Gottlieb Zimmerman

Although little is known about Gottlieb Zimmerman’s early life, as records prior to his service are unavailable, his death is well recorded in Fort Meade’s history. Although his death was a tragedy, the story surrounding his passing is one that reminds us that mental health issues have had a long presence in American history. Zimmerman had spent nearly twenty-five years in the service and had attained the status of Commissary Sergeant. On June 8th, 1883, Zimmerman, in his early to mid-fifties, was transferred from Fort Adams, Rhode Island, to Fort Meade, South Dakota. Sergeant John Ryan relieved Zimmerman from Fort Adams but it turned out to provide the opposite of relief as his mental health declined quickly after the transfer. Zimmerman greatly missed his wife and children back home near Newport, Rhode Island. Fort Meade records note his suicide was fueled by the depression he suffered from the disappointment of not being transferred back home. On November 4th or 5th of 1883, Zimmerman took approximately 150 dollars from the government funds. He was not charged for this crime on account of his temporary insanity. He wandered away from camp into the woods carrying a shoe knife and a rope with a noose already tied. His intentions were clear to Lieutenant Loughborough at Fort Meade, and as his detail went after Zimmerman, they were instructed to be kind and gentle to make things as easy as possible because of his fragile state. However, just as the detail spotted Zimmerman, he attempted to slit his throat with his shoe knife. The rest of the detail and the ambulance went to Zimmerman’s aid but it was unfortunately too late. On Tuesday, November 6, 1883, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Gottlieb Zimmerman died near the edge of the forest in Meade County, South Dakota. His passing was recorded so that he could be remembered for his legacy of service and so his story would not be forgotten in the passage of time.

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Post Author: bhveterans

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