Little Phil: The Heroism and Hard Luck of a Civil War Soldier
“Philip Friedberger…was a boy of remarkable grit, whilst six footers were falling by the wayside, ‘Little Phil’ (as we called him) never left the ranks, his grit never forsook him… He was the best soldier in Co. I. Do his widow justice & do it quick.” – Samuel L. Montgomery, Late Sergeant;Company I, 16th Ohio Infantry. 11 May 1898.
The anguished – though not entirely rare – story of Philip Friedberger, a Private in Company I of the 16th Ohio Infantry, was recently uncovered by the Shapell Roster researchers. For the first time in the public record, Private Friedberger will be counted as a Jewish soldier who served in the Civil War.
A German immigrant, Friedberger made his way to Wooster, Ohio, and by November 1861 he committed to supporting the Union cause for what would end up a three-year-long enlistment. He was an exemplary soldier with a strong reputation. After the war, he settled in Uniontown, Alabama, where he married into a family of Jewish Confederate veterans, the Unger family. Friedberger’s post-war life appears to have been marred with declining health and financial misfortune, ending tragically in 1879. While in a hotel in Greensboro, Alabama, Friedberger overdosed on morphine. It was unclear whether this overdose was intentional or not.