Franz Sigel (November 18,
1824 – August 21, 1902) was a German military officer and immigrant
to the United
States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and
served as a Union major general in the American Civil War.
born in Sinsheim, Baden (Germany), and attended the gymnasium in Bruchsal.
graduated from Karlsruhe Military Academy in 1843, and was commissioned a
lieutenant in the Baden Army.
He got to know the revolutionaries
and Gustav von Struve
and became associated
with the revolutionary movement. He was wounded in a duel in 1847.
year, he retired from the army to begin law
school studies in Heidelberg. After organizing a revolutionary free corps
in Mannheim and later in
the Seekreis county, he soon became a leader of the Baden
revolutionary forces (with the rank of colonel) in the 1848 Revolution,
being one of the few revolutionaries with military command
experience. In April 1848, he led the "Sigel-Zug",
recruiting a militia of more than 4,000 volunteers to lead a siege
against the city of Freiburg.
was annihilated on April 23, 1848 by the better-equipped and more
experienced Prussian and Württemberg troops.
In 1849, he became Secretary of War
and commander-in-chief of the revolutionary republican government
of Baden. Wounded in a skirmish, Sigel had to resign his command
but continued to support the revolutionary war effort by aiding his
successor Ludwik Mieroslawski
Prussia suppressed the revolution, he fled
to Switzerland and then to England.
emigrated to the United
States in 1852, as did many other German Forty-Eighters.
taught in the New York
City public schools and served in the state
He married a daughter of Rudolf Dulon
and taught in his school.
he became a professor at the German-American Institute in St.
He was elected director of the St. Louis
public schools in 1860. He was influential in the Missouri
immigrant community. He attracted Germans to the Union
and anti-slavery causes
when he openly supported them in 1861.
Shortly after the start of the war, Sigel was commissioned colonel
of the 3rd Missouri
Infantry, a commission dating from May 4, 1861. He recruited and
organized an expedition to southwest Missouri, and subsequently
fought the Battle of
, where a force of pro-Confederate
handed him a setback in a relatively meaningless fight. However,
Sigel's defeat did help spark recruitment for the Missouri State Guard
Throughout the summer, President Abraham Lincoln
was actively seeking the
support of anti-slavery, pro-Unionist immigrants. Sigel, always
popular with the German immigrants, was a good candidate to advance
this plan. He was promoted to brigadier general
August 7, 1861, to rank from May 17, one of a number of early
Sigel served under Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon
in the capture of the Confederate Camp Jackson in St. Louis and at the Battle of
Wilson's Creek, where his command was routed after making a march
around the Confederate camp and attacking from the rear.
The Franz Sigel Monument in Forest
Park, St. Louis, Missouri
His finest performance came on March 8, 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge
, where he commanded
directed the Union artillery in the defeat of Maj. Gen.
Earl Van Dorn
on the second day of the
Sigel was promoted to major general on March 21, 1862. He served as a
division commander in the Shenandoah Valley and fought unsuccessfully against Maj.
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
, who managed to outwit
and defeat the larger Union force in a number of small engagements.
He commanded the I Corps
in Maj. Gen.
John Pope's Army of Virginia at the Second
Battle of Bull Run, another Union defeat, where he was wounded in the
Over the winter of 1862–63, Sigel commanded the XI Corps
, consisting primarily of German
immigrant soldiers, in the Army of
. During this period, the corps saw no action;
it stayed in reserve during the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Sigel had developed a reputation as an
inept general, but his ability to recruit and motivate German
immigrants kept him alive in a politically sensitive position. Many
of these soldiers could speak little English beyond "I'm going to
fight mit Sigel"
, which was their proud slogan and which became
one of the favorite songs of the war. They were quite disgruntled
when Sigel left the corps in February 1863 and was replaced by Maj.
Gen. Oliver O. Howard
, who had no immigrant affinities.
Fortunately for Sigel, the two black marks
in the XI Corps' reputation—Chancellorsville and Gettysburg—would occur after he was relieved.
Riverside Drive, New York City
The reason for Sigel's relief is unclear. Some accounts cite
failing health; others that he expressed his displeasure at the
small size of his corps and asked to be relieved. General-in-chief
Henry W. Halleck detested Sigel and managed to keep
him relegated to light duty in eastern Pennsylvania until March 1864.
President Lincoln, for
political reasons, directed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton
to place Sigel in command of the new Department of West Virginia.
new command, Sigel opened the Valley Campaigns of 1864, launching
an invasion of the Shenandoah Valley.
He was soundly defeated by Maj. Gen.
John C. Breckenridge at the Battle of
New Market, on May 15, 1864, which was particularly
embarrassing due to the prominent role young cadets from the
Military Institute played in his defeat.
In July, he fought
Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early at
Ferry, but soon afterwards was relieved of his command
for "lack of aggression" and replaced by Maj.
Gen. David Hunter
. Sigel spent the rest of the war
without an active command.
resigned his commission on May 4, 1865, and worked as a journalist
in Baltimore, and as a newspaper editor in New York City.
He filled a variety of political positions
there, both as a Democrat
and a Republican
. In 1869
, he ran on the Republican
ticket for Secretary of
State of New York
but was defeated by the incumbent Democrat
Homer Augustus Nelson
1887, President Grover Cleveland
appointed him pension agent for the city of New York. Franz Sigel died in
New York in 1902 and is buried there in Woodlawn
Cemetery in the
of him stand in Riverside Park in Manhattan and in Forest Park in St. Louis. There is also a park named for him in
Bronx, just south of the Courthouse near Yankee
Stadium. Seigel Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was named after him, as well as the village of
Sigel, Pennsylvania, founded in
- Carl Wittke, Refugees of Revolution: The German
Forty-Eighters in America, Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn. Press,
1952, p. 237.
- Retrieved on 2008-12-29
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David
J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University
Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union
Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN