"The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen"
1895 directory of Jewish-American Civil War veterans has been made into a
database and can be searched online.
In December, 1891, there appeared in the North American Review a letter in reply to certain statements of a contributor to a previous number of the same magazine regarding the services of American Jewish citizens as soldiers in the Civil War. Under the caption Jewish Soldiers in the Union Army, the writer, after denying the statement that Generals Rosecrans and Lyon were of Jewish birth, proceeds as follows:
I had served in the field about eighteen months before being permanently disabled in action, and was quite familiar with several regiments; was then transferred to two different recruiting stations, but I cannot remember meeting one Jew in uniform, or hearing of any Jewish soldier. After the war, for twenty-five years, I was constantly engaged in traveling, always among old soldiers, but never found any who remembered serving with Jews. I learned of no place, where they stood, shoulder to shoulder, except in General Sherman's department, and he promptly ordered them out of it for speculating in cotton and carrying information to the Confederates. If so many Jews fought so bravely for their adopted country, surely their champion ought to be able to give the names of the regiments they condescended to accept service in, etc., etc.
A statement of this nature, logically inconclusive and practically absurd as it is, might well, under ordinary conditions have been left unnoticed. Under ordinary conditions a reply of any kind to such a tissue of misstatements, would but have dignified it beyond reason, and but helped, perhaps, to save it and its author from oblivion. But the conditions were not ordinary, but most unfortunately, otherwise. It was at a time when the public mind throughout the civilized world was wrought to a high pitch of excitement by the flaunting villainy of the Russian government in the outrageous persecution of its Jewish subjects, when the wave of anti-Semitism was at floodtide in Germany, and was flowing high in France, and when bigots like Stoecker, fools like Ahlwardt, and knaves like Drumont, were finding imitators on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in our country, public attention was being centered on the Jewish refugees from Russia, and the Jewish people throughout the land were massing their strength to cope with the problems which Muscovite tyranny had set before them. In the midst of this agitation, the magazine article referred to, slurring the Jewish people as it did, attracted unusual attention, and being widely quoted and commented on by the newspaper press, it attained a degree of publicity out of all proportion to its merits or its authorship.
Under these circumstances I felt myself impelled to reply to the writer in the North American Review, and at once sent to that magazine a letter embodying a statement of a few indisputable facts bearing on the subject. This statement the publishers of the magazine declined to print on the ground that they had received so many articles on the subject that they could not undertake to discriminate in favor of any one of them, and that they would therefore publish none. My cursorily compiled citations were, however, published at the time in the Washington Post, and as germane to my present subject I reprint them in the main, as follows:
Has this much-traveled and keen observer, Mr. Rogers, ever heard of General Edward S. Salomon, who enlisted as Lieutenant Colonel of the 82nd Illinois? He became Colonel of the regiment after Colonel Frederick Hecker's retirement, was made Brigadier General, was subsequently appointed by General Grant governor of Washington Territory, and, at present residing in San Francisco, has been Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and is recognized as one of the bravest and most gallant officers that ever sat in saddle. This encomium I have from the lips of General Grant himself, and it will be cheerfully endorsed by General O. O. Howard, or by any of the officers yet living who served with him. In the same regiment, as I have learned from General Salomon, were more than one hundred private soldiers and subalterns of Jewish faith. General L. C. Newman, of the city of New York, who was fatally wounded in the first battle of the Rebellion, died in the city of Washington, while President Lincoln, who had brought Newman's commission as Brevet Brigadier General, was with him at his bedside. General Leopold Blumenberg, of Baltimore, who, as Major of his regiment, was severely wounded at the battle of Antietam, and crippled for life and who was subsequently brevetted for his meritorious services, was one of the most loyal and brave of officers. Colonel M. M. Spiegel, of the 120th Ohio, who was severely wounded before Vicksburg, was entreated to retire from the army, but continued in the service and was killed in the campaign of General Banks, in Louisiana. Lieutenant Sachs, of the 32nd Indiana, in command of a company of his regiment at Green River, in 1862, stood single-handed and alone against a company of Texas Rangers, and after killing and wounding eight of his assailants, fell riddled to death. His heroism and bravery had meanwhile given the command time to rally, and they thereupon dispersed the enemy. Captain A. Hart, of the 73rd Pennsylvania, now of this city, who was Adjutant of his regiment, was severely wounded in the early part of the war, and is