Julius Stahel

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Julius H. Stahel-Számwald
Julius Stahel.jpg
Born (1825-11-05)November 5, 1825
Szeged, Hungary
Died December 4, 1912(1912-12-04) (aged 87)
New York City, New York
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861 - 1865
Rank Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg Major General
Commands held 8th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars

American Civil War

Awards Medal of Honor

Julius H. Stahel-Számwald (November 5, 1827 – December 4, 1912) was a Hungarian soldier who emigrated to the United States and became a Union general in the American Civil War. After the war, he served as a U.S. diplomat, a mining engineer, and a life insurance company executive. He received the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at the Battle of Piedmont in 1864.

Birth and early years[edit]

Stahel was born in Szeged, Hungary, 200 km southeast of Budapest. After schooling in Szeged and Budapest, he entered the Austrian Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Stahel joined the movement for Hungarian independence led by Lajos Kossuth during the Revolution of 1848. He served on the staffs of Gen. Artúr Görgey and Gen. Richard Debaufre Guyon. When the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburg dynasty was put down in 1849, he fled to Prussia and then to England before migrating to the United States in 1859. Until the outbreak of the American Civil War, he worked for Deutsche illustrirte Familienblätter, a German-language newspaper in New York City.

Civil War service[edit]

In 1861, with the outbreak of war, Stahel and Louis Blenker recruited the 8th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 1st German Rifles or Blenker's Rifles. Stahel, who had dropped the "Számwald" portion of his surname, became the regiment's lieutenant colonel, while Blenker served as colonel. Stahel first saw combat at the First Battle of Bull Run, leading the regiment in Blenker's first brigade of Dixon Miles's Fifth Division. The regiment covered the flight of the Union Army of Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell. The 8th New York served in Blenker's division of the newborn Army of the Potomac until it was transferred to western Virginia. Stahel become a colonel on April 23, 1862. He commanded a brigade under Blenker in this period.

Stahel led a brigade under Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont in the Mountain Department during an incursion into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. His brigade was of Fremont's left at the Battle of Cross Keys in which Stonewall Jackson stopped the Union advance into the Valley. Stahel's position on the left exposed his command to a flank attack by Isaac Trimble's brigade as Fremont was attempting to turn the right of the Confederate line.

By July 1862, Stahel was commander of the first brigade of Robert C. Schenck's first division Army of Virginia in the corps led by Franz Sigel in Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Schenck was wounded and Stahel became acting commander of the division. (Adolphus Buschbeck succeeded to command of the brigade.) Stahel's brigade was one of two that covered Sigel's retreat when Pope's army was defeated.

Stahel was appointed a brigadier general on November 12, 1862. He commanded the first division in Sigel's corps, which became XI Corps in the Army of the Potomac. He commanded the corps briefly in early 1863. Stahel was named a major general on March 14, 1863.

In March 1863 Stahel was assigned to command a Union cavalry division in the defenses of Washington, D.C. When the division joined the Army of the Potomac in June 1863, Alfred Pleasonton had Stahel removed, promoting Judson Kilpatrick in his place. He then served as cavalry commander in the Department of the Susquehanna at the time of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Stahel received a Medal of Honor for gallantry at Piedmont
Julius Stahel's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

By the spring of 1864, Stahel was commander of the 1st Cavalry Division under Franz Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley. At the Battle of New Market, on May 15, 1864, his division was on the left of Sigel's line. It attacked the Confederate line but was repulsed by artillery fire. The division recoiled under attack by the Confederate forces of John C. Breckinridge when they counterattacked.

At the Battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864, serving as cavalry commander under Maj. Gen. David Hunter, Stahel distinguished himself under fire until he was hit in the shoulder. This led to Stahel's being received the Medal of Honor, on November 4, 1893, for leading his division until seriously wounded. Stahel served, after recovering from his wound, on court-martial duty until he resigned on February 8, 1865.

Postbellum career[edit]

After the Civil War, Stahel served in the diplomatic corps as consul in Yokohama, (1866–1869) and Osaka, Japan (1877–1884). After that he was consul general at Shanghai, China (1884–1885). Between diplomatic assignments, he worked as a mining engineer. Upon returning to the United States for reasons of health, Stahel worked for the Equitable Life Insurance Company in New York City.

Stahel died in a New York City at 87 years of age. After a funeral in Washington, he was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Major General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Piedmont, Va., June 5, 1864. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Born: November 5, 1825, Hungary. Date of issue: November 4, 1893.

Citation:

Led his division into action until he was severely wounded.

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