Henry Steinkamp’s Civil War

Ohio and Indiana, 1862.

This Thanksgiving our stepmother Carolyn gave me copies of the letters of her great granduncle Henry Steinkamp. Carolyn’s father’s paternal grandmother, Angelina Magsig, was born Angelina Steinkamp in 1858. She was three years old when her older brother Henry enlisted in Company D of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in October 1861.

Henry Steinkamp was born on April 7, 1842, in Woodville, Ohio. His parents, Margaret and Frederick Steinkamp, were born in Germany and as young adults emigrated to the United States and settled in Woodville. Henry was their oldest child.

The 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized in Fremont, Ohio in the fall of 1861, six months after the start of the Civil War.  Nineteen-year-old Henry Steinkamp was an early recruit.  The first few months the regiment spent at Camp Croghan, near Fremont, Ohio. In January 1862, they moved to Camp Chase outside Columbus.

Steinkamp describes the journey in a letter to his parents:

Camp Chase 16th Jan 1862

Dear father and mother I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we all arrived well at Camp Chase yesterday afternoon about 4 o’clock  we did not get along very fast on the road at first when we started the horse was not stout enough to pull up that hill on the other side of fremont bridge  we tried it twice but it was all in vain we had to go back and wait for an other engine  So we had two engines to pull us till clyde were we stopped about an our and then we started again with only one engine and it went first rate till about four miles from tiffin before they found out that we was lost behind.  We had to wait about an hour before they came back  it went very slow till we came to urbana were we stoped and made three trains of one and took the other road to Columbus  we arrived at Columbus at two oclock in the after noon where we got out of the cars with the knapsack on our back.  We marched four miles and a half to the camp  this was a hard march for the little boys

We found good shanties  our shanties are about 14 feet long and are warm  we have plenty of room  it is not very cold here  there was no snow here yet this winter  we only had dress parade to day and the chaplan prayed for us

I like it beter here then I did in camp Croghan   we have beter water here  there are four regiments here now and anoter regiment is expected tomorrow  this is a very large camp but it was very mudy yesterday

There are three hundred and fifty secessionists here as prisoners and it takes forty gards every day and three or four hundred more are coming from the South in two or three day

This is all i know at present  I give my best respect to father mother Brother Sister and friends

My address is Henry Steinkamp  Camp Chase Com D  Captain N 72 regim

A month later the regiment was on the move again, moving by train and then boat to Paducah, Kentucky:

Camp Buckland

the 24th feb

Dear father and Mother

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we all arrived safe at Paducah the 22nd day of feb at about 4 oclock in the afternoon and we stayed on the boat till yesterday morning and then we went into camp about ten rods from the river  we found a nice place for our camp  our camp is about a quarter of a mile from town  there are about 14000 men here at present  day before yesterday when we came here there were about thirty thousand here  Sixteen Steam boats loaded with Soldiers left here yesterday morning  they were all a going to Nashville in tenisee  we Supose that they are a fighting there to day and i will tell you that [they]our men took Columbus yesterday  they fetched a Steamboat here last night that they took there. Columbus is about forty miles from here  there are Soldiers coming in every day by thousands  Paducah is a nice city  the rebels have all left this place  about half of the houses are deserted  a great many of them are occupied by the Soldiers  i can not tell you yet how long we are going to stay here  we Started from Camp chase the 19th early in the morning and we got to Columbus at about ten oclock and then we got in the cars and rode all day till about 8 oclock in the evening we arrived at cincinnati  it rained and snowed all day till night and when we got out of the cares it was very dark and we had to march about a half a mile down to the boat and it was about ten oclock till we started and we run till 4 oclock in the morning when something of the engine broke  So we had to stop at madison indiana where we stoped about 6 hours and we went as fare as louisville where we stopped and got into an other boat  we had to march about 3 miles till we got to the other boat  Paducah is about 6 hundred miles from cincinnati

this is all i know at present

give my best respects to you all

i am truly your effectionate son

Henry Steinkamp

Regimental records indicate that a few weeks after the move to Paducah, the 72nd Ohio moved again to Savannah, Tennessee, near the Mississippi border, and a few days later, to Pittsburg Landing. It was here that the Confederates attacked the camp on April 6; the attack grew into the Battle of Shiloh. When the battle began Henry was one day shy of his 20th birthday. His story was recounted in a letter to Henry’s parents by his friend, Louis Ruppert:

