Hacker Brothers papers  1861-1988 (bulk 1861-1880)
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Hacker, Philip W., 1835-1863

Rank : Private, Corporal

Regiment : 5th Michigan Infantry Regiment. Co. I (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 August 6-1863 February 26

Hacker, Rohloff Charles, d. 1863

Rank : Private, Corporal

Regiment : 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment. Co. G (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 May 17-1863 November 24

In the 1860s and 1870s, German immigrants William and Barbara Hacker lived in and near Brighton, Michigan, with their several children. William's brother Karl remained in Germany, living in Neustrelitz in the late 1870s. William and Barbara's sons Rohloff (d. 1863) and Philip (1842-1863) were early and enthusiastic volunteers for the Union Army. In 1861, Rohloff worked as a mill laborer in Brighton, Michigan, and he joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment, Company G, soon after its formation. Philip joined for the 5th Michigan Infantry Regiment, Company I, in August 1861.

In early June, 1861, the 2nd Michigan Regiment was rushed to the ring of forts surrounding Washington and posted near Alexandria, Va. During the summer, they were involved in some minor skirmishes and the first Battle of Bull Run. The Bull Run experience deeply affected Rohloff, who claimed to have witnessed Confederate troops bayoneting wounded Union soldiers and remarked that they refused to allow the dead to be removed from the field, but he refused to admit that the Union had been defeated. Throughout the year, despite the lack of clear military success, the poor equipment, sporadic pay, and despite the threat of Confederate troops posted close enough that the pickets could converse, and, as he put it, close enough "that we will save the travelling expenses," Rohloff's morale remained high. He developed a keen animosity toward Confederate soldiers, promising his mother that he would help "heal the wounds of rebellion with blue pills and black powder." His lack of hesitation in firing on Confederates attested to the sincerity of his sentiments.

Once Philip Hacker's regiment arrived in Washington, Rohloff applied for transfer to the 5th Michigan so that the two could serve together. Although he was unsuccessful, the 2nd and 5th Michigan Regiments were often posted in close enough proximity that the brothers were able to visit, and they occasionally wrote joint letters home. Both remained passionately committed Unionists, avid soldiers, and devout Christians throughout their service; and their close relationship with each other and their family members clearly helped to sustain them under difficult circumstances.

After a comparatively calm winter, the Hackers' regiments took part in the Peninsular Campaign, where they were engaged during the Siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Williamsburg, and the Seven Days' Battles. The Campaign seems to have removed not so much the willingness to fight from both Philip and Rohloff, as the pleasure in doing so. In July 1862, Rohloff admitted "Harvesting Rebels is not a very nice job after all."

The 2nd and 5th Michigan regiments remained posted near Washington until called to Fredericksburg in November. Philip, who had been slightly wounded in September, 1862, was severely wounded in the groin at the Battle of Fredericksburg, affecting his left leg. During his hospitalization, Philip wrote home to describe his wounding and his thoughts on war (believing it was an honor to his mother for him to be wounded). He also wrote, "This cursed war has blighted hopes of being anybody. I look on this war as a wreatched [sic] consern" (1863 February 1). After being transferred to hospital in Alexandria, Philip contracted dysentery and died of the disease and complications from his wound on February 22nd.

The 5th Michigan was transferred to Kentucky in March, 1863, and in May, they joined Grant's Army for the final phase of the siege of Vicksburg. Rohloff was briefly but acutely ill in late June and July, and it is unclear whether he was present with his regiment at the Battle of Jackson. In August, the regiment was withdrawn to Crab Orchard, Ky., and in September, to Knoxville, Tenn. In November, Rohloff was killed in action after falling behind Confederate lines. When the area was retaken, Rohloff's body was reclaimed from its Confederate grave by friends, and re-interred in the cemetery of the 1st Division, 9th A.C. at Knoxville.