Tag Archives: Adam Geibel

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.

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The Shapell Roster Research Team Takes a Fieldtrip… to the Cemetery

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

Planning a trip to Jewish cemeteries in Washington, DC, is not as simple as one might think. On a map, it looks like there is one, called Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, bordered by Alabama Avenue SE, 15th Place SE, Congress Heights Metro Station and the infamous St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Cemetery Map

Luckily for us, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies provided a different perspective.

Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery is the largest of the four contiguous cemeteries collectively known as the National Capitol Hebrew Cemetery: Washington Hebrew Congregation, Adas Israel (also includes Agudas Achim Congregation), Ohev Sholom, and Elisavetgrad – the latter representing the congregations of Beth Sholom (old), DC Hebrew Beneficial Association and District of Columbia Lodge (merged and now closed), Kesher Israel Congregation, The Georgetown Synagogue (Old), Southeast Hebrew Congregation (old) and Tifereth Israel Congregation, aka 14th St. Shul (old). The easiest way in is through Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery – which features a welcome center and parking spaces to the left and the oldest part of the cemetery to the right as you enter from Alabama Avenue, SE.

The oldest portion of the cemetery is on a hill, and many of the tombstones are leaning. Some show signs of repair. Some of the unmarked children’s stones were colorful with lichen, but overall, the cemetery is remarkably well maintained and we saw no evidence of vandalism.

Cemetery Image 1

Our goal was to take photos of the tombstones of men who were of the right age to serve in the Civil War so we could look them up later and perhaps add a new soldier to our roster. Usually, we have to find evidence that a soldier was Jewish, but with these names, we have to figure out if they have a military record.

Cemetery Image 2

Ferdinand J. Linz was a soldier we knew about and hoped to find – which we did within 15 minutes of arriving! An auspicious beginning to our adventure, we decided.

Cemetery Image 3

Walking up the hill to the newer section of the Washington Hebrew Congregation cemetery, we were quite surprised to find another soldier’s name we recognized.

Cemetery Image 4

From left to right: Kim Packett, Caitlin Eichner and Alex Skerry.

On November 18, 1861, Adajah Behrend, not quite 21, enlisted in the US Army as a Hospital Steward with his father’s permission. On December 4th, 1892, his father, Bernard Behrend, wrote a letter to The Occident, a Jewish monthly periodical, addressed to Abraham Lincoln. He asked Lincoln to issue an order so that “all those in the army who celebrate another day as the Sunday may be allowed to celebrate that day which they think is the right day according to their own conscience” and then added that “I taught [my son] also to observe the Sabbath on Saturday, when it would not hinder him from fulfilling his duty in the army.”

Adajah Behrend was the first soldier I “met” three years ago when I began working on the Shapell Roster. He and his family were quite prominent in Washington, DC. I suppose he spoiled me in a way, not every soldier leaves such a rich and plentiful historical record.

The next tombstone we found was that of Simon Wolf – the author of The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen.

Cemetery selfie top left down and back up to the right Alex Skerry Caitlin Eichner Adrienne Usher Kim Packett Adam Geibel

Counter-clockwise from top left: Alex Skerry, Caitlin Eichner, Adrienne Usher, Kim Packett, Adam Geibel.

I sincerely hope our slightly irreverent group “selfie” with Simon’s tombstone can be forgiven, but we all have a love/hate relationship with Wolf. On the one hand, the roster he published in 1895 of Jewish soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War is nothing short of amazing. He did not have the internet, or the military service records at the National Archives. He was well connected in Washington, and many of the soldiers he sought to include in his roster were still living, so that must have helped. On the other hand, I can’t tell you exactly how he found Jewish soldiers – he left no record of his methodology, no notes or references to his work in his personal papers. We are continually scratching our heads over why he included one brother but not another… why he included soldiers who were baptized Lutherans but excluded other soldiers whose application for a Pension he personally handled. We suspect he engaged in the then-common practice of name profiling. So, we respect Simon Wolf, but we really wish we knew what he knew back in 1895.

