Skip to main content

Author: Isabella Kiedrowski

Auto Draft

Ferdinand F. Rohm

Civil War


Ferdinand Frederick Rohm was a native German who served as a soldier for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Rohm served as the chief bugler for the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry regiment from September 1862 to June 1865 and was present for multiple campaigns and thirty-eight battles and military operations during the course of the war. For his heroism at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station, Rohm was awarded the Medal of Honor; the highest military decoration in the United States Armed Forces.

Ferdinand Rohm was born in Esslingen in the Kingdom of Württemberg on Aug. 30th, 1843. It is unknown when exactly Rohm immigrated to the United States, however, he was one of the many German immigrants that left the disunited German states who would go on to serve the Union Army during the American Civil War. 

In September of 1862, Rohm enlisted in service of the Union Army in Juniata County, Pennsylvania; where he was assigned to the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment. After a year of enlistment, Rohm was transferred from F Company to the central command as chief bugler for the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry regiment in 1863.

Prior to the Civil War, armed forces used drums and fifes to communicate messages across the battlefield and organize troop movements. However, due to many of the battles of the Civil War being staged in the hills and forests of the United States rather than open fields, it was difficult for soldiers to interpret the messages over consistent artillery, musket fire, and close quarters combat. The introduction of the bugle allowed for messages to travel greater distances across the battlefield and became indispensable to maneuver skirmishers during combat.  

The chief bugler was the bugler at the regimental level, responsible for instructing, training, and drilling the buglers attached to the companies of the regiment. Instructions and calls from the commanding officers were broadcasted with the chief bugler and further echoed by the buglers in their respective companies. 

As chief bugler, Ferdinand Rohm played an instrumental role on the battlefield in facilitating the orders from the commanding officers to the companies of the regiment. For the remaining two years of war, Rohm served as the chief bugler of 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry and directed the regiment in combat for thirty-eight operations and battles throughout seven different military campaigns. Rohm was present for many prominent battles during the Civil War including as the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864, and the Battle of Cold Harbor in late May of 1864. However, despite being present for these prominent battles, Rohm is most known for his actions at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station in Virginia of August 1864. 

During the Second Battle of Ream’s Station, Chief Bugler Rohm performed an act of bravery and valor in which during an attack from Confederate forces, Rohm, rather than seeking immediate cover from enemy fire, remained on the battlefield to assist an officer, Colonel James A. Beaver, who in 1887 would become the 20th governor of Pennsylvania. In 1894, Rohm reflected on his service and heroic act in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  

“Directly after [the rebels’] retreat a heavy skirmish line of the rebels appeared. It was followed by a line of battle which opened fire on us. We suffered considerably from their fire and fell back toward our infantry. Just after we had passed a small piece of woods about ten yards from our line of entrenchments I noticed a field officer lying on his back in the dust in the middle of the road, waving his hand toward us. My attention was particularly attracted to him by the fine, new dress uniform and the shoulder straps of a colonel which he wore. As I drew nearer I saw he was wounded. I knew if we did not take him along he would be captured by the enemy or killed. I jumped on my horse and upon examination saw he was shot through the thigh. I had three of our pioneers dismount and assist.” 

After his heroic act at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station, Rohm continued to fight against the Confederacy in the Appomattox campaign. However, just two days before the war’s end, on April 7th, 1865 during a charge in Farmville, Va, Rohm was hit in the head with a minie ball wounding him greatly. Although he survived his wounds, Rohm became permanently deaf in his left ear. On June 15th, Rohm was honorably discharged from the military and sent back to his home in Juniata County, Penn. 

After his honorable discharge from the United States army, Rohm married Mary Lindsay and would go on to raise seven children with her in Juniata County. In 1887, twenty-two years after the war, newly elected governor, James A. Beaver appointed Rohm to the park police at the Pennsylvania State Arsenal. Ten years later, Rohm would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station and his act of service in saving the life of a wounded officer. Rohm continued his employment with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Public Grounds and Buildings department and in 1912 was promoted to sergeant in the Capitol Police. 

