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The USS Cricket. Credit: "U.S. gunboat Cricket." [Photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889]. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. LC-DIG-ppmsca-34013.
September 11, 2020

Lee Rothschild: 15-Year-Old Escapes Into the US Navy

“I met some one [sic] who talked to me about the navy. This man took me to a recruiting office on the levee. I was asked my age and I said I was 15. I recall that this man said to the recruiting officer that ‘It was all right. He is 21.’ After some formality which I do not recall, I was taken to the receiving ship which was tied to the wharf, I think, on the Ohio shore. Within the first hour, someone called out ‘Fresh Fish’ at me and I was in a fight.”

Leopold, or “Lee,” Rothschild was already familiar with battles and adversity before he joined the US Navy at only fifteen, and was immediately jumped by his fellow sailors. Born in Sien, Prussia, Lee’s mother died before he was three years old, and his father left him and his siblings with relatives, to build a new life and family in America. In 1863, at fourteen, Lee made the journey to America too, all by himself. He attempted to live with his father and that new family in Pittsburgh, but the transition was rough, and teenage angst turned Lee into a runaway. And, like so many runaways before him, Lee found his place in the Navy.

Lee’s story is another new discovery by The Shapell Roster Project, and his name will now be added to the ranks of Jewish sailors who fought to save the Union during the Civil War. Read more of Lee’s story.

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