Gustave’s Prussian War Commendations

A few months back, when searching through my old family photos, I came across four fragile documents with Gustave’s name on them.

They were all in German and appeared to be from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71. Unfortunately, google translate didn’t help much. After having them scanned at a high resolution, I sent them off to an old college friend who was born and raised in Germany and here’s what I found.

The first and second, although somewhat illegible due to the handwriting, look like a testament to his service in the field and a certificate of commendation from the major of regional command.

The third states:

“After his royal highness, the great herzog [that’s the next royalty level below a king, like a senior duke] has rested, in order to execute the orders of 1st of April 1871 which call for the issuance of an award for military services with weapons on the field, it is hereby issued to 

Oberst (equal to colonel) Gustav Seidenspinner of Sonndorf
which gives him the right to permenently remember his work and view it as an honorable sign for his services provided in the field under the circumstances, carried and displayed in accordance to the rules described for field service medals/awards. So, to confirm the issuance of said award, this document is issued.
Karlsruhe, 1st of April 1871
Great Dukely Badische War Ministry”


The fourth certificate states:
“On orders of his Majesty, the Kaiser and king, this highly valued war commemorative medal, cast from the bronze of captured cannons, is issued to 
Oberst Gustav Seidenspinner of Sonndorf
In recognition of his dutiful participation in the successful battle of 1870 – 1871,  awarded by the undersigned.
Aschaffenburg, 31st of December 1971″


Pretty neat. Apparently the coin mentioned above was issued to several troops who saw combat and looked something like this:


1871 Medal


Unfortunately, by this point, Gustave’s coin has either been lost, or is with another member of the family, who may not even know where it came from. The certificates do help explain why the names of Gustave and his brother Karl appear on this monument in Wolfach though.


This was one of those random things that makes genealogy fun. It seems like everyone has some kind of interesting story behind them.


George Friedrich Steinhaus

He’s my second great grandfather and probably had one of the hardest lives out of my most recent ancestors. He was born on May 5th in Strosswitz, Germany and it didn’t take too long for things to start going wrong for him. His mother, Johanna, died when he was only 19 months old, which in and of itself is terrible enough. In May of 1852, at the age of 10, he left the port city of Hamburg, Germany on his way to America. He spent three months in the ship’s steerage, and arrived in New York in July of that year, ultimately settling on a farm in Mosel, Wisconsin. At the age of 21, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and saw some of the bloodiest combat in the civil war. He was ultimately shot in the foot on July 1st, 1863 in the battle of Gettysburg and, after suffering an infection, lost the lower third of his right leg. Medical practices being what they were at the time, I’m sure this was a fairly horrific procedure.

He was discharged from the army in May of the following year. Three years after returning home to Wisconsin, at the age of 26, he married a German immigrant, 7 years his junior, named Marie Antoinette Wagner. They ultimately had 6 children. He worked for a while as a cigar maker before becoming a saloon keeper in Mosel, WI. He and Antonette eventually purchased 40 acres of land in the southeast corner of the township and operated a roadside hostelry and tavern on the main road between Sheboygan and Manitowoc. He died just 5 months after the birth of their last child, Walter, at the relatively young age of only 43. His death certificate lists the cause of death as a skin disease, erysipelas, also known as St. Anthony’s fire. Although easily treatable with today’s antibiotics, left unchecked this disease can lead to sepsis, which is probably what occurred with George.

76da63af-8718-4120-91c3-ba33e8ea2645   George and Marie Steinhaus3

All in all, he lived an extremely hard life. He suffered through losing his mother before he was even 2 years old, immigrating to a foreign land as a young child, losing a leg in the Civil War and ultimately dying at age 43. Thinking about the sacrifices people like him had to make often makes me much more appreciative of the life I live today.