Strieter Autobiography: Civil War Draft
May 9, 2016 Leave a comment
Hardships and Happenings (conclusion)
I voted for the first time in my life for Stephen A. Douglas,68 and was thus registered in the roll of citizens. That resulted in me getting drafted [gedräfted].69 I presented myself in Berlin. The captain told me that I probably wouldn’t come up because a number of men had been drafted and only six70 were needed. I had a high number; they would probably have their number six man before they got to me. But he told me when I should report back.
The time came. Nobody knew how it would turn out. My dear Ferdinand Röske, my teacher, got the horse ready and was going to come along. Now came the terrible moment of parting. My wife fell around my neck and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!” The children grabbed me around the body at my legs and arms and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!”
I had to leave. Having arrived in Berlin, I went to the office. There I was told, “You have to go; almost everyone before you was ineligible.” He would give me two hours to find a substitute. He actually didn’t have any right to do that, but since I was a minister, he would show me the courtesy.
I go out. There stands a man who is waiting for such an opportunity. I take him inside, but the gentleman said, “He is better than you, but he has a bald head and therefore I am not allowed to take him, for I am only allowed to enlist first class men as substitutes.”
Outside I was told, “Down there are half-breed Indians who will go for cheap.”
I said, “I am not taking an Indian. I want the kind of man who knows what he’s doing.”
Then a young, impressive guy comes and offers to go for me, but says right away that he demands 725 dollars. I lead him inside. He is good.
I run to my Fischer, in whose house I held church, and ask if he would act as surety for me at the bank so that I could have 725 greenbacks for 24 hours. “Oh sure!” he says.
We head to the bank. Fischer says, “Give the gentleman 725 greenbacks in my name.” He counts them out for me.
I go over and give the person his greenbacks. He is delighted. “700 dollars I will send to my wife – I have a wife and a child – and 25 I will keep as spending money.”
I send my Ferdinand home to bring the good news and arrange for him to come back in the morning, and with my companion I take the railroad to Milwaukee, go to my friend F. E.71 and share my need with him. He goes with me to Mr. So-and-so, but he won’t help. He goes with me to Pritzlaff, whose name I will gladly share. The gentleman is in his hardware store bright and early and is in the middle of sweeping his office.72 My escort remains standing outside by the door. I go inside and bid good morning and say my situation, that I would very much like 725 greenbacks to be able to pay my banker by tonight, and he would get his money back little by little.
He said he had given Pastor N. Beyer money for a substitute, but he had been released from duty. I could go and get that money for myself.
I say, “Beyer is up on the Wolf River. That is impossible for me, to retrieve that money in time.”
P[ritzlaff] continues sweeping in silence. After a pause I say, “Mr. P[ritzlaff], if you are unable or if you are unwilling to help, please say so.”
He looks up at the ceiling. “Yeah? And what would you do then?”
“Whatever God wills,” I say.
He throws his broom into the corner, goes to his desk and writes, and hands me the slip of paper. I express my thanks and go out to my F. E. and hand him my paper. He says, “Now you’ve got help.” Off he goes with me to the bank and presents his slip, and the gentleman counts up 725 greenbacks, which I tuck away and now board the train for Berlin, give the banker the money and ask how much I owe.
“Nothing,” he says, and full of joy, I go home to my family, who laugh and rejoice with me a thousand times over.
But now we did even more saving – for we had to be frugal enough as it was in those terribly expensive times – so that the debts would be paid. All the money was supposed to be sent to Lochner.73 Everybody helped. Money was coming in from all sides. Pastor Hügli of Detroit, Michigan, sent money to Pastor F[riedrich] Lochner along with a note that, in return, Strieter had to pluck a tuft of hair from his beard and send it to him.
After I moved to Aurora I sent one more payment. Lochner sent a portion of it back to me along with a note that it was all paid up. God has surely given and will give the dear Pritzlaff his reward of grace for what he did [Luke 6:38], so too to the others who helped.
68 In the 1860 election
69 Cf. endnote 73. It appears that Strieter was not drafted until 1864.
70 Both here and in the next line, Strieter originally had “four,” but the correction appears to be his own and not Leutner’s.
71 Strieter originally had “N. N.” – an abbreviation meaning “[Mr.] So-and-so.” Leutner must have known the identity of Strieter’s friend.
72 Pritzlaff’s store was eventually incorporated as the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company, which has gained some fame in Milwaukee’s history. At the time of this story, Pritzlaff was at his original store on the corner of what is today N Old World 3rd Street and W State Street. Eventually he would build a new store at what is today 311 N Plankinton Avenue, where his company would become, as it has been called, “somewhat like the Amazon.com of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Pritzlaff died on March 18, 1900, a fact of which Strieter appears to have been unaware, judging from what he says at the end of the story.
73 The following “Urgent Request” appeared in the December 15, 1864, issue of Der Lutheraner (p. 62): “Of the five pastors in Wisconsin from our synodical organization who were selected by lot for military service in the most recent draft, one has been declared fit for duty and has thus been forced to buy a replacement at a high price. This is Mr. Pastor J[ohannes] Strieter. Now since Mr. Pastor Schwankovsky has been absolved of military service due to physical inadequacy and therefore no longer requires the payoff amount pledged for him by pastors, teachers, and delegates during the synod convention, the undersigned thought he could safely assume with Mr. Pastor Strieter that the respective underwriters would transfer their contribution to the latter, and so the amount of $740.00 was raised by congregation members here in a short time. In the certain hope that this request is not being made in vain, the undersigned accordingly requests that the pastors, teachers, and delegates in question would send their contribution his way immediately upon receipt of this information. It will also be noted that from the congregation of Mr. Pastor Strieter only limited assistance can be expected, perhaps even none at all. Therefore, should others who have not made any pledge also feel compelled to make a contribution, it will be accepted with that much greater thanks, and any potential surplus will be reserved for assistance of the same nature in the future and conscientiously used at the proper time. Milwaukee, November 20, 1864. F[riedrich] Lochner.”
Note that there is a $15 discrepancy in the amount – owing perhaps to Strieter’s faulty memory or to a gratuity added to the loan amount as a token of gratitude to Mr. Pritzlaff. It also remains unanswered whether the reference to “congregation members here” is an attempt to conceal Mr. Pritzlaff’s identity, or is an indication that Pastor Lochner’s congregation (Trinity, Milwaukee) paid back Mr. Pritzlaff and assumed the debt as a whole.