William Bressem Life Sketch

(1822 - 1871)

William Bressem was born on October 2, 1822, in Potsdam, Brandenburg, Prussia. William married Charlotte Marie Gessler on December 11, 1849, in Stendal, Saxony, Prussia. William died in 1871 in St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri.


William Bressem, birth name Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem, was born on October 2, 1822, in Potsdam, Brandenburg, Prussia. William was the third of six known children born to Christoph Bressem and Christina Block. William’s father served in the Napoleonic Wars in the Prussian Campaign of 1806. At the time of William’s birth, his father was a merchant.

Sometime after William’s birth, the family moved to Bombeck, Prussia. When William was 4 years old his father died. William’s mother relocated the family, eventually settling in Osterburg, where William likely grew up. William may have worked in nearby Stendal where he met Charlotte Marie Wilhelmine Gessler, the daughter of a locksmith.

William married Charlotte Marie Gessler, daughter of Anton Christian Gessler and Anna Dorothea Sophie Wier, on December 11, 1849, at St. Mary’s Church also known as Marienkirche, in Stendal, Germany. William and Charlotte had the following known children:

  1. Helene Pauline Charlotte Bressem
  2. Hans Peter Paul Bressem
  3. Emma Wilhelmina Maria Bressem
  4. Robert Edward Bressem
  5. Agnes Ida Marie Bressem

The family lived in Osterburg, where in October of 1857, both Helene and Agnes died.

The political climate in Prussia was changing and William decided to move to America. The plan was for William to establish himself in the new country, and the family would follow later. William left Prussia sometime between 1858 and 1860. His children were all under the age of 7. With William away, William’s wife Charlotte, moved the family to Stendal near her relatives.

By 1860 William had made his way to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked a few miles south of St. Louis for a miller..

In 1861 the Civil War began and changed the family’s plan. On August 12, 1861, William enlisted in the Union Army for a 3 year term. He was recruited by Captain Anton Gerster, a Hungarian who had fought in the Hungarian War for Independence and was also a professional engineer. Gerster recruited fellow Prussians and Hungarians to form Gerster’s Independent Company of Volunteers. William’s rank was Sergeant. William also served in Captain Voerster’s Company of Sappers and Miners. Both units provided engineering support maintaining railroads, roads and bridges for the Union army in Missouri.

On March 18, 1862, the Adjutant General of Missouri ordered Gerster’s Company and Voerster’s Company to be consolidated into the 5th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. The 5th Missouri Infantry was then incorporated into the 27th Missouri Infantry and Mounted Infantry. What had been support units were now battle units.

On March 1, 1863, the 27th Missouri Infantry marched out of Rolla, Missouri, toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. William was 40 years old. William and others in his former units, likely repaired roads and bridges as well as built new roads and bridges for the advancing Union army.

Vicksburg, located on the Mississippi River, was a strategic location for both armies. Whoever controlled Vicksburg controlled the flow of supplies along the river. At the time, the Confederate Army occupied Vicksburg.

The 27th Missouri Infantry arrived near Vicksburg on March 20 and joined the Army of Tennessee. The combined units then proceeded to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana. Over the next two weeks the units traveled through the swampy lands of northeast Louisiana south to a point where they could cross the Mississippi River. After crossing the Mississippi, the units captured Port Gibson on May 1 and Grand Gulf on May 3. Over the next two weeks the army moved into position for an attack on Vicksburg.

On May 18th the siege of Vicksburg began with assaults on May 19th and May 22nd. Vicksburg surrendered on July 4th. The Union army next advanced on Jackson, Mississippi. On July 10th the siege of Jackson began and on July 17th it was over.

As William’s unit encountered combat situations, the mission to build bridges and maintain roads became more dangerous. Retreating Confederate Armies burned bridges and destroyed roads in an effort to thwart the Union Army’s advance. Confederate sharpshooters were left behind to snipe at the builders. Work was often done at night and into the early dawn.

Between July 17, 1763, and November 28, 1763, William’s unit was involved in multiple operations in Tennessee and Alabama. On November 28, 1763, they marched to the relief of Knoxville, Tennessee, which was under siege by the Confederate Army. The Union army repelled the siege and William’s unit was assigned to garrison duty at Woodville and Scottsboro, Alabama until May 1764.

