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There are over 200 mini biographies in "This Gunner at His Piece". While some contain a great deal of information, others contain less, and many could serve as the basis for a novel. Such is life. Here are two examples.

Henry Apel

Henry Apel married his wife Mary in the Lutheran Church in the village of Reibersdorf in Saxony, Germany on April 11, 1841. They came to America sometime in the early 1850’s and settled in College Point where in the 1860 Census of Flushing, the family is found on page 741. There are three children; Amelia, 15, Conrad, 18 and a blacksmith, and William, who is 12.

On May 15, 1861 at the age of 42, Henry enlisted along with his son Conrad, in Co. E of the 29th New York Infantry and served for two years, mustering out on June 20, 1863 only to reenlist a year later on July 29, 1864 in Company E of the 7th Infantry Veteran Regiment.

In one of war’s cruel twists of fate, on April 2, 1865, exactly one week before Confederate General Robert E. Lee asked for armistice at Appomattox, Apel was wounded while on picket duty, suffering a fatal gunshot wound to the left lung. He died two days later on April 4th at Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC, one week shy of his 24th wedding anniversary and ten days before John Wilkes Booth would assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Armory Square, one of the largest Civil War hospitals, was located where the present National Air and Space Museum stands today. The 1000-bed hospital had 12 pavilions, overflow tents, and was spread out across the Washington Mall. During his time in the military, Henry had been detailed a number of times as a nurse, perhaps even at this hospital. Henry’s name is etched on the Flushing Memorial to Civil War casualties.

On July 31, 1865 Marie applied for and was granted widow’s benefits. She appears in the 1870 Census of Flushing on Page 245 with son Conrad, who works in the rubber factory and a second son William, a 22 year-old baker. Mary is keeping house and has an annual income of $5,000. As noted earlier, she died on November 4, 1874 and is buried in Flushing Cemetery.

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George Vix
On page 713 of the 1860 Flushing Census, the family of 47 year-old John Vix of Baden, Germany, is a large one. He is 47 and his name is spelled Yix. In addition to his 48 year-old wife Margaretta, there are seven children. Richard, 21, George, 20, Barbara, 19, Mary, 16, Margaret, 14, Matilda, 10 and Louisa, 4. All, with the exception of baby Louisa, were born in Baden. Elizabeth, an older sister born in 1836, is not listed in the family in the 1860 Census, she having married one Conrad Hartmann. Elizabeth was born in the town of Oldshofen, which is in Baden.

On May 15, 1861, George enlisted in Company E of the 29th New York Infantry, served as a drummer, and died at the Second Battle of Bull Run, August 30, 1862. His name is etched on the Flushing Memorial to Civil War casualties.

It is uncertain where he is buried, but in truth it is he, and not Adam Wirth, who was the first College Point man to die in the Civil War. Wirth was wounded at the same battle and died the following September 25th.

In the 1880 Census of College Point, page 204C, George’s 76 year-old widowed father appears still working as a gardener. Living with him are his two daughters, Louisa and Christina, who will never marry, and a 15 year-old grandson named Robert Vix. There is no indication as to who his father is, but we know it isn’t George.

In 1884 his father, still alive, applies for and receives benefits from his son’s pension. Of note is that the pension file contains a number of letters written by George to his parents. The letters are in German and the handwriting is different for each, most likely due to George not being able to write.

A translation of one letter done by Steve Hoffmann, a descendant of Elizabeth Vix Hartman, follows. The letter, written from a camp near Winchester, Virginia, was dated April 18, 1862.

I picked up the pen to write and let you know I am still in good health despite the hardships of the last 40 days. I could not write for the past 30 days, but I hope you received the letter, which I wrote to my brother.

We left Warrenton Junction and reached Warrenton City in the evening. From there we went to (illegible) where we spent three nights in the snow under the open sky, and there were three from the Polish Regiment (58th New York Infantry) frozen to death.

On the fourth day we went on. We saw no enemy soldiers, but as the division moved along, the enemy moved up behind us. They captured four wagons and took some of the stragglers prisoner.

There were farmers everywhere. We went along our way, but those who were too tired to keep up were taken prisoner.
From (illegible) we went to Upperville and found all the farmers assembled. We marched through peacefully and after three hard hours reached Paris where we are staying. We had nothing to eat since we started the march. We only had crackers all day.

The cattle perished during the march so that we had no meat either. That day we marched fourteen miles hungry with our packs and all our belongings. You can appreciate that it was no fun.

We stayed three days in Paris waiting for the bridge to be built over the Shenandoah River, but it was not finished. A raft was built, but as soon as cannon was placed on it, the raft nearly sunk. We now had to make a detour of ten miles with the wagons and artillery. The two brigades moved to where there was a ferry.

No sooner had we arrived when disaster struck. Sixty-four men of the Polish Regiment drowned on a faulty raft. I do not know how it happened. One third of the drowned men were never recovered. They fell into the water and sank. You had to see it to understand. Some of the fellows had artillery pieces on their backs and cartridge bags, which had sixty cartridges inside. Some of them had their rifles on them, which helped to pull them down.

We are now five miles from Winchester where we are supposed to rest. I will not write what I went through, but will tell you about it when I see you.

I will close my letter now. Greetings to all the relatives and friends.

I greet you cordially and remain your son.

George Vix (I hope for a quick reply)

In another July 3, 1862 letter, written to his brother Michael, he said, “ I cannot write to you of all I have seen or heard since the Battle of Cross Keys (June 8, 1862). Only 264 men survived and Bernhard Weber lost his left arm.” He adds, “I have been thinking of Barbara (his sister) and her husband. I have lost her address and for that reason I cannot write to her. Greet them both for me. He writes then about the poor mail delivery, saying, “Last evening 3,000 letters came to our Regiment – they have been left lying for a long time.

George never did get to tell his family of his experiences.

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©2006 James E. Haas & Jim Haas Books. All Rights Reserved.