Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Jewish-American U.S. Civil War Veterans

Posted By on April 19, 2011


The number of Jews who served in Civil War military units is in some dispute, but most authorities contend that it was somewhere around 10,000 soldiers and sailors.  Several attempts have been made to identify specific veterans with the first comprehensive study published in 1895.  That 1895 study by Simon Wolf named 7038 veterans and included their state, military regiment and company.  Biographical information was provided on some of the veterans.  Of those identified, 527 served in Pennsylvania regiments.   It is not completely clear how Wolf chose to include veterans (or not include veterans) in his listing although he does provide original sources on where many of the names were obtained.

In a prior post on this blog, the issue of Jewish chaplains was discussed.  See:  The Execution of Deserters and an All-Denomination Funeral.  By law, military regiments has Protestant chaplains, and Catholic soldiers even had difficulty getting attention to their religious needs.  See:  Pennsylvanians in the Irish Brigade.

A searchable database of Jewish-American Civil War veterans can be found on Ancestry.com:

Lynn Berkowitz, comp. U.S. Civil War Jewish-American Veterans, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Simon Wolf. The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen. Philadelphia:: The Levytype Company, 1895. This data is provided in partnership with JewishGen.org.

This database was constructed by Lynn Berkowitz from the 1895 directory published by Simon Wolf, entitled The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen.  The book is a free download from GoogleBooks. The following explanation is provided with the database:

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.

This database is not intended to be a full or comprehensive listing of all Jewish soldiers who fought in the Civil War. 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.

Additional information about the Berkowitz database can be found at:  click here.

In searching the Berkowitz database for one known Jewish veteran, Louis Alexander Gratz, who appears in the Lykens Valley area Civil War list, the following information is found:

Louis Alexander Gratz was previously cited in the first post on this blog.  Louis Gratz’ initial service was with the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the regiment that he helped recruit.  His later service was with the 6th Kentucky Cavalry.  His name does not appear in the Simon Wolf listing for Kentucky or Pennsylvania.  He is listed in the Berkowitz database for his Kentucky service; he is not listed for his Pennsylvania service.

Searching for the surname “Gratz” produces the following result:

Lewis A. Gratz is one of the results.  But two additional persons with the surname “Gratz” are found – both serving in Ohio regiments.

The final search is for the keyword “Gratz.”

Interestingly, one of the most well-known members of the Gratz family, Cary Gratz, is not included in the database.  Cary Gratz was the subject of two posts by Susan Sklaroff on her blog Rebecca Gratz and 19th Century America: Yom Kippur, 1861 and  A Civil War Tragedy. Cary was killed in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, 10 August 1861, and was also mentioned in the first post on this Civil War blog.

Additional information about the Berkowitz database can be found at:  click here.

For those who wish to download the Simon Wolf book (free download), chapters selections are provided below with page numbers from the original as well as page numbers to find the material in the “pdf” version.  The “pdf” page numbers are in brackets following the original page numbers.  The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen.  Free download from Google Books.

A Page from the Secret History of the Civil War (Introductory).  87-90 [118-121].

A Remarkable Episode.  91-97 [122-128].

Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War (Introductory).  98-105 [129-136].

Medals of Honor.  106-108 [137-139].

Families of “Brothers in Arms”.  109-111 [140-142].

Jewish Staff Officers in the Union Army.  112-113 [143-144].

Jewish Staff Officers in the Confederate Army.  114-115 [145-146]

Lists of Jewish Soldiers in the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War, Classified according to States and Alphabetically Arranged.  117-409 [148-440].  Note:  Pennsylvania list is on 344-372 [375-402].

Soldiers of the Civil War, Unclassified as to Commands.  410-422 [441-453].

Addenda to Lists of Soldiers.  423 [454].

Statistical Data.  424 [455].

In addition to the Berkowitz database and the Wolf book, an excellent source on the service of Jews in the Civil War is Bertram K. Korn’s American Jewry and the Civil War, published in 1951 by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Much research still needs to be done to identify those of the Jewish faith or of Jewish ancestry who participated in the Civil War.  Anyone with information as to other good sources is urged to contribute it.  The origin of the name of the Borough of Gratz is from the Philadelphia Jewish family of that surname and any members of the Gratz family who were Civil War veterans should be included in the Civil War Research Project.

The screen captures of the results in searching the Berkowitz database are from Ancestry.com.




3 Responses to “Jewish-American U.S. Civil War Veterans”

  1. Jim Friedlander says:

    As Commander of the Jacob Cousins Post #99, Portland, Maine, of the Jewish War Veterans of America, and with the help of several colleagues, I am researching the names of all American Jewish servicemen from Maine who have died in the service of their country in times of war.

    In recent years the name of one Lewis Selving, born in Bavaria, but living in Augusta, ME, surfaced as a former sergeant in the Civil War. He was born in Bavaria but lived in Maine and served in Maine’s 16th Regiment. He was identified as having been Jewish. Yet, his name does NOT appear on Wolf’s roster.

    On the other hand, the names of those Mainers who DO appear in the Wolf Roster, there appear the names of several soldiers who do not appear to have been Jewish at all. One, a “Captain A. Goldman” is indicated to have been a Company Commander in the Maine 17th. I checked out the roster of that regiment, published by Maine’s Adjutant General, and found instead the name of Captain Augustus Goldermann, commander of Company L, for a single year after which he did not renew his enlistment, not uncommon in those days.

    There is no reason to assume that Goldermann was Jewish. Neither was there any reason to assume the names of Marks or Phillips to be Jewish. There were very few Jews at all living in Maine 1861-1865; and the only congregation that had been established in Maine, Bangor’s Achavas Achim, went defunct in the 1850s after the city went into a downward economic spiral followed by a rapid loss of population. None of these names were associated with that community.

    One suspects that Wolf, or his colleagues, were so eager to include many names in their roster, that they failed to check out the the accuracy of submissions.

  2. Candace C. Hall says:

    I agree that Wolf or his colleagues missed up. I understand that others have tried to update the lists, and I would like to know who they are. I’m especially interested in Connecticut.
    Candace Hall

  3. Joanne conti says:

    I am not sure this soldier was Jewish, but think that was the case. His name was Jacob Loeser (aka written Loser). He was in the PA 127th Infantry. I have found other Jacob Loesers, who served in other States, listed as being Jewish, but I hate to assume things. Any info you may share would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Joanne

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