On May 1st the 27th Missouri Infantry began the march to Atlanta and arrived at Resaca, Alabama on May 8th. Resaca was an important strategic point for the Confederate Army, which used the railroad and bridges as their supply lines. It was also a safe route of retreat to Atlanta. The Union Army’s goal was to destroy the railroad line in Resaca.

The Battle of Resaca began May 13th as General Sherman positioned his armies and began testing the Rebel position. By 1 p.m. numerous skirmishes between the Union and Confederate Armies began. William was severely wounded sometime on May 13th, shot through the upper left arm.

On June 30, 1864, William was transferred to the Louisville Union Army hospital for treatment and to recover. William spent several months there and was finally discharged on November 16, 1864.

After the war William made his way to Tolleston, today part of Gary, Indiana, where other Prussian and German immigrants settled. He opened a goods store and finally sent for his family.

On April 5, 1866, William’s family, Charlotte, his wife, and his three children, Paul, 14, Emma, 13, and Robert, 11, arrived in America on the ship “Bavaria”, sailing from Hamburg to Castle Garden, New York. Many years later William’s son Robert recalled that William was supposed to meet the family in New York, but the family “missed their first boat and took the next one.” William was not there to meet the ship. William’s family knew he lived near Chicago and managed to convey that they needed train tickets to Chicago. In Chicago the family found a German speaking hotel proprietor who knew William and directed them to Tolleston, Indiana.

William’s family took the train from Chicago to Tolleston where the family was reunited after being apart for 8 years. William’s children were now teenagers. Sadly son Paul died within a year of their arrival, his death date and burial place unknown.

By 1869 the family moved to St. Joseph, Missouri. William was in the grocery business. William and John R McLean owned the store “Bressem and McLean’s Grocer’s” on S 6th street between Monterey and Duncan Street. The Bressem family lived above the store. Also in their home was a stock clerk and three black women, Mary, Caroline and Dolly White, who were employed as servants.

In 1871 William Bressem died, likely in St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri. William was 49 years old.

Genealogical Research and Life Sketch Completed: June 2022


Sources:

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem, 13 Oct 1822; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Brandenburg, Heiligenbeil, Ostpreußen, Preußen, Potsdam u Stkr, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem, 1849; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Marriage, Meseberg, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Kr, Meseberg, Meßdorf u Wolmirstedt, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem in entry for Hans Peter Paul Bressem, 2 Jul 1852; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Breßem in entry for Emma Maria Wilhelmine Breßem, 12 Aug 1853; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem in entry for Eduard Maximilian Robert Bressem, 5 May 1855; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald in entry for Agnes Ida Maria Gottwald, 18 Nov 1856; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Baptism, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Gottwald Bressem in entry for Agnes Ida Maria Bressem, 14 Oct 1857; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Burial, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"Deutschland, ausgewählte evangelische Kirchenbücher 1500-1971," database, FamilySearch, Friedrich Wilhelm Bressem in entry for Helene Pauline Charlotte Bressem, 29 Oct 1857; images digitized and records extracted by Ancestry; citing Burial, Gladigau, Gladigau, Osterburg, Sachsen, Preußen, Deutschland, Gladigau, German Lutheran Collection, various parishes, Germany.

"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch, William Bressem in entry for George Arnold, 1860.

"Missouri, Civil War Service Records of Union Soldiers, 1861-1865," database, FamilySearch, William Bressem, ; from "Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Missouri," database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing military unit Fifth Infantry, A-F, NARA microfilm publication M405 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1964), roll 424.

“Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890 - 1912”, Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762 - 1984, War Department. Record and Pension Office. File 37078226, for William Bressem, Missouri. NARA, Washington DC.

"United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934", database with images, FamilySearch, William Bressem, 1864.

“Saint Joseph City Directory”. Herald Steam Book and Job Printing House. (St. Joseph, MO) 1869.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch, Wm Bressem, 1870.

Bressem, Robert. Personal Letter Collection.

Bressem, Robert. News Item. Sabetha Herald (Sabetha, KS). September 9, 1936.

William Bressem genealogy research