Corporal Jacob Stauff, Company I.


       Jacob Stauff, son of Johannes Stauff and Maria Christina Lenz-Spindler-Stauff, was born on 24 November 1843 in the German village of Dolgesheim in the state of Hesse-Darmstadt south of Frankfurt am Main. Jacob's father died in 1851 reportedly as the result of his participation in a duel. In 1854 Jacob's mother booked passage on the steamship Regulator which brought her and her children to New York. After arrival in New York they sailed through the Great Lakes to a German community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jacob's mother opened a notions store and, when he was old enough, Jacob worked for his mother as a traveling salesman peddling her notions in the nearby towns and villages of Southeastern Wisconsin.
        In August of 1862 General Franz Sigel came to Milwaukee to form a regiment of German volunteers to increase the Union forces in the Civil War. Jacob Stauff was eager to join with his Milwaukee German friends to fulfill what he believed to be his patriotic duty to support his new country. Therefore, on the 12th of August 1862, at the age of 18, Jacob Stauff enlisted in Company I (Wenze Guard) of the 26th Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry Regiment.
        After he received his basic military training at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin, Private Jacob Stauff returned to the north side of Milwaukee to Camp Sigel near Lake Michigan. He probably had his picture taken here with four other members of Company I shortly after the 26th Regiment was officially mustered into service on the 17th of September 1862. With Jacob Stauff in the photograph is George P. Traumer who enlisted in Company I as its First Sergeant. They became life-long friends. It was Lieutenant Traumer who was instrumental in Jacob Stauff receiving a full disability pension in 1906 for his wartime injuries.
        On the 6th of October 1862, as thousands lined the streets, Jacob Stauff, and Company I, marched through downtown Milwaukee to the Lake Shore Railroad Depot to begin their journey to the war front. Jacob's mother and sister were probably in the crowd at the train depot to bid him farewell. Four days later the 26th Wisconsin arrived in Washington, DC. After drilling outside of Washington for a few weeks, the 26th Regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division of General Sigel's 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The 11th Corps was headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia about ten miles west of Washington, DC. Jacob Stauff, and Company I of the 26th Regiment, must have felt right at home here because almost without exception the language spoken in camp was German.
        Private Jacob Stauff saw his first combat action in the ill-fated battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863 when the 11th Corps, took up positions on the right flank of the Union line. The 26th Regiment was assigned to an exposed and untenable position west of the forces facing each other at Chancellorsville. It was here that General Lee sent General "Stonewall" Jackson and 26,000 men to attack the 9,000 men of the 11th Corps now under the leadership of General Oliver Howard from Maine. Although heavily out numbered, the 26th Regiment held on in the face of over-whelming odds until General Hooker ordered General Howard to withdraw his 11th Corps.
        During the battle, on the evening of the 2nd of May 1863, Jacob Stauff was injured when four Confederate regiments from North Carolina overran his position. In the dark, a mounted horseman ran into Jacob and his left knee was struck by the horse's hoof and dislocated. Lieutenant George Traumer came to Jacob Stauff's aid and helped him by moving him out of the line of fire and taking him to a doctor to have his knee joint re-set. The battle cost Company I eight killed and 13 wounded, including Private Jacob Stauff. In all, the 26th lost 11% of its men at Chancellorsville, one of the highest fatality rates of any regiment and the fifth highest of any Union regiment in the battle.
        General Hooker assembled his defeated Army of the Potomac and followed General Lee's army north. Neither army knew exactly where the other was. Consequently, they spent the better parts of May and June 1863 marching on parallel routes through the Virginia and Maryland country sides. When General Hooker brought his army across the Potomac and into Maryland he was replaced by General George G. Meade.
        General Meade arrived in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the first of July and established positions around the town. It was on this date that Jacob Stauff was promoted to Corporal in Company I of the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment for his actions at Chancellorsville. Also on the first of July, General Carl Schurz, a Wisconsin politician and the former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, took over command of the 11th Corps. A Confederate division attacked General Schurz's right flank and forced the 11th Corps to retreat through the town and into defensive positions on Cemetery Hill. During three days of fighting with the Confederates, the 26th Regiment casualty rate was 55% with every member of the color guard either killed or wounded. It was during the intense fighting that the original 26th Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry regimental flag was lost. It was also reported that Jacob Stauff may have been wounded during the battle. If he was, his wound may have been slight since there is no record of him having been hospitalized.
