John Batdorff: A Life of Dedicated Service and Bravery

Eleanor Rose

Forum Host
Nov 26, 2016
central NC

John G. Batdorff
Something about John Batdorff’s eyes (in the picture above) caught my attention and made me want to know more about him right away. Turns out he was a rather interesting fellow so I thought I would share his story with you.

John was born in 1839 and raised by his grandparents near Myerstown in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted with the 149th Pennsylvania (2nd Bucktails) in August of 1862 as a Second Lieutenant. His early service with the 149th PA was in the Washington Garrison until February of 1863 when the regiment joined the First Corps, Army of the Potomac. They were involved in the Chancellorsville Campaign, but very lightly engaged and still untested in battle.

When the army headed to Gettysburg in pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, John gained more than enough battlefield experience to last him a lifetime. The 149th PA arrived on the battlefield late in the morning of July 1 and took position near the McPherson Farm buildings along the Chambersburg Pike. John Batdorff assisted in getting Company C into its proper place in line.

When the battle began, the 149th PA found itself in a much weakened part of the Federal line. Outnumbered and outflanked, they got hammered from both the north and the west by Confederate batteries. They had no choice but to retreat.

Lieutenant Batdorff faced the dangerous retreat with his comrades and this story comes out of that harrowing experience:

"Captain John Bassler of the 149th Pennsylvania Infantry was wounded in the thigh during the Union Army's hectic retreat on the first day of the Battle. Second Lieutenant Batdorff came to his rescue - but Bassler found it impossible to walk even with this assistance. Batdorff then told him to “get on my back.” As they trotted toward safety, Rebel bullets zipped by, no doubt encouraging Batdorff to even greater efforts with his heavy burden.

Later, within Yankee lines, Lieutenant Batdorf jokingly said that Bassler must not give him too much "credit for disinterestedness; that his object in carrying me on his back was to shield himself from the Rebel bullets

John Batdorff was wounded at Gettysburg on July 3. He survived and was promoted to Captain of Company C. He served in this capacity until the end of the Civil War. His regiment was engaged in the Overland Campaign and the actions around Petersburg.

After the war John returned to Millbach in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania where he resumed his activities as a well-known farmer. He became the County Treasurer and lived the remainder of his life near his boyhood home. His obituary read:

"He was widely known and universally liked...He was a loving husband and father, and a true friend. In politics, he was a staunch Republican, and in the last days of the nineteenth century, he was honored by his party with election to the office of county treasurer, which he filled to the complete satisfaction of the taxpayer. He was a member of the Lutheran congregation at Millbach, and stood high in the councils of the church. His wife, who was Miss Elizabeth Illig, and a daughter, Miss Carrie Batdorff, at home, survive. He was the last of his family, his sister, Mrs. Albert Karmany, of Myerstown, preceding him in death six years ago. He was aged 65 years."

John Batdorff died in 1905 after a life of dedicated service and bravery.


Monument to the 149th PA on Cemetery Ridge marking their position on July 3 at Gettysburg.
John Batdorff was wounded somewhere in this area during Pickett's assault.​

Source: Gregory A. Coco, On The Bloodstained Field I&II, p.12, 2013. Historical Data Systems, Inc. Lebanon Daily News, 15 September 1905.

*I hope you enjoy this bio @luinrina. You're doing a great job as the forum host and I want to support your efforts.

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Deleted User CS

Retired User
Mar 18, 2015
Ellie. This is a very interesting and inspirational story about John Batdorff of Myerstown, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania which is about 40 miles from Harrisburg. Thanks for sharing this story with the forum. David.


Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Jul 30, 2018
Later, within Yankee lines, Lieutenant Batdorf jokingly said that Bassler must not give him too much "credit for disinterestedness; that his object in carrying me on his back was to shield himself from the Rebel bullets!"
Doesn't matter if he meant it in jest or not, using Bassler to shield himself, that was no guarantee they'd both come out of there without getting hit again. Just by going back and rescuing his captain, Batdorff risked his life. That's disinterestedness and bravery in my eyes.

Thank you for sharing this gentleman's story, Ellie. I enjoyed it very much and it's a great addition to the forum. :smile:
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Any story from Berks is terrific- we're reminded Lebanon is 10 miles from here ( if you're a crow ) weekly because the Gap ( Indiantown Gap, military ) practices artillery, flies some massive planes in and out of there. Uncle and aunt live in Lebanon, not far from the excellent V.A. there.

Lebanon is lovely, if some spots could use a facelift. One of those towns where everyone seems to have declined the invitation to coat old brick with plastic siding. Bet quite a few areas would be recognizable to Batdorff. ( boy is that a German name, heavy immigration here )

1862 draft, listed a Reading paper netted 3 Batdorfs- you just know related somewhere.
batdorf 1862.JPG

Sorry- local history is a ' thing ', especially the men we sent to war.

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