now a pensioner of the United States. Lieutenant Henry Franc, of the Kansas Volunteers, living in this city today, did splendid service. Judge P. J. Joachimson, Lieutenant Colonel of the 59th New York; Isidore Pinkson, Henry Pinkson and Moses Landauer, of the 110th New York; Captain Lyon and Lieutenant Ababot, of the 5th New York Cavalry; Theodore Wise, of the same regiment; Herman White, and A. T. Gross, of the 2nd Maryland, and I. Feldstein, now a member of Koltes Post, New York, acquitted themselves with ample credit in their respective spheres. The 11th New York was more than half composed of men of Jewish faith. In the 2nd Pennsylvania Artillery, serving under Captain R. M. Goundy, who lives in this city, there were three Jewish soldiers; Lieutenant Liebschutz, who served throughout the war and was promoted for gallantry on the field, now living in this city today; Leo Karpeles, who is now a clerk in the Post Office Department, to whom a special medal was awarded by Congress for bravery and for the capture with his own hands of rebel flags on the field of battle, and Simon Stern, who died lately in this city and whose widow has been granted a pension. George Stern, who died from disease contracted in the service, also left a widow, now pensioned. Dr. A. Behrend, of this city, who served in our army with great ability, not only as a hospital steward, but as an officer in the field, tells me that in 1863 a general order was issued permitting Jews to be furloughed over their Holy Days, and that at Fairfax Seminary he furloughed eleven on that occasion. Dr. Herman Bendall, of Albany, a prominent citizen of that city, was promoted to the grade of Lieutenant-Colonel in recognition of his meritorious services and was subsequently appointed by General Grant superintendent of Indian affairs of Arizona. Jacob Hirsch, of this city, died from disease contracted in the service and his orphan children are now receiving a pension for their father's sacrifice; Captain Cohn, of New York City, now connected with the Baron de Hirsch Trust Fund, was as brave an officer as ever did duty. M. L. Peixotto, of the 103rd Ohio (a brother of the well-known Benjamin F. Peixotto), died last year in consequence of wounds received and disease contracted in the service. Mr. Bruckheimer, now a practicing physician in this city, Charles Raum, one of our leading merchants, Mr. Hoffa, Sol Livingston, M. Erdman, M. Augenstein, and S. Goodman, all of this city, Edward S. Woog, a clerk in the Interior Department; Morris Cohen, clerk in the War Department; Henry Blondheim, of Alexandria, Va., were soldiers in the late war. Captain Morris Lewis, of the 18th New York Cavalry, now living in this city, served on General Kearney's staff ; he receives a special pension, having been shot through the body and paralyzed in his lower limbs. August Bruckner was killed at the second battle of Bull Run. Colonel M. Einstein and Colonel M. Friedman, both of Philadelphia, commanded regiments; Uriah P. Levy was Commodore of the United States Navy. Jacob Hayes, of the city of New York, Mr. Phillips, son of the sexton of the Portuguese congregation of that city, E. J. Russell, of the 19th Indiana, a resident of this city, and so severely wounded as to render him almost incapable of work; L. Myers, of the same regiment, and Julius Steinmeyer, of the 7th United States Infantry stood shoulder to shoulder at the front. General William Meyer, editor of several New York papers, served with credit and distinction during the draft riots in the city of New York, and has in his possession an autograph letter from President Lincoln thanking him for his eminent services during those hours of darkness. William Durst, of Philadelphia, is one of the few survivors of the memorable fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac; when volunteers were called for he went to his duty with death staring him in the face, and Admiral Worden himself told me some months ago that Durst was a man of distinguished bravery, whose services should be specially recognized by Congress. Major Joseph G. Rosengarten, of Philadelphia, is a soldier of national reputation and an author of ability, whose brother Adolph G. Rosengarten was killed at Stone River while acting as staff officer. Quartermaster Rosenfield, of the 13th Kansas, not only discharged the duties of that office with ability, but served also in the ranks. Lieutenant Rosenberg, of this city, is now dead, and his widow is pensioned. Colonel H. A. Seligson, who died some two months ago, led a Vermont regiment during the war, and achieved a high reputation as a soldier. Captain Frederick Leavy, of the 1st New York Infantry; Captain Max Conheim, of New York, and now of San Francisco, and Major H. Koenigsberger, of Cincinnati, were officers of distinction, and so, too, were David Ezekiel and Lieutenant Louis Blumenthal, of New Hampshire. Sergeant Elias Leon Hyneman, of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was one of the heroes of the war, in which he served from the beginning. In June, 1864, during a cavalry sortie about Petersburg, while his command was retreating before the main body of the enemy, he hurried to the relief of a dismounted and wounded comrade. He lifted him into his own saddle and enabled him to escape, and started to make his own way on foot. On his way he met another comrade, barefooted and bleeding; he took off his own boots and gave them to the sufferer. But he himself was captured, and after months of agony in Andersonville, he died.
