9th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Camp Dennison, Ohio
Organized at Camp Dennison, Ohio, May 27 to June 13, 1861.
Ordered to West Virginia June 16. Attached to 3rd Brigade, Army of Occupation, W. Va., to August, 1861.
2nd Brigade, Kanawha Division West Virginia, to November, 1861.
3rd Brigade, Army Ohio, to December, 1861.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Army Ohio, to September, 1862.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Corps, Army Ohio, to November, 1862.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, Center 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to January, 1863.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 14th Army Corps, to October, 1863.
2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 14th Army Corps, to May, 1864.
West Virginia Campaign July 6-17, 1861.
Battle of Rich Mountain July 10.
Capture of Beverly July 12.
Duty at New Creek until August 27.
At New River until November 24.
Moved to Louisville, Ky., November 24-December 2, thence to Lebanon, Ky., and duty there until January, 1862.
Advance to Camp Hamilton January 1-17.
Battle of Mill Springs January 19-20.
March to Louisville, Ky., thence moved to Nashville, Tenn, via Ohio and Cumberland Rivers February 10-March 2.
March to Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., March 20-April 7.
Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30.
Ordered to Tuscumbia, Ala., June 22, and duty there until July 27.
Moved to Decherd, Tenn., July 27, thence march to Louisville, Ky., in pursuit of Bragg August 21-September 26.
Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1-15.
Battle of Perryville, Ky., October 8.
March to Nashville, Tenn., via Bowling Green, Lancaster, Danville and Lebanon October 16-November 7.
Duty at South Tunnel opening communications with Nashville November 8– 26.
Guard fords of the Cumberland until January 14. 1863.
Duty at Nashville, Tenn., January 15-March 6.
Expedition toward Columbia March 6-14.
Moved to Triune and duty there until June.
Franklin June 4-5.
Middle Tennessee or Tullahoma Campaign June 23-July 27.
Occupation of Middle Tennessee until August 16.
Passage of the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River and Chickamauga (Ga.) Campaign August 16-September 22.
Battle of Chickamauga, Ga., September 19-21.
Siege of Chattanooga, Tenn., September 24-November 23.
Reopening Tennessee River October 26-29.
Brown's Ferry October 27.
Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign November 23-27.
Battles of Orchard Knob November 23.
Mission Ridge November 24-25.
Demonstration on Dalton, Ga., February 22-27, 1864.
Tunnel Hill, Buzzard's Roost Gap and Rocky Faced Ridge February 23-25.
Reconnaissance from Ringgold toward Tunnel Hill April 29.
Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign May 1-25. :Demonstration on Rocky Faced Ridge May 8-11. Battle of Resaca May 14-15. Advance on Dallas May 18-25. Left front May 25.
Mustered out at Camp Dennison, Ohio, June 7, 1864, expiration of term.
Regiment lost during service 6 Officers and 85 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 60 Enlisted men by disease. Total 153.
Rich Mountain, W. Va. , July 10, 1861 ( Click Here)
Carnifex Ferry, W. Va., September 10, 1861 ( (Click Here)
Mill Springs, Ky., January 19, 1862 ( Click Here)
Perryville, Ky., October 8, 1862 ( Click Here)
Hoover's Gap, Tenn., June 26, 1863 ( Click Here)
Chickamauga, Ga., September 19 and 20, 1863 ( Click Here)
Missionary Ridge, Tenn., November 25, 1863 ( Click Here)
Buzzard Roost, Ga., February 25, 1864
Resaca, Ga., May 13-16, 1864
Presentation at Filson Historical Society
September 16, 2010
by Joseph R. Reinhart
Bertsch, Stängel and the 9th Ohio in the Civil War
The two most recent books devoted to the history of Louisville in the Civil War, Robert McDowell’s work published in 1962, and Brian Bush’s recent study published in 2008, omit information about the participation of Louisville’s foreign-born immigrants in the Civil War. The most you will learn from them is that foreigners comprised one-third of Louisville’s total population. I hope that when a new history is written, the city’s German and Irish elements will be included. Today, I will talk about the German element in the Civil War..
Louisville’s 13,300 German-born residents comprised approximately 20 percent of the city’s 1860 total population of 69,000, which included 8,000 slaves and free blacks. Louisville’s German-born population, however, was a tiny fraction of the 1.3 million native Germans then in the United States. Germans mostly avoided the Slave States, so they would not have to compete with slave labor and the Free States were more industrialized offering better economic opportunities. Importantly, 80 percent of native Germans lived in the Free States and only 6 percent lived in the eleven states that seceded from the Union.