The next exciting surprise was finding Cherrie Moise Levy’s tombstone! I suppose I should preface the following with *research geek alert* warning, because surely this story would only interest a limited audience…

Cemetery Image 5

In a letter to Secretary of War Stanton dated November 4, 1862, Abraham Lincoln specifically mentions a “C.M. Levy” in the context of commissioning him as a Quartermaster because he believed he had “not yet appointed a Hebrew.” Our team spent hours trying to figure out what the names were behind the “C.M.” abbreviation. Finally, my colleague Adam asked me for the name of the “big book of Jewish genealogy.” Also known as Malcolm Stern’s First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988, a search for “C.M. Levy” produced more of the same: nothing. Then we tried searching on Levy’s famous father-in-law, Rabbi Morris J. Raphall, whose daughter married… a Cherie Moise Levy! The good news was, having two actual names instead of initials opened the door to hundreds of historical documents, including military records, a court martial file or two, and a fair amount of newspaper articles… the bad news was that good old fashioned human error recorded C.M. Levy as Cherie, Cherrie, and worse, Cheme! Adam, Caitlin and I argued back and forth on what his actual name was, and how it was spelled. As of today, C.M. Levy is officially Cherrie Moise Levy. See, I told you that was geeky! PS: Me and Cherrie have the same birthday :0)

To the best of our knowledge, Leopold Karpeles is the only Medal of Honor recipient in any section of the National Capitol Hebrew Cemetery. The sun was a bit too bright to get a better image, but he has a memorial on the website findagrave.com.

Cemetery Image 6

At the back end of the cemetery, a gate separates Washington Hebrew Congregation and Ohev Sholom, which is also identified by a beautiful engraved arch.

Cemetery Image 7

My favorite tombstone in Ohev Sholom was most likely for a child, given the size. In another 50 years, I suppose the tree will envelope the tombstone. Will anyone remember this grave once existed?

Cemetery Image 8

Another gate and a plaque separates Ohev Sholomand Elisavetgrad.

Cemetery Image 9

Elisavetgrad is a long and narrow cemetery compared to the others, and unfortunately, most of the burials were outside of the age range we sought. That left Adas Israel as our final stop. Which, by the way, you should know is only accessible from Alabama Avenue if the gates are open or from Washington Hebrew Congregation through a gate on the right before you leave.

We gathered more names to research, from tombstones in various styles and degrees of age:

Upon completing our tour of the cemetery, we headed off to lunch and compared photos and names we discovered. Sometimes it’s good to get out of the office!

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.

Color Bearer, Minie Balls, and Bravery: Color Sergeant Leopold Karpeles

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

The Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery is a peaceful place, quiet and shaded. On a warm spring morning you can walk past memorials and gravestones, wondering who they were and what they did in life, while the most stressful thing on your mind is what to have for lunch.

Until you find Color Sergeant Leopold Karpeles.

“I know you”.

Color Sergeant Leopold Karpeles.
Color Sergeant Leopold Karpeles.

Words in reports, files and books come to life; Karpeles, the Texas Ranger, Karpeles, the Texas storekeeper, so earnest an Abolitionist that he traveled to Massachusetts on the eve of war to enlist. Karpeles, the veteran of nine months of campaigning, who reenlisted for a second tour with a Regiment mostly filled with untested men.

Karpeles the Medal of Honor recipient.

You can look up his official Citation online: “While color bearer, rallied the retreating troops and induced them to check the enemy’s advance.”[1]

Understatement.

You can dig a bit deeper and find a version that has places and dates.

Sergeant Leopold Karpeles, 57th Massachusetts Volunteers, United States Army, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty at Wilderness, Virginia, 6 May 1864, as a member of Company E, 57th Massachusetts Infantry, while color bearer, rallied the retreating troops and induced them to check the enemy’ s advance.[2]

What the Citation doesn’t say was that on that morning the 57th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, was a pretty raw unit. It would be the first time many of them had ever been shot at and having spent the night nearby, the ears of the men had already been deafened with the continuous roar of the battle already in progress.

Medal of Honor recipients who live to receive their medals are generally labeled ‘modest’. In Leopold’s own words, that morning “I marched in an inspired manner with my flag waving proudly … providing courage for my comrades. I’m also a prime target for the enemy. My dedication to my country’s flag rests on my ardent belief in this noblest of causes, equality for all.”[3]

What that doesn’t tell you is that during the Civil War, a flag bearer was a bullet magnet holding one of the most convenient targets one could offer an enemy – if you aimed at the enemy’s flag, even on a smoke-choked battlefield and missed your intended mark then perhaps you could hit the unit’s leader (since the commanders often positioned themselves next to the colors) or any of the soldiers in the ranks near or rallying to the spot where the flag stood.

