Major General Franz Sigel (USA)

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Franz Sigel

Also Known As: "Franz Peter Sigel"
Birthplace: Sinsheim, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Death: August 21, 1902 (77)
Morrisiana, New York, New York, NY, United States
Place of Burial: New York City, Bronx, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Franz Moritz Sigel and Maria Anna Paulina Sigel
Husband of Eliza Sigel
Father of Robert M Sigel; Paul Sigel; Rudolph Franz Sigel; Leila Schehl and Franz Sigel
Brother of Laura, Freifrau von Geyer (Sigel); Maria Elisabetha Sigel; Maria Anna Theresia Brettle; Karl Philipp Aemil Sigel; Philipp Albert Sigel and 2 others

Managed by: Tobias Rachor (C)
Last Updated:

About Major General Franz Sigel (USA)

Franz Sigel

(November 18, 1824 – August 21, 1902) was a German 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.

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 a lieutenant in the Baden Army. He got to know 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 army 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 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. 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 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 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 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]

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 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.

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.

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. Breckenridge 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] In July, he fought Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early at Harpers Ferry,[4] but soon afterward 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.

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 but was defeated by the incumbent Democrat Homer Augustus Nelson. In May 1871 he was collector of internal revenue, and then in October 1871 register of the city.[5] 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 there in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Elsie Sigel was his granddaughter.

Statues of him stand in Riverside Park in Manhattan and in Forest Park in St. Louis. 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,[6] as well as the village of Sigel, Pennsylvania, founded in 1865. 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.[7]


[1] Carl Wittke, Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America, Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn. Press, 1952, p. 237.

[2] a b c d e Wikisource-logo.svg "Sigel, Franz". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.

[3] Wikisource-logo.svg "Sigel, Franz". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1891.

[4] a b c Chisholm 1911.

[5] Wikisource-logo.svg "Sigel, Franz". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.

[6] Benardo, Leonard; Weiss, Jennifer. 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.

[7] Warren Upham, "Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia," MHS Press, 2001, page 75


Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sigel, Franz". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Wikisource-logo.svg "Sigel, Franz". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1891.


Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.


Franz Sigel was a Union general during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Born in Germany and a leader of the failed insurrections of 1848, Sigel rallied German-Americans to the Union cause in 1861 with the slogan, "I goes to fight mit Sigel." As a general, however, he was only modestly successful and his relationship with his superiors was so contentious that he resigned from the army twice before returning; only his ties to the politically important German-American constituency saved him. In addition, those ties allowed him to be promoted to command of the Department of West Virginia in 1864, but he led his troops to a disastrous defeat at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, against Confederate forces that included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. When a Confederate army under Jubal A. Early was able to reach the outskirts of Washington, D.C., a month later, Sigel was relieved of command and he resigned from the army a year later.

Early Years

Franz Sigel was born on November 18, 1824, in Sinsheim, in the Grand Duchy of Baden, in what is now Germany. He was educated at the Classical School at Bruchsal and at the Military Academy at Karsruhe, from which he graduated in 1843. He was appointed a lieutenant in the 4th Infantry, but resigned his commission to help lead the revolutionary forces of 1848. Although still quite young, Sigel earned a reputation for charismatic leadership and courage in battle, but—in a foreshadowing of his Civil War career—it soon became clear that he was more successful at politics than at war. After the insurrection was crushed by the Prussians, Sigel fled first to Switzerland and then to France. He met with the German political theorist Friedrich Engels and the Italian revolutionaries Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, as well as several German refugees and the future Civil War generals Carl Schurz, Louis Blenker, and Alexander Schimmelfennig.

Fearing arrest in France, Sigel traveled to England, and there met Engels's fellow revolutionary Karl Marx and Elsie Dulon, Sigel's future wife. In May 1852 he moved to New York City, where he worked as a tobacconist, surveyor, teacher, and musician. In 1855 he formed the German-American Institute with his father-in-law, Rudolf Dulon. He taught mathematics, history, and languages, in addition to teaching in the public schools and at the German Turner Society. (The first Turnverein was founded in the United States in 1848 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and mixed physical exercise—Turner is a German word for gymnast—with intellectual development.) Sigel also wrote for the New York Times and was active in the 5th New York Militia.

