A German immigrant of the Jewish faith, Private Louis Leon was not unusual as a Confederate soldier from North Carolina. Many German Jews settled in Wilmington during the 1840s and 1850s, with many owning black slaves as was common then. In 1860, the Kahnweiler and Brothers store of Wilmington held five slaves; Charlotte dry goods merchants David Elias, Levi Drucker and Seigfried Frankenthal held slaves as well. In Atlanta, four of the six Jewish families in 1850 owned slaves – by 1860 this increased substantially plus David Mayer and Solomon Cohen were both slave dealers.
Captain Christian Cornehlson organized the German Volunteers in Wilmington in 1861, which became Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment. Of the 102 men in Company A, every officer and every enlisted man but 30 had been born in Germany. Residents Jacob Blumenthal and Henry Wertheimer died during the War; Solomon Bear was sent to Europe to arrange for goods and munitions to run the blockade into Wilmington. Simon Kahnweiler was also sent to Europe as a Confederate purchasing agent.
Returning to Wilmington postwar, German Volunteers M.M. Katz, Gustav Rosenthal, David Eigenbrunner and Jacob Weil all helped organize the Temple of Israel. (Bauman, 2010)
Louis Leon of Mecklenburg, Confederate Sharpshooter
“Louis Leon, a well-known resident of Wilmington and a veteran of Confederate States service, was born in Mecklenburg, Germany, November 27, 1841. Three years later he was brought by his parents to New York City, whence he moved to Charlotte in 1858, and engaged in mercantile pursuits as a clerk. Becoming a member of the Charlotte Grays, he entered the active service of that command, going to the camp of instruction at Raleigh on April 21, 1861.
The Gray’s were assigned to Col. D.H. Hill’s regiment, the First, as Company C, and took part in the Battle of Big Bethel, in which Private Leon was a participant. At the expiration of the six months’ enlistment of the Bethel Regiment, he reenlisted in Company B [of] Capt. Harvey White, of the Fifty-first Regiment, commanded by Col. William Owen.
He shared the service of this regiment in its subsequent honorable career, fighting at Gettysburg, Bristow Station, Mine run, and the Wilderness, receiving a slight wound at Gettysburg but not allowing it to interfere with his duty. During the larger part of his service, he served as a sharpshooter.
On the 5th or 6th of May 1864, the sharpshooters of his regiment were much annoyed by one of the Federal sharpshooters who had a long-range rifle and who had climbed up a tall tree, from which he could pick off the men, though sheltered by stumps and stones, himself out of range of their guns.
Private Leon concluded that “this thing had to be stopped,” and taking advantage of every knoll, hollow and stump, he crawled near enough for his rifle to reach, and took a “pop” at this disturber of the peace, who came tumbling down. Upon running up to his victim, Leon discovered him to be a Canadian Indian, and clutching his scalp lock, he dragged him back to the Confederate line.
At the Wilderness battle Leon was captured and from that time until June 1865 was a prisoner of war at Point Lookout and Elmira, N.Y. Upon being paroled he visited his parents in New York City, and then worked his way back to North Carolina.
He is warmly regarded by his comrades of Cape Fear Camp, United Confederate Veterans, and has served several terms as its adjutant. When Col. James T. Morehead prepared a sketch of his regiment, the Fifty-third, Private Leon furnished him with a copy of a diary which he had kept from the organization of the regiment up to the 5th of May 1864, when he was captured.
(Chronicles of the Cape Fear River, James Sprunt, Edwards & Broughton, 1916, pp. 334-335; Jews at the Cape Fear Coast, Anton Hieke. Southern Jewish History, Mark Baumann, editor, Volume 13, 2010)