Colonel Gustav Tafel of the Civil War
Posted On: 03/12/2018 - 5:05pm, Posted By: David Conzett, Curator of History Objects & Fine Art
Gustav Tafel was born in Munich, Bavaria in 1830. With revolutions spreading across Europe, Tafel left Bavaria to settle in the Over the Rhine district of Cincinnati. He worked as a “printer’s devil” (an apprentice), a newspaper reporter, and later studied law under Judge John H. Stallo. Tafel was active in the German community and one of the founders of the Turnverein, a German gymnastics and social organization.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Tafel helped raise several companies of troops from the Turnverein to form the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment – Die Neuner. Colonel Robert McCook, a Cincinnati lawyer, commanded the regiment. Tafel saw action with the 9th O.V.I. in West Virginia and Kentucky. A letter to his friend Judge Stallo in September of 1861 described one recent battle,
“We were advancing through thick underbrush, pelter melter, and stumbled right on to one of their masked entrenchments, when all of a sudden it hailed bullets on us from three sides, the enemy having been made aware of our coming by the insane bugle blowing on our side. Now mind, those that took to their heels were caught by the second discharge, while those that took things coolly, squatted on the ground or posted themselves behind trees, didn’t get hurt.”
Lieutenant Tafel, at the request of Ohio Governor David Tod, returned to Cincinnati in 1862 to raise another German Regiment – the 106th O.V.I. This regiment faced the Confederate forces of General Kirby Smith during the defense of Cincinnati in September of 1862 and later engaged General John Hunt Morgan’s Raiders in Kentucky. The 106th was assigned to guard railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee and fought Confederate guerillas until the end of the war. Tafel, wounded twice in action, rose to the rank of Colonel.
Colonel Tafel returned to his law practice after the war, became a judge, married and raised a family. He remained active in civil affairs and was elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1897. Gustav Tafel died in 1908 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
Colonel Gustav Tafel’s Frock Coat
Gustav Tafel’s double-breasted frock is made of black wool, with eagle embossed gold buttons on the front and cuffs. Silver brocade Colonel’s eagles are affixed to the shoulders.