By Stephen Beszedits
The Civil War, once described by President Abraham Lincoln as a "fiery trial" through which America must pass, was the most decisive event in the history of the United States. It was also the biggest war fought on the American continent and was the largest and most destructive conflict in the Western world between 1815 and 1914. The Civil War preserved the United States from dissolution, emancipated the slaves, marked the triumph of nationalism over states rights, and shaped the institutions of modern America.
It is often forgotten that many of the combatants on both sides were foreign-born; about 25% in the Union army and approximately 10% in the Confederate forces. Although Germans and Irish composed the bulk of the non-natives, virtually every European nationality was represented in the ranks.
At the time of the Civil War, the Hungarian population of the United States was only about 3,000; nevertheless around 300 to 400 Hungarians participated in the struggle, the overwhelming majority on the Union side. Most of them were political refugees who came to the United States after the unsuccessful 1848-49 War of Liberation led by Lajos Kossuth against the ruling Hapsburg dynasty and their Russian ally. Although small in absolute numbers, an impressive proportion of them attained high ranks, played noteworthy roles, and several of them made important contributions to the Civil War literature.
Of the some 3.000 - 4,000 Hungarians who fled abroad in wake of the victory of the Hapsburg and Czarist armies, nearly a thousand emigrated to the United States. They soon became scattered all over the country. The colony of New Buda established in Iowa failed to attract more than a handful of the newcomers; the majority preferred to settle in New York City and its environs, Chicago, Boston and St. Louis.
Kossuth himself spent almost two years interned in Turkey until the United States government intervened diplomatically and dispatched the warship Mississippi to bring him to America. Kossuth boarded the Mississippi in September of 1851, but left the vessel at Gibraltar to tour Great Britain for a nearly a month. It wasn't until Dec. 5 that he arrived in New York City on the steamer Humboldt.
Unlike larger national groups, Hungarians were too few in numbers and widely dispersed to form ethnically distinct units. However, they were conspicuous in Missouri, especially in the early days of the war, because several of them held key positions on General John C. Fremont's staff and a number of others commanded regiments or other large units. Incidentally, the presence of Hungarians in various parts of Missouri led Fremont to use Hungarian for sending and receiving sensitive communiqués. It was simpler than devising some elaborate code based on English which the enemy could decipher. Fremont also employed Hungarian for important messages between himself and President Lincoln at Washington, D.C., where another émigré, Albert de Zeyk, manned the telegraph.
While the Civil War was raging in the United States, far-reaching events were taking place in Europe. In 1867, Emperor Franz Joseph, soundly defeated by the Italians and French in Lombardy in 1859 and humiliated by the Prussians in 1866, belatedly recognized that he must make peace with the Hungarian nationals in order to keep his domains intact. Hence followed the historic Compromise of 1867 which established the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. While this arrangement satisfied many Hungarians, it was bitterly denounced by Kossuth and his die-hard followers. The new political regime prompted some of the exiles in the United States to return to Hungary; most of them, however, remained.
Presented below is a brief overview on the lives and careers of notable Hungarians who service in Missouri during the Civil War. The names are given as they appear in standard American reference The War of the Rebellion. Misspellings of their names abound in the Civil War literature works, e.g.; in fact, to such an extent that it would be a most formidable task to list them all.
A lieutenant-colonel during the 1848-49 War of Liberation and one of Kossuth's most loyal followers, Asboth accompanied him to the Ottoman Empire and shared the entire Turkish internment with him. He came to the United States aboard the Mississippi, the vessel sent by President Millard Fillmore to bring Kossuth and his companions to America.
Until the outbreak of the Civil War, Asboth worked as an engineer, his chosen profession. While in the employ of Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect, Asboth helped to survey Central Park as well as the upper west side of Manhattan.
When President Lincoln appointed John C. Fremont to head the Western Department, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, he chose made Asboth as his chief-of-staff. According to the eminent historian Allan Nevins: "Asboth was highly efficient in seeing that the new regiments drilled hard, steadily and with growing precision."
Following Fremont's dismissal, Asboth remained in Missouri and participated in the Pea Ridge campaign, sustaining wounds in the battle. Later, he served as commander at Columbus, Kentucky, and fought against Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most famous Confederate cavalry leaders.
