Strieter Autobiography: Civil War Draft

[Continued from Part 31. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here. If you are interested in subscribing for a hard copy of the book, read the next part here.]

Hardships and Happenings (conclusion)

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

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.

Endnotes

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.

Strieter Autobiography: The Brimstone Boys

[Continued from Part 30. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Translator’s Note

The first time through this section, I would suggest completely ignoring the endnotes as you read. Simply enjoy the good, clean, Lutheran shenanigans.

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I attended the conventions and conferences. One time I didn’t go to the local conference because I was sick. I also was not at the 1854 convention in St. Louis because I was very poor and had no money for traveling. I also was not at one delegate convention and had my alternate go, because I was deaf and wouldn’t have been able to hear anything anyways. Otherwise, to my knowledge, I was at all the conventions and conferences from 1853 up to my retirement from the ministry. More than once I baptized my newborn baby and then departed, or it was born to me while I was gone. Never did I submit the excuse: “domestic circumstances.”50

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

At the beginning of the 60s I came to the convention in St. Louis with a full beard and had to put up with a lot of teasing.51 This is how it happened: I was shaving at a farmer’s place in Big Bull. He didn’t have a mirror; there was only a small triangular piece of a mirror in the house. It had been stuck into a crack in one of the beams in the log house. That was okay, but the razor was like a saw and the heavy, bitter tears ran down my cheeks.

Then I asked myself, “Did our dear God really cause the beard to grow so that we could torture ourselves with it so shamefully?” and I answered, “No.” And from then on I let everything grow as it pleased. To this day I never again had a razor put to my face.

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

In St. Louis Missionary Clöter took a liking to my beard. Later we had convention in Monroe, Michigan, and Clöter came with the full beard too.52 In the evening there was supposed to be conference, but there wasn’t a lot going on. My Jox right away nominated Strieter to conduct the meeting; I had to take the chair and Clöter was made secretary. Jox wanted to have the two bearded men up in front. Soon many people were following my example with the full beard, even my dear Prof. Crämer.

One time we had convention in Watertown and I drove there with Fanny, 75 miles.53 One time conference was in Lebanon and I also drove the 80 miles there to Babylon.54 One time conference was in Woodland, and I also drove there.55 One time it was in Freistadt, and I also drove there.56 There we camped in the late Fürbringer’s study.57 Beds were positioned on the floor on both sides. Our feet were touching in the middle. Outside58 stood a bed for two. Ruhland lingered downstairs a bit long. Stecher and Steinbach slipped into the bed, to Ruhland’s chagrin. Whether he liked it or not, he would have to join us in the camp. Strasen was lying up by the door and says, “You guys leave the last spot open for Ruhland and when he comes marching through, each of you give him a kick.” He had to get undressed outside.59 Once he’s in by us, Strasen gives him one. He turns around and starts griping. In the meantime he gets one from the other side. Then he sees the game we’re playing and strikes out for his bed, but he gets his kick from both sides all the way down. Having reached the end, he starts in: “You despicable people.” But we are laughing hysterically and he starts laughing too. Oh, Ruhland was just terrific!60

One time conference was in Mayville, where Dicke was.61 I drove there. As I was unhitching, my horse was nibbling around at the dung. Everyone was standing outside when I came. Then the dear Synod President Wyneken exclaimed, “Look! Strieter’s horse is so hungry, it’s feeding on dung, and so shamefully lean. We should take up a collection so that Strieter can buy oats.”

But my Dicke came to my aid: “That horse is not lean. It is thin and empty right now because it has run 40 miles.62 No horse looks round after doing that.”

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken in his older years

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken

One time conference was at Jox’s place in Kirchhain.63 Dr. Sihler was also there. In the evening someone called in through the window, “Is there still room in the camp?” It was our old, dear President Wyneken.64 The joy was great. During the midday break we went under the green trees and played Plumpsack.65 Link set it up.66 The old gentlemen had to play too. Link especially had it in for Wyneken. He often had to get out of the ring and received some terrific whackings from Link. W[yneken] would laugh his head off and run. Even the old Dr. had to take his turns.

We were very brotherly together and were attentive during the sessions. Back then it never occurred to anyone to read the newspaper during that time or to tell something to the guy next to him. Our headmen were Strasen and Link, and they supplied most of the papers. Wyneken called us the Brimstone Boys [Schwefelbande].67

Endnotes

50 Leutner corrected Strieter’s “häusliche Umstände” to “Familienverhältnisse wegen.”

51 The Missouri Synod Convention was held in St. Louis on October 10ff., 1860.

52 The Northern District Convention took place in Monroe, Michigan, on May 29ff., 1861.

53 The Northern District Convention took place in Watertown on June 18ff, 1862.

54 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Lebanon from May 5-7, 1863.

55 The Milwaukee Pastoral Conference met in Woodland from April 26-28, 1864.

56 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Freistadt from September 9-11, 1862.

57 This may have been an honorary name for the study due to Ottomar Fuerbringer’s faithful service in Freistadt from 1851-1858. By the time this conference was held, Friedrich Boeling had been using this study since the beginning of 1861.

58 Leutner’s correction is probably more correct: “In the room next door…”

59 See previous endnote.

60 Something is amiss in this story, since Friedrich Carl Theodor Ruhland (1836-1879), one of the more vociferous opponents of the Wisconsin Synod at this time, had moved from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Wolcottsville, Niagara County, New York, and had been installed as pastor of St. Michael’s Church there on July 6, 1862, before the conference in Freistadt was held. (It also does not seem likely that the study in Freistadt would have been upstairs.) Since it does not seem likely that Strieter was mistaken about Ruhland, the main character in the story, perhaps he was mistaken about the location. Perhaps this occurred at the conference Ruhland himself hosted from May 11-14, 1860 (which would explain why he was irritated about not getting to sleep in the bigger bed), or at the one in MIlwaukee on May 3-4, 1861. Ruhland eventually became the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, today in fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod.

61 I was unable to locate any announcement for a conference in Mayville during Strieter’s years of service in Wisconsin on the pages of Der Lutheraner. However, it may have been held in early May 1862, since the Wisconsin Pastoral Conference usually met around that time in other years.

62 The distance between Strieter’s homestead and Mayville is more like 70 miles, but Strieter most likely divided the journey between two days.

63 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Kirchhayn from September 3-5, 1861.

64 51 years old at the time

65 A German version of Duck-duck-goose played with a knotted handkerchief

66 That is, Pastor Georg Link of Immanuel, Lebanon

67 According to the Grimm Brothers’ Deutsches Wörterbuch, Schwefelbande, lit. “sulfur gang,” denotes “a sorry or slipshod gathering, a rabble, especially in more vulgar parlance and used colloquially.” It supposedly originated as a “nickname for Sulphuria, a students’ club in Jena that was notorious for not giving satisfaction,” and the Grimm Brothers also suggest that the label alludes to the devil or hell.

[Read the next part here.]