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An Interview with James E. Haas

Questions Answered

Here are some of FAQ's that have been asked of me as to why someone would write a book about a small town in Queens, New York and its involvement in the Civil War.

James E. Haas

Q. What is the origin of the book's title?

A. "This Gunner at His Piece" is a reference to the opening words of the Citation written in support for Carl Ludwig's Medal of Honor Award fire." His story begins on page 171 and his picture is also in the book.

Q. What inspired you to write the book?

A. My interest in the town itself, genealogy and the Civil War were the three primary motivating factors. I had researched and written an extensive family history and was also familiar with using the National Archives for doing Civil War-related research. A shirt-tail Dockendorf cousin sent me a list of College Point soldiers compiled years ago by Vincent Seyfried, a noted Queens historian. I began researching those names, and then went to the 1860 Census to find others, and from that point the project became a two-year odyssey, taking on a life of its own.

Q. Anyone assist you with your research?

A. Susan Brustmann, Director of the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, Robert Friedrich, Retired Senior Librarian at the Queensborough Public Library and Vincent Seyfried all shared from their storehouse of information. Their photographs, newspaper copies, and other bits of ephemera filled in many a blank space, and added color to expectedly bland data.

Q. How was the research done?

A. All of the preliminary research to identify the soldiers was accomplished using the computer and assorted websites that showed regimental lists, units, and pension cards along with assorted census databases. Before cable access to the Internet arrived in my neighborhood, downloading of data took a lot of time. As soon as it became available, I took advantage of the technology, and primary research took much less time.

The review of pension and military files took place at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and that part of the process took the better part of six months as I could only do the research in the evenings and on Saturdays. There was always someone else to research or some point to confirm so I was there frequently.

Q. Of the 226 men located, for how many were you actually able to write biographies?

A. There were very few, 3 or 4, I believe, who were never found even though their names appeared in the Flushing Journal. I'm not certain, for example, that T. Quaid or Z. Baumeister ever existed, but I believe these names do represent persons who actually did serve. Additionally some of the men who enlisted in the Navy were difficult to identify as they did not apply for pensions. By and large, most of the biographies contain enough information, genealogical and otherwise, to help anyone interested in pursuing additional research on any individual.

Q. Who would be most interested in "This Gunner at His Piece"?

A. Certainly anyone whose family history has a College Point or Queens connection would enjoy it, but many of the men moved to other parts of the city, to New York State, and to states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, the District of Columbia and others.

Civil War researchers would also enjoy the book especially with the number of units the men served in, 82, and the index created to connect the soldiers with those units. I make the point that the book is not a "Civil War" book, but you can't escape its impact on the lives of these men.
When you put Vincent Seyfried's Flushing During the Civil War Years, 1837 to 1865 and "This Gunner At His Piece" side by side, they create a fairly complete picture of the general area at the time of the war. College Point was not an entity separate from Flushing until the town incorporated on April 5, 1867.

Also, these two books are really microcosms of what was happening in “small-town America, North and South, in 1860. Vincent and I just happened to write, fairly extensively, about our towns, Flushing and College Point.

Q. How many College Point men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor?

A. One actually, Carl Ludwig, but there are at least two other men who lived in the town who had the honor bestowed, and one who didn’t, but should have. It is a very intriguing story

Q. Who was Adam Wirth?

A. Sergeant Adam Wirth was a very well respected, and much-liked soldier and member of Company L of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. He was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, August 30, 1862, and long believed to be the first soldier to die in the war from College Point. GAR, for Grand Army of the Republic, Post No. 451 was named in his honor, when it was founded in College Point in 1884. Wirth died a month after the battle on September 25th.

Q. Who really was the first College Point man to die in the war?

A. One of the most interesting stories in the collection, it begins on page 239.His name was George.

Q. How many College Point men lost their lives in battle?

A. Twenty-four men died either in battle or as a result wounds they suffered.

Henry Apel Appomattox
Louis Bisky Chancellorsville
John Buckley Charleston Harbor
Thomas Conners Gettysburg
John Doherty Antietam
Charles Erling Wilderness
George McDonald Antietam
Thomas Skinnon Gaines Mill
Willis Tyrrell Antietam
John Hefermehl Fort Lyon, VA
Valentine Helfreich Sperryville, VA
Robert Kanz Fair Oaks, VA
John Keppler Battle of South Mountain, MD
Andrew Reinhard New Orleans, LA
Franz Richter Bridgeport, AL
David Schultz Battle of Knoxville, TN
Charles Stader Andersonville Prison
John Steinbrucker Farmville, VA
Jurgon Sternberg Windmill Point, VA
John Stonebanks Fort Richmond, New York Harbor
George Vix 2nd Battle of Bull Run
Leopold Wenzler Virginia
Frederick Werner Cincinnati, OH
Adam Wirth 2nd Battle of Bull Run

Their names are inscribed on a marble monument commemorating their sacrifice. It was erected in 1867 in Flushing, and is there today on a busy thoroughfare called Northern Boulevard.

