Julius Stahel, whose Hungarian surname was Szamvald, was born in Szeged, Hungary, on November 5, 1825. After attending school in Szeged and Budapest he entered the Austrian army as a private and rose to lieutenant, but in the struggle for Hungarian independence he cast his lot with the revolutionary cause and, after the movement was suppressed with the aid of Prussia in 1849, fled the country. He lived in London and Berlin as a teacher and journalist before he came to America in 1859. For the next two years he was employed by a German-language weekly in New York City. In 1861 he and Louis Blenker recruited the 8th New York (1st German Rifles), becoming lieutenant colonel and colonel respectively; at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) the regiment aided in covering the fleeing Union forces from that celebrated debacle. On August 11, 1861, Stahel succeeded Blenker as colonel, and on November 12 was advanced to brigadier general. He fought under John C. Fremont in the Shenandoah in the spring of 1862, opposing Stonewall Jackson. At Second Manassas he commanded the 1st Division of Franz Sigel's corps after the wounding of General Robert C. Schenck and then was in reserve under Schenck and Sigel until he was assigned to command of the cavalry in the Washington defenses in the spring of 1863. When he was promoted to major general of volunteers on March 17, 1863 (for a reason obscure to most military observers), he ranked immediately after General Philip Sheridan. In the spring of 1864 General Stahel led a division of cavalry under General David Hunter, again in the Shenandoah and in West Virginia, in the course of which both men were virtually forced out of the active theater of war. However, at the battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864, he was greatly distinguished in an action which subsequently (in 1893) led to the award of the Congressional medal. Thereafter, he served on court-martial duty until he resigned his commission on February 8, 1865. After the war he served for years in the consular service in Japan and China. Upon returning to the United States, he became connected with the Equitable Insurance Company of New York. A lifelong bachelor, he died in a New York hotel on December 4, 1912, at the age of eighty-seven and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.