Friday, April 9, 2010
SEPIA SATURDAY- Napoleon's Body Guard
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/