After Colonel Philip Sheridan fought and won the battle of Booneville against heavy odds on July 1, 1862, by a brilliant coup de main, Asboth joined Generals J. C. Sullivan, William Rosecrans, Gordon Granger and W. L. Elliott in the famous dispatch to General Henry W. Halleck: " Brigadiers are scarce. Good ones scarcer. . . . [We] beg that you will obtain the promotion of Sheridan. He is worth his weight in gold."
In recalling Asboth in his memoirs, Sheridan wrote: "General Asboth was a tall, spare, handsome man, with gray mustache and a fierce look. He was an educated soldier, of unquestioned courage, "
In August 1863, Asboth assumed charge of the District of West Florida. A substantial portion of his troops were African-Americans and several of his officers were Hungarians, among them the Zulavsky brothers, Ladislas and Emil, and Albert Ruttkay, nephews of Kossuth. His primary mission was to raid nearby Confederate entrenchments. Referring to Asboth's expeditions, historian William Watson Davis provides makes this quaint comment in his The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, published in 1913: "When not engaged in the barbarous practice of pillaging, Asboth was an urbane, pleasant fellow with a great love for flowers and a keen interest in dogs and fine horses. He and his fellow Hungarians were hated, dreaded, and condemned by the country people of that section on the triple charge of being ‘furreners,’ Yankees, and ‘nigger lovers.’"
One of Asboth's frequent guests at Pensacola was Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, commander of the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.
In the battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, he received debilitating wounds to his arm and face. Describing his wounds, Asboth wrote in his official report to Major George B. Drake, Assistant Adjutant-General,: "I myself was also honored by the rebels with two balls, the first, in the face, breaking the cheek bone, the other fracturing my left arm in two places."
William Harrison Clayton of the 19th Iowa Infantry, who witnessed Asboth's return from the expedition, wrote to his family back in Van Buren County: "He appears to suffer a good deal of pain. The General is quite grey-haired and looks as though he was about 60 years of age. He is a Hungarian - one of the Kossuth staff during the Hungarian war, and speaks English brokenly. He appears to be a go-a-head sort of man, and seems to think a good deal of his men."
Due to the extent of his injuries, he had to withdraw from field duty. Commenting on the situation, an article in the November 26, 1864 issue of the New York Times stated: "We see that General Asboth has been compelled by the severity of his wounds to retire for the present from active service . . . General Asboth is one of the oldest and most meritorious of the foreign officers who entered our servive when the rebellion broke out. He is a man of high character and of very marked ability. . . . During his residence in this country he has won the respect and friendship of all who knew him by the sterling qualities of his character, and by the modest manliness of his demeanor."
Despite the serious nature of the wounds, Asboth recovered sufficiently to resume command. Towards the end of the war, he was brevetted major-general.
As United States Minister to Argentina he did his utmost to terminate the devastating war pitting Paraguay, led by the fearsome dictator Francisco Solano Lopez, against Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Because the doctors were unable to extricate the bullet lodged in his face, he was in constant pain and the effects of the wound led to his death on January 21, 1868.
He was buried in Buenos Aires. Later an elaborately carved headstone was placed over the grave, bearing the coat-of-arms of Hungary and the United States and the following inscription: AN ADJUTANT GENERAL IN THE PATRIOT ARMY OF HUNGARY, HIS NATIVE LAND. AFTERWARDS MAJOR GENERAL IN THE ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES. AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH MINISTER RESIDENT OF THE U.S. TO THE ARGENTINA REPUBLIC. In 1990 his remains were brought back to the United States and now rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
In 2001, one of the schools in his native city of Keszthely was renamed in his honor and a plaque adorns the Asboth family house, now a small hotel.
A number of American writings give his name as Alexander Sandor Asboth. This is somewhat redundant since Sandor is the Hungarian equivalent of Alexander.
Given Asboth's close association with Kossuth, there are of course many references to him in Hungarian publications. Sketches of his life and career appear in virtually all standard American biographical reference works and in numerous articles and books about the Civil War. Most of them, however, contain a variety of errors about his pre-American days.
A professional soldier, Zagonyi served under the legendary Polish revolutionary General Jozef Bem during the Hungarian War of Liberation. Captured by the invading Russians, he managed to escape and make his way to the Ottoman Empire. He arrived in the United States in 1851 by way of England.
