An inept field commander, his value to Lincoln was his ability to attract and recruit German immigrants to the Union cause
Description: (1824-1902) German-born military officer, revolutionary, teacher, newspaperman, politician, US Major General in the Civil War. His ability to recruit German-speaking immigrants to the Union armies received President Lincoln’s approval but he was strongly disliked by General-in-Chief Halleck.
Sigel graduated from Karlsruhe Military Academy in 1843, became a leader of Baden revolutionary forces (with rank of colonel) in the 1848 Revolution, one of few revolutionaries with military command experience. In April 1848, he led 4,000+ volunteers against the city of Freiburg, defeated by better led troops. In 1849, he became Secretary of War and commander-in-chief of Baden’s revolutionary republican government, but in July, after their defeat, Sigel led the retreat of the remaining troops to Switzerland. He went to the US 1852, in 1857 became a professor at St. Louis’ German-American Institute, elected director of St. Louis public schools 1860. Influential in the Missouri immigrant community, he attracted Germans to the Union and antislavery causes in 1861.
At the start of the Civil War, he became colonel, 3rd Missouri Infantry from May 4, 1861. He organized an expedition to SW Missouri, fought the Battle of Carthage where a pro-CSA Missouri militia handed him a setback, but his defeat sparked recruitment for the Missouri State Guard. Lincoln sought support of anti-slavery, pro-Union immigrants, so Sigel was promoted to brigadier general August 7, 1861, to rank from May 17, one of many early political generals. He served under Nathaniel Lyon in the capture of Camp Jackson in St. Louis and at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek where he was routed and led the retreat after Lyon’s death.
His finest performance came March 8, 1862 at the Battle of Pea Ridge. He led 2 divisions and personally directed Union artillery to defeat Van Dorn on the 2nd day of the battle. Promoted to major general March 21, he was a division commander in the Shenandoah Valley and fought unsuccessfully against Stonewall Jackson who bested him in several engagements. He led I Corps in Pope’s Army of Virginia at 2nd Manassas, another Union defeat. In winter of 1862–63, Sigel led XI Corps, mainly German immigrant soldiers, in the Army of the Potomac. Burnside instituted “grand divisions”, each with 2 corps; Sigel led the Reserve Grand Division with XI & XII Corps in reserve at Fredericksburg. After the battle, “grand divisions” dissolved and Sigel returned to command XI Corps.
He had a reputation as an inept general but his ability to recruit and motivate German immigrants kept him employed for political reasons. Sigel left the Corps Feb. 1863, replaced by O. O. Howard, reason for his relief unclear. General-in-chief Halleck detested him and kept him in East Pennsylvania to March 1864. Lincoln, for political reasons, had Stanton give him command of the new Dept. of West Virginia. Sigel began the Valley Campaigns of 1864, soundly defeated by Breckinridge at New Market May 15. Sigel was replaced by Hunter and in July fought Jubal Early at Harpers Ferry, replaced by A. P. Howe, had no further active command and resigned May 4, 1865.
He worked as a NYC newspaper editor and in May 1871 became collector of internal revenue, and then in October 1871, register of the city. In 1887, Cleveland named him NYC pension agent. He also lectured and published the New York Monthly, a German-American periodical. Statues of him are in NYC’s Riverside Park and in St. Louis. A park is in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium is named for him.
Signed 2 ¾ x 4 ¾ slip as “late M. Genl. Of Vols./Baltimore Md Nov. 10th 1866.” With toned engraving as Major General.
Condition: Very good, light even overall toning