A GREENE COUNTY CIVIL WAR SOLDIER’S STORY
PART TWO: Alias Frank J. FEGER
Did he have a plan when he left, or did he simply make a run for it and think on his feet? If he ever intended to return home to Greene County he soon veered from his course. That was what he would have been expected to do and where the authorities would have been looking for him there. Plenty of deserters had already been trapped after returning to hearth and home and he surely would have been informed of their fates if caught. That was employed to dissuade others from following their example. Not all deserters were caught and by no means were all of those caught shot or hanged. Still, that had to be expected upon capture and if you loved your life you had to formulate a good plan and perhaps a disguise.
If not home to Greene County, then where? The great metropolis of New York City held out a beacon of hope; that seemed to be a place, teeming with people, where you could easily lose yourself. Indeed, there were said to be many anti-war or even Pro-Southern Copperheads and even outright enemy agents, as the Anti-Draft riots had attested! Just the month before he deserted Confederate agents had attempted to burn down the great city and been foiled! But whether that was a plus or a minus in favor of this choice I cannot say. The question remained, how could he evade discovery before he got there and what could he do once there?
You will have to bear with me as I unravel the trail of evidence and then you will see how I know the following person to be the same individual who served in Company G, 59th Infantry. For Joseph did go to New York City, that much I’ve found out, but by what means he traveled and what pains he took to hide or disguise himself to avoid suspicion I cannot say. There are many questions yet unanswered. How long did his passage take? Did he walk or ride a riverboat or railroad? Perhaps he even intended to find passage back to Germany from the docks of New York? We can only speculate, unfortunately, as this part of his life was simply too scandalous and he was to keep it hidden in later life.
The modern driving distance between TN & NY is some 939 miles, following modern highways. His route, undoubtedly, would have been somewhat different. The aspects of his former life, his abandoned wife and growing child, he would simply have to give up and forget if he were to remain free and alive and so he set about creating a slightly new identity for himself.
He would keep his last name; there were other Fegers around especially here in the immigrant capital of the world. Interestingly, I would later uncover that at least one married sister lived thereabouts, from at least 1866. had she and her family been there as his refuge in 1865? If so, and this seems most likely, I’m sure he was prevailed upon by these relatives to keep his family name. Did he even confess his desertion to any of these siblings and in-laws or more innocently explain away his sudden visit to their city? Had he not kept in touch, written to his birth family over the years he’d been here, and if so, had he even informed them of his marriage and the birth of his daughter? I know only that his sister, Maria Anna, and her husband F. W. Schirrmann, were practicing Catholics and his marriage had taken place before a notary public. Could it not, therefore, be conveniently put away as being less sanctified than a proper marriage before a proper priest? God forbid, his wife may even have been a staunch Protestant?! All the more reason to let it go?
Before this, we have no indication that our “Joseph” ever had a middle name as his baptismal record in Germany records none. He now took one and became “Frank”, which was a common enough first name that I suppose he could explain to his sister as a whim of fashion and he could then hide his real first name with an initial. How clever! But there was still a very real danger of being found out and perhaps too, fewer opportunities for a healthy young man like himself to remain a civilian and above suspicion—even in New York, especially since the latest crack down on enemy agents following the arson attack. How many adventures or hairbreadth escapes did it take? Or was it a guilty conscience that finally convinced him to take his course of action? Finally, at any rate, he must have realized that his best bet would be to reenter the military—where else for a deserter on the run to hide but in uniform?
From his desertion until he reappears on the record a total of 75 days elapsed. 75 days in which to travel to his destination and in which we know nothing about him. But, on that date of 28 February 1865 he suddenly reappears at City Hall and on Hart Island NY. There, Joseph Feger enlisted as a new recruit in the 22nd NY Cavalry and the name he gave them was "Frank J. Feger."
STATE OF NEW YORK, }
COUNTY OF NEW YORK, } ss:
I, Frank J. Feger, do solemnly swear (before the mustering
officer, Robert Ward, 1st Lt. US Cavalry) that I am between the
ages of eighteen and forty-five years.
Crossed out is "and not subject to draft, by reason of__".
Further, his new enlistment papers present a familiar, yet
slightly altered appearance from before, as we shall see below.
STATE OF NEW YORK CITY OF NEW YORK.
I, Frank J. Feger, born in Germany in the state of (space blank)
aged 26 years, and by occupation a Blacksmith. Do hereby
acknowledge to have voluntarily reenlisted this twenty-eighth
day of February 1865, to serve as a soldier in the Army of the
United States of America, for the period of three YEARS, unless
sooner discharged by proper authority: Do also agree to accept
such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing, as are, or may be,
established by law for Volunteers. And I, Frank J. Feger, do
solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to
the United States of America, and that I will serve them
honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers
whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the
President of the United States, and the orders of the officers
appointed over me, according to the rules of war.
Sworn and subscribed to, at NEW YORK,
This 28 day of Feb. 1865 (signed) Frank J. Feger
Before Lt. Ward
I certify, on honor, that I have carefully examined the above
named Volunteer, agreeably to the General Regulations of the
Army, and that, in my opinion, he is free from all bodily
defects and mental infirmity, which would in any way disqualify
him from performing the duties of a soldier.