Again, in Sergeant Karpeles’ own words – “I am aware that while I’m providing a rallying point and courage for my comrades, I’m also a prime target for the enemy. I vowed to accept that risk when I assumed this obligation which I consider a privilege and honor.”[4]

In the age before field radios and cell phones, the Regiment’s colors served as a form of communication where even bugles and drums could fail men deafened by gunfire – those flags conveyed the Commander’s intent; stand fast, face threats to the left or right, advance.

But a flag several feet above the shoulder-high clouds of burnt powder is just as easily seen by friend as well as foe.

There are accounts that 54 soldiers from the 57th Massachusetts dropped from the Confederates’ first volleys that morning.

That’s ten percent of the unit, a Roman-style decimation, dead or dying soon enough, within a minute.

The lead bullets, mostly .577 caliber Minie balls, killing and maiming those men from Massachusetts were just over half an inch in diameter and heavy: fourteen to a pound. A man could fire and reload three times in a minute, a Regiment could muster between five hundred to a thousand men.

Lethal math is simple.

Self-preservation would demand that any sane man facing such a hornets’ nest flatten himself against the earth.

A Color bearer can not.

More dry words from a book: “On the morning of the 6th Stevenson’s Division was sent to the support of Hancock’s (2d) Corps on the Plank road, and in the severe contest which followed the 57th lost 47 killed, 161 wounded, and 43 missing.”[5]

The colors – both those of the nation as well as the regiment – held an intangible weight, a reminder of oaths to causes and promises to comrades when there is only a temptation to do whatever was necessary to escape the slaughter.

Color Sergeant Karpeles later remembered that “Our troops were rushing wildly to the rear. In vain did our colonel take a stand and called the boys to rally. I joined our colonel, waved the flag and likewise called on my comrades to halt and form on us. We held our position until we had gathered a sufficient force to make a charge. Presently the colonel commanded: ‘Forward,’ and he and I dashed ahead, I waving our flag high in the air. Our advance was entirely unexpected. It completely dazed the Confederates and brought their advance to an end. We held our position till nightfall, when we fall back in good order and reorganized our forces.”[6]

Leopold Karpeles, Medal of Honor Recipient.
Leopold Karpeles, Medal of Honor Recipient.

So on a warm spring day 150 years and two weeks after Leopold Karpeles earned the eternal respect of his nation, we strangers left a handful of stones on his memorial.

They each weighed about the same as a Minie ball.

 

Leopold Karpeles. Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.
Leopold Karpeles. Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.

 

[1]http://www.history.army.mil/moh/civilwar_gl.html#KARPELES and http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/731/karpeles-leopold.php

[2]http://legionofvalor.org/citation_parse.php?uid=1083883935

[3] http://ma150.org/day-by-day/1862-09-15/leopold-karpeles-joins-46th-massachusetts-infantry

[4] ibid.

[5] https://archive.org/stream/massachusettssol41931mass#page/814/mode/2up

[6] http://ma150.org/day-by-day/1862-09-15/leopold-karpeles-joins-46th-massachusetts-infantry

 

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.

Research at the U.S. National Archives, with Alexandra Skerry

We asked Shapell Manuscript Foundation researchers at the National Archives in Washington D.C. about their work and experience there.  The team is working on the Shapell Roster – an updated and accurate roster of Jewish soldiers who served in the American Civil War.

Responses from Alexandra Skerry, Shapell Roster Researcher.

Alexandra Skerry, Shapell Researcher.
Alexandra Skerry, Shapell Researcher.

“What’s been your favorite discovery so far?”

It’s so hard to choose just one “favorite discovery” so far because I feel like every day is a hunt for something exiting!  Anything that I find that can help me imagine what the soldier’s life or experiences may have been like are a treasure.  An exciting discovery that sticks out to me is finding a photograph in a soldier’s service record.  Soldier Louis Sholem has a photograph of himself attached to his Certificate of Disability for Discharge.  Proving he was also Jewish was icing on the cake!  I also love when we find connections between soldiers in the database.  I have come across a few soldiers who have given affidavits for each other saying they knew each other during the war and stayed friends for years after.  Even better, is finding connections to soldier’s that we don’t already have.  Every time we add new soldiers I feel like someone else’s story gets to be told.  This week, Adrienne (Adrienne Usher, Head Researcher) added soldier Aaron Dreyfuss who had one brother Gustave already in the database and I was able to find an additional brother Max who also served.

