Jeremiah Meitzler Mohr Gernerd.

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pleted brigade led the advance of the division of 1,550 men and
officers on the main road to Selma, and was conspicuous for its
gallantry and impetuosity throughout the engagement. In charg-
ing the enemy's works it was necessary to cross an open space of
some distance where the division was exposed to a tremendous
raking fire of musketry and artillery, entailing a heavy loss in
killed and wounded. In the commanding General's official report
every officer of the Seventh Pennsylvania was complimented by per-
sonal mention, and was afterwards brevetted for signal service in
the taking of Selma. Minty in his report said that "every officer
and soldier performed his duty so well and so nobly" that it was
difficult for him to make any special mention. The assault of
Selma by the cavalry, then dismounted of course, was One of the
most daring in the history of this or any other war. The rebel
works consisted of an abatis of fallen trees, the limbs of which
pointed outward and were each sharpened to a minute point — then
came a space of 500 or more feet planted with torpedoes, and stud-
ded with barricades made of pointed stakes leaning outward and
interlaced with wire — then a palisade higher than a man could
reach, made of logs standing on end and extending a number of
feet into the ground, and the tops united by stringers and sur-
mounted with wires ; the entire palisade being provided with loop-
ho4es, controlling the approaches, and a platform inside on which
the first line of the enemy awaited the assaulting column — and
then beyond all this yet was a ditch about five feet deep, and then
a line of earthworks higher than a man, and at intervals strong
forts with bombproofs, etc., mounted with light and heavy guns
commanding every foot of the ground, and manned by men whose
valor and determination will never be in question. Think of men
attacking and actually capturing such elaborate works, and yet the
majority escaping with life and limb ! Hardly a man of the Sev-
enth who did not have bullet holes in his clothing, while the car-
bines in the hands of many were hit and broken to pieces. John
B. says he can't explain how he got through, but he retains a vivid

266 The Gernhardt Family History.

recollection oi coming out of the melee unharmed. If the John-
nies had not wasted the bulk of their powder, lead and iron, he
doubts if any one would have come out alive.

Another fearful carnage John remembers was at Kenesaw
Mountain, where the rebels had intrenched themselves in a strong
position by nature, from which they repulsed and inflicted great
loss on Sherman's assaulting columns. Sherman admits that he
met with a defeat here, but it was really only a temporary reverse.
In his official report he says : "I perceived that the enemy and
our own officers had settled down into a conviction that I would
not assault fortified lines. All looked to me to 'outflank.' * * *
Failure as it was, and for which I assume the entire responsibility,
I yet claim it produced good fruits, as it demonstrated to General
Johnston that / zvould assault, and that boldly ; and we also gained
and held ground so close to the enemy's parapets that he could not
show a head above them." When the Seventh Cavalry was mov-
ing with Minty's brigade from the centre to the extreme left of
the Union army, on the last day's fighting in front of Kenesaw,
and while passing Siegel's infantry corps, John saw a long line of
the enemy rolling great masses of rock down the steep sides of the
mountain from the crest, four hundred feet high, on our unpro-
tected troops along the base. The batteries of artillery on the top
of the ridge, from which every movement of the Union troops
could plainly be seen, at the same time fired at the passing cavalry,
the noise of which mingled strangely with the incessant musketry
and rattle and clatter of the bouncing and whirling rocks, but their
aim, owing to the steepness of the face of the mountain, was for-
tunately too high to do much harm. The clamor and excitement
cannot be described. Pandemonium reigned — in fact had been
reigning for days and weeks, and kept on reigning. Johnston saw
that he was not only ''boldly" assaulted, but that he was again be-
ing boldly flanked, so he soon evacuated his strong position, and
Kenesaw was won, and both armies had been taught an important
lesson. Sherman would assault, and that boldly !

