Having enjoyed Civil War history for years, when Richard Kane retired from medicine in 2014, he decided to pursue a unique activity: researching Jewish Civil War soldiers from his home state of Wisconsin. He quickly discovered that the few lists of Jewish soldiers in Wisconsin were not accurate. Thus started his work to uncover and verify soldiers’ service, a welcome contribution to local history.
Jonathan Sarna, Professor of American Jewish History, connected Richard with Adrienne Usher, Director of Research for the Shapell Roster. Kane specifically addresses his interaction with Adrienne:
“I want to thank her and her team for providing me with some names that I didn’t have and for helping me to verify the Jewish identity of a few soldiers that I strongly suspected of having Jewish heritage. In return, I have shared a dozen or so names of Jewish soldiers that they did not have, from Wisconsin and elsewhere.”
Adrienne recommended that Kane go to Jewish cemeteries to look for soldiers’ graves, a great way to discover additional soldiers. Walking through a cemetery with his wife Diane on a beautiful Wisconsin day has proved to be a relaxing activity for the couple, and has been rewarding for his research project. “My wife likes to tease me,” he says, “saying that, ‘I am spending my retirement looking for dead people.’”
Kane’s research is particularly challenging, due to the small number of Jews who lived in Wisconsin before the Civil War. Of an approximated Jewish population of about 2,600 in 1860, he estimates that about 150 Jews from Wisconsin served in the Civil War. “They are so rare that finding someone can be quite exciting,” he says. As this topic has not been previously investigated, he enjoys uncovering hidden clues and being able to add to the body of Civil War research.
Thank you, Dr. Richard Kane, for your research and contributions.