Pic of Joseph Klein

Joseph Klein:
Civil War Memories

Born in Germany on June 26, 1841,
to John and Catherine Kline

Married on November 23, 1867, to
Anna Wilhelmine Fredericke Diedrichsen
in Chicago, Illinois

Died in Chicago, Illinois,
November 13, 1917

Great-grandfather of Marilyn Doyle

copyright 1996, 2002


Castle Garden, NY

Left the old country on the 31st day of July 1862.

Landed at Castle Garden, Long Island,
September 14th at 9 o’clock in the evening.

As I was all by myself, I had no other baggage than a hand satchel. The rest of my party went to Castle Garden to see about their baggage. As I was tired from the trip I stayed in the Hotel, intending to read the news. The Hotel keeper’s son, a countryman of mine, asked me where I was going. I told him to Cold Springs (N.Y.) where I had a brother living. He induced me to come with him to see the City of New York before leaving. Not expecting anything wrong, I went with him.

He brought me to a basement, and like all greenhorns I looked around in the room but couldn’t discover anything but a single man sitting at a desk writing. Turning around to look for my countryman, he had disappeared. In trying to walk out, I was stopped by a guard who I had not noticed on going in. What he said I did not understand a word of, but by the motion of his bayonet I understood that he wanted me to go back into the basement. I did so. Then I started to talk Dutch to the fellow inside. He shook his head to signify that he didn’t understand me. He pointed with his pen trying to indicate that I should sign my name to this. I shook my head.

I was in there about an hour when in comes a German, which was a great relief to me. I asked him what does all this mean. He explained to me that the North and the South had a war with each other and that they were getting soldiers, under any circumstances. He advised me to sign my name and then they would let me go for a few days, until they had enough to make up a Company. During that time, I could get out of their way so they couldn’t reach me anymore. I took his advice and signed my name, and there is where I fouled myself. Instead of being let off, a guard brought me a few blocks away where I, with a lot of others kidnapped the same as I was, had a hasty examination by what they called a Board of Doctors. From there we were brought, guards on all sides, to a steamer which landed us at Rickerts Island.


I, at that time, had a great opinion of "Free America."

From the time I landed at Castle Garden until I was
put in the blue suit, it was just twelve hours.


At Rickerts Island we layed over one week. During that time an incident happened to me, which I can’t help but relate here. I never had seen a watermelon in my life. I saw all the rest eat them. The juice ran down their chins. I thought to myself that must be something nice. The Settler in his shanty kept some great big ones on ice so one fine afternoon I went and bought one of the largest ones, not any too ripe, for fifty cents. I took it into a little bush and there started to peel it, like you would a nice ripe apple. I did not stop eating until I had every bit of it finished, green and all. The consequences any of you can imagine. I stayed in that bush the biggest part of that night and all the next day. I thought sure I would die.

During the week we stayed on the Island, we got our old fashioned muskets and equipments. Our Company then consisted of a hundred men. On the 22nd of September we left the Island and went to Annapolis, Maryland. There we relieved a Pennsylvania regiment which had been guarding rebel prisoners. Up to this time I always felt as if I was dreaming. I then awakened to real life.

I wrote to my brother in Cold Springs to go to the German Consul in New York and get me out of the mess. In a few days I received a letter from the Consul that he couldn’t do anything for me because I had signed my name as a volunteer.

Finding out that I couldn’t get out that way, I made up my mind to desert. A few days later toward evening I skipped the guards, which was an easy matter because the majority were greenhorns. I went into the City of Annapolis. I had luck and did not run into any of the provost guards, and the first one I spoke to was a German, a regular sesesh at that. He offered me all his assistance in his power. He was to buy a railroad ticket in his own name for New York and was to have citizen clothes for me by the next evening. With that understanding, I shook hands with him. When I left him, I never saw the man again. The next evening we were doing tricks in the camps. In trying to pick up a knife behind me, a fellow from our camp tumbled me over and broke my right shoulder. That knocked deserting. From that time my mind was made up. If ever I should be able to carry a musket again I would make a good soldier.

