US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: Exploring Historic Philadelphia

May 13, 2019

Today it was still very rainy, cold, and windy, however, after breakfast we walked through the historic district of Philadelphia. On foot is certainly the best way to tour this area.

It is only a few square blocks in size, but we saw so many historic places and heard so many stories about the birth of our nation. The Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall, Christ Church, Christ Church Cemetery (where Benjamin Franklin is buried), Penn’s Landing (the port area where Johann Michael App arrived on the ship St. Andrew on September 23, 1752), the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Free Quaker Meeting House, Washington Square, and dozens of other places are monuments to our American heritage.

As coincidence would have it Pius’ brother, Urs App, was actually in this historic district selling ice cream when he was working on his doctorate in the 1970’s. He was the first of our family to be so close to the location of the arrival of the Apps in America… but without being aware of it.

This is a place that every American should visit to really understand the effort that was put forth by these brave and courageous men and women so that we can enjoy our liberty and freedom. This is the spot. This is “ground zero” for the beginning of today’s America. The importance of this area is not to be taken lightly and a visitor will come away with an enormous appreciation that he did not have beforehand.

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: We Arrive in Historic Philadelphia

May 12, 2019

Early today, before we left for Philadelphia, Pius went for an early morning walk toward the Isle of Que to a railroad bridge that crosses the Susquehanna River in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. He found the beginning of it, but due to “Danger” and “No Trespassing” signs he did not proceed across. There were some other issues affecting his decision such as there was no place to escape if a train should come along (trains travel these tracks on Thursdays and Sundays, and this is Sunday), the wooden railroad ties are slippery when wet (it is raining hard), and there are only spaces between the ties that one could fall through down to the river. He came back to the hotel totally soaked with rain water, but with some priceless pictures of the railroad trestle.

Railroad trestle over the Susquehanna River. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

Railroad trestle over the Susquehanna River. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

We left the Selinsgrove Inn about 11:00 in the rain, and we drove the entire time in the rain to the Renaissance Hotel in the Historic District of Philadelphia. Pius’ clothes were still wet but were drying on him as we drove, however, his shoes did not dry much at all during the trip.

The written history of Philadelphia began in 1682 when it was founded by William Penn. It quickly grew to be an important colonial city. Benjamin Franklin arrived in 1723 and by 1750 the city was thriving. This is why the area is so important to our family: Immigrants, especially German, were arriving in large numbers and among them was Johann Michael App who came from Germany aboard the ship St. Andrew landing on September 23, 1752. This, of course, was 23 years before the beginning of the American Revolution. His ship sailed from Rotterdam, to Plymouth (England), and then to Philadelphia. We visited Penn’s Landing where he would have arrived, and what happened next is what Virginia Woodward outlines in an article from the Lynn-Heidelberg (Townships) Historical Society about the Germans:

“They knew nothing about the laws and the language of the English. Would the official language of Pennsylvania become German? That was a thought Benjamin Franklin could not abide. In 1727 the Provincial Council approved an oath that all male Germans over the age of 16 years of age were required to sign when they arrived in America. The oath was an attempt by the Provincial Council to assure itself that the foreigners would agree to abide by the rules and regulations of the English government. The oath-takers disavowed any ties to other monarchs and pledged an oath of allegiance to England.

“The captains of all ships carrying German immigrants prepared a list of all male German passengers over the age of 16. When the ship docked in Philadelphia, all passengers on the list boarded a small boat and were transported to land and the captain led the men to the proper authorities. The women and children remained on the ship.

Penn’s Landing where Johann Michael App arrived in 1752.

“The captain and the men walked from the ship onto Front Street amid the hustle and bustle of the warehouses. It must have been a shocking scene for the men from the quiet villages of Germany. They turned down to Second Street and walked on to the Court House topped with its cupola and weather-vane. They marched up the front steps and through the portico to wait for the governing men in the curly white wigs to administer the oath. Clerks read the oath to the new immigrants in English so they probably understood none of it. It is possible that they had a translator to explain the oath to them. After the clerk read a section of the oath, all the new immigrants had to repeat it. This continued for the entire oath.

The first City Hall in Philadelphia. It no longer exists, but was located on Second Street and Market Street.

 Philadelphia City Hall

Oath of Allegiance [established in September 1727]

“The oath was the following:

‘We subscribers, natives and late inhabitants of the Palatinate upon the Rhine and places adjacent, having transported ourselves and families into this province of Pennsylvania, a colony subject to the crown of Great Britain, in hopes and expectation of finding a retreat and peaceable settlement therein, do solemnly promise and engage that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to his present majesty, King George II, and his successors, kings of Great Britain, and will be faithful to the proprietors of this province, and that we will demean ourselves peaceably to all his said subjects and strictly observe and conform to laws of England and this province, to the utmost of our power.’