Sees, like all the kindred who saw active service during the
eventful era of the great Rebellion, had experiences that would

The Gernhardt Family History. 267

make interesting reading in our family history — and of which our
kindred of the future will no doubt wish that I had collated many
more. For instance, when marching through Georgia he and his
messmate, Snyder, were one day dispatched from General Long's
headquarters with a message to Captain McBurney, who was then
in charge of the wagon train. On returning to headquarters with
their receipted envelopes — the envelopes, by the way, in which the
dispatches were usually carried were always endorsed by the offi-
cers receiving them, the time of receipt noted, and then returned to
the bearers, and carefully guarded by them as evidence that they
had performed their duty — they ventured to turn aside to the build-
ings of a large plantation to see what they could find in the way
of commissary supplies. The premises had already been so com-
pletely looted that, as Sees himself said when I interviewed him,
"not even a feather could be found." The cattle had all been
killed, and nothing remained of them but their bones, hides and
entrails, which were scattered over the ground all around the
buildings — a sight that had already become familiar to them, as
the country was thus pillaged and made to pay tribute to the
Union army for many miles on each side of the line of march.
They entered a pigpen, and there also they found that hungry com-
rades had just preceded them and helped themselves in the same
unsparing way. They were about to give up the search when they
discovered several pigs' heads that they concluded had been for-
gotten, and these they hurriedly got ready for rapid transporta-
tion, as they were not expected to loiter on their way, by running
strings through the lower jaws to secure them to their saddles.
Just as they were ready to mount with their valued contraband of
war a squad of superior officers and their orderlies rode up to
them, and one in a voice of stern sovereignty that startled them
demanded, "What are you men doing here ?" "Looking for some-
thing to eat," said Sees, as composedly as he could, as he met and
almost cowered under the penetrating glance of the austere officer,
whom he had no recollection of having ever seen. "To what com-
mand do you belong?" "To General Long's," replied Sees, too
much flustered just then to think of further explanation. "Mount,

268 The Gernhardt Family History.

and fall in under guard with my orderly," said the officer, evidently
thinking there was something wrong in their being so far away
from their command. As they were in the act of obeying the
mandate the officer observed the pigs' heads, and added, "Go back
and get your meat." When they had picked up their porcine tro-
phies, the next command was, "Mount," and next instant "For-
ward" — the now uneasy suspects and the orderlies falling in at
the rear. The guard, after riding a short distance in silence, asked
the supposed stragglers, or possibly suspected deserters, how they
came to be so far away from their commands. "We are couriers
from General Long's headquarters sent with a dispatch to Capt.
McBurney in charge of the wagon train, and were just on our way
back." "Why didn't you say so to the General?" "That's so!
Why didn't we? Didn't just happen to think of that. Say, or-
derly, who is that officer?" "That is General Sherman, in com-
mand of the Army of the Cumberland." "Good heavens !" in-
wardly exclaimed the alarmed dispatch bearers, and presently
turning to Snyder, Sees whispered, "We are in for it now, and will
not see our camp this night." A moment later the orderly gal-
loped forward and told the General what the captives said, upon
which the Chief instantly halted and commanded them to ride for-
ward, and demanded to see their receipt from Capt. McBurney.
Turning to his stafif, as if glad to be relieved of an unpleasant sus-
picion, he said, "These men are all right," and in a much kinder
tone ordered them to fall in again. Coming to a cross-road by
and by, the General paused, and in a wholly changed manner gave
the couriers kindly admonition in regard to the danger of lingering
so near the enemy's line, and the duty of returning immediately to
headquarters to report after delivering dispatches, then told them
to follow the road to the right, as it would take them direct to
General Long's headquarters, and as they turned their horses to
obey, delighted them still more by saying in a very friendly man-
ner, "Good-bye, boys." "Snyder," said Sees, first breaking the
silence, as the great commander and his staff were disappearing
from sight, "If I ever have another boy, his name shall be William
Sherman." His next was a girl, but number 4 is a boy and now

The Gcrnhardt Fain-ily History. 269

bears the honored name of the Hero who' led the famous March to
the Sea.

More instances of inhumanity and suffering occurred during
the great Civil War than could be faithfully told in a hundred vol-
umes. War is always and unavoidably more or less an occupation
of cruelty, and was again so to a great extent when waged by the
Unionists for peace, freedom, civilization and the Union. But the
Secessionists commenced the war, seized forts, arsenals, mints,
arms, clothing, custom-houses, and everything else belonging to
the general government that hands could be laid on, and, as Gen-
eral Sherman naively told the complaining Mayor and City Coun-
cil of Atlanta: "I, myself, have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Ten-
nessee and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and
children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and
with bleeding feet" — and now they could realize that war is cruel
when they had to take some of their own bitter medicine. The fol-
lowing incident is a fair illustration of the hartlessness and desti-
tution that usually follows in the wake of war. After the battle of
Atlanta a poor woman stood by the roadside near a small house
the Second Division was passing, and hailing General Long, she
begged him to leave a guard to protect a small patch of potatoes,
as she had been dispossessed of everything else that could be eaten,
and now had only the few potatoes left to keep herself and family
of little children from starving. Long instantly and gladly di-
rected his adjutant to detach a man from the escort to guard the
potato patch, with strict orders to allow no man to enter it or the
house, and to shoot any one who attempted to do so in defiance of
orders. To John B. Sees was assigned the duty of remaining be-
hind to defend the woman's potatoes and home while the command
was passing. All went well enough until the rear guard came up.
The officer in command of the last detachment asked Sees what he
was doing there, and where he belonged ? Presuming him to be
merely loitering behind to steal, or possibly to desert, the officer
demanded to see his orders. "My order was a verbal command
from General Long," said Sees. The captain of the guard did not
believe this and immediately placed him under arrest — after which

