Alternate Given Name Spellings: Spence, Spencer. Alternate Surname Spellings: Tetemer, Tettemer, Tetterman, Tettermann, Tederman, Deiterman, Determer, Detterman, Dueterman, Letterman
Born in New Jersey in January 1840 (alternate birth year 1839), Spencer Tettemer was a son of Pennsylvania natives Harriet (Weaver) Tettemer (1810-1897) and Samuel Bergstresser Tettemer (1807-1860), a native of Tinicum, Bucks County.
He and his older brother, Harvey Joseph Tettemer (c. 1838-1912), a native of Bloomsbury, Hunterdon County, spent their formative years in the northwestern part of New Jersey, where their father was employed as a shoemaker. Their household soon expanded with the births of siblings, Martha (1841-1918), who was born on 27 November 1841; Firman (1843-1934); Sophia (1846-1905), who was born on 3 August 1846; and Alice (c. 1851-1898).
As a 20-year-old, Spencer Tettemer resided in Bethlehem Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey with his parents and New Jersey-born siblings: Harvey, Martha, Firman, Sophia, and Alice. The federal census taker that year noted that their shoemaker-father had real and personal estate holdings valued at just $1,450. Consequently, brothers Harvey and Spencer were also helping to support the family through their employment as moulders while brother Firman contributed the wages he earned as a shoemaker.
The challenges of helping his family find ways to make ends meet during difficult economic times, however, proved too great. Following his unexpected passing on 12 July 1860 at the relatively young age of 53, Samuel Tettemer was laid to rest at the Saint James Lutheran Cemetery in Greenwich Township, Warren County, New Jersey.
A few short months later, the Tettemer family then faced new worries as their nation descended into the madness of secession and Civil War.
Civil War Military Service
Just over a year after their patriarch’s death, the Tettemer family’s second oldest son headed off to war. An early responder to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help preserve America’s union, Spencer Tettemer enrolled for Civil War military service at Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 21 August 1861. He then officially mustered in for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 30 August as a Private with Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
* Note: Company F of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was the first company of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers to muster in for duty, and was led by Captain Henry Samuel Harte, a native of Darmstadt in what is now Hesse, Germany and hotel keeper in Catasauqua who had become Captain of the Catasauqua Rifles after becoming a naturalized American citizen.
Military records described Private Spencer Tettemer as a 21-year-old moulder residing in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania who was 5’7” tall with light hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin, the soldiers of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania were transported south by rail to Washington, D.C. Stationed roughly two miles from the White House, they pitched their tents at “Camp Kalorama” on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. Henry D. Wharton, a musician from the regiment’s C Company, penned an update the next day to the Sunbury American, his hometown newspaper:
After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.
We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday [21 September 1861] without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt [sic] up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.
Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.
…. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.
While at Camp Kalorama, Captain Harte issued his first directive (Company Order No. 1) – that his company drill four times per day, each time for one hour.
On 24 September, the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry finally became part of the U.S. Army when its men were officially mustered into federal service. Three days later, the 47th was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey. Marching behind their Regimental Band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvanians then joined the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteers in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps, and continued on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near Fort Ethan Allen. They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac.
On 29 September, Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities via another letter home:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. In a mid-October letter home, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Less than a month later, in his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”
As a reward for their performance – and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brannan obtained brand new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862. Marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Falls Church, they were then sent by rail to Alexandria. Boarding the steamship City of Richmond, the sailed the Potomac to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before being marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, they hopped cars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.
Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers during the afternoon of 27 January 1862, they steamed away for Florida at 4 p.m. per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan.
Arriving in Key West with their fellow members of the regiment in early 1862, they were promptly assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at the federal installation.
During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvanians introduced their presence to residents by parading through the streets of the city. That Sunday, soldiers from the 47th Pennsylvania also mingled with locals at local church services.
Although much the 47th Pennsylvanians’ lives were spent performing routine duties over the next several months, 4 June 1862 provied to be a festive day. As the USS Niagara transferred its flagship responsibilities to the USS Potomac and sailed for Boston, the guns of 15 Union warships fired a salute, as did the 47th Pennsylvania’s F Company, which “fired 15 of the heavy casemate guns from Fort Taylor at 4 PM,” according to Schmit.
Stationed at Hilton Head, South Carolina from mid-June through July, Private Spencer Tettemer and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians men made camp before being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District as part of the Union’s 3rd Brigade. Although picket duties north of their camp put them at increased risk from sniper fire, the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing,” according to historian Samuel P. Bates.
During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly 25 miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October) that had been abandoned by Confederate forces during the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.
