Category Archives: Jewish History

Searching for Charles Newburgh

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Caitlin Eichner, Shapell Roster Researcher.

After several years working on the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s “Roster of Jews in the Service of the Union and Confederate Armies and Navies, 1861-1865,” we have come across a LOT of names.  A handful of the names stick, and can be recalled at will; but most do not, and remind us how thankful we are that the database and our email server have a key word search function.  We record our favorite discoveries in weekly reports so we can easily revisit stories we have learned. Building the narratives for literally thousands of men rewards the soul, but tests the memory.

We look into men who came from all walks of life. Men who were born all over the world, and served from all over the country.  We find connections between a few soldiers here and there; brothers, cousins, neighbors, comrades, friends.  But, it’s rare that we see a name come up consistently across large numbers of different soldiers’ records, except maybe references to “Mr. Lincoln.”  So translator Charles Newburgh stuck out in our memories.

One of the best resources when researching Union* soldiers are the pension records of Civil War veterans held by The National Archives.  The contents of a Union pension application file vary greatly, depending on who was applying, and what type of claim they were making.  Veterans could apply for benefits based on disabilities created by injury and disease incurred during the War, or later benefits based on soldier’s advanced age.  Widows, under-age children, and dependent parents could apply for benefits following a soldier/veteran’s death.  Age, degree of disability, and relationship to a soldier are typical facts to be proven in these different types of applications.  The Bureau of Pensions therefore routinely collected evidence about a soldier’s birth, marriage, and death during an investigation into a claim.  These are the three hallmarks we hope to find in a pension file, because they provide the strongest and likeliest connections for us to confirm a soldier’s identity or verify that a soldier was Jewish.  Was the guy buried in a Jewish cemetery? Married by a Rabbi? Did his birth get recorded in the local synagogue’s records? Gosh, we hope so!

Because so many Union soldiers were immigrants, and some returned to their homelands after the war; many of the documents they submitted were written in foreign languages, typically without any translation.  The Bureau of Pensions therefore needed translators to decipher these records, so the claims could be processed.  We come across the names of many different translators when reviewing said documents in pension files—translators in German, Italian, Portuguese, etc.—but only one when we gleefully stumble on documents in Hebrew.  A Mr. Charles Newburgh.  The Hebrew translator has become an old friend, a favored guest in our research.  For every ketubah, every synagogue birth record we’ve found, submitted from the late 1880’s up until the early 1920’s, Newburgh is there.  Helping our Jewish soldiers prove the details of their lives so they could receive crucial benefits, and helping us put together the specifics of these soldiers’ lives more than a century later.

Charles Newburgh played such a key role in our searching, that we began wondering who he was, and whether he might have kept records of the translations he did at the Bureau pf Pensions.  If anyone would have had the inside track on which Union soldiers were Jewish, it would have been Newburgh. Could he have been one of Simon Wolf’s sources for his 1895 roster?

But, with so many soldiers to track and deep understanding of the mess that is digging though administrative agencies’ back logs, an investigation into Charles Newburgh’s background was put on hold.  That is, until we came across Charles Newburgh in a place we hadn’t expected.

Otto Zoeller served as a Private in the 7th NY Infantry; and was included in Simon Wolf’s book.  

Since Wolf employed the 19th century acceptable practice of “name profiling” in compiling his roster, we independently authenticate each and every name, including Private Zoeller.  The pension record indexes showed that the soldier Otto Zoeller had actually served under an alias, and that his true name was CHARLES NEWBURGH.  That coupled with the fact that this soldier died in Washington DC, in 1930, after the period we had observed our translator operating, set off alarm bells.

Pension Record Index for Charles Newburgh, Alias Otto Zoeller[7]
Pension Record Index for Charles Newburgh, Alias Otto Zoeller[7]
After requesting and pouring over the Zoeller pension file, we were able to confirm that Otto Zoeller the soldier and Charles Newburgh the translator for the Bureau of Pensions were one and the same.  

Charles Newburgh was born in Oettingen, Bavaria, Germany on April 27, 1837.  He came to America by way of Liverpool, England, on the S. S. City of Philadelphia in 1854, and settled in New York City prior to the war.  Newburgh became an American citizen in 1860, and so answered his new country’s call to arms almost exactly a year later; enlisting in the 7th NY Infantry for 18 months under the name Otto Zoeller.  He was wounded in action at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, in Henrico County, VA; receiving a gunshot wound in his left arm.  Due to this injury, Newburgh was discharged for disability, and his military career was brought to an end.  

It is unclear why Charles Newburgh served under an alias.  We often see soldiers hiding their identities because they were too young to serve, and their families refused to give them permission to join.  Newburgh was 21 years old at enlistment though; very comfortably over the age of majority.  The affidavit he provided to the Bureau of Pensions provides no explanation.  Newburgh simply states he served under this alternate name, likely because he was already an employee in the department, and had no need to prove his identity.  

Zoeller is a German name of Bavarian origin, so Newburgh chose a new name from his homeland.  Like so many surnames, Zoeller was originally the name of an occupation: a tax collector, or toll gatherer.  This was a prominent and lucrative position to hold, so families with this name were often wealthy and well-to-do.  Maybe this is why Newburgh chose the name; to add some clout to his persona.

Speculating as to why the soldier chose to use an alias, perhaps it had something to do with his younger brother receiving an appointment as Captain of the 10th NY Infantry six months earlier; while he was a lowly private.  Joseph Newburgh, by records showing his age across the years, appears to have been born the year after Charles.  He enlisted at the start of the war, and like his brother was wounded in action.  Joseph was shot in both the arm and the side at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.  When Joseph was discharged for disability, he re-enlisted in the Veteran Reserve Corps.

After the war, Joseph Newburgh provided Charles with an affidavit in support of his pension claim; confirming Charles’s identity as Otto Zoeller, and stating that they had run into each other regularly during the war around Newport News and on the Chickahominy River.  Joseph even saw Charles the day after Malvern Hill, and observed his wound.  A few years later, Charles repaid the favor, and gave an affidavit on behalf of Joseph’s widow, Sophie.  Joseph met an unfortunate end on a steamboat named the Sandy Fashion.  There was an explosion on board the Sandy Fashion along the Big Sandy River, and Joseph Newburgh drowned.  Sophie applied for a widow’s pension, but at the time of her application, a veteran’s death had to be directly related to an injury or condition that occurred or began during and due to his service.  Charles gave testimony that prior to the war, based on observations Charles made when the brothers would go bathing in the river, Joseph was “a good swimmer.”  After the war, the injuries to his arm had left Joseph “crippled… to such an extent that he could not swim afterwards.”  Other passengers of the Sandy Fashion survived the accident, swimming back to shore; but Joseph was unable to do so.  The Bureau of Pensions did not agree with the Newburgh family’s assessment that Joseph’s death would not have happened if not for his injuries during his military service, so Sophie’s claim was unfortunately rejected.  Joseph’s funeral was held at The Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati, OH; now called the Isaac M. Wise Temple, built for the famous rabbi’s congregation.

Charles Newburgh led a much longer, less tragic life after the Civil War than his brother.  He moved around frequently before settling in Beloit, WI for over a decade.  There he met and married his wife Kate, and started his family.  Then, in 1887, he was hired as a translator by the Bureau of Pensions, moving to Washington, DC, and unknowingly beginning his century-later relationship with our research team.  In Washington, the translator was known as Professor Charles Newburgh, although we have not yet found that he ever served on the faculty of any school.  He translated Hebrew and German documents for the Bureau, and proved to be not only an expert in languages, but in comparative religions as well.  Newburgh gave many lectures around DC, primarily on behalf of the Washington Secular League, discussing, among other things, the origins of different religions’ central texts, and “the philosophy of the Hebrews.”