In November of 1917, Rohm fell ill while on guard at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex and was transported to Harrisburg’s Polyclinic Hospital, however, a couple days later Ferdinand F. Rohm would pass away at the age of seventy-four. His body was laid to rest at the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery in Mifflintown, Penn. 

By Luke Romeo Alley

Continue reading

Auto Draft

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Portrait of Major General von Steuben by Ralph Earl (c. 1786)

Revolutionary War


Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was a famed German-American officer who played an instrumental role in transforming the Continental Army into a disciplined and trained fighting force during the American Revolutionary War. Through Steuben, the Continental Army saw great success in combat against the British Army. His presence and training subsequently led to the victory of the American Colonies over the British Empire, which established the United States of America. 

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was born to a military family in Magdeburg, Prussia, on September 17th, 1730. His father was Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, a Royal Prussian Engineer Captain who served in both the Russo-Turkish War of 1735-1739 and the War of Austrian Succession. Due to his father’s military prominence, Steuben regularly observed his father’s military campaigns and was exposed to the military and the art of warfare from a very early age.  

At 17, von Steuben enlisted in the Prussian army and would go on to serve in the Seven Years’ War. At the outbreak of the war in 1756, Steuben served as a second lieutenant within the Prussian army and battled at both the Siege of Prague (1757) and the Battle of Kunersdorf (1759). Throughout the war, Steuben would quickly rise in rank, eventually reaching the rank of captain in the Prussian army. As a captain, Steuben served on the general staff of Frederick the Great, advising the King of Prussia at both the Third Siege of Kolberg (1761) and the Siege of Schweidnitz (1762) towards the end of the Seven Years’ War. 

With the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben retired from the army when the Prussian military reduced its size at the war’s end. Steuben would remain unemployed until 1764, when he became a Hofmarschall, or court marshall, for Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. During this period in Hohenzollern-Hechingen, Steuben received the Cross of the Order of Fidelity and was honored with the title of baron. Despite working in the court of the principality, Steuben still desired to serve in the military. It is unknown whether he voluntarily retired from his post at the prince’s court or was obliged to leave due to rumors alleging he was homosexual. Still, after his leave, he began to search for employment in European armies. 

In 1777, an acquaintance of Steuben’s, Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, introduced the retired Prussian captain to Benjamin Franklin. During their meeting, Franklin informed Steuben of the Continental Army’s need for military professionals; however, Franklin was not authorized to grant rank within the Continental Army and could only suggest that Steuben travel to America for employment within the army on his own. Out of desperation, Steuben accepted the offer, and in turn, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Congress and General George Washington introducing them to Steuben. However, in Franklin’s letter, Franklin falsely stated that Steuben achieved the rank of lieutenant general during his time in the Prussian army. Whether this error was due to mistranslation or an attempt to make Steuben a stronger candidate for the Continental Army is unknown. 

Nonetheless, impressed with his credentials, Steuben was inducted into the Continental Army in late 1777. In February 1778, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge and reported for duty. At Valley Forge, Steuben was appointed as an inspector general of the Valley Forge encampment. With this role, Steuben set new standards for the organization and training of the Continental Army. Before Steuben’s arrival to the Continental Army, each colony utilized different drills and maneuvers for their armed forces. Seeing this practice, Steuben created a standard method that would allow for the entirety of the army to be more coordinated. Steuben used the commander-in-chief’s honor guard to teach this standardized method, which consisted of soldiers from various regiments from each colony. Steuben utilized the honor guard as a model company to demonstrate each new drill. In turn, honor guard members would train other regiments, thus setting a standard for drills across the whole army. In addition to standardizing methods throughout the Continental Army, Steuben instructed the men on proper sanitation and weaponry usage, transforming the Continental Army into a legitimate fighting force. 

