Mark Carlson didn’t know much about his great-great grandfather until he saw a plaque in McPherson’s Memorial Park listing his name among Civil War soldiers who lived in Roxbury area of McPherson County following the war.
Carlson graduated from Bethany College in 1973. He now lives in Sacramento, Calif., but his mother still lives in the McPherson area.
Carlson’s great-great grandfather, August Bartz, as well as relatives Edwin Bartz and John Bartz (It is unclear if the three were brothers or cousins) fought together in the 8th Regiment Wisconsin Infantry. The three were immigrants to the United States from Germany.
Carlson found research that indicated a particularly zealous Wisconsin newspaper writer and abolitionist, who may have had connections to John Brown in Kansas, was writing articles calling anyone who did not enlist for the Union army a traitor.
“I wondered if they might have read those articles and if that in any way motivated them to join up,” Carlson said.
The regiment was known as The Eagle Brigade as they had a live eagle as a mascot that was carried on a perch to the left of the colors. The unit was attached to Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Mower’s 2nd Brigade of Brig. Gen. James Tuttle’s 3rd division, Maj. General William T and Fredrick Steele’s XV Army Corps and commanded by Col. George W. Robbins.
John Bartz died in 1862. At Vicksburg, Edwin and August served under General Ulysses S. Grant and alongside General James B. McPherson. McPherson and McPherson County are named for the general. Settlers in McPherson named the city for the Union soldier after he was killed in action at the Battle of Atlanta. He was the second highest ranking officer to be killed during the war.
Carlson was inspired by his research to travel to Vicksburg this Fourth of July for the sesquicentennial of the surrender of confederate forces at Vicksburg.
There he met other Kansans who wished to honor the soldiers who fought and died at the site. Carlson also met and took photographs of a number of the re-enactors who played the parts of key figures in the surrender on July 4, 1863.
Among those was the man who portrayed General McPherson.
Carlson said the re-enactors graciously posed for pictures with the many tourists, but remained stoics and reflective of the grave nature of the event they were portraying.
More than 19,000 people were killed wounded or missing as a result of fighting at Vicksburg, according to the Vicksburg National Military Park.
According to records, the Bartzes units were involved in fighting at Vicksburg on May 19 and 22, 1963.
By all accounts, these were bloody battles. At one point, Sherman who was fighting with the Bartzes was quoted as saying “This is murder.”
Page 2 of 2 - He urged the Union commanders to fall back, and a siege ensued.
The union forces plagued the key southern shipping city with sniper and cannon fire.
General grant also reportedly had dead animals dumped into the river to poison the city’s drinking water. Diaries from the time period, described poor conditions for the soldiers during siege, especially for the Confederate soldiers. One account indicated of the 30,000 Confederate soldiers at Vicksburg, 10,000 of them were incapacitated due to dysentery and other illnesses.
Carlson described his visit to Vicksburg as a pilgrimage.
“I would say it was a very emotionally and intense experience,” he said. “I saw it as holy ground. I tried to imagine the engagement and the suffering, the courage and fear they might have experienced. There certainly was suffering in Vicksburg.”