The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then became a history-making infantry unit as several young black men enrolled for three-year terms of enlistment after having been freed from slavery on plantations near Beaufort, South Carolina. (All would honorably muster out in 1865.)
From 21-23 October 1862, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Good and Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers next engaged the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge – a key piece of southern railroad infrastructure which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.
Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from an entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. The Union soldiers grappled with Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackay’s Point.
In the days that followed, as Union leaders reviewed reports from the officers who had commanded troops that day, it quickly became clear that the 47th had incurred a significant number of casualties – two officers and 18 enlisted men killed in action, two officers and 114 enlisted men wounded. Although several officers reported that all of the bodies of 47th Pennsylvanians killed in action were retrieved and buried that terrible day, the graves of several still remain unidentified.
Ordered to return to South Carolina, the 47th Pennsylvania arrived at Hilton Head on 23 October 1862. A week later, several members were given the honor of serving as the guard detail at the funeral of General Ormsby M. Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had died from yellow fever on 30 October. (Mitchelville, the first Freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, was later named for him.)
Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November 1862, much of 1863 was spent garrisoning federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson, the Union’s remote outpost in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida.
As with their previous assignments, the men discovered that disease would be their constant companion and foe. Among others who fell ill was Private Spencer Tettemer, who contracted chronic diarrhea.
This makes it all the more remarkable that, during this phase of service, the majority of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers chose to re-enlist when their three-year service terms were up. Many, who could have returned home with their heads held legitimately high after all they had endured, re-enlisted in order to preserve the Union of their beloved nation.
Among those re-upping was Private Spencer Tettemer, who re-enrolled with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas on 19 October 1863.
On 25 February 1864, Private Spencer Tettemer and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for another history-making phase of service. Steaming first for New Orleans aboard the Charles Thomas, the men arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign spearheaded by Union General Nathaniel P. Banks.
From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.
Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the back-and-forth volley of fire unleashed during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.
The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.
Once again, casualties were severe. The regiment’s second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander, was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color-bearers, both from Company C, were also seriously wounded while preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands.
Still others from the 47th were captured by Confederate troops, marched roughly 125 miles to Camp Ford, a Confederate Army prison camp near Tyler, Texas, and held there as prisoners of war until they were released during prisoner exchanges from July through November. Sadly, at least two members of the 47th Pennsylvania never made it out alive.
Following what some historians have called a drubbing by the Confederate Army and others have called a technical Union victory, the 47th Pennsylvania fell back to Grand Ecore, where the men resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they then scored another victory against the Confederates, this time near Monett’s Ferry on 23 April in the Battle of Cane Hill.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey from 30 April through 10 May, the 47th Pennsylvanians then helped to build a dam near Alexandria, enabling federal gunboats to more easily navigate the Red River’s fluctuating waters. Beginning 16 May, they then began a further retreat, moving from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, finally reaching New Orleans on 20 June.
Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan from 5-12 July 1864 – but they did so without their commanding officer, Captain Harte, who was ordered to serve on detached duty as the leader of the 47th Pennsylvanians serving with Companies B, G and K. (The men of those three companies had been left behind because the McClellan was too small to transport the entire regiment. Sailing aboard the Blackstone, they finally arrived in the Washington, D.C. area on 28 July.)
After arriving on the East Coast, the 47th Pennsylvanians had a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln before joining up with General David Hunter’s forces at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, where they assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.
Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was assigned to defensive duties in and around Halltown, Virginia in early August 1864 and, over the next several weeks, engaged in a series of back-and-forth movements between Halltown, Berryville, Middletown, Charlestown and Winchester as part of a “mimic war” being waged by Sheridan’s Union forces with those commanded by Confederate Lieutenant-General Jubal Early.
With F Company once again under the command of Captain Harte by September, the opening days of Fall 1864 also saw the promotion of several F Company men, including 1st Sergeant William H. Bartholomew, who advanced to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on 1 September. From 3-4 September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers then fought in the Battle of Berryville.
Two weeks later, Captain Harte joined a significant number of his fellow officers and enlisted men in mustering out – honorably – upon completion of their respective three-year terms of service. Those still on duty with the 47th, however – like Private Spencer Tettemer, were about to engage in their regiment’s greatest moments of valor.
Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill (September 1864)
Together with other regiments under the command of Union General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan and Brigadier-General William H. Emory, commander of the 19th Corps, the members of Company F and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians helped to inflict heavy casualties on Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces during the Battle of Opequan (also spelled as “Opequon” and referred to as “Third Winchester”). The battle is still considered by many historians to be one of the most important during Sheridan’s 1864 campaign; the Union’s victory here helped to ensure the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln.