“Upon taking the oath, the passengers were required to sign their names on two pieces of paper. Since the German people could not speak English, many officials considered them not intelligent. However, when required to sign their names, many of the passengers did so in their own language signifying some amount of education. If the immigrant was unable to sign his name, a registrar wrote their name for them and they placed an “X” near their name.

“These lists and signatures would later give genealogists the information they needed about when the German ancestors arrived in this country and the ship they arrived on.

“After signing the oath the men were taken back to the ship. If passengers had not had enough money to pay for their trip to America, they were “hired” [indentured] by merchants [or sponsors] for a definitive period of time until their passage to America was paid. Those passengers who had enough money to pay their bills for the voyage to America were free to travel about the country.

“When a ship carrying immigrants from Germany arrived in the port of Philadelphia, bells were ringing in the city. This was to alert the citizenry to the fact that there was a boat loaded with immigrants in the port. The citizens would come to the boat to welcome the passengers and also to find indentured servants to fill their labor needs. The German people of Philadelphia who were expecting relatives from the homeland would greet the ship with fruit and other foods. All Germans in this country at that time had experienced the trip across the ocean and were well aware of what the passengers’ needs were. The established citizenry was also looking for news from the homeland.

“The passengers had two documents with them on this voyage. The first was a passport that all citizens of Germany and Switzerland were required to have. The passport stated that the community the immigrant came from did not have any dangerous plague or infectious diseases. It also stated that the immigrant has paid all the taxes necessary to allow him to travel freely. The second document was a letter of recommendation issued by the pastor of the immigrant’s home church.

“The German immigrants were not moving to America and adopting the ways of the English speaking community. Rather, the German immigrants moved to America and brought with them the German language and the German way of doing things. Their communities in America were simply the German culture transplanted to American soil.

 “When the Germans arrived in this country, some of them went to the frontier and every year the German settlers would push the frontier further west. They were looking for good land that had not already been claimed. They could tell good land by the trees that grew on it. If there were a lot of walnut trees, the land was very fertile. The fact that they would have to cut down the trees to build a new home and create land that could be farmed did not deter them. The long standing forests were coming down by the mighty blows of the immigrant’s axe. Their homes were appearing wherever there was a cool spring. The first home was not grand; perhaps it was a crude hut or a tent; cutting down trees took a lot of time. However, an area that was an unbroken forest would soon become a well-kept farm.

“Germans invariably cleared the land by the “Yankee method.” They cut down all the trees, grubbed out saplings and underbrush, and pulled all but the largest stumps out of the ground. There were many uses for the trees that were chopped down. They were used to make a temporary shelter or fences or to be used as firewood. The farmer needed to get crops planted so after the trees were toppled, the cleared area was burned to rid the area of the brush, saplings and small stumps. The large stumps were left in the ground to rot; a process that took about ten years. The ashes that remained from the burning were beneficial to the soil. If the ashes were properly refined, they created a salable product called potash. However, this process took an enormous amount of human labor and in the beginning the men were very busy just keeping their families alive and well.

“Life on the frontier had it hardships but the hardships led to dearly held traits. The Germans were very thrifty and self-reliant. They had a love of liberty that they cherished and were willing to fight for; they knew what it was like to be subservient. They were a close-knit family and they had a deep reverence for God. The neighborhood cooperation that was born from necessity was a great social asset. Any gathering of people helping people for whatever reason became a social event.

“In Germany, the farm house and the barn were located in the village. When the Germans settled in Pennsylvania, they did not form small villages. They looked for large acreage and built their home and barn on the large acreage. Thus the farmer became more of an individual and more independent. The virgin land with its rich soil yielded a very large bounty. The combination of good soil, the work ethic that the immigrants brought from Germany and their knowledge of growing crops and caring for animals allowed the immigrants to become self-sufficient and productive citizens in their new country in a very few years.”

The City Hall building where Michael App took his oath was built during William Penn’s lifetime and was Philadelphia’s first City Hall. It longer exists, but was located on the northwest corner of Second Street and Market Street just south of Christ Church. On the ground floor was a jail. An open-air market spread west for several blocks west along High Street (Market Street today) from City Hall. Upstairs were the mayor’s office and the mayor’s court. Double stairs led to a balcony on the second floor. During elections voters handed in their ballots on the balcony. Sometimes Election Day got pretty wild. There were two unofficial political parties — the Proprietary Party and the Country Party — but the Country Party controlled the stairs to the balcony. Casting a vote for the Proprietary Party was no easy feat!

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: Selinsgrove

May 10-11, 2019

This morning, May 10, we drove from Gettysburg to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and arrived about 1:30 in the afternoon.

