Monday, July 12, 2010

Christian Schmidt

Christian Schmidt was born on June 9, 1838, in Haddesheim, Germany, the son of Christian and Anna.

Christian (younger) immigrated to the United States in 1855 and settled first in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but moved to Muskegon, Muskegon County in 1856, and by 1860 was a fireman living at the same boarding house in Muskegon with George Root, William Ryan and Thomas Waters (all of whom would enlist in Company H).

He stood 5’11’ with brown eyes and hair and a dark complexion and was a 23-year-old laborer probably living in Muskegon when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 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.) Christian was taken prisoner on July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill, Virginia, and confined briefly at Libby prison in Richmond, Virginia. he was quite possibly paroled on August 5. On August 6 the Richmond Dispatch reported that at

About 1 o’clock yesterday three thousand of the Federal prisoners on Belle Island left the city for “Varina,” (the farm of Albert Aiken, Esq., twelve miles from Richmond,) a guide having been procured from Capt. Alexander’s detective force to pilot them thither. They went under flag of truce to be exchanged, and were to be met by officers of the United States Army, empowered to effect that object. The party consisted wholly of soldiers, no commissioned officers being in the party. The guard attending the party was composed of a portion of the 42d Mississippi regiment, under Col. Miller. The prisoners were permitted to go by the C. S. Military Prison, and while in front of the building they cheered their imprisoned compatriots, (Generals and other officers,) and otherwise testified their respect for them. They appeared elated at the prospect of going home. The day was intensely hot, and it was intimated, after they had been gone for some hours, that many of them broke down, and had to be left on the way-side, while two or three died. There are 1,700 Yankees yet to go.

Christian was quite probably with that very detachment. (William Monroe was also paroled at Aiken’s Landing on August 5 and returned to the regiment on August 8 at Harrison’s Landing.) In any case, Christian returned to the Regiment on August 8 at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia.

Christian reenlisted as Corporal on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, and went home to Michigan on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864.

While home on furlough he married Prussian-born Sophia Foegen (1845-1922) on January 22; they had at least five children: Mrs. Frank X. Vogel, Rhoda, Christian M., Frank J. and Andrew W. (In the 1870 census of Muskegon they are listed as: Mary, b. 1865; Magdalene, b. 1867, and a son, b. 1869.)

He was supposed to return to the Regiment on January 25, 1864, but, along with several other members of the Old Third on furlough in Grand Rapids, missed the special train out of Grand Rapids for Detroit and did not leave Grand Rapids until January 30. One of his traveling companions was Theodore Castor, a Sergeant in Company C, who many years later described that return journey:

We got to Detroit late in the evening and went to a restaurant close to the depot and ordered something to eat and while eating I picked on Christian Schmidt to go along with me after supper to get transportation for all of us and told the rest of the boys to be sure and stay there until we got back, so as to be handy in case we needed them. So after supper I and Christian we washed up and brushed up, put on our belts, cartridge box and bayonet, white gloves and collars and started up to Woodward Avenue to Colonel Smith's office. And arriving there where we were passed in the office and standing at attention, saluted the Colonel and I told him that I had a squad of men down at the depot and that I wanted transportation for them to Washington. When he got up and he stood right in front of me and I thought he was going to look right through me, and asked me for my authority and written orders. And when I told him that I never had any written orders and how the Captain in command of the Regiment had detailed me and my companion, Corporal Christian Schmidt at the time when the train was ready to pull out, to go back to town and hunt up the stragglers and report to Colonel Smith at Detroit. He said to me “I believe you are a straggler yourself.” But he asked me and Corporal Schmidt's name and rank and the number of stragglers I had down at the depot and told the clerk to write out an order to the Quarter-Master (I had been a little excited when he asked for the number of the men and I told him there were 18 when there were only 12 of us) for 18 men's transportation to Washington. And further told me that after I got done with the Quartermaster to start right out as there was a train going out at 12 o'clock and if the guard found us around there in the morning they would treat us as deserters. And I said yes to everything he said. When the clerk handed me over the order I felt somewhat relieved and went over to the Quartermaster's office on the same floor with lots of courage, and when I handed him the order he wanted to know who had command of the men and I told him that I had. He sat down and asked me my name and what office I held in my Company and when I told him that it was Sergeant of Company C, Third Michigan Infantry, he told me that the Third Infantry went through Detroit three or four days ago on a Special and that if we got out that night we might catch up with them. His plan was to get us out of town on the first train. I told him yes to every remark he made. He then went on to ask me every name of my command and after I had given him twelve I hesitated a second and when I couldn't think of any more right quick, I told him there were new recruits and I couldn't think of their names. So he put them down Recruits and handed me the big envelope with the transportation inside and told me to be sure and get started that night, and I felt as if I had won a great big battle.

