Monday, September 25, 2023

A Good and Brave Soldier: Jacob Goetz, 15th Kentucky Infantry

Standing 5 feet, 8 inches tall, this new Civil War soldier featured a light complexion, gray eyes, and dark-colored hair. He worked as a steamboat man, and had been born in Baden, Germany. Newport, Kentucky was his current post office address. 

 This recruit was Jacob Goetz (sometimes spelled “Getz” as on his headstone), who was born in approximately 1820.


Before immigrating, he had married Mary Seabert (or “Seibert”) in January of 1843 in Baden. The couple produced three sons and two daughters during their time together.


After coming to the United States and witnessing the start of the Civil War, Jacob enlisted as a corporal in company I of the 15th Kentucky Infantry at Camp Webster in Jamestown (now Dayton), Kentucky for a three-year term. He joined the unit on October 14, 1861, enlisted by George P. Webster, a local attorney who was raising a company. Jacob was mustered in on December 14 at New Haven, Kentucky. He was about 42 years old at this time in late 1861 though other paperwork shows different ages.*


The 15th Kentucky, which mostly formed around New Haven, Kentucky, also included a few other men who, like Jacob, had joined at Camp Webster. It became a tough and reliable regiment in the Western Theater of the Civil War. It saw fierce combat near the Bottom House at Perryville, the largest fight of the war in its home state, and also fought at Stones River before marching in the Union’s successful Tullahoma Campaign, which maneuvered the Confederates out of central Tennessee with amazingly little bloodshed by the standards of this war. 


The 15th was then part of the biggest battle in the theater, at Chickamauga, in northern Georgia, on September 19 and 20, 1863. Only the three-day fight at Gettysburg caused more casualties than did this contest, two months after which the men of the 15thKentucky joined in the battles for Chattanooga.


In the new year of 1864, the biggest action in this region of the war was the Atlanta Campaign, and the 15th Kentucky fought in multiple battles during the fight to control that important city. It mustered out of the war in January of 1865 in Louisville.1


Starting in June of 1862, Jacob spent much of his service time on duty as a regimental teamster, at least until August 151863when he was sick in a hospital at Cowan, Tennessee.


He remained in the facility until November 12, then helped guard Confederate prisoners being sent to Bridgeport, Alabama. 


At the end of 1863, Jacob was again with the unit and remained on duty at the start of the following year but soon became


sick during the month of May 1864 while on the March from Chattanooga Tenn. to Atlanta, Georgia, his disease was Typhoid Fever, he was unfit for travel and had to be sent to Hospital at Chattanooga where he died.


Surgeon Edward Dunn continued his statement in Mary Goetz’ pension application.

“I was at the time surgeon of the Regt., and it was by my order that he was sent to the rear.”


“He was a good and brave soldier and fought gallantly at Resaca” 

On June 5, Jacob passed away in U.S. Army General Hospital No. 2 in Chattanooga. 


Diseases killed more men than did bullets during the war. For Jacob, and many others, the scourge of typhoid fever was the killer. Poor drinking water was the source of this plague as “water near camps and battlefields in the early part of the war contained a bacillus that produced an acute, infectious disease that could be fatal.” This was typhoid fever, which “was among the first diseases to appear in army camps.”


 It spread quickly. “By the summer of 1861, it had attained epidemic proportions.” Its symptoms included “high fever, diarrhea, uncontrollable nausea, dehydration, and violent spasms,” and it was commonly known by several other names, including “camp fever”, “continued fever”, and “break bone fever,” among others. 


Treatment for the disease was not effective early in the war, often relying simply on “what the surgeon had at hand,” as the cause of the disease was still a mystery to military doctors. Treatment did somewhat improve as time passed due to better hygiene, “camp conduct,” and knowledge of the disease and its causes. 

The improved effectiveness in fighting typhoid did not help Jacob, and still “a fourth of all deaths from disease in the armies of North and South came from typhoid fever.”2    

Jacob was buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery.


His widow Mary received a pension of $8 per month, plus an additional $2 monthly for each child under age 16. 


*Most records show him to be around 42-44 years old early in the war years, but his page, memorial i.d. 2980931, as accessed on April 9, 2023, shows his birth year as 1830.



1, Accessed April 9, 2023

2, Accessed April 12, 2023

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