        In March of 1864 General William T. Sherman took over command of the Military Division of the Mississippi for the march on Atlanta. In April he created the new 20th Corps, which consolidated the depleted ranks of the 11th and 12th Corps, under the command of General Joseph Hooker. The new 20th Corps' first battle after entering Georgia took place at the town of Resaca. On the night of the 14th of May 1864, General Sherman moved General Hooker's 20th Corps from the west of Camp Creek, to the north and east to support General Howard's IV Corps which was under attack from General Hood's Confederate Corps. At noon on the 15th of May, while Jacob Stauff was hunkered down with his regiment before the Confederate lines, General Hooker launched his attack. When the order came, Jacob Stauff raced across the wide field and up the slopes toward the Confederate breastworks for Captain Max Van Den Corput's four-gun artillery battery. The artillery positions were in a wooded area and the assault was up a slippery slope covered with thick underbrush. A sudden flash from the rebel lines brought a sheet of musket balls and canister rounds ripping through the advancing 26th Regiment's lines. One ball caught the color bearer, wounding him severely and throwing the colors to the ground. In the midst of the fury and chaos of the assault, Jacob Stauff rushed forward and picked up the colors and carried them forward in the assault.
        The battle at Resaca forced General Johnston to retreat south to New Hope Church which was the scene of heavy fighting in a dense pine forest. The 26th Regiment endured heavy casualties by the time the fighting ended on the 25th of May during a heavy evening thunderstorm. On the 26th of May, with the 26th Regiment moved to a rear position to recover from the intense battle, Jacob Stauff was promoted to Color Corporal and Color Bearer for his bravery in picking up the flag at Resaca. He would carry the 26th Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry Regiment flag for the remainder of the Atlanta Campaign, during General Sherman's "March-To-The-Sea," and during the Carolinas Campaign at the battles of Averasboro and Bentonville.
        On the morning of the 12th of April 1865, word was received that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomatox Court House, Virginia on the 9th of April. On the 13th General Johnston requested a cease fire and officially surrendered the remainder of the Confederate army to General Sherman on the 26th of April. On the 30th of April the 26th Regiment began their march north and passed through the defeated Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia on the 11th of May. On the 18th, the 26th Regiment marched through their first headquarters at Fairfax Court House and set up camp in Alexandria, Virginia in preparation for the Grand Review in Washington, DC as part of the mustering out ceremony for the Union Army. On the 24th of May, Jacob Stauff, carrying the tattered and battle-worn 26th Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry Regiment flag, led the regimental formation as it passed in review down Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capital. After the review, the regiment marched to a new camp site north of the Capital to await mustering out.
        On the 13th of June 1865, Jacob Stauff and the men of the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment were officially mustered out after almost three years of Federal service. They boarded a Baltimore and Ohio passenger train in the afternoon for the journey home. Jacob Stauff and the men of the 26th Regiment arrived in the Milwaukee on the 17th of June to a thirteen-gun salute and the ringing of church bells. The regiment marched to the Milwaukee Turner Hall on 4th and State Street where a banquet and grand reception was put on by the German civic societies and the citizens of Milwaukee.
        After the war Jacob Stauff was engaged in a poultry raising and distribution business. His sister Phillipina introduced him to a friend who worked for Lieutenant John Orth's family in Milwaukee. On September 22, 1870, at the age of 27, Jacob Stauff married Maria (Mary) Elisabetha Margreta Schneider at Grace Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Between 1871 and 1890, they had twelve children.
        Jacob Stauff became a founding member of the 26th Regiment Association and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In 1904 Jacob Stauff was elected to the position of "Officer Of The Guard" for the year 1905 in Robert Chivas Post Number 2 of the GAR.
        Jacob Stauff apparently never fully recovered from his injury at Chancellorsville in May of 1863. In 1897 the State of Wisconsin issued Jacob a Declaration for an Invalid Pension apparently because of his army related disabilities which made him unable to perform manual labor. These disabilities included the injured knee, arthritis, and heart disease. Jacob also suffered from impaired vision apparently caused by Ptosis, a congenital condition which affects the muscles of the eyelids. Finally, on the 16th of July 1906, the U.S. Bureau of Pensions granted Jacob Stauff a full disability and increased his pension from $3 to $24 per month. On the 16th of August 1910, Jacob Stauff passed away at the age of 67 as a result of arterio-sclerosis.
        The tattered and torn regimental flag Jacob Stauff carried during the Civil War was used during parades, reunions and numerous exhibits until 1887 when Wisconsin Governor Rusk retired all Wisconsin battle flags and placed them in the custody of the State Historical Society. In 1998, the family of Jacob Stauff's Granddaughter, Ruth M. Stauff-Kadlec (1908-1998), daughter of Louis Otto Stauff (1876-1942), established a special fund in her memory to honor her Grandfather. This fund was established to restore and conserve the regimental flag carried into battle by Jacob Stauff between 1864 and 1865. The flag will be displayed on a rotational basis at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jacob Stauff Family - circa 1905

        In the front row: Emma (b. 1883); Jacob Stauff (b. 1843); Mary Schneider-Stauff (b. 1849); Christina (b. 1881). In the back row: Fred (b. 1890); Louis Otto (b. 1876); Mary (b. 1888); Edward (b. 1872); Ernst (b. 1879); William (b. 1874); Eva (b. 1886); John (b. 1878); Grover (b. 1884).

Biography and photos from Robert Kadlec.