The 47th Pennsylvania’s march toward destiny at Opequan began at 2 a.m. on 19 September 1864 as the regiment left camp and joined up with others in the Union’s 19th Corps. After advancing slowly from Berryville toward Winchester, the 19th Corps became bogged down for several hours by the massive movement of Union troops and supply wagons, enabling Early’s men to dig in. After finally reaching and fording the Opequan Creek, Sheridan’s men came face to face with Early’s Confederate Army. The fighting, which began in earnest at noon, was long and brutal. The Union’s left flank (6th Corps) took a beating from Confederate artillery stationed on high ground.
The 47th Pennsylvania and the 19th Corps were directed by General William Emory to attack and pursue Major General John B. Gordon’s Confederate forces. Some success was achieved, but casualties mounted as another Confederate artillery group opened fire on Union troops trying to cross a clearing. When a nearly fatal gap began to open between the 6th and 19th Corps, Sheridan sent in units led by Brigadier-Generals Emory Upton and David A. Russell. Russell, hit twice – once in the chest, was mortally wounded. The 47th Pennsylvania opened its lines long enough to enable the Union cavalry under William Woods Averell and the foot soldiers of General George Crook to charge the Confederates’ left flank.
The 19th Corps, with the 47th in the thick of the fighting, then began pushing the Confederates back. Early’s “grays” retreated in the face of the valor displayed by Sheridan’s “blue jackets.” Leaving 2,500 wounded behind, the Rebels retreated to Fisher’s Hill, eight miles south of Winchester (21-22 September), and then to Waynesboro, following a successful early morning flanking attack by Sheridan’s Union men which outnumbered Early’s three to one. Afterward, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent out on skirmishing parties before making camp at Cedar Creek.
Moving forward, the surviving members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers would continue to distinguish themselves in battle, but they would do so without two more of their respected commanders: Colonel Tilghman Good and Good’s second in command, Lieutenant Colonel George Alexander, who mustered out 23-24 September upon the expiration of their respective terms of service. Fortunately, they would be replaced with leaders who were equally respected for their front line experience and temperament, including Major J. P. S. Gobin, formerly of the 47th’s Company C, who had been promoted up through the regimental staff to the rank of Major (and who would be promoted again on 4 November to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and responsibility of regimental commanding officer).
Battle of Cedar Creek (19 October 1864)
It was during the Fall of 1864 that General Philip Sheridan began the first of the Union’s true “scorched earth” campaigns, starving the enemy into submission by destroying Virginia’s farming infrastructure. Viewed through today’s lens of history as inhumane, the strategy claimed many innocents – civilians whose lives were cut short by their inability to find food. This same strategy, however, almost certainly contributed to the further turning of the war’s tide in the Union’s favor during the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19 October 1864. Successful throughout most of their engagement with Union forces at Cedar Creek, Early’s Confederate troops began peeling off in ever growing numbers to forage for food, thus enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and others under Sheridan’s command to rally and win the day.
From a military standpoint, it was an impressive, but heartrending day. During the morning of 19 October, Early launched a surprise attack directly on Sheridan’s Cedar Creek-encamped forces. Early’s men were able to capture Union weapons while freeing a number of Confederates who had been taken prisoner during previous battles – all while pushing seven Union divisions back. According to Bates:
When the Army of West Virginia, under Crook, was surprised and driven from its works, the Second Brigade, with the Forty-seventh on the right, was thrown into the breach to arrest the retreat…. Scarcely was it in position before the enemy came suddenly upon it, under the cover of fog. The right of the regiment was thrown back until it was almost a semi-circle. The brigade, only fifteen hundred strong, was contending against Gordon’s entire division, and was forced to retire, but, in comparative good order, exposed, as it was, to raking fire. Repeatedly forming, as it was pushed back, and making a stand at every available point, it finally succeeded in checking the enemy’s onset, when General Sheridan suddenly appeared upon the field, who ‘met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions, without a word of reproach, but joyously swinging his cap, shouted to the stragglers, as he rode rapidly past them – “Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camp! We are going to lick them out of their boots!’”
The Union’s counterattack punched Early’s forces into submission, and the men of the 47th were commended for their heroism by General Stephen Thomas who, in 1892, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own “distinguished conduct in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked” that day. Bates described the 47th’s actions:
When the final grand charge was made, the regiment moved at nearly right angles with the rebel front. The brigade charged gallantly, and the entire line, making a left wheel, came down on his flank, while engaging the Sixth Corps, when he went “whirling up the valley” in confusion. In the pursuit to Fisher’s Hill, the regiment led, and upon its arrival was placed on the skirmish line, where it remained until twelve o’clock noon of the following day. The army was attacked at early dawn…no respite was given to take food until the pursuit was ended.
