YEARS 1839 TO 1912

Times were hard for people in grandfather Albert's time, so an enlistment in the Union Army during the Civil War helped him have gainful employment, besides fighting for his country.

The North was the Union Army and the South was called the Confederate Army. They were classified "Rebels" and had a few mavericks between them known as "Bushwhackers", who were mostly thieves and murderers who roamed the countryside robbing people of their possessions and murdering women and children. It was the task of the Union Army to round up these Bushwhackers, bring them to trial, convict them if guilty, hang them on a tree limb until dead, and then finally bury them. Grandpa Albert presided at the hanging of two outlaws on the courthouse lawn at Herman, Missouri. Those days clothing was scarce and hard to come by. One of the outlaws wore a nice pair of leather boots. Grandpa and some of his buddies planned to take his nice leather boots off of him, for their own use, before they buried him the next morning. However, rigor mortis set in, and they could not get his boots off, so they had to bury him with his boots on.

Grandpa used to tell how dumb young people were, and he said he was too. When he was discharged from the army, the discharge papers he got didn't mean much to him at the time. He threw them away, not realizing they would be valuable to him someday. Soldier pensions were begun for the first time at about the late 1890's to 1900. Grandpa was getting old, and was now eligible for a pension but did not have his discharge papers to prove he had been a soldier. The only alternative he had was to find someone who served with him in the army to verify under oath that he was known to this person personally as a Union Army soldier.

He remembered an army buddy of his, who was of Bohemian descent. The immigrants of those days usually congregated in their particular ethnic neighborhoods in a city. Grandpa went by train to St. Louis, and after inquiring around was directed to a Bohemian settlement. While walking to get there he wanted to make sure he would find his way back. He took along a piece of chalk and marked each telephone pole, or whatever else he could find, as he went along.With a lot of luck, the trip paid off! He reached the Bohemian settlement he was looking for and after talking to a few people, he was directed to his former army buddy.Grandpa explained the purpose of his trip and they both went to the proper authorities.Grandpa got his soldier pension. It's unknown how much pension was paid at the beginning but during later years he received thirty dollars a month, paid to him every three months (quarterly). Needless to say, he did need the pension money in his old days and he considered this to be a real blessing.

Grandpa never was able to master or speak much of the English language. Some of his grandchildren would accompany him to town to help him shop. He could converse in the German language, which helped as the town of Washington and vicinity was settled mostly by German people. It seems as though the United States Army would have had to be bilingual at that time.

Grandpa was injured in a farm accident. He had a terrible wound in his right knee. There was an open, festering sore. Doctors at that time did not know what to do for it and he suffered for quite a few years. His right leg was extremely stiff and he walked with the help of a cane. He lived during the last six months of 1912 with his son Andrew. His health steadily diminished during that period and his bad knee led to severe complications and finally his death.

by Jeannette (Filla) Shields

Written & Edited January 11, 1997
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