A Brief Biography
Writer's Note: Most of the information in this biography was taken from the book "Fourscore and Eleven" by Rabbi Martin I. Hinchin, D.D. The book is a history of the Jewish people of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, and encompasses the years 1828 through 1919. Rabbi Hinchin was the rabbi for Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim for many years. The military information is from the National Archives and Records Administration as well as regimental histories found on the Internet, "The Story of Camp Moore" by Powell A. Casey, and "Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units 1861-1865" by Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.
Mires Rosenthal, whose parents were Isaiah and Sarah (Meyer) Rosenthal, was born December 30, 1834, in Oberlauterbach, Alsace, France. As Mires grew older, he was subject to the draft into the French Army and, like other Jews, his family was not allowed to buy his way out. Also, Jews in the French army, despite rulings from Paris, were treated very poorly. So, Mires followed his brother, Moses, to the United States and took up residence in Alexandria, Louisiana. The 1850 census shows three Rosenthal brothers living there. Moses, the oldest at 21, was in the storage business; Isaac, 19, was a peddler; and Mires, 16, was not yet in an enterprise. Jonas, the fourth brother, arrived in Alexandria in the mid 1850s. It is a strange twist of fate that Mires, who avoided the draft in France, was soon to take a very active part in a very bloody major conflict, the War Between the States (also known as the War of Succession and the Civil War).
In 1854, 30 Jews were in Alexandria, Louisiana, when the body of an unknown Jew was brought to Alexandria for burial. A Jewish cemetery did not exist so the local Jews contributed $34 for purchase of a burial ground in its sister city across the Red River, Pineville. On the spot the group organized the Hebrew Benevolent Society. Mires Rosenthal was a member. Five years later, on October 2, 1859, the Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim was organized with Mires Rosenthal being one of the charter members. The first Jewish Temple in Alexandria was built in 1866. In 1877, 42 Jews contributed $1,100 and 30 children were enrolled in religious school. Much later, on December 9, 1913, an Orthodox congregation, B'nai Israel, was organized.
In May, 1861, Mires left Alexandria for New Orleans to enlist in the army of the Confederate States of America. On May 9, 1861, Mires was sworn in as a Private in Company B, 2nd Louisiana Infantry, for a one-year enlistment. At Camp Walker in Metairie, Louisiana, the newly-formed regiment began its training to become a formidable fighting machine. Company B, formed mostly of men from Rapides Parish, became known as Moore Guards (named for Louisiana's Governor Thomas Overton Moore) and was highly respected by both Union and Confederate troops. The initial company commander was Captain John Kelso. The initial regimental field officers were Colonel Lewis Gustavas DeRussy (a West Point graduate), Lieutenant Colonel John Young, and Major Isiah T. Norwood.
Camp Walker was established in April, 1861, at the Metairie Race Course. It was named for Leroy Pope Walker of Alabama, Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Frequent rains made the camp boggy. Also, as it was so close to New Orleans, there were always visitors. Drinking water and washing water were scarce at Camp Walker and it had to be hauled in barrels from the Mississippi River which was several miles away. Disease soon began to take its toll on the recruits and the 2nd Louisiana Infantry Regiment was one of the last units to train at Camp Walker as future training would take place at Camp Moore (named for Governor Moore) which was located about 78 miles north of New Orleans. Metairie Cemetery now occupies the site of Camp Walker.
When ordered to Richmond, Virginia, the 2nd Louisiana Infantry Regiment was assigned to the Department of the Peninsula and in April, 1862, the regiment totaled 782 men, down from the initial 1,013 men. The regiment moved from Richmond to Yorktown to help build earthwork defenses near the town. After several months at Yorktown, the regiment was transferred to Williamsburg to again erect fortifications. The regiment returned to the Yorktown area and spent the winter of 1861-1862 there. On Aprl 16, 1862, the enemy attacked the regiment at Dam No. 1, or Lee's Mill. A bayonet charge by two of the companies drove the enemy back. The regiment served in General Howell Cobb's brigade during the Seven Days Battles near Richmond but did not see combat until July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill where it lost 30 killed and 152 wounded. One of the severely wounded (as noted in his records) was Mires Rosenthal who was shot in his left shoulder. He was taken to the General Hospital, Howard's Grove, Richmond, Virginia, where he was treated and then sent home to recuperate. Mires was detailed to the Medical Director's Office in Alexandria, Louisiana. Mires was next found on the Register of Prisoners of War:
Taylor's Corps, Paroled May 15, 1865, authority of Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby.