Frederick Kneffler, a resident of Indianapolis, attained the rank of Major General; he commanded the 79th Indiana, and was conspicuous for bravery at the battle of Chickamauga. As a further list of officers and privates in the various commands, I may yet add the names of Lieutenant Suldman, 44th New York; Captain Gremitz, 62nd Pennsylvania; Corporal Gisner, 142d Pennsylvania; Lieutenant Evan Davis, 115th Pennsylvania; Sergeant Myers, 62nd Pennsylvania; Captain A. Goldman, 17th Maine; Lieutenant A. A. Rinehard, 148th Pennsylvania; Lieutenant Nieman, 103rd New York; M. S. Asher, 103rd New York; Lieutenant George Perdinger, 39th New York; Lieutenant Philip Truffinger, 57th New York; Lieutenant Herman Musschel, 68th New York; Lieutenant Herman Krauth, 103rd New York; Lieutenant Julius Frank, 103rd New York; Captain H. P. Schwerin, 119th New York; Julius Niebergall, Levi Kuehne and Henry Luterman, all of the New York 3rd Artillery, and Lehman Israels, Lieutenant in the 58th New York.
It must be taken into account that when the War of the Rebellion broke out the number of Jews in the United States was quite limited; according to the census taken in 1876 by Mr. William B. Hackenburg, of Philadelphia, and myself, in behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, there were then in the United States, fifteen years after the war commenced, only 250,000 Jews. It is altogether doubtful whether there were more than 150,000, if that many, when hostilities commenced. The proportion of Jewish soldiers is, therefore, only large, but is perhaps larger than that of any other faith in the United States. I have been told by one of the Jewish soldiers in this city, one who bears the scars of the war, that there were at least, as far as he could judge--and he had experience during the whole conflict--from 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers of the Jewish faith in the Union Army alone. I am not prepared to assert this number, but would not be surprised if it were found to be correct.
The animus of the writer in the North American Review is indicated by the words, Except in General Sherman's Department I, and he promptly ordered them out of it for speculating in cotton and conveying information to the Confederates.'' This statement is made with the same disregard of facts as are others in the article referred to, for while a few Jews may have violated the laws of war by running the blockade or furnishing information to the enemy, it was no more than others of other races and religious faiths did under like circumstances, even to a larger degree: and why the Jews as a class should be held up to the contempt and scorn of the world in consequence of the want of patriotism of a few of their number, is to me a profound mystery, and can only be explained upon the theory that inculcated prejudice is stronger than the desire for fair play or the regard for justice. No one for a moment would charge a particular class of Christians with want of honesty because one or more of their number had violated law. The War Department records and the Treasury files will furnish ample evidence of the fact that many of the sins that were committed by others were heaped upon the shoulders of the Jews. It has always been an easy thing to strike at the minority and from time immemorial the prejudice against the Jew has been made a convenient vehicle for furthering malignant purposes and selfish ends.
