The Butcher, the Baker?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decipher mid–19th century orthography, and I think I’ve interpreted the occupation of the Swiss immigrant whose descriptive list (1) Mike Musick wrote about in the August 2009 issue of Civil War Times (P. 15).
The first two letters (2) are obviously “bu,” and if you compare the odd-looking third letter to the “t” (3) in both “Canton” and “Switzerland,” you will see that it is also a “t.” The next two letters (4) are “ch,” although you would never guess as much unless you carefully compared them to the “ch” that appears at the end of his home village of “Leikelbach” (5).
The last visible letter is obviously an “e,” so Hefsi was apparently a butcher: The clerk either left off the “r” or ran it off the page, which the upstroke at the end suggests he did.
South Conway, N.H.
As a researcher and writer, I completely agree with the caption for the “Descriptive Roll of Company” image accompanying Mike Musick’s “Research Room” in the August issue of Civil War Times. A major challenge in reading handwritten Civil War documents or any handwritten historical document always lies in deciphering the penmanship.
However, I would like to point out the error you made in deciphering the example presented from a descriptive roll. The caption says the name of the 18-year-old enlistee is Marcus Hefsi. And the fourth letter in the last name does look like it should be an “s.” It is not. The name is Hefti, with a “t” (6).
Look at the second-to-last column, which gives Hefti’s birth location as Canton Glarus in Switzerland. Note the writing of the “t” in the words “Canton” and “Switzerland” (3) and compare them to the “t” in Hefti.
The Hefti family was and still is prominent in Canton Glarus—a small canton or state in eastern Switzerland— particu larly within the Snerf Valley, where my own ancestors came from. Hefti descendants created a prominent kosher biscuit business, as well as a dairy and a restaurant in the Glarus village of Engi.
After my own relations came to the United States, some of them enlisted and served in the Civil War. Although my great-grandfather was still a boy at the time, his older brothers and cousins joined Wisconsin regiments. They mainly spent the war doing guard duty in the Midwest.
North Richland Hills, Texas
Not the VI Corps
I am in no way taking issue with the letters of Corporal Augustus Hesse, so brilliantly documented in Eric Campbell’s “We Have Here a Great Fight,” in your August 2009 issue. But I am compelled to point out that the good gunner erred when he claimed that the “6 corps had come up and took our Pieces back….” The regiment that reclaimed the guns of Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery was the 150th New York State Volunteer Infantry of the XII Corps. The Dutchess County Regiment, alongside the 1st Maryland (Potomac Home Bri gade) of Lock – wood’s Independent Brigade, charged from near today’s Pennsylvania Memorial to the Trostle Farm.
I’m confident that a VI Corps unit did not draw off three guns of a “Rhode Island battery” from the area of the Trostle Farm on the evening of July 2, 1863. It appears the corporal was mistaken, but that certainly does not diminish his fine efforts on that field.
Stop the McClellan Bashing
It seems your editors never tire of stomping on the grave of George McClellan. Even when your articles are fair and responsible, you find it necessary to use false or biased headlines such as “predictable politician,” “refuses to win” and “hatred of Lincoln.” Union failures have to be blamed on someone, and surely that someone can’t be Lincoln, in his cosmic wisdom.
Little Mac Needed Experience
Many years after the war ended, George McClellan said, “It probably would have been better for me personally had my promotion been delayed a year or more.” I believe McClellan enjoyed success too early in life. His rise had been meteoric; nothing had stood in his way. He had barely commanded a division prior to assuming supreme command of Union forces in 1861.
McClellan had not faced any obstacles to his promotion. His charmed life led to his failure when he commanded the Army of the Potomac. He needed to endure a few failures, as did Ulysses S. Grant.
Forest Hills, N.Y.
Does Retribution Ring a Bell?
I just read “For Whom the Bell Tolled,” about the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., by John McCausland in the June 2009 issue of Civil War Times. My close friend George McCausland, who died recently, was the grandson of General McCausland and owned the general’s derringer, and he would say this article leaves out a very important fact: After Union Maj. Gen. David Hunter burned the Virginia Military Institute to the ground in June 1864, McCausland sought “retribution” for the destruction of his alma mater.
The monies that McCausland asked for in the town of Chambersburg were intended to rebuild that fine Southern institution in Lexington.
Bruce L. Downs
I thought your readers might be interested to know that the preserved flag of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment shown in August’s “Mail Call” is on display at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.
Lt. Cmdr. Orvis N. Fitts
Overland Park, Kan.
Chattanooga Choo Choo
Gary Gallagher’s article in the June issue on the movie Glory was as great as the movie. There is another great Civil War film that I highly recommend—The General, starring Buster Keaton as Johnny Gray, a Confederate railroad engineer. This 1927 silent film’s story is based on the locomotive chase known as Andrew’s Raid in 1862, when Union Army volunteers commandeered a train headed for Chattanooga. This classic is a delight. I hope to see it in your review column.
Originally published in the October 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.