Some fallen heroes never see a battlefield. Their lives are lost during training, transportation, illness and any number of other ways. Regardless of how, or when they lose their lives in the service of their country, their willingness to sacrifice should never be forgotten.
Magnus Weigand (1804-aft. 1883), with his wife and son, stepped off a ship from Europe in Baltimore, Maryland in 1838. Magnus was born in Prussia and his last name was spelled may different ways in the various historical source material; sometimes written as Wiechand, Wiegat, Wiegand, and Weigant. Magnus must have known exactly where he was planning on settling because, within a few years, he had already set up a homestead in Lawrence Township, Tuscarawas County.
Magnus’s first wife died shortly after their arrival in America and, in 1847, Magnus married another German immigrant named Rosana Lauer (1821-1889). The couple had numerous children and among them was a son named Christian Weigand (1853-1919). Christian Weigand worked in a local limestone quarry in his youth and eventually settled down and married Catherine Margo (1861-1916) in 1884. The couple then began farming, also in Lawrence Township, and started a large family that would include over ten children.
Christian and Catherine’s sixth child, a son, was named Walter J. Weigand (1892-1918). There is very little information on Walter’s childhood, other than the fact that he grew up in a home with a number of siblings both older and younger than himself. He was able to read and write, so must have received some kind of basic education. By the time he was a teenager Walter was working at the National Brick Company in Strasburg, Ohio alongside his older brothers. After the onset of World War One, and like so many other young men in the county, Walter registered for the wartime draft.
Walter registered for the draft in early June 1917, but it would be a year before he was called into service. Walter, in July 1918, was transported from Ohio to Camp Jackson, South Carolina where he was placed in the 4th Provisional Regiment, 156th Depot Brigade for training. Following his training he was assigned as a replacement in the 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 13th Battalion. Walter was among the soldiers transported from Camp Jackson to Newport News, Virginia in early September 1918. Once there the men boarded the cargo vessel USS Ticonderoga for a short trip to New York before the ship transported them to Europe.
Once in New York the Ticonderoga joined a convoy bound for Europe and left New York harbor on September 22, 1918. After seven days at sea, the Ticonderoga began to have engine trouble and fell behind the rest of the convoy. The morning of September 30, 1918, as the ship sat alone in the North Atlantic, the ship’s crew sighted a German submarine, the U-152. The alarm was rung and the sailors and soldiers on the Ticonderoga prepared to engage the submarine. The ship’s two small deck guns were no match for the U-boat and they were eventually put out of action. It was reported by survivors that almost every man on board the Ticonderoga suffered some kind of wound during the battle. As the Ticonderoga sank, only 24 of the 237 men on board managed to make it to lifeboats and survive.
It is not known whether Corporal Walter J. Weigand was killed in the shelling of the Ticonderoga or whether he drowned in the North Atlantic. It’s possible that he may never have made it topside and is entombed in the sunken wreck itself. Though his body was never recovered, Corporal Walter J. Weigand is memorialized at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial just outside Paris.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.