Charles Newburgh’s sharp mind can be readily observed reading the appeals he submitted to his office on behalf of his own pension claim.  The Bureau of Pensions held that Newburgh’s injury during the war had not left the veteran “unfit for manual labor” and that he was therefore not entitled to the benefits he claimed.  In his appeal, Newburgh analyzed the language of the law under which he filed his claim, and like a skilled litigator, pulled apart its meaning, and explained why the Bureau had misinterpreted the legislative purpose and incorrectly found that he did not qualify:

“As to the law: The act provides ‘That any person who served in the military or naval service of the United States during civil war and received an honorable discharge, and who was wounded in battle or in line of duty and is now unfit for manual labor by reason thereof, or who from diseases or other causes in line of duty resulting in his disability is now unable to perform manual labor, shall be paid the maximum pension under this Act, to wit, thirty dollars per month, without regard to length of service or age.’

This clause of said Act divides claimants into two distinct classes: 1., persons wounded who are by reason of such wounds now unfit for manual labor, and 2., persons who by reason of disability resulting from disease are now unable to perform manual labor.

Webster’s Dictionary defines unfit by ‘not fit; not suitable.’  For instance, a lame horse is not fit, not suitable to be driven, but may nevertheless be made to pull a buggy or a cart.

Unable is defined by the same authority by ‘not able; not having sufficient strength, means, knowledge, skill or the like; impotent, weak; helpless; incapable.’  A horse unable to pull a buggy or a cart is a very different description and expression from unfit for such work.  What the Act contemplates and the distinction intended by it is expressed in perfectly plain words.”

Newburgh argued, based on this understanding of the language of the law, that the fact that the Bureau found that he could still perform some physical acts, in spite of his wounded left arm, did not mean he was suitable for physical labor.  His injury did leave him unfit to do much physical work.  The special examiner in Newburgh’s case did concede that he put forth a compelling argument, but held the standard intended for receiving benefits under this act was closer to what Newburgh defined as unable; regardless of what wording was chosen and what Webster’s said.  Years later, Commissioner of Pensions Winfield Scott would help push through Newburgh’s claim at a rate of $90 a month, after the latter had exceeded the age of 80 and was entitled to hefty age-based benefits.

Charles Newburgh served in the Bureau of Pensions over 30 years before retiring; helping countless veterans prove their claims.  He died January 26, 1930, in Washington, DC, and was interred at the historic Glenwood Cemetery.  His good works continue to be a boon to the Shapell Roster Project, and we are thrilled that now we get to celebrate both his military and administrative service, so hopefully others too remember the name “Charles Newburgh.”

*Pension records also exist for Confederate soldiers, but are more difficult to track down because they were submitted at the state level to the former Confederate states, and are therefore not centrally held in one place. To find a Confederate soldier’s pension application, if he even submitted for one, you must know not only the regiment he served in, but also where he lived after the war; because these veterans would submit for benefits in the state they were living in at that time, which was not necessarily where they were living when they enlisted.

Interested in staying updated with the latest research news and discoveries?  You can follow the research team’s progress as it’s made at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation Facebook Page and Roster Project Album, or by following @ShapellManu on Twitter, #ShapellRoster, or check back at our blog for more interviews and news from the archives.

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[1] Department of the Interior. Bureau of Pensions. (1849 – 1930). Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans, ca. 1861 – ca. 1910. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid.

[7] Microfilm Publication T289: Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC. In fold3.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.

[8] Department of the Interior. Bureau of Pensions. (1849 – 1930). Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (“Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates”): Nos. SC 9,487 – 999,999, 1861 – 1934. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[9] U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project). Original data: Selected U.S. Naturalization Records. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC. In: Ancestry.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.

[10] Microfilm Publication M1372: Passport Applications, 1795-1905. Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1763 – 2002. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC. In fold3.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.

[11] War Department. The Adjutant General’s Office. n.d. Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, compiled 1890 – 1912, documenting the period 1861 – 1866. Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762 – 1984. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[12] Department of the Interior. Bureau of Pensions. (1849 – 1930). Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (“Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates”): Nos. SC 9,487 – 999,999, 1861 – 1934. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[13]Ibid.

[14]Ibid.

[15] “Deaths.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. Vol. XXXVI. No. 99. April 9, 1878. p. 5. Accessed on Newspapers.com.

[16] The Washington Post. No. 13,785. March 7, 1914. p. 5. Accessed on Newspapers.com. AND “Origin of Bibles Debate.” Evening Star. No. 18,639. October 9, 1911. p. 9. Accessed on GenealogyBank.com.

[17] Department of the Interior. Bureau of Pensions. (1849 – 1930). Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (“Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates”): Nos. SC 9,487 – 999,999, 1861 – 1934. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[18]Ibid.

[19] “Veterans in Civil Service.” The Washington Herald. No. 4952. May 20, 1920. p. 12. Accessed on Newspapers.com.

[20] Courtesy, Brian Tosko Bello.

A Special Memorial Day Thank You to Bayside Cemetery Volunteers from the Shapell Roster Project Researchers

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by the Shapell Roster Project research team.

Cemeteries are interesting places that attract all sorts of people: family and friends of those interred; dog owners, runners, and others who enjoy a quiet, usually beautiful oasis in the middle of a bustling city or suburbs; volunteers; vandals… wait, what?

That’s right, vandalism—and not just tagging or petty theft. I mean opened crypts, bodies left lying in plain view—serious stuff. Serious enough incidents for a lawsuit and a whirlwind of press coverage, but not enough to encourage those responsible for the care and upkeep of an old cemetery to do the right thing. But, I’ve gotten ahead of my story. This story began last year for the Shapell Roster Project team when I sent a series of emails out into the ether about a soldier who was supposedly buried in a Jewish cemetery called Bayside, located in Ozone Park, Queens, New York. We knew the soldier was Jewish, but we couldn’t (and still haven’t) determined in what regiment he served. Sometimes that information is available in cemeteries. A few days later I received an email from an Anthony Pisciotta.

I try really hard not to name profile, but I did not expect a guy with an Italian sounding name to get back to me about a Jewish cemetery. Anthony is not Jewish, yet he probably knows more about Bayside Cemetery than anyone. The story he told me about his connection to Bayside was fascinating. Back when he was a kid, he heard tales about cemetery desecration that, like a good campfire ghost story, stayed with him into adulthood. Today, Pisciotta works for the city driving a truck and his route goes right by Bayside Cemetery. One day, he noticed a tomb, wide-open with two damaged coffins with the skeletal remains exposed—just like the stories from his youth! Since then, he’s become one of Bayside’s most dedicated advocates and volunteers.

Pisciotta researches genealogy to find descendants to let them know about the condition of their ancestors’ final resting place and helps descendants who contact him find their relatives. In one case, he sealed the mausoleum of Marcus Witmark to prevent any future vandalism, after securing Witmark’s descendants’ permission. There are many more mausoleums he’d like to similarly protect, but some are too dangerous to even fix, and he’s not a rich man.

 

Photo courtesy of Anthony D. Pisciotta
Photo courtesy of Anthony D. Pisciotta

Recently, Pisciotta launched a crowdsourcing fundraiser for a permanent flagpole to honor the many Veterans interred at Bayside.