Camp Shiloh, April 10th, 1862

My Friend Steinkamp:

I must write you instead your son Henry. Last Sunday morning 25,000 Rebels attacked our camp. Our regiment with a few others was called to the front. The battle lasted from Sunday 8 a. m. until Monday 4 p. m. Three regiments, the 48th, the 70th, and the 72nd which is ours, fought hard to keep the Rebels from the camp, but our force was too small.

Now my dear friend what I want to write about is your dear son Henry. We fought valiantly and also Captain Nuhfer’s company fought with us like men. After the battle had lasted about one and a half hours, Henry and I fought from behind a large tree. When Henry’s gun was made useless by a Rebel bullet, he threw it away and ran to camp to get another. He soon returned and stood with me behind the tree.

The Rebels had spotted our tree as a strategic point to be taken. Henry loaded his gun and while aiming a Rebel bullet pierced his left lung. He cried out “O good Lord, I am wounded.”

Being able to run he returned to the camp and layed down in our tent. When I arrived his clothes were red with his blood and he said “See, Louis, I am wounded, please write to my parents.” I promised and bandaged his wounds as good as I could, placed him on a blanket and brought him to the doctor who immediately attended to him. Then I helped him out of the turmoil to get to the steamer which was to take him to Savannah.

The bullet went through his chest and came out at his spine. I do not know how he is now as I did not see him since Sunday. I will try to find out about him and write you later; so, I cannot say whether he is living or dead. I have very little hope that he will survive. He was wounded a valiant hero for his country who fought to the last minute.

George Albert also is wounded under his left arm, but his is able to go about. We won a glorious victory in that two day battle and fully destroyed the force of the Rebels. I hope that it was the last battle as we have seen enough dead and wounded. The last battle brought 24,000 dead and wounded in both armies.

George sends greetings; he will write you soon.

Kind greetings from L. Ruppert, Saddler.

Henry Steinkamp died of his wounds on April 10, 1862.

Louis Ruppert survived the war, leaving the service as a first sergeant. He died in Illinois on April 13, 1923, 61 years after recounting the death of his friend Henry Steinkamp. George Albert also survived long after the war ended, dying outside Toledo, Ohio in 1921.

Henry Steinkamp’s Civil War lasted six months and ended in his death. His family cherished his memory, saving his letters and honoring his service and sacrifice.

________

This presentation maps Henry Steinkamp’s journey from his home in Ohio to his final days in Tennessee, using contemporary maps by Alvin Jewett Johnson: http://prezi.com/b38sekknoaja/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

In the presentation, click on the > key to move from one screen to another, and the icon with arrows pointing away from each other to go to a full-screen version.

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In-Flight Adventures

At Cincinnati International Airport

I just got back from visiting family over Thanksgiving week. It was great to see everyone and share stories and memories. The last time I visited was 11 months ago, when I was driving across the country to my new home in Ketchikan, Alaska.  We had a lot of catching up to do!

I made travel reservations a few months ago, and managed to get flights from Ketchikan to Cincinnati, and back one week later, each way in one long day.  On November 18 I left Ketchikan and flew to Seattle. From Seattle I was to fly to Chicago, and then on to Cincinnati, getting there just before midnight.  The layovers were about 1.5 to 2 hours long—tight, but not very tight.

However, the Seattle-to-Chicago flight was almost 2 hours late—my flight to Cincinnati left just as we were touching down in Chicago. Ugh. But at least I—and a few fellow travelers who missed their connections—got a voucher for the airport hotel, dinner and breakfast. I got up the next morning and flew to Cincinnati without incident.

“OK,” I thought, “this was not so bad, and how often will it happen that there is an overnight delay?”

After a busy week visiting family and celebrating Thanksgiving, I left to go home on November 24. Cincinnati to Dallas/Fort Worth, then to Seattle and finally to Ketchikan around 8pm that evening.  I got to the airport in plenty of time.  After an aborted breakfast at The Local (a half hour after being seated no one had come to take my order, so I left) I flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, where I had a magnificent lunch at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.  I got to the gate for the flight to Seattle, and we boarded the plane. There were lots of families with small children aboard, and several older people in wheelchairs.