Age 30 years, eyes hazel, hair dark, complexion florid, height 5 ft. 3-3/4 in.
Residence: Alexandria, Louisiana.
Thus ended Mires Rosenthal's war efforts.
In June, 1865, Mires and his brother Moses opened a cotton brokerage house in Alexandria behind the Ice House Hotel. Mires Rosenthal was not all business and had recuperated from his wound enough to pay attention to the young ladies of Alexandria. One of the young ladies was Miss Caroline Aaron, the daughter of the late Michael Aaron and Christine Aaron (now Levin). Michael and Christine had four children before he died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1853. The widow Christine Aaron later married Julius Levin.
Mires Rosenthal and Caroline Aaron were married November 13, 1866, by the Reverend Dr. Jacobs, a Rabbi from New Orleans. Julius Levin, Caroline Aaron's stepfather, hosted the wedding. This was probably the first Jewish wedding in Alexandria.
In 1867, Mires was elected City Treasurer of Alexandria by the City Council. He was also quite active in the Oliver Lodge of the Masonic Order. Also in the same year, Caroline gave birth to the first of twelve children, Abraham, on August 13. But, Abraham died just six days later. In 1868, Caroline gave birth to Sallie on October 28. Sallie was a healthy baby and lived long.
The 1870 census showed approximately 157 Jews in a Parish (County) of about 2,000 people. Mires is listed as a dry goods merchant. The election in 1870 found Mires Rosenthal as a commissioner in the Ward 3 polling place. The same year also showed Mires as a father again with the birth of Hannah on September 25. Hannah was popularly known as Nannie.
1872 marked the birth of a daughter, Bella, to Mires and Caroline on March 17. Bella only lived for seven and one-half years.
1873 found the Jewish population in the Red River town of 2,000 to have a major impact in the community. The Jewish population was about one-sixth of the total population, yet represented about one-half the property owners and about three-fourths of the commercial business operators. Mires Rosenthal applied for the position of Postmaster of Hineston in April, 1873, and achieved that position on July 1. He served as Postmaster of Hineston until April 1, 1878. Hineston is in close proximity of Alexandria and, today, may be classified as a suburb. Also in 1873, Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim became a charter member (one of the founding congregations) of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, as founded by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 14.
The 1876 political climate in Alexandria attracted a number of people within the Jewish population. One, Mires Rosenthal, was a candidate for Recorder of the Parish. But, he lost the election. The vote was 1,725 for V. W. Porter and 1,592 for Mires Rosenthal. The political activity continued into 1877 when a large meeting was held on April 7 declaring support for Governor Nicholls. Mires Rosenthal was one of the participants.
Two more children were born to Mires and Caroline during this time period; Isaiah, known throughout his life as "Buddy," and Mamie. According to the family, it was also during the same time frame that Mires started making periodic excursions to a New Orleans doctor (or doctors) to see if he could get relief from the pain in his shoulder due to the war wound.
Mires Rosenthal was managing a grocery store, one of Julius Levin's enterprises, in 1878 while being a father to a growing family. The family size increased by one with the birth of Rosalie on November 12, 1879. Mires' civic responsibilities continued as his name appears on a resolution in 1880 to hire two additional constables in Alexandria for the winter months. And, in the same time frame, Mires was now owner of the grocery store labeled as a "Fancy and Staple Grocery."
1881 shows Mires Rosenthal as one of the petitioners to the city council to hire a night watchman to help stem the rash of burglaries in Alexandria. Another child was born, Julius, on May 12, 1881. In 1883 Mires was one of the underwriters of the Wrought Iron Range Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
March 4, 1883, saw the birth of another son, Laurant, who was known throughout most of his life as Roy. A Temple Youth Group was formed in April, 1883, at the home of Mires Rosenthal to provide an organization for the Jewish youth of Alexandria.