The other nine Companies of our regiment had been at Annapolis previous to ours, so when we met them the regiment was complete, and in that place is where we were sworn into the United States Service, as 131st N.Y.V. Metropolitan guard.

On the 11th of November we went on board a vessel and went as far as Fortress Monroe, where we layed for two weeks. The regiment had to go on the Island twice a day drilling. I layed in my bunk with my broken shoulder. What I suffered on that trip my pen cannot describe: a broken shoulder, half starved to death, and lousy is hardly a fit expression for all the gray animals crawling over a fellow.

Going to the Gulf, we had quite a severe storm. I only wished the old box would sink, but that wasn’t to happen. On the 17th of December, we landed at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The City was held by a few hundred rebels. After they had been driven out, we put up our tents south of the city. After shifting camp seven times about the City and being tormented with drilling, inspections of arms, dress parades, picket and guard duty up to the 14th day of March 1863, we packed our traps and marched toward Hudson. Within five miles of the Fort, our Company was the first to go on picket and I was the outside picket. Up to this day I don’t know how it happened, but I was left 24 hours on my post. Then I left and went back where our regiment had been in camp but there was no tent to be seen, and I tramped until the next day until I caught up with them. We marched back to within eight miles of Baton Rouge where General Banks kept us standing up to our knees in a swamp all night, and only a short distance from us was a nice high ground.


The next afternoon we put up our little tents on high ground, but our pleasure was soon spoiled again, because the next morning we packed our traps. From four in the morning until two in the afternoon, we were standing under arms. Then we started toward Port Hudson. In the night we came to the same place where we had been before. We had not seen or heard of a rebel, and all the same we had to run back again where we left in the afternoon.

Next morning, we pitched tents again on the same old spot. There we stopped four days, during which we were tormented with drilling, inspections of arms and dress parades.

Then we packed up and marched back to Baton Rouge in our old quarters, where we layed quiet until the 26th day of March. We packed up and went by steamer on the Mississippi to Donelsonville where we stopped for five days.

Left there March 21st. Slept in the open field without putting up tents. The second night we camped at Napoleonville, the third at Tipita. From that place, two of our company deserted and were brought back a couple of days later. After stopping there two days, we went by rail to Brasher City about eighty miles west of New Orleans.

April 12th we went on a steamer. Went through Grand Lake. Landed at a big woods, where several gun boats immediately commenced to throw shells. We had a small engagement there as the rebels soon retreated. They rallied again, and the next morning we fought quite a battle at a place called Irish Bent. I do not attempt to give figures of dead, wounded and prisoners because the history of the war does that more accurate than I would be able to. All I know is that afternoon I helped to bury thirty-seven from our own regiment.

At seven o’clock next morning we started to hunt up the rebels who had been scattered in all directions. All along our march we had skirmishing with them but it came to no general engagement.

On this March, I got sick from drinking swampy water. During this time, I neglected to carry on my diary so I cannot describe how and when we got near Port Hudson. I have not been in a general engagement at that place, but we lost many a poor fellow who stuck up his head at the wrong time. Some Johnny on the look-out popped him over.

Our breast works there was constructed
mostly of bales of cotton.

At various times the rebels set them afire
and we suffered considerable
from heat and smoke to extinguish the fire.

Breast works

On the 9th of July 1863 General Pemperton, Commander of Port Hudson, was compelled to surrender to General Banks. From there we went down the Mississippi with him a few miles of New Orleans. In Camp Seymour we had quite easy times. Got eight months pay and the camp guard wasn’t very strict. A good many of the regiment took a french leave and went to New Orleans to get rid of their cash. A number of them forgot to come back. When their cash was gone, they enlisted in other regiments. Some of them were brought back, others we never heard of again. From this camp, our lieutenant, Colonel and several sergeants went to New York to get some new recruits. The regiment by this time was reduced to between five and six hundred.

