A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers

A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers

A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers

A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers

Synopsis

Marcus M. Spiegel, a German Jewish immigrant, served with the 67th and 120th Ohio Volunteer regiments during the Civil War. He saw action in Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, where he was fatally wounded in May 1864. These letters to Caroline, his wife, reveal the traumatizing experience of a soldier and the constant concern of a husband and father.

Excerpt

Jean Powers Soman has asked me to write a foreword to this book containing the Civil War letters of Marcus M. Spiegel, her great-great- grandfather. I do so gladly for a number of reasons. The more source material we have on this conflict the more we will be able to evaluate what really happened during those four eventful years. Personally I am very much interested in the fine collection of over one hundred letters of this Civil War officer because for years I have followed with interest the career of this notable Ohioan. Spiegel was born in a German village in 1829, the son of a rabbi who staunchly maintained the traditions of his ancestors. The rabbinate in those days was no bed of roses; young Marcus was reared in a disciplined home but was given sufficient education to value secular learning and libertarian ideals. When the revolution of 1848 erupted in reactionary Germany he joined wholeheartedly in the effort to bring the spirit of enlightenment and egalitarianism to the larger Germany. After the republican revolution failed he set sail for America in 1849. Here, like many of his compatriots who lacked skills, he turned to peddling and finally became a modest shopkeeper in Ohio. It was almost inevitable that this émigré, with his love for freedom, would become an ardent American patriot and would volunteer as a soldier in 1861 when the call to arms was sounded. In steady progression he rose in a relatively short time from the humble rank of second lieutenant in the Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry to colonel of the 120th Ohio Infantry.

It is a tribute to the United States that a German immigrant was able to rise to the command of a regiment in a little more than a decade after his arrival on these shores. His career is comparable to that of the German Jew, Louis A. Gratz, who came to this country in 1861, peddled for a few months, and then joined up as a soldier. Gratz was then about twenty-one years of age. In just over a year he became commanding officer of a regiment of cavalry with the title of major. Spiegel and Gratz are not important solely because they rose to the top so rapidly; George Armstrong Custer was a general at the age of twenty-four. The careers which distinguished foreign-born Gratz and Spiegel were possible only in the United States.

What then is the importance of this collection of the letters of Marcus M. Spiegel? Spiegel's career takes on significance when it is realized that he moved forward in this country in a generation when many looked askance at Jews. A treaty with the Swiss in 1855 ignored . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.