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Adolph Bollack

Adolph Bollack was born in Riedselz, Alsace, France in 1841. At 15 years old he immigrated to the United States on a 3-mast sailing ship. The voyage was beset by storms andtook 57 days. He moved to New Orleans to start a business.

When Louisiana joined the Confederacy, Adolph was conscripted into the Confederate Army and became a member of Colonel Pratt’s Louisiana irregulars, a cavalry organization known as the Louisiana Tigers. He served in the organization until the close of the war.

Adolph proclaimed that he would not take up arms against another human being so he was assigned as a Medical Runner. His job was to find wounded soldiers in the field and bring medical care to them. The Louisiana Tigers were shipped to South Texas to be stationed at White Ranch located near the Rio Grande River between Brownsville and Boca Chica beach. The Confederates occupied Fort Brown to protect the cotton shipments that crossed the river to be shipped from the Mexican port of Bagdad. Bollack’s unit was assigned to stop any Union attack of the fort. Fort Brown had changed hands several times between the Union and the Confederate forces, and the Confederates were determined to protect the fort.

The Battle at Palmito Ranch: On May 19, 1865, Adolph Bollack participated in what is known as “The Last Battle of the Civil War” at Palmito Ranch, near present day Highway 4, which the Confederates won. This battle was fought after the Civil War ended but before the news could reach South Texas. Union Colonel Barrett, newly assigned to command an all-black unit, ordered an attack on the Confederate troops. The Colonel wanted to participate in the war, having never been in combat. The Union forces attacked but were forced to retreat with one killed, 9 wounded and 105 captured. The Confederates suffered 6 wounded. Certainly, Adolph Bollack would have brought medical aid to those in his unit that were wounded. Adolph Bollack returned to New Orleans after the Civil War. He decided to move to Brownsville because he had made friends in the Jewish community.

A Torah scroll from France was brought by Adolph Bollack first to New Orleans then to Brownsville when he moved here in 1869. This became the first Torah for Temple Beth-El in Brownsville, Texas. Adolph returned to New Orleans and married Yetta Fellman in 1871.

High Holiday services were conducted at their home for the local and Matamoros Jewish communities, as well as for families from as far away as Rio Grande City. In the 1920’s, weekly religious services were held at the local Masonic Temple, but the Torah was held for safekeeping at the Bollack home.

The Torah was in continuous use until 1933, when another Torah was presented to the Congregation of Temple Beth-El by Mrs. Dave Shapiro.

Adolph’s brother, Henry Bollack joined him in Brownsville. Henry died in 1882 during the yellow fever epidemic.

Adolph Bollack and his family became successful merchants in downtown Brownsville.

Adolph Bollack died at age 86 in April 1927, a month after his wife Yetta died. Both are buried in the Hebrew Cemetery of Brownsville. They were survived by their 3 children, Celina Bollack Ashheim (Adolph), Ike Bollack and Julia Bollack Moritz (Isadore).