German Immigrant Participation In The Civil War|
"We love this land; it is our land and the home of our children.
We may differ politically, but in the love of our country and institutions, we are one"
From Address of Captain Paul F. Rohrbacker Dedication of Monument,
The monument to Major Gustav Schleiter, in Section 5, Lot 277 of The Homewood Cemetery, can also be seen as a monument to German (and other ethnic) participation in the Civil War. The image of America as a haven for the oppressed was already marred for many immigrants by the existence of slavery; the idea of the spread in a broken Union became intolerable.
Pittsburg's Gustav Schleiter was a three-year recruit in Company I of the Seventy-fourth Regiment. He rose in command to be Adjutant to the colorful Schimmelfennig, and was at his side in the infamous battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Schleiter was born in Newstandt, Hanover, came to America in 1852, at the age of thirteen. He first settled in Cold Spring, New York, where he worked in a textile factory. He signed on for a five year term on a whaler in 1854., then worked in St. Louis, Missouri. He came to Pittsburg in 1860 and worked in the dry goods business until the outbreak of the Civil War, the following year.
Schleiter and the Seventy-fourth Infantry began their campaign in the pursuit of Stonewall Jackson up the Shenandoah Valley. They engaged the Confederate Army at Cross Keys, Freeman's Ford, Bull Run, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
Schleiter was promoted to Major in April, 1863, just before the battle at Chancellorsville. In his report of the battle, he revealed the growing undercurrent of prejudice against foreign troops, as he wrote, "You will better understand my indignation when I inform you that, as Adjutant to General Schimmelfennig, I nearly killed my horse in riding to inform General Howard of the fact that the enemy was massing troops on our right flank [at Howard's position], and that I was received with an incredulous smile, and directed to tell General Schimmelfennig to stop reconnoitering, and remain in the position assigned to him. This was two hours before the attack was made." A National debate erupted over the great losses at Chancellorsville, wherein ethnic prejudices were openly argued. German enthusiasm for the war never recovered. Recruitment lagged and many officers resigned their commissions.
During these years of service and through the battle at Gettysburg, Major Schleiter had been intermittently afflicted with jaundice, then typhoid fever, crippling rheumatism and finally, the loss of sight in his left eye. He resigned in 1864 and returned to civilian life where he married, had four children and became successful in the dry goods business. In 1879, G. Schleiter & Co. was among the largest and most prosperous in that line of trade, keeping an "elegant and large assortment of Silks, [and] Dress Goods in great variety". He continued his attachment to his Regiment as President of the Association of the Seventy-fourth, with tireless effort to erect a monument at Gettysburg to its honor. The monument was dedicated in 1888 , eight months after his death on November 6, 1887.
Gustav Schleiter Monument Top Photo
Gustav Schleiter Monument Bottom Photo
The inscription on Major Schleiter's tombstone at the Homewood Cemetery, erected to him by his friends and comrades, exemplifies his personal commitment to the cause of unity and freedom, and is a lasting reminder of the extraordinary participation of the foreign born in the Union cause.
DEM FREUNDE IN TREUE
DEM BUERGER ZUR EHRE
DEM KRIEGER ZUM RUHME
TO THE FRIEND IN LOYALTY
TO THE CITIZEN IN HONOR
TO THE WARRIOR IN GLORY
ERECTED IN HONOR OF THE CITIZEN PATRIOT
AND SOLDIER BY HIS FRIENDS AND COMRADES
Suzie Johnston, Gennealogist and member of the Western Pennsylvania Geanealogical Society
Provided extensive material on the civilian and military life of Major Gustav Schleiter
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