Courtesy of the U.S. Army
Brevet Brig. Gen. Frederick Knefler

Jewish Generals and Admirals in America's Military

Brevet Brig. Gen. Frederick Knefler:
A Hero of the Civil War

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Brevet Brigadier General Frederick Knefler was a hero of the American Civil War and of the Revolution of 1848 in Hungary.

Frederick Knefler was born on April 12, 1834, in Arad, Hungary. His father was a physician who was in charge of the Number 4 military field hospital in Arad. He held the rank of captain and he was the chief physician of the 101st Battalion.

Frederick Knefler joined the Revolution when he was fourteen years old. He was wounded in battle. Czar Nicholas 1, of Russia, sent 200,000 troops to help his friend Emperor Franz Joseph. His father and mother saw the hopelessness of the Revolution took the family to America in 1850.

They migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, Dr. Nathan Knefler, was one of the founders of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, the first synagogue in the city. Frederick Knefler worked as a carpenter and studied law. Knefler worked for a few years as a deputy clerk before becoming a lawyer.

When the Civil War broke out, he immediately enlisted and was commissioned as a first lieutenant of the 11th Indiana Infantry. On June 5, 1861, he was promoted to captain. When the regiment was reorganized and stationed at Paducah, Kentucky, he served as a major and assistant adjutant general on the staff of Major General Lew Wallace, who was the author of Ben Hur.

Frederick Knefler was appointed captain of the 79th Indiana, a regiment of volunteers. He led them into battle at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma campaign and at Chickamauga. In the Chattanooga battle, Knefler led the charge at missionary Ridge. On March 13, 1865, he was appointed a Brevet Brigadier General for “bravery and meritorious services during the Civil War.”

After the Civil War ended, Brevet Brigadier General Frederick Knefler was discharged on March 13, 1865 and the 79th Regiment was returned to Indianapolis. He returned to his law practice and when his partner died, Knefler served as a United States Pension Agent.

Brevet Brigadier General Frederick Knefler died on June 14, 1901, in Indianapolis and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

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