Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902

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Sigel was born in Sinsheim, Baden (Germany), and attended the gymnasium in Bruchsal. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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", 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. After the battle, Sigel was replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter. In July, Sigel fought Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early at Harpers Ferry, but soon afterward was replaced by Albion P. Howe.

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

Sigel resigned his commission on May 4, 1865. He worked as editor of the Baltimore Wecker for a short time, 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. 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.

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

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. Siegel Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was named after him, 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.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Ambrose W. Thompson Papers, 1847-1960, (bulk 1860-1882) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Franz Sigel Papers, 1806-1930 (Bulk 1848-1880) @ 2011 New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Thompson, Ambrose W. Papers of Ambrose W. Thompson, 1847-1960 (bulk 1860-1882). Library of Congress
creatorOf [Southwest of Missouri, near Arkansas]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Whaley, Kellian Van Rensalear, 1821-1876. Papers, 1861-1879. Virginia Historical Society Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Position at Chantilly / copy. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Reader, F. S. (Frank Smith), b. 1842. Diary, 1864 Mar. 10-1864 June 23. Washington & Lee University, James G. Leyburn Library
creatorOf Westendarp, W. [Map of an area between the Robertson and Great Run Rivers near Madison, Virginia] / W. Westendarp. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Perry, Josiah W. Letters, Aug. 22, 1862-Dec. 1, 1864. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
creatorOf Ernst, George W., 26th Indiana Volunteers. Plan of the battle field of Prairie Grove Ark., Decembr. 7th 1862 / compiled & drawn by Geo. W. Ernst. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Position of the troops under Colonel Sigel's Command in the southwest of Missouri, near Arkansas, on the 2d of July, 1861. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. 1st Division Chantilly Va. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Battle ground of June 5th 1864. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. [Map of an area between the Robertson and Rapidan Rivers near Madison, Virginia] / B[???]y ; guides Sgt. Charles Wood ; Ambrose [Lar]icks, Comp. K. First Maryl. Rgt. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn George E. Stonebridge Photograph Collection, Bulk, 1899-1904, 1897-1918 (Bulk 1899-1904) © 2011 New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Letter, Oct. 9, 1862. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Approved Pension File for Elise Sigel, Widow of Major General Franz Sigel, U.S. Volunteers (WC-550037) United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Map showing the disposition of troops of the 1st & 2d Divisions on the 7th of March between 3 & 4 p.m. and of one part of them in the night of 7th, to 8th, commanded by Gen. Sigel. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Letter : Stafford, Va., 1862 Jan. 20. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Weydemeyer, Luise. Luise Weydemeyer and family correspondence, 1849-1869. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
creatorOf [Plan of the Battlefield of Pea Ridge, Arkansas]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn PH 1716, Young, Brigham 1801-1877. Brigham Young photographs circa 1860-1870 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church History Library
creatorOf Allen, Mary Rivers. Collection of letters and autographs, 1846-1881 Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Franz Sigel papers, 1863-1870. Library of Congress
referencedIn Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894. Nathaniel Prentiss Banks papers, 1829-1911 (bulk 1860-1880). Library of Congress
creatorOf United States. Army of the Potomac. Corps, 11th. Map of routes and positions of the XI Corps under command of General Franz Sigel from Middeltown [sic] to Fredericksburg / Franz Kappner, Chief Engineer, Eleventh Corps. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Rosengarten, J. G. (Joseph George), 1835-1921. The German allied troops in the North American war of independence, and related materials, ca. 1767-1893. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Sigel, Franz - New York - Pension Agent - New York City Pension Office United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Gordon, Nancy. Homassel family of Virginia notes [manuscript], [1946?]. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Hedgeman, G. [Map of an area north of Sperryville and Warrenton, Virginia] / G. Hedgeman ... Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Crandell, Lewis H. Lewis H. Crandell Civil War diary, 1863 Jan 1-Dec. 25. Navarro College
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Letter signed : St. Louis, Mo., to a Secretary Woods, 1861 Sept. 3. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Franz Sigel papers, 1861-1862, 1900-1901. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Orlemann, L. H. Battlefield of Chancellorsville, May 2nd, 1863 / [sketched?] by L.H. Orlemann Topological Engineer, staf[f] II Brigade III Division 11 Army Corps. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Strategical map of the country between Fayetteville, Maysville & Cassville showing the different positions & movements of the 1st & 2d division under command of Gen. Sigel on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th of March. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Burchard, William. Battlefield of August 29th and 30th 1862 / Wm. Burchard. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. [Map of an area near Bentonville, Arkansas]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Letters concerning the conduct of Major Emeric Meszaros in the Battle of Pea Ridge, 1862-1863. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Jacob Picard Collection, 1882-1992 Leo Baeck Institute.
creatorOf Map showing the position of our troops and the retreat of Price's & McCulloch's forces after the battle of Pea Ridge on the 8 of March. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sweeny, T. W., Capt. [Map accompanying report of the Battle of Dry Fork Creek, Mo. on the 5th of July, 1861]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Sigel, Franz -- Major General United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Autograph letter signed : Headquarters, 2nd Brig. St. Louis, Mo., to George F. Heidemann, 1861 Sept. 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Map showing part of the road from Bentonville to Sugar Creek where the rear of Gen. Sigel's command was attacked. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn National War Committee of the Citizens of New York. National War Committee of the Citizens of New York records, 1862-1863. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Nathaniel Prentiss Banks Papers, 1829-1911, (bulk 1860-1880) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Sketch showing the position of the Eleventh Corps on May 2d & 5th. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. [Map of the Sperryville, Virginia region]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Evans, Thomas D., b. 1846. Pocket diary of Thomas D. Evans, 1864. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Levi P. Morton Correspondence, 1860-1912 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Civil War Commandery of the State of Massachusetts collection: Patriotic covers, ca. 1861-1865. Houghton Library
