Franz Sigel

Franz Sigel (November 18, 1824 – August 21, 1902) was a German American military officer, revolutionist and immigrant to the United States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and served as a Union major general in the American Civil War. His ability to recruit German-speaking immigrants to the Union armies received the approval of President Abraham Lincoln, but he was strongly disliked by General-in-Chief Henry Halleck.

Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel
BornNovember 18, 1824
Sinsheim, Baden, Germany
DiedAugust 21, 1902 (aged 77)
New York City, New York
Place of burial
Allegiance Baden
Baden Revolutionaries
 United States of America
Service/branchBaden Army
Baden Revolutionary Forces
United States Army
Years of service1843–1847 (Baden)
1848 (Revolutionaries)
1861–1865 (USA)
RankLieutenant (Baden)
Colonel (Baden Revolutionaries)
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General (USA)
Commands heldXI Corps
Battles/warsBaden Revolution
American Civil War
Appleton's Sigel Franz signature

Early life

Sigel was born in Sinsheim, Baden (Germany), and attended the gymnasium in Bruchsal.[1] He graduated from Karlsruhe Military Academy in 1843, and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Baden Army. He met the revolutionaries Friedrich Hecker and Gustav von Struve and became associated with the revolutionary movement. He was wounded in a duel in 1847. The same 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. His militia was defeated on April 23, 1848 by the numerically inferior but better led troops of the Grand Duchy of Baden. 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 as adjutant general to his successor Ludwik Mieroslawski. In July, after the defeat of the revolutionaries by Prussian troops and Mieroslawski's departure, Sigel led the retreat of the remaining troops in their flight to Switzerland.[2] Sigel later went on to England. Sigel emigrated to the United States in 1852, as did many other German Forty-Eighters.

Sigel taught in the New York City public schools and served in the state militia. He married a daughter of Rudolf Dulon and taught in Dulon's school.[3] In 1857, he became a professor at the German-American Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. 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 antislavery causes when he openly supported them in 1861.

Civil War

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 Carthage, where a force of pro-Confederate Missouri militia handed him a setback in a strategically insignificant fight. However, Sigel's defeat did help spark recruitment for the Missouri State Guard and local Confederate forces. Sigel later took part in a skirmish at Dug Springs.[2]

Throughout the summer, President Lincoln actively sought the support of antislavery, pro-Unionist immigrants. Sigel, always popular with the German immigrants, was a good candidate to advance this plan. He was promoted to brigadier general on August 7, 1861, to rank from May 17, one of a number of early political generals endorsed by Lincoln.

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. Sigel conducted the retreat of the army after the death of General Lyon.[2]

Franz Sigel 106 RSD jeh
Riverside Drive, New York City

His finest performance came on March 8, 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, where he commanded two divisions and personally directed the Union artillery in the defeat of Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn on the second day of the battle.[4]

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. Gen. 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 hand.

Over the winter of 1862–63, Sigel commanded the XI Corps, consisting primarily of German immigrant soldiers, in the Army of the Potomac. 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 employed in a politically sensitive position. Many of these soldiers could speak little English beyond "I'm going to fight mit Sigel",[5] 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 Major-General 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.

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. Many historians also cite the lack of military prowess and skill. On multiple occasions, he made terrible military decisions, resulting in deaths of his soldiers and also Nathaniel Lyon in 1861 at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. 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.

In his 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. Breckinridge at the Battle of New Market, on May 15, 1864, which was particularly embarrassing due to the prominent role young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute played in his defeat. [4] After the battle, Sigel was replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter. In July, Sigel fought Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early at Harpers Ferry,[4] but soon afterward was replaced by Albion P. Howe.

Sigel spent the rest of the war without an active command.

Postbellum career

Appleton's Sigel Franz
Portrait from Appleton's Cyclopedia

Sigel resigned his commission on May 4, 1865. He worked as editor of the Baltimore Wecker for a short time,[2] and then 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, losing to the incumbent Democrat Homer Augustus Nelson. In May 1871 he became collector of internal revenue, and then in October 1871 register of the city.[6] In 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed him pension agent for the city of New York. He also lectured, worked in advertising and published the New York Monthly, a German-American periodical, for some years.[2]

Franz Sigel died in New York in 1902 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City. Elsie Sigel, the victim of a famous murder, was his granddaughter.


