Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Salute to Color Sergeant Adam Weber -- 52 Ancestors Challenge

    Memorial Day finds its roots connecting all the way back to our nation's Civil War and an annual event respectfully called Decoration Day. Following the Civil War, families of the fallen created a day of observance to honor their deceased servicemen by placing flowers on their graves. Dozens of towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, but the first official observance of Decoration Day was May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery. Decoration Day was officially established as Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law in 1971.
     In the Gettysburg Address, given to honor those who died at Gettysburg 17 months before the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said: "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."
    (The above is an excerpt from the news release of featuring their Civil War Era Records page.  I'm including a link at the bottom of this post, if you'd like to explore those free records.)
        Adam Weber wasn't at Chickamauga or Vicksburg or Gettysburg.  He didn't have what would be termed a glorified Civil War performance.  No, he wasn't a deserter or a traitor!   He did serve his country as one -National Park Civil War Series: "RECRUITING FOR THE WAR." ILLUSTRATION FROM FRANK LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER, MARCH 1864of the millions of soldiers who gave a piece of their lives in the Civil War.  But, Adam was in the less recognized places, with a less written about regiment, at what turned out to be the conclusion of this terrible war.  
     Setting the stage for Adam's involvement, of course, were the years 1861 - 1864 when thousands of people died on the battlefields and in the cities and the hospitals.  For instance, over the entire war 360,000 Yankees died–110,000 in battle and 225,000 of disease. The South lost 258,000 men–94,000 in battle and 164,000 to disease.  About 2.75 million soldiers fought in the Civil War — 2 million for the North and 750,000 for the South.   Nearly one quarter of the Union’s soldiers were immigrants, including 200,000 Germans. 
     One of those immigrants was Adam Weber of Indianapolis, Indiana, husband of Amelia Micol and father of five-year-old Henry Adam, three-year-old Amelia Marie and ten-month-old Theodore.   Adam was 44 years old when he enlisted in the 143rd Indiana Infantry on February 21, 1865.  There are some curiosities about his enlistment and service.  Why was this older German immigrant signing up to go to war for a country where he had lived for less than ten years?  Why was he one of only two men in his regiment from Indianapolis?  Adam Weber's Volunteer EnlistmentAll the other recruits hail from towns in southern Indiana that have heavy German immigrant populations.  Did his life experience in Germany possibly have a role in his Civil War duties?  Maybe I'll find a few more answers at some point.  But right now, the information I do have that provides a segment of the story about his eight months in the Civil War is in his military service records from the National Archives and in the regimental history .

