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A History of War

Many of my direct ancestors and immmediate family members have been involved in the Wars of the World.

Russell Peter Kolb, WWII 1943-1945
U.S. 3d Division, 30th Infantry

At age 18, on August 10, 1943, my grandfather, Russell P. Kolb, was drafted into the 3d Division, 30th Infantry Regiment, Company G from Wisconsin. This World War II battle unit sent my grandfather to Anniston, Alabama and Newport News, Virginia for three months of training. Then, on January 14, 1944, Private Kolb was sent to serve in the European Theatre Operations in Anzio, Italy as a replacement soldier.

Kolb, a rifle sharpshooter on the front lines of battle, was injured in Anzio. A bullet struck his upper left leg, under the buttocks; nevertheless, Kolb was sent back to battle after his brief rehabilitation. After several months of fighting in Anzio and Naples, the 30th Infantry, Co. G was sent to Southern France. On October 30, 1944, while the U.S. army was attempting to take over a hill in St. Die, France, Pvt. Kolb was struck once again. A bullet hit him between his right elbow and shoulder. The pain from the blow caused him to pass out.

When he awoke, he realized that medics had located him and persisted to apportion sulfur to the wound. Kolb was covered in a white blanket, typically given to deceased soldiers. Whomever had found Kolb did not want the German soldiers in the area to shoot him once again. (It was custom for German soldiers to shoot anyone who was not quite dead yet to assure their death.)

Private Kolb lay in the battlefield for hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. With the lapse in efficient treatment, the wound had become gangrene, meaning the tissue had died due to insufficient blood supply from the injury. Kolb's right arm would not be saved. He was sent to MASH, where his right arm was amputated.

Pvt. Kolb was then sent on a ship, where he was accompanied for nearly a month, until he reached Brigham City, Utah in mid-January, 1945. In Utah, he was sent to Bushnell Hospital for rehabilitation. While there, he learned how to drive, write, and fulfill other everyday activities with only a single arm or hand. He was discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces on July 12, 1945.

Continued in right column ...

Judah Biterman, Holocaust survivor

Judah Biterman, the Shoah (Holocaust), 1939-1945

Judah Biterman, my grandfather, survived the Hrubieszow ghetto as well as Concentration Camps Auschwitz (for a small period of time in 1942), Buchenwald (time unknown), Mielec (time unknown), Wieliscska (time unknown), Krakow-Plaszow (time unknown), Flossenburg and sub-camp Leitmeritz (1944), Dachau (1944), Augsburg-Pfersee (1944), Natzweiler and sub-camp Leonberg (1944), and then Dauchau (1944-1945) again. In Mielec the Nazis tattooed his arm with "KL."

In the concentration camps Buchenwald, Mielec, Wieliscska, and Flossenburg as well as the Frankfurt displaced persons camp (November, 1946) my grandfather was with his younger cousin Michael Finger (Drori).

This entry is so short because very little is known about his life during this time period. His wife, son, and daughter all perished in the Shoah. Always remember, never again!

Pvt. Russell Kolb, WWII

Josef Lemberger, veteran of two German wars

Josef Lemberger, Seven Weeks War (Austro-Prussian War of 1866)

My 3rd great-grandfather Josef Lemberger was in at least one German war. It is believed that the war was the Seven Weeks War, in which Bavaria sided with Austria against Prussia. Austria lost. Lemberger was 22 at the time that the war broke out.

Josef may have also served in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871. According to oral tradition, his life was saved by a prayer book he had in his breast pocket when a bullet struck him in the chest.

The most startling point about the service was that Josef and his unwed girlfriend, Thekla Vogel, had children Karl (Charles) in 1864, Mary in 1866, and Josef in 1868, but were not married until 1869. Structures of the military service did not permit low-ranking soldiers to marry.
In 1881, Josef emigrated to the U.S. in fear that his children would be drafted into a future German war.

Russell Kolb, Continued ...

Although only overseas for less than a year, Private Kolb served his country faithfully and honorably. He wrote letters to his girlfriend in Wisconsin frequently. On June 12, 1948, he even married her -- Vivian Louise Hirschboeck, my grandmother. Together they had three children, Candee, Colleen, and Kim.

