Rare Union Soldier's Account Of Ambush Resulting In Death Of Jewish Colonel Marcus Spiegel

June 18, 1864

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Rare Union Soldier's Account Of Ambush Resulting In Death Of Jewish Colonel Marcus Spiegel
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 2456

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      Background

      If, as current research would seem to support, as many as 7000, Jews fought for the Union in the Civil War, it is known for a certainty that at least four of them, were Colonels. Two of them, Edward Selig Salomon and Frederick Knefler, survived the War; the other, Marcus M. Spiegel, did not. This rare soldier's letter mentions Spiegel's death during the ill-fated Red River Campaign when, at Snaggy Point along the Red River, Confederate forces ambushed his 120th Ohio Regiment aboard the transport City Belle on May 3, 1864...

      The Rebels, attacking without a demand for surrender or fair warning, killed or captured half the regiment. Colonel Spiegel, fighting to the last, took a rifle ball in his abdomen, dying of the wound the next day. Here Corporal Andrew Crawford, of the 120th O.V.I., described what happened:

      i came here yesterday from red river we was sent up there on the 1st of this month but the first day we was in red river the boat was captured by the rebs and killed and wounded and took prisoners one half of our regt. the col was killed i was on the upper deck of the boat and the balls came into us like hail but I got off unhurt I staid all night in the woods and all next day but the 56th Ohio came down the river and i got on the boat with them and they was fired into and killed a good many men and they had to get off their own boat and we marched down the river some distance and there we took the gunboat and came here and I lost everything I had only what I had on at the time...

      The Red River Campaign was a failure. In the demise of Colonel Spiegel, it lost an inspiring and popular commander. That he was Jewish seemed, at the time, to matter not. Recommended for promotion from Lieutenant-Colonel to Colonel by his own officers, he was lauded as a cool, brave and gallant under fire at Vicksburg, and praised throughout the 13th Corps as faithful, energetic, exactly the right man to command the 120th. But, be it noted, his recommendations for promotion were recorded in a letter to the April 13, 1863 edition of "The Israelite." If his passing went unnoticed beyond the 120th Ohio, the American Jewish community would remember him forever.

      Spiegel, like so many other Jewish Americans, came to the U.S. from Germany as a "'48'er", fleeing, at age 19, both economic crisis and the failed liberal Revolution of 1848. Once arrived, and despite his good education, he became a peddler, and ultimately, a merchant near Akron. The advent of civil war found him married with small children, popular, and an ardent War Democrat; in time, he became a local recruiting Lieutenant, was elected Captain in the 67th Ohio, and eventually, a Colonel of the 120th Ohio. He was 34 years old at the time of his death and reputedly, due to be commissioned a Brigadier General.

      With him at Snaggy Point, also wounded, was his younger brother Joseph, who would survive, and found, in 1865, the Spiegel Catalog.

      Andrew Crawford, the writer of this letter, ended it "you need not fear for i will not enlist again." He did not and was, instead, discharged for disability in September 1864. 

      [Marcus M. Spiegel: Andrew Crawford] Autograph Letter Signed, in the hand of Corporal Andrew Crawford of the 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto,  Morganza Bend Louisiana, June 18, 1864. To "Dear Father." Being a rare account of the ambush which resulted in the death of Jewish Colonel Marcus M. Spiegel.

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      Morganzies [sic] Bend La

      June 18th: 1864

      Dear Father

      I take my pen in hand to let you know where i [sic] am i [sic] am at morganzies [sic] bend [sic] about 50 miles from port Hudson i [sic] wrote to you over a month ago but i [sic] got no answer yet and i [sic] supposed that the letter was miscaried [sic] and i [sic] thought i [sic] would sit down and write you a few lines to day [sic] as i [sic] had nothing else to do the weather is hot here now but not as hot as it will be in next month the river is falling fast now it rained 11 days here this month it commenced on the first and ended on the 11th  i [sic] suppose you have heard of the disaster that happened our regt [sic] on red river [sic] on the boats it was a sad affair to us we lost our colonel and half of the regt and nearly all [text is crossed out] the officers John Camell was killed and henry [sic] Grunder was taken prisoner i [sic] escaped unhurt on the boat that the regt was on i [sic] got out in the woods and hid my self [sic] in the [text is crossed out] brush untill [sic] the next day and two gunboats and a transport came along and i [sic] got on the transport an stasted [sic: exhausted] but we did not go far till the rebells [sic] opened on us three batteries and the infantry was not idle at half past 8 oclock we had to get off of the boat for the rebles [sic] was puting [sic] it in pretty hot i [sic] was knocked down

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      by a splinter of a shell as i was getting of [sic] the boat but it did not hurt me much i [sic] got up and went up the bank as fast as ever i [sic] did in my life before but i [sic] got through all right after all but i [sic] would not like to go through it again the corn is comeing [sic] out in tassel now i [sic] had new potatoes nearly a month ago the cotton is in bloom now and promises a fair crop all the niggers that comes [sic] in side [sic] of our lines is sent on a government plantation to work Some is so lazy that they do not know what to do [text is crossed out] with themselves i [sic] sent in the other letter i [sic] wrote to you about sending me some money but if you get this before you get the other letter you need not send it at all but you can send me three dollars worth of stamps the boys are out as well as my self [sic] and i [sic] can get read [sic: rid] of them very easy i [sic] must close for present another thing before i [sic] close you and uncles wants [sic] me not to reenlist you need not fear for i [sic] will not enlist again

      from your Son

      ANDREW CRAWFORD

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      May 2 1863

      Dear father

      I take my pen in hand to let you [text is crossed out] know that i [sic] received your letter on the 1 and was glad to hear from you and your being well [sic] i [sic] am in the hospital yet and not much prospects of getting away very [text is crossed out] soon i [sic] got a letter from ohio [sic] and the folks was all well when the letter was wrote i do not think i get well very fast down here for as fast as one deseas [sic: disease] is [text is crossed out] checked another commences and that is the way it worke [sic] me i think that if i was

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      up march that i would get well but i never will be as stout as i was before i came to the army it is the place to try a man [sic] nerves i want you to [text is crossed out] tell me in the next letter what regment [sic] bill [sic: Bill] edleman [sic: Edleman] is in the number of his regt [sic] this is all at present i send my best respects to you all 

      from your

      Son

      A CRAWFORD

      write Soon

      Direct your letter 
      to Van Buren Hospital
      La milikens Bend
      ward H

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      A CRAWFORD

      Write Soon

      La milikens Bend 
      Van buren [sic]
      Hospital
      [...] ward H

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      Baton Rouge La
      May 7th 1864

      Dear father i sit down to write you a few lines to let you know where i am i am at baton rouge [sic] at present i came here yesterday from red river [sic] we was [sic] sent up there on the 1st of this month but the first day we was in red river [sic] the boat was captured by the rebs and killed and wounded and took prisoners one half of our regt [sic] the col was killed i was on the upper deck of the boats and the balls came into us like hail but i got off unhurt i staid [sic: stayed] all night in the woods and all next day but

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      the 156th ohio [sic] came down the river and i got on the boat with them and they was fired into and kill[...] a good many men [text is crossed out] and they had to get off of their own boat and we marched down the river some distance and there we took the gun boat and came here and i lost every thing i had only what i had on at the time i would not take 11 c dollars for my knapsack before i lost it but i got off safe enough i must close for this time

      from your
      Son

      A. CRAWFORD

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      // Write Soon

      Send me some money about 10 dollars and some stamps