270 The Gernhardt Family History.

the men raided the potato patch, and soon the helpless woman and
her little ones were by the hard-hearted soldiers deprived of their
last rations. The woman earnestly interceded, insisting that the
guard had been left there by Long at her own urgent request, and
in tears she implored that the potatoes might be spared for her
children, but her tears and entreaties were all in vain. The ofiiicer
even seemed to think that he had done a clever thing, and with a
chuckle of self-assurance, as he and his men moved on, said, "We
will take the game to General Long and have it plucked." Sees
was not at all uneasy, kept perfectly cool, and said not a word, con-
fident that General Long would not be hard on the blameless game.
On reaching headquarters the captain of the guard commanded his
prisoner to dismount and hand over his sabre and revolvers — his
carbine being suspended to the saddle. When he marched him
into the presence of the General, however, he soon learned to his
dismay that he had bagged game that he should not have fooled
with. The General, after a few words, understood the whole pro-
ceeding, and peremptorily ordered the indiscreet officer to hand
back Sees' sabre and revolvers and reinstate him forthwith. He
then said : "Captain, I have almost a mind to reduce you to the
ranks. Your conduct is a disgrace to our army. You will take
off your stripes, and consider yourself relieved from duty until
further orders." Some little time elapsed before he was rein-
stated. Sees got off with a mere formal and mild reprimand far
not having saved the potato patch — his frank plea was that he
thought he did not dare resist the rear guard when he was placed
under arrest — ^but he had all the satisfaction he wanted when he
saw the mortified captain standing around for more than a week
without his stripes and with nothing to do or say.

Sees was fortunate to escape bodily injury by sabre, bullet and
shell, in all the various bloody conflicts in which he was engaged,
but just as the war was coming to an end he met with a painful
accident while he and a portion of the Seventh Cavalry were on
the trail of Jefif Davis' escort that, as afterwards learned, was
making off with the gold from the Confederate Treasury, done up
in boxes as cartridges and marked "ammunition." This was but

The Gcrnhardt Family History. 271

a day or two before the capture of Davis and a number of his party
by the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, one of the regiments of the Sec-
ond Division, on the tenth of May, 1865. Sees' horse stumbled as
he was riding with his detachment through the woods and threw
him with some force against a tree, fracturing three of the ribs of
his left side, and spraining an ankle. He remained in the com-
pany camp, under the kindly care of his m.essmate, Snyder, but
was not again fit for duty for seven weeks. But then no further
active service was required of him, ?is there were no more battles
fought, and no more forced marches made in pursuit of the en-
emy, after the collapse of the Confederacy. The Seventh Penn-
sylvania Cavalry, after the disbanding of the brigade, proceeded
to Eufaula, Alabama, and remained there until about the middle of
August, when it returned to Harrisburg and was there discharged.
Sees thinks that the Fourth Michigan Cavalr\^ justly received the
reward of one hundred thousand dollars awarded by the United
States government for the capture of Davis, but claims that the
Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry was also in the chase after the Pres-
ident of the so-called Confederate States of America, and rendered
important service in getting him in the position to be captured, and
that he will never forget that he himself got a sprained ankle and
had three ribs fractured in the memorable pursuit. The govern-
ment, he says, has not forgotten him, however, as he is receiving
six dollars a month pension.

