The Fighting Kautz Family

Updated: Oct 17

Much is made of the Fighting McCooks, often stated (incorrectly) as fourteen men, sons of Daniel and John McCook, who fought during the Civil War. There is also the "tribe of George" who had sons who served as doctors during the war. Seventeen men in total served the Union, some of whom would give their lives for the cause of preserving the United States. But there is also another "tribe" from Ohio, the sons of Johann Georg (John George) Kautz and Dorethea Elizabetha Lowing, sons who served with some distinction during the war.


Johann Kautz, known to his friends and family as George, was born in 1800 in what is now Baden-Wurtemburg. Oldest of six brothers and sisters, he married Dorethea in 1821. Their eldest son, August, was born in Baden while the remaining children were born in the United States.


Dorethea would pass away in 1874, leaving Johann as a widower for his remaining days. Johann would live until February 22nd, 1888. The couple is buried in the Pisgah Ridge Cemetery, near Higginsport, in Brown County, Ohio.

August Valentine Kautz - Born on January 5th, 1828 in Ispringen, Baden, August Kautz would have a long career of military service. While some sources indicate that he immigrated with his parents in 1832, the birth of his brothers Frederick in Baltimore in 1829 and John in Cincinnati in 1831 indicate that the family immigrated in 1828. August would enlist in the First Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican-American War. After the war he would enter West Point and graduate in the Class of 1852 with such notables as George Crook, Alexander McCook, David Stanley, and Henry Slocum (among others). Kautz would go on to serve in the Pacific Northwest with the 4th United States Infantry, being wounded twice during the Rogue River Wars. In 1857 Kautz ascended Mt. Rainer, speculated by some to be the first white man to climb the mountain. However, as he did not summit the crest, having stopped at the crater rim, the climb is noted as being “incomplete.”


When the Civil War broke out, Kautz was still in the Pacific Northwest, but made his way east shortly thereafter. He was a captain in the 6th United States Cavalry with McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign. He became colonel of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry and was instrumental in the pursuit of John H. Morgan’s command during the Great Raid of 1863, commanding a brigade at Buffington Island. Late in 1863 he would serve under Burnside at Knoxville. Kautz would be promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in April 1864 and would lead cavalry operations (and co-lead the Wilson-Kautz Raid) in the Army of the James under Ben Butler while commanding a division. Kautz would be nominated by Lincoln and receive a promotion to major general of volunteers in February 1865.


After Lincoln was assassinated Kautz served on the trial board before becoming commander of the Department of Arizona. He later commanded the Department of the Columbia, achieving the rank of brigadier general (regular rank). He would leave the service via retirement in 1892 and live in Seattle until he died on September 4th, 1895. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

George A. Kautz - Born January 27th 1834, he would later move to Illinois. George would join Company H of the 39th Illinois Infantry Regiment on March 31st, 1865 and would muster out at Norfolk, Virginia in early December. After serving in the Army of the James and seeing action at Appomattox, he would return to Illinois and would live until 1919, passing away at the age of 85. He is buried in Westside Cemetery in Moweaqua.

John N. Kautz - Born on December 22nd, 1831, John would first join the 1st Kentucky Infantry on June 3rd, 1861 and serve as a private in Company K until mustered out on June 18th, 1864. He would then join the 82nd Ohio Infantry as a substitute in Company B on September 23rd, 1864, seeing service at Averysboro and Bentonville. He would muster out in Washington City (D.C.) on June 30th, 1865 and return to Ohio. John would pass away at a relatively young age on January 4th, 1867 and is buried along with his parents in Pisgah Ridge Cemetery.

Frederick Kautz (on left in picture, with brother August and Phillip Sheridan) was born in Baltimore, Maryland on November 6th, 1829. He was the younger brother of August (brigadier general during the Civil War) and older brother of Albert (later a rear admiral). A younger brother (George) served in the 39th Illinois while another younger brother (John) served in the 1st Kentucky and later the 82nd Ohio. Frederick lived in Georgetown, Ohio from 1833 until 1844, when he moved with the family to Levanna, Brown County, on the Ohio River. He would have been one of the younger children in the Dutch Hill School while one Hiram (Ulysses) Grant was a student.


Kautz was fifteen years old when he moved to the Levanna farm. He worked at planting grapes on the hillsides for the vineyard and Broadleaf tobacco on the bottom land. Kautz took special interest in the tobacco and worked on the family farm until he was 21.

In 1850, Frederick and his brother George joined in the California gold rush. Kautz spent three years in California, eventually becoming the sutler for his brother August’s regiment at Fort Oxford, Oregon and Fort Steilacoom, Washington Territory.


Kautz moved back to Brown County in 1859 and bought a 163 acre farm near Higginsport in Brown County. He raised horses, corn, and wheat on his farm, but his cash crop was Broadleaf tobacco.


In October 1862 he enlisted as captain of Company G, 59th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He served three years and fought at Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and throughout the Atlanta Campaign until discharged with the regiment in Nashville on November 1st, 1864.