Like most immigrants, he struggled to earn a living and worked at a series of odd jobs to support himself. While working as an instructor at the Boston riding academy run by fellow émigré Janosz Kalapsza, Zagonyi met and married a young German-American lady by the name of Amanda Schweiger.
Early in the Civil War, he joined General Frémont's staff and became commander, with the rank of major, of an elite cavalry detachment known as the Body Guard. This unit was more than an escort to Fremont; it performed guard, policing and scouting duties in addition to always being ready to respond to any emergency. About half the were native-born Americans and the rest mainly German-Americans, recruited in the states of Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.
In October 1861, when Fremont's army approached Springfield, Missouri, the Guard, along with another cavalry formation, the Prairie Scouts, spearheaded the army. En-countering an enemy force which outnumbered them 5 to 1, Zagonyi ordered an attack and decisively routed the Confederates. This gallant charge, although a minor affair in the war, captured the imagination of the public and has been the subject of poems, articles and books and has been honored by plaques, markers and various memorials. The highly acclaimed and widely popular The Story of the Guard, by General Fremont's wife, the redoubtable Jessie Benton Fremont, recounts the the actions of the Guard in vivid details with Zagonyi as the overt central hero. University Club historical marker no. 17 at Springfield, commemorating Zagonyi and the Guard, was erected on May 6, 1931.
When Fremont assumed command of the Mountain Department in West Virginia in early 1862, Zagonyi became his chief of cavalry with the rank of colonel. Incensed at being subordinated to General John Pope whom he loathed, Fremont resigned in June of that year and was put on the inactive list along with Zagonyi, one of his most devoted followers. Neither of them saw any more service in the war.
Zagonyi remained with the Fremonts and became a fixture in their household. He frequently accompanied Jessie on her trips and spent many hours giving riding lessons to the Fremonts' daughter Lily, transforming her into an expert horsewoman and becoming worthy, said a proud Jessie, to ride with Kit Carson. According to Mary Lee Spence's The Arizona Diary of Lily Fremont, Lily carried a life-long crush on Zagonyi.
Zagonyi intended to go back to Hungary after the Compromise of 1867. Before he could do so he vanished and neither his American nor Hungarian friends ever heard from him again. His fate remains a mystery to this day. He most certainly did not, as some American writings claim, return to Hungary and operate a cigar shop in Budapest. This error seems to owe its origin to a note in the February 24, 1871 issue of the Tuscumbia Osage Valley Sentinel.
The museum of the Greene County Historical Society in Springfield contains a multitude of Zagonyi memorabilia. He has also been honored with a medallion by the American Hungarian Federation in 1986. To commemorate his services in the War of Liberation, a stone column was erected in his native town of Szinérváralja (now Seini, Romania) on the 150th anniversary of that event.
Erroneous and preposterous statements about Zagonyi and the Body Guard abound in the Civil War literature. For example, James Neal Primm in his Lion of the Valley refers to the Body Guard as a "resplendent 300-man personal bodyguard of foreign volunteers." Fletcher Pratt's Ordeal by Fire states that "his [Fremont's] bodyguard had lined their pockets with five million dollars' worth of contracts." Obviously, both authors did their best to ignore indisputable facts when penning these remarks. Incidentally, Pratt's work is subtitled An Informal History of the Civil War. An Inaccurate History of the Civil War would be far more appropriate.
A native of Budapest, Albert was an officer in the Hapsburg Imperial Army until 1845. He spent the next three years working abroad, in France and England. During the War of Liberation he participated in numerous battles and led one of the attacking columns at the siege of the fortress of Buda, which culminated in the expulsion of the Hapsburg forces occupying the Hungarian capital. Following the victory of the Hapsburg and Russian armies he sought asylum in Turkey and served briefly in the Ottoman army. Upon coming to America in 1852, he lived at various places, settling eventually in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the spring of 1861, when Missouri was torn by factional strife as pro- and anti-Union elements were vying for control, Albert helped to organize Home Guard units to protect the citizens from marauding secessionists. He fought at Wilson's Creek under General Nathaniel Lyons and was wounded and captured. The Confederate bullet which lodged in his hip remained with him for the rest of his life, leaving him partly crippled. Following his exchange, he joined Fremont's staff as an adjutant to Asboth.
Albert was among those who testified on Fremont's behalf before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, a body established by Congress in December 1861 as a result of public outcry over Union defeats and Lincoln's apparently ineffectual war strategy.