In 1857, he relocated to Saint Louis, Missouri, to teach at the German-American Institute and there became a school superintendent and, like many so-called Forty-Eighters, joined the Republican Party. German-Americans were an important enough political constituency that in 1860 the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, purchased an Illinois-based German-language newspaper, Staats-Anzeiger, for four hundred dollars on the agreement that it would support him. When Lincoln won the election of 1860, the Turners provided his bodyguard at the inauguration. And when war erupted the following year, Lincoln again drew upon the German-American community, this time for military service. There were approximately 500,000 German-Americans of military age in the North, 200,000 of whom, like Sigel, had been born in Germany. Over the course of the war, Lincoln combed the ranks of these Germans for military leaders, with politics sometimes outweighing competence. For instance, when Lincoln promoted Alexander Schimmelfennig to general against the advice of his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, he explained that "his name will make up for any difference there may be."

Politics, War, and Controversy

Sigel rallied Germans to the Union in 1861, and the phrase "I goes to fight mit Sigel" became a popular recruiting slogan. He was rewarded by being appointed colonel of the 3rd Missouri Infantry, one of several regiments of ninety-day volunteers raised under the direction of Union general Nathaniel Lyon to expel Confederates from the state. At the Battle of Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri, on August 10, 1861, Sigel led the Second Missouri Brigade in a difficult and bold flanking maneuver that showcased his bravery but was also a conspicuous failure. Although Lyon was killed, Missouri remained in Union hands and Sigel was appointed brigadier general on August 17 (effective May 17).

Sigel was soon caught up in controversy. His self-promoting description of Wilson's Creek was challenged by several officers present on the field and he was ridiculed by the Wisconsin newspaper the Janesville Daily Gazette for being "superior in theoretical [tactics], incompetent in battle and hell on retreat." When his command was given to Samuel R. Curtis in the winter of 1861, Sigel resigned in protest and, in so doing, enjoyed the full support of the German-American community. He returned, however, in time to lead a division at the Battle of Pea Ridge, or Elkhorn Tavern, near Bentonville, Arkansas, on March 7–8, 1862. Outnumbered Union forces under Curtis defeated the Confederates, and Sigel's supporters credited their man with the victory while Curtis and others argued that his role was overstated.

Sigel was promoted to major general of volunteers on March 21, 1862—likely a political move on Lincoln's part—and transferred east in May. His fellow German general, Carl Schurz, blamed Sigel's persistent problems not on his military shortcomings but on the cliquishness of West Pointers: "There is no less professional jealousy among military men than there is among musicians or actors." One such West Pointer was John Pope, whose Army of Virginia Sigel joined after fighting under Nathaniel P. Banks in the Shenandoah Valley. Sigel was tardy in supporting the Union center attacked by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's forces at the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County on August 9, and Pope was furious with him. Sigel's claim that he never received his marching orders may have been true, but he still heard the battle raging, even while feeding and resting his men.

The Second Battle of Manassas later that month proved to be the only major battle where Sigel's performance merited praise. His First Corps opened the fight against Stonewall Jackson on August 29 and helped to repulse Confederate general James Longstreet's assault the next day. Yet even here he did not escape controversy. Following the battle, a disaster for Union forces, Pope searched for scapegoats and turned first to Union general Irvin McDowell and then to Fitz John Porter. Sigel became embroiled in the subsequent investigations, and the mutual antipathy between him and McDowell was on full display.

When the Army of Virginia disbanded, Sigel's First Corps became the Army of the Potomac's Eleventh Corps, but Sigel took leave and then, upon returning, complained that his corps was too small. He resigned a second time and, when he was ready to return, the Union army's general-in-chief, Henry W. Halleck, refused him his old command. As a result, Sigel missed the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, where the Germans of the Eleventh Corps, now led by the Maine evangelical and Union general Oliver O. Howard, fled in the face of Stonewall Jackson's famous surprise attack. They "run like deer," a New York soldier remembered bitterly, "saying they wanted Gen. Sigel and no other." (Germans did not comprise even a majority of the Eleventh Corps, yet the unit's members were branded the Flying Dutchman, an epithet they earned again on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg in July. Schimmelfennig and Schurz both commanded brigades that day.)