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For the next two nights we will stay at the Selinsgrove Inn. After checking in we walked into town for lunch, and since it was such a beautiful day we ate outside where we enjoyed the activity on Market Street.

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Selinsgrove is an historical place for our family. Mathias App, my 4th great grandfather and youngest son of Johann Michael App, settled here in 1790 after leaving the family farm near Walnutport, Pennsylvania. Mathias’ older brother, Friedrich, inherited the farm… it is the way it was in those days. However, Mathias was a resourceful person and purchased lots of rich farmland north of Penn’s Creek near Selinsgrove (originally written as “Selins Grove”) from founder, Anthony Selin.

Mathias’ sons also farmed the land in that valley, and the App School was located on the original farm. The 1790 home and some of the original farm buildings still exist although the 1790 barn burned a few years ago.

On the first evening Laura, Todd, Jim & Carole App, and Bo Fasold & his wife met us at the inn at 5:00 for conversation and to meet Pius.

 

It was sort of an historical moment to have a cousin from Europe visit the place where this line of Apps began their lives in America. We have no record of any German Apps ever visiting here, nor of any American Apps visiting Germany in those days.

Afterward Todd and Laura treated Pius and me to dinner in downtown Selinsgrove. It was a pleasant evening and a nice walk back to the inn afterward.

The next morning, May 11, Pius and I visited the “Trinity (New) Lutheran Cemetery”, behind the Selinsgrove Inn where Anthony Selin and lots of Apps are buried. Leonard App, my third great grandfather and son of Mathias App, is the oldest family member buried here and in sight of his old home on Market Street.

 

The home is gone now, but it was donated in the 1800’s by Leonard to be the Susquehanna Female College before it was merged into the Missionary Institute (now known as Susquehanna University).

Jeremiah App is also buried here.

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New Lutheran Cemetery

He is the brother of Solomon App and is the one included in the Civil War diary that has been mentioned and quoted. They are both sons of Leonard App. The author of the diary, Michael S. Schroyer, is also buried here.

Laura (App) Aungst joined us and we spent the rest of the morning touring Selinsgrove on foot… it was much easier to see in this way. Governor Snyder’s Mansion, the site of John App’s home on the northeast corner of Pine and Market Streets (he is Leonard’s brother and donated land and money to start the Missionary Institute) were first on the walk. Then there was Trinity (New) Lutheran Church, Sharon (Old) Lutheran Church behind which is a cemetery where Mathias App and his wife are buried. John App’s barn and stables had caught fire in the late 1800’s and burned about one-third of the borough of Selinsgrove. It was later determined to be arson. We visited Susquehanna University and the Union Cemetery where many Apps, including Solomon App are buried.

 

Solomon was Jeremiah’s brother, as you know. Incidentally, the birth date of Solomon engraved on his headstone is in error by 10 years. Solomon was born in 1841 and not 1851 as the stone indicates.

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Actual date of birth for Solomon is 1841. Union Cemetery.

We visited the 1790 farm which is on App Road. As you can see, this exact position in the universe is still popular with the Apps as we gather around the sign.

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At the 1790 farm.

Pius is the expert in taking panorama photos. He also restored the vintage farm photo from Laura into an iconic image of the farm during the 1920’s.

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Original 1790 App far, circa 1924

The former location of the 1790 barn can be seen from the current photos of the farm.

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1790 farm.

On Penn’s Creek, and on the old App farm, was the App Mill. It was a grist mill and today it is in a sad state of disrepair. However, we have some nice photos of it and some video from past years when it was in a better condition.

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App grist mill

In the afternoon Laura, Pius, and I visited Jim App at his home just outside of Selinsgrove. It is located on about 230 acres in the hills and is a beautiful place. At night he always brings the bird feeders inside so the bears do not get into them.

 

Earlier in the day when we were walking through Selinsgrove we passed a spot that has been forgotten for its significance. It was the southeast corner of Pine and Market Streets where W. F. Eckbert once lived.

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Southeast corner of Pine and Market Streets

Here is where the Civil War ended for diary writer, Michael S. Schroyer. His father had died before the war and his mother and two brothers had died during the war years. This is what happened at that corner on June 12, 1865 as written in his diary:

[Coming across the Susquehanna to Selinsgrove] “Hardly had our boat struck shore before the loved ones surrounded us, shook hands and kissed those for whom they waited so long to return. Strange to say yet true the first lady to kiss the writer became his wife in 1868.