At Cross Keys in the Shenandoah Valley on June 6, 1862, he and Lieutenant-Colonel John Pilsen bore the primary responsibility for aligning the Federal troops. Referring to Albert and fellow Hungarian General Julius Stahel, Fremont wrote to President Lincoln: "Both of them displayed distinguished courage & ability in the battle of Cross Keys and are every way worthy of your regard."
Fremont asked President Lincoln to appoint Albert brigadier-general. However, the request was never acted upon. When Fremont resigned from command of the Mountain Department, both he and Albert were placed on the inactive list and neither saw any further service in the war. Incensed by the inactivity her husband and his loyal followers were forced to endure, an embittered Jessie Benton Fremont wrote to Indiana Congressman George Julian on January 16, 1864: "Col Albert has been twelve years in America . . . He has steadily done good duty until shelved with the General. He speaks as good English as we do & is thorough in French & German - is a Hungarian & a trained officer."
After the Civil War, Albert became the president of the Metropolitan Bank of St. Louis. He managed to accumulate a substantial wealth while business was good, but a series of financial reverses wiped out his gains. He was subsequently employed as the assistant editor of the German-language paper Amerika and then worked as District Assessor. He died on November 20, 1893.
Educated at the prestigious Graz cadet school, Fiala was an officer in the Hapsburg Imperial Army until 1843 when he resigned his commission to embark on a civilian career as an engineer. At the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1848, he enrolled in the revolutionary forces, eventually attaining the rank of major. Like many others, he fled to the Ottoman Empire after the defeat.
Following a brief Turkish service, he came to the United States and made his home in St. Louis, Missouri. While working for the railroad, he drew up the first great map of Missouri. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was employed in the Surveyor-General's office. He was one of the first to use his influence to organize the German-born residents of the city in pro-Union military units.
In the Western Department, Fiala was Fremont's chief topographical engineer, and played a significant role in the construction of the fortifications around St. Louis and the establishment of the river flotilla of gunboats. He held the same position under Fremont in the Mountain Department. Like Albert and Zagonyi, he was placed on the inactive list following Fremont's resignation from command. During the remainder of the Civil War he promoted Fremont's political interests in St. Louis. Later he moved to California and died in San Francisco at the age of 89 in 1911.
Fiala's memoirs, which extend up to his arrival in America in 1852, were published in Hungary in 1940. Fiala was the brother-in-law of four other distinguished Hungarians of the Civil War from St. Louis, the Rombauer brothers: Robert Julius, Roderick Emil, Raphael Guido and Roland, having married their sister Ida. Over the years, descendants of the Rombauer family have donated numerous papers of their ancestors, as well as those of Fiala, to the Missouri Historical Society. Fiala's sister, who remained in Hungary, was the wife of the well-known writer and historian Frigyes Pesthy. Fiala maintained a lively correspondence with Pesthy as well as with another respected author, Frigyes Riedl, a relative of the Rombauer family.
A younger brother of Mor Perczel, one of the revolutionary army's leading generals in the Hungarian War of Liberation, Nicholas Perczel was a colonel during the struggle against the Hapsburg dynasty. Both brothers fled to Turkey after the defeat and shared the internment with Kossuth. While Nicholas went to the United States aboard the Mississippi, Mor remained behind and then moved to England.
As the highest ranking of the Hungarian émigrés, Perczel met many of New York's leading citizens public figures. To earn a living, he taught French and German to a select group pf the city's upper class. The tiny school was established through the help of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Perczel made a favorable impression on virtually everyone he encountered. After his visit to Lenox, Massachusetts, to raise funds for the refugees, Catharine M. Sedgwick, a leading female author of her time, wrote to her niece Mrs. K. S. Minot: "We were all charmed by Colonel Perczel. He is about forty-five - a fine person, . . . having a certain tone expressing purity, refinement, manliness, health, and giving to beautiful and harmonious features just the ground they want. . . . His manners, too, have a high-bred quality, kindly and gentle, with a certain reserve of delicacy, and not hauteur."
Perczel didn't remain long in New York; believing that opportunities were better in Iowa, he took up farming near Davenport. However, agriculture on the frontier was much more arduous than he imagined. When Russia and Turkey began to drift into war, the Crimean War, which would entangle France and Great Britain as well, he returned to Europe, joining his brother on the Isle of Jersey. One of their neighbors was Victor Hugo, himself an exile from France. In her diary, Adele, the great writer's daughter, mentions several soirees at the Hugo household attended by the Perczel brothers.