Statues of him stand in Riverside Park, corner 106th Street in Manhattan and in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. There is also a park named for him in the Bronx, just south of the Courthouse near Yankee Stadium.[7] Siegel Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was named after him,[8] Sigel Street in Worcester, Massachusetts was also named after him, as well as the village of Sigel, Pennsylvania, founded in 1865, in addition to Sigel, Illinois, which was settled in 1863. Sigel Township, Minnesota, settled in 1856 and organized in April 1862, was also named for Sigel. In about 1873 Sigel himself visited Sigel Township and New Ulm, Minnesota.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Wittke 1952, p. 237.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gilman, Thurston & Colby 1905
  3. ^ Wilson & Fiske 1900.
  4. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ Poole 2014.
  6. ^ Reynolds 1921.
  7. ^ New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
  8. ^ Benardo & Weiss 2006, pp. 28–29.
  9. ^ Upham 2001, p. 75.


  • Benardo, Leonard; Weiss, Jennifer (2006). Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges and More Got Their Names. New York University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-8147-9946-9.
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sigel, Franz" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 60.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Sigel, Franz" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  • "Franz Sigel Park Highlights : NYC Parks". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  • Poole, John F. (1 July 2014). "I'm Going to Fight Mit Sigel". Duke Digital Collections. Retrieved April 2016. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help) copied from: Poole, John F. I'm Going to Fight Mit Sigel. 54 Chatham Street, New York: H. de Marsan (Publisher of Songs, ballads, toy books, etc.).
  •  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Sigel, Franz" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.
  • Upham, Warren (2001). Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia. MHS Press. p. 75.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Sigel, Franz" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 5. New York: D. Appleton.
  • Wittke, Carl (1952). Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America. Philadelphia: University of Penn. Press. p. 237.

Further reading

  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Engle, Stephen D. The Yankee Dutchman: The Life of Franz Sigel. University of Arkansas Press, 1993. ISBN 978-1557282736.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of the XI Corps
September 12, 1862 – January 10, 1863
Succeeded by
Julius H. Stahel
Preceded by
Carl Schurz
Commander of the XI Corps
February 5, 1863 – February 22, 1863
Succeeded by
Adolph von Steinwehr
Army of the Potomac

The Army of the Potomac was the principal Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. It was created in July 1861 shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run and was disbanded in May 1865 following the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April.

Battle of Carthage (1861)

The Battle of Carthage, also known as the Battle of Dry Fork, took place at the beginning of the American Civil War on July 5, 1861, in Jasper County, Missouri. The experienced Colonel Franz Sigel commanded 1,100 Federal soldiers intent on keeping Missouri within the Union. The Missouri State Guard was commanded by Governor Claiborne F. Jackson himself and numbered over 4,000 soldiers led by a hero of Mexico, Sterling Price, along with 2,000 unarmed troops who did not participate in the battle. The battle was a strategic victory by the Missouri State Guard in large part owing to new tactics introduced on the battlefield by independent partisan rangers serving with Capt. Jo Shelby. Carthage played a part in determining Missouri's course during the war, as it helped spark recruitment for the Southern regiments. A founder of the county who fought in the battle and was then elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th Missouri Cavalry Regiment and 5th Missouri Infantry, attorney Robert Wells Crawford served as a recruiter for the Confederate Army in Missouri, a post he was nominated for by Waldo P. Johnson, formerly a United States Senator from Missouri in a letter to Missouri governor-in-exile Jackson dated October 24, 1862.

Battle of New Market

The Battle of New Market was fought on May 15, 1864, in Virginia during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. A makeshift Confederate army of 4,100 men, which included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), defeated Union Major General Franz Sigel and his Army of the Shenandoah. The cadets were integral to the Confederate victory at New Market.

As a result of this defeat Sigel was relieved of his command and replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter.

Battle of Wilson's Creek

The Battle of Wilson's Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, was the first major battle of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War. Fought on August 10, 1861, near Springfield, Missouri, between Federal forces and the Missouri State Guard, it is sometimes called the "Bull Run of the West."

At the beginning of the war, Missouri maintained an officially neutral status. However, its governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, began to work to bring Missouri out of the Union by purchasing arms from and fighting alongside Confederate troops. The two sides repeatedly skirmished, most notably in the Camp Jackson affair, the Battle of Boonville, and the Battle of Carthage. Jackson's support for secession resulted in his removal by a constitutional convention in July. Jackson refused to accept the maneuver as valid, and continued to act as governor.