Kautz returned to his Higginsport farm on a furlough some time in the spring of 1863. During that time he found his farm manager pulling some strange lighter-colored tobacco plants out of the seed beds (a small highly fertile and protected plot where young tobacco plants grow until large enough to transplant into the field) and discarding them. Kautz told him to save some of those lighter plants and see what they would become. This was a wise decision because when the plants grew and the leaves were cured they produced a much lighter and milder smoking tobacco. This new variety of tobacco became known as White Burley. It won first prize at the 1867 St. Louis World’s Fair and sold for 75 cents per pound when Broadleaf tobacco sold for seven cents. White Burley was the beginning of the development of the United States cigarette industry. Frederick Kautz’s discovery of White Burley changed the agricultural landscape of Brown County and drove its economy until the late 1990s. If one can tell the difference between cigar and cigarette smoke one can tell the difference between Broadleaf and White Burley tobacco.


As an effective officer Captain Kautz rode at the head of his company during most of the major battles fought in Tennessee and Georgia. Kautz died in 1909 in his beloved Brown County, Ohio. He is buried at Pisgah Ridge Cemetery next to his wife, Lucinda.

Albert Kautz - Born in Georgetown, Ohio on January 29th, 1839, one of seven children of Johann Georg and Dorothea and the youngest son. When Albert was five, the family moved to Levanna (near Ripley, Ohio) where they grew grapes on the hills for wine and tobacco on the river bottoms.


Albert entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland at the age of fifteen in 1854 and graduated as the Civil War began in the spring of 1861. He received a leave and returned to Brown County to visit family and friends. While home some local families asked Albert to teach their daughters how to properly use firearms. Being so close to the Ohio River and the slave state of Kentucky many people thought everyone should be able to defend themselves and their property. Kautz became enamored with and later married one of the ladies he was teaching, Mary Ester Hemphill, of Ripley. She was the sister of Joseph Hemphill who would also become an admiral in the U.S. Navy.


On June 20th, 1861, Kautz was serving on the USS Flag. The Flag was part of the naval blockade off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The Flag captured the Confederate blockade runner Hannah Balch and Kautz was ordered to sail her to Philadelphia as a prize of war. On June 25th, the Hannah Balch was in turn captured by the more powerful Confederate privateer, CSS Coffee. Albert and his six crewmen were taken as prisoners of war and held until November of 1861. Only 22 years old at the time of his capture, Kautz developed a system of exchange that would allow the return of Union prisoners for Confederate prisoners and vice versa. He received a parole and had talks with the leaders of both sides, including Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln. He eventually put in place the exchange policy that would free thousands of prisoners throughout the war. In his case, Kautz was released with 368 enlisted men and two other officers for the similar number of Confederate prisoners. One of the other Union officers was Lieutenant John L. Worden of USS Monitor vs. CSS Virginia fame.


Kautz's next duty was aboard Admiral Farragut’s flagship the USS Hartford in the Gulf of Mexico. Kautz took an active part in the attack and surrender of New Orleans. He was part of the landing party when Farragut ordered the mayor (John Monroe) to lower the Louisiana state flag from the top of the Customs House roof. Monroe refused, citing fear of the angry crowd as his reason. Kautz volunteered to remove the flag and with the escort of marines pushed their way through the ‘howling crowd’. Once atop the Customs House, Kautz lowered the Louisiana flag and replaced it with the United States flag. In Kautz’s words, “The crowd grew more active and as our landing party only numbered three officers, fifteen sailors, and a dozen marines we were victorious but retreated hastily to the Hartford.”


Kautz was given his own command and promoted to lieutenant commander shortly after the New Orleans adventure. As master of the steam sloop Juniata he captured the much larger British steamer Victor off Havana, Cuba on May 28th, 1863. The Victor was carrying supplies bound for the Confederate Army.


His next promotion was as the commander of the USS Winooski. The Winooski was in Farragut’s fleet that attacked Mobile Bay on August 5th, 1864.


After the Civil War, Kautz continued climbing through the ranks at several naval installations and aboard several ever increasingly powerful warships. In 1898 he was a rear admiral in the Pacific Fleet and was in command of the American forces in the Samoan Islands. He was instrumental in suppressing the insurgent forces under the native leader, Mataafa, and securing a lasting peace on the islands. Kautz’s success in Samoa propelled him to his promotion to Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet with the battleship USS Iowa as his flagship. He served in that position from early 1900 until his retirement in 1901.


During his many years of service his wife lived in her family home, the brick Hemphill House, which still stands on Front Street in Ripley, Ohio. Albert returned to that house when on leave but upon his retirement the couple moved to Florence, Italy. The admiral died on February 6th, 1907, and in March of that year the cruiser USS Baltimore returned his ashes to the United States. Rear Admiral Albert Kautz is buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside his wife, his brother August, and their close friend, Phillip Sheridan.

There is one other brother, Lewis T., who I have been unable to locate any Civil War service, although he was certainly of age, being 25, when the war started.

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