Kenneth Bloch, great-grandson of Friedrich Krenz is sharing a series of letters written by Friedrich Krenz to his wife after enrolling in the Union Army. He was in the Third Regiment of the Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, commanded by N. Dalton, Company F.
The first of his letters was written on November 2, 1864, in Madison, 134 years ago, when Friedrich was 33 years old, going off to war not long after his immigration from Pomerania, Germany. Friedrich Krenz was drafted in to the Union Army on September 22, 1864 leaving behind a wife, Minnie, and their young child, Louise.
Friedrich, a farmer, was not a large man. He stood about five-foot-five-inches tall, had a dark complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. Friedrich came to the states in 1854 and worked for farmers in Dodge County for two years before coming to the Town of Berlin to buy a farm. Later, Krenz sent for his mother and stepfather, August Anklam, along with their family. On April 5, 1860, Krenz married Wilhelmina Genrich and the first of their ten children, born in 1864, was about seven months old when Krenz was drafted into the Union Army. He served during the Battle of Nashville and Sherman’s March to the Sea and was spared from injury.
Kenneth and his wife, Delores, now retired, farmed in the Town of Hamburg and because of their love of history are sharing this special treasure with the Pommerscher Verein of Central Wisconsin. These letters were translated from German into English by Kenneth’s mother, Esther (Krenz) Bloch. The first letter was written November 2, 1864 in Madison.
“Dearly Beloved Spouse,
This is to inform you that we arrived here and have had our examination by the doctor and declared healthy. It is a pity when you see what frail and infirm people they take. The others I met, all of them, but today we had the sad decision to be parted. John Staege, E. Nass, Krause, Fischer, Muelling and (Gottlieb) Woller are still here with us, but who knows for how long? The parting was very hard for us. We don’t know where they went. Samuel (Jahns) sends greetings, also the others.
Dear Minnie, there is no thought of getting a release, pray the dear Lord that he will keep me well, and you arrange everything as well as you can. Sell the oxen as soon as possible and if you can sell some of the other things sell as much as you feel you can spare; in this you are the judge. Ask your father and your brothers for advice because I am far away and everything is depending on you.
You have friends enough and what comforts me most is that you have God for a friend. He says ,”Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” So depend upon the dear Lord, pray to him real often, with Him everything is possible and with Him nothing is impossible and He will bring us together again, well and healthy. His will be done.
Friedrich and Wilhelmine Krenz later in life
after their children had grown.
And my dear, take good care of little Louise and of yourself. Buy yourself good warm clothes and if Fritz isn’t drafted, ask John (Genrich, her brother) to help you and I will pay everything and if it should be my fate that I stay on the battle field, you have good enough material things, use them wisely. With great pleasure I can tell you that I am, Thank God, real well and hope the same of all of you.
If you haven’t received my clothes yet, so inquire of Paff. To him I sent them and pay him the postage. We could send it free only as far as the Town (City) of Berlin. Until there Fischer paid. Give Fisher’s things to his wife. I wrote what is mine and you will recognize it. The carton and the shoes all belong to you. Fischer has only his old things among there.
News I cannot write you. So many people come together here, one has no idea where they all come from, most of them are married men. Now I close with many greetings to Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters. With hot tears, I greet you and Louise. I remain your faithful Husband,
A hearty greeting to Pastor Hoffman, his wife and children. Greet my sister, Sophie heartily. She should hire one of Imm’s sons to cut wood for her and she should sell the oxen. Samuel (Jahns) says she should take what she can get for them.”
Part 2: Letter written from Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 12, 1864
Friedrich Krenz, whose great-grandson, Kenneth Bloch, a member of the PVCW, wrote letters home to his wife, Wilhelmina, during his term in the Civil War period. This is the second in a series, written while in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on November 12, 1864.
“Dearly Beloved Wife,
I am informing you that I and all the other comrades, left Madison the 7th and arrived well here in camp, and have been assigned to the 3rd Regiment which was encamped in Atlanta until now. However, they tell us that they marched out and we cannot overtake them. That is why we are waiting here for further orders. That is all I know. How long that will take nobody knows. Some say it can take all winter.
