Chocolatespoon: Emily’s Musings

Capt. J.B. Greenhut

Posted on: March 16, 2005

I know, I should be working on my YA paper or sleeping, but I was curious about Captain Greenhut (I believe he’s my mom’s mom’s mom’s dad’s dad) after a conversation at dinner the other night, and since our library is testing a new database that gives access to old NY Times issues, I thought I’d add in JB’s obituary to my family history project page. Here’s an excerpt – I think I learned 87 new things about him.

New York Times 1857-Current; Nov 18, 1918; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2001)
pg. 15

Capt. J.B. Greenhut, War Vertan, Dies
Was Second Man in Illinois, His Early Home, to Answer Call of President Lincoln.

Career as Merchant Here

Held Out for Years in Northward March of Trade — His Home Once “Summer Capital.”

After an illness of more than a month, Captain Joseph B. Greenhut, merchant and civil war veteran, died yesterday morning of heart disease in his home at 325 West End Avenue. The Captain’s career, from the time he roamed the streets of Mobile looking for work to the final liquidation of the Greenhut Company, of which he was President, in the Spring of thus year, had been full of adventure in all its phases. He enlisted in the civil war as a private, and by the end of the war had risen to the brevet rank of Colonel. He was wounded at Fort Donelson and barely escaped having his arm amputated as a result.

On February 28, 1843, a son was born to Benedict and Mina Greenhut in Bushop-Purnitz, Austria, and nine years later they brought him to Chicago, Ill., where for three years he attended the public schools. The desire to make his fortune took him from th eclassroom and he made his way to Mobile, where he arrived with only 25 cents in his pocket. After several days passed in walking the streets, a tinsmith engaged him as a solder heater. The boy quickly mastered the tinsmith’s trade, and when he left the South to enlist inthe Union Army he had laid the foundation of experience which was later to carry him to success.

Greenhut was the second man in Chicago to offer his services when President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers. He joined Company A of the Twelfth Illinois Infantry as a private and was promoted to sergeant after three months service. He was wounded at Fort Donelson when it unconditionally surrendered to General Grant in his first great victory of 1862. He was temporarily incapacitated for service by his wound, but after a time he reentered the army as Captain of Company K, Eighty-second Illinois Infantry, in which he passed nearly all the remainder of the war, taking part in some of the most important engagements. He was present at Fredericksburg, Chanoelloraville, and at the three memorable days at Gettysburg. After the last battle he served as Captain Adjutant-General, and Chief of Staff of the Third Brigage, Third Divisions, (Carl Schurz’s,) of the Eleventh Army Corps.

After Gettysburg, Captain Greenhut went South with his brigade to help extricate General Rosecrans from his difficulties at Chattanooga, and was in the actions at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain in the celebrated “Battle Above the Clouds.” He was also in the campaign of East Tennessee to extricate General Burnside, who was surrounded at Knoxville by Longstreet.

The military record of Captain Greenhut led to the granting of the brevet rank of Colonel when he resigned from the army in April, 1864, but he retained the title of Captain which he had earned by hard fighting, preferring it to his brevel rank.

Just before retirement as Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, at the instance of General Edward S. Salomon, had the General Staff look through all the original records of the Department to ascertain just what Captain Greenhut’s achievements had been. As a result, the staff recommend that the Secretary send to the Captain a letter of thanks for his most valuable services. The official letter of teh War Department, prized by Captain Greenhut’s family, is as follows…

After the war Captain Greenhut settled in Perorial, Ill., where he passed thirty years of his life. He organized several distilling companies, one of which was destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1872 and another of which failed in 1877. Later he became President of the Great Western Distillery Company, at that time the largest in the world. He founded the Glucose Company of America, which later became the Corn Products Company.

Captain Greenhut was known best in this city for his association with the Siegel-Cooper store, and later with the J.B. Greenhut Company at Eighteenth Street and Sixth Avenue. The original store began business of Sept. 12, 1897, and the opening was something of a sensation. It was estimated that 150,000 persons endeavored to get in for the public exhibition that night. In 1902 the Greenhuts bought out Henry Siegel. Then in 1907 Altman & Co. moved uptown and left vacant the building on the west side of Sixth Avenue.

Until March 1917, Captain Greenhut was President of the company. He then retured and devoted his leisure time mainly to golf, which was his hobby. He was a Royal Arch Mason, a member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith, of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of the Loyal Legion, Illinois Commandery, and associate member of the New York Commandery. He was one of the Directors of the Montefiore Home in this city.

In 1909 he prchased Shadow Lawn, the $1,000,000 estate of John A. McCall, who was President of the New York Life Insurance Company at the time of the Hughes investigation. The estate becaome the Summer capital of the country while occupied by President Wilson.

In 1866 Captain Greenhut married Miss Clara Wolfner of Chicago, who survives him. Three children, Miss Fannie Greenhut, Benedict J. Greenhut, and Nelso W. Greenhut, live in this city. A son, Walter, is dead. On the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary, which was celebrated by a dinner at Sherry’s in 1916, Mrs. Greenhut said: Captain Greenhut and I were childhood sweethearts. His family and mine were dear friends. We were engaged when I was 14 and married when I had reached the age of 16. The ceremony was performed in the hall of the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, and there were about 1,500 guests present.”

The funeral of Mr. Greenhut, at his West End Avenue home, will be private, but the serives at Temple Emanuel at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning, will be ublic, and will be conducted by Rabbi Joseph Silverman. The burial will be at Salem Field Cemetary.

1 Response to "Capt. J.B. Greenhut"

Thanks for researching Capt. Greenhut. I was good to hear his life told in such a clear, concise manner. Uncle Doug

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