Having enjoyed the friendship of President Grant and of General Sherman (I was for eight years officially connected with the former, and for a time on intimate social terms with the latter), I call state that I had repeated conversations with them regarding "Order No. 11" which was issued over the signature of General Grant, but of which he, at the time, had absolutely no knowledge. This fact I proved conclusively during the presidential campaign of 1888, when political capital was being made against General Grant among the Jews. By both generals I was assured that there had been a great deal of misinformation on the subject, and, that if they could permit themselves to speak of the facts as they were known to them it would not be the Jews who would be shown to have been derelict but a large number of Christians, many of whom had come highly recommended. It was the latter who were abusing the privilege a accorded to them by the authorities at Washington and who had given both generals a great amount of trouble and annoyance.
I admit that it is unfortunate that the writer of the earlier article in the North American Review, whose statements otherwise deserve the fullest consideration, should have been led into so glaring an error as to name Generals Lyon and Rosecrans as Jewish soldiers. While we would have no objection to classing them among our American citizens of Jewish faith, we can substantiate our case very well without doing so, as the cursory list which I have cited will abundantly show. But while admitting the error of the earlier writer I cannot allow the statement of the latter one, with its implication that there was no one of Jewish faith who battled for the Union, to go unchallenged. The Jewish cemeteries of this city, and of every other large city in the land, contain the remains of brave men of Jewish birth who are not forgotten on Decoration Day by their surviving comrades of Christian faith; and what these men recognize the American people will not ignore.
The armies of every country afford ample proof of Jewish patriotism and valor. Even in benighted and tyrannical Russia, where, to a large extent they are soldiers by compulsion--50,000 or 60,000 of them -- their officers have uniformly admitted that in battle there were no braver men than the Jews. The late Franco-German war afforded instances of distinguished heroism on the part of Jewish officers and soldiers in both armies. The Italian army and the French army today contain a large contingent of Jewish officers and privates who are not only respected, but honored by their compatriots. In the Turkish army some of the leading officers are of Jewish faith. Patriotism, however, is not confined to the field of battle; in private life, from time immemorial, acts have been performed of greater service, possibly, than any in the field, showing greater powers of endurance and evincing higher virtues than were ever recorded in the annals of war. During our late conflict many who remained at home made sacrifices of the most heroic character, and did their duty cheerfully and with alacrity, and I know of none who did their part more fully than the citizens of the United States of Jewish faith. In fact, the history of the Jewish people is one long tragedy of personal sacrifice and heroism. But as I wish to trespass no longer on the columns of your valuable paper, I beg leave to close with this simple statement that it seems to me high time for Americans of all faiths to frown down all attempts that have for their object the lowering and humiliation of any class of our citizens.
Finding that my letter had been copied extensively, not only by the Jewish press, but by leading newspapers in the country, and favorably commented on generally, I determined to give to the world, as complete as I might find possible, a list of American citizens of Jewish faith who had " stood shoulder to shoulder" on the field of battle, and to add thereto the record of some typical instances of exceptional energy and public spirit in the civil walks of life.
What I had anticipated and supposed would be all easy task, requiring probably no more than six months at the utmost, has taken more than four years of continuous work, notwithstanding the assistance I received from many quarters, and I am even now compelled to give this work to the public in an inadequate form, with the feeling that it is incomplete and that much more should have been made of it.
The difficulties in the way of completing fully and accurately such a compilation as I have here attempted will scarcely be realized by those who have not undertaken a similar task. The work was begun nearly thirty years after the close of the war, when many of those whose names were to be gathered were dead, and many others dispersed throughout our vast domain and beyond our borders. In response to three successive calls made through the leading newspapers of the country, I received, indeed, a large number of replies, but after all, the great majority even of the survivors failed to respond, and of the data that reached me much could not be classified. Nearly a thousand names are accordingly placed in the unclassified list.