Once again, the casualties for the 47th were high. Multiple units of regiment lost men, including F Company. Even the regimental chaplain, Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock, suffered a near miss as a bullet pierced his cap. More membersof the regiment were also captured, a fair number of whom died while being held as prisoners of war.
Following these engagements, the 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Camp Russell near Winchester from November through most of December. Rested and somewhat healed, they trudged through a major snowstorm five days before Christmas to reach Camp Fairview in Charlestown, West Virginia, whey they were assigned to outpost and railroad guard duties.
1865 – 1866
On New Year’s Day 1865, more members of the 47th Pennsylvania were advanced in rank, including 1st Sergeant Edwin Gilbert, who was commissioned as Captain of F Company, and Sergeant James Tait, who was promoted to 1st Sergeant (Sergeant-Major).
Assigned in February to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, the men of the 47th moved back to Washington, D.C., via Winchester and Kernstown. On 2 April 1865, Private Spencer Tettemer became Corporal Tettemer.
By 19 April, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were once again responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital – this time following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were resupplied.
Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their imprisonment and trial. As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May.
On their final southern tour, the remaining men of Company F and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Attached again to Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South. Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania next quartered in Charleston at the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury.
Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company F, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry – including Corporal Spencer Tettemer – began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina, a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvania disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.
Return to Civilian Life
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Spencer Tettemer returned home, hoping to begin life anew. On 18 February 1869, he did just that when he wed Martha McKee (1837-1910) at the home of her father, Thomas McKee, in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. A native of Catasauqua, she had been born in July 1835 (alternate birth year 1837); her parents were natives of Ireland.
Sometime around 1871, Spencer and Martha Tettemer then began to make their way west in search of a brighter future. An exhausting journey, their life-altering relocation had been made possible with the expansion of railroad services, in 1851 and 1865 respectively, to St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.
Seven years into his new adventure, they learned that Spencer’s younger sister, Sophia, had also begun a new journey, marrying John Fullagar, the Postmaster of Hokendauqua and an agent for the Lehigh Valley Railway Company, on 16 May 1878.
By 1890, Spencer Tettemer and his wife, Martha, were comfortably settled in Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, Missouri. Veterans records from this time, including the special veterans’ census of 1890, U.S. Civil War Pension and U.S. Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, documented that his post office address was Montgomery City, that he had served as a Private with Company F of the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry from 7 July 1861 to 19 October 1863 when he re-enlisted, and that he had contracted chronic diarrhea sometime during 1863.
These records also confirmed that, following his re-enlistment, he continued to serve with that same company and regiment until 25 December 1865 when he honorably mustered out, and had filed for his U.S. Civil War Pension from Missouri in 1891. The rate of that pension increased from $12 per month to $30 per month in recognition of his steadily worsening health due to medical issues directly attributable to his military service.
Sadly, before the old century could roll into the new, Spencer Tettemer received word that his mother – Harriet (Weaver) Tettemer – had passed away in New Jersey. Following her death on 20 September 1897, she was laid to rest at the Saint James Lutheran Cemetery in Greenwich Township, Warren County, New Jersey.
Around this same time, Spencer Tettemer and his wife opted to radically alter their lives yet again. Per the 1900 federal census, they had relocated to Mountain Township in Baxter County, Arkansas, where Spencer was employed as an engineer at a local mill. The federal census taker that year also noted that the couple had never had children during their 29-year marriage.
* Note: Mountain Home, the community in the Ozark Mountains where they ultimately chose to spend their final years, had been established as the county seat on 24 March 1873. Home to sharecropping families who worked the land as cotton pickers, the area became a hotbed of racial strife shortly after the Tettemer’s arrival. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “Between 1890 and 1968, thousands of towns across the United States drove out their black populations or took steps to forbid African Americans from living in them. Thus were created ‘sundown towns,’ so named because many marked their city limits with signs [warning African Americans not to let the sun go down on them within the borders of those cities].” The ugliness of these policies was still evident more than half a century after Spencer Tettemer’s death. Per this same encyclopedia, a “1972 survey of Mountain Home (Baxter County) residents found many retirees from Northern cities who chose Mountain Home partly because it was all-white.”
By 1910, Spencer Tettemer was employed as an iron company moulder, but still residing with his wife in Mountain Home Township, Baxter County, Arkansas. Also residing with the couple at this time were Mattie Lewis, a 24-year-old, unmarried servant, and her two-year-old daughter, Lillie.