In Camp Seymour, we layed pretty quiet until the 29th of August 1863. We packed our traps and marched to the Mississippi, went by steamer to Algiers across from New Orleans. From there we went 60 miles by rail, near Tipita. The next day, August 30th, we put our small tents up. Our Brigade at that time consisted of the 90th, 91st, 131st, 159th New York and 13th Connecticut regiments. On the 2nd day of September, we went from there by rail to Brasher City. The 3rd, I and 15 others from our company were sent on picket, where we were overtaken by a fearful thunder shower.

The 6th, our Company was put in the city as provost guard. Here the majority of our company got sick with fever and ague. Out of 24 days, I was 21 on guard. Me and a few others had to do all the guard duty in order to not have our company relieved from provost guard. Several trips I had to make in the country to search nigger quarters for arms. On the 19th, I was sent 2 miles east on a plantation as safe guard where I had great difficulty to keep the second Illinois Cavalry out of the orange orchard. The 21st I had difficulty with a Lieutenant Vickels, regiment I forgot. He came with six men and two big teams to get corn. I demanded an order from the provost marshall, which he did not have. He took the corn by force. I followed him to the camp, reported him to the Commander of the Post and he had to bring the corn back again.

Up to the 20th of October nothing extra occurred. On that day I went to New Orleans on a pass, sent home $80.00, got a watch in Carroltown which a comrade had pawned there while we layed in Camp Seymour. 21st, back to Brasher City. 22nd, went to New Orleans with 15 rebel prisoners. 23rd, back to Brasher City. In the morning a comrade of our company named Hubert dies without previous sickness.

The 24th, me and three others from our company were sent across Bervicks Bay to a little place called Bervicks City on telegraph guard. There we had a splendid chance to make money. We had strict orders not to allow any boats on the west side of the bay, capture all of them and bring them over on the other side. Anyone wanting to get across had to pay us from $2.00 to $5.00 during our stay there.


So we had easy and hard times. By clear nice weather we passed our time off by catching fish, the Bay was alive with them, all varieties. But in stormy weather we sometimes had to go out in the dead of night as far as 15 miles and ascertain where the wire was broke and repair the same. We had one pony, which I caught wild and trained.

During our stay an incident occurred which I think was mentionable. One night the fellow left out on Post went in the shanty and went to sleep. Some smarty stole our boat. For three days we hunted up and down the Bay without success. Then me and a Comrade named Cook got a good sized log into the Bay. Each took a piece of board, straddled the log, and paddled across the Bay. To our great joy, we found our boat fastened among a lot of others. We cut the chain, got into the boat, and went back to our Post as fast as we could pull.

December the 18th, taken from telegraph guard, put in Mrs. America Steavens house on safe guard. They were genuine sesesh. Mr. Steavens had left just before the Yanks had arrived. He went to Texas with 50 negroes to sell them. I never saw him. His wife was compelled to take the oath because the only choice she had was to either starve or buy eatables from the commissary, and them they could only get by taking the oath of allegiance and get an order from the quarter master for what they wanted.

In this place I had excellent times. In the morning I used to get up, eat a splendid breakfast, and then set the loaded rifle with bayonet on the porch, and there the same stood all day. Most of my time I sat there in an easy chair reading. The family consisted of the old woman, two girls 20 and 22 years, and an old couple of negroes, who would not leave the family when Mr. Steavens took the rest to Texas. There was two saddle horses and one, the old family buggy horse. Once in a while the girls coaxed me to take a ride with them, which I done when I was in a good humor.

For a past time I took down an old smoke house, and piled the brick up nicely. One fine evening a colored soldier, a great big strapping fellow, came along and picked up an armful of those bricks. I hollered at him from the porch to drop the bricks but I guess he thought I was too small to pay any attention to me. I hollered at him three times. As he didn’t mind me, I grabbed my gun and ran after him. He ran a ways with his brick and when he saw that I was gaining on him, he dropped the brick. Just as he was trying to jump a ditch. I gave him a little push on his backside with the bayonet. He jumped a few feet in the air, such an unearthly yell as he gave I never heard in my life. I forgot to state that there was two regiments of colored soldiers camping on the Bervicks City side.

