Maximilian Rudolf William Grebe MOH

b. 04/08/1838 Hildesheim, Hanover, Lower Saxony. d. 24/12/1916 Bonner Springs, Kansas.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/08/1864 Jonesboro, Georgia.

M R William Grebe MOH

Maximilian Maria Rudolf Wilhelm von Grebe (later changed to M.R. William Grebe) was born 4 August 1838 in Hildesheim Hanover (then an independent kingdom, now a province of Lower Saxony in Germany). He was educated at the Royal Gymnasium and at Heidelburg University prior to being commissioned a second lieutenant of the King’s Hanoverian Guard Hussars. He was later promoted to first lieutenant and was so serving when the American Civil War began. In 1862, he came to America, having been granted leave of absence with half pay to serve in the Union Army. This was common practice throughout the war. The Union Army attracted well-trained, professional officers who, in turn, gained valuable combat experience.

Upon arrival in New York City, Grebe immediately went to St. Louis where he was appointed Second Lieutenant of Troop I, 4th Missouri Cavalry. His proficiency and daring soon brought him to the notice of superiors and he advanced rapidly to First Lieutenant, Troop I and, soon after, Captain, commanding Troop F. In early 1864 he was detailed as an aide-de-camp on the staff of the Commanding General, Army of the Tennessee.

Near Decatur, Georgia on 22 July 1864, when Union cavalry under General Judson Kilpatrick was being driven back, General J. B. McPherson sent Grebe with orders to Kilpatrick. After delivering the dispatches, Grebe voluntarily remained to participate in a cavalry charge. Grebe charged into the melee, his enthusiasm and aggressiveness inspiring the troops around him to the extent they not only rallied to regain lost ground but actually put the enemy in complete rout. During this action, Grebe, seriously wounded in both legs, captured the color bearer and colors of one of the Confederate regiments engaged. No small feat. Ordered to the rear for medical treatment, Grebe remained on the field, carrying out his duties throughout the remainder of the action.

The above was only one of many meritorious services performed. The deed for which he later received the Medal of Honor occurred at Jonesboro, Georgia on August 31, 1864. Grebe, all the while exposed to the terrific fire of both sides, swam his horse across the Flint River to deliver orders to a Union regiment that was vitally needed to reinforce a threatened section of the main line of battle. After guiding the regiment into position, he took up the rifle of a casualty, assumed a place in the ranks and played a conspicuous part in repulsing the enemy’s attack.

Soon after the above, Grebe was ordered to St. Louis for a well-deserved rest – and to lobby the Governor of Missouri for a promotion to colonel and command of his regiment, the 4th Missouri Cavalry. He carried with him letters of commendation from General’s Sherman, Sheridan, Logan, Howard and Blair, which were augmented by a personal letter of commendation from President Lincoln. Grebe’s appointment was virtually assured – until fate stepped in.

One evening, Grebe escorted the daughter of a prominent and influential politician to the theater. Another officer of his regiment, Captain Ferdinand Hanson, a fellow German (as most of the officers and many of the enlisted men of the regiment also were), made an insulting remark to Grebe’s lady and Grebe challenged him to a duel. The duel was fought across the river, in Madison County, Illinois. Hanson sustained an almost-fatal chest wound but, fortunately, recovered. When military authorities learned of the duel, Grebe, Hanson and the two officers who served as their seconds, were all summarily dismissed from the service.

Grebe, a feelin of disgrace weighing heavily on him, resigned his commission in the Hanoverian Guards and never returned to Germany. He apparently rarely, if ever, discussed, or even mentioned, his family or his earlier life in Germany. Grebe settled in Kansas City, Missouri, sometime between 1865 and 1867. He married Felicite Heloise (Padron) Shannon in St. Patrick’s Cathedral there on 19 August 1867. William and
Felicite Grebe had a daughter they called “Vinnie”, born in 1868, and probably named Vizente, in honor of Felicite’s paternal grandmother, Vizente Marrero. In the 1870 Census they were living in Kansas City; Felicite Shannon (age 15), Mary Elizabeth (13), John (11), Fred (7) and Vinnie Grebe (2). Grebe’s net worth was listed as twelve or fifteen thousand dollars – quite a fortune then. The older children listed were from Felicite’s first marriage to a John Shannon.

William Grebe bought a farm in Sherman Township, Leavenworth County, Kansas sometime after his daughter Esibele was born in 1882. He later bought another near Bonner Springs in Wyandotte County where they spent the remainder of their lives. Just prior to his death in 1885,
former President Grant visited Kansas City. During this visit, Grebe petitioned Grant to arrange a review of his dismissal from the service in 1864. The War Department reexamined Grebe’s war record – the Secretary of War investigated the matter personally – and determined Grebe had been cashiered unjustly. His record was amended to show an honorable discharge and he was later promoted to major, to rank from the date of his release from service in 1864. In 1897, he applied for a disability pension, on the basis of the effects of his wounds and the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded for the action at Flint River, Georgia in 1864, was awarded 24 February 1899.

Felicite Heloise (Padron) (Shannon) Grebe died at their home near Bonner Springs on 2 August 1816. William Grebe was devastated by this loss and decided to dispose of everything and retire. Just weeks after Felicite’s death, during a trip to arrange for the liquidation of all his assets, William Grebe died suddenly of a heart attack on a Kansas City sidewalk.



While acting as aide and carrying orders across a most dangerous part of the battlefield, being hindered by a Confederate advance, seized a rifle, took a place in the ranks and was conspicuous in repulsing the enemy.