Portrait of Franz Sigel

Franz Sigel, one of President Abraham Lincoln’s “political generals,” achieved the rank of major general in the volunteer army and served as a corps commander with the Army of the Potomac. [Wikimedia Commons]

Franz Sigel - Facts

November 18, 1824 - August 21, 1902

Key facts about Franz Sigel, one of President Abraham Lincoln's "political generals," during the Civil War who achieved the rank of major general and served as a corps commander with the Army of the Potomac.

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Full Name:

  • Franz Sigel

Birth Date:

  • November 18, 1824

Birth Location:

  • Sinsheim, in the duchy of Baden, Germany

Parents:

  • Franz Moritz and Maria Anna Paulina (Lichtenauer) Sigel

Education:

  • Karlsruhe Military Academy, Heidelberg University

Occupation:

  • Military officer
  • Educator
  • Newspaper editor

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Elise Dulon (1854)

Place of Death:

  • Bronx, New York

Date of Death:

  • August 21, 1902

Place of Burial:

  • Woodlawn Cemetery, New York, New York

Significance:

  • Franz Sigel was the third of six children, and the first son of Franz Moritz and Maria Anna Paulina (Lichtenauer) Sigel.
  • Franz Sigel attended the Karlsruhe Military Academy and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Baden Army following his graduation in 1843.
  • In 1847 Franz Sigel was imprisoned for killing a fellow officer in a duel after witnessing the officer mistreating an underling.
  • In 1847, Franz Sigel resigned his commission in the Baden Army and enrolled at Heidelberg University to study law.
  • In 1848, Franz Sigel was appointed as a military leader of a revolutionary movement to create a unified democratic German state.
  • In 1849, Franz Sigel was forced to go into exile in Switzerland.
  • Franz Sigel moved to England in 1851.
  • In 1852, Franz Sigel relocated to the United States where most of his family had immigrated.
  • By January 1854, Franz Sigel married Elise Dulon. Their marriage, which lasted forty-eight years, produced five children.
  • In the fall of 1854, Franz Sigel joined the New York State Militia, accepting a commission as major.
  • In 1855, Franz Sigel and his father-in-law established the highly successful German-American Institute, or Feldner School, where Sigel taught mathematics, history, and various languages.
  • In 1857, Franz Sigel relocated to St. Louis, Missouri to accept a teaching position at the Deutsches Institut.
  • By 1860, Franz Sigel had achieved such acclaim as an educator that he was elected as director of the St. Louis public schools.
  • Because his liberal beliefs meshed well with the Republican Party’s anti-slavery platform, Franz Sigel actively campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.
  • When the Civil War erupted, Franz Sigel helped organize the 3rd Missouri Infantry Regiment, a ninety-day unit that served under Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon.
  • Franz Sigel was commissioned as a colonel in the Union’s volunteer army on May 4, 1861.
  • Franz Sigel participated in the capture of Camp Jackson, near St. Louis, on May 10, 1861.
  • On August 10, Franz Sigel’s failure to protect his left flank led to the rout of his brigade and contributed to the Union defeat at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
  • The U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No.62, on August 20, 1861, announcing Franz Sigel’s appointment to brigadier general of volunteers to date from May 17, 1861.
  • President Lincoln correctly recognized that Sigel’s popularity with German-Americans contributed greatly to their recruitment as Union soldiers. Many of them volunteered for the opportunity to “fight mit Sigel.”
  • On December 26, 1861 Franz Sigel threatened to resign from the military because he was passed over for promotion.
  • Franz Sigel achieved the greatest success of his military career when he adroitly directed his troops during the Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6 – 8, 1862).
  • Franz Sigel was transferred east in May 1862 to serve as a division commander in the Shenandoah Department under Major General Nathaniel Banks.
  • On June 2, 1862, Major General Nathaniel Banks placed Franz Sigel in charge of the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry.
  • The U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 63, on June 10, 1862, promoting Sigel to major general, to date from March 21, 1862.
  • On June 30, Franz Sigel was temporarily selected to command the corps in Frémont’s place. On July 12, 1862 he received the appointment on a permanent basis.
  • Franz Sigel incurred Major General John Pope’s wrath for failing to move his corps in time to support the center of the Federal line, during the Battle of Cedar Mountain (August 9, 1862).
  • At the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862), Franz Sigel’s Corps repulsed the assault of General James Longstreet’s forces on August 30.
  • On September 12, 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 129, which transferred Franz Sigel’s 1st Corps to the Army of the Potomac and renamed it the 11th Corps.
  • On November 14, 1862 Major General Ambrose E. Burnside issued General Orders, No. 184 (Army of the Potomac), reorganizing the army into three “grand divisions.” The order also appointed Sigel as commander of a reserve force.
  • In early January 1863, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside elevated Franz Sigel’s position to commander of a “grand reserve division consisting of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps.”
  • On February 5, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker issued General Orders, No. 6 (Army of the Potomac), reorganizing the army into seven infantry corps and one cavalry corps. Hooker named Sigel as commander of the 11th Corps.
  • Unhappy with what he perceived as a demotion from corps commander to division commander, Franz Sigel submitted requests to Major general Joseph Hooker and the War Department on February 12, 1863 that he be relieved of his command with the Army of the Potomac.
  • On March 31, 1863 Major General Henry Halleck issued Special Orders, No. 87, replacing Franz Sigel as commander of the 11th Corps with Major General O.O. Howard
  • In July 1863, Major General Henry Halleck and Secretary of War and Edwin Stanton ordered Franz Sigel to report to Major General Darius Couch with the Department of the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania.
  • On July 26, 1863, Major General Darius Couch assigned Franz Sigel to the relatively inconsequential “command of all the militia and volunteer forces at Reading, Pa.”
  • On February 29, 1864, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 80, announcing that Franz Sigel was assigned to command the Department of West Virginia.
  • On April 29, 1864, Henry W. Halleck wrote to William T. Sherman that “It seems little better than murder to give important commands to men such as Sigel.”
  • On May 15, 1864, a hastily assembled force of approximately 4,000 Rebel soldiers that included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute routed Franz Sigel’s forces at the Battle of New Market.
  • On May 19, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 200 assigning Major General David Hunter to replace Franz Sigel as commander of the Department of West Virginia.
  • On May 22, 1864, Major General David Hunter issued Special Orders, No. 102 (Department of West Virginia), assigning Franz Sigel to command the Reserve Division of the department.
  • On July 7, 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant wrote to Major General Henry Halleck: “All of General Sigel’s operations from the beginning of the war have been so unsuccessful that I think it advisable to relieve him from all duty, at least until present troubles are over.”
  • On July 7, 1864,, the U.S. War Department issued Special Orders, No. 230 relieving Franz Sigel “from duty in the District of Harper’s Ferry.”
  • Franz Sigel spent the last months of the Civil War performing administrative tasks in Washington
  • On May 4, 1865, Franz Sigel resigned his commission.
  • In 1867 Franz Sigel moved to New York where he served a newspaper editor and held several appointed offices.
  • Franz Sigel was an unsuccessful candidate for the office of secretary of state for the State of New York in 1869.
  • In 1886, President Grover Cleveland appointed Franz Sigel as U.S. pension agent for New York, a position he held until 1889.
  • Franz Sigel died at his home in the Bronx on August 21, 1902 after an illness of several months.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Franz Sigel - Facts
  • Coverage November 18, 1824 - August 21, 1902
  • Author
  • Keywords Franz Sigel
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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