Recovering the memories of Jewish Civil War soldiers

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shapell-feat
Researchers from the Shapell Roster Project at the Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery looking for the graves of Jewish veterans.

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A massive research project is underway to identify Jews who fought in the American Civil War and to catalog their names and biographic information. Previously, in 1895, Simon Wolf published a listing of every Jew he could find information on who served in the Civil War. He included men on both sides and from all branches of the services. His list of soldiers, as well as some sailors, and marines ran 400 pages long. Until recently there had never been an attempt to update the list with all of the new sources that the internet has made available.

Now, the Shapell Manuscript Foundation is several years into the task of creating an entirely new database listing the vital information of every Jew who served on either side in the Civil War. The Shapell Roster Project, as it is called, will be the definitive list replacing the earlier roster that Wolf published. It is being prepared by scholars who are rummaging through Jewish newspapers and community records from a century ago, and visiting Jewish cemeteries to verify Wolf’s volume of Jewish soldiers. While they are using Wolf’s work, they are looking at each of his listings to make sure that the persons he listed are actually Jewish.

Simon Wolf had been pressed into compiling his list of Jews in the Civil War because of the importation in the 1890s of a new brand of Antisemitism from Germany. Allegations that Jews did not integrate into the larger society and that they avoided military service were leveled by the new “scientific” racists of the period. These biases were retailed in America by men as prominent as Mark Twain. Wolf hoped that by documenting Jewish service in the war he would quiet the bigots.

While Wolf’s book was valuable in the argument in the 19th Century over Jewish acculturation in America, its flaws as a scholarly resource became apparent over the decades. Many Jewish servicemen were not included in the book, some non-Jews were misidentified as Jews, and Wolf sometimes made mistakes in identifying the units the men belonged to.

Whatever the problems associated with Wolf’s book, it has been the starting point for the creation of Shapell’s roster database. Modern research methods have eliminated some of Wolf’s entries which were found to be duplicates or erroneous. Still, the names in the Shapell Roster already greatly outnumber those in Wolf.

When the Shapell Roster project started right before the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, there was one professional researcher working on it. The foundation hoped to complete the project by 2015. Now, four full time staff are at work compiling information on the soldiers and the project is expected to be completed in 2017. The list has grown, and so has the information on each soldier.

Chief Researcher Adrienne Usher says that the depth of work to verify the Jewish backgrounds of the men is very involved, and that new soldiers missed by Wolf keep popping up. “We are finding so many new Confederate names that were not in Wolf,” she told me. “Many of the records are handwritten,” she said, “and it can take hours to figure out what they say.” Ms. Usher told me that her younger researchers, growing up in the digital age, are not used to deciphering cursive handwriting. Research in the National Archives is time consuming but incredibly rewarding.

With so much original research being done, Ms. Usher says that unlike most projects that preserve history, the Roster Project is resuscitating it. “These men were forgotten beyond their immediate families until we opened their pension files,” she told me.

record of marriageMarriage certificate of New York soldier Jacob Jacobs.

In addition to the roster, the Shapell Roster project will also tell the stories of some the men it lists. Many of them were immigrants. Here are a few of the men profiled:

Jacob Jacobs was born in Posen, Germany in 1836. He immigrated to New York. Jacobs enlisted in the army a month after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in the 83rd NY Infantry. A corporal at the beginning of the war, he would rise through the ranks to become a captain. Although he was wounded on the first day of Gettysburg, he continued to serve until 1864 when he was honorably discharged because of his wounds, He returned to New York, dying in Astoria in 1922.

Moritz Lowenstein
was a 21 year old German Jewish immigrant cigar maker when the war broke out. A few weeks after the first shots were fired in the war he joined the army as a musician. He soon left the musical arm of the army to become an infantryman and then an artilleryman. He was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1865 and he was wounded in action on March 31, 1865 at Plank Road, Virginia. He was discharged for his wounds and returned to New York. He became an early member of the Sinai Temple in Mt. Vernon, NY, where he died in 1916 according to the Shapell Roster.

Eugene Jacobson was a Prussian immigrant who enlisted in the army at the age of 19 three weeks after the war began.  He would later win the Medal of Honor for heroism at Chancellorsville. He rose from private to captain over the course of the war.

Eugene JacobsonFor many of the soldiers, the Shapell Roster does not just have the bare facts, it has links to primary source documents related to their lives, everything from marriage certificates to service records. Here is the service record of Moritz Lowenstein.

record of serviceService record of Moritz Lowenstein

When it is completed, the Shapell Roster will be an invaluable resource for historians and genealogists alike. The Immigrants’ Civil War will keep you informed on the progress of this important project.

