Major General Franz Sigel
Department of West Virginia Commander
Franz Sigel graduated from the Karlsruhe Military Academy of Baden (Germany) in 1843. He was involved in the 1848 Revolution against Prussian rule. He recruited 4,000 militia and led them to defeat against experienced Prussian and Wurttemberg troops at Freiburg. In 1849 Franz Sigel became the Secretary of War for the revolutionary government of Baden. When the revolt was suppressed, he fled the country. He emigrated to the United States in 1852 where he taught school.
Franz Sigel was appointed to a professorship at the German-American Institute in St. Louis in 1857. He was very influential in the German emigrant community in St. Louis and was elected director of the St. Louis public schools in 1860. As a part of President Lincoln's plan to gain support of anti-slavery immigrants, Franz Sigel was appointed to be a Brigadier General in the Union Army on August 7, 1861.
Many more defeats than victories marked General Sigel's record in the Union Army. His command was routed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. At the Battle of Pea Ridge, General Sigel commanded two divisions and directed the artillery that defeated Confederate General Van Dorn. After this important victory, Franz Sigel was promoted to major general and reassigned to the Shenandoah Valley. He was no match for Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson who beat him in several encounters. Next General Sigel commanded I Corps at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was again defeated as well as being wounded. Then he commanded XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac which contained many German immigrants. This corps was held in reserve at the Battle of Fredericksburg. General Sigel left before disaster befell XI Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. To aid his re-nomination, President Lincoln had General Sigel placed in command of the Department of West Virginia. General Sigel initiated an invasion of the Shenandoah Valley, and he was defeated at the Battle of New Market. Next he was defeated at Harpers Ferry. He was relieved of duty and resigned his commission. After the Civil War, Franz Sigel worked as a newspaper journalist, and he held many political posts. He died on August 21, 1902 in the city of New York at the age of seventy-seven.
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