“This is no place for you!”…A Father and Son at Cedar Mountain

Emerging Civil War welcomes back Mike Block…

On Father’s Day, I wish to relate a story that appeared in Brevet Major Jacob Roemer’s Reminiscences of the War of the Rebellion, published a year after his death in 1897.

Major Jacob Roemer, Battery L 2nd New York Light Artillery

Born in the German village of Waldheim in 1818, Roemer came to New York after being discharged from the artillery in his homeland. Arriving in New York in 1839, he took up his trade as a shoemaker. In 1840, he married Sybilla Mauer and fathered seven children. Five years later, Jacob joined the Hamilton Light Artillery, a Flushing, New York militia unit as a private and advanced to first lieutenant of the battery by the start of the Civil War.

Roemer, now a captain,  commanded the 2nd New York Light Artillery, Battery L, an outgrowth of the Hamilton Light. In August 1862 the battery was assigned to Major General Nathaniel Banks’s Second Corps, Army of Virginia. Cedar Mountain would be its first time in combat. The following excerpts are from Roemer’s account of the battle, relating to incidents regarding his 11-year-old son, Louis. It is a unique “bring your child to work day” tale.

“My young son Louis, eleven years old, had been staying with me in camp, but now at the moment of real danger confronting us, I thought it best to send him to the rear with the baggage trains. I called him to me, and, taking from my pocket a twenty-dollar gold piece, handed it to him and said: ‘My son, we may soon be exposed to a deadly fire and I do not wish you to risk your life here. Now, take this gold piece and go to the baggage train, and if I am killed go home to mother, using this money for your expenses.’ After a loving embrace and a promise from him to do as I bade him, we parted.”[1]

Later, during the height of fighting, Roemer picked up the story of Louis…

“Just in the midst of all of this [fighting], one of the officers ed my attention and said, ‘Captain, your son Louis is out there right behind the Battery.’ I looked around and there Louis was, sitting on his horse and looking around coolly and collectively. I called out to him, asking: My son, what are you doing here? for you. If a stray shot or shell should hit you, how can I console your mother?’ ‘Oh, papa’ he replied, ‘don’t send me back where I was, for several horses have been killed and wounded there, and I see you have not lost a man or horse. Do let me stay here with you and the men. I feel happier here.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you feel happier here, dismount and give your horse to the groom, who will put her with mine under the tree. You can make yourself useful among the men, and we will trust God to keep you safe.’”[2]

Battery L’s position at Cedar Mountain (author’s photo)

Roemer’s horse ‘Joe’ was wounded twice during the battle. Roemer concludes his account of Louis at Cedar Mountain and the fate of Joe. “My young son, Louis H. Roemer, thinking he must and could be saved had tried every means in his power to save poor Joe I now saw that he could not be cured, and as he seemed to suffer so much we sent him into a cornfield near by and had him shot.”[3]

I’m not sure if Jacob’s wife and Louis’s mom, Sybilla, would have completely agreed to trust God. She would have probably preferred Louis was in Culpeper, or better yet, back home in New York City while there was

We don’t know why Louis Roemer was with his father. As one of seven children, and likely the oldest son (he had two older sisters), perhaps the family determined he should be with his father. Roemer’s ‘Reminiscences’ mentions Louis at three locations. In addition to Cedar Mountain, he was with his father before Vicksburg (where he caught “Yazoo Fever”) and the fall of Petersburg. It is likely – but not documented – since he was with Jacob at the close of the war, that Louis participated in the May 23, 1865 Grand Review in Washington, D. C. Louis’s postwar experiences and fate are unknown.

A life-long student of the Civil War, Michael Block moved to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 2004 and developed a deep appreciation of the war’s impact on Culpeper County. As a public historian, he gives battlefield tours and lectures, focusing on the stirring wartime events in Culpeper, including at Cedar Mountain. Retiring from the United States Air Force in 2001, he continues supporting the U.S. Government as a consultant. Mike is the vice-president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield.

[1] Furney, L. A., ed., 1897, Reminiscences of the War of the Rebellion 1861 – 1865 by Bvt.-Maj. Jacob Roemer, Flushing, N. Y., Estate of Jacob Roemer, 42.
[2] ibid, 45.
[3] ibid, 62-63.

2 Responses to “This is no place for you!”…A Father and Son at Cedar Mountain

  1. Mike, This is a timely message for Fathers Day. An excellent choice. I trust that all is well up in the Piedmont.

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