POMEROY, Ohio — On a hill in the wooded Sacred Heart Cemetery in Pomeroy, Ohio, lies Medal of Honor recipient Chief Bugler Charles Schorn.
The year was 1861, the beginning of the American Civil War, and Schorn was a young German immigrant living in Sassafras, Mason City, in then Virginia. His newly adopted country was threatening to tear itself apart, reminiscent of the conflict he had left behind in his native Germany. He enlisted in Company M Division: 1st West Virginia Cavalry.
Many German immigrants in the Ohio Valley at the start of the Civil War were eager to show support for their newly adopted country. The threat of a divided United States reminded them of the consequences of disunion in their native country, and for some it was a way of showing their patriotism for their new homeland.
The large majority of these German immigrants arrived in the U. S. between 1848 and 1860, and a high concentration settled in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Many settled in these free states which offered better economic opportunity due to industrialization, and the immigrants did not have to compete with slave labor as in the slave states. Many Germans were morally opposed to slavery, and viewed it as no better than the serf system from their European homeland.
Schorn’s reason for immigration is unknown, but by his enlistment in 1861 it seems he was eager to defend the Union.
Union Army regulations allowed recruiters to enlist those “such as the recruits as are found to possess a natural talent for music, to be instructed on the fife, bugle, and drum, and other military instruments…care should be taken to enlist those only who have a natural talent for music.”
Schorn apparently had that talent. Enlisting at 19, he would have been the “old man” as most burglars were young boys who lied about their age to circumvent the age requirement of 18.
Buglers had grown in importance as a communication system after Army commanders recognized bugles were more reliable during skirmishes than the drums that had been used before the Civil War.
The field music of Buglers became recognized as an essential organization both in camp and on the battlefield. It was used for the telling of time and duties in camp and for communicating commanders that guided the actions of the troops on the march and during battles.
Buglers were required to memorize nearly 50 calls sounded in camp, on the march, and during battle.
By the Battle of Appomattox Schorn had been promoted to Chef Bugler in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry. The Principal Musician, or Chief Bugler assigned at the regimental level was responsible for the training, appearance, and performance of buglers under them.
Schorn earned the Medal of Honor for his contribution in the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse on April 8, 1865, his citation reading:
“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Chief Bugler Charles Schorn, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 8 April 1865, while serving with Company M, 1st West Virginia Cavalry, in action at Appomattox, Virginia, for capture of flag of the Sumter Flying Artillery (Confederate States of America)”.
This battle was the final engagement of Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered the next day to the Union Army of the Potomac under the Commanding General of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.
The defeat triggered a series of subsequent surrenders across the South, and signaled the end of the war.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.