In early August 1861, Confederates under the command of Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch and Missouri State Guard troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price approached Union Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon's Army of the West, which was camped at Springfield. On August 9, both sides formulated plans to attack the other. At about 5:00 a.m. on August 10, Lyon, in two columns commanded by himself and Col. Franz Sigel, attacked the Confederates on Wilson's Creek about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Springfield. Confederate cavalry received the first blow and retreated from the high ground, later referred to as "Bloody Hill," and infantry soon rushed up to stabilize their positions. The Confederates attacked the Union forces three times during the day, but failed to break through. When Lyon was killed during the battle and General Thomas William Sweeny wounded, Major Samuel D. Sturgis assumed command of the Union forces. Meanwhile, the Confederates routed Sigel's column south of Skegg's Branch. Following the third Confederate attack, which ended at 11:00 a.m., the Union withdrew. When Sturgis realized that his men were exhausted and lacking ammunition, he ordered a retreat to Springfield. The Confederates were too disorganized and ill-equipped to pursue the retreating Federal forces.

The Confederate victory buoyed Southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north that carried Sterling Price and his Missouri State Guard as far as Lexington. In late October, a convention organized by Jackson met in Neosho and passed out an ordinance of secession. Although the state remained in the Union for the remainder of the war, the Battle of Wilson's Creek effectively gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri. Today, the National Park Service operates Wilson's Creek National Battlefield on the site of the original conflict.

Carthage Union order of battle

The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Carthage of the American Civil War. The Confederate order of battle is listed separately.

Concourse, Bronx

Concourse is a neighborhood in the southwestern section of the New York City borough of the Bronx which includes the Bronx County Courthouse, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Yankee Stadium. The neighborhood is divided into three subsections: West Concourse, East Concourse, and Concourse Village.The neighborhood is part of Bronx Community Board 4, and its ZIP Codes are 10451 and 10452. The local subway is the IND Concourse Line (B and ​D trains), operating along the Grand Concourse, and the IRT Jerome Avenue Line (4 train), operating along River Avenue. The area is patrolled by the NYPD's 44th Precinct.

Elsie Sigel

Elsie Sigel (1889– ca. June 1909) was a granddaughter of General Franz Sigel, and the victim of a notorious murder at the age of 19 in New York City in 1909.

Sigel, who had been a missionary in Chinatown, was found strangled inside a trunk on 18 June 1909 in the apartment of the prime suspect, a Chinese man named "William" Leon Ling, a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. Sigel had been missing since June 9, when she was last seen leaving her parents' apartment to visit her grandmother.

George von Amsberg

Georg von Amsberg (June 24, 1821 – November 21, 1876) was a German, who served in Austria, Hungary, and the United States as a military officer in both the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the American Civil War. Along with such other figures as Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel, he was among a group of European revolutionaries and emigrants who have been collectively termed "Forty-Eighters", a number of whom served prominently in the Union Army.

Hardee hat

The Hardee hat, also known as the Model 1858 Dress Hat and sometimes nicknamed the "Jeff Davis", was the regulation dress hat for enlisted men in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Hardee hat was also worn by Confederate soldiers. However, most soldiers found the black felt hat to be too hot and heavy and shunned its use, preferring a kepi or slouch hat. The hardee hat was most famously worn and easily identified, as the hat worn by the Union Army's Iron Brigade, which became their trademark and were popularly known, by the nickname, "The Black Hats". However, the unadorned, plain and often field-modified Hardee hat was worn by Union troops, especially in the Western theater.

The hat apparently was named after William J. Hardee, a career officer in the U.S. Army from 1838 until resigning his commission on January 31, 1861. Hardee was Commandant of Cadets at West Point from 1856 to 1860. He was lieutenant colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry until just before the war. In 1855, he published Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen, popularly known as Hardee's Tactics, which became the best-known drill manual of both sides of the Civil War. He joined the Confederate States Army in March 1861 and eventually became a lieutenant general and corps commander.

U.S. Army regulations specified that the hat should be adorned with a brass hat device and a wool hat cord denoting the branch of service of the wearer: sky blue for infantry, scarlet for artillery, and gold for cavalry. The brim was to be pinned up on the right side for cavalrymen and artillerymen, and on the left for infantry soldiers.