My acquaintance with my second cousins, John B. and Jacob
Sees, commenced — the reader will remember that I said I lived to
be gray-headed without knowing many of my kindred ; a thing not
at all unusual, however, as ever)' gray-headed member of the fam-
ily must say the same — in the autumn of the year igoo, when 1
made a brief visit to the home of Jacob, near the Sinking Spring,
in Deleware Township, the place already mentioned. John had
come over from his farm in Montour County, about fifteen miles
distant, to help Jacob husk his com, and I found the brotherly
brothers out in a big field busy and happy pulling the golden ears
out of their husks. They had heard of the proposed Family His-
tory, and as soon as the introduction was through with, were as

272 The Gernhardt Family History.

eager as myself for a confabulation. Jacob improvised a seat of
fodder on which we sat down together in a row, I in the middle,
with pencil and pad to record whatever data they could give me
from memory, to be completed later on. John had to rub up his
memory somewhat to recall the full names of all his children, and
give the order in which they had come to enliven his home, help
his wife in the house and him on the farm, drop corn, plant pota-
toes, gather the apples, as he had been blessed with many more
than the average family quota. He got along fairly well until he
had named ten, when he had tO' study a moment to think of the
eleventh, but when he had finally recalled the twelfth he could not
think of any more. He was bothered: — just as completely as when
General Sherman found him at the pigpen. Jacob had been help-
ing him as he proceeded with the enumeration, and now looking
over the list declared, "John, it seems to me that you have left some
out." John guessed not, but not being altogether positive he re-
flected a moment longer, when, with undisguised gratification, he
thought of one more and exclaimed, "Oh ! Goodness Gracious !
yes, I come to think I have a boy out in Michigan." The boy is
again in his native state, and was only out of mind for a little

John B.'s family :

i. Robert M. S.^, b. May 30, 1862; m. Mary Barchman^ ;
one child : John Herbert''.

a. Joseph G. S.^, b. January, 1864; m. Martha D. Derr,
Aug. 19, 1888; r. Jerseytown, Pa. Four children:
Nevin Burdette^, b. Sept. 25, 1895; Mary Hazel^, b.
March 6, 1896; Lorenza Guy^, b. March 13, 1899; Jo-
seph Wilbur^, b. May 22, 1902.

Hi. Ida May S.^, b. May 22, 1866 ; m. Amandas W. Stamm,
Nov. 13, 1884; r. Millville, Pa. Ten children: Clar-
ence Edward^, b. Oct. 26, 1885; Bessie May^, b. Nov.
26, 1886; Annie Caroline^ b. April 27, 1888; Grace
Pearl^, b. Aug. 21, 1890; Hattie Bertha", b. March 13,
1891 ; Blanche Olive^ b. May 14, 1894; John Daniel", b.
April 18, 1896; George Allen", b. Oct. 11, 1897; Cora
May", b. June 9, 1899; Paul Leon", b. May 18, 1901.

The Gernhardt Family History. 273

iv. William Sherman S.^, b. Sept. 29, 1868; m. Florence
Lillian Williams, Jan. 30, 1894; r. Jerseytown, Pa.; o.
carpenter. Two children : Helen Gladys^, b. Sept. 17,
1894; Myron L.^, b. May 11, 1898.

V. Edzvard Charles Sccs^, b. June 22, 1870; r. Watsontown,

vi. Bertha Madge S.^, b. Feb. 10, 1872 ; m. Charles F. Wil-
liams, Aug. 20, 1897; r. Watsontown, Pa. Three chil-
dren: Victor Leon^, b. May 15, 1898; Florence
Madge^, b. July 18, 1899 ; Meda Fao^, b. Oct. 8, 1900.

vii. Abraham Smith Sees^, b. March 20, 1874 ; r. Watson-
town, Pa. Enlisted in the Spanish- American War Aug.
25, 1899, and served as a private in Co. L, 28th Reg't
U. S. V. Infantry, until May i, 1901. Participated in
the engagements at Puent Julian, Pasmarinos, Headwa-
ters of Zapote River, Binan, Santa Rosa, San Antonia,
and San Pedro Tunasan. The nearest he came to be-
ing harmed was to have two bullets pass through his
hat, which he thought close enough, but was sick and
confined to the hospital several times with malarial
fever. In a letter he wrote home while at Binan he thus
gives his impression of the Philippine warriors :

"In a paper sometime ago I saw that the people in the United
States think the soldiers are killing these natives in cold blood, but
I want to say such is not the case. People who talk like that know
nothing except what they read in the papers. The trouble with
the Americans is that they are too easy with these Philippinos. If
you give them your finger they want your whole body. They are
friends in the day time, but as soon as it begins to get dark they
change from friend to enemy. They know nothing about civ-
ilized warfare. All they know is tO' watch for small detachments
of men and ambush them. That is the only way they get our rifles.
If they were to come out and fight a fair battle there would not
be enough left of them to tell what became of the rest. It seems
hard to see good American soldiers give their lives for tlhis
heathen country."

