Rahr spent his first years in America in Wisconsin working at breweries in Manitowoc and Green Bay. But five years after his arrival, Rahr found himself surrounded again by the drums of war. On October 21, 1861, six months after the start of the Civil War, Rahr joined the 9th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, a regiment primarily composed of German immigrants to Wisconsin.
The 9th was sent into battle in Kansas and Oklahoma as part of what was called the Indian Expedition. The campaign saw Union forces fighting to reclaim the territory of pro-Union Indian refugees who had been driven from their lands by the Confederate Army.
Rahr served under an especially ruthless leader. Colonel William Weer kept his soldiers on half-rations and showed little regard for their safety. Nearly a quarter of those serving under Weer were casualties of war. The situation grew intolerable. Weer’s troops and officers mutinied. The habitually drunken colonel was arrested by his own men.
Flag of the 9th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
Sergeant Rahr mustered out of the Union Army in Milwaukee on December 3, 1864. From Milwaukee he travelled to Green Bay. There, Rahr married Caroline Hochgreve, the sister of a Green Bay brewer he had once worked for.
In the summer of 1865, Rahr came to Oshkosh. He purchased five acres of land on the shore of Lake Winnebago and went to work with his brother August building a brewery. A brewery that survived here for 91 years.
Charles Rahr died on November 30, 1913. He was buried in Oshkosh’s Riverside Cemetery. Next to his headstone is a small, tarnished marker commemorating his service in the Grand Army of the Republic.
Here’s a brief overview of the history of Oshkosh’s Rahr Brewing Company.