“The company was formed and marched over to Market Street, Prof. J. H. Feehrer’s band leading off. The town was beautifully decorated. Owing to the recent floods, we crossed Penn’s Creek on trestle works, the bridge having been swept away. We marched up Market Street to the Lutheran Cemetery, where Captain Davis was buried [first soldier from Selinsgrove to be killed during the war]. Dr. Samuel Domer, a brother‑in‑law of the captain, made an address at the grave. We returned to W. F. Eckbert’s on the southeast corner of Pine and Market streets, where Mrs. Eckbert, who was a sister of Captain Davis, had prepared an elegant supper for Company G. This was the last supper before our final separation. After supper the relatives of the boys of the company from different parts of the county were in waiting to take home their dear ones who had escaped shot and shell.

“The writer gave each member of the company goodbye, until at last he stood alone, leaning against a post. Then the sad thought of home and mother came to my mind and if I ever missed my two dear brothers, who sacrificed their lives for their country, and mother and home it was then. I don’t think I ever spent a sadder short time in all my life than while standing at that post.”

History and stories can easily become forgotten, especially after 156 years. As thousands pass by this corner each day on foot or in cars this story is a reminder of the significance of times  gone by in our own communities.

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: Gettysburg Battlefield

May 9, 2019

Today we (Pius App and Larry App) continued our Civil War march from Chancellorsville to the Gettysburg Battlefield following Solomon and Jeremiah App, brothers who were members of Company G, 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. From the comfort of our car, and following their trail, it is about a 3 hour drive for us on the back roads. In 1863, they left Chancellorsville on May 7 and arrived in Gettysburg near Little Round Top on July 1. During those almost 2 months, Company G and the 147th were consumed with drills and other military training readying themselves for the next campaign which turned out to be at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Company G was the only German speaking company in the war, and there is an extraordinary diary that tells their story during the nearly 3 year term of service. It was written by M. S. Schroyer who was a sergeant for Company G. Fortunately for us, the diary preserves some very interesting stories that happened right where we are travelling today.

“A bright, jovial and good looking young man had come to our camp after the Chancellorsville campaign. His name was Richardson, and hailed from Howard County, Maryland, and became our newsboy. He rode a horse and the papers he sold were unfolded and spread over the horse’s back from which he distributed them throughout the camp at five cents each, and Company G bought many a paper from him. We all liked him. He continued with us on our Gettysburg campaign, making his headquarters with the army wagon train. While the army marched to Gettysburg the wagon train was sent to Westminster, Maryland, about 40 miles away. When the battle was over the train was sent in advance of the army to Frederick City. While there, this young man was suspicioned by General Kilpatrick of being a rebel spy.

“He was arrested and found guilty, he having at the time of his arrest a complete map of the defenses of Baltimore and Washington. It was said that when these papers were found on his person and when confronted with the other strong evidence, which was brought against him, that he made a full confession and said that he had been in communication with the rebel cavalry and had he not been arrested for one hour more our entire wagon train would have been destroyed by the rebel cavalry. As a result of information given he was immediately ordered to be hanged just west of the city and left hanging for three days. The whole army, which had been concentrated at Frederick, was marched by this rebel spy.

“We saw him on the second day after he was hanged. In short, it was a horrible sight to behold. A poor, misguided, intelligent young man, who offered up his young life without honor to himself, his family or his country.”

We arrived at the Gettysburg National Battlefield in the afternoon and it was a rainy day. However, that did not prevent us from visiting two important sites. Our first stop was at the base of Culp’s hill where Company G was positioned for battle. Pius stands by the monument that marks the very spot.

Here is what the App brothers and Company G experienced on the second day of battle at Gettysburg from their position at Culp’s Hill:

“July 3rd. We returned to our former position on Culp’s Hill. Soon after daylight, probably 5 o’clock, the Rebels advanced to the stone wall on our direct front. We had thrown up temporary breastworks with rails on the ridge, after which, the Colonel, seeing the disadvantage to us in this position, ordered the regiment to advance into a narrow timbered ravine just in our front and somewhat lower than the breastworks. This move was our salvation, for when the Confederates advanced and saw the breastworks, they supposing we were there, directed their fire on said works, while we were shielded behind rocks and trees. When the order to fire was given by Colonel Pardee, the Rebel line of battle, which had advanced to within a short distance of our own hidden line, dropped almost out of sight. So severe was our fire that the writer saw five Confederates drop side by side, who had just touched elbows on this their last charge.

“The enemy with their famous Rebel yell made repeated charges upon our lines, but were as often swept back with fearful slaughter, our men holding their fire until the enemy was at close range and finally, broken and dispirited, the Rebels were driven from the field.

“About 1:30 PM a signal gun was discharged, then a reply from the other side after which was experienced one of the greatest artillery duels of the war. About 100 cannons belched forth death and destruction everywhere. The air was full of screeching and bursting shells. This was kept up for about one hour and a half. The very earth trembled during this time.

