History is full of countless minor characters who will never be regaled on the pages of history books. These men and women who toil, bleed, and persevere through extraordinary circumstances yet go on to live normal lives are the stories that lurk deep in the depths of family history research. L.J. Eckler was one of my ancestors. He was my 3x great grandfather.
L.J. was living a simple life of a family man and blacksmith when he was called to serve in the American Civil War. He was mustered into the legendary Wolverine Brigade and served under the notorious and daring, Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, long before he ever fell on the distant battlefield in in his final last stand.
L.J. Eckler served as a blacksmith for G company of the 6th Michigan Calvary. He was captured during the battle of Trevilian Station at what is commonly known as Custer’s First Last Stand.
During the rest of the war L.J. would experience the depths of hell beyond even the blood and chaos of the battlefield. He would spend time at some of the deadliest Confederate prison camps.
I follow the life of my 3x great grandfather as he returns home from war and follow the rest of his life in documents. He seems to have brought the trauma of his experience home with him. The rest of L.J.’s life is dotted with several divorces, instances of jail time for fraud.
I don’t know if a photo of L.J. exists. If it does, I have never seen it. I found a photo of his gravestone and it seems likely that is all I will ever find. My 3x great grandfather is the type of individual that family history research is full of, simple and often tragic heroes, that history largely forgets.