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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Seventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 15th, 1876.

p16 George Wagener Deshler
No. 2240 — Class of 1868.
Died July 28th, 1875, at Fort Barrancas, Fla., aged 31.

Lieutenant George Wagener Deshler was born at New Brunswick, Middlesex County, N. J., on the 30th day of July, 1844, and was the second child and son of Charles D. and Mary M. Deshler.

His paternal ancestry were Anglo-Teutonic; the former race being represented by Edward Durham, of an ancient English stock (the name appearing on the "Roll of Battle Abbey"), and who was the first white child born within the limits of Middlesex County. A Civil Engineer by profession, he was a member of the Colonial Legislature, a delegate to the Provincial Congress of his State, a member of the Committee of Safety, and held many important public posts during and after the Revolutionary War; while the latter branch is represented in the person of Adam Deshler, who settled in Pennsylvania during the Indian Wars, and whose stone mansion was a resort for his neighbors during the inroads of the savages, as late as 1763, being familiarly referred to as "the Fort," on account of the protective nature of its massive walls.a

On his mother's side he sprang from the old New Jersey Anti-Revolutionary families of the Farmers and the Holcombes, distinguished for their probity, ignite, and the respectful estimation in which they were held.

These genealogical references are worthy of recital as exhibiting his inheritance of frankness, fearlessness and firmness. From his earliest days he was characterized by strict truthfulness, moral and physical bravery, and a chivalrous espousal of the cause of his younger and weaker associates, developing, with maturer years, into a courage and determination that never failed him in conducting to a successful issue all difficulties that were forced upon him by circumstances beyond his control of their inception.

p17 Impatient of vice, intolerant of meanness, he was singularly stainless in his morals, holding the loftiest estimate of womanly purity, and always extending a knightly defence to his mother's sex in his every word and action.

In all his home relations his family bear witness that "he was absolutely perfect," and he constituted the idol of their domestic circle.

Profitably embracing the advantages of an excellent education, he evolved mental concentration, acquisitiveness, and a retentive memory. While at a preparatory classical school, the offer having been made to his father of an appointment to the Military Academy for one of his sons, he selected George, in appreciation of his inclinations and fitness for the profession of arms, recognizing that his high sense of honor indicated a marked consonance with the true military instinct. After a course of nearly two years' preparation in the employment of the Chief Engineer of the New Jersey Railroad, both at office and field-work, and in an attendance on a Business College, with what he felt to be beneficial results, he began his military apprenticeship at West Point, and as an avowed Soldier of the Cross, through the rites of confirmation in, and communion with, the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Graduating in June, 1868, with excellent standing, he was assigned to the Artillery, and after the expiration of the customary leave of absence, joined his Company (A), of the First Regiment, then stationed at Fort Trumbull, Conn., and under the command of Captain and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William Silvey, under whom he served for nearly four years. Partaking in the change of station to Fort Ontario, N. Y., he there performed the duties of Post-Adjutant, Quartermaster and Commissary with his customary efficiency, and until his assignment to the Light Battery of his Regiment (K), in September, 1872. During his service at Fort Ontario, he was detached for a short tour of duty at the Signal School at Fort Hamilton, N. Y., and also during the Fenian raid into Canada, where he was entrusted with the command of a separate detachment. Upon the expiration of his two years' tour with the Light Battery at Fort Hamilton, and Charleston, he was transferred to "F" Company, and subsequently to the command of "A" Company, both at Barrancas, Fla., serving a portion of the time at Jackson Barracks, and in the city of New Orleans during the political imbroglio of the p18winter of 1874‑75,b and the remainder at his appropriate post. Before his return to Pensacola, in a letter to the writer, he speaks of looking forward to "a summer's blockade of yellow fever." But like the true, courageous soldier that he was, without seeking a detail that would avert such a danger, he accepted his orders unquestioningly and uncomplainingly, and, virtually carrying his life in his hands, went to his doom!

Without the spurring excitements of the battle field, or the anticipations of the plaudits of fellow-countrymen, whose future hang upon their deeds, no more trying ordeal to men's souls can be realized than that of a command called upon to face the fell destroyer in his most dread aspect; in a fearful verity —

"Their's not to question, 'Why?'

"Their's but to do, and die."

There are evidences that he experienced strong premonitions of an impending fate from the first breaking out of the epidemic; but the fears expressed by him were not for himself nor his future. He had a proud consciousness of the cherished place he held in the hearts of his family, and he truly estimated the loss his untimely cutting off would entail upon those most dear to him. His strength had been broken by a previous illness, and succeeding the enervation of his system through a long continued service at malarial stations, he was the more liable to the attack, and could offer less vitality to withstand the ravages of a malady that appears to be invariably fatal to a relaxed constitution. His case, when he was first seized by the disease, promised to be but a light one, but death followed with startling rapidity, and the intelligence of it had been telegraphed to his parents before they had received his thoughtful letters, bearing but a few days' anterior date, in which he had sought to quiet their anxiety with assurances of his imagined safety.

Almost the last words he was heard to utter about himself, were, "In God I have trusted, He will not forsake me," and they form a fitting inscription for the marble slab which marks his last resting-place in the Florida sands.

On July 28th, 1875, within two days of his thirty-first birthday, he had returned to Him with whom he had walked — "he was not, for God took him."

Through this calamity his family lost a son and a brother, to whom they bear the beautiful testimony that he had never cost them a p19moment's anxiety other than for his physical safety; that his rectitude, his lofty sense of honor and his inflexible truthfulness, had ever been displayed from the first assertions of individuality. Tenderly loving, self-sacrificingly considerate, and unexceptionably dutiful, he bore to them relations of more than usual intimacy, and beyond his filial relations, had stood their dearest and most loyal friend.

His confrères mourn the removal of a comrade staunch to his friends, strict in his performance of all his duties, and faithful in the discharge of every obligation, and they unite in the attestation to his possession of each and every attribute this imperfect sketch has endeavored to portray. His old commander, the late Colonel Silvey, with whom and whose family he was on terms of the most valued intimacy — himself an officer whose martial efficiency and Christian purity were most pronounced — on hearing of his demise, exclaimed; "the world and the army can ill afford to lose such a man."

A grave adjoining that of Captain Joseph Clinch, buried in 1827, in the National Cemetery at Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, contains all that is mortal of him, but it is one of the assurances of Holy Writ, that with such men "their works do follow them," and for many years to come, with the varying experiences and vicissitudes of our changing life, will the recollection of this honored comrade be kept green in the memories of those permitted to know and to love him; while the exemplification of his character in all the amplitude of its purity and consistency, will remain as a model for conformity of both tyro and veteran.

(Captain John C. White)


Thayer's Notes:

a Good details of Deshler's Fort — including illustrations and a map — are given in Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania.

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b The very tense Reconstruction of New Orleans came to a head in those years, with mobs and armed factions in the streets. The details are given in Kendall's History of New Orleans, chapters 22‑24.


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