Louisville furnished more than 6,000 men to the Union army, and over 1,200 of these men or 20 percent were Germans immigrants.
Most of Louisville’s Germans joined Kentucky regiments and often served in separate German companies in those regiments. However, Germans were always in the minority. An infantry Regiment usually contained 10 companies of 90-100 men each. The largest concentration of Louisville’s Germans was in the Union’s 6th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. Four of its ten companies consisted of Louisville Germans. The 4th Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry contained 3 German companies, and the 5th Kentucky and the 22nd Kentucky Infantry regiments each had a German Company. Germans also were scattered in other companies in the aforementioned regiments— and various other regiments such as the 28th Kentucky and 34th Kentucky. For those persons who are interested in the story of the 6th Kentucky and its German contingent, I recommend the book titled: A History of the 6th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry U. S.: The Boys Who Feared No Noise published by Beargrass Press.
One reason that many Germans served in separate German companies is that they did not understand English. Others were more comfortable with their fellow Germans, wanted to serve under German officers, or wanted to avoid Anglo-American nativists as much as possible. Some of Louisville’s Germans opted to serve in all- or mostly- German regiments organized in other states, such as the 9th Ohio, 32nd Indiana and 24th Illinois. Incidentally, I am defining Anglo-American as a person or persons born in the United States and descended mainly from colonial-era English and Scots-Irish colonists.
Today I want to focus on the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment and two of its officers whose wartime letters were recently published. The officers are Lt. Friedrich Bertsch, and Chaplain Wilhelm Stängel; Chaplain Stängel was later elected captain of Company C.
The 9th Ohio had both Louisville, and Kentucky connections. The 9th contained 23 Germans from Louisville, and at least four of these men were killed in action and another one had an arm torn off by a cannonball. Most of these 23 volunteers joined the regiment within one-week after President Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen to quell the rebellion in the South. This was months before Union regiments began forming on Kentucky soil. The 9th Ohio campaigned in Kentucky in 1861 and 1862 and won praise for a bold bayonet charge during the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, on January 19th, 1962. This battle was the first important Union victory in the West. The 9th also fought in Kentucky’s Battle of Perryville. Lieutenant Bertsch lived in Louisville a short time before relocating to Cincinnati, while Wilhelm Stängel had been a long-time resident of our city at his enlistment.
The 9th Ohio was one of 30 or so German regiments that fought for the Union. Approximately 20 percent of the 200,000 German immigrants who fought for the Union chose to enlist in German regiments. Most however served in mixed regiments, predominated by Anglo-Americans. Incidentally, the Confederacy had no German regiments. Further, I have been able to identify only 15 German immigrants who served in Kentucky’s Confederate regiments.
Now onto the campaigns and battles in which the 9th Ohio’s Cincinnati and Louisville Germans took part. The 9th Ohio marched off from Camp Dennison on June 16th 1861, and soon entered western Virginia with Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s growing army whose mission was to protect the vital railroad, waterways and road links that connected the western states with the North Central and Middle Atlantic states. The German regiment proved its mettle in a number of skirmishes and at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry, fought on September 10th, 1861. The Niners campaigned in western Virginia until late in November 1861, when they were sent to join Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio in Kentucky. The unit has suffered 5 killed and more than a dozen wounded in western Virginia; 3 of its soldiers had died from diseases.
The regiment moved to Camp Joe Holt in Indiana, and then to Lebanon Kentucky. On January 1st, 1862 the 9th Ohio began marching south with its Division commanded by Maj. General George H. Thomas. Eighteen days later General Thomas’s Division defeated two brigades of Confederate troops that attacked it near Logan’s Cross Roads in Pulaski County, Kentucky. In this hotly-contested battle on January 19th, 1862, best known as the Battle of Mill Springs, the Rebels forced the foremost Union units to retreat, but stiff resistance by the 4th Kentucky Infantry, a company of the 10th Indiana, and some 1st Kentucky troopers stopped the attack. During a lull in the fierce fighting Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer was mortally wounded when he accidentally rode into the lines of the 4th Kentucky Infantry.
After learning of Zollicoffer’s wounding, the Rebels fell back initially, but soon attacked again with additional regiments on orders of Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden. Fortunately, for the Federals—Col. Samuel P. Carter’s Union brigade, consisting of the 1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments and the 12th Kentucky U. S., finally arrived and stalled this new attack on General Thomas’s left flank.
