Edward Emil Langberg
General Edward Emil Langberg.
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General Edward Emil Langberg, one of the more interesting personalities among those Danes who came to the U.S. prior to the Civil War, was born in Copenhagen in 1810. He was supposed to study law after graduating from secondary school, but this family-laid plan didn’t get very far, since Emil much preferred music and socializing. In 1834 Emil decided to try his luck in Mexico, where an elder brother had become a school principal in Durango. Landing in New Orleans, he immediately attracted attention with his violin-playing and was offered a concert tour. This didn’t attract him and he continued his journey to Matamoros. There he arrived penniless, intending to meet his brother, only to learn that in the meanwhile the latter had been murdered by a band of robbers. When the town commandant heard that Langberg knew surveying, he was hired to survey and plat the growing town. His success with this task brought him to the attention of other prominent individuals and he took a position as the adjutant of a German-born major. Not knowing anything about military theory and practice, Emil immersed himself in learning his new field. Later he settled in Mexico City, where he was appointed professor at a military academy, and also started a school for poor and illiterate artisans and laborers. From this rather modest beginning Emil rapidly acquired influential friends and more exalted military positions as the unstable political situation in Mexico changed. He reluctantly fought against the U.S. in the Mexican War of 1846. In 1849 he was appointed Governor and Border Inspector of the provinces along the U.S. border. After several peaceful years he was forced into exile in New Orleans, where he lost his heart to a young Creole woman who became his wife. In later years Emil Langberg became increasingly disenchanted with the leadership of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, and wished for Yankee intervention. Nevertheless, it was in defense of the empire that he met his death, assassinated in Sonora, Mexico in October, 1866.