Friday, April 26, 2013

The Union soldier in my family tree

[This post was first published on 27 June 2012. The subject of the article is my maternal third great-grandfather Benjamin Rudolf Eggemann.]

[Postcript added December 5, 2015:
This line has been corroborated by two autosomal DNA matches to myself, one at 23andMe and one at AncestryDNA. They are both 5th cousins to me, descended in two different lines from Benjamin Rudolf's brother David Bernhard Eggeman born in Switzerland in 1813, a butcher who also settled in Detroit, Michigan.]

When I was watching NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? Matthew Broderick episode, I couldn't believe that Matthew Broderick, who played Colonel Robert Gould Shaw in the 1989 American Civil War drama film Glory, did not know that like Shaw one of his ancestors had served, and died, as a Union soldier in the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Familienwappen Eggemann
(von Thun, ehemals von Eriswil)

Sammlung: Stadtarchiv Thun

At the time I had absolutely no idea that one of my own ancestors served in the American Civil War, and neither did my American cousins who are descended from him. My third great-grandfather Benjamin Rudolf Eggemann was born in Switzerland in 1810, married in 1834 and had four children from this marriage including my second great-grandmother. He divorced my third great-grandmother and immigrated to Detroit, Michigan, where he remarried in 1851. He was naturalized in 1854 and signed an oath of allegiance when applying for a US passport in 1865.


I recently received an email via the ancestry.com website from his great-great grandson, who is my third cousin once removed, and I have subsequently learned that he had at least six more children in the US. In his surname line in the US, his son was a physician like him, his grandson was a high school principal, and his great-grandson a captain in the US Navy who is buried in Arlington Cemetery. He has three great-great-grandsons and six great-great-great-grandsons with the same surname (albeit now shortened to Eggeman) from his second marriage currently living in the US.

While fleshing out this branch of my family tree, I unexpectedly came across two Civil War records for him here ("United States, Civil War Soldiers Index", FamilySearch) and here (Schweizer in Diensten der Union). He served as a volunteer Union soldier in the 2nd Regiment New York Cavalry, Company G. He survived the war and was still alive aged 69 years when the 1880 US Census was taken.

Next: The French priest in my family tree