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Hugo Tafel

Updated: May 21, 2022

Leonard and Caroline Tafel had five children - Gustav, Hugo, Adolph, Eliza, and Louis. The three eldest sons are served in Federal infantry regiments during the Civil War.

Born on July 6th, 1833 in Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Hugo Tafel would join the First Company of the three year version of the Ninth Ohio Volunteer infantry as a corporal on May 27th, 1861. Older brother Gustav had joined the same company on the same day as a sergeant. Adolph Tafel would see service first in the Twenty-Ninth New York before joining the Twenty-Seventh Pennsylvania as a hospital steward before later being promoted to second lieutenant.

Hugo and Gustav Tafel

There is some confusion about Hugo's rank with the official roster of the Ninth listing him as a corporal, but at least one letter (quoted below) mentions that he was serving as quartermaster sergeant, which perhaps he was in an acting capacity, and not given credit for such on the roster.

At the Battle of Mill Springs, the Ninth played a prominent part is helping to rout the Confederate forces from the battlefield to their camps at Beech Grove. Lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch would write a letter on January 20th from Beech Grove (the Confederates having retreated across the Cumberland River on the night of the 19th) about Hugo:

The 1st. Co. lost one its bravest members, who, in his position as Quarter-master Sergeant had no need to go into combat, but had done his duty every time in this role and never failed in time of need to uphold his oath. He pressed forward with a small group of eager comrades to the cabins. As he sprang forward after firing a shot at the enemy he was mortally wounded in the breast by an enemy bullet. However, the Rebel could not enjoy his shot ong, because the others hardly saw their brave comrade fall, as Schulz of the 2nd. Co. rushed and felled the Revel, who only lived about 1 1/2 hours. Hugo Tafel was still alive and regained consciousness, but the doctor lamented that he could not survive and after several hours of protracted suffering he died toward evening, with the awareness that he had sacrificed his young life for a noble cause. He gave our chaplain Fuchshuber a handshake and last greetings to his comrades, his parents and brother, and to his beloved wife, as they, his victorious comrades, came through the night camp. How often he delighted his friends in Cincinnati and in the camp with his pretty songs, always lively and cheerful, and not the singer has been put out of tune and the wreath of victory lays around his pale head on kentucky's bloody ground. May his brave conduct and his noble soldier's death console his friends and his beloved relatives over his painful wound and the never withering evergreens planted over his gravesite be a respectful remembrance.[1}

Looking across Mill Springs Road to a portion of the Ninth Ohio's bayonet charge

Another version of Hugo's death appeared in the Cadiz Democratic Sentinel, on January 29, 1862, reprinted from a German language newspaper in Cincinnati:

Letter from Colonel McCook.

The Cincinnati Volksblatt has the following letter from Col. Robert L. McCook, of the Ninth Ohio Regiment:

CAMP HAMILTON, Ky., Jan. 21, '62.

To Gustavus Tafel, Esq:[2]

DEAR FRIEND - It is my painful duty to communicate to you that your brother Hugo, who was shot in the battle which took place on Sunday last, died at 10 o'clock the same night.He fought like a man and soldier who is worthy of his name, his country and his regiment. Gustavus, you have, through this death lost an affectionate brother and a good man. You should rejoice that he who fell was your brother. It is needless to tell you that we all regret the loss of your brother, and that we sympathize with you and your family. This is doubtless slight consolation to you. Your brother was shot in the lower portion of the chest and he suffered great pain. It was impossible to preserve his body; he bled inwardly, and we were compelled to bury him. His corpse lies in a splendid place where we have also buried the others who fell. A befitting monument will mark the spot where lie his mortal remains. Now to the battle itself. Had you seen how our boys attacked the Mississippi "Tigers" with the bayonet, and put them to flight, you would feel proud that you were a member of this regiment.[3] Capt. Joseph was wounded in the fleshy portion of his leg. I received a severe wound in the leg below the knee. I hope the leg is but slightly injured. Had I left the field immediately, it would perhaps have been better for me. I remained in the field, however, and pursued the enemy, at the bead of my brigade, a distance of twelve miles, of which I was compelled to make three miles on foot in an ankle-deep morass.[4] My horse received three wounds from shots, one ball passed through my overcoat, and the fifth struck me in the leg. You will see from this that we were in the midst of a firey shower of balls. Lieut. Burt, one of my adjutants, was also wounded.

We pursued and drove the enemy behind his entrenchments, and captured about one hundred field tents, one hundred and fifty wagons, twelve cannons, one thousand horses and mules, and a mass of arms and ammunition. Zollicoffer is dead. You can scarcely form any idea of the extent of his intrenchments. We killed a large number of the enemy. Many of them still lie dead upon the battle field. Respects to Stallo and Henry.[5] Your friend, ROB’T L. McCOOK.

Graves of the Ninth Ohio at Mill Springs - from Die Neuner

Hugo Tafel is buried in Grave 393 at Mill Springs National Cemetery.



[1] Reinhart - A German Hurrah! Pg. 209

[2] Gustav Tafel was on sick leave in Cincinnati during the battle.

[3] The reference to Mississippi Tigers is interesting, as the Ninth faced off against the Nineteenth and Twenty-Fifth Tennessee Infantry Regiments.

[4] Captain Charles Joseph of the First Company.

[5] Johann Bernhard Stallo. I believe the Henry mentioned here is brother Louis Hermann Tafel, Henry being an Anglicized version of Hermann.



The Cadiz Democratic Sentinel, January 29, 1862.

Constantine Grebner - We Were the Ninth: A History of the Ninth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, April 17, 1861, to June 7, 1864.

Joseph R. Reinhart - A German Hurrah!: The Civil War Letters of Friedrich Bertsch and Wilhelm Stangel, 9th Ohio Infantry.

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