Photo courtesy of Anthony D. Pisciotta
Photo courtesy of Anthony D. Pisciotta

Pisciotta doesn’t shy away from talking to the press, but he has a simple agenda: the dead deserve better. And Pisciotta isn’t just talking about the problem, he and his children frequently pick up trash that accumulates in the cemetery and just this week he escorted a Boy Scout troop through Bayside, placing flags on Veterans’ graves for Memorial Day.

We at the Shapell Roster Project are extremely grateful to Pisciotta and other volunteers at Bayside Cemetery for helping us find Civil War soldiers not included in Simon Wolf’s 1895 roster and for confirming that some soldiers listed in Wolf’s roster are, in fact, Jewish (because many are not, but that’s a topic for another post).

George Samuels

Thanks to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, we discovered the name (but not the regiment) of George Samuels in the Minutes Book of the Hebrew Union Veterans Association.

Courtesy, National Museum of American Jewish Military History
Courtesy, National Museum of American Jewish Military History

Unfortunately, with so many soldiers named George Samuels serving in the Civil War, we had no idea which one he was!

When Anthony sent me a photograph of a tombstone for a George Samuels buried at Bayside,

Tombstone for George Samuels
Tombstone for George Samuels

the death date lead us to a soldier who served in the 9th PA Cavalry.

This led us to Norm Gasbarro’s blog post, “Who is George Samuels?”

After a flurry of emails in which Gasbarro, Pisciotta and I excitedly exchanged the pieces of the puzzle we each had, Gasbarro posted an update entitled, “New Information on George Samuels.

Lob Turk

We found out about Lob Turk (alias Lewis Blake) from his descendant, who contacted us via the Shapell Roster website’s contact form. She wanted to make sure that her ancestor was included in our roster so his patriotism was not forgotten. As it turned out, we were able to help Turk’s descendant gain access to his Pension Record (which she had previously been told by the National Archives was lost or destroyed). She, in turn, told us that Turk was buried in the Mokom Sholom part of Bayside Cemetery, and put us in touch with long-time volunteer, Florence Marmor.

The history of Bayside Cemetery and the adjoining Acacia and Mokom Sholom cemeteries on IAJGS’ International Jewish Cemetery Project website for Ozone Park was written by Marmor. In most cases, references to Bayside include the other two cemeteries and vice versa. Collectively, the remains of more than 35,000 Jews are interred in the Bayside, Acacia, and Mokom Sholom cemeteries. Lob Turk and George Samuels are just a few.

No matter how I try, I just can’t understand how (or why) a cemetery in the middle of Queens could be subject to such a long history of misfortune and neglect. Bayside was the cemetery of choice for hundreds of Congregations and Burial Associations since 1865, including the Hebrew Benevolent Society, who buried poor deceased Jews like Lob Turk for free.

"A Good Idea." Commercial Advertiser. November 22, 1869. p. 4. via GenealogyBank.com.
“A Good Idea.” Commercial Advertiser. November 22, 1869. p. 4. via GenealogyBank.com.

“A Good Idea.” Commercial Advertiser. November 22, 1869. p. 4. via GenealogyBank.com.

Perhaps it was the wealth of some of the residents of Bayside Cemetery relative to that of the surrounding neighborhood that attracted criminals:

"It Happened in New York." The Washington Post. February 9, 1906. p. 1. Via newspaperarchive.com
“It Happened in New York.” The Washington Post. February 9, 1906. p. 1. Via newspaperarchive.com.

Or perhaps it was anti-Semitism?

“Cemeteries Damaged.” The Kingston Daily Freeman. February 19, 1951. p. 12. via newspapers.com

"Cemeteries Damaged." The Kingston Daily Freeman. February 19, 1951. p. 12. via newspapers.com
“Cemeteries Damaged.” The Kingston Daily Freeman. February 19, 1951. p. 12. via newspapers.com.

Regardless of the reasons, the crimes against the cemetery became more horrific over time. In 1983, a woman’s body was removed from her coffin and in 1997, the coffin of Joseph Geismer was set on fire. Geismer’s niece relies upon Anthony Pisciotta to keep an eye on her family’s plot because she herself can’t bear to visit the cemetery.

The original owner of Bayside Cemetery, Congregation Shaare Zedek, is accused of negligence and fraud. A lawsuit filed in 2007 by John Lucker, a man whose grandparents purchased a perpetual care lot in Bayside, was dismissed in 2011 on a technicality. Lucker continues his crusade against Congregation Shaare Zedek via Bayside Cemetery Litigation while groups like Olive Branch Cemetery Restoration and the Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries, and individuals like Marmor and Pisciotta do what they believe is the best for the cemetery and its inhabitants.

The Shapell Roster Project honors the Jews in the service of the Union and Confederate Armies and Navies during the American Civil War period of 1861-1865. We, the researchers behind the Roster Project are grateful to all of the volunteers at Bayside Cemetery and any place where these men were laid to rest. Without your help, our job is just that much harder!

Interested in staying updated with the latest research news and discoveries?  You can follow the research team’s progress as it’s made at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation Facebook Page and Roster Project Album, or by following @ShapellManu on Twitter, #ShapellRoster, or check back at our blog for more interviews and news from the archives.

The Last Seder of the Confederacy, 150 Years Later

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Adam Geibel, Shapell Roster Researcher.

"The Fight Before Mobile – Storming of Fort Blakely, April 9, 1865." Harper's Weekly. May 27, 1865. p. 10. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1865/May/battle-of-mobile.htm
“The Fight Before Mobile – Storming of Fort Blakely, April 9, 1865.” Harper’s Weekly. May 27, 1865. p. 10. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1865/May/battle-of-mobile.htm

“Probably the last charge of this war, it was as gallant as any on record.”

On March 17, 1899, The Jewish South reprinted an article by Dr. Mark Jacob Lehman, editor of the New Orleans based Jewish Ledger. Lehman vividly recounted the sights and sounds of what would become known as the “Last Sedar of the Confederacy.”

Lehman, Dr. M.J. "The Last Sedar of the Confederacy." The Jewish South. March 17, 1899. pp. 2-3. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94051168/1899-03-17/ed-1/seq-1/
Lehman, Dr. M.J. “The Last Sedar of the Confederacy.” The Jewish South. March 17, 1899. pp. 2-3. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94051168/1899-03-17/ed-1/seq-1/

One hundred and fifty years later, the article prompted Adam Geibel, one of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s Roster Project researchers to ask the question:

“who was this Dr. Lehman and how did he know what happened that night?”

The Seder of Lehman’s account took place in Mobile, Alabama. There is only one Lehman family in Mobile per the 1860 Federal census, thus probable that Jacob M. is Mark Jacob, one of two sons living with cigar maker Abraham Lehman. The other son was Moses (known by his family as Moise, which is Moses, en Francais).

1860 Eighth Census of the United States. Microfilm Publication M653: Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. In fold3.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.
1860 Eighth Census of the United States. Microfilm Publication M653: Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. In fold3.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.

Memorials for the family on findagrave.com confirm that this was Dr. Lehman’s family.

Lehman describes the Seder’s host as “arrayed in the tattered remnants of a Confederate soldier’s uniform, an irreconcilable of France and the Confederacy,” and the Tachrichim as made “in another clime by the hands of his then youthful bride.” Lehman’s father, Abraham, immigrated to America shortly before 1850 from his birthplace – France, and there is no record that Moise ever wedded, thus we believe that this historic Seder took place in the home of Abraham Lehman and his eleven year old son witnessed the event first hand.