By far the majority of the names herein included were furnished by the soldiers themselves or their relatives, but a large number of them were sent to me by army comrades of the men referred to. Some of these may be incorrectly quoted both as to their names and the commands with which they were connected, but these errors may scarcely be considered as affecting the general result, so far at least as numbers are concerned. It was naturally impossible to verify all the notices sent to me, and this compilation must therefore, in the very nature of the case, be more or less imperfect and incomplete, but I may say without hesitation that the work is free from all errors which could be eliminated through a patient and cautious scrutiny. Several hundred names of soldiers from Indiana alone were finally excluded from my present lists, notwithstanding their pronounced Jewish character, such as Marks, Abrahams, Isaacs and others of a similar strain, whose owners were ascertained by my correspondents to be non-Jews, while on the other hand many soldiers bearing names of decidedly non-Jewish derivation were authenticated as Jews. If many whose names should be included fail to see them on this "roll of honor" the fault is at all events not mine, and the earnest effort which I have given to this work, wholly a "labor of love" on my part, leaves me free from the necessity of offering apology for whatever errors of omission or of commission may remain in it. The public records could not be utilized, because our army lists, unlike those of foreign powers, make no registry of the religious faith of the enrolled soldiers. I should, in this connection, urge upon my readers to aid me with such corrections of these army lists as they may be able to furnish, with the view to the record being perfected as far as may be, in a future edition of this book.
Unsatisfactory and at times discouraging as has been my task and its outcome, I have yet had at times the pleasure of obtaining and recording data of a most gratifying character. One of the most pleasing results of my labors is the fact that I am able to present a list of fourteen Jewish families that contributed to the Union and Confederate armies no less than fifty-one soldiers. Three, four, five brothers; a father and three sons, a father and four sons, volunteers in a deadly strife, leaving their homes and kindred, breaking their family ties to face privation, disease, wounds and death, sacrificing all to fight with their compatriots for the cause which they deemed right.
My primary purpose has been to show that the Jewish people throughout the land not only took a share in the struggle which has ended so beneficently as to have brought prosperity to both antagonists and dispelled the cause of discord, but that they took their full share, and it is now conclusively shown that the enlistment of Jewish soldiers, north and south, reached proportions considerably in excess of their ratio to the general population. This fact had become apparent before my present work had been systematically begun, as I indicated in my letter to the Washington Post, quoted above, but the lists obtained by me, incomplete as they must inevitably be, make up a number that leaves no reasonable doubt on this subject. This fact, in view of statements minimizing the numbers of Jewish soldiers of the late war, or denying the existence of any at all, cannot be too strongly emphasized. To complete, however, my ultimate purpose of presenting a consideration of the Jew as citizen and philanthropist as well as patriot and soldier, I have herein collated a symposium of expressions oil this comprehensive subject from sources at once authoritative and unbiased. I have included in this collection of views and reviews, the carefully considered statements of many of the foremost men of modern times, statesmen and soldiers, philosophers, divines, writers and other leaders of public opinion, as widely divergent in locality as they are unanimous ill sentiment. Among theseI1 have included only such as are entirely non-Jewish in their origin, men whose thoughts are the expressions of well-disciplined minds, and whose opinions are the deliverances of an impartial judgment.
I gladly record my obligations to the Grand Army of the Republic for the aid afforded me in obtaining information through the machinery of its organization, and to General J. B. Gordon, of the Confederate Memorial Association, for a like cooperation. To the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, to the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, and to the Jewish Publication Society of America, I am indebted for contributions to the cost of publication and for other aid in the prosecution of my work.
I owe my thanks to Captain Eugene H. Levy, Mr. George Alexander Kohut and Mr. Max J. Kohler, of New York, to Messrs. Lewis Abraham and L. Lichtenstein, of Washington, for their assistance, and especially to Colonel F. C. Ainsworth, of the War Department, for the loan of Records. To Mr. Henry S. Morais' recent historical work on " The Jews of Philadelphia, " I am much indebted for valuable data, and other important materials have been gleaned from Mr. Isaac Markens' compendious work on "The Hebrews in America." To the Jewish press I owe acknowledgement for many welcome items of information and for repeated expressions of encouragement.
Finally, among my obligations to numerous correspondents in different parts of the country are those which I owe to many soldiers of Christian faith, some of them officers of distinguished rank, who afforded me much valuable information and who added, in almost every case, some warm expression of their sympathy and goodwill.