Impressed with Steuben’s accomplishments, General George Washington appointed Steuben as inspector general of the army with the rank of major general in May 1778. In the summer of 1778, Steuben’s methods and training showcased their immense value in the Battles of Stony Point, Barren Hill, and Monmouth, which resulted in victories and minimized casualties for the Continental Army.  

In the winter of 1778, Steuben left the army and resided in Philadelphia to write his book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, a manuscript on the training methods he had implemented at Valley Forge. The book became standard in the US military and was utilized in the army until 1814. 

In April 1779, Steuben rejoined the Continental Army and their southern campaign and served as an instructor and supply officer for the South Continental Army. At the final campaign in Yorktown, Steuben commanded one of the three divisions of the Continental Army, which fought in key battles that led the British to surrender. Steuben aided the army’s demobilization at the end of the American Revolutionary War and established a defense plan for the newly created United States. 

In March 1784, von Steuben resigned from the military and became a citizen of the United States. He settled in New York on land granted to him for military service. This piece of land later became the town of Steuben, New York, which was named in honor of his contributions to the nation. In his estate, Steuben resided with his two aide-de-camps, William North and Benjamin Walker, both of whom he met while serving at Valley Forge. Historians suspect that Steuben, North, and Walker may have been in a homosexual relationship together. However, there is no confirmation. For the remainder of his life, he served as president of the German Society of the City of New York, which aided German immigrants in the United States. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben died on November 28th, 1794 at his estate. He was laid to rest in a grove marked by a monument that can be visited today. 

Continue reading

Agnes Meyer Driscoll

Agnes Meyer Driscoll



One of the forgotten giants of American cryptology, Agnes Meyer Driscoll was born July 24, 1889, in Geneseo, Ill., to Lucy (née Andrews) and Gustav Meyer, a German immigrant. The family later moved to Ohio, and Meyer would graduate from Ohio University in 1911 with an A.B. in mathematics, physics, music, and languages. Following her graduation, Meyer taught at Lowrey-Phillips Military School in Amarillo, Texas, where she was the director of music, from 1912 to 1915. After that, she was head of the mathematics department at Amarillo High School from 1915 to 1918–at which point the next chapter of her life began.

In 1917, following the United States’ entry into World War I, the U.S. Navy allowed women to enlist for the first time. Nicknamed “Yeomanettes,” although their proper designation was the less catchy “Yeomen (F),” these women took over clerical work, freeing up more men to fight overseas (a concept that the Navy would adopt a little under thirty years later, when women were allowed into the Navy again, this time as WAVES). Meyer enrolled in the Naval Reserve as a Yeoman 1st Class in 1918, one month short of her 29th birthday, where her experience with stenography, French, German, and typing saw her assigned to the Office of the Chief Cable Censor until June of 1919, when she was moved to the Code & Signal Section.

During her time in the Code & Signal Section, Meyer did not work on any foreign codes; instead, she worked on breaking code systems that had been submitted to the Navy for consideration. She cracked all of them; none would be put into use. All Yeomen (F) were demobilized at the end of the war, but Meyer remained in the reserves until Feb. 5, 1920, when she was honorably discharged, having attained the highest rank available to her. The day after she was discharged, she was hired as a civilian, a move which allowed her to continue her cryptological work, rather than return to clerical duties as a reservist.

In her new position, Meyer was assigned to the cryptographic department of Riverbank Laboratories in Geneva, Ill., where she worked until 1923, when she resigned from Riverbank and entered the civilian sector. Her absence revealed a gaping hole in the Navy’s cryptology department; to compensate, the Navy went through a rotation of other cryptanalysts, including the illustrious Elizebeth Friedman, during her relatively brief absence. She resigned from her civilian job in July 1924, and by August she was working for the Navy again. In 1925, another event took place: Meyer married Michael Bernard Driscoll, a Washington lawyer.

