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John James Geer was born in Rockbridge county, Virginia, June 1st, 1833. He is next to the youngest of a family of nine children. The father emigrated to Ohio when John was quite young, and settled in Shelby county, where he lived and labored as an industrious farmer for a long lifetime. Being in moderate circumstances, he was unable to educate his children as he wished, as their young hands were an indispensable help in the clearing and tilling of the land; but the lads wrought for themselves a training and discipline in the fields, and at the fireside, such as made honest-hearted heroes of them.

Though this tuition may not be the most fashionable, it is far from being the least useful or influential in a nation like ours. The only external polish that will never grow coarse is [12] the out-shining of inward purity and kindness. The law of love is a sufficient code of politeness and etiquette. The rarest soul-furnishing, and the most radiant and reliable loyalty, are virtuous intelligence, an appreciation of the true and the beautiful in Nature, in mind and morals, the utterance of generous impulses, the self-respect that prefers its own calm approval to the world's admiration and flattery. Such a heroism is purely democratic, and sets the price of its integrity too high to offer itself as a prize for party bidding! It stands like a granite pillar, strong, and straight, and upright. We may build on this, and stand secure for solid years. It is this untrammeled life the nation needs at this very time in the hearts of all her citizens.

Mr. Geer never received any lessons in the school of pretences. He never learned the art of deceiving or being deceived. He studied something deeper of the world while his hands held the plough that furrowed its surface. He gained more instruction from the leaves on the forest trees than from the leaves of printed books. He cultivated at one and the same time his own [13] mind, and the soil of his father's farm. His surroundings were the pictures and poetries of Nature. His eye saw no shams, his ear heard no complaints, his heart knew no hypocrisies. Trained in such a school, he became a thinker and a worker; his associations were altogether with plain and practical people; he was never flushed with feverish fancies, nor discouraged at any disappointments. Always cheerful, as only a busy doer and darer can be, he grew into manhood, full-built, tough-muscled, keen-nerved, and strong-minded. He acquired by hygienic habits a “constitution” that needed never an “amendment.” He shaped, all unconsciously to himself, a moral character as honorable as it was humble; yet it was such as recognized in the minutest particular, and exacted to the fullest degree, the claims of a common brotherhood.

Pure democracy, like all living, blossoming, fruit-bearing growths, flourishes best in the country. A principle that strikes root in an hour in the hotbed of the city, is apt to wilt and die in the sunshine of the open world. Aristocracy may be plaited into politics; but it takes integrity [14] and fellow-hood for web and woof of republicanism. Young Geer was a democrat, in the honest signification of the term. Though poor and sunburnt, hard-fisted and plain-worded, he learned to feel that no man in the republic was his superior in rights — that no man in the republic was his inferior in privileges. The truth of Holy Writ, that declares “all nations to be of one blood,” was his confession of faith in conscience and Christianity. The spirit of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created free and equal,” was his political platform. These high authorities gave him early and earnest boldness as a friend of human liberty.

At the age of eighteen, he was called to the work of the Gospel ministry. He passed into this work, not as a mere profession, by the paths marked out by ecclesiastics,--not by college carpets and seminary shades,--but as the early preachers were called, so was he, from his daily avocation. His inherent firmness made him an unyielding, if not an aggressive Christian. He stemmed a strong current of opposition from the beginning of his ministry. His independent [15] manner gave offence to rowdy transgressors, and frequently was he threatened and waylaid by the very doers of the deeds he made it a business to denounce in his sermons. But he wavered not from his sense of duty.

One of his first and truest friends was the Rev. R. M. Dalby, a well-known minister and Temperance reformer in South-western Ohio. These two men were acknowledged leaders in the war of annihilation against King Alcohol and his conscripted hosts. For years they were joined in word and work in the good cause of Temperance, and were separated only when, in the spring of 1861, Geer heard his wounded country's cry for help, and quickly stepped to a place in the front rank of her brave defenders. His well-tried associate in battling against wrong, Mr. Dalby, was left behind now, only because he was physically unable to march to the rescue.