Atlanta is being destroyed by our troops. Soldiers coming from there cannot tell enough of all the misery there, roofless, without food, far from their families, the fathers gone, the mothers and children abandoned. It is not the way we had imagined it. From Nashville to here it’s 179 miles and all the way we saw no city, only single farmers and almost everything wasteland and empty, very large mountains and mostly brush land. In all, I must say I have found nothing as good as at home.
All those dissatisfied people in the woods are sinning greatly against the Lord, but you my good friends, thank the dear Lord for all the good that you have received, and be satisfied and pray for me and all the suffering, and maybe the good Lord will soon put an end to all this bloodshed.
Here is a mass of people. You can’t see the end of the camp. It consists of several sections and we all lay in tents. It is a pretty sight, but is not very comfortable, but I feel really lucky that with all this I am real well, and what is better in this sinful world than good health? Now I have really seen what a wealth it is to have a sound body and members. I can’t describe the misery it is for me to see these people that have lost limbs and are all crippled and lame.
Now dear wife, I long for news from you. Write me as soon as you can and how it is with the relatives. Has there been another draft? Did Samuel (Jahns) write already and where is he? We have tried to find out where he stayed but can’t find out where they stayed.
Other news I have none. We have not seen enemy troops. Our camp is heavily entrenched. Now I greet you a thousand times, my dear Minnie and Louise. I remain your faithful husband until death. I greet my dear mother, father, brothers and sisters, also your father, brothers and sister. I greet them altogether and remain your loyal friend.
I also greet Pastor Hoffman and his family. Now dear wife, console yourself with God’s word, despair not if things don’t always go as you would like. Be satisfied and do everything as well as can be.
Also we have had good weather. On the 8th, 9th and 10th it rained quite a bit. Now it is sunny, and at night some frost. It is not as warm as I thought it would be. Everything is expensive here. Bread we seldom get. We get crackers, coffee, tea, rice and beans, beef and pork. These we fix as best we can. Ask Pastor Hoffman to give you my correct address. It is Mr. Friedrich Krenz, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Camp of Detachment 2nd Battalion.”
Part 3: Letter written from Nashville, Tennessee on December 8, 1864
Friedrich Krenz, whose great-grandson Kenneth Bloch, a member of the PVCW, wrote letters home to his wife, Wilhelmina, during his term in the Civil War period. This is the third in a series, written while in Nashville, Tennessee, dated December 8, 1864.
In this letter he refers to the hardships he faced while serving in the Union Army. One of Friedrich’s descendants said ”Many people took jobs in the lumber camps in those years to avoid the draft. A friend had encouraged him to do the same.” That explains the statement by Krenz in the previous letter where he wrote, “All those dissatisfied in the woods are sinning greatly against the Lord.”
Dearly Beloved Wife,
I’ll have to inform you how I am. I am, thank God, real well and hope the same to you. When I wrote you the last letter just when I had taken it to be mailed, we received orders to break camp. We were given guns and issued forty bullets, and out on the train to be taken to Dalton. From then on we went forward and backwards, on foot and by train, until we received orders that we had to go back to Nashville. We arrived the tenth of this month. Since then we have been making trenches day and night.
The Southern troops are so close that we can easily see them and the cannon from our side is roaring the entire day. Two attacks were made by our Negro soldiers but without any results. We are heavily fortified and the dear Lord gave us the victory and there are many soldiers here. They took 27 prisoners but we had no casualties. How many of the Southerners fell I do not know. I was on guard duty and could see it all. It is possible that we may be attacked any hour but pray to the Lord for us that He will protect us and give us the victory. The South would like to capture this city for there is much food stored here and they need it badly.
Now dear Minnie, it hurts me the most that I cannot get any mail from you, but that is impossible. I cannot get any mail until we have joined our regiment and that may take several months. We belong to the Third Wisconsin Regiment and it is with General Sherman and he has left Atlanta and they say he is going to Savannah, and if he should luckily get there it is possible that we get orders to go to New York ad then on the ocean and it is possible that we might be sent to Mississippi.
I hope that you have already written to me and directed it to Chattanooga but when we marched through the city in November there was no mail there and now I cannot get any mail any more. The Southerners tore up the railroad tracks.