Politics saved Sigel once again. After being assigned to the Department of the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania, Sigel took a more prestigious command in February 1864, this time of the Department of West Virginia, which included the lower (or northern) Shenandoah Valley. At this point, his fellow non-German generals were not particularly enthusiastic about "fighting mit Sigel." "The Dutch vote must be secured at all hazards for the government," remarked one staff officer sarcastically, "and the sacrifice of West Virginia is a small matter." ("Dutch" was an epithet used for Germans, the two languages sounding similar to many Americans.) For support, Sigel gathered as many German-born officers around him as he could, but he had earned the enmity of both Halleck and the new Union general-in-chief, Ulysses S. Grant, for ignoring the proper chain of command. Thus caught between the Confederates at his front and angry superiors at his rear, Sigel survived only so long as he maintained support from the always politically conscious Lincoln.

New Market and After

Charged with marching up the Shenandoah Valley to draw Confederate troops away from Grant's Overland Campaign against the Confederate capital at Richmond, Sigel began his advance from Martinsburg on April 29, 1864. He faced no serious opposition at his front, but his supply line was harassed by Confederate partisan rangers under Colonel John Singleton Mosby and Captain John McNeill. Confederate cavalry under General John D. Imboden met Sigel's advance near Mt. Jackson, but fell back slowly, delaying Sigel while Confederate general John C. Breckinridge—the former U.S. vice president and a Democratic candidate for U.S. president in 1860—gathered a force to oppose him. Breckinridge even added about 250 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington to his force, planning to keep them in reserve. Their average age was just eighteen.

On Sunday, May 15, during a driving rainstorm, the two forces met at New Market, with Sigel deploying his 5,500 men across the Valley Turnpike. Attacked by Breckinridge's slightly smaller force, Sigel's men initially held, but at a critical moment in the fight Breckinridge reluctantly committed the cadets to the attack—"May God forgive me," he reportedly said—and Sigel's army quickly began a precipitous retreat. Despite Sigel's personal efforts, the retreat turned into a rout, and Sigel's 831 casualties included 256 missing, most of whom were captured.

Lincoln's singular patience with Sigel finally ran out the following month. Confederate general Jubal A. Early led his Army of the Valley down the Shenandoah all the way to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Flanked out of Martinsburg and outnumbered, Sigel retreated to Harpers Ferry, taking possession of Maryland Heights across the river from the town. Although he secured the town and his command, the campaign was an embarrassment for the Lincoln administration. In his diary, U.S. attorney general Edward Bates wrote about Early's men: "How an army so great could traverse the country without being discovered, is a mystery. There must have been the most supine negligence—or worse … I fear that our generals, Wallace"—here referring to Lew Wallace, future author of Ben-Hur (1880)—"Segel [and company] are helpless imbiciles [sic]." Halleck, Sigel's old nemesis, relieved him of command on July 8, 1864.

Unable to escape blame for the debacle, Sigel failed to receive his requested investigation and held no other significant command during the war. He resigned his commission on May 4, 1865, and returned to civilian life.

After the war Sigel became a newspaper editor, served in several appointed offices, ran unsuccessfully for New York secretary of state against a "Boss Tweed" candidate, and was active in promoting reform issues in that state and elsewhere. Switching to the Democratic Party when Samuel J. Tilden ran as a reform candidate in the presidential election of 1876, Sigel was appointed U.S. pension agent for New York by U.S. president Grover Cleveland. He died on August 21, 1902, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.

Time Line

November 18, 1824 - Franz Sigel is born in Sinsheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, in what is now Germany.

1843 - Franz Sigel graduates from the Military Academy at Karsruhe and is appointed a lieutenant in the 4th Infantry.

1848 - Franz Sigel resigns his army commission in order to help lead the failed democratic revolutions in the German states.