Upon her return to the Navy, the new Mrs. Driscoll was given a new assignment: the Japanese encipherment codes, known as the “Red Book” (thus named because the Navy’s stolen copy was housed in a red binder). As early as the mid-1920s, the United States was aware of–and opposed to–Japanese expansion in the Pacific, and set out to preemptively break the code the Empire of Japan used to send military and diplomatic communications. The Red Book contained 97,336 entries, each made up of a five-digit number, an expression in Roman letters, and a three-character Kana group. Driscoll produced the first full key to the Red Book in 1926, and her key remained in effect for several weeks, until several others were added on to expand it, leading to four keys being in use by 1930. By 1931, however, the Japanese had transitioned to a new code, known as the “Blue Book,” which Driscoll and her team worked on for almost two years. Once the Blue Book had been solved, it was used to decode Japanese messages giving the top speed of a Nagato battle cruiser–in response, the Navy increased the maximum speed of its Carolina-class cruiser to exceed that of the Japanese Nagato. This information was considered valuable enough to justify the entire cryptological section’s peacetime budget.

In October of 1937, Driscoll was severely injured in an automobile accident, from which she sustained severe facial injuries, as well as a broken arm and leg. Her recovery took the better part of a year, causing her to exhaust her sick leave, and to take over 170 days of unpaid leave. She only returned to work full-time in September of the following year–and due to a badly set leg, she would walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

Leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II, Driscoll worked on solving a Japanese system known as JN-25, a descendant of the Red- and Blue Book codes. Progress was slow, however, and in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Driscoll and her team were assigned to a different project: the “German Naval System,” better known as Enigma–a project that was deemed more urgent than JN-25. Driscoll’s team of five was able to produce a limited solution for Enigma, although it would ultimately be a team of Polish, French, and English cryptanalysts that would solve it. 

For the remainder of the decade, Driscoll would continue to work for the Navy. Known as “Miss Aggie” or “Madame X” at Naval Intelligence, she had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, and reportedly cursed “as fluently as any sailor.” She also had a good deal of influence, as well as the backing of half a dozen admirals, having worked for the Navy long enough to have known them as ensigns. Any sailor whom she deemed inadequate could–and would–be shipped off to Hawaii.

In 1949, Driscoll was transferred from Naval Intelligence to the Armed Forces Security Agency, later known as the NSA, where she would remain until her retirement in 1959. Her remaining years working for the government, while successful, were not as exciting as her earlier years working on the Japanese cyphers. Her final assignment was a set of “unreadable” messages that others in her section had found impossible to solve. Two weeks later, she had solved them, and she retired shortly thereafter. Her retirement from the NSA was not acknowledged in any way.

Driscoll spent the decade following her retirement much like any retiree, spending time with her family, traveling, and gardening. She also had a special interest in gambling–a not uncommon hobby among her fellow cryptologists and mathematicians. She and her husband, both academically inclined, continued to attend lectures by leading scientists up until her husband’s death in 1964. One of her nephews entered the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and it thrilled her to know that her family would continue to serve the navy. In 1969, she moved into a nursing home with her sister Margaret, who had also been a Yeomanette, and had worked with her on JN-25 and Enigma.

She died in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 16, 1971, and was buried beside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery. Following her death, Driscoll was virtually forgotten, except by those who had worked with her. She was inducted into the NSA’s Cryptologic Hall of Fame in 2000, a small acknowledgement for the woman who was at one time deemed the Navy’s best cryptologist.

Continue reading

Krebs Photos

The German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®

German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™

The German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™ opened in March, 2010 in a building once known as Hockemeyer Hall. Renovations were completed by the GAHF after acquiring the building in 2008. Located on 6th Street NW in the heart of the old European-American section of Washington, the Museum sits in what is now a thriving commercial neighborhood.

Follow us


Immigrants’ Lives: Highlights from the Krebs Family Collection

In the 1880s, all four Krebs sons–Paul, Richard, Hermann, and Albin–immigrated to the United States at various times. Their lives took very different paths: Paul became an upholsterer in Philadelphia, Richard and Hermann managed wineries in California, and Albin joined the US Army. They are a small but varied example of the trajectories immigrants’ lives took upon arriving in the United States.

