The installation of Civil War monuments began to increase dramatically in the 1890s, as the veterans grew older and worked to ensure their contributions would be remembered. Many of these were the ubiquitous sentries, but their pedestals were growing ever higher and more ornate.
Jasper’s courthouse square features a “white bronze” (a zinc alloy) figure atop a vault or mausoleum for relics pertaining to the companies formed in Dubois County. Long called the “Soldiers and Sailors Monument,” the unique committee that erected this monument had veteran members from both Union forces as well as the Confederate army. In 1976 the Jasper Herald reported the interesting case John Gramelspacher, who helped erect the monument.
Gramelspacher was a prominent local business man of Jasper and county auditor candidate. In April, 1886, his fellow veterans were forming a GAR post but he could not be mustered in because he had “borne arms against the United States.” As a result, G.A.R. Post 455 in Jasper permitted Gramelspacher to make the following statement:
It is with regret that I have to state that when but fourteen years of age fate threw me into the world an orphan in 1860 and found myself in Owensboro, Ky during the breaking out of the War. My ambitions at that time were not political in any sense of the word being then but 15 years of age. At the first music of the fife and rattle of the drum my folly led me to associate with others in military drills little thinking at the time of the terrible results. I left Owensboro, Ky with a Company which was afterwards attached to the 1st Ky C.S. Infty arrived in the field ‘sr day [sic] after the battle of Bull run and was not allowed to do action service on account of my youth, during the Yorktown Campaign was treated for Hydroceyle in the Hospitals at Richmond Va. and was discharged together with all belonging to the 1st Ky Regt just before the investment of Richmond, Va during which time I belonged to an independent Company which broke up for want of sustenance and by desertion.
After McClenands retreat came back to Richmond Va and enlisted in the City battalion for provost duty but that being a ruse to catch men was soon transferred and assigned to a Regt. doing active field duty. I objected and was placed in Castle Thunder until I agreed to enlist in the 8th Va C.S. Infty which was then recruiting after being terribly cut up at Cedar Mountain. I joined the Company they allotted me to, deserted them in the night, returned to Richmond, Va., and volunteered under General Wise then stationed at Fort Darling and doing duty at Aikens Landing on James River where prisoners were exchanged.
I had then fully made up my mind to desert them & come north although it would cost my life in the attempt, and I cannot express my feeling on beholding the Union flag hoisted on the Steamer loaded with rebel prisoners to exchange for Union prisoners in return. I tried to get away on the Steamer by hiding under a bunk but was detected by a warden who utterly refused to let me stay and threatened to report me if I would not leave. A few weeks thereafter myself and a fellow comrade hailing from New York deserted them by way of James River and arrived in the Union lines at Suffolk, Va after terrible privations and hardships, and further can state with a clear conscience that I never have pulled a trigger towards the Union forces, having by this time learned the mistake my folly led me into and maturing in age.
At Age 17 On my arrival in Philadelphia I did not loose an hours time in trying to enlist in the U.S. army and succeeded to join the U.S. regular army, have used my utmost endeavors to catch up lost time while in the Union Army have not missed a single days duty or an engagement with but one exception when being wounded at Neal Dows Station just beyond Marrietta, Ga, lost 6 weeks, bore all trials & hardships cheerfully, and entered every engagement with a spirit of retaliation and was honorably discharged by reason of expiration of term of service at Mobile, Ala, on Dec 25th, 1865.
I can further state that there are comrades present that can testify to my age as stated and also that they have met me at and on several occasions in the front doing active duty where no laggart could be. Now Comrades be it so ordained that I still must suffer the penalty of my folly, as treason you cannot consistently call it will humbly submit to the laws and abide to the customary decisions, should the ruling be adverse to myself becoming a member of your worthy organization, will not make me unfriendly towards the post or any comrade, but to the contrary will cause to strengthen myself in the duties to my country & fellow comrades and in such an event hope you will kindly remember me in your hearts as being a victim of fate & hope that not a single comrade will ever harbor the belief of myself ever being instilled of true treason.
Alias John Greaner
Co. ”E” 2nd Batt 15th U.S. Inft
This petition was forwarded to the Adjutant General for the G.A.R.’s Department of Indiana for an opinion on whether Gramelspacher could be mustered. At the time in 1976, the Herald could not discern whether Gramelspacher was accepted to the G.A.R. In fact, according to a large framed certificate once possessed by his daught Mrs. Laura Shurig, he was. It states: “This is to certify that John Gramelspacher was a Seargt. of Co. E. Reg., 2nd Batt., 15th U.S. Vols. who was honorably discharged on the 25th day of Dec. 1865 and was mustered as a Comrade of Guckes-Welman Post No. 448 GAR Dept, of Ind., on 7th day of Sept. 1887.”
His story checks with military records and pension files in the National Archives. He seems to have served under aliases in both armies. A John Gramel served with the 1st Regiment, Kentucky Infantry, C.S.A. and was discharged at the end of his service which included an extensive hospital stay. He enlisted under the alias of John Greener in Co. E, 2nd Battalion, 15th U.S. Infantry Regiment at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served with honor and held the rank of sergeant at his discharge. He had been wounded at the Battle of Neal Station and went A.W.O.L. from the hospital to return to duty with his unit rather than accept transfer to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps and light rear area duty. The claim that John Greener and John Grammelspacher were the same man is attested to by affidavits in the pension files signed by fellow Jasper residents in Indiana units he met while in service.
After Gramelspacher’s discharge he returned to Jasper to marry, worked briefly in the drug business, ran a lumber planing mill, and then entered his family’s furniture business. He was county auditor from 1886 and 1894 and supervised the building of the jail.
In September, 1892, Gramelspacher and several fellow veterans visited the Gettysburg battlefield. They noted the monuments to the brave men of the Union and Confederate armies, and were moved to build the monument in Jasper to its veterans. The thirty-foot high monument topped with its soldier resting on his musket can be considered as a tribute to all veterans of these United States, for the treasurer of its building committee had served on both sides of the Civil War.
Source: John Selcha, “A Soldier Changes Sides in Civil War,” The Jasper Herald, 24 July 1976, page 15.