Jewish-American U.S. Civil War Veterans
by Lynn Berkowitz
This database is taken from an 1895 directory published by Simon Wolf, entitled The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen (Philadelphia: The Levytype Company, 1895). 576 pages.
Simon Wolf (1836-1923), in response to rising anti-Semitism in the United States and Europe, and particularly to the Dreyfus case, wished to refute aspersions on the patriotism of Jewish-Americans.
The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen is an index, by state, of Jewish veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies, and includes each man's name, rank, regiment, branch of service (infantry, cavalry, artillery), status (if wounded, captured or killed) and some brief biographical information if the veteran had been commended for bravery or other meritorious conduct.
By placing Simon Wolf's directory into electronic format, my original intention was to enable searches and sorts by field in order to help my historical Civil War research, i.e. how many Jewish soldiers were wounded at Gettysburg, how many were imprisoned at Andersonville, and so on. However, its use in JewishGen is to provide genealogical researchers a means to identify ancestors who may have fought in the Union or Confederate armies. The JewishGen search engine will allow a "sound alike" (Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex) search for similar names.
This database is not intended to be a full or comprehensive listing of all Jewish soldiers who fought in the Civil War. It was compiled in 1895, 30 years after the war ended, at a time when there were no telephones or mass communication other than newspapers. Therefore many Jewish veterans may have been unaware of Simon Wolf's efforts. Many veterans had passed away during those 30 years, as well as many who returned to Europe. Independent research has come up with about 100 names not in Simon Wolf's original list, and it is estimated there were about 10,000 Jewish-American servicemen on both sides of the Civil War. The current database contains over 7,250 records.
Civil War Research
First, here are two good reference books that will help you learn more about a family member listed in this database:
An additional reference dealing in Confederate records is:
The basic facts on your ancestor that you will need to know are his name, state, regiment, and (if possible) company, for example:
If you don't know the regiment name, you can often find it in 19th-century county histories for the county your ancestor lived in. Also be careful with Confederate regiments; they were frequently referred to by the commander's name when they in fact had a numerical designation, for example: 2nd Texas Partisan Rangers a.k.a. Stone's Regiment a.k.a. Chisum's Regiment. There are frequently indexes listing all the soldiers from a state which were published in the 19th century as well (this is almost without exception for the Union states, more rare for the Confederate states). The National Archives has published a "Consolidated Index to Compiled Confederate Service Records" on microfilm, which is available in many large historical libraries (the service records themselves are also frequently on microfilm at the library). A useful bibliography of regimental and state histories is C. E. Dornbusch, Military Bibliography of the Civil War (4 vols).
Records at the National Archives
Assuming that you have the above information, you can obtain copies of your ancestor's service records by writing to the National Archives. Write to:
and request NATF Form 80. Or you may request NATF Form 80 by sending e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give your name, (snail) mailing address, phone number and email address. Whether you request NATF Form 80 by e-mail or regular mail, you may wish to request 3 or more copies, especially if you are researching a Union veteran or multiple veterans.
When you have the forms, fill one out as completely as possible and check "military service" (Schweitzer recommends that you write in red ink next to the veteran's name "Please send complete contents of files.") If your ancestor fought for the Union, he may have a pension file; you may fill out a second Form 80 and check "pension record" (again Schweitzer recommends requesting the entire contents of the file). (The National Archives will not have pension records for Confederate veterans, but some former Confederate state did give pensions and their archives may have the records, details can be found in the above references especially Neagles.) Some weeks later, the Archives will send you a letter indicating what they have located and how much it will cost to copy it (typically about $10).
Researchers who discover a relative using this search engine can learn more about their Civil War ancestor from the sources listed on the USENET soc.history.war.us-civil-war FAQ at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/by-newsgroup/soc/soc.history.war.us-civil-war.html.
Last Update: 12 May 2011 MT