Soon afterwards the captain and two colored soldiers came up to arrest me. I grabbed my rifle, cocked it and told the captain not to dare to enter the premises, that I would shoot the first man who would attempt to enter. He came to a stop, said he would arrest me if it took his whole camp to do it. I said you can’t do it with your whole regiment. Further I told him that up to that time I allowed the nigger drivers (white officers in a colored regiment) to come and spark the girls, that I would dare any of them to come on the premises again. The Captain with his guard marched off, and that was the end of the arresting business. The next day I was called over to the provost marshall. He told me the Colonel from the negro regiment had reported me. I stated the facts. He said you done right, keep them out of the house if you don’t like them. And you bet I did.

During my stay at Mrs. Steavens, the youngest girl begged me to take a ride with her to her Uncle, Dr. Patterson, who lived 9 miles outside of the picket line at Pattersonville. This ride nearly cost me my life. Towards evening when I talked to her about going home, the girl had made up her mind to stay over night. They tried to induce me to stay too, but as I knew the country was alive with guerrillas nothing could keep me from going back so I started alone. I wasn’t more than half a mile from Pattersonville when 10 or 12 men on horse back came from the woods. As soon as they got near enough, they yelled for me to half, but I dug the spurs right into the pony and let him fly. The next minute, the balls were hissing past on each side of me. Then there was a chase for life and death, but as I had the best pony I gained a victory. I then concluded not to take another ride outside of the picket line.

The next day when the girl came home I told her to get ready, that I would have to take her over to the provost marshall, that I had been guarding rebels long enough. On their knees the three of them begging me that I shouldn’t do it, and really the girl convinced me that she was ignorant of a trap having been layed for me at Pattersonville.

In Mrs. Steavens house on guard until the 21st day of February 1864. Went back to Brasher City on provost guard. February 25th, detailed safe guard to Mrs. Robbins near Pattersonville. Her husband was in the Confederate army. The 4th day of March I brought a rebel spy to Brasher City, as there was too much rebel talking and strange visiting going on at Mrs. Robbins. On the 14th day of March I went to the provost marshall, reported the fact that I was afraid some fine night the guerrillas would take me along. He told me to stay with the provost guard in Brasher City, Mrs. Robbins should not have safe guard any longer.

During my stay on provost guard I was the jack all around. For any extra job I was picked out. I was sent at various times to search Negro quarters for arms. Sometimes I had a boat load of old muskets, rifles, horse pistols, and revolvers. One time I was sent after a deserter from our Company. I captured him 9 miles from Brasher City on a Frenchman’s plantation, a countryman of his. Whenever the provost marshall’s wife and her sister wanted a boat ride I had to paddle them around on the Bay until they were tired.


April 18th I was sent with the artillery deserter to a Fort three miles from Brasher City. When I had him about half way there he turned around and drew a revolver on me. With the bayonet on my gun, I knocked the revolver in the air, where it was discharged, then I run the bayonet into him. I left him lay on the road and went back to Brasher City, gave the provost Marshall Hell for sending me off with a prisoner who hadn’t even been searched for arms.

At different times I went out on gun boats to shell the neighboring woods. The 5th of May out on a scouting expedition, but did not see any rebels. The 10th of May I was sent to New Orleans with a single prisoner. I think he was a spy. On the 21st 10 men from the 11th Wisconsin joined us on provost guard. On the 28th I arrested a woman as a spy. She had been hanging around for about a week. I did not learn what had been done to her.

On the 19th day of June we packed our traps and went by rail to Algiers. As I was the provost marshal’s pet, he tried everything to keep me there. He went to our Colonel W. W. Day who was Commander at the Post at Brigadier, but there was no go. He told him such a little dutchman I cannot spare, you must try and get along with those colored soldiers. A regiment then had relieved us.