Several minutes after the door closed, the pilot announced that there would be a 20-minute delay in taking off—one of the plane’s tires was low.  About a half hour later the pilot came on again saying that the tire was flat and they would have to change it—it might take another hour or so. And 30 minutes later the pilot made another announcement, to let us know that both tires needed to be changed and we would have to deplane with all our carry-on luggage.  We did so, crowding into the gate that was already filling up with passengers for the next flight.  After another hour, the airline brought a cart with food and beverages to the gate.  This was not a good sign. The grumbling began, and children were starting to get tired and whiny. We were finally assigned a new plane and gate, and took off four hours after the scheduled departure time.

Everyone was tired and disgruntled. Small children were wailing–some angry, some just exhausted. The small boy next to me was feeling sick to his stomach, and every 45 minutes or so threw up into a bag his mother held for him. She and I commiserated about the situation. It was a four hour flight, and felt endless. We got to Seattle around 10pm.

So, another hotel voucher, with my Seattle to Ketchikan flight rebooked for the next morning. That flight was uneventful, even pleasant—there were many empty seats and we were able to stretch out. I got home a little after 9am that morning.

My father had said to me a few days earlier, “When you get back to Ketchikan you’ll walk in the door and say, ‘Whew, thank God!’” He was right. The Cincinnati visit was wonderful, but it was a grueling trip back to Ketchikan and I was very glad to be home.

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Today I am Grateful …

IMG_2289

Dad’s pineapple upside-down cake

(With apologies to the Ketchikan Daily News–I wrote this for their AdLib column but forgot to send it while on vacation last week.)

For the past few weeks the Library has had a display across from the circulation desk, asking people to finish the sentence, ‘Today I am grateful ___’.

Sometimes this is a difficult sentence to finish.

“Today I am grateful … that my car broke down in town instead of 5 miles out.”

“Today I am grateful … that my head cold has not (yet) turned into the flu.”

“Today I am grateful … that my kid came in OK after being out most of the night.”

Some days the annoyances and inconveniences pile up, minor but irritating, and the feeling of gratitude is hard to muster up. And Thanksgiving, our annual day of giving thanks, is often stressful, particularly if you are doing the cooking!

But when the day is done and the house set to rights, there is time to think about all there is to be grateful for—material things certainly, but especially people—family, friends, colleagues and community. Here’s what I am grateful for this year:

I am grateful for the power and resilience of family. Like many families, mine is spread out all over the country, far from where we grew up in Ohio. This year we have come together to assist a relative who is gravely ill, and I am grateful for the love and generosity of family members and the unexpected strength of our ties to one another.

I am grateful for old and new friendships. This past January I moved to Ketchikan. Since then, old friends have kept in touch via phone calls, email and Facebook, passing on the latest news from Connecticut and making sure I settled into my new home. And so many Ketchikan friends have welcomed me with open arms to this lovely and vibrant place.

I am grateful for my colleagues at the Ketchikan Public Library.  The Library’s staff members are funny, articulate, and passionate about the Library’s mission of serving the community with resources and programs that instruct, entertain, and bring people together.

Finally, I am grateful to live in Ketchikan—beautiful, prosperous, and lively, where we can disagree and still work together, where we help each other in bad times and celebrate the good times.

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Now that the holiday season is underway, come to the Library to check out our collections of holiday books, DVDs and music. No matter how old or young you are or what holidays you celebrate, the Library has craft and cookery books, movies and documentaries, and music help you get organized and in the holiday mood!

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Uncertainty Principle

I recently listened to the book Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. It is the story of the 1984 murder of a mother and her young child by Ron and Dan Lafferty, two of her husband’s brothers. The brothers are members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, and believed they were acting on God’s orders. The matter-of-fact recounting of the killings by Dan Lafferty is chilling, and his certainty that he was doing God’s will. In looking for an explanation, Krakauer explores the history and tenets of the Mormon Church, and argues that these lead some followers to acts that range from disrespectful to homicidally violent.

