Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

Louis Renninger (1841-1908) ─ Won Congressional Medal of Honor ̶ Battle of Vicksburg

Buried in Block 370 next to his wife Elizabeth Mann rests Louis Renninger, a Civil War corporal who notably fought under legendary Union generals Grant and Sherman.

Born in Germany, Louis Renningerwas 21 year old private when he survived the perilous Siege of Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi, considered one of the most deadly “brown-water” naval assaults to ever occur on American soil.

The river attack involved 150 advance troops who, in the early morning, were to build a bridge across a dry moat and place ladders against the Rebel embankment. Union General
Ulysses S. Grant chose General William Tecumseh Sherman to lead the main body of federal troops in a massive frontal assault on the Confederate fortress.

From the start, the Siege of Vicksburg was destined to be one of the most tragic charges in the Civil War. It was deemed a “forlorn hope”  or in modern day terms a “suicide mission.” On May 22, 1863 Grant lost 3,200 soldiers that day.  Seventy-two men in Renninger’s regiment were killed. The rest were wounded, including Corporal Renninger who suffered a shoulder and eye injury.

In August 1884, years after his service, Corporal Renninger of the all-German Company H, 37th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation reads for “Gallantry in the charge of the volunteer storming party.”

After the war, Renninger returned to his farm in Ohio and married Elizabeth Mann. They had four sons and five daughters. In 1870 the Renningers left Ohio to farm in Leavitt, Michigan for the next 20 years. In 1898 the Renninger’s traded the harsh winters and cold winds off Lake Michigan to establish a farm in Marcola, Oregon.

A simple farmer for most of his life, in 1908 Renninger died of a heart-attack at the age of 67 while feeding chickens and mules on his son’s property nearby.

Eugene Pioneer Cemetery is still here today thanks to Louis Renningerand his military record. In the 1960’s, before the cemetery was placed on the National Registry of Historical Cemeteries, the University of Oregon’s Pioneer Memorial Park Corporation obtained legal title to the cemetery. Committees were deep in the process of planning to relocate the cemetery so classrooms could be built above its 16 acres.

Then EPCA Secretary Ruth “Lake” Holmes, however was committed to preserving the cemetery. Generations of her family were at rest therein.

Quietly and shrewdly in 1987, Ruth “Lake” Holmes successfully applied to get the cemetery on the National Registry of Historic Cemeteries. The centerpiece of the paperwork was that Renninger had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Civil War during the Battle of Vicksburg.  Not accidentally, Congress has a law that the final resting spot of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner is “sacred and can not be disturbed.”

Today we enjoy the park-like setting Eugene Pioneer Cemetery offers thanks to Renninger’s bravery in battle, as well as Ruth “Lake” Holmes’ commitment and persistence decades later.