May 1852 - After fleeing first to Switzerland, then to France and England, Franz Sigel arrives in New York City.

1855 - Franz Sigel, with his father-in-law, Rudolf Dulon, forms the German-American Institute in New York City. He teaches mathematics, history, and languages.

1857 - Franz Sigel moves to Saint Louis, Missouri, where he becomes a school superintendent and joins the Republican Party.

May 4, 1861 - Franz Sigel is appointed colonel of the 3rd Missouri Infantry, one of several ninety-day regiments of volunteers raised to expel Confederates from the state.

August 10, 1861 - At the Battle of Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri, Union general Franz Sigel leads a failed flanking maneuver and a disorganized retreat from the field.

August 17, 1861 - Despite participating in the Union defeat at Wilson's Creek the week before, Union general Franz Sigel is promoted to brigadier general, effective May 17.

Winter 1861 - Union general Franz Sigel's command is given to Samuel R. Curtis and Sigel resigns in protest.

March 7–8, 1862 - Having returned to the army, Union general Franz Sigel leads a division at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. Sigel's men fight well but some think Sigel takes more credit than is his due for the Union victory.

March 21, 1862 - Franz Sigel is appointed major general of volunteers, a promotion designed to rally German-Americans to the Union cause.

August 9, 1862 - Union general Franz Sigel fails to support the Union center at the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County, earning the fury of his commander, John Pope.

August 28–30, 1862 - Commanding the Union First Corps, Franz Sigel repulses assaults by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and James Longstreet at the Second Battle of Manassas that is nevertheless lost by Union forces.

February 29, 1864 - Union general Franz Sigel is appointed to command the Department of West Virginia, which includes the lower (or northern) Shenandoah Valley.

March 11, 1864 - Union general Franz Sigel, the new commander of the Department of West Virginia, arrives in Cumberland, Maryland.

May 15, 1864 - At the Battle of New Market, Franz Sigel's poor generalship leads to a disastrous Union defeat against Confederate forces under John C. Breckinridge. The Confederates are aided by about 250 young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute.

July 8, 1864 - Union general Franz Sigel's inability to prevent Confederate general Jubal A. Early from leading his Army of the Valley to the outskirts of Washington, D.C., leads him to be relieved of command.

May 4, 1865 - Union general Franz Sigel resigns from the army.

1869 - Former Union general Franz Sigel is a candidate for New York's secretary of state, but is defeated by the "Boss Tweed" candidate.

1876 - After leaving the Republican Party, former Union general Franz Sigel supports the Democratic reform candidate Samuel J. Tilden in the presidential election of 1876.

1886–1889 - Former Union general Franz Sigel serves as U.S. pension agent for New York.

August 21, 1902 - Former Union general Franz Sigel dies in New York City.



Franz Sigel

(* 18. November 1824 in Sinsheim; † 21. August 1902 in Morrisania[1] New York City)[2] war Offizier der Badischen Armee, Kriegsminister der badischen Revolutionäre in der Märzrevolution von 1848/1849, als bedeutender Vertreter der Forty-Eighters Lehrer und Dozent in den USA, ein wichtiger Unterstützer von Abraham Lincoln, General der United States Army im Sezessionskrieg sowie Politiker und Zeitungsverleger.

Franz Peter Sigel wurde als viertes von sieben Kindern des aus Bruchsal stammenden und in Sinsheim tätigen Oberamtmannes Franz Moritz Sigel und der Maria Anna Paulina Lichtenauer geboren.[3] Er besuchte von 1838 bis 1840 das Gymnasium in Bruchsal, dann die Kadettenschule in Karlsruhe, an der er im Herbst 1843 graduierte. Danach wurde er als Leutnant in das 4. badische Infanterie-Regiment nach Mannheim versetzt. Aus politischen Gründen und nach einem Duell mit dem Bataillonsadjutanten nahm Sigel im Herbst 1847 seinen Abschied aus dem Regiment. Sigel plante in Heidelberg Jura zu studieren, jedoch kamen die revolutionären Ereignisse dazwischen.