I certify on honor, that I have minutely inspected the
Volunteer, Frank J. Feger previously to his enlistment, and that
he was entirely sober when enlisted; that, to the best of my
judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and that, in accepting
him as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able bodied
soldier, I have strictly observed the regulations which govern
the recruiting service.
This soldier has Grey eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, is 5
feet 9 1/2 inches high.
Declaration of Recruit.
I, Frank J. Feger desiring to VOLUNTEER as a soldier in the ARMY
of the UNITED STATES, for the term of THREE YEARS, do declare,
that I am twenty- six years and ___ months of age; that I have I
have never been discharged from the United Sates service on
account of disability or by sentence of court-martial, or by
order before the expiration of a term of enlistment; and I know
of no impediment to my serving honestly and faithfully as a
soldier for three years.
GIVEN at NEW YORK,
The 28 day of Feb. 1865.
(Signed) Frank J. Feger
Witness: C.E. Benedict
Below this are lines left blank under “enlistment; last served in Company ( ) _____ Reg’t of ______ Discharged ______ 18_.” Obviously he wasn’t letting on about his former service in the 59th Infantry! So he now has a new identity. He is now 26, with gray rather than dark eyes and under 6 feet? It is possible that he may have slouched a little, or somehow fouled up the measure of his height. He was also to be paid another $100 Bounty and his residence is given as the 8th Congressional District of NYC. On record for March 30, 1865 is this.
New recruit. 1st installment US Bounty paid by Lieut. M. Dilan 2d. US Infty US Mustering & Discharge officer viz $100 to (him?) enlisting for 3 years & $33.33 to (him?) enlisting for any case.
There is little else on this unit’s records for him save the standard “Present” until his mustering out at Winchester Virginia on Aug. 1, 1865. On the roll for his mustering out is: “Recruit Gov. Bounty due $ in stoppages for ordinance lost $37.97.” I assume from this that he must have lost his rifle or other ordinance somewhere out in the field?
The brief histories of this Cavalry unit that I’ve seen indicate that from the time Frank J. Feger joined it they were engaged in operations in the Shenandoah Valley until the end of hostilities. Here is what I find from the Adjutant General’s brief report as I’ve located no other Regimental History for the 22nd:
Sheridan’s Raid, Waynesboro, March 2. Occupation of Staunton
March 2. Detached from Division to guard prisoners from
Waynesboro to Winchester March 3-8. Harrisonburg March 5. Mr.
Jackson and Rude’s Hill March 7. Duty at and in the vicinity of
Winchester till July. Scout from Winchester to Edenburg March
17-19 (Detachment). Operations in the Shenandoah Valley April
26-May 5. Mustered out August 1, 1865, and honorably discharged
A brief Battle Summary of Waynesboro, Augusta County VA.
Campaign: Sheridan’s Expedition to Petersburg (February-March
Date: March 2, 1865. Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Philip
Sheridan [US]; Lt. Gen. Jubal Early [CS]. Forces Engaged: 4,100
total (US 2,500; CS 1,600) Estimated Casualties: 1,800 total.
Description: On February 27, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan with two
cavalry divisions rode from Winchester up the Shenandoah Valley
Turning east, the Federals encountered the last remnant of Lt.
Gen. Jubal Early’s Valley army at Waynesboro on March 2. After a
brief stand-off, a
Federal attack rolled up Early’s right flank and scattered his
small force. More than 1,500 Confederates surrendered. Early and
a few of his staff evaded capture. Sheridan crossed the Blue
Ridge to Charlottesville and then raided south, destroying the
James River Canal locks near Goochland Court House. He joined
forces with the Army of the Potomac near Petersburg on March 26
for the opening of the Appomattox Campaign. Result(s): Union
That was the last major battle that this cavalry unit participated in and I’m not at all sure that our “Frank” had time to get down there for this. I’m not even sure if he made it in time to help guard the prisoners that resulted. As a “new recruit” he may have had to first participate in some kind of training program? Further activity in the Shenandoah Valley, when he finally got there, would have been aimed at securing the area and suppressing rebel guerillas like Mosbey’s Grey ghosts, in which he undoubtedly participated, but the war was almost over and this area was now more of a backwater to the main events around Richmond.
The war ended and he was mustered out---honorably, but under a name that did not reflect, but rather hid, his full service record and an important part of his former life, at least the Greene County Illinois period. Would he have done so if he knew he could now return safely to Illinois and the bosom of his family? Although the shooting war had ended, he may have still feared a court martial if he returned, even though amnesties had been periodically granted for deserters to turn themselves in with little or no punishment. No, he took a cautious approach, or perhaps a more realistic one and anyway, he may have already begun to reinvent his life anew.
Continuing under the name "Frank J. Feger", he married a second time, although my enquiries to the authorities in New York cannot verify the “legal” authenticity of this union according to the copied record in his later pension claim. With this second wife, legal or not, he produced a large family, moved to Missouri and then Kansas and finally settled down in the new Territory of Oklahoma, without, so have as I have been able to discover, ever contacting his first wife and growing daughter. The connection between the two “Feger” identities could have remained hidden and mysterious forever, but fortunately for us, the connection between them was finally made clear when he applied for a pension in later life. But that comes a little later!
continued Part 3 ...