Tag Archives: Caitlin Eichner

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.

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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.

1st Lieutenant Ferdinand Linz: Honoring His Contribution to Our Society

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

Some days, working on the Shapell Roster Project is difficult.  The lives of Civil War soldiers were very often short and tragic.  Reading accounts of young men cut down in their prime, or left with permanent, grave disabilities, all day long can be emotionally draining.  So sometimes, we separate ourselves from our subjects.  We remind ourselves that these men died a long time ago, and we look at their stories like one would a character on a television show; digging for facts with a morbid, detached fascination.  On the difficult days, it is the armor necessary to get through the research.

I spent a long time with 1st Lieutenant Ferdinand Linz, after he was added to the database from a short newspaper article one of my fellow researchers stumbled upon. He was a odd omission from Simon Wolf’s roster, because Wolf in fact represented Linz’s widow for her pension claim.

Linz Widow's Pension Declaration, naming Simon Wolf as her counsel, and stating that they were married by a "Jewish Minister"
Linz Widow’s Pension Declaration, naming Simon Wolf as her counsel, and stating that they were married by a “Jewish Minister.” Click to view full-size image.

Ferdinand (or Fernando) Linz, born in Darmstadt, Germany, served in the 103rd NY Infantry Co. K.  He died, less than a year after enlisting, on September 17, 1862.  At first glance, one would very naturally assume that Linz was killed in the Battle of Antietam- “the bloodiest single day in American military history”- which took place that day.  But instead, Linz was killed at an encampment in DC by one of his own privates while trying to quash a late night scuffle.

The chief witness for the prosecution at the trial of John Kessler, the private in question, was Sergeant Bernhard Zimmerman.  Zimmerman was Linz’s bunkmate, and the first officer to arrive at the scene of the argument.  He described the incident as follows:

“It was about 1 o’clock in the morning when I was aroused by an alarm in our Co. I heard loud talking and knew the voice of Private Kessler[,] the prisoner.  Lt. Linz slept the same time in one tent with me.   As soon as I heard the noise I got up and outside the tent to see what it was about.  I heard Kessler cursing, swearing and quarreling with a Private of Co. K whose name is Conrad Finger.  I ordered both to go to their tents and keep quiet which Kessler refused to do.  I had no shoes on at the time and I went back to put on my shoes.  Lt. Linz just raised up at that time and asked me what the noise was about.  I told him it was only a quarrel between Kessler and Finger and that I wanted to put on my shoes to go out and settle it[,] but he went out before I did.  I followed him right afterwards.  When I came out I saw the prisoner having a rifle in his hand with fixed bayonet.  He ha[d] long been talking at the same time with Conrad Finger.  Lt. Linz got out his watch and said ‘Kessler it is near 2 o’clock.  Everybody ought to be quiet at this time.  You ought to be in your tent long ago.’  [Kessler] said that he couldn’t get in any tent- his comrades did not want him there.  Lt. Linz said that if he behaved himself he could get in a tent well enough.  The prisoner said ‘I don’t want to go in no tent: you haven’t got no sentries here and I want to be sentry.’  Lt. Linz told him that he did not want a sentry.  After this Finger commenced to talk with the prisoner again[,] then the prisoner moved up towards Finger and told him to get out his rifle and he would fight him.  Finger said he would not fight him with a rifle[,] but if he laid down his rifle he would fight him with his fists.  Then I ordered the prisoner to put down his piece[,] where at he moved up towards me.  I though he wanted to stab me.  I said “Kessler[!]  What are you doing?  Do you charge bayonet against your Sergt.?’  He said ‘No I won’t do it.  I respect you and you are the best man in the Co.’  I told him if he respected me he should go in a tent or in a barrack near that place which was empty[,] which he also refused to do.  Then Lt. Linz told him again ‘Kessler lay down your piece[,] if you don’t I [will] have you tied and sent to the Guard House.’  He did not obey.  Lt. Linz called me and Corporal Wolf.  Then Private Kessler[,] who was at this time about seven paces in front of Lt. Linz[,] jumped forward and run the bayonet in his (Linz) right breast[,] saying at the same time ‘then I have to defend myself.’  Lieut. Linz groaned 3 or 4 times and fell down on the ground.  I ran at once to Lt. Linz who held both hands tight together on his breast.  I took his hands off and seeing little blood ran back towards Kessler[,] who was held by three men[,] and took the Rifle from his hands.  Then I turned round to Lt. Linz[,] who lying on the ground at that time[,] looked at him and ran for a Doctor[,] but I soon found out that I could find no Doctor around that place and returned.  After which I found Lt. Linz lying in his tent motionless.  I sat alongside of him and found him but one minute afterwards dead.”

Court Martial Envelope for Murderer's Case (Left third of document is Judge Advocate Joseph Holt's report on the case to President Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln's signature and approval of the sentence of the murderer - that he be condemned to death).
Court Martial Envelope for Murderer’s Case (Left third of document is Judge Advocate Joseph Holt’s report on the case to President Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln’s signature and approval of the sentence of the murderer – that he be condemned to death). Click to view full-size image.

Linz became known around the research table as my “murder vic,” and I gobbled up any information I could find relating to him and his murderer.  A crazy anecdote about a poor man killed in his pajamas, or a cautionary tale about giving the mentally unstable bayonets.

Then, last week, we took our field trip to the Washington Hebrew Cemetery, and I stumbled across the grave of 1st Lieutenant Ferdinand Linz.  And all of the sorrow and pity I had buried down for Linz came rushing to the surface.  Just how unnecessary and tragic was Linz’s death was even acknowledged by his gravestone, which notes that he was “Murdered by a Private in the same company.” All he did was roll out of bed and try to break up an argument in the middle of the night.  It seems unfathomable that this would be Linz’s last act.