"Moise Lehman, A Well-Known Mobilian, Passes Away." Times-Picayune. January 15, 1894. p. 10. (genealogybank.com)
“Moise Lehman, A Well-Known Mobilian, Passes Away.” Times-Picayune. January 15, 1894. p. 10. (genealogybank.com)

As noted in his obituary, ill health prevented Moise from leaving Mobile in April of 1861, but when the War came to Mobile’s front door in 1864, Moise (as Moses) enlisted in Company A of the 22nd Louisiana (Consolidated) Infantry. While the 22nd was originally an infantry unit, they were retrained to crew the heavy cannon that protected Mobile from Union land and sea threats.

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/fort-blakely/maps/fortblakelyhistoricmap.html
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/fort-blakely/maps/fortblakelyhistoricmap.html

Fifty year-old Abraham Lehman was an enlisted member of Captain Baas’ Company of the 1st Mobile Alabama Volunteers at the time of the siege of Mobile. The regiment was “composed of citizens over 45 years of age,” organized specifically and solely for the defense of Mobile City and County. As a younger man, he may have served as a soldier in France before immigrating to America, but we have not yet found evidence of such.

Dr. Lehman mentions that among the Seder guests, mostly Privates with a few subalterns (ranks above a Private but below a Captain), there was a French Captain from the 22nd Louisiana and a Major from a distinguished South Carolina family. We may never know whether Lehman ever knew the names of the guests or if he forgot them over the passage of time. Fortunately, the details of Dr. Lehman’s account give us clues to who might have been there. For example, a quick check of our database reveals that at least three soldiers in the 22nd Louisiana were in Mobile in April of 1862: Private Samuel Blum, Adjutant Lieutenant Benjamin Oppenheimer and Sergeant Joseph Zimmern. We have not yet determined if these men were Jewish, nor if the other twelve soldiers in our database who served in the unit were Jewish or in Mobile during Passover. We have not yet identified the name of the French Captain, but we do believe that the identity of the man Lehman described as “a ranking major, a native of South Carolina, his family distinguished for able men, all conscientious Israelites” is Major Washington Marks of the 22nd (Consolidated) Louisiana Infantry. The son of Alexander and Esther (Hetty) Hart Marks, born in Columbia and raised in the Jewish traditions and customs of the times in Charleston, South Carolina, was in Mobile that night. Standing six foot tall in an age when most men stood half a foot shorter, with grey eyes, black hair and a dark complexion (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~marksfamily/markspage.htm#wash), he probably cut a figure that no impressionable boy would ever forget.

As the clock wound down in the final weeks of the Confederate States of America in late March of 1865, Federal forces besieged the coastal city of Mobile, Alabama. With 45,000 troops, the Federals outnumbered the 4,000 Confederate defenders at better than ten to one odds. The final Federal assault began in earnest on April 9th – Palm Sunday for the Christians, the day before the start of Pesach for the Israelites, and the official end of the War of the Rebellion and the Confederacy. For those gathered in the home of Abraham Lehman that next night, “the Sedar proceeded uninterrupted.”

Enjoy your Passover, Friends.

Dankmar Adler: Architecture and the American Dream

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Caitlin Eichner and Alexandra Skerry, Shapell Roster Researchers.

Confession: we, Alex and Caitlin, your intrepid Shapell Manuscript Foundation bloggers, did not know in school that we were going to grow up to be archival researchers.  The both of us studied Historic Preservation in college; with Alex continuing on to get her Master’s and Caitlin breaking from the fold and heading to law school (which is why Alex is responsible for a lot of the technical parts of this post).  People from the Historic Preservation community think our job is really cool, but we don’t do a whole lot of architectural and landscape conservation out of the National Archives.  What our Historic Preservation backgrounds did give us though, which is essential to our chosen profession, is a HUGE awareness and appreciation of the importance of saving the past for future generations.  Every day we get to document and reconstruct the lives of people who lived over a century ago, to share with people living now and hopefully generations later.  And Caitlin’s law degree, well that just makes her really OCD about sources and occasionally helps her interpret a court martial.

But, this week, we came across a soldier who allowed us get our inner Preservation geek on, and relive our school days of architecture and design.  Dankmar Adler had immigrant beginnings, like most of our soldiers, but he went on to become one of the most well-known architects of his time.  His more famous partner, Louis H. Sullivan, is considered the father of modern American architecture.  Together, they helped train Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the most famous American architect of all time.  We have several gentlemen in our database who made great names for themselves for their great deeds and exploits during the Civil War— Marcus Spiegel, Leopold Karpeles, Judah P. Benjamin, to name a few— but none, perhaps, who built such a lasting legacy.

Dankmar Adler, World’s Columbian Exposition, c. 1891. Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # DFRWCE.Port_Adler.
Dankmar Adler, World’s Columbian Exposition, c. 1891. Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # DFRWCE.Port_Adler.

Dankmar Adler was born in Germany, in 1844.  His father, Liebman Adler, was a Rabbi, and upon coming to America, he moved the family first to Detroit, where he served as Rabbi for Temple Beth El.  In 1861, he then became Rabbi of the Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv Synagogue in Chicago, IL, and the Adlers moved again.  Dankmar had been an apprentice to a local architect in Detroit, and when he got to Chicago, he found employment as a draftsman.

The Adlers’ move, of course, coincided with the build up to and beginning of the Civil War.  And, in August 1862, Dankmar Adler enlisted to join in the fight.  The US Naturalization Indexes show Adler did not become a citizen of the United States until 1888, so he would not have been eligible for the draft instituted during the Civil War.  And working as a draftsman, Adler would not have been in any great need of money; like many of the poor immigrants enlisting in the service.  His decision to enlist seems only to have been motivated by a sense of pride in or duty to his adopted home; a choice motivated by patriotism and honor.

Dankmar Adler joined the 1st Illinois Light Artillery as a Private.  He was promoted to Corporal during his service, but requested to be reduced back to Private.  No explanation is given in the soldier’s service records as to why he made this decision.  In March of 1865, as the war was winding down, many men detached for special duty were being returned to their regiments to be mustered out.  This left the Department of the Cumberland’s Topographical Engineer Office in desperate need of draftsmen.  So, Adler was sent down to Nashville, at the request of the Chief Engineer of the Department of the Cumberland, to fill that void.  He remained at the Topographical Engineer’s Office until the end of July 1865, when his unit returned to Chicago to be mustered out.

 

In 1870, according to the US Census, the 26 year-old Adler was still living at home with Rabbi Adler, like today’s Millennials.  But, Adler’s career was about to take off.  In 1871, he formed a partnership with architect Edward Burling.  Then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 happened, and business was booming.  Adler married Dila Kohn in 1872, the daughter of Abraham Kohn, who helped found the Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv Synagogue. Abraham Kohn is well-known for sending then President-elect Abraham Lincoln a silk American flag, hand painted by Kohn himself with lines from the Book of Joshua in Hebrew.  You can read more about Kohn and his flag in the upcoming book Lincoln and the Jews – A History.

1870 Census Including the Adler Family 1870, Ninth Census of the United States. Microfilm Publication M593: Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. In: Ancestry.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.
1870 Census Including the Adler Family
1870, Ninth Census of the United States. Microfilm Publication M593: Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. In: Ancestry.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.
Dankmar and Dila Adler, c. 1890. Dankmar Adler Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # 195202.090706-02.
Dankmar and Dila Adler, c. 1890. Dankmar Adler Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # 195202.090706-02.

Adler’s success continued to grow.  He was able to open his own firm in 1879 and shortly after, formed what is often referred to as one of the most significant and influential partnerships in American architecture, when he hired a young Louis Sullivan.