“While the artillery duel was in progress Picket’s rebel division was getting ready for their famous charge. This charge lasted scarcely an hour, and during this time Picket’s division was almost wiped off the face of the earth. This was the last charge made on the battlefield of Gettysburg. The battle closed about 3 P. M. The combat over and won, Gettysburg has gone into history as the greatest battle of modern times.

“The ground in our immediate front was strewn with the dead and wounded. We noticed one wounded man sat up and reached for a gun. The supposition was that he intended to shoot someone of our officers. A few shots were fired at him, but none struck him and I think they were only fired to scare him. He loaded his gun, placed a cap on the tube, then placed the butt of the gun between his feet, placed the ramrod upon the trigger with one hand and held the muzzle under his chin with the other. He looked down to see that all was right, when he pushed the ramrod against the trigger and another poor soul was ushered into eternity.

“July 4. Many rebel dead were buried on the afternoon of the fourth. J. A. Lumbard and the writer walked out over the battlefield where the dead were lying around by the hundreds. Seeing a rebel lying on his back with a blanket over his face Lumbard, of course, thinking him dead gave him a kick and said, ‘This fellow fell nice.’ To our great surprise the man threw the blanket off his face and said, ‘Please don’t hurt me, I am badly wounded’ and we walked away without even asking him whether we could do anything for him, or even so much as to offer him a drink of cold water. This has always been one of the saddest regrets of my life. We might excuse our actions by the fact that the feeling ran so high between the North and the South; that they were our enemies and ready to kill us at any opportunity; that we were mere boys only 20 years of age and knew but little of the ways of the world; but even granting the above excuses were true, yet how unkind and inhuman our treatment of this man.”

Our second stop was the Pennsylvania Monument that commemorates, on many bronze panels, all of the Pennsylvania soldiers who fought at Gettysburg. Pius App points out two names, Solomon App and Jeremiah App, for whom our family is particularly proud.

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Over 650,000 men from both sides, with faces just like these, gave their lives during the Civil War for ideals to which they were deeply committed.

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: Chancellorsville Battlefield

May 8, 2019

Today began with a drive to Lititz, Pennsylvania through Lancaster County which is just packed with Amish. With town names along our way such as White Horse, Intercourse, and Leacock-Leola-Bareville, how could we not have a good start to the day? When I was small I can remember my family saying that we were once “Pennsylvania Dutch”. “What does this mean?” I thought. Later, I learned that we were German and that the word for “German” (in German) is “Deutsch”. To an American English speaker the word “Deutsch” looks like it should be pronounced “Dutch”, and this is confusing since people from the Netherlands are referred to as the “Dutch”. Anyway, the term “Pennsylvania Dutch” referred (and still refers) to all of the Germanic people who began their settlement in America in the Pennsylvania area.

Lancaster County is known as an area where the Amish, sometimes specifically called Pennsylvania Dutch, settled in large numbers and still live there today in large numbers retaining much of the old traditions. The Amish began as a religious sect in Switzerland when they split from another religious group, called the Mennonites, in 1693. Today’s Amish are located worldwide and most of them dress simply (or plainly). The men wear beards and black hats, drive horse and buggies (rather than cars or trucks), are only allowed to use electricity if it is 12 volts or less, and embrace non-violence. Driving through Lancaster County gives a good impression of these peaceful people going about their work and socialization of the day. The “exhaust” from the horse and buggy vehicles can cause a problem for cars that follow too closely behind.

John Sutter was a Swiss immigrant who help shaped the face of the American West when gold was discovered at his sawmill on the American River in 1848 sparking the California Gold Rush. He is buried in a Moravian cemetery in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

In Lititz we stopped by the Moravian Cemetery to say “hello” to Capt. John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who founded Sacramento, California but is better known for gold being discovered at his mill on the American River in 1848.

Without him, the face of the American west might be quite different if the California Gold Rush had never happened. We are the only ones visiting his resting place today, and we think about the contributions this one man made to the shaping of America during the 1840’s. Most importantly for our family is that he sent several relief parties into the Sierra’s to rescue members of the Donner Party during the winter of 1846-47. Leanna Donner, second oldest daughter of leader George Donner, survived and went on to marry John App in 1852 at Sutter’s Fort.

 

 

Map of the area.

Now it is time to turn south and join the Civil War following the App brothers, Solomon and Jeremiah, as they marched toward Chancellorsville (in Virginia) in 1863 with the 147th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company G from Snyder County.

With his cigar and USS Nimitz hat, Pius App (Admiral of the Swiss Navy, we think) is a noble representative of the fellows of Company G, 147th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as he guards Hartwood Church.