Russell P. Kolb received awards for his service in World War II, among them:

* 1 Army Good Conduct Medal (for dedicated, consistent performance);
* 1 Combat Infantryman Badge (for infantry servicemen who were members of small units and engaged in active ground combat);
* 1 Purple Heart with 1 Oak Cluster (awarded for life sacrifices--either a combat death or a combat wound; the oak cluster is given as a award of bravery, signifying a strong man);
* 1 European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon (awarded for combat heroism or for meritorious service);
* 1 Bronze Star Medal (awarded for combat heroism or for meritorious service)

Peter Kolb, Civil War 1861-1864
Kentucky 22d Regiment, Company K

The state of Kentucky officially tried to remain neutral as the Civil War began. The citizens of the state, however, were anything but neutral. A tension between northern and southern minded Kentuckians began to build as the war became a reality. Neither Union or Confederate forces wanted to be the first to enter Kentucky for fear of swinging the state's sentiments to the other side. Finally someone had to make the first move. General Leonidas Polk with a Confederate army moved north and captured Columbus, Ky. in the fall of 1861. Although several Kentuckians had already chosen their side and enlisted in one of the two armies, now circumstances demanded that citizens of the Bluegrass State declare their allegiance. Thousands joined both armies, the majority siding with the Union.

On Oct. 16 1861, Peter Kolb was enlisted in the 22nd Regiment, of the Kentucky infantry, in Louisville, Jefferson Co., Kentucky. He was enlisted by Capt. Louis Schweizer. He was mistakenly enlisted as Peter Koll, a clear misspelling of the surname. The surname was also spelled Kolb and Kopf in various Civil War regimental listings. He was mustered in on January 10, 1862 in Louisa, Kentucky. He was a private and a volunteer in the infantry. His first pay check in the regiment was for $13.00 and was given to him for the one month period of October 11, 1861 to November 11, 1861. Kolb was said to have been 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He had a light complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and by occupation he was a laborer.

The officers Kolb served under included, most directly, Capt. Louis Schweizer and Capt. Charles Gutig of 22nd Regiment, Company K. He also served under Lt. Col. William J. Worthington, who permitted him to discharge in 1864. Worthington had earlier replaced George W. Monroe.

There were specific higher command assignments for the 22nd Kentucky Infantry. The regiment was initially assigned to the Army of the Ohio. In October, 1862, the unit was placed in the Department of the Ohio. A month later the regiment was placed in the Department of the Tennessee. It served in that command for a month and then joined Sherman's Yazoo Expeditionary Corps. In January, 1863, the unit joined the Army of the Tennessee. It served in that command until August, 1863. The regiment then joined the Department of the Gulf, serving in that command for the remainder of its career.

The 22nd Kentucky participated in some minor engagements in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia early in 1862, including the battle at Middle Creek, Ky. The Regiment's first significant action occurred when Union forces clashed with the Rebels at Cumberland Gap along the Ky./Tn. border. The Federal 7th Division of the Army of the Ohio moved to take the Gap was commanded by Brigadier General G.W. Morgan. On April 11th, 1862 the 7th Division arrived at Cumberland Ford, fourteen miles north of the Gap. The 22nd Kentucky was part of the 26th Brigade commanded by Col. John F. DeCorcy. Tazewell, Tn. was the site of the next battle for Peter Kolb and the 22nd (Aug. 6, 1862).

The 22nd Kentucky became part of Ulysses S. Grant's army attempting to capture the Mississippi fortress of Vicksburg. The north now controlled the upper and lower portions of the great river Mississippi. The capture of Vicksburg would severe the Confederacy in two and allow Union forces to turn east across the heart of the rebel country. Grant's first attempt at Vicksburg would prove to be monumental for Peter Kolb and the 22nd Kentucky. Grant's forces were encamped at Holly Springs, Ms. From this supply base he would begin the assault. He divided the army into two wings. Grant would take one wing overland south and approach Vicksburg from the northeast. General William T. Sherman was in command of the other wing, about 31,000 troops. Sherman eventually would transport his men down the Mississippi to Chickasaw Bluff, north of Vicksburg, and attack from that direction. The grand plan was scheduled to began the week of Christmas, 1862.

Vicksburg's defenses were commanded by John C. Pemberton, a Pennsylvanian who had married a Virginia women and cast his lot with the south when the war started. Pemberton moved his army out of Vicksburg and north to confront the coming attack. Grant's strategy was to occupy Pemberton while Sherman slipped down the river and captured the exposed city. The plan was a good one, but disaster brought about its failure. As Grant began his march south away from Holly Springs, Confederate Cavalry Commander Earl Van Dorn with 3300 troopers galloped into the town and destroyed Grant's provisions, munitions, and supplies as well as cutting telegraph lines and tearing up miles of railroad track. Grant immediately began to return north. With no supply base or means of communication, the attack had to be called off. What made matters worse was that Sherman was already enroute down the Mississippi leaving Grant with no way to contact him to tell him of the destruction of the supply base at Holly Springs. Sherman was heading toward what he thought would be a lightly defended Vicksburg. In reality, Pemberton was moving his arming from Grant's previous route of attack to the very spot Sherman was marching for.