Thoroughly disgusted with the outcome of the 1859 War in northern Italy, fought by King Victor Emmanual II's Piedmont in alliance with France against the Hapsburg Empire, he returned to the United States, making his home in Iowa once more.
At the beginning of the Civil War Perczel accepted command of the 10th Iowa Infantry Regiment. He and his men skirmished with Jeff Thompson's guerrillas in eastern Missouri, participated in the capture of New Madrid and Island No. 10, and fought with great distinction in the battle of Iuka, Mississippi. In his official report of the battle of Iuka, Lieutenant-Colonel H. G. Kennett, General William S. Rosecrans's chief-of-staff stated: "The Tenth Iowa, under Colonel Perczel deserves honorable mention, for covering our left flank from the assault of the Texan Legion."
Under the impression that Brigadier-General Thomas J. McKean was retiring, Iowa Senators James W. Grimes and James Harlan recommended the appointment of Perczel in his place. Concurring with their endorsement, President Lincoln wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on June 5, 1862: "I think it not unreasonable that his [McKean's] vacancy should be filled as within requested." However, McKean did not resign and Perczel did not receive the promotion. But it mattered little to him; constant bouts with malaria prompted his own resignation on November 1 of that year.
After the Compromise of 1867 both he and Mor returned to Hungary. Till the end of his long life, Nicholas was prominent in public life and received numerous honors. His diary, recounting his nearly twenty years in exile, was published in two volumes in 1977-79. Hungarian historical writings are replete with references to Mor, and, to a lesser extent, Nicholas. Recently, Dr. Gyula Dobos wrote a history of this most illustrious family; the book is entitled A Perczelek [The Perczels].
Educated as an engineer, Waagner served for two years as an artillery officer in the Imperial Army before the Hungarian War of Liberation. He took an active and prominent role in the struggle against the Hapsburgs from the very beginning. In the autumn of 1848 he was one of the principal organizers of National Guard units in the city of Pozsony, becoming commander of an artillery battery with the rank of lieutenant. Transferring to the regular army in December 1848, he was an artillery captain until promoted to major in March 1849. After the victory of the Hapsburgs and Russian armies, Waagner sought asylum in Turkey. He came to the United States aboard the warship Mississippi in November 1851.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he became a colonel under General George B. McClellan who dispatched him to Cairo, Illinois, to train the raw troops assembled at this strategically located city. When McClellan made a tour of inspection in May 1861, he was extremely pleased with Waagner's work. Commented McClellan in his memoirs: "The artillery, especially, had made very good progress under the instruction of Col. Wagner, a Hungarian officer, whom I had sent there for that object." Waagner also designed and supervised the erection of the fortifications around Cairo which impressed even the highly critical William Howard Russell, correspondent for the Times of London, who visited the city in June 1861.
Shortly after assuming command of the Western Department, Fremont appointed Waagner chief of artillery at Cairo. Waagner's immediate superior at Cairo was General Ulysses S. Grant. In accordance with directives issued by Fremont and Grant, Waagner carried out numerous reconnaissance missions and raids against the Confederates on both sides of the Mississippi River below Cairo in August and September of 1861. On September 2 he led an expedition which captured Belmont, Missouri, and razed the fortifications the Confederates had erected there. Waagner was at Grant's side when the general occupied Paducah, Kentucky, on September 6. Late in September 1861 Fremont named Waagner as his chief of artillery at departmental headquarters in St. Louis. Since Waagner was his only really experienced officer, Grant was sorry to see him go. Wrote Grant to Fremont: "His energy and ability have been of great service to me, particularly in directing reconoissances and his loss from this post will be felt."
When Fremont was relieved of command by President Lincoln in November 1861, Waagner's career in the West also came to an end. Moving East, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery on March 5, 1862 and was mustered in as colonel nine days later.
THE ROMBAUER BROTHERS:
ROBERT JULIUS, RODERICK EMIL, RAPHAEL GUIDO AND ROLAND
The Rombauer brothers epitomize the American success story; they, along with their parents and two sisters, arrived in the United States as virtually penniless refugees, but became successful and respected citizens in their new homeland.
