Both Absolom and Tilden enlisted in the 21st Ohio, Co. A. during the Civil War.Their father, Isaac, married to Barbara Jane Fishel, was a Southern sympathizer.The man who later became Absolom's brother-in-law, John Leonard, enlisted with them.The three of them wrote letters home to Elizabeth, Leonard's sister and Absolom's intended bride.
These 37 letters were found in a shoebox in a Leonard home in Ohio and transcribed by Allen Vaughan.Copies may be found at the Chattanooga/Chickamauga National Park and from Bowling Green University in Ohio.What's so unique about the letters is that they are being written to one person by three people, and it's interesting to get the different viewpoints about the same events.The letters were very well written, indicating a fine education.They included poetry and a great sense of humor.
Have you heard the story?
The three farmboys went off to War, and promptly caught the measles.They were hospitalized for months.Tilden, 17, and John Leonard finally decided they would get better if they left the hospital, but Absolom (22) remained in the hospital longer.At last, they were all back with their unit.They went through Kentucky and were encamped in Tennessee.They went through times of plenty and times of starvation.At one point, they came upon bushes where migrating robins were roosting.Taking a stick and a bag into the bushes, they captured 37 robins.Absolom bought 2 pounds of rancid butter from a farmer's wife, and later described it as some of the finest food they'd ever eaten.The next day, they caught and cooked 54 robins.Their letters were full of what they were doing, what they were sending home, and what they would like sent to them.Friends at home, food, stamps, and clothing were some of the main subjects.
On they marched and drilled, and marched and drilled, and drilled and marched.Absolom cut hair to earn extra money, and Tilden complained that all the money he sent home was used to buy dresses for Amy.Tilden also said to "tell Father that if he votes for Vallandingham (Man Without a Country), I shall not come home again."May 11, 1862, when on picket duty, Absolom was captured (other records lead me to believe he was captured by John Hunt Morgan and Morgan's Raiders).He was sent to prison in Alabama where he wrote to Elizabeth.He asked her what she thought when she heard he was captured.
Then, on July 8, he wrote to her again.Apparently, he was involved in a prisoner exchange, because they were married on the 4th of July in Ohio.By the 8th, he was back with his company, and he wrote to her, "You asked me if it was hot here.It is hot, but I'm not sweating nearly as much as I did on the 4th of this month."He sent home $80 (on a $13/month salary), and she wondered whatever she would do with all that money.
They still had not seen any vigorous fighting, and winter set in.They moved farther into Tennessee, and were encamped near Stones River.The morning of December 31, 1862, rumors of eminent battle were rampant.Absolom wasn't feeling very well, but this was going to be his first chance to fight.At 9:00 that morning, Absolom was shot over the left eye, and killed instantly.His younger brother, Tilden, was behind him and both he and John saw what happened.The Confederates were coming right at them, Tilden asked someone closer to grab Absolom's wallet, and they retreated.Later, John Leonard wrote to his sister that he had an $8 I.O.U., the same one Absolom had described in his last letter.Elizabeth's letters to Absolom were burned, and his things sent home.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth had heard that there was a battle, but she didn't know the outcome.She wrote, "Dear Husband, I write to you, but I do not know to whom it is that I am writing.Is it a live husband or a dead husband?I have been praying to God for your safety, and that is my only hope."She went on to tell him some of the news from home, and ended the letter with, "Today it is six months since I took you to marry."The letter was written on January 4th, 1863.Apparently, she received word before she could mail her letter, because it is the only letter from her in the collection.
The War dragged on, and John and Tilden dragged with it.September, 1863, they were with General Thomas at Chickamauga.Their unit was one of the most heroic in the entire battle, holding off the Confederate line so that the Union army could get behind them and occupy Chattanooga.General Thomas earned the name, "The Rock of Chickamauga", but we know who really did the fighting.A huge number of their company were either killed, wounded or captured.So it was for Tilden and John.Tilden was shot below his left knee.He wrote home that it was five days before his wound was tended, but that he was not being treated any differently from anyone else.He added, "Tell Mother I'll come home if she asks me to."Seven weeks later he died in the Chattanooga hospital, and he is buried there in the National Cemetery.
John Leonard was captured, sent to Libby Prison, and then on to Andersonville Prison where he died of scurvy.
Another Kleckner, John, of the 49th Ohio, Co. K, is buried within sight of Tilden's grave in the National cemetery.He died from wounds received at Missionary Ridge, very close to the same date as Tilden.I'm not sure of his family ties.
Absolom is buried in Biglick Cemetery, Biglick Twp, Hancock Co., Ohio.We just received photographs from Allen Vaughn of his grave marker and it is in a state of disrepair.
The story doesn't end there, however.
Amy Kleckner, their younger sister with all the dresses, married George Washington Pressler ten years after the war.He entered the 178th Ohio at the age of 16.His two older brothers, Samuel and Simon Pressler, had already been killed at Nashville and Resaca, respectively.They were also in the 21st Ohio, but in company F.Another brother, Jacob Pressler, served in the 88th Indiana, Co. H.
Amy and G.W. Pressler were my husband's great great grandparents.
My husband's line:
Isaac Kleckner m. Barbara Jane Fishel
Amy Kleckner m. George Washington Pressler
Amy Elizabeth Pressler m. Clarence Hetzman
Virginia Hetzman m. Edwin Bradford (12th generation from Wm. Bradford, Mayflower)
David Bradford m. Kathy Anderson
Aaron, Nathan, Andrew, and Benjamin Bradford (our sons)
We've been unable to go back farther than Isaac or to find the connection to John Kleckner.We would very much appreciate any more information.