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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Johann Georg Hill (George Hill)

The town of Marksuhl, Germany where George Hill was born. 
The church in the background is St. Hubertus and is where the Hill family 
went to church and were baptized.

Relationship to Randy Hill: Great-great grandfather/Paternal side

On the edge of the Thuringen Forest in the hills of eastern Germany lies the little village of Marksuhl. With its winding cobblestone streets and ancient tower, little seems to have changed since its beginnings as an important commercial center known as Suhlahe over 900 years ago. In the market square on the main street running through the center of Marksuhl is St. Hubertus Lutheran Church, built in the year 1031. Inside the church you’ll find the elaborately painted chapel where many generations of the Hill family have worshiped.
It was here in Marksuhl in 1826 that Johann Georg Hill was born to Johann Christoph Hill and Dorothea Kohlepp. Along with birth and baptism dates, church records at St. Hubertus record George Hill’s (his later anglicized name) occupation as the “man responsible for harnessing horses.” 
During the mid to late 1840’s, Georg Hill married Anne Elisa Christine Meister, the daughter of Simon Meister (“the man responsible for the post wagons”). The couple raised six children: Julius, born Tuesday, April 8, 1851, between 11:45pm and 12:00pm (“near the lower gate”); Eva Catharine, born March 4, 1853 at 3:00am (“in the house of her grandmother near the upper gate”); an unnamed child that lived only nine days after birth, born August 12, 1855 at 10:00pm (“in house number 24”) and died August 21, 1855; Martha Elisabeth, born June 28, 1856 at 11:00am (“in house number 178 at the street”); Friedrich Theodor,  born January 27, 1858 at 3:00am (“at the street”) and Christine, born May 22, 1860 at 5:00pm (“at the street”).

German Immigration to Texas
With dreams of escaping taxes, unfair land inheritance restrictions and an increasingly hopeless economy, many Germans in the 19th century made the long and dangerous voyage to the new frontier of Texas with the hopes of finding a more prosperous life for their families. In Charles Sealsfield’s novel about Texas life in the 1830’s, The Cabin Book, a best-seller in Europe, Sealsfield refers to Texas as a “boundless sea of green” inhabited by legendary men, where “nails grew overnight into horseshoes.”  His book was followed by a large number of travel books, immigrant guides, poems and songs about Texas.
The main migration of Germans to Texas began around 1831. Frederick Ernst, who became known as the father of German immigration, wrote a long and passionate letter to a friend of his in Oldenburg named Schwartz. In his letter, Ernst wrote that the Texas climate was very similar to that of southern Italy and that a farmer could become wealthy in a short amount of time. Every married settler would get a league of land with the only cost being $160 for surveying and recording. The letter eventually wound up being reprinted in a German book titled Reise nach Texas by Detlef Dunt. The letter created a sensation in Oldenburg, a country in which the people were generally poor, and was copied many times. 
Ottilie Fuchs Goeth who came to Texas with her family in the 1840’s recalled her father’s reasons for leaving Germany,
“It does not require any vast psychological knowledge to understand that our father, Pastor Fuchs [pronounced, “Fox”] wished to provide greater opportunities for his children, rather than allow them to be stifled, body and soul, through the miserable conditions prevailing in Germany. To understand this one needs only to visualize the rigid bureaucracy of the 1830’s and 1840’s when Metternich was in power, to sense the impending storm in the political atmosphere precipitating the Revolution of 1848; to recall the tyrannical suppression of the writings of the ‘Young Germany’ writers, as well as the then-prevailing oppressive rule of the church. Was Pastor Fuchs to watch his girls at most attain positions as governesses, the boys starving themselves to struggle through a university in order, perhaps too by God’s will alone, to earn a scanty living, thus perpetuating the old miseries and wants from generation to generation? Or was it not better to go to found a new home: The choice must have been a difficult one, resolutely faced.”