Well, I and Christian went down to the restaurant to tell the boys the good luck we had and to get ready to start out, but found no boys there. They had left their guns and everything in care of the land-lord who had it locked in a room and they had told him they would be back after the theatre, and if we got there before they to wait. We waited until after mid-night when we made a bed on the floor and went to sleep. And when we woke up in the morning we waited again until about ten o'clock when some of them came. And as I and Christian didn't want to be caught on the sidewalk for fear of being arrested by the Provost Guard, I sent them back to hunt up the rest, and along sometime in the afternoon they all came in.

We all stayed at the restaurant until after dark when we slipped to the depot and left Detroit at 8 o'clock and got to Cleveland, Ohio in the morning where we got out and where one of our boys met his brother-in-law who entertained us all day and part of the night and showed us the sights of the city. We left there sometime in the night and got to Pittsburgh, Penn. next morning where we made another stop and where we were entertained by Professor Nagel -- a brother of Rudolph Nagel -- Sergeant of our Company and with us at the time. And at night left there for Harrisburg and had to lay over four hours and started for Baltimore, and when we got in the big depot found the Third Michigan with their special train side-tracked. We didn't want them to see us but our orderly Sergeant got a glimpse of us and he came over to our car and told us that we would have to join them and if we didn't he would report us as deserters. When I told him that I had command of those men and that I had orders from Provost Marshal Colonel Smith of Detroit, Michigan to report at Provost Headquarters in Washington, he let us alone. And we changed cars and soon started on and left them on the side track. When we got to Washington we went to a restaurant and ordered something to eat, and when I inquired of the landlord about the Guard he told me that we would be all safe, that they had just left and they wouldn't visit him any more that day. We spent our time between the restaurant and depot until some time in the night when the special came with the Third Michigan Infantry and we joined them, and never heard of any bad effects it would have on account of our traveling alone.

Christian was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He had been promoted to Sergeant by the time he was reported absent on furlough in January of 1865. He was absent sick in February, and mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.

After the war Christian returned to Muskegon where he lived the rest of his life. By 1870 he was working as a sawyer in the mills and living with his wife and children in Muskegon’s Third Ward. He became a city policeman and was working as a policeman from 1877 to 1882, and in 1889-90 was a constable living at 358 W. Clay Avenue in Muskegon. (He may have been the same Christian Schmidt who was proprietor of the Cincinnati House on 352 W. Clay Avenue.)

In 1890 he was Director of the Poor in Muskegon. He also served as a deputy marshal, was elected constable (possibly in the Seventh Ward) several times, served as supervisor of the Seventh Ward for two terms, and was a member of the supervisors’ committee on gravel roads.

He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and a charter (1879) member of the Grand Army of the Republic Kearny post no. 7 in Muskegon. In 1887 he applied for and received a pension (no. 449477, dated 1887).

Christian died of Bright’s disease at 4:20 a.m. on June 22, 1893, at his home at 358 West Clay Avenue in Muskegon, and was buried in St. Mary’s cemetery: B-4, in Muskegon.

In July of 1893 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 413019).

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