CHRISTIAN SPREITER
2nd Wis Inf, Co. K

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Christian Spreiter, a Swiss immigrant and a veteran of the Second Wisconsin Infantry, is a man for whom state and federal record keeping seems to have broken down. Neither the Fond du Lac nor the Washington County historical societies have been able to locate church or burial records for Spreiter. Neither county has claimed him as a veteran.

What is known about Spreiter is the following, provided by his great-granddaughter, Madrice Spreiter Wolbert:

In 1860, Christian Spreiter was a 53-year-old farmer living in the town of Kewaskum in Washington County with his wife Magdalena and children Leonard (born May 14, 1843) and Elizabeth (born March 1, 1846). Other children were Margrethe (born July 24, 1931), John (born November 17, 1833), and Christian (born November 25, 1847). The family  emigrated from Sevelen, St. Gallen, Switzerland, in July, 1854, preceded by John, the oldest son, in July, 1853, and settled in Wayne Township in Washington County. On November 1, 1856, Spreiter filed a naturalization Declaration of Intention in Fond du Lac County.

On November 7, 1861, at the age of 55, Spreiter enlisted in Company K of the Second Wisconsin Infantry. The "Blue Book" Records of the Adjutant General of Wisconsin indicate that his enlistment was in Ashford. He is identified as a black-haired, blue-eyed, farmer aged 45. His town of residence is listed as Ashford.

Spreiter's military service ended with his disability discharge on January 6, 1863 following six months of hospitalization at Columbia Hospital in Washington, D. C. On discharge he is identified as a 56-year-old with grey hair, living in Kewaskum and having enlisted at Ashford. The Medical Inspector's Certificate of Disability indicates that the reason for discharge was "old age and chronic rheumatism." Noted on the Certificate was, "he ought not to have been enlisted."

Spreiter's wife died on June 4, 1863, five months after his discharge. Family records indicate that within a year of his wife's death Spreiter himself was also deceased. All of the Spreiter children with the exception of Margrethe relocated to Minnesota. Margrethe married Gottlieb Kaslow and lived in Dundee, Town of Osceola, Fond du Lac County.

Spreiter's reason for enlisting in the Second Wisconsin at age 54 will probably never be known, whether it was for the enlistment bonus, in an effort to substitute himself for his military-age sons, or from pure patriotism for his adopted county. Whatever his motivation, is seems clear that he fabricated his age upon enlistment, identifying himself as 45, when the census records and his discharge papers all consistently indicate his birthdate to be around 1807. That he "ought not to have been enlisted" seems clear. While he apprently passed for a younger man on enlistment with his black hair and apparent good health, his service with the Second Wisconsin seems to have taken a significant toll, as indicated on discharge by his grey hair and "old age and chronic rheumatism."

More troublesome is that his service has gone unhonored. While the Adjutant General's records indicate that Spreiter was a resident of the town of Ashford in Fond du Lac County, other military records identify his residence as "Ashford, Washington County." Which of the two counties should be credited with his service appears to be an open question. While the census of 1860 and his discharge papers both identify him with the town of Kewaskum, enlistment clearly took place in Ashford, and there appears to have been some significant family links to Ashford. Spreiter's mother was born Margreth Senn, and both census and military records indicate that the Swiss immigrant Senn family were residents of the town of Ashford. On the twelve heads-of-household named Senn recorded for Wisconsin in the 1860 census, all but three were living in the town of Ashford. Three men named Senn, furthermore, enlisted in the military from the town of Ashford in 1861:

Andrew Senn, 12th Wis Inf, Co. D (19-y-o son of Wolfgang Senn)
George Senn, 2nd Wis Inf, Co. K (25-y-o son of John Senn)
John Senn, Jr., 2nd Wis Inf, Co. K (21-y-o son of John Senn)

It seems likely that Spreiter enlisted in the Second Wisconsin along with what would appear to be two young relatives on his mother's side.

Although the census records would seem to be definitive in locating the Spreiter family in Washington County, the proximity of the John Senn and Christian Spreiter farms is of interest. M. L. Bogert's Map of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin published by Bogert and Haight in 1862, indicates that the John Senn, Sr. farm was located in section 29 of Ashford, proximate to the St. Killian post office, one mile from the town of Wayne in Washington County and less than 5 miles from the town of Kewaskum. The John Senn, Jr. farm was located in section 27 of Ashford.

Given the ambiguity of the military records, locating the burial place of Christian and Magdalena Spreiter would also be of interest. Information related to that and to the history of the Spreiter family in the Ashford-Wayne-Kewaskum area would be appreciated.

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