Anfang März 1848 begann nach der Februarrevolution in Frankreich die bürgerlich-liberale Märzrevolution in den Staaten des Deutschen Bundes zuerst im Großherzogtum Baden. Sie hatte die nationale Einigung der deutschen Fürstentümer und die Einrichtung liberaler, demokratischer Verfassungen zum Ziel. Franz Sigel, von der badischen Revolution erfasst, stellte 1848 zunächst ein Freikorps mit 500 Mann auf, nahm an der Offenburger Versammlung teil und beteiligte sich am letztlich erfolglosen Heckerzug. Nach seinem kurzzeitigen Exil in der Schweiz wurde er von den badischen Revolutionären 1849 beim erneuten Aufflammen der Revolution zurückberufen. Nach der Flucht des Großherzogs Leopold von Baden wurde Sigel Kriegsminister in der provisorischen revolutionären Regierung unter Lorenz Brentano. Als Oberbefehlshaber der Revolutionstruppen wurde Sigel in einem Gefecht verwundet und musste sich durch den französisch-polnischen Revolutionsgeneral Ludwik Mieroslawski ablösen lassen, dessen Stellvertreter und Generaladjutant Sigel wurde. Die aussichtslose Lage der Revolutionäre vor Augen, wich er mit den unter seiner Führung verbliebenen Einheiten im Juli 1849 in die Schweiz aus.

Nach seiner Ausweisung aus der Schweiz 1851 hielt sich Sigel zunächst in London auf, um wie viele andere exilierte Revolutionäre aus den Staaten des Deutschen Bundes vor ihm, am 1. Mai 1852 mit dem Schiff von Southampton[4] aus nach Amerika zu reisen. Am 24. Mai traf er mit dem Schiff „Washington“ in New York ein,[5] wo er Lehrer an Privatschulen wurde und in der staatlichen Miliz diente. 1856 nahm Sigel in St. Louis, Missouri die Stelle eines Geschichts- und Mathematiklehrers am Deutsch-Amerikanischen Institut an. 1860 wurde er Direktor der öffentlichen Schulen in St. Louis.

Nach dem Ausbruch des amerikanischen Bürgerkrieges übernahm Sigel als Oberst (Ernennung zum 4. Mai) die Führung eines Freiwilligenregiments, das eines von fünf fast nur aus Deutschen bestehenden Regimentern war (3. Missouri Infanterieregiment), die im April 1861 auf der Seite der Union in St. Louis aufgestellt wurden. Der Staat Missouri war hinsichtlich der Sympathien für Union oder Konföderierte gespalten und im Mai 1861 sammelten sich pro-konföderierte Milizen im Camp Jackson in St. Louis, die durch die deutschen Freiwilligenverbände der Union unter Brigadegeneral Nathaniel Lyon unmittelbar entwaffnet wurden. Dabei wurde auch auf protestierende Anhänger der Konföderierten in einer Menschenansammlung geschossen und in der Folge kam es zu anti-deutschen Ausschreitungen (es fielen in Erinnerung an den Unabhängigkeitskrieg Schimpfworte wie „hessische Mietlinge“ und deutsche Geschäfte wurden verwüstet) in St. Louis, das aber für die Union gesichert wurde. Am 5. Juli 1861 erlitt Sigel beim Gefecht bei Carthage eine Niederlage gegen die pro-konföderierten Milizen, die jedoch die Rekrutierung von deutschstämmigen Freiwilligen förderte. Lincoln ernannte ihn wegen seiner Beliebtheit daraufhin am 7. August zum Brigadegeneral der United States Army im Sezessionskrieg.

