He came to the US in the November 1851 and at first devoted nearly all his time to his mercantile wholesale business. Then in 1856 he joined the New York Chess Club and soon became its strongest member. In 1859 he was the editor of the only weekly newspaper devoted wholly to chess that was published in the United States called The Gambit which lasted on a few months. He also edited a chess column in a German weekly called the New Yorker Humorist und Illustrirte Novellenzeitung and was a frequent contributor to other publications.
Lichtenhein, thanks to his safe, careful play captured third place in the 1st American Congress (New York from 6 October – 10 November 1857) which was won by Paul Morphy. Lichtenhein defeated Charles Stanley (3–2) in first round and Frederick Perrin (3–0) in 2nd round before losing to Morphy (0½–3½) in semifinal. He then defeated Benjamin Raphael (3–0) in the 3rd place final.
After the tournament he played seven games against Morphy, but succeeded only in drawing three. Two years later when Morphy returned from Europe, the two again met in a match at Knight odds: Morphy won six, Lichtenhein four, and one was drawn.
The hostilities of the US Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumpter and Lichtenhein began serving in the Union Army with the 58th Regiment of New York Volunteers. He also acted as a correspondent for Frank Leslies' Illustrated Newspaper.
In those days soldiers were often recruited based on ethnicity or national origin and the local newspaper called for German-speaking men to join the Gallatin (New York) Rifles which was organized by Lichtenhein, who was at the time a local merchant.
During the Civil War Lichtenhein saw a lot of action. The Gallatin Rifles joined several other ethnic companies to form the 58th New York Infantry Regiment which fought with distinction throughout the War. The 58th was comprised almost exclusively of men of foreign birth: Poles, Germans, Danes, Italians, Russians and French. Initially there were four separate regiments: 's Gallatin Rifles, Wladimir Krzyzanowski's US Rifles, Julian Allen's Polish Legion, Frederick Gellman's Morgan Rifles and Andrew Lutz' Humboldt Yaegers.
On November 7, 1861 the Regiment set off from New York to join the Army of the Potomac. During the first year of the War the 58th New York was encamped in Virginia prior to advancing to Winchester, Virginia in the Spring of 1862 in pursuit of General Stonewall Jackson.
On June 2, 1862 the 58th entered its first battle at Cross Keys, Virginia where Krzyzanowski led a successful bayonet charge. After a period of participating in limited engagements, in October of 1862 the Regiment fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run. In 1863 the Regiment fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville after which they began marching towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During the Battle of Gettysburg the 58th defended Cemetery Hill and helped repulse Pickett's Charge. After Gettysburg the outfit shipped out by rail to help relieve the Confederate siege of Chattanooga. In October of 1865 the Regiment completed its service and was mustered out of the Army.
After the Civil War Lichtenhein moved to Chicago for business reasons and had little time for chess. Unfortunately, shortly after moving to Chicago he became ill with an undisclosed malady and lingered, a hopeless invalid for nearly five years, until the 19th of May, 1874 when he passed peacefully away at the age of 45. According to the Edo Ratings Lichtenhein's rating from 1857 to 1862 was between 2455 and 2490.