Their father, Tivadar Rombauer, a mining engineer and metallurgist, was director of the revolutionary army's armaments manufacturing during the War of Liberation. Robert served as a first lieutenant during the struggle against the Hapsburgs. Though only 15 years old at the time, Roderick Emil also enrolled in the Hungarian army. Raphael Guido and Roland were too young to participate. A fifth brother, Richard, the oldest, fell in the battle of Vizakna.
Robert and his father were captured by the invading Russians in the final days of the war. The elder Rombauer managed to escape and make his way to the United States. Robert was impressed into the Hapsburg Imperial Army, but was able to obtain his release and emigrate with the rest of his family.
The reunited family settled in Davenport, Iowa. Aside from his extensive technical contributions, Tivadar Rombauer published a German language newspaper in Davenport and wrote numerous letters and articles about America in Hungarian papers and periodicals. Upon his death in 1855, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, a burgeoning city offering plenty of opportunities to immigrants.
Robert soon became a prominent member of the community, a position he retained till the end of his long life. After reading law in the office of Williams & Lawrence in Quincy, Illinois, Roderick Emil attended the Dane Law School of Harvard University, where he obtained his LL.B. in 1858. Following his graduation he was admitted to the bar of Missouri and began practice in St. Louis.
Their mother, Berta, not only wrote poetry but also translated Hungarian poems into German. Her translations of Hungarian poems and her collection were published in 1869 in St. Louis, and her literary endeavors have earned her a lasting place among distinguished German-American women (see The German Element in the United States by Albert B. Faust).
In the spring of 1861, when Missouri was torn by factional strife, Robert and Roderick Emil, along with fellow Hungarians Anselm Albert and John Fiala, worked tirelessly to rally pro-Union elements and organize Home Guard units. Robert became lieutenant-colonel of the three-month 1st Regiment U.S. Reserve Corps, then colonel of the 1st Missouri Infantry (U.S. Reserve Corps), and ended his military career with the 5th Regiment City Guard of St. Louis. Roderick Emil was a captain in his brother's three-month regiment and later captain of a Home Guard unit in south Missouri.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Raphael Guido became a lieutenant and adjutant to fellow Hungarian émigré Colonel Gustav Waagner, chief of artillery at Cairo, Illinois. Their superior at Cairo was General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the District of Southeast Missouri, which in turn constituted a part of Fremont's Western Department. To ensure secrecy, a considerable portion of the communiqués between Fremont's headquarters and Grant was conducted in Hungarian, and it was Raphael Guido who handled the translations for Grant. He subsequently was appointed captain of Battery G, 1st Illinois Light Infantry Regiment, a unit mustered in on February 28, 1862. On October 26, 1864, he was promoted to major. Early in 1865 he was named chief of artillery at Memphis, headquarters of the District of West Tennessee, a post he retained until he was mustered out on August 18, 1865.
In the early days of the war Roland, like Robert and Roderick Emil, enrolled in the three-month 1st Regiment Missouri Infantry. He also saw service with the 1st Missouri Light Artillery before joining the 1st Florida Cavalry Regiment. Attaining the rank of captain on August 27, 1864, he also served as assistant provost Marshall of the District of West Florida and later as provost Marshall of the same district. He was mustered out with his regiment on November 15, 1865.
Upon returning to civilian life, Roderick Emil carved out a distinguished career in law. During 1863-65 he was judge of the Law Commissioner's Court of St. Louis county, and from 1867 to 1870 he was judge of the circuit court of St. Louis County. In 1884, he was elected to the bench of the St. Louis Court of Appeals on which he served until 1896, being presiding judge for nine years. According to the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, "he was a man of analytical mind, indomitable energy, great concentrative power and capacity for continued work." His wife, Augusta Koerner, was the daughter of Gustave Koerner, a leading German-America figure and lieutenant-governor of Illinois. They had seven children, and one of their daughters, Bertha, played an active role in the woman suffrage movement in Missouri.
Raphael Guido became involved with railroads and later established his own business, the Rombauer Coal Co. He died in 1912 at Kirksville, Missouri. Roland was a mining entrepreneur for a while and afterwards an official in the forestry service.
Always active in community affairs, Robert helped to organize the St. Louis Public Library and was at one time its president. Until 1871 he was the editor of the New World. A prolific author, he wrote in English as well as in Hungarian. His best known work, The Union Cause in St. Louis in 1861; an Historical Sketch, a comprehensive history of the Union movement in that city during the spring and summer of that year, was released in 1909. The book received widespread attention and favorable reviews not only in the United States but also in Hungary.
