.

Next week we’ll take a field trip and do some on site research at a repository. See you next Saturday.

*Check the state’s Gen-Web site where your ancestor was from.

Civil War Saturday – My ancestor died on the battlefield. So where’s he buried? Part 1

Research Log
Last week we talked about the brick wall I’ve been working on recently. I have a Civil War ancestor that died in the war and I don’t know where he’s buried. So for the next couple Saturdays I’ll share my research and outcomes with you. Hopefully you’ll find a resource or two that you were not aware of or one you may want to go back and try again.

Now just as a recap we’re talking about my first cousin four times removed George S Vanmeter. He was with Co. G 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and was killed in a skirmish with Confederate forces April 12, 1864 on the Jack Peters plantation outside of Florence, Alabama.

Only three men were killed in this small battle. One Confederate and two Union soldiers. The rest of Company G was captured by the men of the 27th and 35th Alabama and sent to Andersonville.

As far as I know his body was not brought back to Ohio for burial. I have never seen a gravesite for him at the cemeteries he would likely be buried at. As family historians I know you’ll understand, I frequent these cemeteries several times a year.

Today I’m going to look at some standard online resources. I’m not sure how much I’ll learn, but who knows? I may be very surprised and find a nugget or two about him. So let’s begin.

I’ll pull out my research log and my goal will be to find where George S. Vanmeter is buried. I also have a To-Do list handy. That way if I run across another site, or link that will help in some of my other genealogy research I’ll note it and go back to it another time. I don’t want the enticing possibility of another research goal to get me off track of this search or become a time waster.

Check back with me this Saturday as I list out the resources on my research log! See you then!

Civil War Saturday: My ancestor died on the battlefield. So where’s he buried?

Woodlawn Cemetery Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

You’ve been researching your Civil War ancestor. You’ve found his company and regiment. You know his enlistment dates and the battles he fought in. You know he died on the battlefield and you’re thinking his family didn’t have the funds to bring his body home. So where is he buried?

That’s the dilemma I found while researching a collateral Civil War ancestor of mine, George S. Vanmeter. George is my first cousin, four times removed. You may remember his brother James, who was a special research project of mine awhile back.

Briefly George‘s first enlistment in the Civil War was as a member of Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). He was injured in May 1862 and discharged. He headed back home to Putnam County, Ohio. George was home just over a year. His wife had given birth to a baby girl. The infant was barely five months old when he reenlisted September 1863. This time with Co. G 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC).

In early April 1864, Co. G of the 9th OVC, was foraging in the area about 6 miles west of Florence, Alabama. By orders of General Sherman the men were living off the land. The company settled in for the night on the John (Jack) Peters plantation. The cavalry men of Co. G were sleeping in and around the main house and barn. George S. Vanmeter was on picket duty.

A small contingent of soldiers from the 27th and 35th Alabama were camped just across the Tennessee river from the Peters plantation. These were men who lived in the area and were well aware of the Yankees and how they had scoured the countryside for food, horses and provisions. About 100 Confederate soldiers crossed the river at Seven Mile Island in the wee hours of April 12th and totally surprised Company G. There was a brief but intense skirmish that left one Confederate and two Union soldiers dead. The rest of Co. G was captured by the men of the 27th and 35th Alabama and sent to Andersonville.

My cousin George S. Vanmeter didn’t go to Andersonville. He was one of the two Union soldiers who died in the fight. This was a small battlefield, a small skirmish. There weren’t Union soldiers left to take care of the aftermath. What happened to George’s body?

I’ve read George’s pension file. His widow and daughter applied for a pension on behalf of his military service. I’ve researched the Official Records regarding this incident, I’ve scoured regimental histories for the 9th OVC, but the one question I haven’t been able to answer is:

Where is George S. Vanmeter buried?