From Bremen to Galveston
Georg and Anne Hill’s decision to leave their home in Marksuhl for Texas must have been an equally difficult one to make. In the spring of 1860, the Hill family packed up their belongings and traveled to the German port of Bremen where they boarded the bark (small sailing ship)  “Gessner” bound for Galveston, Texas. The ship was approximately 114 feet long and no more than 30 feet wide.  According to Lloyd’s of London, the Gessner was a three masted sailing vessel constructed of teak, and featured a bridge deck, a forecastle on the main deck, and only one other deck below. On Thursday, September 6, 1860, the “Gessner”, piloted by Captain Lankenau, set sail from Bremen’s harbor. Among its 97 passengers were George Hill, Anne Elisa, and their five young children.
Ottilie Fuchs, recalled her feelings as a young girl when she saw the ship that was to take them to Texas in the 1840’s:

“Well do I remember my apprehensions as we boarded this fearsome crate which was to carry us into the New World. Our former home and happy childhood now lay behind us, soon to be followed by more serious times. Yet we were cheerful. There was no lack of singing, everyone attempting to encourage the other, with probably many a secret tear falling into the waves. We hurried towards the sinking sun, the magic West beckoning, as we wondered what the future held in store.”

There is a family tradition that Anne Elisa Hill died at some point during the voyage and was buried at sea.  Ship passenger lists in Galveston mention only “G. Hill, Julius, Christine and Eva.”  On Monday, October 29, 1860 after 53 days at sea, the Hill family arrived at the port of Galveston, Texas. After disembarking from the Gessner, the Hills gathered their belongings and made the trip from Galveston to the small German settlement of Industry, Texas. If the story of Anne Elisa’s death and burial at sea is true, George Hill would make the journey to the interior of Texas on his own with his five small children. 

Industry, Texas
By the time the Hills arrived in 1860, Industry had been in existence for about 23 years.  On April 18, 1838, Industry’s founder, Frederich Ernst received a grant of a league of land located in Austin county on Mill Creek. Ernst and his wife Louise built their first home, a six sided, doorless and windowless structure with a moss roof that provided little protection from the elements. According to Ernst’s daughter Caroline, it was a, “miserable hut.”
He eventually replaced the original home with a large house that served as an inn. This inn became a meeting place for early German travelers. Ernst had also built a post office - one of the first in Texas - out of native sandstone in an attempt to speed communication between settlers and their families.
By the late 1830’s Ernst, a former gardener for the Duke of Oldenburg, had planted a large vegetable garden, peach orchard, and was raising crops of cotton, corn and tobacco. Cigar making became a cottage industry, with handmade cigars being sold to markets in San Felipe, Houston and Galveston. It was this industriousness of the early settlers that earned the town its name - Industry.

Adam Wangemann

The Civil War
Within two months of George Hill’s arrival, the state of Texas joined the Confederate States of America by a vote ratified on February 23, 1861, and the little settlement of Industry was dragged into the Civil War. Many of the newly arrived German immigrants who were not yet citizens of their new homeland had little interest in the war, and many did their best to avoid service in it.
Several individuals living in the area during the Civil War kept diaries and wrote of their experiences. John Kroulik, a farmer in Industry wrote in his “Memoirs of John Kroulick as recorded by him during the Civil War 1864” how dangerous it was to try to evade the war. All available men were drafted, and those that refused and tried to evade the draft were pressed into service by force.
Another Industry settler, John Tauber, was six years old when the war broke out.

“During the time I was going to school the Civil War was raging which left me with sad memories. During the later years of the war the South needed more and more manpower for the Army and called all men up to 60 years of age. There were many Czechs and Germans who were trying to escape military service. They would hide in the woods and actual hunts were conducted for them by the “South.” Those who hunted the service-dodgers were of the worst character and several times attacked us in school. They took away our teacher but soon released him so that our education could continue. Once a band of seven such bandits attacked our schools and knocked out the windows of the building, made a lot of noises, cursed the teacher, and led him away again. This aroused the neighbors, especially the older men, and they decided to punish the bandits. Several of the men were hiding behind the fence with pistols loaded, waiting for the persecutors to return. The hunters of the dodgers probably suspected trouble and so they scattered and returned only one or two at a time. As the first one showed up he was attacked and his horses started to run away. He was shot at and lost his hat, which was found later with a bullet hole in it. A little later another of the hunters came by and was greeted the same way. This one fared worse because his horse fell and was left on foot. He ran toward the schoolhouse where some of us were hidden. He shot at us several times but did not hit any of us. As he ran on by the next farmhouse he shot at the farm wife through a window but also missed her. The other five of the hunters traveled in a different direction shooting at people.”  

