Shrouded Veterans: Honoring Civil War General Entombed in a Vault

On May 13, 1907, Henry Finkelstein, a pawnbroker, offered Gov. Edward C. Stokes of New Jersey a presentation sword he discovered in the garret of his Trenton, New Jersey, pawnshop when he purchased the building it was located in. The sword boasted a fine Damascus-steel blade, while the hilt, guard, and scabbard were crafted from coin silver. Engraved on the scabbard was the following inscription: “Presented to First Lieut. Henry M. Judah, 4th United States Infantry, for meritorious conduct and distinguished courage in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey, Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey and the City of Mexico by his friends and fellow-citizens of the city of New York.” Dr. Carlos E. Godfrey of the New Jersey Adjutant General’s Office was informed of Finkelstein’s discovery and attempted to track down Judah’s living descendants to return it to them.

Lt. Judah’s youngest child, Mansfield, claimed that his father’s presentation sword had been temporarily left in a cigar store, where it was stolen. He requested that it be returned to him in Reno, Nevada, by express, and he agreed to pay the $75 asked upon its delivery. Finkelstein agreed to send it to him, but Mansfield did not redeem it from the Wells Fargo Express Company in Reno as promised. There was some suspicion that he actually pawned the sword due to financial misfortunes. Henry R. Judah, assistant general passenger agent of the Southern Pacific Company in San Francisco, California, and son of Lt. Judah’s oldest child, Theodore, was notified and sent a certified check for $75, requesting that the sword be forwarded to him immediately for safekeeping.

Newspaper clipping reporting Judah's sword found in a pawnshop. (Trenton Sunday Advertiser, May 12, 1907, Trenton, New Jersey)
Newspaper clipping reporting Judah’s sword discovered in a pawnshop. (Trenton Sunday Advertiser, Trenton, New Jersey, May 12, 1907)

In a way, the tale of Judah’s presentation sword, left to languish in the attic of a pawnshop symbolized his legacy — one largely overlooked by those beyond the confines of his hometown of Westport, Connecticut.

Henry Moses Judah graduated from West Point in 1843, the same class as Ulysses S. Grant. He also served in the same regiment as Grant, the 4th U.S. Infantry, as a second lieutenant during the Mexican War. Judah fought in nearly all of the war’s major battles. Like numerous future Civil War generals, he experienced his baptism of fire at the Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma on May 8 to 9, 1846.

A day after the fight at Resaca, he wrote to his mother, Mary, expressing his struggle to find the words to describe the horrors he had witnessed in the latter battle. “The cries of the wounded still ring in my ears,” he said.

At the end of September, Judah found himself fighting through the streets of Monterrey in an even more vicious struggle. He had his cheeks grazed by several musket balls and his sword knocked out of his hand by a cannonball. One of his West Point classmates was killed nearby. Somehow, he managed to survive the ordeal.

“Their cries and groans, the terrible hissing of the cannon and musket balls, which filled the air, added to the roar of artillery in every direction, made an impression that I could never describe,” Judah wrote home.

He would go on to fight in the battles to capture Mexico City and was brevetted first lieutenant and captain for gallant and meritorious service at the bloody debacle at Molino del Rey and the storming of Chapultepec.

After the war, Judah remained in the Army and was posted to the Pacific Northwest. Like many officers stationed on the frontier during the post-war years, loneliness, depression, and other factors likely led to a struggle with alcoholism.

On October 23, 1852, his infant son, John, died, followed by his first wife, Helen, on November 20.

General Henry Moses Judah. (LOC)
General Henry Moses Judah. (LOC)

Judah was at odds with his fellow officers regarding the treatment of Native Americans by his fellow officers and seniority. One of those officers included 2nd Lt. George Crook (the future Civil War general). Crook noted on one occasion when stragglers stumbled into camp, Judah was among them. He was so drunk that Judah had to be lifted from his horse and was sick all the next day with the “delirium tremens.”

Judah was stationed at Fort Yuma, California, as a captain when the Civil War broke out in April 1861.

That fall he headed to Washington, D.C., and took command of the defenses. On March 21, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general and served as the acting inspector general of the Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Shiloh. Judah afterward commanded a division during the advance on Corinth. In October 1862, he returned to a staff role, serving as acting inspector general of the Army of Ohio.

Judah commanded a division in the 23rd Corps, with his headquarters in Cincinnati, during Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raid into Ohio in July 1863.

Judah is best known for his rash assault just outside of Resaca, Georgia, on May 14, 1864. Ironically, the town was named after the battle he wrote to his mother about during the Mexican War in 1846. This time, Judah was in command, not Zachary Taylor, and the battle had a disastrous outcome — his division lost 577 casualties out of the approximately 3,200 engaged (nearly 20 percent). Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, commander of the Army of Ohio, relieved him of his command “because of incompetency in handling his division” at the battle, and replaced him with one of his brigade commanders, Brig. Gen. Milo Smith Hascall, two days later.

Ozias Marvin’s tomb-vault at Kings Highway Cemetery. (The Westport Journal)
Ozias Marvin’s tomb-vault at Kings Highway Cemetery. (The Westport Journal, Westport, Connecticut, April 17, 2024)

Judah wrote to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi the same day, requesting an immediate investigation because he believed Schofield’s action was based upon misapprehension, and said that “my sole fault — if any — consists in misunderstanding of his orders.”

“My honor is dearer to me than my life,” he indicated, “and I am satisfied that you will not allow me to remain under any imputation affecting either it or my competency longer than is absolutely necessary.”

In early June, he went on leave after experiencing an attack of typhoid fever. For the rest of the war, he was assigned to court-martial duty and commanded the District of the Etowah in the Department of the Cumberland, while his division continued to participate in the remainder of the Atlanta Campaign.

Judah assumed command of the garrison at Plattsburg Barracks, New York, in October 1865. However, on January 14, 1866, he unexpectedly passed away at Fouquet’s Hotel in Plattsburgh, New York. In her pension application, his wife, Maria, attributed his death to chronic inflammatory rheumatism resulting from his military service in Mexico and the Pacific Northwest, which eventually led to heart disease.

The Plattsburg Republican provided an account of the final weeks leading up to his death:

“He had been seriously ill for some weeks, of what was called disease of the heart, but his indomitable courage and determination to live, kept him up for days, even after friends und physicians had decided that there was no hope of his recovery. And in the feverish and restless hours of semi-consciousness, he would shout to his command to ‘advance,’ ‘charge,’ &e., with a full and clear articulation; and then the fatal fainting and fatal weakness would supervene, and he finally passed away quietly to his rest.”

General Judah's new headstone. (The Westport Journal)
General Judah’s new veteran headstone. (The Westport Journal, Westport, Connecticut, April 17, 2024)

Members of a local chapter of Masons, to which he belonged, and a company of the 4th U.S. Infantry from the barracks, escorted Judah’s remains from Fouquet’s Hotel to an awaiting train. Judah’s brother, Sutherland, accompanied the body from there to his hometown of Westport, Connecticut. On January 20, his remains were interred alongside his father, mother, and other family members in Ozias Marvin’s tomb-vault at Kings Highway Cemetery. Fifty-one individuals are interred in the tomb-vault, and the door has since been sealed.

Shrouded Veterans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing the neglected graves of 19th-century veterans, primarily Mexican War (1846-48) and Civil War (1861-65) soldiers, by identifying, marking, and restoring them. You can view more completed grave projects at facebook/

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