Louis Henry Sullivan has often been referred to as the “father of skyscrapers,” a designation that would not have been possible without the training and initial success with his partner Dankmar Adler.  Adler was formally trained as an engineer and believed that Sullivan’s creative and artistic abilities would be an ideal match to his more technical training.  Adler’s premonitions were correct and his sense of structure along with Sullivan’s artistic eye lead them to become extremely successful, designing around 180 buildings during their 15 year partnership.

Louis H. Sullivan, c. 1900. Richard Nickel Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # 201006_110711-023.
Louis H. Sullivan, c. 1900. Richard Nickel Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # 201006_110711-023.

Adler and Sullivan achieved initial fame as theater architects, using Adler’s expertise in acoustics and Sullivan’s artistic eye to create beautiful and functional designs.  One of their most well-known buildings, the Auditorium Building in Chicago, was completed in 1889, with a young Frank Lloyd Wright hired to draft finished drawings of the interior of the project.  Wright would spend five years working for the firm, learning from Adler and Sullivan, and developing his distinctive style.

Auditorium Building, Chicago, IL.  Designed by Adler & Sullivan. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL,16-CHIG,39—1; http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.il0091.photos.061068p/?co=hh accessed February 18, 2015.
Auditorium Building, Chicago, IL. Designed by Adler & Sullivan.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL,16-CHIG,39—1; http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.il0091.photos.061068p/?co=hh accessed February 18, 2015.
Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright, photographed by Al Ravenna, 1954. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-USZ62-116657. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96514795/
Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright, photographed by Al Ravenna, 1954. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-USZ62-116657. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96514795/

Adler and Sullivan also designed the new Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv Synagogue (1891), where Adler’s father was the Rabbi.  After this time, Adler and Sullivan focused primarily on office buildings and created some of the most famous designs of the time including the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, MO (1891) and the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY (1896).

Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue (now, Pilgrim Baptist Church), Chicago, IL.  Designed by Adler & Sullivan. Photographs,Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL,16-CHIG,56—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0127.photos.061286p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.
Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv Synagogue (now, Pilgrim Baptist Church), Chicago, IL. Designed by Adler & Sullivan.
Photographs,Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL,16-CHIG,56—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0127.photos.061286p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.
Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO.  Designed by Adler & Sullivan. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS MO,96-SALU,49—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.mo0297.photos.099165p/ accessed February 18, 2015.
Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO. Designed by Adler & Sullivan.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS MO,96-SALU,49—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.mo0297.photos.099165p/ accessed February 18, 2015.
The Guaranty Building (now, Prudential Building), Buffalo, NY.  Designed by Adler & Sullivan. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS NY,15-BUF,6—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ny0204.photos.116403p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.
The Guaranty Building (now, Prudential Building), Buffalo, NY. Designed by Adler & Sullivan.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS NY,15-BUF,6—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ny0204.photos.116403p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.

Despite their enormous success, Adler and Sullivan split in 1895, citing that year’s economic depression as the reason for their separation.  Adler agreed to continue to consult on Sullivan’s projects however, and went into practice with his son.  Adler’s career was cut short by his early death on April 16, 1900, from a stroke at the age of 56.  He is buried at Mount Maryiv Cemetery, a Jewish Cemetery in Chicago, IL.

Dankmar Adler’s legacy goes far beyond his designs, lasting buildings, and writings on architectural theory.  Both the partner and the apprentice he inspired would go onto create and write theories about the most important architectural designs of the 20th century.  Sullivan would go on to command the new Modernist movement with new technologies such as steel-frame construction and be a mentor and inspiration to young American Architects of the Chicago School such as Frank Lloyd Wright.  Sullivan was also one of the ten architects chosen to build the major structure of the “White City” at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Frank Lloyd Wright became the zenith of American architecture.  Like most of Wright’s personal and professional relationships, his tenure at Adler and Sullivan did not end on the best of terms, but without their help, Wright would not have been able to influence the Chicago and Prairie Schools of Architecture and design masterpieces such as Fallingwater, the Ward Willits House, the Robie House, or Unity Temple.  Despite their tumultuous relationships, Wright would still go on to refer to Sullivan as “Lieber Meister” (German for “Dear Master”) as a sign of respect for the rest of his life.

Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS PA, 26-OHPY.V,1—87 (CT) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.pa1690.color.570317c/ accessed February 18, 2015.
Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS PA, 26-OHPY.V,1—87 (CT) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.pa1690.color.570317c/ accessed February 18, 2015.
The Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, IL.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL, 16-CHIG, 33—2 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0039.photos.061028p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.
The Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, IL. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL, 16-CHIG, 33—2 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0039.photos.061028p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.
Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL, 16-OAKPA, 3—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0318.photos.061737p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015
Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Photographs, Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress: HABS ILL, 16-OAKPA, 3—1 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0318.photos.061737p/resource/ accessed February 18, 2015.

We here at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation are excited to tell Dankmar Adler’s story, and help memorialize not only his part in modern American architecture; but his part in American history as a whole.  He was one of the many brave young men, who chose to fight to defend the Union, when he did not have to; and he used that courage later on in his work.  Plus, Alex and Caitlin have had a blast reading their old architectural history books and looking at pictures of beautiful buildings. We highly recommend everyone do the same!

Caitlin on a Trip to Fallingwater
Caitlin on a Trip to Fallingwater.
Alex and her Preservation Classmates (who are very excited to see the Guaranty Building in person!)
Alex and her Preservation Classmates (who are very excited to see the Guaranty Building in person!)

 

International Man of Mystery – Colonel Frederick George d’Utassy

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Caitlin Eichner, Shapell Roster Researcher.

Working on The Shapell Roster Project, I have the great good fortune of getting to dig through the military records of Civil War soldiers every day at the National Archives.  Some soldiers only have a page or two to indicate their small but important part in this turning point of our nation’s history; others leave a long paper trail.  But few soldiers leave their mark or raise as many questions as Colonel Frederick George d’Utassy of the 39th NY Infantry.

Frederick George d'Utassy
Frederick George d’Utassy. U.S. Civil War Photos, 1860-1865. Original data: Brady Civil War Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. In fold3.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.

Colonel d’Utassy was not included in Simon Wolf’s roster of Jewish Civil War soldiers; we came across his name in a not particularly flattering article published in the New York Tribune.  Amongst many other allegations, the paper claimed that d’Utassy changed his name to hide his former identity, and most importantly for the Roster Project, that he was Jewish. Generally presented in a negative context— was this contention that d’Utassy was Jewish a fact, or merely another attempt at tarnishing his already spotty reputation?

Much has been written on the infamous service of Colonel d’Utassy.  If he lived today, his name would be splashed across the covers of US Weekly and the National Enquirer, and we would peruse his supposed exploits as we stood in line at the grocery store.  But much like those who serve as tabloid fodder nowadays, the true story of his life remains elusive. An alleged Hungarian aristocrat, d’Utassy was said to have worked as a dancing master, secretary to the Governor of Nova Scotia, and a professor of languages after fleeing his homeland.  He claimed in statements given to the War Department that he left Hungary after the failed Revolutions of 1848, where he deserted the Austrian army to serve with his father for his mother country.  Perhaps because of this former experience, d’Utassy helped to form the 39th NY Infantry, or “Garibaldi Guard” shortly after the Civil War broke out.  The unit quickly became known for their lavish uniforms and colorful Colonel.  But, after two years of commanding the regiment, and a multitude of complaints and scandals, d’Utassy was finally cashiered in 1863 and sentenced to one year of hard labor at Sing-Sing Prison for “[u]nlawfully selling and disposing of Government horses for his own benefit” and “[c]onduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline” — namely opening private mail, selling appointments in his regiment, and altering and padding muster rolls before submitting them to the Pay Department.