That’s the brick wall I’ve been working on lately. Do you have a Civil War ancestor that died in the war and you don’t know where he is buried? The next couple Civil War Saturdays I’ll outline my research. What steps I take, the records and online sources I’ve used. Maybe some of my resources will be of help to you in your research. Stop back here next week and we’ll see if I can find where George S. Vanmeter buried.

Civil War Saturday – Immigrant Responds with Courage

Casper Biecker, Co. K 4th OVC (Photo provided by family to 4th OVVC Descendants Assoc.)

Casper Biecker, Co. K 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry  (Photo provided by family to 4th OVVC Descendants Assoc.)

Germans were the largest ethnic group to immigrate to the United States throughout the 19th century. They were also the largest group of foreign-born men to fight for the Union during the Civil War. Due in part to lack of religious freedom, war and an ongoing bad economy, Germans suffering from a shortage of jobs, crop failures, etc. came to the United States for a chance at a better life.

Several northern states opened their doors to German settlers in the first several decades of the 1800s. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan in particular encouraged migration to their areas. Pennsylvania was already home to many early German settlers who landed in Philadelphia and Ohio became a popular area for Germans to settle in too.

It was during these turbulent times in Germany that Casper Biecker was born on February 9, 1837 in Hessen. He was part of a farming family very familiar with struggling during bad economic times. As an adult, with few outside jobs available and farming producing a meager living, Casper had a decision to make. Should he go to America like many fellow Germans before him or stay? Even as the political fervor in the U.S. increased and war loomed imminent, Biecker decided to take a chance and move to the United States.

On January 29, 1861 at 23 years old, Casper landed at the port of New Orleans. He traveled up the Mississippi River to join a long-time German friend who had already left their home country and settled in Ohio. Casper eventually put down roots in nearby Covington Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. There he began his new life, farming.

Whether Casper was motivated by the fear of a mounting Confederate threat in northern Kentucky or was decidedly against slavery as a way of life, he volunteered with the 4th Ohio Cavalry during the war. Enlisting in Cincinnati on September 3, 1862 Casper served with Co. K for nearly three years as a private, mustering out June 24, 1865 with the rest of the regiment at war’s end.

During his enlistment Biecker proved to be a valuable asset to his unit. From September 1863 through March 1864 his muster roll cards document numerous times he was sent to Nashville for horses. An experienced handler of horses was a must for a cavalry regiment and Casper obviously filled the bill. Fortunately he escaped any type of war-time injuries and was only reported sick once during his military tenure.

After the war Biecker headed home to Northern Kentucky and married the sister of his old friend. The one that had originally prompted him to move to this country to begin with.

Theresa Hoeb and Casper were married in 1866. Certainly life became more like Biecker had anticipated when first moving to the United States years earlier. The Bieckers welcomed eight children into their home while Casper continued to farm. In the years that followed the Civil War both Casper and Theresa were able to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

By 1890 Casper, Theresa and their family had left the farm and were living in town in Covington, Ky. Biecker was working as a day laborer now with five sons living at home.

Health became a problem as Casper and Theresa got older. Theresa developed Parkinson’s disease and two of their son’s remained at home to care for her. Casper whose own health was declining moved to the U.S. National Home for Disabled Soldiers in Dayton Ohio. There Casper was treated for chronic rheumatism, cardiac hypertrophy and arterial sclerosis.

Biecker was in and out of the Old Soldier’s Home a couple of times but failing health finally claimed him on February 16, 1920. He passed away from bronchial pneumonia at the age of 83 while staying at the soldiers home. Casper now rests next to his wife Theresa at St. Stephen cemetery in Hamilton Ohio.

Biecker was a man of integrity. Living in the U.S. less than two years he responded to the need of his new country. Imagine leaving a hard, struggling life behind in Germany, only to move into the greatest conflict ever fought on U.S. soil. Language and customs had to be barriers, yet he put aside any fears or concerns and fought to preserve his new homeland. This demanded courage and dedication and for that Casper Biecker you are remembered.