Nach der verlorenen Schlacht an Wilsons Creek am 10. August 1861, bei der er nach dem Tod von General Nathaniel Lyon das Kommando übernahm, stand Sigel bei der Führung des US-Heeres im Ruf, zwar eine umfangreiche militärtheoretische Vorbildung, aber große taktische Schwächen in der praktischen Umsetzung zu haben. Zudem habe er die Disziplin der ihm unterstellten Truppen nicht immer aufrechterhalten können, und seine logistischen Maßnahmen galten als mangelhaft. Sigel erwarb sich aber um die Union großen Verdienst dadurch, dass er aufgrund seines Rufes als Revolutionsgeneral eine große Zahl deutscher Einwanderer (insbesondere exilierte Revolutionäre wie er) als Freiwillige für das Heer anwerben konnte. Deren in deutschamerikanischem Englisch verfasstes Kampflied I'm going to fight mit Sigel[6] wurde zu einer der populärsten Hymnen des Bürgerkrieges. Für Lincoln war er außerdem als Wahlkampfhelfer gefragt. Aus diesem Grund wurde ihm trotz heftiger Kritik von Seiten vieler Unionsgeneräle immer wieder ein Kommando übertragen.

Sigels Stärke war sein strategisches Denken. Tatsächlich konnte nach der verlorenen Schlacht an Wilsons Creek bei einer anfänglichen zahlenmäßigen Unterlegenheit der Unionstruppen von 2 zu 1 der Staat Missouri für die Union gehalten werden. Hierbei war es durchaus von Vorteil, dass Sigel dem Kampf auswich. Sigels größter Erfolg war die gewonnene Schlacht von Pea Ridge im März 1862, in der er zwei der vier Divisionen der US-Truppen befehligte. Hierdurch konnte Missouri endgültig für die Union gesichert werden.

Nach einer Auseinandersetzung mit dem Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres Henry Wager Halleck, der aus seiner geringen Meinung für Sigels militärische Fähigkeiten keinen Hehl machte,[7] reichte er sein Abschiedsgesuch ein, das er jedoch wieder zurückzog. Für seine Verdienste in der Schlacht am Pea Ridge wurde er wirksam vom 21. März 1862 zum Generalmajor der Freiwilligen befördert und auf eigenen Wunsch auf den östlichen Kriegsschauplatz versetzt. Dort erhielt er das Kommando einer Division in Harpers Ferry, damals Virginia.

Er befehligte ab dem 30. Juni 1862 als Nachfolger von John C. Fremont das I. Korps der Virginia-Armee, wobei Carl Schurz einer seiner Divisionskommandeure war. Sigel nahm unter General John Pope an dessen Nord-Virginia-Feldzug teil und kämpfte in der zweiten Schlacht am Bull Run, in der er an der Hand verwundet wurde. Ab dem 12. September 1862 wurde sein Korps als XI. Korps in die Potomac Armee integriert. Das Korps hatte seinen ersten Einsatz aber erst unter seinem Nachfolger Oliver Otis Howard, der keine Bezüge zu Deutschland hatte und deshalb im Korps einen schweren Stand hatte. Es erlitt eine schwere Niederlage in der Schlacht bei Chancellorsville im Mai 1863 gegen Stonewall Jackson. Einen Einsatz bei der vorhergehenden Schlacht von Fredericksburg hatte das Korps verpasst, da es unter ihrem damaligen Kommandierenden General Sigel – er kommandierte sogar die „Grand Reserve Division“ aus dem XI. und XII. Korps unter General Burnside – zu spät kam. Sigel hatte unter Intrigen anderer Unionsgeneräle zu leiden und reichte dreimal ein Rücktrittsgesuch ein, das schließlich im Februar 1863 akzeptiert wurde.

Halleck schob ihn auf ein Kommando im Osten Pennsylvanias ab. 1864 wurde er auf Befehl von Lincoln, der Unterstützung bei seiner Wiederwahl benötigte, Befehlshaber im Wehrbereich West Virginia und erhielt von Ulysses S. Grant im Mai ein neues Feldkommando: er sollte das Shenandoahtal sichern, wurde aber in der Schlacht bei New Market am 15. Mai 1864 von General Breckinridge geschlagen. Sigel wurde daraufhin auf Drängen von Halleck und Grant abgelöst. Während des Raids von General Early im Juli 1864 kommandierte er die Garnison in Harpers Ferry, die Early allerdings einfach umging. Kurz darauf wurde Sigel wegen mangelnder Angriffslust durch Generalmajor David Hunter abgelöst.