Fernando Linz's Tombstone. Click to view full-size image.
Ferdinand “Fernando” Linz’s Tombstone

It is so crucial for us not to lose sight that the men of the Roster are not merely entries in a database, or soap operas for us to follow. Sitting next to the grave of Ferdinand Linz, it became crushingly clear how little time has passed since these soldiers lived, fought, and sacrificed.  At the end of our visit, I returned to his grave to place several stones atop his headstone- a sign of respect and remembrance in the Jewish faith. And I thanked him for reminding me of the most important aspect of our project: keeping the memory of these soldiers alive and honoring their contributions to our society.

Fernando Linz Muster Roll Abstract. Click to view full-size image.
Fernando Linz Muster Roll Abstract

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 Work at the National Archives, with Caitlin Eichner

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 Caitlin Eichner, Shapell Roster Researcher.

Caitlin Eichner, Shapell Roster Researcher at the U.S. National Archives
Caitlin Eichner, Shapell Roster Researcher at the U.S. National Archives

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

It’s really hard to narrow down what my favorite find from the project has been so far.  There are so many incredible documents at our fingertips at the Archives.  And I always try to see the files we create for individual soldiers from the viewpoint of a future descendant, or researcher focused on a specific soldier, using our database. If I had a personal or heightened connection to a soldier, what would be really exciting to find?  So it’s hard to choose one find, but here are the three I think stand out the most in my mind:

Hand Colored Photograph of Samuel Cline- 

I found this in my first few days working for the Foundation.  I got incredibly lucky with the first batch of files I requested. Lots of great first hand accounts, evidence of soldiers being Jewish, and this this photograph.  I was spoiled early on! But it was great motivation to dig deeper into files, and know what could potentially be unearthed.

Samuel Cline. Hand-painted photograph.
Samuel Cline. Hand-painted photograph. Click to view full-size image.

Samuel Cline is one of the most interesting soldiers I have come across in the past year and a half.  He served in the military under the alias Simon Newmark. Two different accounts were given for this:

1st story- Cline said he adopted the name Simon Newmark, the name of his elder cousin, to serve without his relatives in New York knowing, but after the war returned to “his own name.”

2nd story- Cline’s parents passed away when he was 12 and living in Poland.  He then went to Germany to learn a trade and took the name Simon Newmark because as a subject of Russia he was not permitted to reside there. He resumed the name Samuel Cline at the time of his marriage because “he desired his children to have the name of his ancestors.

To establish that Cline and Newmark were one and the same, the photograph was provided to the pension examiner to show to other members of the soldier’s companies.

Henry Adler Letter Home

I think by far the most poignant find I have had was a letter sent from Private Henry Adler home to his mother.  It was the last letter he ever sent to her; he died on the train back from a Confederate prison on his way to being paroled. One of the last things he wrote to her in the letter was “we are all ready to march and maybe never to come back any more but I want you to pray for my safety and I do what I can towards it now.”  Mrs. Adler sent the letter in to the pension officer to prove her relationship with her son, along with the envelope it was sent in, on which she wrote “This is the last letter we got from our son, and the only one we have at this present time [sic] please return this letter when done with it, if it’s no benefit to you”  Unfortunately for her, the letter was never sent back.  Finding these personal keepsakes is very bittersweet- we are excited to be able to see and document such important, intimate objects; but we also must mourn the loss to the families who never got these items back.

There are only two Henry Adlers who served in New Jersey, and Wolf listed two from the state in his roster. But, Adler is one of the soldiers found in Wolf that we cannot find evidence for, showing that he was Jewish. As researchers going through these records over one hundred years later, we know that Wolf would have had access to contemporary resources that may have evidence of a soldier being Jewish, and therefore we cannot rule out these names.

Click to view full-size images.

Lincoln Signatures

Lately, I have had a fantastic run pulling court martial records and coming across Abraham Lincoln signatures.  To date, I have seen four of these signatures; two of which were previously undocumented.  Holding the documents the person you are researching held, wrote, signed is a pretty incredible feeling in of itself.  But when that person is arguably the greatest president of all time, it takes that feeling to a whole other level.  It amazes me the range and amount of these cases Lincoln personally reviewed or inquired about.  In spite of how busy he was, he took the time to make sure justice was being carried out for individuals- whether it was a senator asking him to look into the case, or a wife who barely spoke English.

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

I would say I’ve probably spent two or three days on a soldier, occasionally, where I just am not able to sort the information out to get him added to our database.  We have so many records, that overall, we try not to get stuck on one guy too long – leaving these more complicated soldiers for after we have made it through the multitude of names to get just the basic information ready for them to be put on our public site.  But there is nothing more frustrating than having a guy you really think was Jewish, who has a huge pension file to sift through, with a ton of really interesting stuff, but who ends up not being Jewish, or doesn’t have any evidence to support him being Jewish.  You get invested in guys you then cannot add.

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

It totally depends.  Some guys we find a marriage certificate or a death certificate right away, and “bam!” they’re in the roster.  Other guys, it takes more work. Sifting through newspapers, contacting descendants, tracking families through census records and finding the local synagogue records.

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

My favorite thing about working at the National Archives is the amazing range of resources located there, spanning hundreds of years, and how accessible these records are.  And Pizza Fridays in the cafeteria.

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

Don’t give up! Just when you think you’ve run out of resources, or you’ll never figure a soldier’s record out, you find another place to look, and things all fall into place.  We’re really lucky with the team we have, where if one of us hits a wall, we can punt the problem over to someone with a fresh perspective, who will attack the problem from a different angle and suddenly make headway. Everyone is happy to pitch in and share in difficult records, along with the goldmines.

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.