I was going along with Krakauer at first, thinking that there was something about the Mormon Church that turns some of its members misogynistic and violent. Then I thought about incidents of violence and fanaticism involving other faiths. It is not religion itself, of any kind, which leads to violence, although it is often offered as a justification of it.

Rather, it is certainty. More specifically, it is the certainty that one is right—one knows God’s mind, one’s logic is unshakeable, and/or one’s intuition is not to be questioned.  Certainty is a wonderful, restful thing—one doesn’t have to think anymore. It can be a way to fight off internal doubts, or counter the doubts of others.  It also provides wonderful motivation to get things done quickly, ‘the ends justifying the means.’ For some, an end they are certain is good justifies lying, treating others with contempt, violence, even murder.

On the other hand, uncertainty is not a comfortable position—in fact it means precisely never being completely comfortable with any act, idea or belief. It means always questioning whether or not one is doing the right thing, and in the right way. Of course, things still have to get accomplished, so there is the added uncomfortableness of acting without knowing for certain that one is right.

Absent certainty, it is extremely important to be respectful, kind, just, and willing to consider other points of view. Someone else may be right, or have a better solution, or a way to improve the situation. ‘Unsettling’ is precisely what it is, because even when something is done, its rightness and value are never finally settled.

In quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that for subatomic particles, the more precisely its position is known, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and visa-versa. Even in science, certainty has its limits and no good science can be done without accepting these limits.

So too in life—certainty has its limits, and no good life can be lived without accepting these limits and learning to think, feel and act in the knowledge that one may not be right.

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Life’s rich pageant

Time passes. Lately I have heard and seen a lot of stories on aging and the passage of time (or maybe I have just been noticing them more). Last weekend I watched two movies on TCM that were very different, but equally sobering: The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and The Whales of August (1987).

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was written by Tennessee Williams, and tells the story of an actress in her 40s whose much older husband dies as they are flying to Rome on a vacation. Mrs. Stone, played by Vivian Leigh, stays on in Rome, becoming involved with a greedy duchess/pimp, played by Lotte Lenya, and Paolo, one of the gigolos the duchess handles. Mrs. Stone becomes besotted by Paolo, who generally behaves like a sullen teenager but has surprising flashes of insight, as when he predicts that Mrs. Stone will tired of him and will start running with a hungrier, more dangerous class of gigolo.

And that is what happens. Furious at Paolo’s flirtation with a younger woman, Mrs. Stone gives her house key to a rough-looking young man who has been following her throughout the picture. The movie ends there, but the implication is obvious—Mrs. Stone is giving up, inviting death. Tennessee Williams tends to be pessimistic like this—I should have realized there would be no happy ending. But it was depressing all the same.

The Whales of August is a very different movie. Two elderly sisters, played by Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, are spending a summer at their family’s beachfront cottage in Maine. Libby, played by Davis, is blind and cantankerous. Sarah, played by Gish, cares for Libby and is much more giving and hopeful than her sister. Elderly neighbors and old friends, some of more than 50 years, visit the sisters and reminisce about the days when they were young.

Vincent Price plays a charming, cultured Russian émigré, whom Sarah is smitten with for a time. Price is a joy to watch in this, as is Gish. It is difficult, though, to watch Davis—one gets the impression that this is not just a performance, that the bitterness is real. The movie ends on a positive note. Libby, long opposed to creating a picture window in the cottage to look out at the ocean, agrees to it to make Sarah happy. They both walk down to the beach as the closing credits roll. It is not a depressing ending, but it is sad. It is the sadness of things inevitably ending, of people dying and their memories and experiences dying with them.

Both movies made for one long afternoon.

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Termination dust

Less than a month ago termination dust appeared on the mountains around Ketchikan. Termination dust is Alaskan for a light dusting of snow on the upper slopes of a mountain. Its appearance marks the end of summer.

We did not have much of a summer here. With a few glorious exceptions, most days were in the 50s with clouds and rain. The fall was better, we had weeks of mostly uninterrupted sunshine, beautiful for walking, fishing or just getting the house and yard ready for winter.

