Madison County Historical Society

Iron Will in 'Iron Brigade'

Madison County Soldier Becames Civil War Hero

 
 

George Bauner had an especially challenging first couple of decades of life.  He was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1844.  The story handed down in the family says that his parents were dead by the time he was 6, so his grandmother brought him to America in 1850 as a "bond boy," an indentured servant.

For the price of his passage over and his "keep" -- food, clothing, bed and the like -- he would work free for a family until released from his debt as an adult.

For the remnants of the Bauners, this might have been the only better option than destitution and starvation in Germany.  Therefore, as a young child who probably didn't speak much English, George was sent from his arrival point in New York to serve as a worker for a farming family near Anderson.  By the time he was a young teenager, George was an apprentice to a blacksmith who had a shop at the corner of Ninth and Meridian streets across from the courthouse.

The Civil War broke out in April, 1861, and, at age 16, George enlisted on July 29 for a three-year term of duty in Company A of the 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment.  Less than a month later, his regiment joined the Army of the Potomac near Washington, D. C., and on August 11, he and his fellow recruits were embroiled in combat.

Civil War hero George Bauner's headstone in the Perkinsville Cemetery with his wife Nancy.  He was born December 15, 1844 and died July 26, 1906.  Nancy J. was born May 16, 1845 and died April 4, 1924.

 
 

19th Indiana Becomes Part of Iron Brigade

The 19th Indiana became a part of one of the most acclaimed contingents of soldiers in the Civil War:  the "Iron Brigade."  They were at the forefront in many of the hardest and largest battles:  Gainsville, South Mountain, Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness.  The bravery, resolve and sacrifice of the Iron Brigade and its 19th Indiana Infantry became the standard by which other regiments were compared.  As one history relates, "At Gettysburg(Pennsylvania), on July 1, 1863, the division to which the 19th Indiana belonged was the first to engage the enemy and during the day's battle, the 19th fought as though the existence of the entire army depended upon the exertions of each man."  Of the 288 Hoosiers who went into the fighting on that day, 210 were either killed or wounded.

Bauner exemplifies that iron resolve in another way.  His war record shows that after his initial three-year enlistment was up, he rejoined his regiment on January 1, 1864, as a veteran;  he was only 19 years old.  On May 5 of that year, the battle of the Wilderness started in Virginia, and the 19th was again at the head of the advance.  By the end of the fighting, about a third of the regiment's soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured.  George was part of this last group.  He was sent to the Confederate prison at Andersonville in Georgia. 

Andersonville was the most horrific of confinements.  There were no barracks or shelters of any kind.  Thousands of Union soldiers were contained in a huge open field, imprisoned by a triple barricade and guarded by Confederate soldiers with rifles.  Their only water supply was a polluted creek running through the field.  Food rations consisted of small amounts of corn meal.  Diseases, dysentery, and diarrhea were rampant.  Lice, maggots, and flies fouled everything.  One third of the prisoners did not survive.   Eighty percent of the sick died.

Bauner was among the ill, and he became extremely weak but managed to hang onto life until he and his fellow prisoners were rescued by the advancing Union Army.  By April 1, 1865, eight days before the end of the war, George was back in the North in a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, recovering from his ordeal.  It was from this location that he was released from military duty.  Now, probably for the first time in his life, Bauner had his own freedom.  This former bond boy/apprentice-soldier could start making his own decisions, work for himself and try to have the life he wanted.

He had by that time seen major portions of American and could have gone anywhere to make his own home, including staying in Maryland.  But he chose to return here to Madison County, to this land and these people.  George made a home for himself.  He married Nancy Jane Cook in 1866.  Their house was in Perkinsville where George took up the trade he learned as an apprentice:  blacksmithing.  His shop was on Madison Street just north of J. B. Applegate's drugstore.

One day decades after the war, George was heating metal at the forge, and a man came in and tried to get his attention.  George was looking down, focused on his dangerous work, and so he paid the intruder no attention.  Then the man attempted to step into George's way, to interfere with his physical operations.  George, at that point, was forced to stop and look up into the man's face.  He recognized one of his soldier friends who had been with him in Andersonville.  Their joyful reunion caused all work to cease, and the rest of the day was spent in catching up and reminiscing, according to the family story.

As a veteran, Bauner was respected in his community, prominent in church affairs and a member of the Masons.  George and Nancy had seven children, five of whom lived to be adults:  John, James, George Jr., Bertha, and Minnie.  George died in 1906 and is buried at the Perkinsville Cemetery.  He has two grave markers:  a traditional family stone showing his name and dates and those of his wife, and a government stone showing that he was a Civil War soldier in Company A of the 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment.

By Melody Hull, Trustee of the Madison County Historical Society

 

Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|madisonchs@sbcglobal.net