Colonel Max Weber's German Regiment




The name Turtle Bay is suggestive of the sweet amenities of peace rather than of martial preparation, yet to the latter, at present, the locality is devoted.  Situated on the East River, the adjacent grounds, stretching from Forty-Third to Forty-Fifth street, are well known to our pleasure-loving German population as Franz Ruppert's Bauerei, tavern, and garden, hence, when their patriotism prompted them to rally to the defense of a country of which they form the best adopted citizens Europe can send us, it was but natural that they should prefer its site for a camp, and find themselves very much at home there.


Turtle Bay Park – such is its complete denomination- ordinarily presents an East River aspect common to the up-town portions of our ever growing city, in which the metropolis has invaded the country to the production of a perhaps picturesque but not agreeable aggregate, the component parts of which may be stated as street-like roads, road-like streets, big breweries, stray goats, newly finished villas, tall chimneys, out-houses, barrels, benches, pigs, rocks, patches of market-garden, pigeons, bushes and questionable smells.  Add to these a good deal of sunlight, occasional American flags, and a pleasant glimpse of the bright river and green shore opposite, and you realize the present encampment of the Twentieth regiment of New York volunteers, more distinctly known as Colonel Max Weber's United Turner Rifles.




Captain Max is, like most of his corps, a German, the regiment being composed exclusively of them or of volunteers of German descent, recruited within or from the vicinity of New York city.  Their leader has seen service as a Prussian officer in the Schleswig-Holstein war of 1848, and the Baden revolution of the succeeding year, and most of his officers have similar military experiences.  Among the non-commissioned officers is a Sergeant-Major Walter, who was one of Major Anderson's garrison in Fort Sumter.  The regiment is fully completed, numbering ten companies, amounting in all to 750 men, of which a large proportion are Turners or gymnasts.




Considering this qualification, and remembering that their national appellation of German is, according to Thomas Carlyle, derived from Guerre, or war-men, we acknowledged its admirable fitness on making the rounds of the encampment.  Stouter, more active, sturdier, heartier looking young fellows, or ones exhibiting a better average of intelligent physique, we never looked on.  Recruited principally from the ranks of city mechanics, their appearance reflects a credit on their nationality.




Their uniform consists of a close-fitting jacket, and loose military trousers of dark blue cloth, and the popular French cap or kepi.  It had been originally intended to supply gray suits, similar to those worn by the United States army, but such as were furnished by a city firm proved of such varied shades and excrable quality that only the officers retain a few as a fatigue or undress uniform.  For weapons the men have at present, like most other regiments, the bright-barreled, smooth-bore United States army muskets, and these they only obtained on Tuesday night last.  As they enlisted specially as a rifle regiment, and as most of them are well practiced in the use of that weapon, they look forward with much anxiety to obtaining it from the Albany authorities.  It is stated that five thousand of the desired rifles only need the sabre-bayonet to render them fit for service. 




The men have as yet been sworn in but for three months; they are, however, unanimously desirous of enlisting for two years or for the war.  They have been encamped since the twelfth of last month, drilling for six hours a day, and, not withstanding the recent arrival of their muskets, their performance is excellent. 


The entire premises of Franz Ruppert, his brauerei, house, out-houses and appurtenances are pretty densely populated by them.  A stroll throughout the encampment at almost any hour of the day reveals a spectacle at once picturesque and peculiar.  The large dancing hall over the bar-room, with its tall, red-curtained windows, its chandeliers and musicians' gallery, the big rooms, little rooms, long rooms, short rooms, and rooms of all sorts and sizes, above, below, and around, are thronged with soldiers, resonant with the language of Schiller and Goethe.  Over one portal a “Gut heil” greets you; elsewhere a “ Bahn frei” exhorts you to “clear the way”.  You find muskets, knapsacks, mattresses, blankets, and all the paraphernalia incidental to a military life everywhere.


The meal hours are seven, twelve, and six.  Let the reader look in at dinner-time, he may enjoy a capital opportunity of contemplating Col. Weber's regiment in their most genial and not their least characteristic aspect.




Fancy a couple of large square rooms, communicating one with the other by three circular-headed doors, each of them lit by tall windows commanding a fragmentary view of villa, rock, bank, timber-yard, sun-light and bright blue sky.  Suppose a bar-counter running along one side of the principal room, an arch in the center, fir-trees, cigar boxes and a glass case with a great display of bottles on either side.  Imagine prints and pictures of Washington, of Tell, of German student life, of pretty French-lithographed females (drawn after the Mohammedan conviction that women do not possess souls), wreaths, horns, bugles, and military accoutrements ornamenting the walls, the area of both rooms full of tables, the tables set out for dinner, at least half a thousand men paying their respects thereto, to the accompaniment of a really splendid military band in full blast, and you may conceive how the Twentieth Regiment of New York Volunteers -or a good portion of them – look during their mid-day meal.  The band, by the by, is paid for by the regiment, the officers contributing upwards of $210 a month, the privates $130.  To Germans good music is a necessity; Col. Weber's volunteers could never be content with only the drum and fife allowed by the state government.  One company, too, is composed exclusively of vocalists, and they sing of Fatherland, of the Rhine, of Wine and Bier and Maidens, with that unanimity of enthusiasm and affection for that quintette of agreeable institutions or which Germans are remarkable. 




Were it desirable, their numbers might readily be doubled, such is the eagerness of our German population to enlist in the service of their adopted country.  Yesterday eighty-five of them, under command of Captain Con. Williams, arrived from Pittsburg, of whom only fifteen have been accepted for Colonel Weber's regiment.  The remaining seventy will join the Sickles brigade. The Twentieth have received orders to be in readiness for embarkation on Friday for Fortress Monroe.


Notes:  If you were to visit the site of the Turtle Bay encampment today, you would find yourself at the headquarters of the United Nations.  The founder of Turtle Bay was Franze Ruppert, the father of Jacob Ruppert and grandfather of Jacob Ruppert Jr (NY Yankee owner and Babe Ruth's boss).   Franz Ruppert is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.