The 2nd Minnesota and 9th Ohio of Colonel McCook’s brigade then entered the battle in the center and on the right, respectively, and began forcing back the stubborn Rebels in their fronts. The Ohio Germans, fighting over open ground and led by Maj. Gustav Kämmerling, made a bold bayonet attack against the enemy’s left flank and the defenders retreated in disorder. The entire Confederate front collapsed and its beaten soldiers quit the field in disarray.
General Thomas reported 246 casualties, including 39 killed in action. Six of those killed and 28 of the wounded belonged to the 9th Ohio. Confederate losses aggregated 533 casualties, including 125 killed.
The 9th Ohio camped at Waitsboro on the Cumberland River until mid-February, then made a hard march back to Louisville, Kentucky, where it boarded the largest steamboat on the Ohio River, the Jacob Strader, to be transported to Nashville, Tennessee. General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Rebel army had recently abandoned Nashville, and General Buell was concentrating most of his Army of the Ohio there. The 9th Ohio disembarked at Nashville on March 5th, pitching camp outside of the city.
The 9th and its division left Nashville on March 21st, 1862 for Pittsburg Landing, 120 miles to the southwest. General Thomas’s division arrived at Pittsburg Landing on April 9th, just two days after the great Battle of Shiloh had ended. That battle is also called the Battle of the Pittsburg Landing. The Niners found immense evidence of the carnage from the two-day-long conflict, including thousands of wounded men and many still unburied bodies.
On June 23rd, about three weeks after the siege of Corinth, Mississippi ended, the 9th and its division left its camps near Corinth, and migrated slowly east across northern Alabama, along the railroad.
The 9th Ohio was shaken to its core on August 5th, 1862, when Brig. Gen. Robert L. McCook, its brigade commander, and the regiment’s first colonel, was mortally wounded, after he was captured by a band of Confederate cavalry near New Market, Alabama. McCook died the next day. His troops called it a murder. Lt. Col. Kämmerling was promoted to colonel and led the regiment until it mustered out.
The regiment then moved into southern Tennessee and was camped at Decherd, on August 13th, 1862, when the Confederate invasion of Kentucky was launched from Knoxville, Tennessee. General Buell sent his army north in response to the Confederate threat. The 9th Ohio reached Louisville with its army on September 26th, 1862, and on October 8th participated in the late stage of the Battle of Perryville, but lost only a few men. The regiment returned to Middle Tennessee and participated the 1863 mid-year Tullahoma campaign that cleared Middle Tennessee of the Confederate army.
The 9th Ohio’s greatest battle losses occurred on September 19th and 20th, 1863, at the battle of Chickamauga in North Georgia. They had 249 killed, wounded, and missing, out of 500 men engaged in the battle. That is an astounding 50-percent casualty rate.
The 9th Ohio also fought at the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25th, 1863, and participated in the early part of the Atlanta campaign at Rocky Face Ridge and Resaca in May 1864. The regiment was then sent back to its home state to muster out of service on June 7th, 1864.
In general, when in battle, the Niners fought like demons and earned the respect of their American comrades for their fighting abilities, although not for their German-ness. Incidentally, one of their nicknames was “Dutch Devils”.
During its three-years of service, the stalwart German regiment lost 85 men killed or mortally wounded in battle, 18 men missing in action and presumed dead, 2 men died in enemy prison camps, and 31 men died from diseases and other causes. Indeed, a significant sacrifice of 136 lives for their new country.
With that background let’s look at Friedrich Bertsch and Wilhelm Stängel and their letters.
Lt. Friedrich Bertsch was born in 1823 in the southern German Kingdom of Württemberg, and educated in elementary and technical schools, and at Stuttgart’s school of arts. He worked as a lithographer before immigrating to New York in 1852. The reason or reasons he immigrated are unknown but two of his siblings preceded him to the United States. Bertsch also worked as a lithographer in Cincinnati.
Wilhelm Stängel was born in Württemberg in 1826 and educated at the University of Tübingen before entering state administrative service. Stängel came to the United States around 1849, having had to flee his homeland to avoid prosecution for participating in the failed German Revolution of 1848. The revolutionaries had unsuccessfully sought a constitutional and representative government, economic and social reforms, and a unified Germany. Stängel was one of approximately 4,000 German revolutionaries, called Forty-eighters, who immigrated to America. He lived in Connecticut a short time before moving to Louisville. Stangel was a journalist, drawing teacher, and portrait painter in Louisville.