Am 4. Mai 1865 quittierte Sigel seinen Dienst in der Armee, um als Privatmann in Baltimore eine Zeitung für Deutsche herauszugeben, den Baltimore Wecker. 1866 zog er schließlich nach New York, um wiederum als erfolgreicher Zeitungsverleger tätig zu werden. Sigel gründete einen bedeutenden Verlag, gab das New York Deutsches Volksblatt heraus und war bis zu seinem Tode Redakteur des New York Monthly. Er kandidierte 1869 für die Demokraten für das Amt des Staatssekretärs von New York, unterlag aber in den Wahlen. 1871 wurde er für die Republikaner zum Standesbeamten (Register) von New York gewählt. 1880 kämpfte er für den demokratischen Präsidentschaftskandidaten General Hancock. 1885 bis 1887 wurde er von Präsident Grover Cleveland zum Pensionsagenten für New York City ernannt. Sigel liegt auf dem Woodlawn Cemetery in der Bronx begraben.

Posthume Ehrungen:

   Neben diversen „Franz-Sigel-Straßen“ in seiner alten Heimat erinnern in den USA:
   das Reiterstandbild in St. Louis (Forest Park) und ein
   Denkmal auf dem Riverside-Drive in New York an Franz Sigel.

Verschiedene Städte und Plätze tragen in den USA seinen Namen:

Sigel, Pennsylvania[8]


Sigel, Illinois

Sigel, Chippewa County, Wisconsin

Sigel, Wood County, Wisconsin

Sigel Township, Shelby County, Illinois

Sigel Township, Michigan

Sigel Township, Minnesota

Teilnahme an Schlachten:

21. Juni 1849 Gefecht bei Waghäusel, Baden (als Revolutionsgeneral)

5. Juli 1861 Gefecht bei Carthage, Missouri

10. August 1861 Schlacht an Wilsons Creek, Missouri (als Oberst, Kommandeur der 2. Missouri Volunteers Brigade)

7. und 8. März 1862 Schlacht von Pea Ridge (als Brigadegeneral, Kommandeur zweier Divisionen)

28. bis 30. August 1862 Zweite Schlacht am Bull Run, Kommandeur des 1. Korps der Army of Virginia

15. Mai 1864 Schlacht bei New Market, Virginia (als Generalmajor)

Unter seinem Kommando:

1. Brigade, Army of Southwest Missouri, Januar bis Februar 1862

1. Division, Army of Southwest Missouri, Februar bis 9. Mai 1862

Sigel´s Division, Shenandoah Campaign, 4.-26. Juni 1862

1. Korps, Army of Virginia, 30.Juni bis 7.Juli und 12.Juli bis 12.September 1862

XI. Korps (German Corps), Army of the Potomac, vom 12. September 1862 bis 10. Januar 1863 und nochmals vom 5. Februar 1863 bis 22. Februar 1863.[10]

Department of West Virginia, 10. März bis 21.Mai 1864

Reserve Division, West Virginia, 24. Mai bis 8. Juli 1864

Sigel war mit Elise Dulon (* 1834) verheiratet, der Tochter von Rudolph Dulon,[11] die am 17. Januar 1910 in der Bronx verstarb. Aus der Ehe gingen fünf Kinder hervor:

   Lelia (auch Leila oder Lelle)[12]

Sigel selbst wurde im Woodlawn Friedhof[15] der Bronx N.Y.[16] beigesetzt.

Die Trauung der Tochter Leila mit Achilles Schehl fand am 27.November 1884 in Manhattan, New York statt.[17]

Elsie Sigel, eine Enkelin Sigels, welche missionarisch in Chinatown tätig war, wurde am 18. Juni 1909 mit einem Seil stranguliert[18] in ihrer Wohnung[19] in der Wadsworth Avenue, Washington Heights, von der Polizei aufgefunden.[20]

Franz Sigels Bruder Albert Sigel (*13. November 1827 Sinsheim † 15. August 1884 St. Louis) war ebenso ein Forty-Eighter, Generaladjutant von Missouri in der „Fifth Regiment Cavalry Missouri State Militia“, Journalist und Lyriker.[21]

Literearische Verarbeitung:

Stefan Heym hat in seinem Roman Lenz oder die Freiheit Sigel als Nebenfigur auftreten lassen, das Schicksal des fiktiven Titelhelden Lenz beinhaltet zudem einige Elemente aus Sigels Leben. Als der Südwestfunk den Stoff 1986 aufwändig verfilmte, übernahm die Rolle Sigels Christoph Waltz.