June of 1884 found new officers for the Rebecca Lodge of the B'nai Brith with Mires Rosenthal as Treasurer. In the Spring of the same year, Mires was one of several volunteers who patrolled the levee looking for leaks or weak points. He also contributed to a citizens' fund to hire laborers to work on the levee as some flooding did occur. Daughter Etta was born July 31, 1884. In the latter part of the year, Mires and his brother, Moses, were in Baton Rouge to present a resolution to have Louisiana State University returned to Rapides Parish. In November, 1884, Mires was elected secretary-treasurer of the Board of Charity Hospital of Rapides.
Shevuot, 1885, was celebrated by the closing of several stores in Alexandria including Mires Rosenthal's. A very active B'nai Brith held elections this year with Mires being elected Secretary. August was not a good month as the rising waters of the Red River tried to destroy the levee on Second Street. Solicitations were made and, among the many contributors, may be found the name of Mires Rosenthal who contributed $15, a handsome sum for that day. Sadly, on Saturday, September 12, 1885, son Julius died.
The B'nai Brith Lodge, in July, 1886, held its installation of officers with Mires Rosenthal installed as Vice President of the organization. November 28, 1886, arrived with the birth of son Aaron.
In 1887 Rebecca Lodge of the B'nai Brith again held elections with Mires Rosenthal being duly elected the Lodge's President. Business-wise, Mires purchased Dr. A. Cockerville's plantation, located just south of Alexandria, for $2,500. That area, which is now in the city limits of Alexandria, is still known to realtors as Rosenthal Plantation.
1889's civic scene has Mires serving on the U. S. Circuit Court from Rapides Parish. And, in 1890, Mires was asked to be on the committee of examination for the Alexandria Public High School. The 1890 B'nai Brith election has Mires becoming a Trustee of the Lodge. Once again, in 1891, Mires was asked to serve on the examining committee for Alexandria Public Schools and he accepted. The last child of Mires and Caroline, a daughter named Eva, was born April 19, 1891.
1894 had, as far as we know, the first family reunion of the Rosenthals with the three surviving brothers (Isaac passed away in 1867) and their extended families meeting in Opelousas for the occasion of the circumcision of Moses Rosenthal's second grandchild.
The following is from "Fourscore and Eleven" and is quoted verbatim:
By the latter part of September (1896), Mires Rosenthal and Jonas Rosenthal had left for New Orleans. It seems that Mires Rosenthal had been wounded while serving in the Confederate Army, and they left to seek medical treatment. "Messrs. Jonas and Mires Rosenthal returned from New Orleans last Friday night, whither they had gone for the purpose of seeking medical advice for the latter, who is in bad health and supposed that it was due to a wound which he received during the war in the Confederate service,. the ball never having been extracted. We are glad to learn, that after an examination, the physicians pronounced an operation unecessary and assured him his health was due to dyspepsia." (Louisiana Democrat 10/7/1896)
Writer's Note: The dictionary defines "dyspepsia" as "difficult or deranged digestion; indegestion." It is believed by family members that lead poisoning had set in since the writer does recall family members stating that Mires Rosenthal died of lead poisoning. The newspaper article of his death substantiates that belief.
Mires Rosenthal passed away on May 22, 1897, at the young age of 62. Rabbi Hinchin's book quotes from the Louisiana Democrat's issue of May 26, 1897, and it is reproduced here.
"He was a faithful, efficient and gallant Confederate soldier serving througout the entire war. He was a member of the Moore Guards, the first company which responded to the call of Governor Moore for volunteers in April, 1861 and was twice wounded on the ensanguined battle fields of Virginia, from the effects of which he had suffered during the remainder of his life and which it is supposed, hastened if they were not primarliy the cause of death."
Writer's Note: The newspaper article states that Mires was "twice wounded." It is believed by some family members that he did get shot twice in his left shoulder.
This brief biography was compiled by Charles Bressler Jackson and edited by Nancy Renair Gehr Greenberg, two of Mires Rosenthal's great-grandchildren and two of his many descendants .