Many of the men who fought in the Civil War saw their lives cut short, whether by bullet or disease, during those four long, blood-filled years, but among those who survived, some lived extremely long post-war lives.
One man who lived much longer than expected was Herman Grentzenberg.
He was born in Danzig, Prussia on October 18, 1836 and arrived in the United States about 1860. He was working as a barber in Dayton, Ohio in that year.
One year later, he was in St. Louis, Missouri, part of a maturing nation that was about to face its toughest challenge, which started on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired on United States troops in Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, igniting the Civil War.
Grentzenberg supported the national government in his new homeland, joining what became the 12th Missouri Infantry (U.S.A.). In this regiment, he originally was a 2nd Lieutenant in company A before promotions to 1st Lieutenant and, in September 1863, to captain of company B. He also had previously been in unofficial command of companies C and D of the regiment, even though he was on furlough for illness for much of the spring of 1862, after the fight at Pea Ridge.
The 12th Missouri remained in the Western Theater of the war, starting in the Missouri and Arkansas area, including the Union victory at Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 7 and 8, 1862.
These men also took part of the Union thrusts that eventually captured Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863.
According to Herman’s obituary, “it was during the second onslaught on the heights of Vicksburg, under General Grant, that… (he) became inspired to be a minister, and after serving three years in the war, did so.”1
During the rest of the war, he fell ill again, as diarrhea and an intermittent fever forced him to go on furlough away from the army in September and October of 1863, just after his rise to captaincy.
He was apparently back with the unit by the time they fought in the battles around Chattanooga in late November of that year.
A few months later, the 12th Missouri took part in the Atlanta Campaign led by William T. Sherman. On May 28, 1864, Grentzenberg became a casualty of war near Dallas, Georgia, suffering a “slight” wound in his left foot, apparently so slight that it did not cause him to miss any more time.
He mustered out of the army in November of 1864, and proceeded with civilian life. In 1874, he married Margaret Von Tschudi (possibly Tschudy), with whom he had three daughters and three sons.
He also answered the religious call he had received, pursuing a career as a minister at churches in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and other midwestern cities.2
In Cincinnati, his church was the Third German Methodist Church; he also worked as an assistant editor of a German Methodist newspaper called The Apologist.3 Some of his editing work occurred in the early 1890s, when he lived in Newport.
In an interesting bit of trivia, Herman “and the late James N. Gamble were the two oldest representatives attending the dedication ceremonies of the opening of the Western Hills viaduct two years ago.”4
That James Gamble was the son of one of the founders of consumer goods corporate giant Proctor and Gamble, and was also the chemist who created what became known as Ivory soap.5
His work as a minister continued until his retirement in 1910, after which he was a member of the Auburn Avenue Methodist Church.6
He was also a member of the George H. Thomas post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a post-war fraternal organization of Union veterans.7 The GAR also became involved in politics, earning itself the nickname “Grand Army of the Republicans.”
His post-war life was much longer than his antebellum years, lasting until his death on May 8, 1934. His six children survived him, and like so many of his comrades, he was buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery.
Herman Grentzenberg lived an extremely long life, in two countries, on two continents, and survived the deadly battlefields of the American Civil War. Living until age 98, he was, perhaps, the longest-living former Civil War soldier associated with Campbell County.
1Cincinnati Enquirer May 9, 1934
5https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/2036/james-norris-gamble, Accessed October 9, 2022
6Cincinnati Enquirer May 9, 1934