Friday, April 9, 2010

SEPIA SATURDAY- Napoleon's Body Guard

Barthomeus Theiss and Margaret Zillis Theiss- my great great
grandparents.

At Niederhilbersheim, Germany, on October 14, 1782  Bartholomaeus Theiss was born.  He served with the army for eight years in its struggles against Napoleon before he was taken prisoner by the French. Napoleon reviewed his captives and asked each soldier his former profession. When asked, Bartholomaeus presented his sword and said, "This Sire." "We must take care of this man," said Napoleon and transferred him to other quarters. He soon became a member of Napoleon's guard and served the master he idolized through campaigns in Italy, Prussia, Austria and Russia. 

Bartholomaeus rode a splendid black charger. So long had man and horse been together that mutual understanding and devotion existed between the soldier and his mount. In the midst of the terrible saber fighting his right hand was severly injured by a stroke of the enemy's sword. Instinctively recognizing his master's plight his horse backed out of the line of combat to a place of safety where the rider could wrap the injured hand in his neckerchief, wind the reins around the useless arm and firmly grasp his saber in his left hand. Then without command or guidance the horse tore back into the battle where the soldier fought with all his left handed might till his strength ebbed. Three times the unurged horse retreated till the rider recovered, then again charged into the fiercest fighting, carrying the wounded man safely in and out of battle till French victory ended the bloody encounter and the wound could be attended. 
(I suspect this story might be a family myth- but who knows?)

When Bartholomaeus left Germany he said he didn't want his sons to be soldiers and wanted to get them to America because he could foresee years of struggles in the various European territories. This vision was accurate because the wars continued throughout Europe at regular intervals. 

At the time, however,  his sons were bound for military service and were not permitted to leave the country.  So he used a common means of securing passage for them. He drilled holes in four trunks, put the boys in and took them on board ship and released them once out to sea.

Bartholomaeus Theiss came to Sublette, Illinois  in the year 1846 with his wife, four sons and two daughters. Members of the Theiss family built the first Catholic church in Sublette, now known as St. Marys church. Both the church and the adjoining cemetery are kept beautiful to this very day by the descendants of the original Theiss family. 


To see more Sepia Saturday: http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/


15 comments:

Christine H. said...

What a great history. I love the horse story whether or not it's embellished. Anyway, I choose to believe it.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wow - terrific story, be it 'accurate' or family myth.

fantastic names and what faces!

McHargue said...

Amazing story!! What a warrior. Is this part of a larger family history you are assembling? Never Give Up..should be the family motto.

Another great Sepia Saturday posting

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful pictures and a magnificent story to match!

Martin H. said...

Bartholomaeus was quite a character wasn't he? A great story of derring-do.

Barry said...

Stunning photographs and a wonderful story. Even if it does prove to be a family fable, I believe it.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Absolutely fascinating; I enjoyed the history. Margaret's eyes are still piercing down through time! And the story of how they were stowed on board in trunks echoes of the father's determination of freedom.

Poetikat said...

What a fantastic story. Imagine! You are descended from a man who served the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte! That just takes the cake! (If you'll pardon the pun.)

Betsy said...

wow...what a neat story! I say it doesn't matter if it's a myth or truth! Love the photos, too! :)

Crazyasa said...

That's one of the most impressive family stories I have ever heard, even if it might be a myth. Just the part about meeting Napoleon has to be true. How impressive is that? Very nice post. Thanks for visiting my post. If you find out about those neck cloths (scarves?) I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

Nana Jo said...

I adore the names! Any man named Bartholomaeus just has to have to have courage. Embellished or not, it's a wonderful story. I went to school with a family with the last name Theis (just one s).

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

What a great family legacy! Tales may be embellished over time as they are handed down from family member to family member but I believe the origin of the tale is always based in truth. What a wonderfully brave he was.

L. D. Burgus said...

That is a lot of old history. I really enjoyed reading it.

Alan Burnett said...

As usual I am late doing my Sepia Saturday tour. But this post was certainly worth waiting for. Fabulous - it's the only word for it. The very essence of what Sepia Saturday is all about.

evelynyvonnetheriault said...

What a fascinating story - there's a book and a movie there!
Evelyn in Montreal

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