It was during his trial that the New York Tribune published the story that lead us to d’Utassy, including the following account on d’Utassy’s origins:

“We have been at the trouble of collecting, from the published accounts of the D’Utassy court-martial and among his personal acquaintances in this city, the materials for a personal sketch, which, although necessarily meager, will be found not uninteresting even to the general reader. It seems that in 1848, when the Hungarian revolution broke out, the officers of the huzzar regiments, on arriving at the city of Pesth, found in the Jews’ quarter a man of the name of Strasser, who kept a second-hand clothing store, and who seemed to be in confidential relations with the horsekeepers of the Hungarian plains which surround that city, and with whom he had an extensive business connection. Strasser, upon being applied to, furnished a number of horses, obtained from his friends, to the troopers of the patriot army, and ultimately formed a connection with the quartermaster’s department in the capacity of a clerk. The person who gives us this information was in one of the regiments, and was personally acquainted with Strasser at that time. He lost sight of him for some years, but finally, in the spring of 1861, when the Garibaldi Guard was being formed in New York, recognized in the elegant and influential D’Utassy, Strasser, the Jewish clothes-dealer of Pesth.”

"D'Utassy's Career." New York Tribune. Vol. XXIII. No. 6923. June 12. 1863. p. 2.
“D’Utassy’s Career.” New York Tribune. Vol. XXIII. No. 6923. June 12. 1863. p. 2.

In the many varying accounts of his life, some acknowledge d’Utassy as formerly being Strasser, and some claim the story was merely an attempt to discredit d’Utassy.  According to The Thorny Rose: The Americanization of an Urban, Immigrant, Working Class Regiment in the Civil War. A Social History of the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry, the Colonel’s powerful friends “begged him to set the record straight, to refute the charges, to act swiftly to neutralize the scandal… [but] D’Utassy refused to answer what he considered to be ridiculous and insulting calumny.”  Even with the accounts that identify d’Utassy as Strasser, most do not address the issue of the Colonel’s religion; and those that do provide no source. Was d’Utassy’s silence really due to principles, or because there was some truth to the stories?

These accounts of his past were believed by men in d’Utassy’s regiment.  While amassing its case against d’Utassy, the Army interviewed the Chaplain for his regiment, Antony P. Zyla, on d’Utassy’s dealings.  Along with some of the crimes d’Utassy was eventually convicted of, Zyla also accused d’Utassy of blackmailing inferior officers into purchasing horses from him, carrying on affairs with other officers’ wives, having “an excessive thirst for gold” and manipulating the system to get his brothers commissions; “one of his brothers, like him, bearing an assumed name and well known in the streets of Washington as a professional gambler[.]

In addition to alleging some very serious breaches of conduct, Zyla’s statement referenced d’Utassy’s supposed double identity, and showed the Chaplain’s rather un-Christian view of his Jewish comrades. He claimed d’Utassy required Zyla to pay him a portion of his salary every month- “$30, for the maintenance as he said, of a due splendor of his household as a Colonel, born a noble-man, while, even at that early epoch [he] had already heard from [d’Utassy’s] own countrymen that he was a Jew.”  Zyla voiced his objection to this taking, seemingly not because of the impropriety of an officer requiring his men to support his extravagances, but because he believed d’Utassy to be in actuality a Jew.  This sentiment got worse when Zyla recounted the Colonel’s dealings with Stonewall Jackson at the surrender of Harpers Ferry:

“Col. D’Utassy, although a perfect coward in adversity, but proud and crass in prosperity, told Stonewall Jackson, when asked what his officers said to the conditions of the Harper’s Ferry surrender, that he was never wont to ask his officers their opinions at all, but he himself was the embodiment of the supreme will in his regiment….  His sophistry is a cake, baked of Jewish covetousness, gipsy eccentricity, and the sensual proneness of the beast.”

The Chaplain’s words do not merely evidence a great dislike for his former commander, but show deep-seated hatred and distrust of a people as a whole.  Simon Wolf’s The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier, and Citizen was written in response to a great wave of anti-Semitism in the late 19th century; and Jewish historians have often described— in generalizations, but rarely with specificity— great prejudice against the Jews in the ranks during the Civil War.  But, my colleagues and I have run into relatively few examples of this bigotry in the primary source records from this period.  The case of d’Utassy is one of those few.

Zyla’s statement proved helpful to us, however, because his references to d’Utassy gaining commissions for his two brothers led to us tracking them down as well.  A search through the New York Compiled Military Service Indexes and rosters for the 39th NY Infantry, with corroboration from contemporary newspapers, presented us with Anthony d’Utassy and Carl von Utassy.

Carl von Utassy U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles. Original data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works: (http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/military/cwrd/db.aspx?). In:Ancestry.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.
Carl von Utassy
U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles. Original data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works: (http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/military/cwrd/db.aspx?). In:Ancestry.com (online database). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011-2012.

Anthony or Anton d’Utassy served as a Captain in the 39th NY Infantry and Carl von Utassy served as 1st Lieutenant under their older brother.  And by a stroke of luck, Carl’s widow applied for a pension- providing us, a century and a half later, with proof that the three Utassy boys were really the Jewish Strassers.  Bertha Utassy applied for a pension in 1892, twenty one years after Carl’s death.  To prove her status as Carl’s widow, she contacted the US Consulate to Austria-Hungary in Vienna for help gaining official records. The record of Carl and Bertha’s marriage was found in the Marriage Record of the Civil Recorder’s Office “of the Jewish Confession, of the 10th Ward of the City of Warsaw,” stating that a ceremony was performed by the “Rabbi of the District and City Warsaw Cheim Davidsohn” on October 26, 1852.  The names given of the two united were Carl Strass and Bertha Nelken, however— no form of the name Utassy was present.  The final page of the marriage transcript submitted by the US Consulate is actually a deposition taken from two residents of Vienna— an attorney and a journalist— swearing “that the Carl Strass or Strasser mentioned in the herewith annexed Certificate of Marriage, is identical with Carl von Utassy late Lieut 39 N.Y. Vols., and who with the sanction of the R. Hungarian Government has changed his name of Carl Strass or Strasser into that of Carl von Utassy.

Based on this evidence, Bertha Utassy was granted her pension, and we were finally able to learn at least part of the truth about Frederick George d’Utassy and his storied past.  Frederick, Carl, and Anton were most certainly brothers, so this primary source evidence is enough to show that all three left different identities behind in Hungary.  Whether, when still living as the Jewish Strasser, d’Utassy also acted as horse trader and second-hand clothes dealer remains to be seen.  Unfortunately our search is limited by geographical and language barriers, but it would be fascinating if d’Utassy/Strasser’s military career could be traced, or found in Hungary.  What is clear is that through a change of name and scenery, d’Utassy built himself a quite a colorful and exciting life. To date, most of the names included in The Shapell Roster come from Simon Wolf, but he missed the three Utassy brothers in his count.  As notorious a figure as Colonel d’Utassy was at the height of his US military career, Wolf would surely have known of him.  Whether Wolf was unaware of the d’Utassy brothers’ past and Jewish faith and missed them from his list, or whether Wolf intentionally omitted the controversial figure and his siblings to avoid the negative stereotypes he was trying to combat remains a mystery.

Interested in staying updated with the latest research news and discoveries?  You can follow the research team’s progress as it’s made at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation Facebook Page and Roster Project Album, or by following @ShapellManu on Twitter,#ShapellRoster, or check back at our blog for more interviews and news from the archives.

