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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Before They Left for Gettysburg, 1913

by Gordon Thorsby

The four men below were photographed in 1913 in Chesaning before they hopped a train that would eventually take them to join thousands of other veterans at the 50th reunion in Gettysburg, PA. At some point during the Civil War, all four became casualties of battle. All four would also be part of the GAR Post, Paps Thomas Post 121 located in Chesaning, MI. As pictured from left to right:

Jacob Smith (changed from Schmidt). A soldier in Co. C 107th Ohio. The regiment was made up entirely of Germans, many fresh from Germany and many unable to speak English. Jacob was one of those immigrants. He was captured at Chancellorsville in May, 1863 and exchanged in November. Because of his imprisonment, he missed Gettysburg where the regiment suffered heavy losses July 1st. He is buried in the old Catholic Cemetery in Chesaning.

Lewis Walser (changed from Waliser)- He was in the same company and regiment as Jacob. He was also a German immigrant, from Shellingen, and had with language difficulties speaking or understanding English. He was given the rank of corporal. He was wounded on May 4th at Chancellorsville when Jackson hit the XI Corps flank. The 107th attempted to halt the Confederate advance but the regiment's efforts were in vain. On July 1, at Gettysburg, he was wounded again as part of the effort to hold back the Confederate assault from the north and where the XI Corps collapsed again. If you look closely, Lewis is missing some his index finger. After the war, he lived in Maple Grove, he died in Chesaning and is also buried in the old Catholic Cemetery.

William Blakeslee- William served in Co. D 136th New York Infantry. His brother Henry was in the regiment as was his future brother-in-law, Aaron Burr Walker(my ancestor). William Blakeslee was a Private throughout the war and all three became lifelong residents of the same small town upon moving to Chesaning from Western NY. He was wounded in May, 1864 at Resaca, GA in Sherman’s advance to Atlanta. Actually, all three men mentioned here were wounded at Resaca. Descendants of the Blakeslees grow up and still live in the town of fewer than 1100 people.

Harry Weaver- Harry served in the 1st/42nd Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as the Pennsylvania Bucktails. He was a tall man for the times. The Bucktails are often highlighted in the Battle of Gettysburg story. While Jacob Smith, Lewis Walser, and William Blakeslee were in 1862 regiments, Harry joined up almost at the beginning in May, 1861. He lived in a very township of Taymouth and at some point Chesaning became his home where he is buried in the old section of the village cemetery..

These men fought in our country’s greatest crisis and afterward worked to make our country better.

Photos: First: Private collection of Smith family,

Second: Library of Congress

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