Now, my dearly beloved, do not worry. If God lets me live and keeps me well and this battle is over, then I will write you again. If it should be that we do not see each other again in this world, then we’ll see each other in the next world where we will never be parted again. I remain your faithful husband until death.
Heartily greet my dear mother, father, brothers and sisters, also your father, brothers and sister.
Part 4: Letter written from Alabama on January 21, 1865
Friedrich Krenz, whose great-grandson Kenneth Bloch, a member of the PVCW, wrote letters home to his wife, Wilhelmina, during his term in the Civil War period. This is the fourth in a series, written while in Alabama, dated January 21, 1865. In this letter he refers to the discomfort, sickness and the chilling conditions the soldiers had to endure. The cold that Krenz endured during the Civil War caused damage to his feet and while he was in Nashville he was afflicted with scurvy.
As one reads this account Krenz undoubtedly often thought about his wife and little baby daughter that he had left behind on the farm they were trying to establish. The distance, especially in those times, must have seemed like a million miles between them. The dreams of what they had planned for their life certainly sustained him during those raw, dreary nights in his tent or possibly during marching or even while riding in the crowded train cattle car (the means for their transportation).
Von Herzen Treu Geliebte Frau,
(My Dearly Beloved Wife)
It will seem strange to you that I did not write sooner and you probably thought I fell (was killed) in the battle of Nashville (in Tennessee). Now I will tell you the reason why I couldn’t write. The day after the battle, Gottlieb Woller begged me so much that I should write a letter for him. The day after that we had to march away. We marched part of the way and took the train part way. We were on the train five days and five nights. It was terrible. Sixty men were put into one cattle car. We could barely sit. You can imagine how long the nights were.
The first and second Christmas Day we marched. We had to walk through water up to our chests and the weather was quite cold. As we came near our destination, the Southerners fled ahead of us so that we did not catch up with them.
Now we are waiting for further orders. We have no abiding place here. We are like migrating birds. One third of the men are sick. I do not feel too well. One gets chilled too often. There is no snow here but it freezes quite hard and most of the time we lay out under the sky. The old tents do not give much protection either.
Now my dears, at the battle of Nashville it was terrible but the dear Lord had mercy and gave us the victory. Many, many soldiers from both sides stayed on the battlefield. The Southerners lost most of their cannons. The Negro soldiers fought unusually well. Now this region is peaceful again. Who knows where they will take us next.
Now dear Minnie, how is everything? Oh, if I could only get the answer to the question. An answer would really be a pleasure but I dare not even think about it. But still always my thoughts are, “How is it at home?” Now three months have gone by since I have had word.
God is my comfort. He will turn everything for the best. Dear wife, you will have to do things the way you and your father think is best. Don’t sell too much grain, so that you won’t run out of feed. See to it that you get your monthly check from the government, and also your amount of town money and see to it that Fritz (Genrich, her brother) attends to the taxes.
More news I do not know. The soldiers are very busy butchering so we have food. Of feathered animals (fowl, geese, ducks and chickens) there are none left in this region.
Also I’ll have to tell you that I have not received any money up to now and, who knows when we will get some, and my greenbacks are almost gone. But the greenbacks multiply rapidly.
Now I wish all of you a Happy New Year, peace and health. Greet brother-in-law August (Seefeld) his wife and son. Greet Johann, Friedrich and Henrietta. How much I would have liked to be with you during the holidays.
Also greet my dearly beloved mother, father, brothers and sisters and brother-in-law, Wilhelm. Greet all friends and acquaintances, and a heartfelt greeting to Pastor Hoffmann and his family. Also greet my dear father-in-law. Dear Father (Genrich), how often I think of the day when we brought your wife to eternal rest. Often it seems to me as if it were only a dream. But what God ordains is well done. Comfort yourselves in God and His Word. And dear Father, will you see to it that my dear wife does not sorrow too much? Visit her often and comfort her when she grieves.
Now I greet you dear wife and you, dear little Louise, with all my heart, I am sending you with tears a thousand kisses through the air. And dear Wilhelmina, pray fervently for me. God will hear our prayers and bring us together again, alive and well.
I remain your faithful husband until death.
Part 5: Letter written from Chattanooga, Tennessee on March 6, 1865.