Behind the Scenes on the Shapell Roster Project: Alex Skerry & Adrienne Usher on Soldiers Justinian Alman & Jacob Hyneman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexandra Skerry, Shapell Roster Researcher, and Adrienne Usher, Head Researcher – Shapell Roster.

This is the first in a series of “Behind the Scenes” reports on the Shapell Roster Project Team’s collaborative research process. Adrienne Usher and Alex Skerry explain how instincts, attention to detail and team work can transform two names in a database into a story about a post-war death and the woman who connected two soldiers, illustrated with beautiful historical documents.

PART I: Adrienne 

As the Lead Researcher for the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s Roster Project, my responsibilities include administrative duties, database management, and research. While our primary goal at this stage of the project is to confirm the Civil War service of the names included in Simon Wolf’s 1895 The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen, we are constantly adding new names. Periodically, I discover new resources, and when I do – it’s like winning the lottery! Such was the case in March of 2014, when I realized that the New York based newspaper, the Jewish Messenger, was included in our subscription to GenealogyBank – a subscription database of searchable historic newspapers. I stopped what I was doing and immediately began searching for the names of soldiers appearing in the newspaper. My assumption was that if they were written about in the Jewish Messenger, they were, presumably, Jewish, and all I needed to do was figure out their Civil War service to be able to add them to our roster. For every name I found, I had to cross-check the information in the article (if there was any) against ancestry.com and fold3.com. Once I was able to confirm his Civil War service, I then checked the database to see if we already had him. Most of the time, they were in Wolf’s roster, and so not a new name. But, here and there, I struck gold. Such was the case with Justinian Alman.

A search of the Jewish Messenger for the keyword “Cavalry” from 1861-1865 yielded 31 results. #2 in the list was an article dated January 23, 1863 entitled “Virginia.”

Luckily, Captain Alman had a unique first name, which always makes things easier, so I went to the CMSRIs (the Compiled Military Service Record Indexes) on fold3.com. The good news was that I found only one hit – the bad news was that it wasn’t for a New York regiment, as the newspaper article stated. Next stop was to check ancestry.com for a Pension Record Index, and there it was, confirming that there was only one Justinian Alman (or any variation thereof) who served in the Civil War and that his widow applied for and received a Pension on the basis of her late husband’s service. Best news of all, the Pension file was already scanned and online at fold3!

A secondary search of the Jewish Messenger resulted in 3 additional mentions of Alman, including the news of his untimely death. I was confident that Justinian Alman was Jewish and served in the Civil War, so I created what we call a “shell record” for him into the database, including his name, regiment, and links to the supporting documentation. We have two very dedicated researchers who spend Monday through Friday at the National Archives in Washington, DC, reviewing the military records for each name in our database. I knew that at some point, one of them would turn their attention to Justinian Alman, so I moved on to the next discovery…

PART II: Alex

My favorite aspect of the Roster Project is watching the soldiers’ stories unfold and begin to fit into greater, more comprehensive narratives.  Not only were these soldiers men with individual personal life stories, but they were part of a company and a regiment during the war, and a larger community before and after.  When two lives connect, we usually find that these soldiers directly influenced each other in some way.  We often find soldiers that were brothers, friends, coworkers or even neighbors but sometimes it takes some digging in the records at the National Archives (NARA) and some additional online research to discover more complicated connections.

Justinian Alman is a soldier who I keep coming back to over and over again.  His story continues to intrigue me as it has evolved through a small connection from a seemingly singular history to an expanded, wider narrative.  Every time I think our team has exhausted our knowledge of Alman—learning of his tragic death, reviewing his interesting documents, and finding out about his connection with another soldier in our database—additional bits and pieces of his story seem to emerge.

When I began my research on Alman, all I had to go off of was what Adrienne had entered into the “shell record” she had created for him.  I had his name, his Compiled Military Service Record Index (CMSRI), his Pension Record Index (PRI) and the article she had found in the Jewish Messenger.  I was able to fill out a “Request for Military Records” pull slip based off of the information on Alman’s CMSRI and submit it in order to receive Alman’s files at NARA.

Pull Slip submitted to NARA
Request for Military Records pull slip submitted to NARA.

With this pull slip, Alman’s Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) was retrieved for me to review.  Each volunteer soldier has a CMSR for each regiment in which they served during the war.  The CMSR generally contains basic information that was taken from original muster rolls about the soldier’s military service.  A CMSR will usually contain dates such as enlistment and discharge, record if the soldier was wounded in action or became a prisoner of war, and may report on a soldier’s age or place of birth.  Some CMSRs contain more information than others, depending upon the thoroughness of the original record-keeper.

By reviewing Alman’s CMSR at NARA, I was able to confirm that Alman enlisted in the 1st PA Cavalry on September 9, 1861 as a 2nd Lieutenant, transferred to the 2nd PA Cavalry Co. K, which subsequently became the 5th PA Cavalry Co. K.  Transfers, detachments, and re-enlistments were very common during the Civil War. Luckily for us, all of Alman’s records were compiled into one envelope, his record for the 5th PA Cavalry.

Alman was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and was mustered out as such on December 16, 1862 to accept a commission as a Captain in the 5th PA Cavalry.  He was commissioned as a Major on April 4, 1865.  Alman served in the 5th PA Cavalry until the end of the War when he was discharged on June 6, 1865.

Many soldiers and their widows, minor children, and parents applied for a pension after the Civil War. Pension files often contain additional information about what the soldier did during and after the war which could include information such as specifics on the soldier’s military service, medical history, place of residence, dates of birth and death, proof of marriage, etc.  The extent or the amount and kind of information available varies greatly from case to case and depends on the relationship of the person who is applying to the soldier.

According to Alman’s PRI, his wife Augusta applied for a pension.

Justinian Alman Pension Record Index (PRI)
Justinian Alman Pension Record Index (PRI)

A widow’s pension file often includes proof of marriage (such as a marriage certificate) as well as information about family and children. Since the pension record was online, there was no need to submit a second pull slip at NARA.

Justinian Alman Pension Record at fold3.com
Justinian Alman Pension Record at fold3.com

From Augusta’s pension, I discovered Justinian’s additional military service after the Civil War, details concerning the circumstances of his death, information about family, and some very fascinating newspaper articles submitted by the soldier’s mother, Alicia Marks (formerly, Alman).

According to the PR, Alman continued his military service after the Civil War by enlisting in the 4th US Cavalry.  While on duty with his regiment, Alman was killed on March 17, 1868, while on board a small boat crossing the Black Cypress Bayou in Texas.  He was struck by the wheel of the steamboat “J.M. Sharp” when his boat collided with the vessel, and drowned.

Justinian Alman Obituaries
Justinian Alman Obituaries

Despite the pension being a “Widow’s Pension,” the bulk of the documents included were from and about the soldier’s mother.  Included in Alman’s pension record was an inquiry from Alicia asking the Pension Bureau if she was also eligible to receive benefits.  Alicia’s letter included dates and locations from Alman’s letters home, as well as transcriptions from newspaper clippings she kept concerning her son.

Letter from Alicia Alman on Justinian Alman’s service. Click to view full-size image.

Two of the clippings are from the Jewish Messenger.  Alicia writes: “I have framed & hung near his full length likeness in uniform.  It was copied from the Jewish Messengerof New York by a communal paper dated Feb 20, 1863.” The article she transcribes states that Alman received a promotion for bravery.

