Great-Grandfather’s Civil War Rifle

-by Dean Gladow-

In retrospect, it was perhaps too much to expect.

Great-grandfather “Fred” Heidemann, whose christened name– from the church record of his birth on January 13, 1834, at Petersdorf (near Templin, in the province of Brandenburg, Germany)– was actually Johann Friedrich Heidemann, had already grown to be somewhat of a family legend.

His immigration to America along with wife, Caroline Wilhelmina, departing from Bremen aboard the sailing ship “Hinrich” and arriving September 4, 1860, at Baltimore, preceded the flood of European immigrants in subsequent years.

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Fred (Friedrich) Heidemann Family; Sitting are Friedrich and wife Caroline; Standing (from left) are Wilhelmina [Bock], Henry, Charles, and Mary [Zerbe].

At that point in time, there was already a great deal of unrest between the U.S. Northern and Southern states, along with anxiety concerning the election occurring that November– which consequently resulted in Abraham Lincoln becoming president.  Knowing this, it must have required courage to become immigrants.  By the time of Honest Abe’s inauguration, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union, and the great Civil War conflict began shortly thereafter, in 1861.

The young couple immediately proceeded to Westport, now known as Kansas City, which was then on the western edge of our fast expanding country and– as some had mistakenly proclaimed– with the “wilderness of the great American desert” in front of them.  Kansas would not become the 34th state in the U.S. until a few more months had passed.

The passenger list of the Hinrich indicates Friedrich’s occupation as “cartwright”.  Therefore, it was natural he would find employment among those who were helping to expand the West.  As stated in his obituary (nearly fifty years later, having died November 13, 1909): “He drove an ox team for three years across the plains to Colorado and New Mexico while his wife worked in Kansas City for 50 cents a week”.  Reading between the lines, it’s easy to picture him on the old Santa Fe trail, perhaps swearing a bit in a mixture of the familiar German and the just-being-learned English at the slow and stubborn oxen pulling the large cargo wagon.  Hopefully, his wages were somewhat better than those of his hard-working wife awaiting his return!

Quite likely, as great-grandad traveled across Kansas, he was looking about for the ideal location to settle down and raise a family.  He may have even ventured a few miles off the usual route.  Thus, it came about that he and Caroline became two of the early settlers of western Wabaunsee County.  They, and a few neighboring early German immigrants, named their new community for the region where they had originated– “Templin”.

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Town of Templin circa 1900, with Post Office in foreground and Lutheran Church (from Early History of Wabaunsee County)

Fred and Caroline homesteaded their farm along the west branch of Mill Creek, adjacent to an early road which is now a scenic route.  Their first child– my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina, was born in 1864.  Various records indicate the couple was blessed with as many as ten children, although the rigors of frontier life claimed all but four before adulthood.  Accounts such as those in the three Wabaunsee County Histories describe the tribulations of the times, including the dreaded smallpox and the perceived need for the construction of a cylindrical, port-holed stone fort as protection against Indian raids.  (In actuality, the local Kaw and Pottawatomi tribes were mostly friendly, and any “uprisings” tended to be intertribal.)

Therefore, it was of considerable interest to me, more than a century later, to learn of and then view great-grandfather’s “Civil War Rifle” (which, among other features, had a hexagonal barrel).  Was it possible that g-grandpa was also a veteran of that conflict, which was fought during his first few years in his adopted country?  Would a newly arrived immigrant, struggling to establish his family and learning a new language, actually get involved in such an endeavor?

For years, I was unable to find any reference to a Fred (or Friedrich) Heidemann among Kansas men who had served during the Civil War– overwhelmingly on the side of the North, despite exceptions such as “Bloody Bill” Anderson.  Searches of various lists available in libraries and on the Internet, one of which included a listing of the relatively few men serving from Wabaunsee County, proved fruitless.

Finally, a breakthrough!  At the relatively small library in Iola, Kansas, I found a small book which had a listing of the individuals who served in the “Kansas Militia” during that period.  Among those names was “Friederich Hiedeman” (sic).  I was directed to further information at the Kansas History Center, adjacent to the Historical Museum in Topeka.  There, I was able to locate and examine the microfilms, Kansas State Militia Muster Rolls and Index to the Kansas State Militia Records, 1861-1875, where I found the following:

“Although the militia service covered by this index dates back to 1861, the year in which the Civil War began, most of the individuals included in it were mustered for active duty during a period of about two weeks in October, 1864, during the so-called ‘Price Raid’.  At that time, a Confederate Army (with about forty thousand men!) led by General Sterling Price moved into the Kansas City vicinity, was defeated at the Battle of Westport, and then retreated southward through eastern Kansas.”  “Governor Thomas Carney called into active military service all of the Kansas State Militia, placing Major General George W. Deitzler in command……. declaring martial law throughout the State of Kansas, and ordering all men, white or black, between the age of 18 and 60 years, into military service for the defense of the State of Kansas…… and just about every able-bodied male in Kansas (17,345 in addition to those already serving elsewhere) was able to claim at least a few weeks of Civil War military service.”

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Drawing of Old Stone Fort at Templin (from Early History of Wabaunsee County)

One of the muster rolls included: “Heideman, Friederich;  Priv. Co. L 14th Regt. KSM;  Mustered in Oct 10 1864;  Mustered out Nov 1 1864;  Period of actual service 23 days”

The 14th Regiment, commanded by Col. J.M. Harvery, consisted of 575 men from Pottawatomie, Riley, and Wabaunsee counties.  Company L, commanded by Lt. Joseph Treu, consisting of 3 officers, 5 non-coms, and 32 privates, was mustered at Alma and sworn in by John T. Hankammer.  A few of the other regiments saw active duty at the battles of Westport and The Big Blue – and at least one other refused to cross the state line into Missouri!  However, there is no evidence that the 14th, or the 15th from the Junction City and Fort Riley area, ever left their home counties.

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Joseph Treu circa 1900, Commander of Alma area Civil War State Militia (from Early History of Wabaunsee County)

Therefore, it appears great-grandad’s Civil War service consisted of defending the Alma area for a period of three weeks and two days against an invasion which never approached closer than 100 miles.  Presumably, he was able to sleep in his own bed throughout!

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Friedrich and Caroline Heidemann Gravestone in West Templin Cemetery


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