Edward Rosewater will always be remembered as the young Jewish member of the Telegraphers Corps of the Union Army, who transmitted President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The son of Rosalia and Herman Rosenwasser, he was born in Bukoven, Bohemia. In 1854, the Rosenwassers and their eight children came to the United States and settled in Cleveland. They changed their name to Rosewater and were quickly integrated into the main currents of American life.
Edward Rosewater worked as a bookkeeper and was fascinated by the Morse telegraph, which was a new way of communication. In 1858, he became a telegrapher and was stationed in the South. When the Civil War broke out, he left there for the North. In 1862, he enlisted in the U.S. Military Telegraphers Corps and served with Femont in West Virginia and with Pope during his disastrous campaign in Virginia.
Rosewater was then transferred to the War Department in Washington. President Lincoln was a frequent visitor to his office and would read the field dispatches to keep abreast the latest movements of the army.
Rosewater, in his writings, tells of an embarrassing encounter with Lincoln. He and his friends were on duty refreshing themselves with a pail of beer, which was against army regulations, when Lincoln walked in on them.
The President didn't admonish them but instead gave one of them a quarter to get a fresh pail of beer. When the pail of beer was passed around, Lincoln drank from the bucket the same as the others.
When the war was over, Rosewater went to Omaha, Nebraska, to work as a telegrapher and as a newspaper correspondent. He founded the Omaha Daily Bee and was elected to the State Legislature in 1871. Rosewater became a member of the Republican National Committee and served as a member of many federal government committees. He died in 1906.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 12 May 2011