Saturday, February 4, 2023

Sergeant Philip Gantzschier, 12th Indiana Infantry

 Here is one of the stories I've found while searching for Civil War veterans from Campbell County. I have occasionally shared a few here and might try to do that a little bit more often, as there are many interesting stories. This one is fairly short and basic, though with a sad ending.

Like for many Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, immigration was vital in the life of Philip Gantzschier.

He was born on May 19, 1836, in the Hoosier State of Indiana, but was a son of parents from Baden, Germany, and his spouse, Mary Ann Meyer, was from Prussia.  

When the Civil War broke out, he joined company C of the 12th Indiana Infantry Regiment, a one-year unit in which he served as a sergeant from May 9, 1861 until May 19, 1862.

The one-year itineration of the 12th Indiana Regiment had organized in Indianapolis and, after being transferred from state service to U.S. service, spent time in the eastern theater of the war through Maryland, Virginia, and the area that became West Virginia, before marching to Washington D.C., where they mustered out of the service in May 1862 as their term expired.                                           

Philip eventually made his way to Campbell County, Kentucky, living in Bellevue in 1872. He worked as a carpenter and helped his wife raise one daughter, Estella, though they also had a son, Willie, who died at just seven months of age.

Estella, unfortunately, only lived until 1892, when she died at age 23, and more sadness arrived when Philip’s wife Mary Ann passed away in 1897.

He later remarried to a woman named Mathilda, but she too passed away before Philip, in 1907.

On March 26, 1910, Philip entered the Dayton, Ohio branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. At the time, he stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and gray hair. He held Protestant religious views and was able to read and write. His occupation was still that of a carpenter, and his nearest family was a nephew in Indianapolis. He was receiving a military pension of $17 per month.

National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Dayton, OH

Almost exactly a year later, on March 25, 1911, while on furlough from the soldier’s home, Philip was admitted to Speers Hospital in Dayton, Kentucky, suffering from heart trouble. This was not unusual, as the Kentucky Post reported “he had been a frequent patient at the hospital and was assigned to the room he was always given.”1

Speers Hospital, Dayton, KY

On the 28th, his attending physician, Dr. Sherwood Garrison2 visited Philip, who made a comment that perhaps should have received more attention: "Doctor, I wish I had something to put me out of this misery."

The doctor did not recognize the foreshadowing and simply replied "Why you are better, aren't you?" to which the patient responded "Yes, I am. Thanks, Doc."

About 6:00 that evening, a nurse brought Philip his supper, then left to return to other duties. When she returned a few minutes later, “the aged man was lying there with the bottle clasped in his hand. It had been concealed in the pocket of his overcoat.”3

The bottle had contained carbolic acid, “a very poisonous substance made from tar and also found in some plants and essential oils…Carbolic acid is used to make plastics, nylon, epoxy, medicines, and to kill germs.”4

The hospital notified his doctor who contacted the county coroner to confirm the cause of death, which the death certificate noted as “carbolic acid poisoning, suicidal intent,” and that the poison was “self-administered.” Contributing factors were melancholy due to old age, disease of heart and hemorrhoids.

The newspaper mentioned that the coroner believed concern about his condition was the source of Philip’s melancholy, but loneliness may have also added to it.

His ability to bring poison into the hospital seems, at best, unusual in the current day, but times were different as the Post noted “none of the private patients are ever searched and the hospital authorities had no suspicion that Gantschier (sic) had a bottle” of that chemical in his jacket. The story claimed that he had died “with a smile on his lips” and the bottle “clasped in his hands.”

Philip was described as “well known” to the people of Bellevue, where he had been a member of the Granville Moody Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.5

He was buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery, alongside his family, who all share the same headstone, including Philip, his two wives, and the two children.

Photo from memorial # 78935949

Photo from memorial # 78935948

1Kentucky Post, March 29, 1911
2, Accessed November 11, 2022
3Kentucky Post, March 29, 1911
4, Accessed November 11, 2022
5Kentucky Post, March 29, 1911

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