LeRoy Pennysaver & News

LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - MAY 22, 2022 by Lynne Belluscio My grandson has volunteered to clean some gravestones at Machpelah Cemetery for community service at school, and one of the stones that he cleaned, was Oscar Geer, located at the north side of the cemetery, in section AA. Oscar Geer was the last surviving Civil War veteran in LeRoy, but there is a conundrum. There is a photograph that appeared in the newspaper (photo Right), that I used for the LeRoy book, and it lists Richard Geer – the last man in the front row, on the right, as the last Civil War veteran in LeRoy. So, who was Richard Geer? Was he the same man as Oscar Geer? So, the easiest thing to do was to go to the newspaper clipping file at the Historical Society. Oscar Geer born in Attica on November 11, 1845. Enlisted in 1863, company 76, New York Volunteers at Rochester - wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness and transferred to Company Eight, 12th regiment, being discharged as a corporal on July 27, 1865. Died - - hmmm no date on the clipping. But clearly it is cut in the gravestone - - 1845 – 1933. He died in 1933. I never found a Richard Geer, so I decided that the newspaper made a mistake. Oscar Geer was indeed the last Civil War veteran in LeRoy, but then I looked at another file, and there was more to the story. Geer was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic - known as the G.A.R. The Historical Society has the G.A.R. files. Oscar’s story is recorded in a huge book. It is different from his obituary. He was born in Attica, but not in November, but October on the 11th and not in 1845, but 1844. He enlisted in LeRoy, not Rochester - - on February 1, 1862 in Company E 105 Regiment N.Y. Infantry. Was discharged on January 10, 1863 in Washington because of a gunshot wound through the thigh. He reenlisted on August 5, 1863 in Company E 76 and transferred to Company H 12 Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps in December 1864 and was discharged at Rush Barracks, Washington on July 27, 1865 - - He was wounded at the Battle of Bull Run and again at Cold Harbor and was taken prisoner at Bull Run and paroled on the field August 30, 1862. He was also in the Battle of Cedar Mountain. He joined G.A.R. Staunton Post No. 396 on September 6, 1883. So, then I pulled out another file and discovered a copy of an article about Oscar Geer that was published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 1928: “Last Civil War Veteran Left in LeRoy Still Enjoys Joke.” The article is long, but he was born in Attica, October 11, 1845 and enlisted at the age of 17 in the 76th Regiment New York Volunteers. “Fearing that the war would be over before I could get down South, I left Warsaw on foot and started for LeRoy to enlist although the snow was six inches deep. This was in December 1861 - - I enlisted on the first of January 1862 and we were stationed in the old stone buildings in Church Street, part of which are still standing and which were later used as malt houses.” (Yes, indeed, the building on Church Street, part of which is still standing, was used to billet many soldiers during the Civil War. It is mentioned in many diaries and stories.) Oscar goes on to tell a story of his first experience getting ready for battle: “The orderly came to our tents and said just above a whisper, ‘Fall in boys, the enemy is coming.’ I looked out of my tent and saw the flash of muskets all along the line. My hair stood on end and was shaking in my shoes, but we were in line in about three minutes with empty guns. Three or four of the boys loaded their guns without orders and wounded some of the boys on the picket line... Some wore their pants wrong side out and others had their cartridge boxes on their shoulders, instead of on their right side.” He tells of an incident of “jayhawking.” “We came off duty one day. We thought we would like to have something to tickle our palates besides salt pork or ‘salt horse’ as the corned beef was called by the boys.” At last, we came across two pet goslings as their owners, two old maids called them. We took the goslings along with us and got a camp kettle, one of us keeping the fire going under it, while the other kept guard - - when it was done it was the toughest piece of goose meat I ever tried to eat, but we had some good goose soup and our second lieutenant helped us eat it. The next day there was a search made for the goose, but of course no one knew anything about it. Two or three boys were arrested and locked up for two days, charged with stealing the goose, although they did not have anything to do with it, while we went free...” He went on to describe the battle of Cedar Mountain: “In a few minutes we had orders for every man to hug the ground. One of our lieutenants stood on his feet to see if he could get a glimpse of the enemy, when wang, bang went the cannon and a piece of shell struck him on the side of the head, just enough to draw the blood freely. We went over the field on Sunday and saw the detail bury the dead, The bodies were thrown into trenches, and you could not tell the boys in blue from the gray except by their uniforms. It was said there were 900 dead, not counting the wounded.” Interestingly, he mentions that he later was “sent to Washington and was on patrol guarding the criminals connected with the assassination of President Lincoln. Some of them were executed in the penitentiary on July 7, 1865. On the 27th day of that year I was discharged.” When Oscar returned home after the war, he married Louise Chamberlain. They were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. When Oscar died, he was survived by four grandchildren Mrs. L.E. Bell of Port Muron Michigan; Emerson Hibbard of Buffalo and William Bridges and Mrs. George Burger of Stafford. (I have wondered if there are any descendants in the area, but that will take a lot more research.) As we prepare for Memorial Day, and you join us for the service at the Soldiers’ Monument on Trigon Park, take a minute and look for Oscar’s name on the monument. And be assured, next to his gravestone will be a flag. Who Was Oscar Geer?