Luther Alexander Gotwald - Civil War

Civil War

Dr. Gotwald was a stanch Lincoln Republican and, during the American Civil War, he was a strong Union man. He did all he could to further the interests of the Union cause. To illustrate Rev. Gotwald's feeling toward slavery, his autobiography reports this incident from his youth:

Among the reminiscences of that very early portion of my life is one that made a deep and terrible impression upon me, and which, later in my life, I came to understand far better than I did then. I refer to the kidnapping of a poor black man who had escaped from slavery somewhere in the South, and who was fleeing north and in search of freedom. If my memory serves me rightly, it occurred on a Sunday afternoon, and the only thing I distinctly recollect was my sitting on our front porch sobbing and crying with breaking heart over the hellish outrage and wrong of the act, and, child as I was, I remember that I felt that it was inexpressibly mean and cowardly in us all to see that poor black man helpless in the hands of his brutal captors and run back again into the terrible life of slavery without putting forth a single effort to assist and deliver him. My blood even now boils with indignation over the wrongs inflicted in the past by this hell born demon of slavery, and, more indignant yet I become when I recall the base and truculent spirit of the South which coldly, for the mere sake of peace and mercenary gain allowed and connived at it all! But God has avenged the wrongs of the oppressed. Slavery in our land is among the things that are past. And for their sin in connection with this great evil both the North and South have been baptized with a very baptism of blood, and the whole land has been scourged with the besom of destruction! Thank God that Slavery has gone down, even though it did go down, and could perhaps only go down, in blood and war and fire and the very death throes of the nation! —

Lutheran minister Reverend Abraham Essick writes in his diary that he bumped into Rev. Gotwald on May 8, 1861 at the train depot in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (right after the April 13, 1861 fall of Fort Sumter), who was taking his family to Springfield, Ohio to leave them there (without doubt at the King Homestead, with his mother in law, Almena Caldwell King), while he joined the Union Army to serve as a chaplain or even a private. Rev. Gotwald did not so serve, probably for health reasons. While apparently not formally enlisted in the Union Army, he did serve as the chaplain for a group of Shippensburg soldiers who were getting ready to go off to war. This ended in March 1863, when he assumed a parish in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. There were many Confederate sympathizers in Lebanon. So, Rev. Gotwald's unwavering support of the Union cause was not popular with all his parishioners. When the Confederate Army invaded the North in June 1863, he was forced to move his family to safety with his mother, who lived in Aaronsburg, Pennsylvania.

Luther's brother, Dr. Jacob H. Gotwald, was the chief surgeon on board the ship Keystone State under the command of Rear-Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont in the fight at Charleston, South Carolina. His ship was participating in the blockade of Charleston Harbor, when, on January 31, 1863, a Confederate shell hit the ship's boiler causing it to explode and kill several of its crew. Dr. Jacob H. Gotwald was scalded to death while rendering surgical aid to one of the wounded men.

He was found still clutching the bandage. Tragically, this death occurred on Luther Gotwald's thirtieth birthday.

Luther's younger brother, Washington Van Buren Gotwald, was a theological student at the Gettysburg Seminary at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg and actually got caught up in the prelude to the battle.

The residents of Gettysburg needed no official notification to inform them of the proximity of the opposing army. In the large clearings dotting the eastern slope of South Mountain, the camp fires of Southern troops were clearly visible. There were also constant rumors of Rebel foraging parties roaming the surrounding countryside.

Therefore, it was with much trepidation that Martin Luther Culler and Washington Van Buren Gotwald accepted a request by the pastor of the Emmitsburg charge for two Gettysburg Seminary students to fill the pulpit at Fairfield, Pennsylvania, for the morning and evening services scheduled for Sunday, June 28th. The village of Fairfield was located near a gap in South Mountain only ten miles south of Cashtown. During the journey it was decided that Gotwald would preach in the morning, since he was senior to Culler in both age and years of study at the seminary.

