Herman Kabisius Survives Gettysburg – The Ohio River Takes; The Story

Herman Kabisius was born November 15, 1816 in Central Germany, in a state now known as Thuringia. He was the fourth child of August and Wilhelmine (Schnepp). As a teenager he served an apprenticeship in a bookbinder and purse maker workshop. In 1843 he opened his own business and also married Karoline Frenzel. Within a few years they had five children together.

Sometime after 1843 Herman’s bookbinder instructor emigrated to America. This may have played a part in his future as we’ll see.

As his family grew hard times began to fall upon Herman. By 1851 gains in business were no longer able to sustain the family and tensions grew between Herman and Karoline. Herman soon attracted attention by drinking, harassing other clients, and leaving without paying. The picture painted here is not pretty, but on the other hand Herman would have thought at length about his former instructor’s success. Considering himself equally qualified to be successful he eventually could see no option then to emigrate to America and start anew.

In 1852 Herman boarded ship, possibly from Hamburg, for the trip across the Atlantic. Karoline and their now four living children did not accompany him, but he made promises to send money for their passage. Those were promises he never kept.

In America Herman supposedly lived in South Carolina, possibly Charleston, and Baltimore, Maryland. Did he work in his trained occupation? That is unknown. Until 1861 the story of Herman Kabisius’s life, some described here, is mostly a story held and passed on by his family’s descendants. The primary source and also co-author for this writing is a lovely lady, Ute (oo-tay) Gruenewald, who lives in Spain. She is descended from Herman. As far as records in America, Herman’s story begins in August, 1861.

The 68th New York Infantry roster – Kabisius, Herman – Age 35 years. Enlisted, August 8, 1861, at New York City, to serve three years; mustered in a private, Co. E, August 10, 1861; discharged, August 22, 1864 at Nashville, Tenn. Herman was, in truth, forty-five years old when he volunteered.

The 68th, otherwise known as the 2nd German Rifles, was composed of members from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. During their three years the 68th served in the Virginia campaign, fought at Chancellorsville, and at Gettysburg fought in the defense of Cemetery Hill. After Gettysburg they moved west to Tennessee and among other duties patrolled to protect the Nashville to Chattanooga Railroad.

In November of 1864 the 68th N.Y. was ordered to Savannah, Georgia. By that time Herman’s three years had been served and he was discharged in August. Apparently he decided to join the continuing fight, first with the 174th Ohio. On October 2nd he signed up to serve with them.

The 174th Ohio Infantry – This regiment was organized at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio from Aug. 18 to Sept. 21, 1864, to serve for one year. It was ordered to Nashville, Tenn., and to report to Gen. W. T. Sherman. It reached Nashville on Sept. 26. and was immediately ordered to proceed to Murfreesboro, where it remained until Oct. 27.

Based on the above information regarding Herman’s discharge and signing up with the 174th he stayed in Nashville after mustering out of the N.Y. 68th. He signed up with the 174th there shortly after they arrived. He may have even proceeded to Murfreesboro with them.

Two events now intersected with Herman’s life. General John Bell Hood’s army was on the march north after the Confederate’s losses at Atlanta. Hood’s grand plan was to recapture Nashville, move on to Cincinnati, and finally east to join General Lee. In Cincinnati, at Camp Dennison, a new regiment was being organized, filled, and trained. It was to be called the 183rd Ohio Infantry. Desperate to complete the regiment’s companies men were transferred from other regiments locally, in Columbus, and obviously elsewhere. Herman Kabisius was transferred from the 174th, first traveling north to Cincinnati by ship, then by rail to the 183rd Ohio at Camp Dennison. He arrived to join them on October 24th.

If Herman were to write home, or to a friend, he might say “I have arrived at Camp Dennison just to the north side of Cincinnati. The days are long and boring with much marching to and fro and learning to use our rifles, which I already know well. The food is good and they treat us well. New recruits come every day, many of them are Germans from Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. Fact is some just arrived from the old country.” The large German contingent that made up the 183rd may have been comforting to him.

On November 19, 1864, the 183rd Ohio boarded a steamer at Cincinnati which was headed for Louisville. From there the regiment would then travel by rail to Nashville. The 183rd Roster reads; Kabisius, Herman, age 40 “drowned November 19, 1864 in the Ohio River, by falling overboard from steamer Prima Donna.”

Herman had just turned 48 years old when he disappeared into the murky waters of the Ohio.

SteamboatCivil War era Steamer