Several items from the Krebs family collection are currently displayed at the GAHM. We hope that you will enjoy these photographs from the Krebs family collection, and that they provide some backstory to the artifacts on display.

  • Dr. Gregor Constantin Wittig, c. 1866

    The patriarch of the Wittig family was born on Oct. 31, 1834. His first marriage, to Augusta Fantini Usinianski, took place in the Free Church in 1857, but was not recognized until they were married in a civil ceremony in 1858.
    Their daughter Elsbeth married Paul Krebs in 1882

  • Augusta Wittig, 1857

    Augusta Wittig is shown around the time of her first (unofficial) wedding to Gregor Wittig. This was his first marriage but her second–she had been previously widowed.

  • Paul & Elsbeth Krebs, 1884

    Paul Krebs married Elsbeth Constanze Beate Wittig in September of 1882. This photograph was taken in the summer of 1884, soon after the death of their week-old son Paul in March.

  • Hermann & Anna Krebs, Vienna 1884

    Hermann Krebs married his first wife, Anna, in 1878. They had three children (two of which died in infancy) and immigrated to the California, where Anna died in 1889.

  • Ferdinand Richard Krebs

    Like his brother Hermann, Richard Krebs immigrated to California. This photo was taken by V. Wolfenstein in Los Angeles, California, likely prior to Richard’s marriage to Margarethe Hattemer in 1884.

  • Richard & Margarethe Krebs, 1888

    Richard Krebs and Margarethe Hattemer were married in February of 1884, in Anaheim, California. This photo was taken four years later, in Los Angeles.

  • Hermann & Refugia Krebs, c. 1893

    Hermann married Refugia Mattie Siva around 1891. They are shown with his daughter from his first marriage, Anna (age 6), and their daughter Hermine (age 2).

  • Albin Krebs, c. 1899

    Albin Krebs (standing, second from right) was the most well-traveled of the Krebs brothers. He joined the US Army Corps of Engineers, and traveled widely, judging by the number of postcards he sent to his family (many of which are in GAHM’s collection). He never married, and died in El Paso, Texas, in 1931, of a subdiaphragmatic abscess.

  • Gregor & Marie Wittig

    Gregor Wittig and Marie Augusta Siebert were married in 1876, a year and a half after his first wife’s death. They had four children together, one of whom–Gretel–married Paul Krebs’ son Richard.

  • Mountain View Winery, 1905

    From 1885 onwards, Richard Krebs managed various wineries in California. In 1905, he moved to Azusa, Calif., where he started a winery of his own.

  • Family photo, 1906

    This photo was taken in the backyard, likely in the summer of 1906.
    Back row, left to right: Helen, Carry, Gretel Wittig (who married Paul’s son Richard later that year), Mr. Barlo, Helen Krebs
    Front row, left to right: Louise Schum, Mrs. Kochler, Mr. Kochler, Alex Wittig, Paul Krebs (with Clara on his lap), Mrs. Barlo, Elsbeth Krebs

  • Family Photo, 1906

    This photo would likely have been taken around the time of Gretel Wittig’s marriage Paul Krebs’ son Richard, in 1906.
    Left to right: Margarethe (Gretel) Wittig Krebs, Richard Krebs Jr., Paul Krebs, Helen Krebs, Elsbeth Wittig Krebs, Carrie Krebs, Clara Krebs, Rudolph Krebs

  • Paul & Elsbeth Krebs, June 1923

    Paul and Elsbeth eventually left Philadelphia and retired to a farm in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, where they lived for the rest of their lives. This photo was likely taken around the time of their fortieth anniversary.

  • Golden Wedding, 1933

    Paul and Elsbeth Krebs celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at their farm in Ottsville, Penn. The china set they received for the occasion is in GAHM’s collection.

  • Paul Krebs & Dogs, 1942


Museum Hours:

Tuesdays – Fridays

from 11 am – 5 pm
For information, tickets, or groups contact the German-American Heritage Foundation at [email protected] or (202) 467-5000.


719 6th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001

Continue reading