Before that year was over, however, Spencer Tettemer had become a widower. With more time on his hands after burying his wife at the Mountain Home Cemetery, his thoughts turned increasingly to the past. A year later, he decided to relive that past in a more personal way by reconnecting with old friends from his Civil War days. Per the 1 March 1911 edition of The Allentown Democrat:
Five veterans who had served in one company during the Civil War held an informal reception at the Hotel Penn Monday and, in the short hour allotted for this impromptu reception, fought their battles over again. The men were Spencer Tettemer, living in Arkansas; Capt. W. H. Bartholomew, proprietor of the Penn; James Tait, Joseph Schwab and Frank H. Wilson, Catasauqua. All served in Company F, Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, during the Civil War.
Mr. Tettemer left 40 years ago, and is now paying his first visit East. He enlisted in Company F from Catasauqua, as did also the companions whom he met last evening. After the war he married a Catasauqua woman and moved West, where he has resided ever since. Five years ago his wife died, and recently he decided to yield to the longing to visit the scenes of his youth, and come back to Lehigh County.
Mr. Tettemer will remain in this section for some weeks before returning to Arkansas and expects to meet all of the survivors of his company and his regiment possible.
Death and Interment
Following his enjoyable sojourn in Pennsylvania, Spencer Tettemer returned home, and resumed his life in Mountain Home, Baxter County, Arkansas.
Just five years later, though, the old soldier was also gone. Following his death in 1916, he was buried beside his wife at the Mountain Home Cemetery.
Unlike the surviving family members of his former comrades from the 47th Pennsylvania who honored their loved ones’ military service by having their units and ranks carved on their headstones, however, his family chose not to make any reference to his Civil War service whatsoever, and also directed that his name be engraved as “S. Tettemer,” rather than “Spencer Tettemer.”
What Happened to the Siblings of Spencer Tettemer?
Like Spencer Tettemer, Harvey, Alice and Firman Tettemer also made their way west after the Civil War, and like their brother, they all also initially chose to settle in Missouri. But while Firman Tettemer began a more rural life in Warrenton, Missouri, Harvey and Alice went in an entirely different direction, opting for the urban environment of Saint Louis.
Having wed Hanora Moynihan, a native of County Kerry, Ireland who had emigrated to America with her parents at the age of 10, Harvey Tettemer, left New Jersey sometime before 1870. Per the 1880 federal census, he and his wife had built their household with the Missouri births of four children: Mary (c. 1869-1889), Joseph Harvey (1871-1927), Nora (born c. 1873), and John Moynihan Tettemer (1876-1949). Also residing with them were Harvey’s 29-year-old sister, Alice, who was mistakenly identified as his daughter by the census taker that year; Harvey’s 21-year-old sister-in-law, Julia Moynihan; and Margaret Foley, 60-year-old boarder. In addition, the census taker made note of Spencer’s wife being in “confinement.”
Sadly, before the decade was out, daughter Mary was gone. Following her death in St. Louis in August 1889, she was laid to rest at that city’s Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum.
A decade later, Spencer and Harvey Tettemer’s youngest sister, Alice, was also gone. After her passing in St. Louis in November 1898, she too was buried at that city’s Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum.
Their sister, Sophia (Tettemer) Fullagar, then also died. After passing away in Pennsylvania on 9 November 1905, she was laid to rest at the Fairview Cemetery in West Catasauqua, Lehigh County. Her husband, John, and son, George, followed her in death, respectively, in 1906 and 1941.
Having witnessed the birth of six children during their 48-year marriage – only three of whom were still alive by 1910, “empty nesters” Harvey and Hanora Tettemer had only the company that year of Georgie Dorsey, a 15-year-old African American cook and housekeeper in their employ. A clearer picture of their life history emerges when reading Walter Barlow Stevens’ Centennial History of Missouri:
After the Civil war they removed to St. Louis, where Mr. Tettemer engaged in shoe manufacturing, being one of the pioneers in that business in the city [and] the first man to bring shoe machinery west of the Mississippi river. He engaged in business for himself for many years but during the latter part of his active life was superintendent of the factory for women’s shoes at the Hamilton Brown Shoe Company, retiring from active work eight years before his death in 1912 at the age of about seventy-five years.
His son, Joseph H. Tettemer, was educated in St. Bridget’s parochial school and in the St. Louis University, in which he pursued his classical course, while subsequently he entered St. Vincent’s Seminary at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and there studied philosophy. His theological studies were pursued in Kenrick Seminary of St. Louis and on the completion of his course there he was ordained to the priesthood on the 8th of June, 1895, Archbishop Kain officiating.
