A German in the Civil War

As a descendant of people who spent generations in South Carolina and Alabama, I grew up knowing that many of my ancestors fought for or sympathized with the South during the American Civil War. While I think I would have made different choices if I had lived then, I enjoy finding ancestors who fought for the North. Luckily I have a couple.

John, or Johann, Adam Roth was born in 1829 in Shöenberg, Hessen-Darmstadt in present-day Germany to Jacob Roth and an unknown mother. He most often went by his middle name. As a young boy, Adam was brought to the United States by his older brother, Richard. According to a notebook of Adam’s daughter, Augusta (written after Adam’s death), they settled in Ellisville, Illinois.1

When Adam came of age, he became a citizen of the United States. Augusta’s notebook says that Adam’s parents were “very wealthy, but…the Germain [sic] government confiscated all his inheratage [sic] because his early leaving prevented his serving the allotted [three] years of military duty each German subject must do for his country.”1

The first public record for Adam is his marriage to Eleanora Wissig on 22 November 1856 in St. Louis, Missouri.2 Eleanora was also a German immigrant. They would have five children: Charles (1858-?), Georg (1860 – 1865), Lissette (1863-1941), Augusta (1865-1936), and Doris (1868-?).3,4 It’s unclear what Adam did before he came to St. Louis, but after he married Eleanora, he is listed as baker.5 From the 1860 census, it’s clear they lived in a predominately German, working-class neighborhood.6

Fording of the Osage River

Fording of the Osage River at Warsaw, Missouri by the Fremont Hussars, October 18, 1861. Engraving from “Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War,” published in 1864.

It’s been said that Adam was a member of Fremont’s Bodygaurd and the Missouri Calvary, Company G during the Civil War. While he doesn’t appear in the list of soldiers for Fremont’s Bodyguard, he does appear in the list for members of 4th Regiment of the Missouri Calvary, Company G.7 It’s possible that he was a member of Fremont’s Hussars, organized September 1861 in St. Louis. They were consolidated with three companies of Hollan Horse U.S. Reserve Corps in February 1862 to form the 4th Missouri Regiment and mustered in for three years.The federal pension index further confirms his service in G Company.9 The regiment participated in many engagements throughout the war, but we don’t know anything of Adam’s specific experiences. However, he most likely served with many other Germans: It is said that German immigrants and German-Americans were the largest ethnic group to participate in the Civil War, with 200,000 Germans serving on the Union side alone.10

Adam returned home to his family after the war. Unfortunately, he died a couple of years later. Augusta says that Adam “was wounded and died November 23, 1867 at St. Louis from internal hemorage [sic].”1 Augusta had turned two years old just two weeks earlier and her mother was four to eight weeks pregnant.4


  1. Roth-Eigenmann Family Record (transcription, no date), privately held by the author of this article. Untitled, two pages of handwritten notes, copied by the original writer’s great-granddaughter. The notes contain information for 5 generations of the Roth and Eigenmann families, however, most of the information is on John Adam Roth.
  2. St. Louis County, Missouri, Missouri Marriage Records 1805-2002, p. 227, Johann Adam Roth-Eleanore Wissig, 22 November 1856; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/momarriages/ : accessed 23 May 2019).
  3. “St. Louis, Missouri, Death Records, 1850-1902,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/stlodeath1850/ : accessed 23 May 2019), entry for Geo Roth buried at St. Paul’s Cemetery.
  4. 1870 U.S. Census, St. Louis County, Missouri, population schedule, St. Louis 2nd Ward East, p. 28 (penned), dwelling 128, family 246, Eleanora, Chs., Lissette, Auguste, and Doris Roth; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://ancstry.me/2wmNDVa : accessed 23 May 2019); citing Family History Film 552310, roll M593_811.
  5. “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/usdirectories/ : accessed 23 May 2019), entry for Adam Roth in St. Louis.
  6. 1860 U.S. Census, St. Louis (Independent City), Missouri, population schedule, St. Louis Ward 1, p. 25 (penned); digital image, Ancestry.com (https://ancstry.me/2Qn9x3R : accessed 23 May 2019); citing Family History Film 803647, roll M653_647.
  7. “Roth, Adam.” National Park Service, Soldier and Sailor Database. Web. 23 May 2019. https://bit.ly/2X2FJwd
  8. “4th Regiment, Missouri Cavalry.” National Park Service, Soldier and Sailor Database. Web. 23 May 2019. https://bit.ly/30HY3gb
  9. “Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/civilwarpension/ : accessed 23 May 2019), entry for John A. Roth (alias Adam Roth), widow Eleanora Kunz, and minors Auguste Eignemann, et al.
  10. “4th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry.” Wikipedia. Web. 23 May 2019. https://bit.ly/2M9Al9z

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