Video: The Shapell Roster Project

Video: Brief Overview of Jews in the Civil War

Resources:

The Shapell Roster

The Shapell Foundation

Additional Reference:

The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier, and Citizen by Simon Wolf

The Jewish Confederates by Robert N. Rosen

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?

82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory

83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause

84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy

85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge

86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves

87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked

88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge

89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps

90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville

91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville

92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville

93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville

94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg

95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee

96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg

97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg

98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863

99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg

100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863

101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863

102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots

103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division

104. The New York Draft Riots Begin

105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots

106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.

107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings

108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence

109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

110. The Immigrant Story Behind “Twelve Years a Slave”

111. A German Immigrant Woman’s Gettysburg Address

112. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate’s Emancipation Proclamation

113. Pat Cleburne: The South Can’t Use Black Soldiers Without Ending Slavery

114. The Suppression of Pat Cleburne’s Emancipation Proposal

115. An Irish Immigrant Colonel’s Warnings Ignored at Chickamauga

116. An Immigrant Colonel’s Fighting Retreat at Chickamauga

117. August Willich: German Socialist at Chickamauga

118. Hans Heg:at Chickamauga: Norwegian Commander on the Eve of Battle

119. Ivan and Nadine Turchin: Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga

120. German Immigrants Pinned Down at Chickamauga

121. Hans Heg: To Die for His Adopted Country at Chickamauga

122. Patrick Guiney: An Irish Colonel on the Edge of the Wilderness

123. Immigrants March Out of The Wilderness and Into a Wicked Hail of Gunfire

124. Peter Welsh in the Irish Brigade’s Purgatory at Spotsylvania

125. Peter Welsh: What Sacrifice Must the Immigrant Make for His Adopted Land?

126. A Second Irish Brigade’s Catastrophe at a Forgotten Fight Near Fredericksburg

127. An Irish Man and a French Woman Between Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor

128. Two Irish Brigades Swept Away by a Hurricane from Hell at Cold Harbor

129. Petersburg: The Start of a Ten Month Siege that Devoured Men and Disabled the Irish Brigade

130. A Volcano in Virginia: The Battle of the Crater

131. 1864 Election: The Immigrant Voter & Abraham Lincoln

132. August Belmont: The German Jewish Immigrant Who Led the Opposition to Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection

133. Lincoln and the Superiority of the “Negro” over the Irish

134. Lincoln’s Germans and the Election of 1864

135. Lincoln’s German Lawyer Comes Out Swinging in the Election of 1864

136. Lincoln Wins the Election of 1864 With Immigrant Votes

137. American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed by Union Soldiers

138. Kentucky Civil War Refugee Camp Reborn and Reconstructed After Expulsions

139. Immigrant German “Hamburgers” Tormented and Captured at Petersburg

140. German General Weitzel and His African Canadians at Petersburg

141. Irish Regiment at the Beginning of the End of the Confederacy at Five Forks

142. Richmond Burning: The German Immigrant and Black Troops Who Saved the City

143. Appomattox: The Capture of a Confederate Army & the Fall from Grace of an Immigrant General

144. Lincoln Assassinated: John Wilkes Booth’s Immigrant Conspirators

145. Immigrants Hunt Lincoln’s Killers and Help Capture the Confederate President

146. Lincoln’s Murder and the New York Irish American

147. Lincoln’s Funeral in Immigrant New York

148. German General Carl Schurz Begins His Investigation of the Post-War South

149. Carl Schurz Warned That a “System of Terrorism” Was Taking Hold in the Post-War South in 1865

150. Immigrants in the Union Navy: Minorities in the Majority

151. How Immigrants Were Recruited into the United States Navy

152. African Canadian Sailors in the Union Navy

153. High School Student Proves Professor Wrong When He Denied “No Irish Need Apply” Signs Existed

154. The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide

155. No Irish Need Apply Professor Gets into a Fight With Our Blogger Pat Young Over Louisa May Alcott

156. Professor Behind No Irish Need Apply Denial May Have Revealed Motive for Attacking 14 Year Old Historian

157.  A Scottish Socialist and a German General Work to Help Slaves Become Freedpeople-Robert Dale Owen, Carl Schurz and the founding of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

158. Our Man in Sweden: Recruiting Immigrants to Strengthen the Union War Effort

159. German Immigrants and the End of Slavery in Missouri

160. 13th Amendment: Immigrants and the end of slavery in America

161. Finding Civil Immigrants Where You Wouldn’t Expect Them: The Irish and German Harvard Men

162. Recovering the memories of Jewish Civil War soldiers

 

Cultural

Painting of the Return of the 69th from Bull Run Unearthed

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