Honoring Our Veterans: John Schneider and Adolph Schmager
95 years ago yesterday, the Allied and Axis Powers signed a cease-fire ending the First World War. Armistice Day, or Veterans Day, is celebrated every year on its anniversary to honor and respect all of those who have fought in wars throughout American history.
President Calvin Coolidge and others lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day, 1924. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Many residents of 97 Orchard have served in the military, including John Schneider and Adolph Schmager, both of whom lived in the building in the 1860’s and 1870’s and served in the American Civil War; a war that encompassed all aspects of American life and killed 2% of the American population of the time – approx. 6 million people in today’s population.
Schneider, born in Bavaria, came to the United States in 1842 at the age of 12, with his parents, and they settled on 44th street. Schneider worked as a musician and shoemaker. When Civil War broke out in 1861, Schneider joined the predominantly German-born 8th New York infantry volunteers in the Union Army and was placed in a musical regiment. Musical regiments were instrumental to drilling, where they provided a beat to march to, and to entertaining the troops with parades and concerts.
A musical regiment from North Carolina. Both the Union and the Confederacy used these regiments to keep up soldiers' morale.
The Civil War exemplified the old military saying that “war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror;” the troops on both sides spent about 90 percent of their time sitting around, playing cards, and trying to pass the time between battles. Musical regiments, while they may not have participated in major battles or received medals of honor, kept troops’ spirits up, morale high, and provided a much-needed escape for the dirty and scared men fighting for their lives.
Schneider’s military service ended in 1862 when his musical regiment was disbanded, and afterward he moved back to the Lower East Side with his wife and ran a saloon in the basement of 97 Orchard Street which opened on this day, November 12th, 1864.
Our recreation of John Schneider's saloon, seen on the Shop Life tour at the museum
Schmager, another Lower East Sider and Civil War veteran, most likely would have been one of Schneider’s customers at his saloon. Schmager immigrated to the United States with his wife in the early 1850’s, and worked as a piano maker in the Lower East Side before going to war. Schmager joined service in the 58th Infantry in 1862 and fought in the Battles of Bull Run, Manassas, and Gettysburg, and worked his way up to captain. The photo below, belonging to the New York State Military Museum, is the only photograph of a resident of 97 Orchard from the 1860’s that we know of.
Adolph Schmager in his Civil War uniform.
While Veteran’s Day was not celebrated until the early 20th century, it is a day to honor and thank all of the men and women who have defended our country over the entirety of its history.