Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

SHREVE, GEORGE W (1844-1940)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 9, 1929)

Portrait of George W Shreve
Portrait of George W. Shreve

Grant and Lee at Appomattox

By George W. Shreve

Sixty years ago today the writer had a part in the surrender of Lee to Grant, April 9, 1865.

The exhausted remnant of that superb army laid down its arms and by the magnanimity of Grant and the advice of Lee, they sought their stricken homes and commenced to rebuild their shattered fortunes. By the arbitrament of arms the great contest was decided and they determined to abide by the result faithfully. Foes of yesterday were friends of today. Our battery, on the evening of the 8th was placed in position to defend the trains that choked roads on the retreat. After remaining posted a short time, Captain Brown and Lieutenant Shreve seemed to be in a quandary, when Brown called out, “Sergeant Shreve! What is your advice?” I replied that we had never refused to fight when called on, but as conditions seem now it is folly to resist any longer, and that every man killed from now on will be a useless sacrifice of life. He replied, "I agree with you" and at once gave the command, "limber to the rear."

We entered the main road and wormed our way a short distance when General Lomax with a brigade of Cavalry passed us and we fell in behind his column. Camping a few miles distant, we resumed the march next morning and reached Lynchburg late in the afternoon, when a courier overtook us, with orders from General Lee stating that we had been included in the surrender of the morning. Whereupon we parked our guns and bidding good bye to each other, each one started out for homes, scattered and reaching from Baltimore to New Orleans, all mounted on horses.

I and brother traveled leisurely and received our paroles at Winchester in about two weeks, and had a love feast with the first 'Yanks we met.

Oh, the horror of war! May our country prosper and promote peace!

Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 29, 1932)

Civil War Veteran Received Piece of Stone Wall Which He Helped Protect in 1862.

George W. Shreve, 93 Locust street, a veteran of the Civil War received by mail this week a small piece of ancient looking rock with a patch of dull grey moss clinging to it. To the ordinary observer it is merely another piece of rock with which the country generally is prolific.

But that little piece of granite is closely identified with events in Shreve’s life and is cherished by him as possibly no other article he possesses.

It is a chip from a stone that formed a unit in the famous stone wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia, against which, in the famous Battle of Fredericksburg, the week of December 13, 1862, the federal forces under General Burnside, charged for six successive times during one day of terrific fighting, in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the forces of the Confederate army.

Shreve was in that battle, fighting on the side of the South. He knows the wall, familiar with every mile of the country in the Fredericksburg area, for his home was in Fairfax county, not far from the scene of the terrible life-giving engagement. He was a member of Stewart’s cavalry corps at the time and was in the midst of the fighting. He went through all the successive battles and was present at the surrender at Appomattox.

The little piece of rock was sent to him by an old friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Kube, a resident of the Fredericksburg area.

Shreve declares he will never forget that battle at the old stone wall. He says the forces under Burnside displayed a courage and gallantry unexcelled during the entire war and the members of that attacking party that rapidly dwindled and shrunk under the fire of the Union guns were commended and praised to the highest, not only by their friends in arms but by the generals of the Confederate army, one of which said it was the most gallant fight he ever had known or heard of.

Shreve who is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, belonging to the San Francisco chapter, is also beloved by the Union veteran organizations and is honorary member of the Veterans of the Spanish War.

The piece of rock with its ancient moss patch, is at the Sentinel office where anyone who desires may view it. It is just a piece of rock, but it is a genuine war relic, a unit of that wall that is mentioned in every war history and in front of which hundreds of Union soldiers sacrificed their lives for the cause for which they fought.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (February 11, 1933)

George Shreve Files Old Time Enlistment Data

George W. Shreve, confederate veteran, field an interesting document yesterday with County Recorder Belle Lindsay of his enlistment in 1862. The document reads:

War Department, Adjutant Generals Office, Washington, February 10, 1933

Records show that one, George W. Shreve, private, Captain G.W. Brown’s company, Virginia Horse Cavalry, formerly known as Captain Henry’s company and Captain McGregor’s company, Virginia Horse Artillery (comprised of men transferred from Captain Pelham’s company, Virginia Horse Artillery, Confederate States Army), was enlisted April 15, 1862, in Yorktown by Captain Pelham.

