George Schneider of the Third Maryland

by Elwood White

Born in Baltimore on 7 November 1844, George Schneider was the eldest son of Christopher and Christana Schneider, immigrants from Germany. A lifelong Marylander, George was raised in Baltimore's Second Ward, where his father worked as a baker. When the war broke out between the states George must have been anxious to join up. He enlisted on 16 November 1861 in Baltimore, a mere 10 days after turning 17. On his enlistment papers with the 4th Maryland Infantry, George indicated his age as 18 and his occupation as laborer.

Public feeling in Baltimore over the rebellion had been intense. Eight months earlier the Baltimore riot against the Massachusetts troops had erupted. Federal troops had been sent in to occupy Annapolis and Baltimore shortly thereafter. In September 1861 several members of the General Assembly had been arrested to prevent the passage of an Act of Succession. Yet, although many of his neighbors may have held Southern sympathies, George enlisted with those forces which sought to preserve his family's new-found homeland.

The 4th Maryland, also known as "the German Rifles," remained in the Baltimore area during the first part of 1862. On the April 30th muster roll George was listed as AWOL and fined $5.00. Perhaps George was off seeing his girl, or perhaps he was visiting friends from his old neighborhood; we will never know. The 4th Maryland Infantry, failing to come up to strength, was broken up, with several of its companies going to the 3rd Maryland. On 7 May 1862, George became a member of Company H of the 3rd Maryland.

The regiment moved to Harpers Ferry on 24 May 1862. Present with Company H throughout the rest of 1862, Schneider undoubtedly saw action at Cedar Mountain (9 August 1862) and Antietam (17 September 1862), the two major actions in which the Third participated. The regiment wintered at Stafford Court House on 14 December 1862 through 27 April 1863, when the campaign started that led to the battle of Chancellorsville (1-3 May 1863). On the June 30th muster roll George was listed as absent from the company, having been detached to the brigade commissary. The battle of Gettysburg was fought on the first three days of July 1863. Throughout this period Schneider was engaged in the movement of supplies. On the company muster roll of August 31st, Schneider was absent from the company on detached duty as a teamster for the brigade supply train. However, his whereabouts were not known and Schneider is again listed as AWOL. It turns out that Schneider was sick in the hospital, and the error is noted on the company's next muster roll.

During September and October 1863, the regiment moved into Tennessee, having been transferred to the Army of the Cumberland. Schneider had rejoined the company and was listed as present on the muster roll for 31 October. The regiment was assigned guard duty on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, where it would remain throughout the Winter. George reenlisted at Henderson, Tennessee on 19 November 1863 for three years. Schneider must have received a sizeable bounty, because according to his file charges were preferred by a John Stark II on or about 19 November 1863, claiming that Schneider had threatened to take his life, stating: "Now, Johnny, you have my money, if you go and get it for me I will not say anything to anybody nor to the captain and will be your friend, but if you don't I'll kill you and cut out your liver."

It would appear that Schneider succumbed to a vice that seduced many a soldier: gambling! There is no indication in Schneider's file whether or not he received any punishment for this alleged offense. On the December 29th muster of Veteran Volunteers he was now listed as being with Company E. Schneider received a month's pay in advance, and was absent on furlough when the February 29th muster roll for 1864 was taken. He was listed as present with the company on the next one.

In April 1864 the regiment was transferred to the IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac. On May 5th the regiment crossed the Rapidan and moved into position on the right of Gen. Grant's force. Throughout the rest of May and well into June the Third was actively involved in a string of engagements. Starting with the battle of the Wilderness (5-7 May), then Spotsylvania (9-20 May), North Anna (23-27 May), Totopotomoy (28-31 May), Bethesda Church (1-4 June) and Cold Harbor (5-12 June), finally culminating in the assault on Petersburg, VA (17 June). During the early part siege Schneider received a wound, which must have been minor as he remained on duty.

By now we can little doubt that George Schneider had become a seasoned veteran of combat. On 24 June, Schneider was transferred from Company E and became a member of Company A. Then, on 30 July, the Battle of the Crater occurred. During the course of the battle Schneider demonstrated the mettle of which Maryland troops are made. The citation in his file best describes Schneider's conduct:

"After the color sgt. had been shot down, he seized the colors and planted them on the enemy's works during the charge. By rapid fire of his spencer rifle he silenced a party of the enemy's sharpshooters who very annoying. He remained in action June 17, until its close although wounded in the early part of the engagement."

For his gallant actions in battle Schneider was promoted to Corporal on 1 August 1864. The regiment took part in the action at Weldon Railroad (13 August 1864) and Poplar Grove Church (30 September). On 1 October 1864, Schneider was further promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Then on 1 November 1864, the one thing which every soldier figures never will happen to him, happened: "He received a gunshot wound in his left breast, below the shoulder, severely piercing the left lung, while on picket at the time of discharging his gun against the enemy between 5 and 6 o'clock in the morning near Weldon R.R. in front of Petersburg, Va."

The record shows that Schneider was absent from muster on December 31st, sick in Washington of wounds and that he rejoined the company on 2 January 1865, two months after being shot. His pension application some years later relates a chronological list of his treatment in the following named hospitals and the time he spent there: City Point, VA, 4 weeks; Lincoln Hospital, Washington, D.C., 7 weeks; 30 days furlough; Lincoln Hospital, 2 weeks; and Convalescence Camp, State of Virginia, 4-5 weeks. Adding up the time spent recovering, as given by Schneider (even using conservative numbers), one calculates four months spent in recovery. We must remember that such a wound would be traumatic and his recollections would be blurry. Of course, when applying for Government money some may exaggerate their claims!

On the muster roll of February 29th Schneider is listed as present, and owing the Government $5.00 for a shelter-half and canteen. The Third participated in the attack on Fort Stedman (25 March 1865), and the Appomattox campaign (28 March-9 April). At the end of April the regiment moved into Alexandria, VA. According to Schneider's file he was reduced in rank to Private on 1 May. There is no explanation given, and we can only surmise that once again he had gotten into trouble.

The regiment marched in the Grand Review of 23 May 1865, and performed duty in the Department of Washington until July. Upon the regiment's return to Baltimore the troops received their discharges, Schneider being discharged from duty on 31 July 1865. So ended George Schneider's days as a soldier.

Schneider remained in Baltimore, where he would reside until his death on 2 January 1929. He had left Baltimore an impassioned young man, no doubt filled with notions of contest and glory. He had seen the horrors that such wars bring and did not falter; his youthful idealism replaced by a toughness acquired in combat. When the need arose he acted with great courage and did credit to the state he was from and to those with whom he served.

On 23 July 1896, in recognition of his gallantry in action at Petersburg, VA, George Schneider was restored to the rank of Sergeant and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.