 

 

We will begin our march with them north of the Chancellorsville Battlefield at Hartwood Church. The route we are following is the same one they marched along during that campaign, which makes it very special to us because of the following diary kept by Company G Sergeant, Michael Schroyer, who tells these stories and impressions. Keep in mind that during the war each man carried a load of 75-80 pounds (34-36 kg):

April 28th (1863). Broke camp, traveled 13 miles, passed Hartwood Church and encamped in the vicinity of the church.

Kelly’s Ford, maybe the most important river crossing of the Civil War, was where the App brothers and Company G crossed the Rappahannock River on their way to Chancellorsville.

At the time, the bridge over the Rappahannock River was a canvas pontoon bridge, and thousands of troops and horses crossed it with their artillery.

April 29th. Broke camp, crossed the Rappahannock River, at Kelley’s Ford on a canvas pontoon bridge. We also crossed Cedar Creek, and the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford, and having traveled 18 miles encamped just beyond the river. Here a bridge was in course of construction. General Lee preparing for a northern invasion.

The final river crossing before encountering the Chancellorsville Battlefield, was over the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spy of [Union] General Geary’s, disguised as an old planter, was sent ahead of the army, rode to the bridge and engaged these workmen in a conversation about the invasion, hoping that the Confederates would be successful, and the Yankees badly beaten. During the conversation he looked around and said to these men “See, there the Yankees are coming. Let us flee out this way.” They all took his advice and were captured. This was all planned before he started away from headquarters. The prisoners were then taken back to where General Geary was and he seeing them said, “What is that old man doing in there?” and ordered him out. He was taken to the rear, his disguise removed, and he came up on another horse and conversed with the old Confederates with whom he had been captured. Those of us who knew this spy could scarce believe that he was the same person. Eighty Johnnie Rebs were in this bridge gang and all were made prisoners.

April 30th. We are again on the move, traveling on the Old Plank Road leading to Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. We skirmished along this road until we reached what was to be one of the greatest battlefields of the war. As we were advancing the skirmish line the Confederates opened on us with artillery. This was our initiation and introduction to rebel shell. The skirmishers captured about 200 rebels, with a loss of only one man. Traveled 10 miles and encamped in sight of the Chancellor house.

May lst. Our line was advanced about two miles on the plank road in the direction of Fredericksburg. We halted in an open field where someone was burning charcoal. Here the boys divested themselves of all their surplus clothing and everything that would lighten their load. In the distance artillery and musketry could be distinctly heard. A few shells were thrown around us, and later in the day we were withdrawn to our former position near Chancellor house. Here we remained all night.

Saturday, May 2. We constructed breast works as best we could with the few implements we had. We lay behind these works until 7 o’clock in the evening, when down the plank road a charge was made upon us and after some very hard fighting the Confederates were compelled to withdraw.

After the charge had been repulsed, a Confederate, who had been badly wounded, lay on the plank road. At one time he would call for help, then he would pray, and again cursing the Yankees, would call for his parents.

Captain Mackey, of Company C, who had command of the skirmishers, advanced the line until we could hear the Confederate officers cautioning their men to keep quiet. We finally reached the wounded rebel, and brought him in, and had him taken to the hospital. We found that a shell had torn all the flesh off his hips. Poor fellow; although an enemy, yet how horrible it made war appear to us. Sometime during the night the skirmishers were withdrawn, and they joined their respective companies. About midnight we had a very heavy artillery duel lasting several hours. Stonewall Jackson [Confederate general] was killed on Saturday night.

Sunday morning, May 3rd, 1863. Fighting began this morning about 4 o’clock. Stonewall Jackson’s troops attacked the 11th Corps commanded by General O. O. Howard, in front, and flank. Fighting was severe. The rebels slowly pushed our lines, until about 10 o’clock A. M., when there was a general route. The bullets came from front, flank and rear. The onslaught was fearful. Before the battle opened Colonel Pardee made a speech. He said that we were about to go into battle; that he knew the five old companies of the 28th regiment, who had been tried in the fire of battle before, would again prove true to their country, and their flag. As to the three new companies F, G and H, he hoped they would follow the example of the old companies.

We were in our breastworks when the battle opened. We gave “three cheers”, and our color bearer, Sergeant Henry, of Company C, who had taken off his cap and cheered, was just replacing it when a rebel shell killed him.

We now fell back again to the plank road, formed in line, and were ordered to lie down, and we were only a few moments in this position until H. J. Doebler was wounded. Orderly Sergeant B. T. Parks told him to get up and run, and after a little while someone helped him off the field. Again we charged with only a few of our company present, owing to the breaking of our lines, by one of the Ohio regiments of our Brigade, which was driven by the Confederates. The last time we charged with only a remnant of our regiment, and we gained the ground on the right of our regimental line, when to our surprise the Johnnies almost surrounded us, except along left of line of battle, which afforded the only avenue by which to escape. Both Yankees and Rebels had empty guns, having fired them during the charges and unable to reload on the run.