Father Tettemer afterward pursued a post-graduate course in the Catholic University at Washington, D. C, for two years and in October, 1897, was appointed assistant to the Rev. Father P. W. Tallon at the Holy Name church of St. Louis. He there served for four years, after which he went west because of ill health. He spent three years in the west regaining his health, after which he returned to St. Louis and was appointed assistant to Father F. J. Jones, pastor of St. Columbkllle’s church. He continued for two years in that work and was next appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s parish at Louisiana, Missouri, where he continued for two years. In March, 1909, he was brought back to St. Louis to organize the parish of St. Paul the Apostle and succeeded in erecting the house of worship at No. 3901 Jennings road at the city limits. There were then but a few scattered buildings in the neighborhood. Father Tettemer purchased the ground and built a pretty church the same year and three years later erected a modern parish residence. In 1920 a fine school structure was finished, supplied with all modern appointments. The parish now has ninety families and one hundred children are enrolled in the school. The parish lies adjacent to the new industrial section of St. Louis and has a bright future before it.
Father Tettemer is a man of genial personality and his friends are legion, including many of the Protestant as well as of the Catholic faith. Fraternally he is connected with the Knights of Columbus.
In 1902, The St. Louis Republic carried news of interactions Father Joseph Tettemer had had with the Pope on a recent visit to the Vatican in Rome, Italy:
Priest Had Password to Pope’s Presence
Father Tetteman [sic] Signally Honored Upon His Recent Visit to Vatican.
Used His American Tact.
Private Audience Secured When Others Were Only Permitted to See the Revered Pontiff.
American tact and energy as exerted by the Reverend Father Joseph Tettemer, formerly assistant rector of the Holy Name Catholic Church on North Grand avenue, succeeded, where European pomp and diplomacy had often failed, in securing a personal audience with his Holiness, Pope Leo XIII.
Father Tettemer has recently returned from a trip to Rome, and while he was there two public audiences were granted by Pope Leo. One was especially for the clergy of Spain and the other for the clergy of France. Father Tettemer attended both.
Upon the first occasion the American priest was usherred [sic] into the audience chamber with the Spanish priests. When all had assembled, a portal on one side of the chamber was thrown open and the Pope entered, seated upon a dais, or platform, that was raised upon the shoulders of his stalwart Swiss Guards, and upon this he was carried around the audience hall above the heads of his visitors, who silently received the blessing which was conferred as the Pope proceeded.
When the circuit of the auditorium had been completed the Pope retired to a position near the entrance to his private quarters, and was lowered to the floor. This was a signal that the audience was over, and all bowed themselves from his presence.
Father Tettemer was far from satisfied with this proceeding and determined to attend the audience given the next day to the priests of France.
The same programme was gone through as on the day before, but when the signal for dismissal was given, Father Tettemer, instead of leaving the audience hall, waited until the others had passed out, and then approached where the much revered pontiff was half reclining upon his couch.
Quickly and quietly Father Tettemer elbowed his way through the guards and was within a few feet of his Holiness before the former became aware of his presence.
A powerful Swiss officer grasped him by the shoulder and was about to detain him, when he succeeded in attracting the attention of the Pope.
Father Tettemer called out in Latin, ‘I am an American and desire to speak with your Holiness.’
The words seemed to electrify the aged father, who instantly commanded his guards to release the young American and signaled for him to approach. After a cordial greeting the Pope learned that some friends of the young priest were without and had them summoned.
His Holiness conversed freely with the Americans and bestowed many compliments upon their country and countrymen. He seemed especially pleased with the determination displayed by the young St. Louis priest and questioned him closely regarding affairs in America.
When the fact that Father Tettemer had secured a private audience with the Pope became known in Rome, it created a great deal of comment, as such occurrences are extremely rare and have hitherto been granted only when the most pressing matters have been urged as the reason.
The Americans were justly proud of the distinction conferred upon them and Father Tettermer [sic] was quite a hero during the remainder of his stay in the capital of the Roman Catholic Church.
The following year, the same newspaper carried word that the Tettemer’s youngest son, John, had also traveled to Rome, where he had studied for a number of years before also being ordained as a priest. The 24 May 1926 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald further clarified these dates noting:
The Rev. John Tettemer was consecreated a bishop according to the rites of the Liberal Catholic Church at the Church of St. Alban’s yesterday [23 May 1926]. Bishop Tettemer entered the Passionist Order of Monks in 1894, and made his theological studies in Rome, where he was ordained by Cardinal Respighi in 1901….
Assigned to the Passionist Monastery in Normandy, Missouri (known formally as “Our Lady of Good Counsel” and sometimes referred to as “the Little Rome of the West”), he was given the religious name of “Father Ildefonso, C.P.” (which was spelled incorrectly in various newspapers as “Alphonsus” or “Alphonso”).
After passing away in St. Louis in November 1912, Harvey Joseph Tettemer was laid to rest in the same cemetery where his sister had been interred 14 years earlier – the Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum in St. Louis. His wife, Honora, followed him in death in 1921, and was then laid to rest beside him.
