Colonel Marcus M. Spiegel, a German-Jewish immigrant, was one of the highest ranking Jewish officers in the Union Army, serving with the 67th and 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He wrote voluminous historically significant letters to his wife, Caroline and others, during the Civil War. Most interesting is his changing attitude toward slavery and his evolution into an ardent abolitionist. In a very moving letter to his wife dated July 27, 1862 he wrote: ?May God protect you and the children and grant us happy days after our unhappy and distracted country may safely be rescued from the vile hands of traitors and Rebels, a work for which I am willing to fight.? Colonel Spiegel firmly supported the Union and Lincoln?s military actions, but he was initially upset when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and wrote in a letter dated January 25,1863 that ??the whole army is discouraged?in consequence of Lincoln?s Proclamation which fell like a thunderbolt among the troops.?
Shortly after the issuance of this document his position would change. Spiegel remained unfailingly loyal to the Union and encouraged his troops to be as well. On February 22, 1863 he addressed the 120th Regiment. On May 7, 1863, the address was published in the Wooster Republican Newspaper (A copy of the entire address is available in PDF format through the "Download Image" link above).
EXCERPTS FROM COLONEL SPIEGEL?S ADDRESS TO THE 120th REG:
??If there is one man in the Regiment who would refuse to shoot at a rebel, in an engagement, let him step three paces to the front in order that he can be marked as a coward and receive the reward of a traitor?What ever is wrong will in time, by the American people, be righted. Ours is the proud position of maintaining the world wide and noble reputation of the American Volunteer Soldier, who stands classed with the most intelligent and brave in the known world--our?s is the patriotic position of restoring ?tranquility, peace and happiness to our bleeding country-- ?Men! for God?s, your country?s, your friends at home, your own and my sake, do not, either by thoughts, expressions, or willful actions, disgrace yourselves??
In addition Spiegel wrote to his wife on May 31, 1863, ?Our cause is just... as an honorable man I must stay in the service as long as my Country needs me.?
Eventually, Spiegel was stationed in the Deep South in Plaquemine, Louisiana. A first-hand view of slavery proved decisive in resolving any inner doubts as to the wisdom of Lincoln?s decision to free the slaves. In a letter dated January 22, 1864 Spiegel proudly stated, ?Since I am here I have learned and seen more of what the horrors of slavery was than I ever knew before and I am glad indeed that the signs of the times show towards closing out the accursed institution? but whether I stay in the Army or come home, I am [in] favor of doing away with the institution of Slavery...never hereafter will I either speak or vote in favor of Slavery; this is no hasty conclusion but a deep conviction.? In another letter to his wife, dated February 12, 1864 [original in the collection of Jean Powers Soman
], Spiegel continued, ?Slavery is gone up whether the War ends today or in a year and there is no use crying over it, it has been an awful institution. I will send you the ?black code? of Louisiana some of these days and I am satisfied it will make you shudder. Now understand me when I say I am a strong abolitionist I mean that I am not so for party purposes but for humanity sake only, out of my own conviction, for the best interest of the white man in the south and the black man anywheres.?
Only months after penning these words, Spiegel, a husband and father, only 34 years old, was killed on May 4,1864. (He was also survived by his niece, Hannah G. Solomon, who went on to found the National Council of Jewish Women). On the Vicksburg battlefield, a large granite monument was erected by the state of Ohio in honor of the 120th O.V.I. with the name Colonel Marcus M. Spiegel prominently etched across the front. Marcus Spiegel?s correspondence and life provide examples of a heroic and patriotic Civil War solider whose open-mindedness enabled him to come to serious grips with the consequential issues of his day. He gave his life to preserve the Union & free the slaves.
For more information relating to Marcus M. Spiegel see:
Frank L. Byme and Jean Powers Soman, eds., Your True Marcus: The Civil War Letters of a Jewish Colonel
(Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1985)
reprinted :Jean Powers Soman and Frank L. Byrne eds., A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War, Marcus Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers
(Lincoln and London: The Univ. of Nebraska Press,1995) NO QUOTATION, DUPLICATION OR PUBLICATION OF THE MARCUS M. SPIEGEL LETTERS MAY BE MADE WITHOUT SIGNED WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE DONOR OR HER HEIRS