Sherman and his troops arrived at their landing site on December 26th. They immediately began marching south. The forward regiments encountered rebel skirmishes as they marched, but nothing to alarm Sherman of the force waiting for him. Peter Kolb and the 22nd Kentucky were part of the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division in Sherman's army. Colonel Linsey was in temporary command of the 2nd Brigade, so Lieutenant Colonel George W. Monroe was acting as regimental commander for the battle. The 3rd Brigade was commanded by Colonel John DeCourcy with the 3rd Division commande by Brigadier General George W. Morgan.

The two armies maneuvered for position on the 27th and 28th. On the 29th, Sherman ordered the assault. Sherman's Union force of almost 31,000 troops opposed General John C. Pemberton's 14,000. Sherman was attempting to assault a heavily entrenched rebel line of fortifications, the rebels although outnumbered more than two to one, had the advantage. Morgan's Brigade assaulted the Confederate lines with a mighty charge, those who were not killed or wounded in the attempt found themselves pinned down by the rebels accurate fire. Lieutenant Colonel Monroe was wounded in the assault and command now fell to Major William J. Worthington. Worthington had nowhere to go. They could not go forward up the steep slope into the Confederate shower of lead, and they would be a prime target for those entrenched rifles if they attempted to retreat. As night approached, the 22nd Kentucky and the rest of the 3rd Brigade made their way back to the safety of the Union lines. They left many dead or wounded on the battlefield and patrolling rebel troops picked up several soldiers as they tried to return.

Confederate forces soon began to reassemble in Jackson, Miss. for an attempt to break through the Union lines surrounding Vicksburg and end the siege there. The Confederate forces in Jackson built defensive fortifications encircling the city while preparing to march west to Vicksburg. Confederate forces marched out of Jackson to break the siege of Vicksburg in early July, 1863. However, unknown to them, Vicksburg had already surrendered on July 4, 1863. General Grant dispatched General William T. Sherman to meet the Confederate forces heading west from Jackson. Upon learning that Vicksburg had already surrendered, the Confederates retreated back into Jackson, thus beginning the Siege of Jackson, which lasted for approximately one week. As health conditions continued to dwindle, ancestor Peter Kolb was struck ill with dysentery and chronic diarrhea on about July 11, 1863. On July 16, Confederate forces slipped out of Jackson during the night and retreated across the Pearl River. Union forces completely burned the city after its capture this second time, and the city earned the nickname "Chimneyville" because only the chimneys of houses were left standing. The northern line of Confederate defenses in Jackson during the siege was located along a road near downtown Jackson now known as Fortification Street. An entire book was written regarding the battle that Peter Kolb became ill in. It's entitled The Siege of Jackson and was authored by Edwin C. Bearss in 1981. In the battle, Confederate casualties numbered only 150. T he Union forces, however suffered 1,756 killed, wounded, and captured. Of that total most were from the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division. The Brigades casualties for the battle were 48 killed, 321 wounded, and 355 captured. Grant would go on to take Vicksburg six months later.

He was discharged on a Surgeon's Certificate of Disability on July 24, 1864 at Morganza, Louisiana. He stayed in the Marine General Hospital in New Orleans. He was admitted to this hospital on September 2, 1863, and left the hospital on October 6, 1863. Peter Kolb's captain, Mr. Charles Gutig said, "During the last two months, said soldier [Kolb] has been unfit for duty about 60 days. *Prior to his enlistment this soldier had long been in good health, and had performed good duty as a soldier unil about the 11th day of July, 1863. Since that time he has been afflicted with chronic disorder of which disease he is still suffering from" (July 19, 1864).

With the obvious disease that Peter Kolb suffered while fighting in the Union Army, his courage and persistence in the face of much pain and discomfort can only be admired. The average soldier in the Civil War suffered from a lack of proper food, clothing, medical care, and water. It was a difficult life for those in good health. For a soldier hampered by disease and injury, the war must have been an especially cruel existence. Generals and politicians have garnered much of the attention for the victories and defeats of the War Between the States, but is was the common soldier like Peter Kolb of Louisville, Ky. who performed the miracles on the battlefield that we now hold dear in our history.

Katherina Kolb, the widow of Peter Kolb, received a pension of eight dollars per month that commenced on May 23, 1904. She received an additional two dollars per month for Lilly and Arthur, the two children under the age of sixteen.

Peter Kolb died in 1904 of phthisis, a wasting away of the body that affects the lungs and causes progressive enfeeblement and loss of weight. More commonly, phthisis is known to be pulmonary tuberculosis and is caused by the wasting of tissues. He was buried April 23, 1904 at Calvary Cemetery. His grave is next to his first wife, Catherine, his first son, Joseph, and his second wife, Katherina.

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