Meanwhile, Firman Tettemer married and then blazed his own trail in Warrenton, Missouri, where he had become a rancher, according to the Warrenton Banner. Like his father and older brother before him, he had been a shoe manufacturer. As he aged, he developed myocarditis and arteriosclerosis as his mental faculties also gradually declined. While visiting Henderson, Vance County, North Carolina (the community where his sister Martha had resided prior to her death), he passed away there on 11 March 1934. His remains were returned to Missouri for burial.
* Note: Martha (Tettemer) O’Neil, the sister of Spencer, Harvey, Firman, and Alice, had also opted to wed and move away from the Garden State. After marrying James Alexander O’Neil, a native of Ireland, however, she settled North Carolina in Henderson, Vance County, sometime in or before 1880. Together, they welcomed the arrival of four children: Hattie, Gertrude, Edna, and Maurice. Following her death on 4 January 1918, she was buried at the Elmwood Cemetery in Henderson.
What Happened to Spencer Tettemer’s Priest-Nephews?
Following his successful push to secure a private audience with the Pope in Rome, Father Joseph Harvey Tettemer spent his life in service to the Roman Catholic Church – a life which had its highs and lows. After establishing a new church at Pine Lawn – St. Paul the Apostle – in 1909, he ran afoul of the law in 1917. According to the 30 November edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that year, “Three persons were injured and a horse was killed in two accidents caused by the Rev. Father Joseph Tettemer, who is pastor of the Catholic Church of St. Paul the Apostle at Pine Lawn, St. Louis County.” He then “was arrested on two charges of felonious vandalism, two charges of carelessness, one charge of leaving the scene of an accident and one charge of violating traffic regulations.” The newspaper then described what had happened:
Father Tettemer’s automobile struck Julius Leventhal of 2514 Cora avenue and his wife … as they were getting on a Delmar car. Mrs. Leventhal’s left leg was broken and three of Leventhal’s ribs were fractured…. The police report on the case says that the automobile ran east without stopping. In front of 4218 Delmar it struck a baggage wagon driven by Joseph Smith of 4054 Von Versen avenue. Smith was knocked into the street and suffered concussion of the brain, while Smith’s horse was killed. Mrs. Anna Moore, who was also on the wagon, was slightly bruised. The wagon was knocked against an automobile with three occupants, and the automobile was damaged to the extent of $100 or more, but the occupants were not hurt. Father Tettemer said both accidents were due to the wetness of the pavement, and that he stopped to inquire about the Leventhals, but went on when someone threatened him. The Leventhals and Smith were taken to the Missouri Baptist Sanitarium.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch then reported in its 27 January 1918 that he ultimately avoided jail time for the damage and serious injuries that he had caused on Thanksgiving evening of the prior year when “Assistant Circuit Attorney Connor refused to issue warrants for felonious wounding.” As a result, “the only charges docketed against him were three for careless driving, in which Leventhal, Smith and Ligon were named as prosecuting witnesses.”
His actions evidently did not cause lasting damage to his reputation among his superiors or congregants, however, because he continued to officiate at services at St. Paul the Apostle in the Pine Lawn section of St. Louis, where he remained until his death in 1927. Per the Wednesday, 29 June edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The funeral of the Rev. Joseph H Tettemer, 56 years old, will be held at 10 a. m. Saturday at the Catholic Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Pine Lawn, of which he was pastor. Interment will be in the priests’ lot at Calvary Cemetery. Father Tettemer died yesterday at the parish house of the church, 2901 Jennings road, of a complication of diseases, after an illness of about 10 days. Born in St. Louis, he was educated as a secular priest at Kenrick Seminary, entering the priesthood 32 years ago. For 10 years he was assistant pastor of Holy Name Church, and for a time he had charge of a parish at Louisiana, Mo. Eighteen years ago he went to Pine Lawn. He is survived by a brother, the Rev. Alphonse Tettemer, a member of the Passionist Order in Rome.
Meanwhile, Rev. Joseph Tettemer’s younger brother, John Moynihan Tettemer, who was known within the Roman Catholic Church as “Father Alphonus,” embarked a radically different path. Choosing to leave the priesthood in 1916, he opted instead to become both a family man and a businessman while continuing his search for enlightenment.
His 1921 application for a U.S. Passport stated that he had been born in St. Louis on 16 May 1876, and that he had last left the United States sometime in July 1914 when he had traveled to Liverpool, England en route to Rome, Italy and Davos, Switzerland in August or September of the following year, and that he was planning this next trip both for his health and “to import American manufactured goods & raw materials to Europe.”
In fact, he had traveled extensively on behalf of the church for many years, and had also lived in Europe at various points in his life. Appointed as director of the International College in Rome in 1906, he then became Consulator General of the Passionist Order in 1914.
