152 years ago today the Battle of Shiloh in the US Civil War began. My great-great grandfather Jacob Kepler fought in the Battle of Shiloh. He was a private in the Company C, 53rd Indiana Infantry. He was one of the older soldiers. He was born in 1820.
He served in the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant. My great-great grandfather’s regiment joined the Army of the Tennessee in March 1862. They marched from Indianapolis where they had guarded prisoners. On March 15 they were ordered to Savannah, Tennessee where they took place in the Battle of Shiloh which is just south of the town of Savannah. Next they advanced on and and took part in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi from April 29-May 30, 1862. The unit’s next movement was a march to Memphis, Tennessee via Grand Junction, LaGrange, and Holly Springs, Mississippi between June 1-July 21, 1862. They were on duty in Memphis until September 6, 1862. While at Memphis my grandfather passed away from illness as did so many soldiers during the Civil War. He is buried with the Union soldiers in Memphis.
Here is my direct relationship. My father is Jimmie Kepler, grandfather Thomas Aaron Kepler, great-grandfather Emery Hall Kepler, and great-great grandfather Jacob Kepler.
Jacob joined the Army at age 41 to keep an eye on his son James K.P. Kepler (born 1843) who had enlisted. James is my great-great-great uncle. James survived several weeks following the Battle of Shiloh before dying. His date of death was May 27, 1862. Official US Government internment records show: Kepler, James K.P. Private, Co C, d.o.d. 27 May 1862, Section F, Grave 1408, O.I. Savannah, Tennessee. This is the official Shiloh National Cemetery. The online record is at: http://www.shilohbattlefield.org/cemetery/results1.asp?LASTNAME=Kepler&Submit2=Submit
For those that don’t know, The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river. Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant there. The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day, but were ultimately defeated on the second day.
Photo credit: Chromolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh, American Civil War. The date is 1888. The Author of the picture is Thure de Thulstrup (1848–1930). It is in the Library of Congress.
In October 1974, I made my first trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. It was 500 miles one-way from the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) to Fort Davis, Texas. I went to do the required astronomical labs for my physics class in astronomy.
The trip was a caravan from the UT Arlington campus to far west Texas. We departed about 2 PM on Friday, October 4, 1974. We headed from Arlington west on Interstate 20 (yes it was built way back then). We drove to Lake Colorado City State Park about 3 miles south of Interstate 20 just southwest of Colorado City, Texas. I pitched my tent. I shared the tent with 4 young women and one young man that were fellow cadets in the UT Arlington ROTC program. Three of them were prior service (US military veterans).
The next morning we got up early and headed west. We stopped at a Stuckey’s (remember them?) getting two scrambled eggs with toast and bacon or sausage plus coffee for under a dollar. The journey continued to Pecos, Texas. There we left Interstate 20 and headed south on Texas Highway 17. We crossed Interstate 10 at Balmorhea, Texas and head south to Fort Davis. We camped at the Davis Mountains State Park.
That weekend the park also hosted a retreat for the Odessa, Texas Jaycees. Some of them were concerned that we had males and females staying in the same tent. I got a strong morals lecture from a Baptist deacon. It mattered not we were all of legal age.
That Saturday, October 5, 1974 a very good top five ranked Texas A & M football team was upset by Kansas University loosing 28 to 10. We listened to the game on the radio as we explored the city of Alpine, Texas and toured the Fort Davis National Historic site. I’ve actually been there more times than any national park or historic site with the exception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Why more to the Smokeys? My brother-in-law is a retired Great Smoky Mountain Park Ranger.
We drove to the McDonald’s Observatory in the early afternoon to check-in and get ready for the night’s observations. We returned that night for one of the most memorable evenings of my life.
The McDonald Observatory is an astronomical observatory located. It is located just northwest of Fort Davis, Texas, on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. It is the property of the University of Texas at Austin.
The McDonald Observatory was the first location on earth to bounce a laser off a reflector left on the moon by Apollo astronauts. I learned this on my road trip.
I also learned the high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region and provide excellent conditions for astronomical research. It is one of the darkest places on earth at night. I can vouch for it being dark and more stars being visible than you could count in a lifetime.
I have been back many times since that first trip in 1974. I took my two sons there on dad-son vacation when they were 13 and 10 years old. Since then they have built an excellent visitor center.
The trip back to the University of Texas at Arlington was a long one. We drove back on US 67. It was 500 miles on a two lane highway. On the return trip I stopped and visited my parents at their ranch northwest of Brownwood, Texas.
It was on the 1974 trip I decided to ask Benita Breeding to marry me. I proposed the next week and we married on December 28, 1974.
Photo Credits: Jimmie A. Kepler took the photographs in May 2007. The photographs are available for use under the Creative Commons License listed below.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.