Hauling cotton to Mexico
In 1861, as a newcomer to the state, George Hill was neither drafted nor did he immediately sign up for service in the confederacy.  In order to support his young family George was among a number of men hired in the Industry area to haul cotton from Houston to Hempstead, Texas and to the Mexican border town of Matamoras across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, a route that took them through the King Ranch. One of the important strategies of the Union army early in the Civil War was to blockade the Confederate coastline, effectively cutting off Texas’ cotton trade with European markets. The North could not, however, blockade the Rio Grande because it had been declared an international body of water.  Although many of the teamsters were conscripted by the army, George Hill was apparently one of a group of teamsters paid by local merchants who advertised in Texas newspapers, promising nine dollars a day plus ox feed. Conscripted teamsters were paid five dollars a week plus ox feed.  Each wagon train had 10 to 15 wagons, and included a small number of saddle horses and extra draft animals. Heading up the wagon train was a wagon master, two section captains, a dozen teamsters, two armed guards and a man to herd the extra animals. The wagons themselves were massive. The beds that held the bales of cotton were six wide and fifteen feet long and were set on wagon wheels that were 7 feet in diameter. Wooden pegs and leather straps held everything together.
Teamster John Warren Hunter noted:
“All roads from every cotton section of the state in the direction of Brownsville converged at King’s Ranch…and during the spring, summer and fall seasons, this long stretch of 125 miles became a broad thoroughfare along which continuously moved two vast unending trains of wagons; the one outward bound with cotton, the other homeward bound with merchandise and army supplies.” 
From Matamoras, small steamboats transported the cotton down the Rio Grande to a coastal town called Bagdad, where it was shipped to oceangoing vessels. By the time the Civil War had ended, over 320,000 bales of cotton had been shipped and the proceeds used to import military supplies, medicines, dry goods, liquors and coffee.  After the war, George Hill continued to make trips to Matamoras and Corpus Christi hauling cotton with his son Julius. 

Waul’s Texas Legion
On May 13, 1862, while a guest at Glenblythe Plantation near Brenham, Texas General Thomas Neville Waul began organizing Waul’s Texas Legion. He positioned the training camp, Camp Waul, at the southern boundary of the plantation known as Old Gay Hill.  Composed of approximately two thousand men, it included twelve companies of infantry, six of calvary, and one battery of light artillery. On June 6, 1862 Waul wrote his wife telling of the progress that his unit had made.

“My organization is perfected but it was forced from circumstances to take more companies than I desired in the Legion. I have nine companies of infantry, six of calvary and one of artillery, and I assure you that when they turn out to dress parade they make an extensive line. It is the best body of men I ever saw and it is so generally admitted…”

Of the virtues of his officers, Waul wrote,

“…I have not a single officer in the Legion, so far as I can learn, that drinks more than I do or ever did and I don’t know one that drinks half as much….”

During training at Camp Waul a measles epidemic resulted in the illness of 600 soldiers with a few casualties. A shortage of arms and other supplies added to the Legion’s rocky start.

George Hill enlists in Waul’s Legion
In April 1862, the Texas Congress passed a general conscription law, making all white males between the age of eighteen and thirty-five liable for military service. In September, the age was raised to forty-five.   On August 4, 1862, George Hill enlisted as a private in Company E, Infantry, Waul’s Texas Legion at Camp Waul under Captain Robert Voigt as a substitute for Austin county businessman, Adam Wangemann of New Ulm, Texas.  George was 36 years old. Wangemann, an early settler of New Ulm and a veteran of the 1847 war against Mexico as a member of Colonel Jack Hays’ regiment of cavalry, hired George Hill to take his place in Waul’s legion in order to look after private matters.  As a regular enlisted private, George Hill would have made $11 a month. As a substitute, he could have been easily paid three times as much money.  Waul’s destination was Vicksburg, Mississippi, although there is some evidence that both the men and the officers were under the impression that they were headed for Arkansas. Among the soldiers that served in the same infantry company as George Hill were two brothers, Philip and John Amsler whose letters to their parents in Austin County are preserved in the Texas collection at Baylor University. The letters provides us a glimpse of what army life was like in Waul’s Legion from the training camp at Camp Waul to the company’s service in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
On August 25th, Philip Amsler wrote from the town of Wheelock in Robertson county:

“…We started from Camp Waul and took up the line of march on the 18th and traveled to the average of 15 miles per day, which we generally done by 12 o’clock on account of reaching water…we carry our knapsacks with one suit of clothes and a blanket…The other three Infantry Companies have nothing to carry but their haversacks and canteens. We might also put ours on the wagons but our captain wants us to carry them so we might have clothes to change if the wagons might happen [sic] to stay behind and also a blanket to sleep on…”

On September 17, George Hill and the rest of the men of Company E reached Bosier, Louisiana. By September 30, Company E had reached Vicksburg riding the railroad to within 28 miles of the town. The men traveled the remainder of the journey on foot because of some problems with the train, arriving at Holly Springs by midnight on October 10. The men of Company E received their guns and ammunition on October 12. A soldier in Company E by the name of Frederick Niebuhr wrote in a letter to his parents from camp at Holly Springs, Mississippi:

“…We have now been issued guns, cartridge pouches and cartridges. 40 rounds for each, and I can assure you they are heavy when you have them on you.
We must drill every day, with gun and cartridge pouch…”

On November 16 Frederick Niebuhr wrote that the soldiers of Company E had received their uniforms:

“…The trousers are dark blue cloth, and jackets are a sort of grey material, and so are the caps. All of this is fine for the winter, since they are warm…”

Getting enough food to eat was a constant problem for the men in Waul’s Legion. In his letter written on November 11, 1862 from camp which was about 20 miles from Holly Springs, Niebuhr wrote:

“…The worst experience was that we had no more food. Our hunger became so great that we threw corn into the fire, and ate it after it had roasted for awhile. The next morning we were supplied with some flour which we baked in the ashes, since all of the utensils had been sent 30 miles away, and we had to help ourselves the best we could…”

By February 21, 1862, George Hill had been reassigned to Company C, 1st Infantry Battalion  and he and the other men were camped at Fort Pemberton, at the junction of the Talahatchee and Yalabusha rivers where they join to form the Yazoo river. It was here that the men began building the breastworks. Frederick Niebuhr wrote:

“Here where we now lie it is very wet for it is low and right on the river, it rains a lot here so that soon a person is never dry except in the tent…they are now making barricades. There are approximately two hundred Negroes busy on them. They are made from cotton bales where they lay two next to each other on the bottom. Then one lengthwise and then another one on top so that three bales are on one another and then dirt is thrown on it as high as the bales are and then about 10 feet thick so that no cannon ball can come through.”

Back home in Texas, The Bellville Countryman newspaper reported on the progress of Captain Voigt and Company C and the company’s new outpost in Yazoo City.

“Capt. Voigt - We see in the Telegraph of Saturday, a letter from this officer dated June 5th. He says the Legion is now in Vicksburg. Capt Voigt and his company are on detached service and now unable to join the Legion. They were then at Yazoo City. He had received intelligence from Vicksburg that about the middle of May there was a fight there in which Maj. Cameron, Lts. Papendieck, Williams and Upton were killed; Loeffler, Harde & Wickland, unhurt at last accounts. The Legion is said to have fought desperately and is the best body of troops in Vicksburg. Capt. Voigt says his men are all well and in good spirits.”

Eleven of the original 12 infantry companies surrendered on July 4, 1863 and were paroled. The 12th company of infantry, Company C, under the command of Robert Voigt was captured eight days later at Yazoo City. George Hill was among those to be paroled. Reports filed by officers involved in the battle of Vicksburg give the following accounts of Captain Voigt and his men:

“Report of Wm B. Creasman Liet. Col, 29th N.C. Regt. Late Comdg. Post at Yazoo City to General Joseph E. Johnston:
At about 5 p.m. I determined to evacuate the place, finding I was entirely overpowered and almost surrounded. I concentrated my forces at the redoubt on the Canton road, half a mile from town, except Captain (Robert) Voigt, of Waul’s Texas Legion, who refusing to obey my orders relative to the evacuation, was with his company ( C ) captured by the enemy, when he could have escaped with the rest of the command, I considered it dangerous to send after him when I found he refused to come out, the enemy being then in sight on the West bank of the river.”