Near the close of the morning service, a contingent of Confederates dashed into the village, greatly frightening the citizens, who did not hang around for the benediction. The curiosity of the students was greatly aroused, however, and in the early afternoon they walked toward the Rebel camp on the outskirts of the town for a closer look. From a respectful distance, they cautiously observed the Southerners. Suddenly, two Union scouts rode up and halted nearby. The Yankees took cover behind a hedgerow, discharged their carbines at the enemy troops, and dashed away unobserved. The Confederates immediately returned fire in the direction of the rising white smoke. The bullets passed dangerously close to the students and the pair immediately scampered into a nearby house. A moment later, an angry group of Southern soldiers burst through the door, thrusting their weapons into the faces of the suspected gunmen. The prisoners were marched out of the house where they were met by the Rebel captain. Gotwald, visibly shaken by the experience, was speechless. Conversely, his companion maintained his composure. After respectfully saluting the officer, Culler earnestly narrated the true sequence of events and the mistaken identity which had occurred in the midst of the confusion. The captain admitted that the story seemed plausible, but he did not appear entirely convinced of the innocence of the two young men. A painful silence followed.

Acting decisively, Culler cleverly turned the tables on his interrogator. "Captain, you do not arrest men of the gospel, do you?" He asked forcefully. The surprised captain immediately queried, "Are you men ministers?" In replying in the affirmative, the Seminarian did not believe he had told an egregious lie. They were, after all, ministerial students, and they had indeed come preaching.

Feeling more at ease with the polite officer, Martin pointed to the Lutheran church and stated: "Do you see that brick church yonder? There we were holding religious service this morning. This man you see with me was preaching. Your men rushed into town and this hinders me from preaching the splendid sermon which I intended to preach this evening.

The captain smiled and replied that he did not arrest ministers of the gospel unless they were bearing arms. He then inquired into the quality of the horse they had ridden into town on. "It is old, blind and poor in flesh", Culler answered. "We are Yankee enough to know better than to venture anywhere near your army with a good horse." The officer laughed heartily and assured the "ministers" they could return home undisturbed on such a specimen. Later, Culler conceded that the Fairfield congregation did not "lose much" in missing his sermon. —

Luther's brother, William Henry Harrison Gotwald, suspended his studies for the ministry and joined the Union Army. He served at the headquarters at Camp Curtin, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the war.

Interestingly, the Civil War did bring a family to the King Homestead in Springfield, Ohio for the duration. Mary King Gotwald's father, David King, had staked his brother-in-law, Hamlin Caldwell, to a cotton business in then-booming Scottsboro, Alabama, which business flourished. He married Southern belle Martha Jane Snodgrass, started a family and even owned slaves. However, when the Civil War began, his New Hampshire roots won out, which placed his sympathies with the North, making him a "damyankee" and not for secession. Those sentiments, plus his family kinship to then Vice President and ardent abolitionist Hannibal Hamlin, from whose family he took his first name, made his position in Scottsboro untenable and forced him to flee to the North with his family. However, his sixteen-year-old son, David King Caldwell, had been reared in the South and was every bit the southerner. He ran away and attempted to enlist in the Confederate Army, which forced his father to prevail upon his brother-in-law, Confederate Colonel John Snodgrass, to reject his enlistment and send him back to his family, which he did, to the utter humiliation of young David. Hamlin Caldwell then weathered the Civil War with his sister, Almena Caldwell King, in the King Homestead in Springfield. Unfortunately, this experience, plus losing a child while living in Springfield, was too much for his southern wife, Martha Jane, whose mental condition deteriorated greatly during her stay in Springfield. She remained mentally incompetent for the rest of her life. David King Caldwell, however, attended Wittenberg College while they were in Springfield. After the war, the family promptly returned to Scottsboro, where they stayed and prospered.

Rev. Gotwald's brother in law, David King, Jr. served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army and actively fought in many major battles, including the Battle of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Col. David King was for many years after the war the Grand Marshal of the Springfield Memorial Day parade. Rev. Gotwald's brother-in-law, Samuel Noble King, enlisted in the Union Army as a private, but earned a battlefield promotion to lieutenant and ended the war as a captain in the Union Army. Rev. Gotwald's sister-in-law, Sarah Jane (Jennie) King, was active in the Sanitary Society (which promoted better sanitary conditions for Union soldiers) in Springfield during the war.

Read more about this topic:  Luther Alexander Gotwald

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