Q. Whose name appears on that monument, but shouldn’t have been?

A. Emil Schubert, and what an interesting story that is.

Q. Did any men whose names are not on the Memorial, die as a result of wartime service?

A. Yes

Q. Why is the name David Schultz important?

A. Schultz, a member of the 79th New York Infantry, was killed at the Battle of Knoxville, Tennessee on November 29, 1863. When the Sons of Union Veterans Post No. 29 was formed in College Point, it was named in his honor. The book includes a very moving story involving his mother following the war.

Q. How many College Point men were wounded during the war?

A. Thirty-eight.

Conrad Apel 2nd Battle of Bull Run
Frederick Behring Chancellorsville
William Berndt Pegram Farm
John Bracken Petersburg
James C. Cornell 2nd Battle of Bull Run
Michael Dillon Gaines Mill
Franz Duer Cross Keys
Charles Englehardt Antietam
August Feuerbacher Gettysburg
Cornelius Fowler Petersburg
Louis Fritz Santa Rosa Island
Theodore Gelbart Antietam
Savillian Gardner Petersburg
Lewis Heyne Unknown
Richard Hickman Five Forks
John Hoelle Petersburg
John Houser Winchester
Dennis Illerd 2nd Battle of Bull Run
Adam Jockers Fredericksburg
John Kanz Cross Keys
Franz Kabisch Antietam
Patrick Kiernan Poplar Church, VA
Robert Lasche Antietam
Carl Ludwig Wilderness
William Ludwig Gaines Mill
George Mandeville Antietam
George Newman Fair Oaks
Valentine Piereth Before Gettysburg
Thomas Rooney Williamsburg
Paul Schierlitz Chancellorsville
James R. Smith Gaines Mill
William H. Snyder Cold Harbor
Casper Sternberg Unknown
Alfred Stratton Petersburg
Jurgon Vogt Petersburg
Bernhard Weber Cross Keys
Adam Winter 1st Battle of Bull Run
Thomas White Cold Harbor

Q. What College Point family sent the most members to the war?

A. Two families share this distinction. The Dockendorf family, my ancestors, sent three, Frederick, Joseph and Francis. They all survived and raised their families in College Point. The Stader family also sent three; father, John, and sons Charles and George. The story of Charles is particularly sad.

Q. How many College Point men spent time at Andersonville?

A. Thre

Q. Were any other College Point men captured during the war?

A. Nine men were prisoners of war at one time or another.

Q. What Army Unit attracted the largest number of volunteers?

A. 42 men served in Co. L of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery that became the 34th Battery of New York Light Artillery. 18 men served for 30 days in the 15th Regiment of New York State Militia and 17 served in the 20th New York Infantry.

Q. In how many military units did College Point men serve?

A. 82 served in the Army and 11 in the U. S. Navy. They served units from 10 separate States and in United States service also.

Q. How many College Point men were subject to Court Martial following the Battle of Chancellorsville and why?

A. Four College Point men, all Germans believing the terms of their enlistment had been satisfied, laid down their arms before the battle. The total number of men involved in this noteworthy event hovered around 200. All served in the 20th New York Infantry, and all were exonerated.

Q. What veteran had the largest number of children?

A. Henry and Barbara Wurtz had 16 children. Other veterans also had large families.

Q. What soldier left College Point to work on the Mississippi River?

A. Casper Sternberg and an adventurer was he.

Q. What do Henry Apel and John Steinbrucker have in common?

A. They were friends before the war and served together in the same units, the 29th New York Infantry and later the 7th Infantry Veteran Regiment, but there is much more to their two stories that makes for interesting reading.

Q. What soldier enlisted and served using one name, but lived out the remainder of his life under another name?

A. Theodore Sennewald. One of the most curious stories in the collection that remains an unsolved mystery.

Q. Did anyone else use an alias?

A. Dennis Illerd. Another curiosity for which there is no apparent explanation.

Q. What soldier took a trip to New York City on September 19, 1889 and why is it of interest?

A. Ernst Lutters. His is one of the saddest stories in the book.

Q. Who was the last College Point veteran to pass away?

A. GAR member Joseph A. Roessel died on December 30, 1935. His life span went from horse and buggy and candlelight to the automobile, airplane and radio. He had hopes of seeing television perfected. What a life!