referencedIn [Missouri broadside collection]. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Papers, 1861-1902. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Defences on Maryland Hights and adjacent country. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part III: The Civil War: The Union, 1804-1915. Houghton Library
creatorOf [Plan of the Battlefield of Pea Ridge, Arkansas]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874. Correspondence, 1829-1874 Houghton Library
referencedIn Letters concerning the conduct of Major Emeric Meszaros in the Battle of Pea Ridge, 1862-1863. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Sea, Andrew McBrayer, Collector, b. 1876. Collection, 1781-1936. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. [Plan of the Battlefield of Pea Ridge, Arkansas]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902. Caricatures by Thomas Nast [manuscript], 1866. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Letter, [ca. 1890], Trenton, N.J., to A.E. Allen. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Franz Sigel Papers, 1858-1902 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Map of Warrenton. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Philip Case Lockwood memorial collection of Civil War portraits and autographs, 1862-ca. 1886. Houghton Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. [Map of Sperryville, Virginia]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Massachusetts Civil War collection, 1724-1933 (inclusive);, 1861-1912 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Sigel, Franz - New York - Pension Agent - New York City Pension Office United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902. Franz Sigel papers, 1806-1901 (bulk 1860-1862). New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Rosengarten, J. G. (Joseph George), 1835-1921. The German soldier in the wars of the United States, and related letters and clippings, 1885-1886. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Sigel, Franz, 1824-1902,. Map of Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Imboden, George W. (George William), 1836-1922. Civil War letters of George W. Imboden, 1864 May 29-Dec. 11. Navarro College
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allen, A. E. person
associatedWith Allen, Mary Rivers, person
associatedWith Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894. person
associatedWith Burchard, William. person
associatedWith Burnside, Ambrose Everett, 1824-1881. person
associatedWith Butler-Gunsaulus Collection (University of Chicago. Library) corporateBody
associatedWith Butz, Caspar, 1825-1885. person
associatedWith Cesnola, Luigi Palma di, 1832-1904. person
associatedWith Crandell, Lewis H. person
associatedWith Curtis, Samuel Ryan, 1805-1866. person
correspondedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith Dulon, Rudolph, 1807-1870. person
associatedWith Ernst, George W., 26th Indiana Volunteers. person
associatedWith Evans, Thomas D., b. 1846. person
associatedWith Frémont, John Charles, 1813-1890. person
associatedWith Giesecke, F. person
associatedWith Halleck, H. W. (Henry Wager), 1815-1872. person
associatedWith Hedgeman, G. person
associatedWith Heidemann, George F., person
associatedWith Hunter, David, 1802-1886. person
associatedWith Imboden, George W. (George William), 1836-1922. person
associatedWith Kennedy, James M., army officer. person
correspondedWith Knapp, W. A. person
associatedWith Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 person
associatedWith Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865. person
correspondedWith Lockwood, Philip Case, 1844-1897 person
associatedWith Lyon, George G. person
associatedWith Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. corporateBody
associatedWith Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. corporateBody
associatedWith Morton, Levi P. (Levi Parsons), 1824-1920 person
associatedWith Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902. person
associatedWith National War Committee of the Citizens of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Nichols, G. S., fl. 1862. person
associatedWith Orlemann, L. H. person
associatedWith Perry, Josiah W. person
associatedWith Picard, Jacob, 1883-1967 person
associatedWith Pope, John, 1822-1892. person
associatedWith Reader, F. S. (Frank Smith), b. 1842. person
associatedWith Rosengarten, J. G. (Joseph George), 1835-1921. person
associatedWith Schurz, Carl, 1829-1906. person
associatedWith Sea, Andrew McBrayer, Collector, b. 1876. person
associatedWith Siegel family. family
associatedWith Sigel, Elise Dulon. person
associatedWith Sigel, Elsie Dulon person
associatedWith Sigel Family family
associatedWith Sigel, Franz Moritz, 1788-1863. person
associatedWith Stahel, Julius, 1825-1912. person
associatedWith Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-1869. person
associatedWith Steinwehr, A. von (Adolph), 1822-1877. person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
associatedWith Sweeny, T. W., Capt. person
associatedWith Thompson, Ambrose W. person
associatedWith United States. Army corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army of the Potomac corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army of the Potomac. Corps, 11th. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Universität Heidelberg. corporateBody
associatedWith Weber, Max, 1824-1901. person
associatedWith Westendarp, W. person
associatedWith Weydemeyer, Luise. person
associatedWith Whaley, Kellian Van Rensalear, 1821-1876. person
associatedWith Windwart, Heinrich. person
associatedWith Woods, Secretary, person
associatedWith Young, Brigham 1801-1877 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Virginia VA US
Bruchsal 01 DE
Arkansas AR US
New York City NY US
St. Louis MO US
Federal Republic of Germany 00 DE
Karlsruhe 01 DE
Missouri MO US
Subject
New Market, Battle of, New Market, Va., 1864
Bull Run, 2nd Battle of, Va., 1862
German Americans--Missouri--St. Louis--History
German American soldiers
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, German American
Revolutions
Germans
German Americans--New York (State)--New York
Fredericksburg, Battle of, Fredericksburg, Va., 1862
Forty--Eighters (American immigrants)
Civil War, 1861-1865
Wilson's Creek, Battle of, Mo., 1861
Pea Ridge, Battle of, Ark., 1862
Germans--United States
Military pensions
Generals--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
Occupation
Military officers
Soldiers
Collector
Revolutionaries
Generals
Lawyers
Civil servants
Editors
Professors (teacher)
Function

Person

Birth 1824-11-18

Death 1902-08-21

Male

Americans,

Germans

English,

German

Information

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