The Rombauers left numerous distinguished descendants. As mentioned above, they have donated all sorts of family papers to the Missouri Historical Society.
The son of a doctor, Hollan was a professional soldier in the Hapsburg Imperial Army, stationed in Bohemia, at the outbreak of the 1848-49 War of Liberation. With some 150 of his comrades he deserted to join the revolutionary forces on October 21, 1848. Fighting their way through hostile territory, they reached the Hungarian border eight days later. During the War of Independence he was a major. Following the victory of the Hapsburg and Czarist armies, Hollan fled to Turkey and served briefly in the Ottoman Army. He came to the United States in the spring of 1852.
On the onset of the Civil War Hollan was one of the expert instructors sent to Camp Butler, Illinois, to teach cavalry tactics to the raw troops. In October 1861 he became commander of a Missouri battalion, known appropriately enough as the Hollan Horse. Looting, pillaging and other acts of violence by soldiers against civilians were common occurrences during the Civil War, and Hollan's men were among those who had a scant regard for the lives and property of noncombatants. In January 1862 Hollan and several of his subordinates were arrested by General J. M. Schofield at Warrenton and the Hollan Horse was disbanded. Subsequently Hollan obtained commission as captain with the 119th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment and fell in action at Jackson, Tennessee, on April 1, 1863.
One of the most decorated soldiers of the 1848-49 War of Liberation, Fornet fled to England after the defeat of the Hungarian army. Shortly after arriving in the United States, he helped fellow exile János Prágay write a book which was published by G. P. Putnam of New York in 1850 under the title The Hungarian Revolution, one of the first books to describe Hungary's fight against the Hapsburgs.
While Prágay accompanied Narciso Lopez on his filibustering expedition to Cuba in the summer of 1851 and perished there, Fornet ventured to the California gold fields. Later he farmed in New Jersey. At the start of the Civil War he joined the Western Department, but a serious injury sustained forced his withdrawal from active service. Afterwards he participated in the organization of the 22nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Among those who returned to Hungary, Fornet died there in 1894 and was buried in Budapest. In 1946 his descendants published a book chronicling his life; the work's subtitle, in English, is Life of G. C. Fornet, Colonel of Lincoln's Army.
An engineer by education, Gerster was a first-lieutenant during the 1848-49 War of Liberation. He came to the United States in 1850. More fortunate than most emigres, he was able to earn a living in his chosen profession in the new homeland. For a while he worked for John Augustus Roebling, the famous German-American bridge builder.
In August 1861 he became commander of a company known, appropriately enough, as Gerster's Independent Company of Pioneers, a unit organized at St. Louis. He subsequently served as a captain in the 5th Missouri Infantry Regiment and then as captain, Company H, 27th Missouri Infantry Regiment. Gerster and the troops under his command spent most of their time performing routine duties: constructing fortifications, erecting bridges, repairing roads, and the like. For their role in the capture of Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 10, 1863, Gerster and his men were highly praised in the official reports of General J. W. Davidson. He was mustered out of service at the on the expiration of his terms of service on September 9, 1864.
Gerster was the uncle of two world-renowned Gersters: Dr. Árpád Gerster, the distinguished surgeon, author of the Rules of Aseptic and Antiseptic Surgery, and teacher of the Mayo brothers, William and Charles, at the New York Polyclinic, and Etelka Gerster, the soprano whose performances drew rave reviews in all the great opera houses.
He was a youth of fifteen when he came to he United States in 1851 with his father József Majthényi, a prominent politician before and during the War of Liberation. Settling initially in New Buda, the Hungarian colony in Decatur County, Iowa, they soon moved to the more civilized environs of Davenport.
At the commencement of the Civil War, Majtheny joined the 2nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment, becoming a sergeant. While stationed in St. Louis in August 1861 he transferred to Fremont's Body Guard. The following month he was appointed second lieutenant and adjutant. Majtheny was the only Hungarian besides Zagonyi to participate in the famous cavalry charge at Springfield, Missouri, on October 25, 1861. One of those who distinguished himself in the engagement, he received special mention in the official reports of the battle.