The two German Americans’ Civil War letters clearly reveal that they were not your average “Billy Yank” or common soldier of the Union army. Rather, they were German immigrants fighting in a German regiment and proud of it. Both men believed that Germans were superior to Anglo- Americans and other ethnic soldiers, and hoped to elevate the status of Germans in American society by demonstrating their willingness to join in the fight to preserve the Union, and risk their lives for their adopted country. More on this aspect later.
Bertsch’s and Stängel’s dispatches were discovered in wartime issues of the Cincinnati Volksfreund and the Louisville Anzeiger—long-defunct German American newspapers. Their vibrant dispatches are among the very rare collections of correspondence from soldiers in a German regiment, and are among only a dozen or so letter collections of German immigrants soldiers available in book form. This contrasts with the existence of several thousand books of letters composed by Anglo-American soldiers.
Their letters cover a fourteen-month period ending in September 1862 and frankly inform about life in their German regiment and how the two radical German Americans viewed the war, themselves, their fellow Germans, Anglo-American officers and enlisted men, other ethnics, and the enemy. The letters also shed light on the broader ethnic dimensions of the war, especially ethnic identity, ethnic pride, and ethnic solidarity, how a portion of America‘s Germans conceived the war, and how the German American press linked the home front to the battlefront, ultimately raising ethnic consciousness.
Men were motivated to join the Union army for a variety of reasons, including patriotism, preservation of the Union, abolition of slavery, adventure, a desire to follow the crowd, and/or a paycheck. Added incentives for some Germans were to prove their patriotism and elevate their status in the predominately Anglo-American society, and to bring honor to the German name. The two soldier-correspondents give some indication in their missives as to why they enlisted. They refer to―”freedom and loyalty,” ―”to pay a sacred obligation to our adoptive fatherland,”―”love for the Union,―”to bring their nationality honor,” and ―”love of freedom and free institutions.” It is unlikely that all the soldiers of the 9th Ohio joined in the fight to save the Union for the reasons these two officers mentioned. One historian of Germans in the Civil War, Wolfgang Helbech, argues, based on very limited evidence, that the percentage of Germans who enlisted to get a paycheck, exceeded those motivated by patriotism.
Our two subjects cannot be considered average German immigrants but are examples of a very small number of German Americans who were at the far end of the spectrum. They were radicals, with radical friends and associates. Both officers were members of a Turnverein, a distinctly German gymnastic society that espoused discipline, comradeship, and physical fitness, as well as social reform, humanitarian ideals, and honesty in government. Turnvereine were usually founded by Forty-eighters. For example, Wilhelm Stängel was a founding member of Louisville’s Turnverein. By 1860 the United States contained about 150 Turnvereine with 10,000 members, who were called Turners.
Approximately 300 Turners served in the 9th Ohio, many as officers. It is believed all or most of the regiment’s soldiers from Louisville were Turners and that is why they joined this particular regiment. Because of its strong Turner component, the 9th Ohio did not contain a cross section of German Americans, but was heavy on the liberal side. Forty-eighters and Turners, among other things, fostered the abolition of slavery, formation of labor unions, and removal of the Bible from public schools. They railed against Puritanical temperance laws and Sunday laws, and with a few exceptions these men disliked organized religions and were especially anti-Catholic; many were Freethinkers and socialists; some were communists. All but a few were Republicans. They also advocated retention of their German language and customs. Anglo-Americans usually despised the outspoken Turners, and Turners divided the German-American community because of their radical views and agitation for changes.
That Turners were not religious is revealed by Wilhem Stängel’s appointment as chaplain. He was not an ordained minister nor did his regiment’s officers want one. Shorty after joining the regiment in August 1861, Stängel revealingly wrote from New Creek in western Virginia:
“The regiment consists entirely of pagans and my compulsory service is therefore limited to popular subjects”
The 9th’s chaplain was a morale officer, not a preacher. I must tell you, I do not believe that all the soldiers in the 9th Ohio were pagans, as Stängel asserts, because even some Turners had liberal Protestant beliefs and 70 percent of the Germans in the regiment were not Turners. By the way, approximately two-thirds of all German immigrants were Protestants and about one-third were Roman Catholics, and they did not mix. There were few Catholics in the 9th Ohio.
