James Johnson – 4th Minnesota
My great-grandfather, William Knaeble, served in Company B of the 4th Minnesota Infantry.
He originally signed up as a member of the 1st Minnesota. The enlistment was for 90 days. The 1st was still in Minnesota when the 90 days were over, and therefore everyone in the 1st was discharged and asked to rejoin for three years of service. At this point (October, 1861) William decided to join the 4th Minnesota because he was told it would stay in Minnesota on garrison duty, which undoubtedly sounded safer to him.
The 4th was then sent to the western theater of the war soon after William joined. He was part of Generals Grant and Sherman’s activities. He was at Shiloh, and he was slightly wounded at Vicksburg. He was also at Missionary Ridge.
In October, 1864, his three years were completed and he left the army. General Sherman spoke to the men who could leave at that time and tried to talk them into staying until the war was completed. He said he had seen enough killing and maiming for one lifetime, and he went home. When he returned to Minnesota, he married his younger brother’s widow.
Ironically, his brother had died in Minneapolis during the war. I have been told this was a common obligation of an unmarried brother to marry the widow of his deceased brother. The widow had two children and after William’s marriage, she had 12 more! My grandmother was the 11th child of the 12.
William went into the family business of operating a furniture store that also functioned as a mortuary in Minneapolis. My mother had me in 1944 when she was 41. She was born in 1903 and she remembered William very clearly. She remembered his white beard and how proudly he put on his GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) uniform and marched in the 4th of July ceremonies. William died in 1916. I have a color photocopy of the Resolutions of Respect that the GAR issued to William’s widow.