Simon Suhler (aka Charles Gardner), German-Born Veteran Awarded Medal of Honor

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Simon Suhler (aka Charles Gardner), German-Born Veteran Awarded Medal of Honor

Artist's conjectural portrait of Pvt. (later Sgt.) Simon Suhler, 8th Cavalry
Image courtesy of
(Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are courtesy of Wikipedia)

This Week in Military History

Here is a tale of a man who fought for his adopted country, was wounded, captured, and…let me not spoil the story.


Simon Suhler was born in 1844 in Marksteft, Bavaria. He immigrated to the U.S. sometime between 1858 and 1861.

Near the beginning of the War Between the States, Suhler enlisted in the 32nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry in Indianapolis. The unit was unofficially known as the "1st Indiana German Regiment," as it was composed exclusively by German immigrants, It even had a former Prussian office in command, Colonel August Willich. The 32nd Indiana was attached to the Army of the Cumberland, and saw duty exclusively in the West.

Suhler was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). A year and a half later, he was captured by the Rebels at the Battle of Chickamauga. Sometime later he was paroled back to the Union army at Vicksburg, MS. Suhler spent some time in two hospitals. Then he disappeared, was considered a deserter. Using an assumed name (his mother's maiden name Newstattel), Suhler joined the 4th New York Heavy Artillery. He served out the war in that unit, and was mustered out in September of 1865.

After the war Suhler, alias Newstattel, traveled  west to San Francisco, and joined the 8th Cavalry in October of 1866, under yet another name, Charles Gardner. He was sent to fight Apaches in Arizona.

Medal of Honor Actions

In the late summer and fall of 1868, bands of hostile Apache Indians were marauding through the Arizona Territory, killing settlers and stealing livestock. Two troops of the 8th Cavalry, a force of no more than 50-60 soldiers, were tasked with responding to secure settlements and keeping the territory open for habitation. From August to October, Troops B and L were constantly in the saddle as they patrolled the territory. Though there were no major engagements, these troops were frequently attacked from ambush or sniped at from hidden ravines, and the 90-day period was one of intense danger and dedicated around-the-clock security for the Arizona Territory.

At the end of the campaign, 34 of the men of these two troops (including 4 from Company L, 29 from Company B and one other trooper from the 8th Cavalry) were awarded Medals of Honor. The medals were presented the following summer on July 24, 1869 in one of the largest Medal of Honor presentations to that date. Among the awardees was Pvt. Charles Gardner, whose Medal of Honor citation laconically said, "Bravery in scouts and actions against Indians". Suhler retired in 1878 at the rank of sergeant; he was recommended for promotion to second lieutenant, but chose not to do so. [Suhler may have feared having his string of aliases and the desertion charge come out.]

Simon Suhler never married. Afterward, he moved to San Antonio, TX where he sold produce, sewing machines and lightning rods, was the deputy county assessor, a bookkeeper, and adjutant of the August Belknap Post No. 37, Grand Army of the Republic.

In 1890, he had the desertion charge expunged and tried to get a disability pension for his long list of wounds. He did not succeed, perhaps in part because of confusion over his name. Simon Suhler, alias Newstattel, alias Gardner, died in San Antonio on May 16, 1895, at the age of 51,

Suhler's corrected headstone, installed Veterans' Day, 1988; San Antonio (TX) National Cemetery [The original marker carried his alias of Charles Gardner]; Image courtesy of
Suhler's corrected headstone, installed Veterans' Day, 1988
San Antonio (TX) National Cemetery
[The original marker carried his alias of Charles Gardner]
Image courtesy of

Footnote #1: Simon Suhler is one of only two Jewish veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor for action during the Indian Wars.

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