Hecker uprising

The Hecker uprising was an attempt by Baden revolutionary leaders Friedrich Hecker, Gustav von Struve, and several other radical democrats in April 1848 to overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic in the Grand Duchy of Baden. The main action of the uprising consisted of an armed civilian militia under the leadership of Friedrich Hecker moving from Konstanz in the direction of Karlsruhe with the intention of joining with another armed group under the leadership of Georg Herwegh there to topple the government. The two groups were halted independently by the troops of the German Confederation before they could combine forces. The Hecker Uprising was the first large uprising of the Baden Revolution and became, along with its leader, part of the national myth.

Julius Stahel

Julius H. Stahel-Számwald (November 5, 1825 – December 4, 1912) was a Hungarian soldier who emigrated to the United States and became a Union general in the American Civil War. After the war, he served as a U.S. diplomat, a mining engineer, and a life insurance company executive. He received the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at the Battle of Piedmont in 1864.

Pea Ridge Confederate order of battle

The Battle of Pea Ridge (March 7–8, 1862) saw a Confederate States Army led by Earl Van Dorn attack a Union Army commanded by Samuel Ryan Curtis in northwestern Arkansas. Van Dorn divided his army into two columns under Sterling Price and Benjamin McCulloch and sent both in a deep envelopment of the Union position, forcing Curtis to face toward his own rear. Curtis sent one division under Eugene Asa Carr northeast and two more divisions under Peter Joseph Osterhaus and Jefferson C. Davis to the northwest. On the first day, Price's attack drove Carr's troops back in bitter fighting near Elkhorn Tavern. The second attack failed when McCulloch and his second-in-command were killed and his third-in-command was captured. On the second day, preceded by a devastating artillery bombardment directed by Franz Sigel, Curtis' army advanced and drove Van Dorn's army from the field. The battle secured Missouri for the Union, though the state afterward suffered from Confederate guerilla warfare and raiding columns.The following Confederate Army units and commanders fought in the battle. The Pea Ridge Union order of battle is shown separately.

Pea Ridge Union order of battle

The Battle of Pea Ridge (March 7–8, 1862) saw a Confederate States Army led by Earl Van Dorn attack a Union Army commanded by Samuel Ryan Curtis in northwestern Arkansas. Van Dorn split his army into two columns under Sterling Price and Benjamin McCulloch and sent both circling behind the Union positions, forcing Curtis to face to his own rear. Curtis sent a division under Eugene Asa Carr northeast and two more divisions under Peter Joseph Osterhaus and Jefferson C. Davis to the northwest. On the first day, Price's attack drove Carr's troops back in brutal fighting near Elkhorn Tavern. The second attack miscarried when McCulloch and his second-in-command were killed and his third-in-command was captured. On the second day, preceded by an accurate artillery bombardment conducted by Franz Sigel, Curtis' army advanced and drove Van Dorn's forces from the field. The battle secured Missouri for the Union, though the state was afterward subjected to guerilla warfare and raiding columns.The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the battle. The Pea Ridge Confederate order of battle is shown separately.


Sigel may refer to:

Sigel, the Old English for "Sun", see Sól (Sun)

the Old English name of the s-rune, see Sowilō rune

A magic sign see Sigil (magic)

Sigel, Illinois

Sigel is an incorporated town in Shelby County, Illinois, United States. The population was 386 at the 2000 census.

The town was named after Franz Sigel, (1824–1902), a Union general in the American Civil War.

Sigel Township, Brown County, Minnesota

Sigel Township is a township in Brown County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 432 as of the 2000 census. The township was first settled in 1856 and organized during the American Civil War in 1862, and was named in honor of German immigrant and Union Army general Franz Sigel.


Sinsheim (German pronunciation: [ˈzɪnshaɪ̯m]) is a town in south-western Germany, in the Rhine Neckar Area of the state Baden-Württemberg about 22 kilometres (14 mi) south-east of Heidelberg and about 28 kilometres (17 mi) north-west of Heilbronn in the district Rhein-Neckar.

William Hexamer

William Hexamer commanded an artillery battery in the American Civil War. Hexamer was born in Koblenz, Germany on April 12, 1825. During the 1848 Revolution he served as an aide to Franz Sigel. Both of them had to go into exile when the revolution failed.

By 1861, Hexamer, with the rank of major, was commander of a militia battery called the Hudson County Artillery.

XI Corps (Union Army)

Not to be confused with XI Corps (United States).

The XI Corps (Eleventh Army Corps) was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War, best remembered for its involvement in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in 1863.

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