Politically, Bertsch and Stängel were radical Republicans, as were all but a few Turners. They wanted the war strongly prosecuted, the abolition of slavery, and strict Reconstruction of the South after the war. Wilhelm Stängel wrote in June 1961 from Corinth, Mississippi, that he had recently met some German Americans from Troy Indiana,
and he was:
“pleased to hear that Indiana’s Germans recognize the present situation in the country quite correctly. Although many of them were Democrats, they now openly declare that only abolition of slavery can bring calm and peace to the country, and in particular, reestablishment of the Democratic Party under its earlier leadership means nothing less than treason. They all regret the weakness and lack of independence of our current government and are for radical rule and for a radical president.”
While this may have been true about the Germans from Troy he met, Germans in the North and Border States held widely varying views about the issues Stengel mentions.
While a large number of Germans in the Free States switched from the Democratic Party and voted for Lincoln in 1860, the majority of German voters, including almost all German Roman Catholics remained Democrats—because they saw the Republican Party as the home of nativists and supporters of temperance and Sabbath laws. Most of the Free and Border-State Germans who voted Republican in 1860, did so because they opposed allowing slavery into the territories and the Republican Party fostered Homestead laws.
Despite some postwar claims that Germans universally supported abolition; generally, only Forty-eighters, Turners, and a small number of other Germans favored immediate abolition of that despicable institution. Frankly, Germans were more concerned with making a living and avoiding conflicts with nativists in their strange new country—than they were in the emancipation of slaves.
There were few German-American Republicans in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1860, because Abraham Lincoln, the Republican presidential candidate, received only 91 votes in the entire city. Turners probably cast many of the 91votes.
A number of Lieutenant Bertsch’s letters inform us of some other differences between Germans and Anglo-Americans. The lieutenant wrote from Camp Joe Holt near Jeffersonville, Indiana, on December 7th, 1861:
“We receive visits from Louisville and Jeffersonville citizens daily and on Sunday they want to visit us in mass and delight us with gifts of all sorts, such as: . . ., lager beer, bitters, cheese, sausages, and so forth.”
Germans liked pungent cheeses, sauerkraut, and onions, too. Sutlers for German regiments carried these items in their stocks. Anglo-Americans’s tastes were otherwise.
Writing from western Virginia, the lieutenant wrote that:
“on last Sunday we celebrated here in our camp the German Turner Festival (being held in Berlin) through music and song. . . . He noted after the civilian guests from Cumberland, Maryland “returned home, many German songs were heard in our camp.”
Music and song were important parts of German culture, and for Turners the German song served not only as a social function but also helped build solidarity among fellow members.
Importantly, Germans were not a monolithic group and it was hard to find a common opinion among them, except for three things: Their love of lager beer; their hatred of temperance and Sabbath laws; and their disdain for Anglo-American nativists.
Regarding lager beer, early in the war some German regiments received a beer ration. Mentions of lager beer appear in many letters. For example, Lieutenant Bertsch mused on June 18, 1861, after his regiment left Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati― “Only cigar and hat boxes and empty bottles and beer barrels were left behind as sad relics of a cheerful German camp life.” On Christmas Eve 1861, after beer was prohibited in the camp, he wrote, ― “It is also truly a shame when such a cheap, healthy, and nourishing drink as the noble beer is . . . becomes withdrawn from even the people who would not object to the withdrawal of hard liquor. But the joys of the earth are fleeting.”
Excluding the officers, many of the 9th’s soldiers did not speak English, and German was the language of both command and conversation. The German language was so important to certain men in the 9th Ohio that Lt. Friedrich Bertsch wrote on October 12th 1861:
“Many in our regiment fear that certain plans are in process to force English commands and Anglo-American officers on us, and we await the immediate future with suspicion. I doubt this [will happen] because —as experience has proven—German commands absolutely offer no detriment and cause no confusion with mixed troop units and, furthermore, “German commands” and “German officers” for our regiment are at our option the conditions of its existence and its oath.”
The strong anti-immigrant sentiments that led to the Bloody Monday election day rioting in Louisville in August 1855, and that were also prevalent elsewhere in the United States did not end with the demise of the Know Nothing or American Party in the late 1850s. Those Germans who joined the Union army with the hope that it would prove Germans were good American citizens and that they would be elevated from their second-class status in American society were sadly disappointed. Both Anglo-Americans and German Americans had deep felt pride and prejudices, and those historians who stated that after the war: “the crucible of combat” fused Germans and Americans together and accelerated the former’s Americanization can point to little evidence of this.