Click to view full-size images.

“What’s your favorite/least favorite thing about work at the National Archives?”

I love working at the National Archives!  There are so many documents just waiting to be discovered.  The staff there is so knowledgeable and I feel like the girls and I have made some great connections with people who have been able to bring our research to the next level.  I honestly can’t think of anything I dislike about working at NARA.

“What have you learned from your research and the research process?”

I have definitely learned that if you get stuck in your research, there is always somewhere else you can look or someone else you can ask.

“How long does it usually take to qualify or disqualify a soldier from the Roster?”

This depends on what records we have to look at.  Sometimes if a soldier has a Pension Record, I open it up am there is a marriage certificate or a death record that confirm the soldier is Jewish immediately.  Other times it takes some digging online or looking at additional records.

“What’s the longest you’ve gone without making any headway on a soldier/case?  

Usually not too long, because we have so many resources (and so many soldiers) to look at.  One case sticks out in my mind where I was looking for a soldier named Paul Bauer that was only mentioned as having served in his obituary.  The only record that could be found didn’t mention his first name and just that he served in the 5th US Cavalry.  After exhausting online resources I went to “Finding Aids” at NARA on four separate occasions to see if they could pull the muster rolls of the 5th US Cavalry for me (something they don’t normally do, because of their fragile state).  Adam (Adam Geibel, Researcher) was finally able to contact a researcher who had them pulled for him because he knew the exact location and box numbers of the documents I was looking for.  Even though we didn’t find our guy in the end, this experience helped me have a better relationship with one of the employees in the Finding Aids office, who has helped me again since!

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.

Research at the National Archives, with Adam Geibel

We asked Shapell Manuscript Foundation researchers at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., about their work and experience there.  The team is working on the Shapell Roster – an updated and accurate roster of Jewish soldiers who served in the American Civil War.

Responses from Adam Geibel, Shapell Roster Researcher.

“What’s been your favorite discovery so far?”

There’s tons of good guys and heroes, but the villain Max Rossvalley (a Confederate faux-Surgeon/crappy spy, who turned coat for the Union) and Rabbi Wise’s post-war mission to expose him as a dastardly liar. This guy is straight out of a Victorian melodrama and I’m still expecting to find out he tied damsels to train tracks while twirling his mustache.

“What’s your favorite/least favorite thing about work at the national archives?”

I do Open Source research (anything that I can reach online, with forays into Philadelphia-local archives). I… occasionally hit libraries, museums and even gun shows.

“What’s the longest you’ve gone without making any headway on a soldier/case?  How long does it usually take to qualify or disqualify a soldier from the Roster?”

I don’t think my figures can be used for a statistical deviation, because 1) I get tossed the ‘hard cases’ and 2) I’ve worked out a ‘firing rotation’, where I work about two hours and if I can’t make headway, I mark my last position and shift to another active information request. That reduces time wasted and frustration levels. Also, Adrienne (Adrienne Usher, Head Researcher) and I have worked out a way to ‘hot potato’ our hard cases – when we hit walls, she looks at mine & I look at hers, so rarely does evidence escape our researcher cross-fire. When it does, that can be an indicator that the subject had a hinky past/event (fake names, mis-remembered stories, hidden crimes, hidden social or moral shenanigans, & etc)

“What have you learned from your research and the research process?”

Like the French say, “plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.” I did some time as a solider and when I’m building up an almost three-dimensional profile of these guys, I’ll frequently think ‘yeah, that sounds like when… he reminds me of…’etc. Soldiers (particularly those from citizen armies) tend to act the same way, the biggest difference being the uniforms and the names on the payroll rosters.

The least favorite is when I’m unraveling someone’s story like a loose thread in a sweater and hit a blank wall – generally this’d be something like records for a synagogue, county or unit having been lost or burnt long, long ago. It also happens when a period newspaper hasn’t been preserved in a morgue somewhere. *I* know exactly where the answer *should be*, it’s just that the tome it’s hiding in may no longer exist. Bang head against wall, rinse, later, repeat. If you’ve ever seen the movie Brigadoon, it’s like the research version of that. Kinda. Sorta.

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.