Just a week ago we got the first accumulating snow, an inch or so of slushy mix that melted in the next day’s rain. There was a day or two of hard frost in the morning, to the extent of closing steep sections of Fairy Chasm Road and Schoenbar Road.

The most difficult adjustment, though, has been the time change. We ‘fell back’ last weekend, so the sun now rises at 7:15am and sets at 3:45pm. Once darkness falls, it feels like midnight.  I can feel my energy draining away, and I just want to sleep. This time of year, putting one foot in front of the other and getting out the door provide a sense of achievement.

Ah, winter! The mountains are more beautiful now, particularly when the sun shines. With the upcoming holidays there are, for most of us, obligations that get us out and keep us active. Snowstorms give us a reason to stay in, or adventures to talk about later if we have to venture out. And when we can stay home, there is the comfort of familiar people and surroundings, warmth in a cold world.

Winter is not my favorite season, but it does have its pleasures and compensations. (Not least of which is the joy of spring when it finally arrives!) First City Players’ last performance of Cabaret takes place today at the Ketchikan High School auditorium, and has gotten rave reviews. The Winter Arts Faire takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving at the Saxman Community Center, and the Wearable Art Show is February 1-3. And of course there are all the programs and events at the Library, the Museum, the Arts Council, and everywhere!

Termination dust may mark the end of summer, but it is the beginning of Ketchikan’s annual artistic and cultural renewal of itself. Get out there and be part of it!

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Our Veterans

Mom and Dad’s wedding photo

Our father, Robert Tully, served in the Air Force for four years after high school, from 1958-1962. Our parents had just married when Dad was sent to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington; I was born there. Shortly afterwards Dad was transferred to Moses Lake, Washington, where my brothers Bob and Steve were born. In 1962 Dad’s hitch was up and we all returned to Cincinnati, Ohio—Jayne and Tom were born after that.

Dad did not fly planes; he was a mechanic and a good one. Sometime during his service he fell from a platform and injured his back. The injury still troubles him, although it has not stopped him from working every day from then to now. Mom and Dad both have stories about making ends meet on little pay. Dad had a series of second jobs to bring in more money. Most of it went to us kids, and our parents skimped on food for themselves. Mom remembers finding a $1 bill in the couch one day, and her and Dad splurging on salami sandwiches.

My first memories are of Cincinnati; all we have from Dad’s service are our parents’ memories, old photographs, and a few souvenirs.

___________

Many in our grandfathers’ generation served in World War II—family members on both sides did military service. Dad’s Uncle Jack von Rissen enlisted before Pearl Harbor, in June 1941. He was an Army Air Corps pilot who was shot down three times. The Cincinnati Enquirer printed a short article about his adventures in March 1943, while he was on furlough after crash landing on a South Sea island.  He and two members of his crew “passed the three days with only three small cans of water and a few chocolate bars for food. At the end of that time, flares, which they had been setting off, finally attracted an Army flying boat which rescued them. None of the men was injured.”

Our stepmother Carolyn’s mother and father both served in World War II, and photographs of them in uniform are proudly displayed in Dad and Carolyn’s home. Virgil Magsig served in the Army in the South Pacific. In 1948 he married Lois Schwartz, who had served as an Army nurse in North Africa and Italy during the war.

Joseph A. von Rissen, 1905

Uncle Jack’s father and namesake, Joseph Albert von Rissen, served briefly in the U. S. Army Cavalry in 1905, enlisting in September 1905 and listed as ‘Des, Dec. 12/05’ Did he desert? Or was he discharged? (‘Descharge’ was an alternate spelling of ‘discharge’ back in the day.) Joseph died in 1928, so there is no one left alive in the family who knows the true story.

Our stepmother’s ancestor, Henry Steinkamp, served in the Civil War and died just days after his 20th birthday, at the battle of Shiloh. Carolyn has copies of his letters home to his family in northern Ohio in the months before he was killed.

___________

Our family has never considered itself a military family, and at family gatherings military service is not often the topic of the conversation. But even in a non-military family such as ours, there is a long and (mostly) honorable record of service to our country.

Our thanks to all military veterans for their service, and to their families who sacrificed so that their loved ones could serve!

 

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