Alfred Kaeiser Lansdown

Biographical Sketch of the Brave Soldier
Whose Name has been given to the Sons of Veterans Camp
at Port Byron

Alfred Kaieser Lansdown was born near Decatur, Ala., in the year 1843, his parents moving to Illinois when he was a child of six years. Soon after by the father’s death his mother was left with but little means to support a family of several children. “Kaieser,” as he was familiarly called, being her only help. And as most of his boyhood days were spent in helping to earn a livelihood for the family, his school days were limited to a few weeks each winter. Consequently he received but a meager education.

On the breaking out of the war in 1861 Kaeiser was among the first to offer his services, enlisting in the famous “Mulligan’s Brigade” [Twenty-Third Illinois Infantry], which was captured at Lexington, Mo., in the summer of 1861. After being exchanged he re-enlisted in Co. H. 51st Reg’t, Ill Inft., raised principally at Port Byron, Ill., by the Rev John Whitson, who was made its first Captain. Kaeiser having had some experience, immediately took front rank as one of the best duty soldiers in the company to which he belonged. Being possessed of great physical strength, hardened by constant toil and hardship, he was enabled to withstand the privations of a soldier’s life. He was always ready for whatever came in the line of duty, doing his part without a word of fault-finding or complaint.

The boys of the company who were younger and weaker than he, of whom the writer of this was one, have particular cause to remember him with gratitude, this being one trait of his character, never to allow the weak to be imposed upon in his presence.

In November, 1862, A. K. Lansdown was one of a special detail made in the organization of a battalion known as the “Fusileers” which did good service in the army of the Cumberland while the organization was maintained, or until immediately after the battle of Chickamauga, in which engagement as also at Stone River, they rendered splendid service. This organization was armed with rifles and did the same duty as other infantry. In addition they were all, or nearly all supposed to be mechanics, and were kept busy in repairing or building bridges, roads, etc. Kaeiser was blessed with a remarkable memory. One circumstance will illustrate. While a small detachment was camped at Decatur, Ala., in August, 1862, word was brought in one evening that the notorious guerrilla, Capt. Thompson, who lived about five miles in the country, was expected home that night with his band. An effort was made for his capture. A detachment of three companies under command of Captain Petts, of Co. C, was started about dark. We had not proceeded far before the Negro guide was missing. As none of the officers knew the road, it seemed the expedition would have to be abandoned until it was suggested that perhaps Lansdown could act as guide. So he took the column to the Thompson homestead by the most direct road, notwithstanding he had not been in that neighborhood since he was a boy six years of age.

Lansdown returned from detached services to his own company immediately after the battle of Chickamauga, from which time to the day of his death his services were constantly given to the government in that command. By his fine soldierly qualities and distinguished valor, he gained the esteem of officers and men alike, not only of his own company but of the whole regiment. He was never known to flinch from danger, when duty called, and at times he really seemed reckless of danger. Although but a private in the ranks, his mind seemed to grasp the full situation in times of danger. In all cases of emergency he was full of expedients and was never known to lose his nerve. His special part seemed to be on the skirmish line, and all through all the trying scenes from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and back on the “Hood Campaign” to Franklin he seemed to bear a charmed life. At the latter place he was the only member of the original company present who had not been wounded at least once.

On the 29th of Nov. 1864, our command being that day in the advance of Gen. Schofield’s army in the retrograde movement on Nashville, we encountered the enemy at Spring Hill. Gen. Bradley, who commanded our brigade, at once formed us in line and skirmishers were thrown out to the front. There seemed to be some doubt as to the position and intention of the enemy, so Lansdown was requested by one of the officers to take two or three men and see what he could find at the front and report. He reached a very exposed and dangerous position, and drew fire. He returned unscathed and with a good idea of their intentions. In a few minutes we were attacked in both front and flank by at least ten times our number, and were ordered to retire from the position after losing some 200 men from the small command. At the instant of falling back both the bearer of our flag and regimental banner were killed, and our colors, which had been carried through so many fierce engagements, were lying on the ground but a few feet from the advancing foe. At that trying moment A. K. Lansdown and L. T. Genung [Louis Genung, Company H] turned and at the imminent risk of death or capture succeeded in saving them. A number of his comrades tried to induce Kaeiser to turn the colors over to some one else but he was anxious to retain the position. The next day at Franklin, on that bloody field about half way between the cotton gin on the left and the Columbia Pike on the right, he stood on the works waving the banner in defiance. He soon received a shot through and disabled (sic) his left hand but he maintained the dangerous position until his right arm was shattered just below the shoulder which disabled him. When Franklin was abandoned by the union forces that night, he with most of the wounded were left in the hands of the Confederates. When the place was recaptured Dec 17, D. U. Reed [David U. Reed, Company H] and the writer hunted up Kaeiser. We found him among other wounded in a warehouse. We supplied his wants as best we could, furnishing him some clean underclothing which he stood badly in need of. He was removed at once to the hospital at Nashville, Tenn., from which place we shortly received news of his death. The Union army may have produced men who were just as good soldiers as Kaeiser, but none who were better. He gave three years of constant, faithful service to preserve this Union, and as if that was not enough, the demon war demanded the sacrifice of his young and vigorous life.

His memory will be revered to the end of time by those who knew him best.

—A Comrade
[A. N. Jack, by penciled note on the article in the descendant family papers of David U. Reed]

Port Byron Globe, Port Byron, Illinois, February 20, 1891