The first step -- His volunteer enlistment (at the right) for Company E, 143rd Regiment of Indiana Volunteers reads:
I, Adam Weber, born in Mainz in the State of Germany, aged 44 years, and by occupation a soldier, Do Hereby acknowledge to have volunteered this 21 day of February, 1865, to serve as a soldier in the Army of the United States of America, for the period of one year, unless sooner discharged by proper authority.  Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing as are or may be established by law for volunteers.  And I, Adam Weber, do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War. 
This soldier has blue eyes, grey hair, fair complexion, is 5 feet, 7 inches high.  
Signed by the Examining Surgeon and the Commanding Officer of the Company
Wikipedia's history of the 143rd Regiment, Indiana Infantry:
     The regiment was organized at Indianapolis, Indiana, with a strength of 1,006 men and mustered in on February 21, 1865.  The 143rd was composed of companies from the 1st district, and left the state for Nashville, Tennessee, on February 24, then moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and duty there until May 13.   It was attached to the 1st Brigade, 1st Sub-District, District of Middle Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland.
     Between May 13 and June 26, the regiment was on duty at Tullahoma, Tennessee. In late June, the regiment moved to Clarksville where three companies were detached and sent to Fort Donelson, Tennessee. In October, the regiment was reunited and ordered to Nashville, where it was mustered out on October 17, 1865. During its service the regiment incurred ninety fatalities, another seventy-eight deserted and four unaccounted for.
      In Adam's service record I also found that he "enlisted to bounty."  He was paid $33.33 at enlistment, with $66.67 due in later installments.  This bounty was a bonus granted for enlisting at various times and for various amounts during the four years of the war. After 1864, enlistments were sought for one, two and three years at the rate of $100.00 per year, offered on the basis of one-third at muster, one third halfway through the term and one-third at the end.  Adam's enlistment was for a period of one year.  Since Generals Grant and Lee and Presidents Johnson and Davis concluded the war in the Spring of 1865, his regiment was mustered out in October, after eight months of service.
     Another significant piece of information on his "Company Muster Roll" record pertains to Adam's promotion from the ranks to sergeant.  The record reads: "Promoted from ranks to 4th sergeant.  Feb 21, 1865 promoted from 4th to 3rd sergeant."  The summary of his service at reads:  "March 1865, On special duty since March 14, 1856 at headquarters on 143rd Indiana Volunteers as Color Sergeant by order of John F. Grill, Colonel Commanding, 143rd Regiment Indiana Volunteers.  April to June 1865, On daily duty as Color Sergeant.  July and August 1865, Absent sick in hospital at Clarksville, Tennessee since July 22, 1865. (at Post Hospital)" 
     Sure wish there was more on the record. There's no further information that explains why he was promoted from Private to Color Sergeant four days after enlistment.   But, the indication in his enlistment that his occupation is "soldier" may be a hint to this event and to his former life in Germany.  Perhaps he had experience in his younger years in the revolutions that occurred in 1849 in the Palatinate, the area of Germany where he was born and married.  Since most German states had conscription laws requiring young men to register for military service, this is entirely possible.  Adam would have been in his 20s during that war in his homeland.  We don't know yet how his early "soldiering" experience may have determined his Civil War promotions. However, we do know he served his new country and lived to return to Indiana.    (Photo above from: U.S. Army Center of Military History website, U.S. Army in Action)
     Maybe the details of Adam Weber's term of service in 1865 will never be clear.  But my thinking is that he was, perhaps, an example of the  common soldier.  In my research I came across a story on that seemed to relate to the thoughts I have about this soldier in the family, as well as thousands of his comrades.  Here's an excerpt from National Park Civil War Series - The Civil War's Common Soldier:
     Typical human beings in mid-nineteenth century America, the army volunteers of North and South performed as one might expect. Many of them became outstanding soldiers, some of them had rather poor records, a few were shirkers and cowards; most of them, however, were just average. Yet for four horrible years those representatives of the nation's common folk bore on their shoulders the heaviest responsibilities that have ever been placed on the people of this land. And they carried that burden so well that we still marvel at their strength and endurance.  Their story is a mixture of hardship, humor, and heroism—which are doubtless the ways in which Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks would like to be remembered.

Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties! 

Go to this link if you'd like to explore the Family Search Civil War Records page.
Copyright © Nancy Niehaus Hurley


  1. It's fascinating that he listed his profession as soldier when he enlisted. Was he a professional soldier in Mainz before he immigrated? I'd have to look up the economic conditions before the war, but the 1850-60s were still the era of unregulated capitalism. And the 1800s were chock full of wild "feast or famine" economic swings. Maybe he couldn't find a job that paid enough and was looking for a steady paycheck. All wild suppositions on my part.

    1. Hi Schalene, The information I have so far about Adam Weber's occupation before he immigrated is on his marriage record from 1856. His occupation is listed as "policeman." I have to study further about this, but I thought perhaps that if he had military training and experience that may have led to the policeman occupation. But about his employment in the U.S. and the reason to enter the Civil War, you may be absolutely right that he needed any job he could find. Perhaps he had a tough six or seven years after immigrating and, even though he was trying to avoid the military, finally took the bounty at age 44. Who knows. Thanks for making your "wild suppositions."


Hi: Your own stories or suggestions are welcome here any time. Thanks for being a part of Indiana Ties.