Even after being released from his duties within the Passionist Order in 1914, he retained a fair degree of connection to the church, and was ordained a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church at the Church of St. Alban’s in Sydney Australia on 23 May 1926.
By 1928, however, he was sailing aboard the S.S. Laconia from Liverpool to New York in 1928 with his wife, Ruth (Roberts) Tettemer, a native of Great Britain whom he had married that same year. By 1930, he was employed as the manager of a hotel, and resided with his wife in Los Angeles, California. Between 1931 and 1935, he and his wife greeted the arrival two daughters – Eve and Joneen – and a son – John Meredith.
Residing with his family at their Wanda Park Drive home in Beverly Hills by 1935, he was then cast in the role of Montaigne in the Academy Award-winning film, Lost Horizon (1937).
* Note: The ties between John Moynihan Tettemer and his family to Hollywood and the worlds of spiritual development and publishing ran deep. In 1955, his son, John, wed Susan Hawkins Cronyn, the daughter and step-daughter of the acclaimed Hollywood actors, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. Two years later, his daughter, Eve, then married Lionel Siegel, who went on to write scripts for multiple television series during the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1989, the Tettemer daughters – Eve and Joneen – were acknowledged by Sidney Field and Peter Hay for contributions to Krishnamurti: The Reluctant Messiah, with Hay noting via the book’s preface that both woman “grew up knowing Krishnamurti.”
Before the century could reach its halfway mark, however, the former monk had moved on to a new plane of existence, passing away in May 1949 – just two days before his birthday. The mortal remains of John Moynihan Tettemer were then laid to rest at the Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. According to the 8 October 1951 edition of The Los Angeles Times:
When John Moynihan Tettemer died in 1949 at the age of 73, he left the manuscript of an unfinished autobiography. Most of it he had written in a tiny adobe house on the desert near Victorville…. He had spent 25 years of his life as a Passionist monk. Then, in the latter 1920s, he had asked to be released from his three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and from his oath to persevere in the order until his death. He was given his release from Rome and returned to the life of the world….
His book, ‘I WAS A MONK; THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN TETTEMER’ … edited by an old friend, Janet Mabie, after his death, is not a record of bitterness or controversy…. It is simply the reflection of one man’s search for Truth, and his experiences on the way.
Almost from the beginning, John Tettemer was a dedicated youth. Born of a devout Pennsylvania Dutch father converted to the Catholic faith, and an Irish mother he was reared in St. Louis. Even at the age of 9, when he finished his special instruction and was ready for First Communion, he was an exceptionally religious boy….
He writes: ‘I do not regret one moment of the 25 beautiful, peaceful years I lived as a monk a monk’s life; a good monk’s life. They were years of aspiration, of study, of zeal, of happiness.’ But he adds: ‘Simple honesty and love for truth, planted in me as a child by beloved and God-fearing parents and watered and nourished by saintly men during my growth to maturity, finally made it impossible for me to remain in that happy home of my youth’s dreams and of my mature labors, I did not leave the monastic life in disillusionment, not in uncertainty of the Rightness of my action for me…. Nor can I regret one moment of the peaceful later years, living as a simple layman of no church or shall I say of all churches.’
The point here is that John Tettemer, toward the end of his life, was convinced that man would never solve the mystery of eternity but that he must go on trying….
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3. Firman Tettemer (news mention regarding his ranch). Warrenton, Missouri: Warrenton Banner, 13 February 1925.
4. Firman Tettemer, Edna O’Neil, and Mrs. James A. O’Neil, in Death Certificates. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina State Board of Heath, Bureau of Vital Statistics, 1918-1934.
5. John Meredith Tettemer, Susan Hawkins Cronyn, John Moynihan Tettemer, Ruth Roberts, Hume Cronyn, and Jessica Tandy; Eve Tettemer, Elliott Siegel, John M. Tettemer (John Moynihan Tettemer), Ruth Roberts, Sol Siegel, and Sally Ann Levy, in Marriage Records. Los Angeles, California: County of Los Angeles, 28 August 1955; 27 September 1957.
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14. Tettemer Family Birth Records. Los Angeles, California: County of Los Angeles, 1931-1935.
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16. Tettemer, Spencer, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
17. The Rev. J. H. Tettemer Dies: Served 32 Years as Priest: Funeral Services Will Be Held Saturday at Pine Lawn. St. Louis, Missouri: Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 June 1927.
18. The Rev. John M. Tettemer (notice of consecration as a bishop which also mentions his dates of entry into the Passionist Order and ordination), in Liberal Catholic Church. Sydney, N.S.W.: The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1926.
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