The Rebels charged and we were followed closely and the writer never ran faster in his life, to escape being captured. A long legged Confederate yelled at me: “Halt, you Yankee son of a gun!” I replied in not very complimentary language. He at the same time had his bayonet on his gun and we were running at breakneck speed. He lunged at me with his gun. Just then I happened to look around and saw how close his bayonet was to me, and I want to tell you that on the battlefield at Chancellorsville there was one twenty-year-old boy that was nearly scared out of his boots. I know from that time on I put in my best licks to get out of reach of another lunge from that old Confederate. I often wished I had the record of the time I made. Do you know that made such an impression on me that since then whenever I hear any rattling in the rear, I feel like running away.

To describe a battlefield with all its horrors, especially a panic stricken army, is simply out of the question. You may read war history and look at battle illustrations until you grow gray but no one knows anything about it except those who participated and have learned by cruel experience.

The writer saw men shot in every conceivable manner. A soldier next to me in above battle had an eye shot out. When struck he reached his hand to his face and said, “Well, the eye is gone.” Raising his loaded gun to his shoulder he said, “Here’s one more shot for the Union”, and fired his piece at the enemy. Brave fellow, he was! A number of years after the war he was appointed superintendent or chief of police of Philadelphia, which position he held until his death. This brave fellow was Sergeant Harry Quick, of Company E, 147th Regiment.

The loss in our regiment was 125 men. The number engaged was 3,500. The entire loss of our army was 16,030. That of the Confederate Army was 12,581, making a total of 28,611. Three thousand were killed on the field, and many more died in hospitals from wounds. When the remnant of our regiment left the field, the ground we had occupied was covered with the dead of the enemy, and scattered over the field were the dead and dying of both armies. Can you, dear reader, imagine the horrors of this battlefield with its thousands of dead and dying? All of them had loved ones somewhere. Here they lay on this field without care or sympathy from any one about them. Later on I will tell about some who lay upon this field for many days before being removed. If these 28,000 were to march in procession it would at least take five or six hours to pass a given point, and these were the flower of our country, men who died to offer their lives for their country’s flag.

Today, a four-lane highway occupies the center of the Chancellorsville Battlefield. This is the Old Plank Road, but today it is State Road 3. Because of this there is not much that remains to pause and reflect upon, but we are fortunate to have the stories from Sergeant Schroyer as a reminder of what the brave men, on both sides, endured.

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: Valley Forge

May 7, 2019

The story of Valley Forge and the formation of the Continental Army is far more complicated than I ever could have imagined.  Today Pius App and I met our cousin, Debbie (App) Gadzicki and her husband Walt at Valley Forge, one of eight military encampments of the Continental Army.

Valley Forge tour guide with Pius App, Debbie (App) Gadzicki, and Walter Gadzicki.

Walt had arranged for the four of us to “rent a park ranger” for a few hours who would ride with us in the car and give special commentary about what happened there during the miserable winter of 1777-1778. Thank you, Walt, for this experience!

 

 

 

Without the ranger and his stories of George Washington and this encampment of the Continental Army here, we never would have known about the hardships of these 12,000 brave men (including 400 women and children) who immigrated to this new land. The encampment was on about 3,500 acres (14 square km) located about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The location was chosen because of its high ground and distance enough from Philadelphia to have ample warning of any annoyance by the British. But there were other problems.

Because of supply problems, nearly 3,000 troops were without shoes or proper clothing causing them to be unfit for duty. Sometimes men were without food for several days at a time. Troops were to build the 1200-1500 log huts to house everyone, meaning that they were to cut down the trees and create and transport the lumber necessary for building the cabins… all in wintertime conditions without adequate food or clothing. Hut roofs were usually made of thatch found in the area.

A small “luxury” hut that slept 12 people

A “luxury” cabin slept twelve people (no more than one woman per cabin) and if there was a space beneath the cabin door the woman was expected to sleep there to block the cold air. Women were required to be married, and were treated very harshly. In those days abusing one’s wife every few days in some way was expected in order to preserve the husband’s respect as a household leader in the eyes of his peers. However, for women to survive alone in the colonies was even worse, but generals encouraged their departure.

As if cold and starvation were not enough, disease killed one in six people. Influenza, typhus, typhoid fever, and dysentery were brought on by poor hygiene and sanitation in the camp. It was expected for everyone to use the camp latrines, but sometimes due to weather or weakness from disease they never made it outside the cabin. Bathing was all but impossible and the men smelled so badly that it was noticeable one mile away.

