La Salle County IL News


 Illinois State Chronicle, Decatur, IL
September 17 1857

Murder at Mendota

A man named Fritz, keeper of a Lager Beer Saloon at Mendota on Monday evening assailed a young man named Alderson with a knife, stabbing him fatally. Fritz is in custody.

Taken From the Tonica News
December 12, 1874

The Mendota artesian well has already cost $11,000 and no water yet.

Taken From the Henry Republican
January 22, 1880 - State News

Mendota has been over run with petty thieves and housebreakers, for several months. Finally the services of a St. Louis detective was called into requisition and on Saturday last lightning struck in seven different places at the same time. Considerable stolen property was recovered, and seven of the gang were bound over to appear at Ottawa. Several of the prisoners, although hard cases, belong to respectable families.

July 1, 1880
Taken From the Henry Republican

R. H. Ruggles has leased the office of the Mendota Bulletin, and will retire for the present. He is one of the veterans of the service. He has been the proprietor of a newspaper over 30 years, first at Edwardsville, then at henry commencing in 1852, and thence to Mendota in 1862, where he has remained up to the present. We hope he retires with plenty of ducats to cheer his old age.

The Henry Republican, Henry Illinois August 31, 1882

The Mendota Union fair will be held at Mendota Sept. 4-9 inclusive. The organization is a new one, based on the stockholding plan, similar to that of the Wenona fair association. The endeavor will be to make it as popular and successful as other union associations in the vicinity.

Harry Schaller Finds Civil War Letters from Ancestor, Karl Gross - Killed in the Civil War

Transcribed by Ann Newell

Morning Call, The (Allentown, PA) - March 10, 1991


Harry Schaller of Allentown wasn't expecting much when he opened his mother's safe deposit box in Mendota, Ill., last Thanksgiving. Her move to a local Lutheran nursing home in their hometown required him to return there and take care of her affairs. So he went through the items in the box one by one. "Finally, when I got to the bottom of the box, there was an old envelope with my father's handwriting on it. It said, 'This is a letter from Karl Gross, killed in the Civil War.'"

Gross was the maiden name of Schaller's grandmother, Bertha. So Karl Gross would have been Schaller's great uncle. Schaller remember his father talking about Gross being killed at the bloody Civil War battle of Pittsburg Landing, better known as Shiloh, fought along the Tennessee River on April 6 and 7, 1862. General Ulysses Grant called it "the severest battle fought in the West during the war, and but few in the East equalled it for hard, determined fighting."

Opening the envelope, Schaller found a carefully folded document. Except for a few dark spots at a crease, where someone had applied cellophane tape, the paper was as white as if it had just been mailed. It was a clear German script in a fine hand. Although he could not read German, Schaller noted the letter was dated 1862. Schaller showed the letter to his wife, Inger, a former Allentown School Board member. Neither of them knew enough German to translate it, so they sent it to a friend, former Northampton County Community College German language professor Renate Gerstenberg, who lives in Massachusetts. The Schallers received back in translation a slice of history, something worthy of having been read on Ken Burns' epic "Civil War" television saga. Schaller is not sure what regiment Karl Gross was with or even when he might have joined the Union Army.

But a reference book at the Shiloh National Military Park mentioned a Charles H. Gross, killed at Pittsburg Landing. He was on the muster roll of Company B, 52nd Infantry Illinois Volunteers Regiment. It was recruited from Kane County, roughly 50 miles from the Gross farm. Part of the Army of the Tennessee, the 52nd saw some of Shiloh's rougher fighting. They lost 170 -- killed, wounded and missing. Shiloh Park Ranger George Reaves said it was possible that Karl could have ended up as Charles on the muster rolls, thanks to the distrust of foreigners that existed in those days. "If he joined a regiment that was not German it was a 90 percent chance that his name would have been Anglicized pretty quick," said Reaves. So the 17-year-old Gross said farewell to his parents and left for the war.

Although his letter is dated March 18, 1862, it is clear from following the dates mentioned in the text that it was not written until March 26. He tells his family that the journey began from St. Louis, on March 13 aboard a steamboat whose name was translated by Gerstenberg as the Floreng: "We steamed down the Mississippi River to Karo, (Cairo, Illinois). There we arrived the evening of the 15th at five o'clock. Then we went up the Ohio River to Kentucky where we arrived during the night at 1 a.m. From there we took to the Tennessee River upstream." They stopped for 15 minutes at Fort Henry, taken for the Union just a month before by Grant, then a little known general. Grant was Karl Gross's ultimate commander. The boy notes in the letter that he had seen Grant pass them on the trip south. Finally, at 7 p.m. on March 19 the steamboat Floreng pulled into Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.

Young Karl was amazed at the sight of the big river boats coming and going: "Here I counted 40 steamboats. I must have seen at least close to 75, although I wasn't able to count them all." After a night on the boat he was put ashore and the tent camp established. Gross estimated there were 80,000 to 100,000 men "with more regiments still on the way." Camp life did not displease him. Gross found the food, "adequate, I guess, the crackers (hardtack) though I don't care for. When I eat one-eighth of it I am full." For now things were tranquil: "We are lying in Peace and quiet, and I don't believe that an attack will come. We don't sense any danger here, and I feel as secure as if I were on our own homestead. So far I have not regretted joining the military for it is here that you see and hear things."

Karl Gross was deeply touched by the natural world around him. Spring had come to the Tennessee countryside and he was alive to it: "The woods (forest) consist of willows and red fir ... The weather is nice and warm, the woods start getting green, the plum trees are blooming and the birds are singing. One could join their song. It is the sound of creation: the wind in the trees, ... the cheerful noise of the birds, music in the air. I only wish Pa could be here to experience all this." But a good part of Karl Gross's letter deals with his parents concern about his safety. "Dear parents, I beg of you, do not worry unduly about me, even though we must go to a battlefield. As you know, our Heavenly Father carries our lives in His hands even there. And despite being in the midst of cannon thunder while bullets fly (hiss) to our right and left, He can save us nevertheless. And should it be God's will to summon me from the battlefield so his will be done. Because, dear parents, how blessed shall we be there, where neither sorrow nor war exists, but eternal peace and happiness instead." Finally it was time to close. "Take care, all of you who haven't forgotten me completely. Just a moment ago a list was passed around for information to reach the families in the event we get wounded or killed. They wanted to know your name and address and what church I belong to. Take care and do not worry. Please write soon."

The battle of Shiloh began on April 6, 1862. It was a bloody, confused fight that lasted for two days. Grant was later to describe one much fought-over field as "so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground." Although the Union was finally victorious, Shiloh offered more blood then glory. Years later, generals were to argue in the pages of their memoirs whose fault the slaughter was. But for the dead, 10,700 in gray and 13,000 in blue, it had ceased to matter. It's not known how Karl Gross died, or how Elizabeth and Nicholas Gross got the word of their son's death. But for the next 129 years his letter passed down from from one generation to another until it came to rest in the Mendota, Ill., safe deposit box. His story is a slice of American history one that many families could tell, and his words echo into our time.


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