Tuesday, July 05, 2016

A freak accident claims a 20th New York private

Fold3.com via National Archives, Washington (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
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Of the hundreds of thousands of Civil War deaths, the majority were caused by disease. For every three soldiers who died because of wounds caused by gunshot or other means in combat, it is estimated that five soldiers died from typhoid fever, dysentery, malaria or other illnesses. A small fraction of deaths came in freak circumstances -- train accidents, lightning strikes and even by falling tree limbs.

And then there's the case of George Rahlfs, a private in the 20th New York, a largely German regiment recruited primarily from New York City. On Nov. 22, 1861, the 25-year-old soldier was leaning against his musket at the funeral of a comrade when the weapon accidentally discharged, sending a bullet through his brain and killing him. In a document found in Rahlfs' "widow's" pension file, George's commanding officers noted the cause of death.

Married for less than a year, Rahlfs left behind a widow, Magdelene, and an infant son named Henry.

2 comments:

  1. I was so surprised to see this entry. George was the first husband of my GGGrandmother, Magdalena Baumert. We knew it was accidental but that was all. Thanks for clearing up a family mystery.

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  2. Hi, IDK. I am glad you found this. A sad story. Many, many more like that during Civil War. John Banks

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