The muster roll of that company for July and August, 1864, last roll on file, shows him present as a second corporal. He was paroled at Winchester Virginia, April 26, 1865.

Aged 20 years, height 5 feet and 9 inches, complexion fair; hair dark, eyes blue.

James F. McKinley, Brigadier General. Acting for Adjutant Genera, by N.C.Y.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (October 20, 1940)

George Shreve Dies
Civil War Vet Lived 96 Years
Weakened Months Ago by Bad Throat Infection

George W. Shreve, venerable Confederate veteran of the Civil War, died here at 6 p.m. yesterday

He had observed his 96th birthday last May, when, still straight as the soldier he had always been, he could count himself as the sole Confederate veteran in central California.

Although the definite cause of his death was not announced last night, it was known he had been taken ill several months ago, when a throat infection overtook him. He died at a local rest home.

Known by sight to many and by name to all Santa Cruzans, he came here the day before Christmas in 1924. His 62 years in California had seen him in business in San Francisco, Fresno, and Santa Clara valley.

His home here was 93 Locust St.

The old soldier boasted an ancestry which he had traced back to Thomas Shreve, who landed at Plymouth in 1627. His great grandfather's six sons all served with Washington in the American Revolution.

But more fascinating than the story of his forebears is the story of the 19th and 20th century Shreve.

He was born in Fairfax, Virginia, where his family had drifted from Washington, only a short distance away. He was in the midst of a scholarly career in a Maryland academy when the Civil War broke out after long and feverish agitation.

By 1862 the tide of opinion had swollen to the point where, in Virginia, a man was a Confederate soldier or nothing. So Shreve signed up with Jeb Stuart's crack cavalry division, and with Stuart he fought until the surrender at Appomattox. One of the few major battles he missed was Gettysburg, and he missed that one because he was wounded on the march there.

But in the summer of 1938 he did get to Gettysburg when he and Sutton Christian, editor of the Sentinel, attended the diamond jubilee reunion of Federal and Confederate men. Already 94 years old he took the trip like a Trojan despite moments of extreme exhaustion and the long ordeal of standing in the hot Gettysburg sun for the reunion rites.

A student to of the Civil War military tactics, which student still revere to as the cleverest in military annals, several years ago he wrote from memory and amazingly detailed account of the battle of Fredericksburg for newspaper publication.

After the war he finished school, got a job in a St. Louis mercantile house, then moved back to New York. In 1878 he set foot for the first time in San Francisco. There he ran his own sporting goods store until 1912, when he went into raisin distribution in Fresno.

Shreve, who participated in almost every patriotic event in Santa Cruz since his arrival, said it had been a bitter pill for him to swallow when the wave of emotion in Virginia forced him along with it. He agreed that the South should have remained, militarily, always on the defensive.

The soldier said to his dying day that his only mission in this life has been to preach the gospel of good will.

Shreve is survived by his widow, Jessie B. Shreve; three daughters May Parcells of Oakland, Ruth Haile of Beverly Hills, and Ella Riley of San Rafael; one son Frank Shreve of Oakland; two brothers and a sister n Virginia; nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Mrs. L.E. Means of Santa Cruz is a great niece.

The body was removed to Whites Mortuary and services will be held at 10 o'clock Tuesday morning with Rev. John F. Wilson Officiating. Interment will be at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

Editor's Note: See Phil Readers Files for Extensive Coverage of George Shreve's Santa Cruz Activities.

Notes from Phil Reader

Death Certificate Notes

Geo. Wm. Shreve, S.C. Rest Home. 96 years 5 months 10 days, died Oct. 19, 1940. B: May 9, 1844 Falls Church, Virginia. Father Wm. Shreve - Fairfax, Va. Mother: Mary Southern - England S.C. 15 years, CA 61 years. Jessie B. Shreve S.C. CA Mt. View Cemetery Oakland, CA.

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