Before entering the army of the Union, Mr. Geer had spent some ten years in the ministry, in and around the city of Cincinnati. During that time he received about eleven hundred [16] members into the church. He was eminently successful as a revivalist. When Fort Sumpter was fired upon, he was stationed as pastor of the George Street Methodist Protestant Church, in Cincinnati. When the news of the outrage was received at the Queen City, the pastor of George Street Church vowed he was a United States soldier until either himself or the rebellion should be crushed. He began recruiting at once for the Army of Freedom, and was as successful as he had been in marshaling forces for the Army of Peace.

Until this time he had been unwilling to interfere with the “peculiar institution” of the South. But the moment the Stars and Stripes were insulted by the proud power, that moment a new resolve was made, to hate and to hurt the accursed thing henceforward, until the last vestige of it should be obliterated from American soil!

Captain Geer is an earnest man. He engaged in the war, not for position or popularity, but as a soldier. Although he started into the service as Chaplain, he was willing to resign that [17] responsible office to the charge of another; and at once accepted a position that promised more excitement and adventure in days of battle. He was appointed Assistant-Adjutant General on the Staff of General Buckland, which commission he held when he was wounded and captured at Shiloh.

In these days of adventure and sacrifice, when the noblest men in the nation are made to suffer for country's sake, it is shameful to see how certain northern people and papers, professing to be loyal, are in sympathy with the arch treason of the Secessionists. However well-attested may be the statements of surviving sufferers,--and no matter how fair the reputation of the man who dares to denounce the Slaveholders' Rebellion,--there are lurking copperheads with viper tongues to hiss their venomous abuses on all the brave soldiers who have bled under the Federal banner! From the liberty to talk treason, slander the Administration, and abuse the soldiers-O God, deliver us! The nation cries for liberty — not license-a liberty that is always loyal to God and this [18] Government — a liberty to love and bless the poor, the outcast, the suffering, and the oppressed!

It may not be amiss to append the following extracts from letters which will explain themselves:

Springfield. Ohio, May 3. 1863.
To all whom it may concern:--
The undersigned, ministers of the Gospel in the Methodist Protestant Church, take pleasure in certifying that Captain John J. Geer is also a minister in the same church — that he is in good standing, and that he is a man of moral probity and Christian character. Some of us have known him for many years as a reputable, useful, pious man. We are all personally acquainted with him, and we have no hesitancy in recommending him to personal and public confidence.

Rev. George Brown, D. D. Rev. A. H. Bassett, Agt. M. P. Book Concern. Rev. A. H. Trumbo, Assistant Ag't M. P. Book Concern. Rev. D. B. Dorsey, M. D. Editor Western Methodist Protestant.


office of military commission, Memphis, Tenn, May 11, 1863.
... The large number of men he recruited for my regiment, and the hardships which he endured, to uphold the Flag of the Free, point out Captain Geer to the historian as a brave and true man. ... But two days before the memorable battle of Shiloh, he was captured while making a bold and vigorous dash at the enemy, within two miles of our encampment. ... The tears are now filling my eyes as I look back upon that bloody battle-field, and remember the havoc and slaughter of my heroic boys of the Forty-Eighth!

The brave men who, upon that occasion, maintained the fortunes of our bleeding country, have ever since been the subjects of persecution and calumny by those base cowards who ran from the battle-field and hid themselves in ravines and gulches at Shiloh, and the contemptible traitors whose tongues are as the tongues of serpents at home.

Your sincere friend, Peter J. Sullivan, Colonel 48th Reg't Ohio Volunteers.

Since his return from Dixie, Captain Geer and Lieutenant William Pittenger (one of the [20] survivors of that heroic scouting party sent into the heart of Georgia by General Mitchell), have been doing good service for the Union cause in the North by public lectures. Both are well-tried soldiers and effective speakers. Both are temporarily disabled, but expect soon to re-enter the army. Lieutenant Pittenger has prepared a volume of his experience, as a prisoner in the South, which will be a desirable companion to the book whose thrilling pages are now opened to you, reader. Turn forward, and read.

A. C.

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