So many of the soldiers fighting on both sides of the American Civil War were killed in battle or otherwise died young. Henry Ginder of New Orleans (1831-1922) was an exception, living a long, prosperous and productive life. On the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, more than two hundred people assembled in the main Sunday School room of the Prytania Street Presbyterian Church, to express their respect and love for Mr. Ginder.
LaRC’s Manuscripts Collection 104 contains handwritten correspondence to and from Henry Ginder during the Civil War, small bound diaries, newspaper pages and clippings and other printed items, two 1873 New Orleans guidebooks, hand-drawn maps and sketches, Confederate money, financial records of the charitable Howard Association, certificates, and undated later-era typed biographical information. His letters to his first wife Mattie are extremely loving and, at the same time, very matter-of-fact and evocative of his daily experiences.
Henry Ginder worked as a jeweler, was a deacon of his congregation, and for many years served as an administrator of the Tulane Educational Fund. As the end of the nineteenth century was a time of nostalgia for Southerners, Mr. Ginder was also held in high regard because of his military service. In 1891, he must have been asked to write something about his life, and on stationery of A. B. Griswold & Co., Watches and Jewelry, he wrote the following descriptive account about himself:
New Orleans, July 7, ‘91
Born Dec. 6, 1831 in Covington, Ky.—came to N. O. when less than a year old, & have been here ever since.
Joined the Confederate Guards some time in 1861, & was on duty (giving up all business) till the city fell, -- when I went to Corinth, Miss. & joined the Crescent Regt., as private in the Co. whose captain was Mr. Helm, (lawyer), 1st Lt. Geoff Brougham, 2d Lt. W. C. Shepard. On the retreat to Tupelo was taken with Camp fever quite seriously. Upon recovery joined, as private, Fenner’s Battery, at Baton Rouge, in the fall of 1862.
We made a forced march to Pontchatoula, thence were ordered to Port Hudson.
Here ends my connection with Fenner’s Battery. At Pt. Hudson there was need of Surveyors & Engineers, & as I had had experience in that line as a former member of the U. S. Coast Survey, I was detailed to report to Capt. J. Fremeaux of the Engr. Corps. & was rated 1st Lt. of Engrs.
I assisted in building the fortifications around Pt. Hudson, -- was ordered to Vicksburg by Capt. J. H. Lockett—was there during the siege, & made prisoner of war on July 4th, 1863.
After being exchanged, I was ordered to join Capt. Jno. G. Mann, Capt. of Engineer troops under Gen. Forest. I served under him during Gen. Smith’s raid from Memphis South thro’ middle Mississippi, whence we drove him back, fighting 2 or 3 severe battles, in which we generally got the worst.
We accompanied Gen. Hood on his campaign up to Nashville, & brot up the rear in the retreat.
Our last fighting was done in following Gen. Wilson’s cavalry raid—up to the Cohawba river near Selma, Ala.
Soon after this Gen. Lee surrendered, & we were paroled as part of Gen. Taylor’s command, at Gainesville, Ala.
Caption: detail of an enclosure in a wartime letter from Henry Ginder to his wife Mattie, this is a probable self-portrait pencil sketch on writing paper, stating, “Port Hudson, 1863, Weight 148 lbs.” Please do not reproduce without permission.
Posted by Susanna Powers