The Bohnstedt Family and the American Civil War
by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
(the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)
U.S. Army picture of Friedrich Gottlieb Jacob "Frederick" Bohnstedt
In 1860 war broke out between the northern and the southern American states over the issues of slavery and secession. On August 20, 1862, Friedrich Gottlieb Jacob "Frederick" Bohnstedt enlisted in the United States Army. "Frederick" was the oldest son of Friedrich Heinrich Wilhelm and Sophie Bohnstedt. He entered service in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 122nd regiment, Company "A" under Captain Charles C. Goddard. Frederick was 39 years old when he enlisted, and was mustered in at Camp Zanesville. Frederick's unit did not go into battle until June 1863, nearly a year after his enlistment.
Battle of Cold Harbor, by Kurz and Allison, 1888
It was during the "Wilderness Campaign" of Union General Grant against Confederate General Lee that Frederick finally saw action. He was in combat at Union Mills, Winchester Heights, and Stevenson's Depot in Virginia. These encounters occurred on June 13th, 14th, and 15th, 1863. Another lull of five months followed. Then on November 8th, the 122nd faced Confederate soldiers at Brandy Station, and again at Mine Run on November 26th. Another slow period followed for five more months. Then in May of 1864 things heated up again. Battles were fought at Wilderness, Virginia from May 5th through May 7th, at Spotsylvania on May 9th through the 18th, and at Tolopotomy Creek from May 29th through the 31st.
The final battle for Frederick was at Cold Harbor Virginia. The Battle of Cold Harbor, fought from May 31 to June 12, was a disaster for the Union Army, which greatly outnumbered General Lee's Confederate Army, further compounding the disgrace. The death toll was around 17,000. Many historians and military experts now place most of the blame for such blunders on a lack of competence among the Federal officer corps.
Many Union soldiers sensed the impending doom. Some of them wrote their names on slips of paper and pinned them to their backs so that their families could be notified after their death. One soldier was so certain of his fate that he wrote in his diary before the battle began; "June 3, Cold Harbor. I was killed". One Confederate General said "This is not war, this is murder...".
Negro gravediggers gathering human remains at Cold Harbor, nearly a year after the battle.
Note the extensive decomposition of the remains
Frederick was one of those wounded on June 3, 1864. He was shot through the lower left leg and taken out of action. He was sent to the hospital for treatment but gangrene set in and the wound never healed properly. Battlefield medicine, and indeed, medical science, was much more primitive during the Civil War. There were no evac helicopters and soldiers often had to walk (if they were able) back from the front line with their wounds, and find their own way to a hospital. During the Civil War many died from wounds that, today, would be a simple matter for a field medic.
On March 20, 1865, Frederick was transferred to the 39th company, 2nd battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps. He was finally discharged on June 28th, 1865, and he retired to Duncan Falls, Ohio with his wife. Apparently Frederick's leg wound never healed properly. On April 22nd, 1867, Frederick died from complications to the leg wound, perhaps some sort of infection. He was 44 years old when he died, and he was buried in Duncan Falls Cemetery. Frederick and his wife Marie had no children.
1. Certificate of disability for Frederick Bohnstedt (Friedrich Gottlieb Jacob Bohnstedt)
2. Grave marker of Frederick Bohnstedt, Duncan Falls Cemetery, Muskingum County, Ohio
While Frederick was in Battle at Spotsylvania, Virginia, his younger cousin, Johann Heinrich Christoph Bohnstedt, who was known as "Henry", was enlisting in the U.S. Army. Henry was the son of Carl and Dorothy Bohnstedt. The Army had put out a call for volunteers to relieve the regular troops. Henry, 19 years old, enlisted on May 13th, 1864 for a period of 100 days in the 136th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was assigned to Company "G" under Captain James St. Clair. It was common for Americans of English descent to spell German names incorrectly during that period of heavy German Immigration. Henry was listed as "Private Henry Barnstead". He was mustered in at Camp Centralia in Illinois on June 11, 1864; only eight days after Frederick was wounded at Cold Harbor.
After muster the 136th was moved by train to Cairo, Illinois, and then by boat to Columbus, Kentucky. The unit did garrison duty there through June, July, August and part of September, 1864. On August 12th the regiment marched to Mayfield, Kentucky to intercept Confederate troops commanded by General Forrest. From Mayfield the unit was sent back to Columbus, some by boat, and some on foot.
Henry wrote the following letter to his parents on July 21, 1864 from Columbus, Kentucky (the letter is repeated exactly as written):
It is with the greatest pleasure that I have the opportunity to write you a few lines and let you know that I am well at present and hopeing when you receive theas letter it may fined you Enjoying the Same Blessing. I Received your letter last night and I was very glad to hear from home and I received the fifthy cents green back in it and I nead it to but still I always had a little in my pocket for I don't use any except for paper and ink and if we draw no money we wont spend mutch, and about the rebels we have heard no mens [mention] since the last letter. I send home and if we stay here till our time is out we will never git to swanny and all the Dutch boys in our company are well at this present time and we have lost one men out our company. He died the 18th this month and some more boys has got the meazles. I have not mutch itneresting at [to] write and so I will come to a close for this time. So I send my best respect to you all. write again as soon as you receive this letter.
Direct your letter in this stile
in care of Capt T. James St Clair
Co. G 136 Ill Vols
Henry's life ended on August 20, 1864 at Columbus Kentucky. According to records retrieved from the National Archives, Henry died of influenza and typhoid fever, just one month, almost to the day, after he had sent his letter home. Henry was buried in Haven Hill Cemetery in Olney, Illinois.
1. Grave marker of Johann Heinrich Christoph "Henry" Bohnstedt, Haven Hill Cemetery, Olney, Illinois
2. Johann Heinrich Bohnstedt's grave marker with contrast enhanced. The name on the marker actually reads "Henry C. Bohnstedt"
Carl H. "Charles" Bohnstedt
In the United States national archives was discovered another Bohnstedt who served in the Civil War, Charles H. Bohnstedt. At the time of this writing the nature of his connection to the larger Bohnstedt family in America has not been established.
Charles Bohnstedt enlisted in August 1861, and was mustered into Company G, Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to Sergeant Major in September 1862. From that time he functioned as a Sergeant Major of the regiment at regimental headquarters. Sergeant Major Charles Bohnstedt filed a claim from an injury received in May of 1863, and he received his discharge at Atlanta Georgia in October of 1864.
Apparently there was a dispute over the nature of the injury. Charles claimed that he had gotten the injury, a rupture on the right side, while jumping from a railroad car. But an officer, a 1st Lieutenant, stated that Charles already had the rupture before he enlisted in 1861.
Charles died at 80 years of age in Chicago Illinois in 1913.
Note: in the 1998 printed edition of this book I commonly referred to Friedrich Gottlieb Jacob Bohnstedt as "Jacob", but refer to him here as "Frederick", for that is who he was more commonly known as.
3-27 / Genealogy 3-1: Gevensleben and Calvörde
3-29 / Genealogy 3-3-1: America; Illinois and Nebraska
4-30 / Genealogy and Records 4-13: The Family of Karl Bohnstedt in America
Wikipedia; 122nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Wikipedia; 136th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
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