Co. E, 9th IA Infantry, Civil War
~researched & written by Carl Inwalson
John Lenhart was born on May 17, 1817, in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria, but this was a time of political changes in Europe and, by the time Margaret Mary Rickart was born, it had become the Free State of Bavaria. Mary was born on March 10, 1822, in Landstuhl where she and John were married on May 9, 1845, and their first child, Elizabeth, was born on September 28, 1847, when Germany was on the verge of more changes during the revolutions of 1848 and 1849. Its not known if John and Mary were among the many Forty-Eighters who immigrated to the United States at that time, but their next children were Jacob, Frank (born on August 12, 1856) and Margaret Mary born on March 28, 1858 or 1859.
Their last child, Mathias, was born on November 26, 1860, fewer than three weeks after Abraham Lincolns election to the presidency. On December 20th, South Carolina became the first state to announce its secession and, on April 12, 1861, Confederate guns fired on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter. War followed.
On July 23rd, President Lincoln called for volunteers to augment the undermanned regulars and, on September 16, 1861, forty-four-year-old 5' 3¼ John Lenhart enlisted at Guttenberg in what would be Company E of Iowas 9th regiment of volunteer infantry. On September 26th, with William Vandever as Colonel, the regiment left Dubuque for St. Louis. Its early service was in Missouri and Arkansas and on March 7, 1862, it participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge in northern Arkansas with heavy casualties. Forty percent of those engaged were killed, wounded or captured. Not long after the battle they were part of the Army of the Southwest during a long march to Helena where they arrived on July 17th. During this march the weather was very warm and dry, and the troops suffered greatly from the heat, dust and thirst. John Lenhart was one of many who succumbed to the heat and on July 10th became incapacitated by sunstroke. On September 28th he was sent to St. Louis Benton Barracks and on October 2d was admitted to the Marine Hospital four miles south of the city. While there he was diagnosed as suffering from cephalalgia, impaired vision and ringing in his ears. On December 18th, after being unfit for duty for more than five months, he was discharged from the military.
By the end of 1864, with their three-year enlistments at an end, many in his former regiment were discharged but, on January 1, 1864, 287 members of the regiment reenlisted as veterans and were granted furloughs to go north before resuming their duties. Also reenlisting was John Lenhart who signed a Volunteer Enlistment on February 12, 1864, in the old village of Jefferson. On March 2nd he was in Dubuque and on the 8th was present at Davenport where he was reunited with his former comrades. Before long they returned to the South.
The 4th, 9th, 25th and 31st Iowa regiments were organized in a Brigade led by James Williamson in a Division led by Charles Woods, a career serviceman and graduate of West Point, as part of the 15th Army Corps led by Illinois John A. Blackjack Logan. On May 1st they started south from Chattanooga and one hundred miles later near Dallas, Georgia, they met the enemy. On the 27th they assaulted the Confederate forces entrenched behind breastworks, but Woods Division was repulsed, suffering much loss and John Lenhart was captured. From there he was taken 170 miles to the south and held in the infamous Andersonville prison. That August, the overcrowded prison reached a monthly peak of 3,000 deaths from disease, malnutrition and dysentery. After the war, the prisons commander, Swiss-born Heinrich Henry Wirz, was executed for conspiracy and murder as a result of his actions as commandant, an execution that was highly controversial.
Six months after his capture, John was paroled at Savannah and transported north to Annapolis where he arrived on November 25, 1864, and taken from the wharf to the College Green Barracks. The C. G. B., as it was referred to in his Prisoner of War records, consisted of wooden frame buildings, one story in height and partially furnished with bunks. This was essentially an intake facility where John and other prisoners were organized, compared with the rolls that accompanied them, inspected and provided, as much as possible, with needed medical attention and clothing. They were then taken two miles away to Camp Parole where John arrived on November 27th.
Before long he was back in Guttenberg where he was examined by Dr. William Hoffbauer who said, on January 7, 1865, that he had been treating John for eight days and, before being transported north, John had been a prisoner at Andersonville as a result of which he was now laboring under the consequence of scurvy, with a deterioration of the blood, a dropsical state of the lungs - oedema pulmonar. Despite his condition, John reported voluntarily to Camp McClellan on February 21, 1865, where a note to his company Captain the next day said, forwarded to New York en route to Regiment Private John Lenhart of your Company.
John reached his regiment, but there was no more fighting to be done and, still in poor health, he was admitted to the armys general hospital at Fort Schuyler in New York Harbor. He was discharged from the military at Louisville, Kentucky, on July 18, 1865, returned to Guttenberg, and on August 7th applied for an invalid pension. He tried working with Jacob Stoeffler, a lime burner, and Christian Leitgen, a day laborer, who said John was emaciated when he came home, had a bad cough and was often bedridden. He tried cutting cordwood, braking rock and burning lime, but he was unable, they said, to do more than one-fourth of a days work due to lung disease and was often bedridden. Broken by war, John was only fifty-six years old when he died on February 3, 1874. He is buried in Saint Marys Cemetery, Guttenberg.
Mary never remarried, but applied for a widows pension and a pension for three children (Frank, Margaret and Mathias) she said were still under sixteen when their father died. She said John had lung disease when he was discharged, an ailment he said he contracted while at Andersonville. He had seen Dr. Hoffbauer in 1865 but being too poor to pay a doctor endeavored to get along with home remedies and pattent medicines and when he got worse in the years 1866 to 1874 employed one Dr Grinter as we could pay him. My husband, she said, was sick and all the time with lung trouble from the time he came home from the army to the day of his death.
Mary was awarded a $12.00 monthly pension, an amount she was still receiving when she died on August 18, 1904. A newspaper obituary said she was survived by all five of her children - Jacob, Frank, Mathias, Elizabeth (Lenhart) Schorg of Guttenberg and Mary E. (Lenhart) Clefisch of Spencer, South Dakota. Mary is buried next to her husband in St. Marys Cemetery.
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