Q. What soldier enlisted five days after his arrival in America?

A. GAR member Charles Rausmuller

Q. What soldier spent the shortest amount of time in the army?

A. Michael Horn, but the real question is why.

Q. What Civil War soldier served during the war with Mexico?

A. Joseph Frey. He liked being a soldier or so it would seem. Good story

Q. How many of the 226 men identified in the book were actually from College Point originally?

A. 144 appears to be the number. 83 were enumerated in the 1860 Census and an additional 61 names appeared on a list printed in the August 23, 1862 Flushing Journal newspaper. The majority of the remaining 80 men were GAR members.

Q. The majority of those who served were from what country?

A. 140 men had origins in Germany with Ireland coming in a distant third with 15 men. 33 were born in New York and most of these had parents from Germany.

Q. What soldier ran away from Germany in order to avoid military service there?

A. According to his widow Justine, Gustave Mutz. His story has an unhappy ending.

Q. Did any veterans commit suicide?

A. Yes, Frederick Beardslee, Peter Larke and John Kaufmann. Beardslee was the son of George Beardslee whose invention of a magneto-electric generator greatly improved battlefield communications. Sad stories all

Q. Who was Conrad Poppenhusen?

A. Called the "Benefactor of College Point", Conrad Poppenhusen was a Hamburg-born entrepreneur who brought his rubber manufacturing company from Brooklyn to College Point in the mid-1850's. His factory was the major source of employment for College Point men and their families before, during and after the war and it was a primary reason for the large percentage of men available for service from the town. I’m writing a comprehensive biography that will be ready in 2004, I hope.

Q. What was first name most often used?

A. What would you expect? It was John

Q. Who were the last men to be researched and included in the book, and why are they special?

A. Jacob Wieners - his unit was not known until the day the manuscript was to be taken to the publisher. He made it in under the wire.

Matthew Johann - his unit too was discovered very late in the research process.

Franklin Schultz - he was not "discovered" until a chance glance at the list of Flushing residents who went to war, that appeared in the Flushing Journal. He almost didn’t make it.

John Leppert - his name was included on a list of veterans buried in Flushing Cemetery, and one that I looked at, by chance, again within days of taking the manuscript to the publisher. Had I not looked at that list, his fascinating story would not have been included in the book.

Hieronymus Herbig - a chance review of the article about the Sons of Union Veterans gala held in College Point that is described in the book, turned up the name O, for Otto, Herbig that led to a search for soldiers by this surname. The result was the story about his father. Had I not happened to look at this article shortly before taking the manuscript to the publisher, his story would not have been included.

The fathers and families of both Charles Hemminger and Fred Thurston never lived in College Point, but their names were in the same article containing the Hieronymus Herbig's name. That's how they were included in the book.

George Vix - While his story was written early on, it was not completed until the day the final copy of the manuscript was taken to the publisher. His story is perhaps the most interesting of all that appear in the book, but that’s one man’s opinion.

They all are special in that each of them became known so shortly before the book was to go to the publisher, almost as if they were insisting on having their stories reworked or included. I find that fascinating, bordering on mysterious in a Rod Serling kind of way.

Q. How complete is the list of soldiers identified in the book?

A. Fairly complete I would think, but I'm certain I didn't find them all and very likely there were more men who will be identified as a result of the book being published.

Q. Were there any candidates for inclusion who were eventually rejected?

A. Absolutely. There were a number of men enumerated in the 1860 Census of College Point who came very close to being included, but there was no definitive way to confirm that they were the individuals who had served in different units. Some names that come to mind are: John Adelman, Augustus Aue, Peter Baker, Michael Bradigan, John Day, Ernest Grube, Thomas Hanson, Henry Hoffman, John Leary, Charles Rice and Michael Walsh.

Q. The churches in College Point in 1860 were St. Fidelis Catholic, St. John's Lutheran, and St. Paul's Episcopal. What can be said about the soldiers' affiliations?

A. When the question of denomination occurs within the biographies, Lutheran is mentioned 30 times and Catholic 19. It appears religion was a dominant force, or at least a presence, in the lives of these men.

Q. Who was the tallest? Shortest?

A. William Ludwig at 6'4" was easily the tallest man from College Point. Charles Ziessler was 6'2", and Emil Schubert stood 6' even. Shortest person honors went to John Hefermehl and George Richard who both stood 5'1'.

Q. Anything left out?

A. Again, absolutely.

The genealogist in me wanted to include the married names for all of the female children. A large part of that could have been accomplished using church records, but the book would have doubled in size. I also wish I had been able to include more information about the arrival date in the USA for more of the men and their families.

At the same time I wish there could have been more of the soldiers' Civil War stories. As it is, there were quite a few, but I know there had to be more. I also regret I was unable to write more about the contribution Conrad Poppenhusen made to the war effort. The Government purchased rubber goods, buttons, combs etc., and his company had to have been a primary supplier because of his having had the rights to Goodyear's rubber-hardening process. The book I am writing about him will enlarge upon what I say in this book.

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