In February of 1778 General Washington appointed Prussian military officer Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben as temporary inspector general (to clean up the camp), but more importantly, he became the Continental Army’s chief drillmaster. He taught them to efficiently load, fire and reload weapons, charge with bayonets, and march in compact columns of four instead of miles-long single file lines.  He transformed them into a unified, world-class fighting force capable of beating the British.

Without our tour guide we couldn’t have understood that in spite of what these people endured, they were never overcome with adversity. They were unified in spirit and our nation began with them hanging onto this single thread of hope and resolve. Britain was a world power at the time, and the American Revolution was a lot of trouble for them. When France decided to support the Americans, the British moved on to their other colonies throughout the world.

The birthing pains of our nation were certainly difficult, and our roots can easily become forgotten after nearly 250 years. Valley Forge and a visit to the “Old City” in Philadelphia are the reminders we need to appreciate the liberty and freedom that we have today.  Never take patriotism lightly.

Dinner arranged that evening by Walt at an historic building restaurant. Brooke App, Debbie (App) Gadzicki, Walter Gadzicki, and Pius App.

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US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: We Meet in Philadelphia

May 6, 2019

Two cousins, one Swiss and the other American, are traveling this time on the east coast of the US discovering more family heritage. Pius App flew into Philadelphia yesterday (May 5, 2019) from his home in Davos Platz, Switzerland, and I drove in from my home in Bristol, Indiana.

Pius App and friends in front of his Berghotel Schatzalp in the Swiss Alps

He is the owner of Schatzalp, a ski area and historic hotel in the Swiss Alps about 1,000 feet (305 m) above Davos. We met in the Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel over a beer, and here is where we spent the first night.

Although Pius was born in Switzerland, both of our family lines come from Germany, and today we began our trip to visit the original App homestead where Johann Michael App settled after arriving in America 267 years ago in 1752. Michael, as he was known and my 5th great grandfather, came from a small area in southern Germany, and probably left for economic reasons. After his arrival in the colonies he did what most German immigrants did… he looked for land to settle that was away from other settlers, had good water, had good timber, and was good farmland. He chose a perfect place.

His original 80 acres is located about 70 miles (113 km) northeast of Philadelphia in what is Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Township in Northampton County, near a town called Walnutport.

1752 log home built by Michael App for his family

As you can imagine, almost every tree was a walnut tree and that is the material he used to build his log home in 1752. The cabin stood until 1985 when it finally fell down. It was snug and contained just two rooms – the first floor and the second floor– with the entire west end being the fireplace. It measured about 20 feet on each side. Unfortunately, the home did not last much longer than 1985 when it collapsed onto the road and was removed. The owner of the property salvaged what lumber he could and incorporated it as fireplace mantles and beams in the stone house he was renovating about 50 yards (50 m) away. This house

1799 Stone home of Friedrich App

The builder’s mark showing the date Friedrich’s house was completed in 1799

was originally built in 1799 by Michael’s son, Friedrich, from stones he found on his own 80 acres. The current owner of the home and the land (since 1983) gave us a tour of the place.

 

 

 

 

 

Barn built by Michael App in 1752-1753

Stone foundation on the northeast corner of the barn is preserved

 

 

Michael had also built a stone barn in 1752-1753. It was also taken down in 1985 because it was dangerously unstable. However, the current owner left a few stones standing from the northeast corner of the barn as a memorial. If you ever wondered what a Colonial barn looked like, this is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way to the homestead, we visited some family members in two old German cemeteries.

Pius App visits Friedrich App and his wife, Barbara’s gravesite.

Gravestone of Friedrich App, Revolutionary War veteran

Friedrich App was a Revolutionary War veteran. We actually have three App Revolutionary War soldiers… Johann Michael App, his oldest son Friedrich, and his son Mathias.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other family member was my 5th great-grandmother, Elisabet App, who died at the age of 29 in 1791 just a few days after giving birth to my 4th great-grandfather, Leonard App. Without her, none of my family line in America would exist.

Gravestone of Elisabet App, died 1791

Elisabet may have died from a disease. The stone’s writing is translated as: “Here Rests Elisabet App, wife of Mathias App (nee Homich) Born Nov 6, 1762. Died Jan 8, 1791. Age 29 years, 2 months, 2 days. “Ente von Plag” means, roughly, “Died of the Plague”.

Since the App homestead is so close to the Appalachian Trail (about 2 km, or a little over a mile) we found our way to the Danielsville trailhead. The trail looked a little “rough”, and to us we thought it might be a good idea to hike anywhere except on the trail itself.

Pius at the Spinnerstown Hotel Restaurant

Later that evening we went to the Spinnerstown Hotel Restaurant (near Quakertown, Pennsylvania) where we could “replenish our bodily stores” from just imagining ourselves hiking the trail.

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