Sigel was born in Baden, Germany on November 18, 1824. When Sigel arrived
in the United States from Germany in 1852, he brought a reputation as a
fighter and a liberal. A graduate of Karlsruhe Military Academy, he retired
from the German Army in 1847 and was minister of war for the unsuccessful
Revolution of 1848 against Prussia. He fled Germany, eventually arriving
in St. Louis, Missouri, where he taught school until 1861. In St. Louis,
he became an influential leader among the area’s large German population.
As part of President Abraham Lincoln’s plan of courting anti-slavery, Unionist
immigrants, Sigel was commissioned brigadier general on August 7, 1861.
He served under Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon in the capture of the secessionist
Camp Jackson in St. Louis and at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. His finest
performance came on March 8, 1862 at the Battle of Pea Ridge where, under
Major General Samuel R. Curtis, he commanded two divisions and personally
directed the Union artillery in the demoralizing defeat of Major General
Earl Van Dorn’s Confederates. Sigel was promoted to Major General on March
After transferring to the Eastern theater, he served in the Shenandoah Valley
against Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and commanded the I
Corps in Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia at the Second Battle
of Bull Run. He also briefly led the XI Corps. But his military usefulness
ended when, as commander of the Department of West Virginia, he was defeated
at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864. This battle was made famous
by the charge of the Virginia Military Institute cadets. Relieved of field
command shortly thereafter, he resigned his commission on May 4, 1865 and
re-entered civilian life. He died in New York City on August 21, 1902. Sigel
was an odd combination of ineptitude and ability. His military performance,
aside from Pea Ridge, was little better than mediocre. But he definitely
helped the Union cause by rallying German-Americans to the flag, and he
held their loyalty until the end.
The German Cause of Missouri
Reference and Credits:
- Above illustration: General Franz Sigel at the Battle of Pea Ridge, AK.
By Lithograph Artists: L. Kurz & Co. Milwakee, Wis. 1861. Click here to view and enlarged version of the picture.
- Contribution by Robert D. Hoffsommer in Historical Times Illustrated.
- Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Patricial L. Faust, Editor. harper & row Publishers. New York, NY. 1986.
- Midi File courtesy of Benjamin Robert Tubb. Visit his webpage.
- Text by Don Palmer. HTML & Graphics editing by Scott Williams.
Copyright 1999. U.S. Grant Camp #68. SUVCW St. Louis, MO