Private Abraham Graff died 153 years ago today. As you can see from the muster roll above, Graff served in the 7th Veteran Infantry Regiment. This unit mustered in just in time to serve in Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. Graff himself did not see action in that bloody ordeal, having joined the Army on June 25, 1864. He was in Virginia for the Siege of Petersburg. What makes him interesting here, beyond that his was a life cut short, is how and why he entered the unit: Abraham Graff was Theodore Roosevelt Sr.’s replacement in the American Civil War.

Passenger manifest from the Amalie listing an Abraham Graf arriving in New York City on June 23, 1864.

Little is known about Graff. We do know however that he was a German immigrant who had just come to the United States. I cannot tell with 100% certainty but the passenger manifest above lists an Abraham Graf having arrived in New York City on June 23, 1864, two days before “our” Graff mustered in. The last name is spelled differently (with one F here) and the age may be off a year or two according to what we know, but these types of things are not uncommon in historical records. We do know that the Abraham Graff that took Roosevelt’s place was freshly-arrived. This may well be our person. How many Abraham Graff’s could have come from Germany that same week or month?

Private Abraham Graff’s death certificate, complete with notation that he was Theodore Roosevelt (Sr.’s) substitute. Note that it lists the house number as 33 East 20th Street, not 28 as we know it today.

Graff’s Civil War experience was a difficult one. He was taken prisoner, let go, and died of scurvy in a Union hospital in Maryland on March 31, 1865.