Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Leonard Dietrich

Leonard Dietrich, also known as “Diederick”, was born possibly in 1832 in Prussia.

Leonard immigrated to the United States before the war broke out, and eventually settled in western Michigan.

He stood 5’10” with brown eyes and hair and a light complexion, and was probably a 29-year-old laborer from Kent or Muskegon County when he enlisted as Fourth Sergeant in Company C on May 13, 1861; he was possibly related to Herman Dietrich, also of Company C, who was living in Muskegon County in 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles”, a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.) Leonard was the recipient of the Kearny Cross for his participation in the battle of Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863.

Another member of company C recalled years later that in the fall of 1863 the regiment was camped along with the division near Bristoe Station, Virginia. “Our camp,” Theodore Castor wrote,

was close to the rail-road and when the first train came in with supplies, I and Sergeant Dietrich went down the track and we got to a car where they were unloading hams. There was no guard there yet and we pretended that we were sent there to guard the hams. And we did for a little while until they had finished and moved down to some other car and we watched our chance and slipped a ham apiece under our overcoats and started for camp. In our camp we had everything fine, the houses were big enough to accommodate 20 persons with a fireplace and bunks and table in them. And you could cook alone or pick your company of two or more and cook together. There were four of us -- Sergeant Dietrich who done the cooking, Frank Martig -- our company wagoner who could get into any wagon in the brigade. He done the stealing and stole anything at night that he could lay his hands on from the officers and get it in camp, and Rudolph Nagel and I. When we were not on duty we played poker and furnished the rest whenever Frank would make a good haul. We didn't have to furnish very much, we could buy anything we wanted to eat -- bread, cookies, potatoes, onions and anything at the commissary where they kept everything to sell for the officers. They didn't draw any ration from U.S. and had to buy everything and pay for it out of their monthly pay, and if we wanted anything we would ask our Lieutenant Theodore Hetz for an order and he would gladly supply us by us inviting him to a dinner or two or by buying a bottle of bitters. And as money and everything came easy we could afford to live as well as any other Major General in the army.

Leonard reenlisted on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids. He was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. He was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

Leonard was wounded on June 18 in action near Petersburg and subsequently sent to the Third Division, Second Corps field hospital where he died on June 20 or 21.

Writing after the war, Dan Crotty of Company F described Dietrich’s last moments in a field hospital: “Poor Sergeant Diedrick. No better soldier in the service, and one who has carried one of the colors of my Regiment, but now he is dying, after bearing the starry flag aloft for over two years. . . . I try to cheer him up, but no use, as he says he is bound to die, and I find, when I go to see him next morning, that he is in the arms of death. Poor fellow, thou hast fallen at last, bearing the starry emblem of your adopted country. Who will say that the foreigners have not done their duty in this rebellion?”

Leonard was presumably among the unknown soldiers buried at Petersburg National Cemetery.

No pension seems to be available.

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