In a scrapyard on the banks of the Calumet River in Chicago sits a tiny cemetery, population: one. This is the grave of Andreas von Zirngibl, a one-armed veteran of the Battle of Waterloo.
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Von Zirngibl was born in Bavaria on March 30, 1797. At 18, he went to war with the Prussian forces of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, a fearsome and much respected field marshal who earned the nickname Marschall Vorwärts (Marshal Forward) due to his aggressive style of warfare.
Under Von Blücher, Von Zirngibl fought at Waterloo in 1815 (although his gravestone incorrectly dates the battle to 1816). During the famous defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, which the victorious Duke of Wellington called “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life,” the young Andreas lost the limb.
He returned to Bavaria, where he made a living as a fisherman on the Danube River. He married and he and his wife had five children. With a large family to care for and in search of new opportunities, Von Zirngibl moved to America. He and his family arrived in Chicago in 1854, which back then was a town of some 50,000 inhabitants. According to his descendants, he purchased 44 acres of land near the mouth of the Calumet River, at a total cost of $160 in gold.
Von Zirngibl built a shack on his…
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