Looking Back: If these stones could talk – Discovering a local Civil War veteran

May 2021 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, People

By Brenna Wiegand

Theobald Kirsch

Theobald Kirsch

Theobold & Theresa (Von Hatten) Kirsch

Theobald & Theresa (Von Hatten) Kirsch

Jim Kosel was going through memorabilia at Mount Angel American Legion Post #89 when he came across four documents related to Civil War
veteran Theobald Kirsch.

These original documents record
Kirsch’s entry and discharge from the Ohio Infantry during the Civil War, making him one of the oldest veterans in either of the two St. Mary’s cemeteries in Mount Angel.

Kirsch was born in France and moved around Europe, his family eventually making its way to the States. He was living in Ohio when the Civil War erupted in 1861. He enlisted in the Ohio Infantry in 1862 at
the age of 21, went to battle, and was taken prisoner by the Confederates. He spent
the last 11 months of the Civil War as a prisoner of war, until his discharge at war’s end in 1865.

“We always think of POWs in relation to World War I and World War II with
the Japanese and the Germans,” Legion Post Adjutant Jim Kosel said. “We never think

about the Civil War taking prisoners and that adds a little more interest to his story.”

Family records say Kirsch’s ankle was severely injured and that he “had a hard time and almost died.”

Commonly known as Andersonville Prison, the notorious Confederate facility in Georgia was officially named Camp Sumter in honor of the county in which it was located. While it was only in operation for 14 months, 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there, coming in at the rate
of about 400 a day within months of its

nception in late February of 1864. The largest number of Union prisoners held at one time was 33,000. They were confined to a stockade designed to house 10,000. Nearly

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13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding or exposure.

After his release Kirsch married Theresa Von Hatten and they had eight children.

The family made its way to Mount Angel in 1888 where Kirsch acquired and farmed more than 400 acres.

At the time Mount Angel was in its infancy; though settled in 1850, it was not incorporated until 1893. Mount Angel Abbey had been formed just six years before the Kirsch family’s arrival.

Kirsch lived from Aug. 10, 1841 to Dec. 10, 1906. When he passed away, he was buried at what is known today as the Mount Angel Pioneer Cemetery on Marquam Road, where he was joined by his wife after her death in 1919.

It is just such accounts that pique the interest of the 63 members of the Mount Angel American Legion and make for good conversation at their meetings.

“The guys come down and start the trash talking about whether the Marines are better than the Army and so forth, or about something we read in the paper or share war stories… It’s really fun and is kind of cathartic,” Kosel said. “My wife is from the Army so we’re the only husband and wife team here.”

Both Jim and Martha served during the Vietnam era, Martha assigned to a clerical position in the States and Jim involved with the missile systems being built up against the Soviet Union and in Washington State.

As they do every Memorial Day, post members are busy putting flags on the gravesites of more than 750 veterans buried across nine area cemeteries.

American Legion Post 89 Memorial Day Service

Monday, May 31, 9:30 a.m. Calvary Cemetery
1015 N Main St. Mt. Angel Patriotic and liturgical music, mass. All welcome. Bring lawn chairs. In case of rain service will take place at St. Mary Church. 575 E College St.

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