July 21st, left Algiers. 22nd, Donnelsonville. 23rd, Port Hudson. In the afternoon, landed in Morgansa. We layed there until the 3rd of July, during which time we were relieved by General Emery. Three o’clock at night, we went back to Algiers, where we stayed until the 17th. At 12 o’clock at night we went on the steamer Cahobba which brought us to Fortress Monroe. July 25th on the James river. Landed someplace near the river where we stayed until the 31st of July. Went on the steamer again, landed at Washington August 1st, 1864.

Abraham Lincoln August 2nd we marched through Washington past the White House presenting arms, President Lincoln standing on the verandah, hat in hand.

Then went to Camp near Georgetown where we stopped until the 8th. We went to camp near Fennellytown. Left August 14th at 3 o’clock in the morning, camped near Broadbayou. 16th, camped near Leesburgh. 17th, near Berryville. 18th, camped in a woods. 21st, build breastworks and left the same day. 22nd, built breastworks and had a small engagement with the rebels, name of place I did not learn. 23rd, skirmish with the Jonnies. 26th, built breastworks. From the 24th, every morning under arms from 3 o’clock until 8 or 9 when we started on the march.

The 1st of September, my brother got killed in front of Petersburgh. He was in the 9th N.Y. Heavy artillery. Sent $20.00 to Cold Springs to his wife to assist her in getting his body home, which was never done.

September 3rd, started on the march at 3 at night. 4th, built breastworks all night. Tools consisting of bayonets and our hands. Had an engagement during the day. 5th and 6th in camp. September 7th, 25 of our company went out scouting, only 20 returned. Coming in camp, I had to go on picket without a bite to eat.

Layed pretty quiet until the 18th. 3 o’clock at night we marched off, stopped in a woods near Winchester, where we fought a heavy battle on the 19th. The rebels had their breastworks in a little grove about 500 yards from where we stopped. Three times we tried to drive them out from behind their breastworks and was badly repulsed each time. As soon as we got half ways, they rose up, and gave us a good volley which thinned our ranks terribly. Then with a yell they jumped over their breastworks and with charged bayonets they drove us back in our woods, then they returned behind their breastworks again. In the first charge, our brigade, the 1st in the 1st division, 19th Cor., came very near having a complete breakup. They soon rallied again, and served the same as the first. In this charge, a shell was thrown sideways into Company D next to ours, and the only Dutch boy, the regiment, which bursted and knocked 15 flat. Our Company K carried the colors for over 2 years.

flag In the 3rd charge, 6 or 7 men belonging to the color guard had been killed. The last one remaining would have run off and left the colors to the rebels only for me. I was the next man to him. I told him, "If you don’t take those colors, I’ll run the bayonet right through you." He saw that I was in earnest, so he brought away his rifle and brought the colors back into the woods. The poor fellow got killed afterwards, and we rallied once more by this time.

Sheridan had his cavalry behind the rebels when he was attacked from the rear and the front at the same time. They had to give up. The most of them were taken prisoners. In this battle, I got slightly wounded in the shin bone of the left leg, but did not go to the hospital.

September 20th, we had a small engagement near Stapburg, another one near Edinburgh on the 22nd. From then we drove the rebels through New Market up to Harrisburgh. Up to the 27th we had fighting and skirmishing most every day. On that day, the rebels captured our supply trap along with 200 prisoners and the guard of the train. We did not have a bite to eat until the 1st of October. I was sent on picket. I was so weak I was hardly able to walk. While we were on picket, a new supply train came in. The most of them overate and got sick.

October 6th, 1864, we marched back on the Shanado valley. To New Market, on the 7th. To Woodstock, the 8th. Then we layed pretty quiet until the 19th of October. On our march back through the valley we burned up every hay and straw stack and several little towns were completely burned up. On this trip I got slightly wounded again, at a place called Fishers Hill, in the same leg, within about an inch of the one I got at Winchester, but did not go to the hospital.

