MG Julius H. Stahel-Számwald

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.

Civil War service

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.

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

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

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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