Thomas Adam, Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (Transatlantic Relations), ABC-Clio Inc., 2005, ISBN 1-8510-9628-0 (Sigel, Franz S.971 ff.)

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 0-8071-0822-7.

Engle, Stephen D., Yankee Dutchman: The Life of Franz Sigel Taschenbuch 368 Seiten, Louisiana State University Press, 1850, ISBN 0-8071-2446-X, (Neuauflage 1999, ISBN 978-0-8071-2446-8)

Engle, Franz Sigel at Pea Ridge, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Bd. 50, 1991, S.249-270.

Wilhelm Blos (Herausgeber): Denkwürdigkeiten des Generals Franz Sigel aus den Jahren 1848 und 1849, Mannheim, J. Bernsheimer 1902

James Pula The Sigel Regiment- a history of the 26. Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865, Da Capo Press 1998

Franz Sigel The Pea Ridge Campaign, Century Corporation 1887

Herbert Hartkopf: Trapper, Scouts & Pioniere aus der Kurpfalz, Verlag Regionalkultur, Ubstadt-Weiher, 2009, ISBN 978-3-89735-601-6 (Seite 87 ff.)


zu Elsi Sigel: Mary Ting Yi Lui,The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City Princeton University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-691-09196-X


[1] Morissisania in der englischsprachigen Wikipedia

[2] NewYork City-Deathindex

[3] Stammbaum der Familie Sigel

[4] Tabellarischer Lebenslauf bei der Uni-Düsseldorf

[5] Passagierliste mit Sigels Ankunft in NY

[6] Refrain "Yah, daus is true, I shpeaks mit you. I’m going to fight mit Sigel" –, Text und Melodie bei St. Louis historisches Portal, abgerufen Oktober 2008

[7] The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Band XXXIV, Teil III, S. 333: „Es grenzt schon beinahe an Mord, Männern wie Sigel wichtige Kommandos zu übertragen …“

[8] 1865 wurde die Stadt so benannt


[9] nach Mark Boatner Dictionary of the Civil War, Vintage Books 1988


[10] XI Corps (ACW) in der englischsprachigen Wikipedia


[12] Census 1870 Westchester Co., NY, Morrisana

[13] Census 1880 NY City, New York (Manhattan) Co., NY, ED 664

[14] Sohn Franz starb mit 49 Jahren am 19. Februar 1922

[15] Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx in der englischsprachigen Wikipedia

[16] Bild von Sigels Grab bei

[17] Quelle: FamilySearch

[18] Elsie Sigel in der englischsprachigen Wikipedia, Laut dem Zeitungsbericht war sie zum Todeszeitpunkt 22 Jahre alt. Des Mordes verdächtigt wurde ihr chinesischer Freund Leon Ling.

[19] Bild vom Haus der Elsi Sigel

[20] Newyork Times vom Samstag den 19. Juni 1909 Bericht als PDF

[21] Michael Rehs: Wurzeln in fremder Erde: Zur Geschichte der südwestdeutschen Auswanderung nach Amerika. DRW-Verlag, 1984, ISBN 3-8718-1231-5 Burial of Col. Albert Sigel 21.März 1884 (PDF) Revolutzer 1848 NEW JERSEY VOLUNTEERS Civil War record 28. Mai 1861 Captain

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Major General Franz Sigel (USA)'s Timeline

November 18, 1824
Sinsheim, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
November 20, 1824
Sinsheim, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
August 12, 1856
New York, New York County, New York, United States
March 1, 1858
New York, New York County, New York, United States
February 28, 1860
Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
August 27, 1864
Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
September 23, 1872
New York, New York County, New York, United States
August 21, 1902
Age 77
New York, New York, NY, United States
New York City, Bronx, New York, United States