After the Body Guard was disbanded in wake of President Lincoln's dismissal of Fremont from command of the Western Department, he obtained a commission as captain in the 1st Indiana Cavalry Regiment in April 1862. He served with the 1st Indiana until he was mustered out on December 13, 1864. Majtheny continued his military career after the Civil War; he was appointed a second lieutenant in the 6th US Cavalry in February 1866 and was promoted to first lieutenant on October 20 of that year. Two years later, on December 23, 1868, Majtheny resigned from the army. Subsequently he returned to Hungary with his father.
A professional soldier and veteran of numerous campaigns, Nemett was a first lieutenant in the cavalry of the Imperial Army when the conflict between Hungary and the Hapsburgs escalated into warfare in 1848. Stationed in Polish Galicia, he, along with some five hundred hussars, deserted and rode back to Hungary to join the revolutionaries. During the War of Independence he fought as a captain. After the victory of the Hapsburgs and their Russian allies, he fled to Turkey and shared the entire internment with Kossuth.
He came to the United States aboard the warship Mississippi in November 1851 and eventually made his home in St. Louis. Even though forty-six years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, Nemett enlisted in the 5th Regiment (Infantry), a three month unit. As a first lieutenant and adjutant, he served from May 1861 until it was mustered out in August. The following month he became major and commander of the Benton Hussars. Upon the merging of the Benton Hussars into the 5th Missouri Cavalry in February 1862, he was appointed the regiment's colonel. Nemett led the 5th Missouri Cavalry at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 6-8, 1862. When the 5th Missouri Cavalry was consolidated with the 4th Missouri Cavalry in November 1862, he was discharged.
A captain during the War of Liberation, Meszaros fled to Turkey after the defeat of the Hungarian forces. He later moved to England and from there emigrated to the United States in 1852.
Meszaros began his Civil War career with the Fremont Hussars. When the formation was amalgamated into the 4th Missouri Cavalry in February 1862, he became the regiment's major. It was he who led the 4th Missouri Cavalry at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 6-8, 1862. Shortly after the battle he left the regiment under acrimonious circumstances and officially resigned on September 3, 1862. He subsequently enrolled in the 1st Florida Cavalry and was made captain on June 27, 1864. Meszaros was mustered out with the regiment on November 17, 1865.
A veteran of the Hungarian War of Liberation, Feckete came to the United States in 1850. He studied medicine and became a doctor. During the Civil War he was a surgeon with the 5th Missouri Regiment State Militia. He was mustered out with his unit on April 13, 1865.
NOTES & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The Civil War careers of all of the above individuals can be reconstructed from a number of well-known publications, e.g. Generals in Blue, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, The Civil War Dictionary, War of the Rebellion, Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States for the Years 1861, '62, '63, '64, '65, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, New York in the War of the Rebellion, and Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. The Civil Soldiers and Sailors web site at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss also provides such information. Details on their personal lives were gleaned mostly from the vast Hungarian émigré literature.
Numerous individuals involved in historical research and writing have also provided useful information and insightful comments. I'm particularly grateful to John Maurath, an ardent buff of the Body Guard; Steve Perczel, a descendant of the Perczel family living in the United States; Don Elder, professor at Eastern New Mexico University; Janet Kozlay, the dedicated genealogist of the family who is researching the life of Eugene Kozlay, colonel of the 54th New York Infantry Regiment and brigadier-general by brevet; and several persons in Hungary, namely József Pozsonyi, director of the Semsey Andor Múzeum at Balmazujváros; István Vida of the University of Debrecen; Mrs. Imre Tuba, vice-principal of the Asboth school in Keszthely; and Ms. Mária Kórász of the Vasvary Collection at the Somogyi Library in Szeged.
About Stephen Beszedits, The author: Born in Hungary and educated in the United States and Canada, Stephen Beszedits received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University and his master's degree from the University of Toronto. He has written on a wide range of topics and is the author of Eminent Toronto Architects of the Past. He is the grandnephew of Lajos Zilahy, one of the leading Hungarian writers of the 20th century, who resided in New York City from 1947 until his death and is best known to American audiences for his novels The Dukays, Two Prisoners, The Deserter, Century in Scarlet, and The Angry Angel. He is also author of The Libby Prison Diary of Colonel Emeric Szabad. He is currently working on his upcoming book Colonel Geza Mihalotzy and the 24th Illinois Infantry. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org