“Report of Isaac N. Brown, Commander, C.S. Navy
“Without doubt, this officer (Creasman) will have submitted to a special report of the conduct of Captain (Robert) Voigt, commanding a company of Texans of Waul’s Legion, who were serving as heavy artillerists at Yazoo City. This Capt. Voigt was ordered by Col. Creasman to join his command on the retreat, and he could without difficulty have obeyed the order. If he has fallen into the enemy’s hands, as is most probable, it has been because he wished to do so…”

Robert Voigt’s own diary that he kept during the war provides his perspective on the capture of his men.

12th of July
Report came in that the enemy was with gunboats and transportation on his way up to Yazoo City and that he was landing land forces below at [unintelligible]. Detachments went to the batteries and got everything ready.

13th of July 1863
Soon in the morning noticed the black smoke of gunboats below. In the evening at about 2 o’clock two gunboats came in sight and we opened fire on them which was returned from the boats. We exchanged about 30 to 35 shots in all when the gunboats were compelled to retire and go down the river. The firing ceased at about 6:00. I was informed that Colonel Creasman in command of the post had abandoned the rifle pits on our left flank and that he was on the road to Burton. Captain Brown C.S.N. ordered to leave the batteries at once without spiking the guns nor blowing up the magazines, so we did. Went up to camp, let the men prepare a little supper, pack up and then marched out at about dark. On the way to Burton about 1 ½ miles from town, was informed that enemy’s calvary was ahead.
Bent off left from the flank road about 50 yards on suitable place for camp and laid down. Short time afterwards two regiments (the 20th Wisconsin) came out from Yazoo City and marched along the flank road towards Burton.

George Hill and the majority of Company C were captured and paroled by Major General F.J. Herron on July 13, 1863. Captain Robert Voigt was sent to a prisoner of war camp on Johnson’s Island near Sandusky, Ohio and held there until the end of the war. George Hill’s son Friedrich remembered as an adult that his father was wounded in the arm by a bullet during his service in Waul’s Legion.
The following account of the return of some of the Industry men released on parole was taken from  the August 1863 Bellville Countryman :

“The Vicksburg Prisoners - Many of the prisoners captured by the Federals at Vicksburg are arriving home. We have met with several from Capt. Wickeland’s company and some of Capt. Voigt’s. The latter’s company was not at Vicksburg at the time of the surrender, but many of his men were there on detached service. All we have seen speak of the surrender as a necessity, and appear to cast blame on no one. These prisoners have certainly had a hard time of it, and hope their visit to their homes and families may be pleasant and recuperating.”

After George Hill was paroled at Yazoo City, Mississippi by Major Genral F.J. Herron, on July 13, 1863, he returned to his home in Industry, Texas.
In 1870 when the U.S. census was taken, George Hill was living in Industry with his second wife Fanny and children, Julius (age 20), Eve (17), Fritz (12) and Christine (10). Only two of the children lived to be adults - Julius and Fritz. Eva died of a fever (typhoid or scarlot) and Christine of a digestive ailment. Some say it was caused from eating green peaches and other say from green pecans. Fanny, born in Heidelburg (Wuerttemburg), was fourteen years younger than George. In this same census George Hill lists his occupation as a farmer with his real estate valued at $2,000 and his personal property at $700. Also of interest is the mention of a 25 year old farm laborer  from Oldenburge, Germany named Christian, though we have no way of knowing if he was related ti the Hill family or not.
After Fanny’s death, George Hill married a third time. On March 2, 1883, George married Eliza Feiler in Bastrop, Texas. He had courted Eliza by mail. She was from Hamburg, Germany and the daughter of a silversmith. She brought with her a trousseau of dozens of hand made articles that had been embroidered and marked with monograms.
Three years later in 1886, George Hill died. Among the possessions he left to his wife Eliza was his old musket gun. It hung on nails above the door of their home for many years until Eliza traded to a Negro farm laborer in barter for work. After the death of George Hill, Eliza married a widower from Paige, Texas by named Albert Frey.
George Hill is buried in the Dixon Prairie Cemetery of the Mesquite community near Paige, Texas in Bastrop county. A confederate memorial headstone was applied for by O.J. Hill but was not delivered until after his death. His son, Leslie, with his cousin Julius Fred Kramer, later saw that the stone was properly placed.

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