His father, Ferenc Kappner, served with Hungarian revolutionary leader Louis Kossuth. In 1854, Ignatz G. Kappner immigrated to the United States. He was living in New York City when the Civil War began.
Kappner served from April to June 1861 as a private in the 7th New York Militia before heading to Missouri, where in July Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont appointed him a first lieutenant and engineer.
On September 9, 1861, Second Lieutenant John A. Veith wrote to General Fremont praising him: “I have to this old man Kappner to pay my highest respect respecting to his capacity in our line and his treatments against every body.”
In June 1862, Kappner was engaged in the erection of field fortifications while serving on Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s staff.
He was appointed a first lieutenant in Bissell’s Engineer Regiment of the West in March 1863. In May, he was honorably mustered.
On September 4, 1863, Kappner was appointed colonel of the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery of African Descent (renamed the 3rd U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery) and commanded Fort Pickering, in Memphis, Tennessee, for the remainder of the war.
“Colonel Kappner was an Austrian, an educated and trained soldier, exiled from his native land for participating in a patriotic effort to overthrow a despotic ruler,” Charles P. Brown, acting assistant quartermaster at Fort Pickering, recalled. “Six feet tall, well proportioned, courtly and punctilious, he was one of the finest looking military men I ever saw.”
On April 26, 1865, Kappner and soldiers stationed at Fort Pickering assisted in the rescue of the Sultana’s passengers following the explosion of the wooden steamboat‘s two boilers. More than 1,000 of its 2,200 passengers perished.
“[A]ll persons connected with this garrison, from the colonel commanding down to the rank and file, were deeply interested in the pitiable condition of these unfortunate men,” Senior Surgeon Humphrey Hood wrote three days after the disaster. “[A]ll, to the best of their ability, did their whole duly in ministering to their wants.”
On April 30, 1866, Kappner was honorably mustered out. After the war, he was employed as a cashier for the German Savings Bank and was the city treasurer for St. Joseph, Missouri, from 1870-73.
In 1885, Joseph Pulitzer, a fellow veteran and the man who established the Pulitzer Prize, hired him as the business manager of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He reminded in the position until his death.
On October 20, 1891, Kappner died at his home and his remains were cremated. His ashes were interred at Mount Mora Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri, beside his wife and daughter.
A special thanks to the Mount Mora Cemetery Preservation and Restoration Association and Suzanne Lehr for helping to honor this Civil War veteran.