Friedrich Krenz, whose great-grandson Kenneth Bloch, a member of the PVCW, wrote letters home to his wife, Wilhelmina, during his term in the Civil War period. This is the fifth in a series, written while in Chattanooga, Tennessee and dated March 6, 1865 (two months later). In this letter he is anxious to be back home with his family in the Town of Berlin, Marathon County. Friedrich Krenz is weary from service in the Union Army. He looks forward to getting back to the life he started in Wisconsin. Amazingly, he still writes with an attitude of encouragement. War conditions appear to be somewhat better as does the food. At this point, war is more endurable for him.
Von Herzen Treu Geliebte Frau,
(From my heart, to my truly beloved wife.)
I can hardly wait to receive an answer from you. I have waited every day but now we will have to move soon and it is possible that I will never get your letter. In order to give you peace of mind I will tell you how I am. Who knows when I will have another chance to write again. I am, thank God, real well. The food tastes good and I don’t let things bother me but I wish I had some of our hams. They would taste better than this, but here we have to eat what we wouldn’t touch at home.
Dear Minna, yesterday I really longed for home and to be with you, and it brought tears to me because it was our little Louise’s birthday.
Our nice quarters in Dalton we had to give up and now we are 8 days in these dog houses. We hope that we will soon move on. The nice part is that it is warm here. The weather is as warm here as Wisconsin is in May. The grass is growing real well.
Now, dear Minna, I will write again soon when we move to a different place. We won’t stay here very long. Do not write until I write you again, and do things as you feel it should be done.
Now I close with many greetings to all mine. Excuse me for not naming you all personally. My time to write is short.
Now greetings, dear Wilhelmina.
Your faithful husband, Freiderich Krenz
Greetings to all my friends.
Part 6: Letter written from Madison, Wisconsin on June 14, 1865.
Friedrich Krenz, whose great-grandson Kenneth Bloch, a member of the PVCW, wrote letters home to his wife, Wilhelmina, during his term in the Civil War period. This is the sixth in a series, written while in Madison, Wisconsin and dated June 14, 1865 (three months after his last letter). In this letter Friedrich finds himself at a long-awaited point in time, that of returning to his wife and little daughter, Louise. Although he is in Madison, he is doubtful that his return to the Town of Berlin area is imminent.
My Dearly Beloved Wife,
I have to inform you that I am, thank God, well and healthy and have arrived back in our state for which we have longed for so long. We hoped that if we were back in our state then we could hurry back to you, but there is not much hope of this. Our other comrades are here four days already and they still don’t know anything. That is why I am writing you so that the time will not seem so long.
Greet my sister Sophia many times. Samuel is real well and it was a wonderful morning because we could again shake our comrades’ hands and talk over skirmishes that we had to encounter. If only they would give us our few dollars and send us home. The impatience is so great, but who can help it?
My dear Minnie, a letter from you I did not get, which bothers me very much, but I cannot write much. There isn’t much time, but I hope that soon we can talk to each other more. Our happiness is so great. I greet you all a thousand times; the fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, also your sister, Henrietta, and all our relatives and friends. Now I greet you, my dear wife and little Louise.
Your faithful husband until death,
I hope for a soon wiedersehn,
Following is a small clip taken from Berlin Memories in ’76 (Town of Berlin Centennial Book):
CIVIL WAR VETERAN RETURNS TO FARMING
After the Civil War, Krenz returned to farming. His training, in Germany, in the army as a doctor’s assistant, was very beneficial when called to set broken bones and administer to ailing neighbors. Krenz told of Indians camping on his farm grounds and how the Rib River provided both recreation as well as fish for food. Also, about this time, Chippewa Indians had their camp at the top of Stubbe Hill (9588 Co. Trunk Hwy. A, Town of Berlin, now referred to as Big Hill) and were last seen shooting deer on the farm that is now owned by Gordon Mathwick, Jr. located one mile south of the intersection of CTH A on CTH O.
It wasn’t until 1886 that Wausau had its first hospital, located at the corner of Second and Scott Streets. Before this time surgery had to be performed in homes, logging camps, or boarding houses. As late as 1890, some surgeons believed that tobacco smoke was a good sterilizer or disinfectant and smoked through surgical procedures.