October 18th, 1864, our Brigade got orders to be ready by 3 o’clock the next morning to go out reconnoitering up to the 17th. The rebel camps made a move and we did not know what they were up to. Therefore the order about 3:30 on the 19th. While our brigade stood in line, we heard firing to our left where the 8th corps were in camp. Soon after the balls came whizzing through our camp and our beautiful breastworks didn’t do us much good, because the rebels soon were in our camp from the rear. Drove us over the breastworks so that we were on the wrong side and they had the benefit of our breastworks. From that time until about 12 o’clock at noon, we retreated seven times but always in good order.

In the morning we had to wade through a muddy creek up to our breasts. The water was so thick it wouldn’t run and there was the danger for a fellow to get stuck. Up to noon when I got my finishing touch, I fired about 75 rounds and I am positive that some of them left a mark. A shell struck in a pile of old fence rails which we had put up in front of us, busted, and the pieces flying right into our company. Out of seven that got struck, I am the only survivor, and I was in a pretty bad fix. My right hand was cut in two, the ring and little finger was gone, and the middle finger crippled up, black and blue, and swelled up the size of two. Besides this, I got a bump on my forehead which closed my right eye.

A surgeon from Company B took me off the battlefield, but I soon made him return to the regiment. I tramped along and found the ambulance wagons, where some doctor tied my arm and my wrist, trying to stop my hand from bleeding, but all tying did not have any effect. We then tied a lot of old rags around it and he told me to move on east. I did and on my tramping along, I give three cheers to General Sheridan, who was then on his way to the great victory he gained over the same rebels who drove us seven times in the forenoon. The only thing I was sorry for was that I could not be along with the boys any more.

On that tramp the worst thing happened to me I have seen through all of my army life. A fellow from the sixth Corp. came along with ten or twelve canteens of water. I begged him for pity sake to give me a drink. All he said was "go to Hell you Son of a B" and walked on.


I had no pain in my wound whatsoever, all was numb and no feeling. I tramped until I was exhausted from the loss of blood, and then layed down along the side of the road and fainted away.

Towards evening a fellow aroused me, carried me in his ambulance, and brought me to Newtown where they had turned a church into a hospital. As I could not stand the smell in that church, I only stopped there until the night of the 21st when I started off on a tramp.


Towards morning, I arrived at Martinsburgh, where I rapped at a door with my elbow, my both hands being unfit to do anything. A lady admitted me, and after stating my situation she told me that she favored the Southern cause. All the same, she fed me as tenderly as she could have her own baby. Then she fixed me a bed behind the stove where I had a sound sleep until late that afternoon. After having eaten another meal, I went to the depot and went to Baltimore where I stayed overnight in a Volunteer hospital.

From walking in the cold that night in Newtown to Martinsburgh, my hands stopped bleeding. In the hospital in Baltimore a lady with a sponge and warm water soaked the rag from my hand, the doctor had wrapped it around on the battle field. The next morning I had to leave that hospital because I did not have anything in writing from a doctor.

Went to Philadelphia, stopped one night there. Went five miles from the city to McClellan U.S.G. hospital in Ward C, bed 56. My wounds were all healed up by the 8th of January 1865, but as I insisted not to join the Veteran Reserve Corp, the head doctor kept me in the hospital until June 25th, when for spite he would not give me my discharge, but shipped me to New York where I had enlisted.

From there I went by steamer to Davids Island decamp USG Hospital. On arriving there I went straight to the head Dr. Davis and stated my case to him. He asked me if I could do cooking. I told him I could do as much as the majority of the soldiers. He promised me he would soon have my discharge for me, and July 22nd I got my discharge from the U.S.A.

The first thing I did when I was paid off in New York City was to buy a revolver to hunt up that countryman of mine who sold me into the army. After a week’s useless searching, I learned that he had left the country because he was afraid for his life. I suppose I was not the only one he sold. I would have shot that man at any time, even if I met him on Broadway in daylight.

Made a visit of a few days in Cold Springs, and on July 31st I left New York and came to Chicago where my mother and the rest of my family resided. That ended my soldier’s career.

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last updated 11/24/2008