For example, Capt. Wilhelm Stängel boasted from Camp New Creek, in Western Virginia, on August 12th, 1861:
“The Americans are poor soldiers, they can never drill as a regiment, but only in company form, and they understand nothing at all of field service, of setting up field wagons and posts, of occupying a good position, or reconnoitering. They comprehend this and openly admit that they never feel as safe as when they are close to us.”
He also freely criticized Anglo-American soldiers, and military and civilian leaders.
For example, on January 6th, 1862, several months after his promotion to captain of Company C, Wilhelm Stängel broadcast from the regiment’s camp at Campbellsville, Ky.
“You have no concept at all, how deep Know-Nothingism is rooted in all layers of American society. In the field, where one risks his life for the same cause, where one throws himself side-by-side against a common enemy, one should believe they would express quite different sentiments, everyone would embrace a band of brotherliness, but far from it. Yet never have I seen the hate of foreigners, especially toward the Germans, appear so openly as during this campaign.”
The agitated captain added:
“Jealously may well have much to do with it, because conceited as the American is, he cannot accept that the German is a much better soldier. The fact is that the hate is well established, and it is our duty through unification to work against the continuation of this hate at once.”
Germans began to look inward for mutual defense against Anglo-American nativism and proceeded with the creation of a distinct German-American identity based on cultural values, and, with help from post-Civil War immigration, this separate identity lived on until it was finally shattered by the anti-German hysteria of World War I. We have a similar problem today, where different groups resist assimilating into our American culture.
What happened to Lt. Bertsch and Capt. Stangel after they left the regiment?
Lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch returned to Cincinnati after his three-year enlistment ended. He lived in the German part of Cincinnati and was active in the Turnverein and veterans’ organizations. His wife Louisa died in November 1866 and he remarried but the date is unknown because of a courthouse fire. Friedrich died on August 13th, 1904, at the age of 81, after three years of lingering illness. He was cremated and his ashes buried in Cincinnati’s historic Spring Grove Cemetery.
Captain Wilhelm Stängel’s military career ended ingloriously on August 28th, 1862, when he was cashiered after authorities discovered the fiery captain had written letters to the Louisville Anzeiger and Cincinnati Volksblatt, that were “unworthy of an officer and gentlemen.” He injudiciously wrote on June 13th, 1862 to the Anzeiger:
“When once the history of this war of Rebellion is being written, where must [Generals] Halleck and [McClellan] turn, in order to conceal their disgrace? Where will Honest Abe [Lincoln] hide his long ears and fence-rail face in order not to hear the scornful laughter of the whole world over him and his groaning, nativistic, all-knowing stupidities.”
Thus Stängel displayed some of the shortcomings of all but a few Forty-eighters. As Eitel W. Dobert pointed out in an essay, Forty-eighters were obsessed by an idea, the demand for freedom, social progress, and true democracy. They were intolerant. They thought in terms of black and white. . . . They were impractical, impatient, and at time tactless.”
Former Captain Stängel took up residence in Cincinnati after his dismissal from the army and worked as the editor of a radical Republican weekly. The crusading journalist moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1865, and enjoyed a successful career with St. Louis’s Westliche Post, a major German American newspaper. Serving as assistant editor to Emil Preetorius, the Post‘s editor and a fellow Forty-eighter, Stängel became a well-known political writer. Not surprisingly, ― during Stängel’s tenure ―Westliche Post editorials repeatedly urged Germans to preserve the German language in their homes and schools. An article in a 1908 issue of the St. Louis Times, regarding the history of journalism in St. Louis, described Stängel as — “one of the most talented German journalists.”
Wilhelm Stängel died in St. Louis from Diphtheria on October 29th, 1880, at the age of fifty-four years, and is buried in Old St. Mark‘s Cemetery. He was survived by two teenaged-children from his first marriage, his second wife, their two children, and possibly a stepdaughter.
I want to emphasize that these two officers of the 9th Ohio are not necessarily representative of all Germans in the 9th Ohio Infantry or of all Germans in the Union army; and further, in hindsight, although many of their opinions were radical in mid-nineteenth century America, they are certainly not radical today.
In conclusion I want to point out that Louisville’s German immigrants contributed a fair share of their population to the Union army, and many of these men were killed, wounded or disabled defending the Union. Unfortunately fighting alongside Anglo-Americans did not quickly eliminate the cultural differences between the two groups, and even though there was some movement toward greater assimilation by the late1800s, it was only after the United States’ entry into World War I that rapid assimilation took place.
There is much more to the story of Louisville’s German Americans in the Civil War; however, my time limit does not permit me to go into that at this time.