An article from the Jewish Messenger reads: “One of the most gallant achievements of the present campaign was the recent capture of prisoners, commissary stores, &, at the White House on the Pamunkey River.  The affair has been warmly commended by the Press.  We learn that the officer who captured the train loaded with stores, &, was a young coreligionist, Justinian Alman a Captain in one of out New York Calvary RegimentsCapt Alman entered the service as a private and won his way by simple merit to his present position.  He was highly complimented for his handsome conduct on the White House expedition.  His command [sic] were out for two days and nights, and penetrated to within fifteen miles of Richmond.  Capt. Alman will make his mark promoted from the ranks he has already distinguished himself on occasions demanding the exercise of true courage and presence of mind.

and

In the death of Major Alman the service has lost a most useful and efficient officer and his many friends a warm hearted and true companion.  Although Major Alman had been with us for a short time he had made hosts of friends by his high toned conduct and was the life of the social circle.

At the conclusion of her letter, Alicia discusses a drawing she includes in the packet she mails to the Secretary of War that depicts a colored lithograph of a soldier’s memorial.  She writes:

Should it be necessary to substantiate any statement to any member of the American Legation in this country I shall be most pleased and ready to submit to their inspection the originals of what I have herein copied as well as letters and the beautiful colored lithograph of the Soldier’s Memorial presented to my son of which I have endeavored to give some idea whilst at the same time particularising [sic] individuals in the regiment.

Alicia painstakingly recreates the lithograph in order to send it to the Pension Bureau so she could keep the original. This is by far the most interesting document I have ever discovered in a PR at the National Archives!

Justinian Alman "Soldier's Memorial"
Justinian Alman “Soldier’s Memorial”

Each week I write up any interesting stories, significant findings, and questions I have to Adrienne, who reads over and responds to my reports.  So, on May 31, 2014, I reported on Justinian Alman and all of the really cool documents in his Pension record, and his tragic story.

PART III: Adrienne

Upon reading Alex’s update about Justinian Alman two months later, I admit, I’d forgotten all about finding him in the first place. I was particularly excited about Alicia’s painstaking facsimile of the memorial she submitted, and asked Alex to inquire if NARA would permit her to access the original to scan it in color. Once pension records are digitized and available online, the records themselves are closed, to preserve these 100+ year old documents.  NARA only permits access to the originals if a special need is shown. She was granted permission, but once she saw the condition and size of the document, she felt that attempting to scan it in color would cause additional damage, so she did not.

Alex Skerry, Researcher, with "Soldier's Memorial" document submitted by Alicia Alman, mother of Justinin Alman.
Alex Skerry, Researcher, with “Soldier’s Memorial” document submitted by Alicia Alman, mother of Justinin Alman.

As I reviewed Alman’s record, something was bothering me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Nothing bad, mind you, just something odd. But, the record was more complete than most in the database, so I moved on to the next item in my to do list. Sometimes, history reveals itself when we least expect it.

Fast forward to October, 2014: Alex and our other researcher at NARA, Caitlin, were finishing the review of the Pennsylvania soldiers, while Adam, our Pennsylvania-based researcher, and I were focusing on a soldier from Wolf named “Ullman,” no first name. According to Wolf, he supposedly served in the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, but we had not yet found evidence of him doing so. As I tried to find evidence of anyone named anything even close to Ullman in the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Justinian Alman’s name appeared in one of my searches. I wondered, was “Ullman” Alman? I studied the details of Alman’s life closely and nothing about him matched what we knew about the mythical Ullman, so that was a dead end, but in doing so, I realized what was bothering me about his record! When a soldier dies, his wife or mother can collect a pension, but not both. Why would Alman’s mother attempt to collect a pension when it was already granted to his widow? I re-examined the Pension Record and realized that the Pension Bureau dropped Augusta Alman from their rolls as “unclaimed.” Had she died? I ran her name through my usual gauntlet of searches and no, Augusta Alman hadn’t died, she just kind of disappeared… However, an Augusta Davidson, with the same information as Alman’s widow, re-appeared in the historical record. Strange, but not really germane to the project, or was it?

Per the copy of the marriage certificate in his Pension record,

Justinian Alman Marriage Certificate copy
Justinian Alman Marriage Certificate copy

Justinian Alman married Augusta Davidson at the residence of the bride’s father, Dr. J. Davidson. Augusta’s application for a Pension was witnessed by Esther A. Davidson. In 1870, two years after Alman died, Augusta is back living with her family in Philadelphia, including father, Dr. Julius Davidson and sister Esther. My next stop was to look for the Davidson and Alman families in the most comprehensive published Jewish genealogical resource: Malcolm Stern’s First American Jewish Families. The only result I found was in one of the Hyneman family trees which had Civil War soldier Jacob Ezekiel Hyneman listed with two marriages: first to “Alman” and then to “Augusta Davidson.” What, I wondered, were the chances that there were two, unrelated Augusta Davidsons in Philadelphia, born circa 1846? Even though Hyneman’s Pension record had been previously reviewed, I asked Alex to request it again and see if there was any mention of Justinian Alman in it – if so, what started out as a sense that something was odd would turn into a connection between two seemingly unrelated Civil War soldiers! I couldn’t wait to hear what Alex would discover…

PART IV: Alex

There was the proof of the hunch!  Included in Hyneman’s PR is a Questionnaire provided by the Pension Bureau asking the soldier to fill out information such as: “State your wife’s full name and her maiden name” and “If your present wife was married before her marriage to you, state the name of her former husband, the date of such marriage, and the date and place of his death or divorce, and state whether he ever rendered any military or naval service, and, if you, give the name of the organization in which he served….” Hyneman lists “Justinian Alman,” that he was a Lieutenant in the 4th US Cavalry, and that he drowned while in the service.  We also see from this document that Augusta was married to Hyneman on May 7, 1877, three days after the Pension Bureau dropped her from the rolls of receiving the widow’s pension for Alman.  Augusta died on January 15, 1912.

Jacob Hyneman Pension Bureau Questionnaire
Jacob Hyneman Pension Bureau Questionnaire

This discovery lead me to equally interesting documents in Hyneman’s Pension Record.  Hyneman received an inquiry from the pension department about his date of birth on file.  Apparently, the pension department claimed that Hyneman listed both August 5, 1843 and August 15, 1843 as his date of birth on different forms.

Jacob Hyneman letter regarding date of birth.
Jacob Hyneman letter regarding date of birth.

To clear up the error, Hyneman writes: “I know my birthday to be August 5th, 1843 as that day is impressed on my mind for many years.  I am enclosing birthday cards mailed principally August 4th, received August 5th.” There are seven beautiful, brightly colored birthday cards included in Hynman’s PR.

Jacob Hyneman Birthday Postcard Collection. Click to view full-size image.

The discovery of the connection between these two soldiers untimely lead to stumbling upon some of the most interesting and colorful (literally) documents I have reviewed thus far during the roster project!

Part V: Adrienne

The Shapell Roster Project’s database is full of amazing stories just like this one, and for every story we’ve uncovered, we know there are many, many more. If you have a Jewish ancestor who fought in the Civil War, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us via the Shapell Manuscript Foundation and share your stories!

As of October 2014, of the 7100 Union soldiers in our database, we have identified and confirmed the service for 6000 of those men. To date, our team has added 646 new names to Simon Wolf’s original roster and continue to add new names every week.

Interested in staying updated with the latest research news and discoveries?  You can follow the research team’s progress as it’s made at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation Facebook Page and Roster Project Album, or by following @ShapellManu on Twitter,#ShapellRoster, or check back at our blog for more interviews and news from the archives.