Abe's impressions were formed under conditions that brought
to his view the worst side of the Philippino character. The same
things may be as truly said of all savage or half-savage people,
who know little or nothing of civilized warfare. Even here in

274 The Gernhardt Family History.

civilized America people have been quite as barbarous. Think of
the thousands who were spitefully starved to death in the wretched
pen at Andersonville ! Think of the terrible massacre at Fort Pil-
low, where neither sick, nor age, nor sex, nor color was spared,
but with the heartless cry of "No quarter," all were hacked to
death and coolly shot down in the most barbarous manner — and of
the atrocious slaughter at Lawrence, Kansas, by the infamous
rebel, Quantrell, and his band of murderers. Think how the
Southern troops at Manassas — many of whom were poor whites
hardly half civilized, and almost as void of honor and humane
feelings as savages — inhumanly treated and buried our dead, and
took their skulls and bones and made them intjo cups and trinkets
for souvenirs. There was more of the savage element even in
the Union army than we like to admit, but it was kept under
greater restraint. The rank and file of the Union army was made
up of a more intelligent class, less vindictive, more scrupulous as
to the modern rules of war, who went forth to fight for Freedom
and not for Slavery. It is agreeable to be told by soldiers de-
scended from Heinrich Gernhardt that it is false that the Ameri-
cans were guilty of killing the Philippinos in cold blood. There
seems to have been a persistent effort to falsify and exaggerate the
conduct of our troops in the Philippines. It does indeed seem
hard that good men must give their lives for the heathen. But the
result will be to make the heathen race better. The uplifting effect
is already manifest. It seemed very hard that so many good men
had to die for the Union. And have the world's martyrs, soldiers
and missionaries, in all the ages died in vain? Even Christ died
for sinful man. And it was He who said, "Greater love hath no
man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

via. Sarah Jane^, b. April 21, 1876; d. July 25, 1880.

ix. Mary Ellen^, b. Dec. 29, 1879.

X. John A}, b. April 21, 1882.

xi. Curtis E.^, b. Oct. 11, 1884.

xii. Howard^, b. June 9, 1886.

xiii. Fanny M}, b. Nov. 18, 1888.

The Gernhardt Family History. 275

5. Robert Dunn Sees'*, b. May 13, 1841 ; m. Edwinna Van-
duzer, of Saline, Mich., May 12, 1869; r. Grand Rapids,
Michigan ; o. cabinetmaker. Two children :

i. Cora E liner S.^, h. March 20, 1871 ; m. Clarence W.

Clark, Oct. 15, 1891. Two children : Doris Isabel^, b.

Nov. 27, 1896; Randall Edwin^, b. Sept. 11, 1899.
a. Guy De Forest S.^, b. Jan. 12, 1874.

Robert D. Sees was a member of Co. B, 131st Reg't, P. V. I.,
the same regiment to which his second cousin, Jeremiah E. Baker
(of Co. H), belonged, but the young soldiers had then no knowl-
edge of their kinship, and were in fact not at all acquainted. They
were together in the same wearisome marches, in the heat and in
cold, in rain and in mud, stood in the same line of battle and fought
the same enemy, and saw the same thrilling and sickening sights,
all unconscious of each other's existence. It is needless to repeat,
therefore, what has already been said of Antietam, Sharpsburg,
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, in the account of Comrade
Baker's service. Rotert D. S. was very fortunate to serve his full
term of enlistment without being wounded — was once, however,
sick and laid up in the hospital for two weeks, shortly after the
battle of Fredericksburg — and was mustered out with his company
at Harrisburg on the 24th day of May, 1863.

In response to a request to give the compiler an account of his
army life, Robert wrote: "It has been sucli a long time, I cannot
remember much." Old soldiers are much inclined to make such
remarks, but when the movements and conflicts in which they
shared are the subjects of conversation they are very apt to liven
up and chime in by saying, "that reminds me," and then give an
interesting narration of some scene or incident of which they are
thus reminded. If the writer could have had a personal interview

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Online LibraryJeremiah Meitzler Mohr GernerdHeinrich Gernhardt and his descendants ... → online text (page 24 of 27)