Thursday, September 18, 2014

Colonel Elias Peissner.

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Elias Peissner.

Birth: Sep. 5, 1825, Vilseck, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Death: May 2, 1863, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

Wife: Margaret Lewis Peissner (1836 - 1904).

Children: Barbara Kotzbauer Peissner Hollis (1858 - 1892), Keziah Lewis Peissner (1858 - 1860), Tayler Lewis Peissner (1860 - 1895).

Burial: Riverside Cemetery, Fort Miller, Washington County, New York.

119th., New York infantry.
New York, State Records.

Elias Peissner, Age 35.  Enrolled at New York City, for 3 years, and mustered in as Lieutenant Colonel, August 9, 1862;, as Colonel, September 1, 1862; Killed in action, May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville Virginia.  Not commissioned Lieutenany Colonel; commissioned Colonel, September, with rank from same date original.

Union College, Schenectady, New York.
Elias Peissner, who was Captain, was born March 27, 1826, at Vilseck, Bavaria. His father, Jacob Peissner, held an office under Louis, the old King of Bavaria. He attended the Amberg Gymnasium for eight years, graduating when 17 years of age. He then entered Munich University and studied philosophy two years and law three years, being regularly authorized to practice law in 1849. He then spent part of a year at the University of Giessen. He was suspected of favoring the German
revolution and obtained with difficulty a passport to visit foreign universities.
He arrived in New York July 3, 1849. While on a trip to Niagara F'alls on foot, he stopped at Schenectady and began teaching German, fencing and broadsword to professors and students. This led to his teaching Latin and political economy and in 1855 Union College founded for him the Professorship of the German Language and Literature and added the lectureship on political economy. He published the same year an English-German gTammar and in 1858, ''Romance Languages 
He married Margaret, daughter of Prof. Tayler Lewis, in April, 1856, and they had three children, one of whom died in 1860. The daughter became the wife of Prof. Ira N. Hollis, and has been dead many years.The son, Tayler Lewis Peissner, then an infant, was made ''child of the company," by the Zouaves. Mrs. Peissner became Registrar of the College, and was known to a great many of the Alumni and students. A Grand Army Post in Rochester, N. Y., is named after Colonel Peissner. 
In the Fall of 1862, just before the college reopened, Prof. Peissner took command of the One Hundred and Nineteenth New York Volunteers. At last he was fully enlisted in the cause which was the dearest on earth to him, and the full significance of which he understood most thoroughly; first by the quick sympathy of a heart warm with the love of liberty and justice, and then by the profound study which he had made of our political life, and the clear conviction which he had of the value of the Republic to human progress everywhere and always.

His record as a soldier is brief, but it is very characteristic. He was as faithful to his men as he had been to his students, and he mastered every detail of his new profession with the rapid intelligence and the intense application which he had shown in his old one. When his regiment lay in camp facing the enemy one of his superior officers remarked, "We can lie down in safety tonight, for Peissner has command of the pickets." The words were, in little, the description of his admirable character. Whoever came in contact with him instinctively felt this unreserved confidence that whatever a generous sense of duty could demand he would be sure to give.

I need not say that he was brave. His was the courage at once of a strong nature and of a lofty ideal. What were the dangers of the field to a soul which saw in its immediate surroundings scope for the noblest activity, and which saw, beyond, the infinite worth of the cause which it was serving? When he crossed the Rappahannock, the first man of that gallant and ill-fated Army of the Potomac, he knew that whether he lived or died his acts were linking the efforts of all the past to the possibilities of freedom and progress in the continual future.

When, on that terrible morning of the 2d of May, he rode calmly down the lines, holding his men firm against the fierce onset that was scattering those on either side, he knew that those who fell in that fight fell as the seed falls, making the great harvest possible. And yet, when this heroic soldier of universal freedom, this patriot whose patriotism was deeper than love of country, lay mortally wounded, his last words, which a stricken comrade gathered from his lips, were a prayer that touches the deepest spring in our heart, "God protect my wife and children!" Let us bow in silence before this cry of human anguish which so reveals to us the costliness of the sacrifice that had been laid on the altar of our country and its sacred cause.
This is the man whose memory the Class of '63 desire to honor in the bust which we present to you. It is a tardy testimony of our love and reverence for him, but its very tardiness is proof that after near a score of years his place is warm in our hearts. We hope that as the students of Union come and go, looking daily on these features, they may feel, even if remotely, some added impulse toward the pure and noble ideal of character and conduct which Col. Peissner so faithfully cherished, and that, in their young and generous souls, his beautiful life may be perpetuated. 
A history of the Class of 1863 would not be complete that failed to tell of the affection and admiration which prompted its gift of the beautiful bronze bust of Elias Peissner to Union College, at commencement in 1880. As the presentation address of Classmate Edward Cary gives appropriate expression to these feelings, it is given here in full. The inscription on the pedestal is as follows :

In honor of Elias Peissner, Professor in Union College,

Colonel of the 119th New York  Volunteers

Killed at the head of his Regiment at Chancellorsville, Va.,

May 2nd, 1863.
Accomplished Scholar.
Beloved Friend.
Heroic Soldier.
Offered by the Class of 1863.


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